Could the Subpoena of Mike Pence Lead to a Strategic Campaign Launch?
Mike Pence, former U.S. Vice President, has been issued a formal subpoena by Special Counsel Jack Smith, who is investigating the events that took place on January 6 and potential attempts to subvert the results of the 2020 presidential election. Pence was ex-President Donald Trump's pawn in attempting to derail the peaceful transfer of power to Joe Biden, relying on his loyalty to prevent Congress from counting electoral votes and confirming Biden's victory. The Special Counsel also took interest following the grand jury testimonies of two of Pence's aides, Marc Short and Greg Jacob, last year. Both men provided crucial evidence which could prove that Trump committed crimes.
During his now infamous speech on January 6, 2021, Trump continually emphasized the rhetoric of a "stolen election." He repeatedly called on Pence to reject Biden's victory and to unlawfully send the electoral results back to each state – saying that if he didn't, it would be "a sad day for the country." He also released a Tweet saying, "Mike Pence didn't have the courage to do what was necessary." In response, Pence released a statement saying that "my oath to defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted." Pence also contacted renowned conservative judge, Michael Luttig, to release a statement condemning Trump's request.
Pence played a distinctive role on January 6, 2021, as the President of the Senate, who conducted the joint session of Congress that solidified the electoral votes as evidenced after the insurrection, a large portion of the people who stormed the Capitol identified as Trump supporters. This put immense pressure on Mike Pence to uphold Donald Trump's directive and undermine the peaceful transfer of power. Trump, announcing that he believed loyalty was Pence’s responsibility, allowed the public to acknowledge the VP’s adherence to the statutes and rules that govern electoral practices. The Vice President quickly became a proclaimed target of the mob, some even chanting "hang Mike Pence." Pence attended the Capitol that day with his wife, daughter, and brother, who were all rushed to the Vice President's ceremonial office – steps from the Senate floor. "His words were reckless. They endangered my family, and they endangered everyone at the Capitol…In that moment, he decided to be part of the problem," Pence exclaimed while speaking at the University of Chicago in November 2022. In hindsight, the Vice President was one of the insurrectionists' most sought-after targets.
The investigation of January 6 has been ongoing for over two years. After numerous testimonies and the arrests of many, a subpoena issued to Mike Pence would be an enormous step toward necessary justice. Pence is a crucial witness who, in his newly released memoir, So Help Me God, has detailed personal interactions with Trump in weeks following the election. This information may enable the Justice Department to contradict at least some of Trump's claims of executive privilege.
Even though this is a crucial step in the right direction for the Justice Department, Mike Pence has confirmed that he will fight the subpoena. In a recent interview with CBS, he coined the subpoena "unconstitutional" and "unprecedented." Pence invoked the Constitution's Speech and Debate clause - which protects members of Congress from being questioned by other branches of government about their legislative action - to legitimize his opposition to testifying. Pence's team has highlighted that they have reason to believe he should not have to testify due to the fact that he rightfully carried out his congressional duties on January 6. Pence's legal team's attempts to convince prosecutors of their interpretation of the law will likely result in sealed court hearings and legal briefs.
Although his plans are not confirmed, Mike Pence has stated that he is considering a Presidential run in 2024. Even if Pence's objection to the subpoena is rejected, which many say it will be, his position in fighting the Justice Department puts him in a potentially useful position for a GOP primary. In part because of the Trump administration, large factions of the Republican party have grown distrustful of big government oversight, putting Pence in an admirable position fighting against the subpoena. The opposition could also delay the special counsel probe.
As the United States inches closer to the 2024 presidential election and Mike Pence's likely run, the subpoena could result in unique outcomes. Pence confirmed that if need be, he is willing to take the case to the Supreme Court. The former Vice President's defiance could potentially push his duty to testify months down the road as he lays the groundwork for a campaign launch.