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Mike Pence reverses course, spurns Jan. 6 committee questions

Mike Pence is refusing to speak to the Jan. 6 committee — and his explanation to justify such cowardice simply doesn’t make any sense.


Exactly three months ago today, former Vice President Mike Pence appeared in New Hampshire and said he’d consider testifying before the Jan. 6 committee. This week, the Republican sat down with CBS News and said the opposite.

Pence also said he is “closing the door” on testifying before the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. ... “The Congress has no right to my testimony,” Pence said. “We have a separation of powers under the Constitution of the United States, and I believe it sets a terrible precedent for the Congress to summon a vice president of the United States to speak about deliberations that took place at the White House.”

In the same interview, the Hoosier criticized Congress for not creating a non-partisan panel, “in the spirit of the 9/11 Commission,” to investigate what transpired.

It’s difficult to even know where to start with such a position, but given the significance of the issue — we are, after all, talking about an assault on our democracy that put Pence’s life in danger — it’s worth appreciating in detail just how wrong he is.

“The Congress has no right to my testimony.” The phrasing is curious. The House select committee was created through the congressional legislative process, and approved through proper channels. This, in turn, gave it both official legitimacy and subpoena power, which has been endorsed by multiple federal courts. It has every right to expect the cooperation of witnesses who can shed light on the events surrounding the insurrectionist violence.

“We have a separation of powers under the Constitution of the United States.” That’s true, but what Pence neglected to mention is that he doesn’t have any powers. The former vice president is a private citizen with no more official authority than any other private citizen.

“I believe it sets a terrible precedent.” First, there’s ample precedent for constitutional officers from the executive branch testifying before Congress. Second, it also set “a terrible precedent” when Donald Trump tried to overturn the results of an election and deployed radicalized followers to attack our seat of government.

The Jan. 6 panel should’ve mirrored “the spirit of the 9/11 Commission.” Maybe so. In fact, congressional Democratic leaders endorsed just such a plan last year. Pence may be surprised to learn that it was his Republican allies who rejected this approach, even after Democrats agreed to the GOP’s demands.

This need not be complicated. The former vice president has a critically important perspective about one of the most important events in American history. He’s been willing to share his thoughts on the matter in public appearances, in media interviews, in published op-eds, and even in his book.

But Pence is nevertheless refusing to speak to a bipartisan House panel that would benefit from his answers — and his explanation to justify such cowardice simply doesn’t make any sense.