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Image: Donald Trump, Mike Pence
President Donald Trump listens as Vice President Mike Pence speak sat the White House on March 22, 2020.Patrick Semansky / AP file

Why Pence’s Jan. 6 grand jury testimony should make Trump nervous

If Donald Trump isn't feeling anxiety about Mike Pence's testimony to the Jan. 6 grand jury, he's not paying close enough attention.


Donald Trump did not want Mike Pence to testify before the Jan. 6 grand jury. In fact, the former president launched a legal fight in the hopes of blocking his former vice president from answering questions under oath.

Those efforts failed, and as NBC News reported, the Republican Hoosier finally appeared before the grand jury yesterday.

Former Vice President Mike Pence appeared Thursday before the federal grand jury convened as part of the special counsel investigation into former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss and remain in power, according to a source familiar with the matter. The testimony is a significant development in the special counsel’s probe....

The assessment about this being a "significant development" seems more than fair. In fact, taking a step back, there’s no denying the extraordinary circumstances: A federal criminal investigation is underway into a former president’s efforts to overturn a free and fair American election, which included an insurrectionist attack on the U.S. Capitol. A former vice president has aided the Justice Department’s probe with grand jury testimony.

More than a few observers have characterized all of this as “unprecedented,” which is entirely accurate.

To be sure, Pence was a reluctant witness. As we discussed yesterday, after special counsel Jack Smith subpoenaed Pence, the Hoosier balked, claiming the summons was, in his words, “unconstitutional.” It was an odd claim, which didn’t fare well in the courts.

After a federal judge ordered Pence to comply with the subpoena, he said he’d forgo the appeals process and answer prosecutors’ questions.

“We’ll obey the law, we’ll tell the truth,” he told CBS News last week, in an interview that aired on “Face the Nation.”

That apparently didn’t quite sit well with Trump, who launched a legal fight of his own in the hopes of blocking Pence’s testimony, but on Wednesday, a federal appeals court rejected the former president’s case. One day later, Pence appeared before the grand jury.

While we don’t know what he said under oath, The New York Times reported that the former vice president “spent more than five hours behind closed doors at the Federal District Court in Washington.”

For his part, Trump, while on the campaign trail in New Hampshire, was asked for his reaction to Pence’s testimony. “Oh, I don’t know what he said,” Trump replied, “but I have a lot of confidence in him.”

Whether the former president’s confidence was sincere is an open question, but if Pence’s testimony didn’t make Trump nervous, he wasn’t paying close enough attention.

Pence was not only hunted by Trump’s radicalized followers during the Capitol riot, he was also pressured by the then-president to participate in an illegal scheme to overturn the 2020 election results.

For those investigating possible crimes surrounding the “Big Lie” and the insurrectionist violence, few people, if anyone, have more relevant insights than the Indiana Republican. His sworn testimony will likely be foundational to the broader investigation.

As recently as last month, Trump went so far as to blame Pence for the Jan. 6 attack. The comments followed two years of bizarre rhetoric in which the former president repeatedly condemned his former vice president for not being corrupt enough to participate in an anti-election scheme.

Trump’s comments and demeanor yesterday suggested that he assumed Pence’s grand jury testimony would be beneficial to his defense. Those assumptions might very well have been misplaced.

Either way, we probably won’t have to wait too long to find out: Pence’s testimony suggests Smith’s investigation is nearing its conclusion. Watch this space.

This post revises our related earlier coverage.