WASHINGTON – Former Vice President Mike Pence testified Thursday to the federal grand jury investigating ex-president Donald Trump and his role in the insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021, said a person familiar with the appearance.
Pence spent at least seven hours at the courthouse, the person said.
Pence and his aides have not commented on the investigation, but the former vice president who is considering a presidential bid in 2024 told CBS News: "We’ll obey the law, we’ll tell the truth."
Pence had challenged his subpoena in federal court, but opted not to appeal an adverse ruling. His lawyers and prosecutors have spent recent weeks working our arrangements for his appearance.
Prosecutors want to talk to Pence about his interactions with Trump before Congress met on Jan. 6, 2021, to certify electoral votes from the 2020 presidential election. Trump wanted Pence, in his role as president of the Senate, to throw out some of Biden's electoral votes, essentially handing the election to the then-incumbent.
Pence refused, saying he lacked the legal authority to take such action, earning rebukes from Trump and his supporters that are ongoing.
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As he considers a bid for the presidency, Pence has promoted his actions on Jan. 6 and denounced Trump's behavior.
"President Trump was wrong," Pence at a journalist dinner in March. "I had no right to overturn the election. And his reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day, and I know history will hold Donald Trump accountable."
Pence and aides said they expect to make an announcement about a 2024 run by late June.
Trump tried to block Pence's testimony
Pence had called his grand jury subpoena “unprecedented” and “unconstitutional,” but he didn’t appeal a federal judge’s ordering him to testify. The sealed decision recognized he could refuse to answer some questions dealing with his role as president of the Senate, according to Pence.
Trump, meanwhile, tried to block Pence's testimony by appealing to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. A three-judge panel denied his appeal Wednesday.
The case is sealed, so the reasoning isn’t available from Judges Patricia Millett, Robert Wilkins and Gregory Katsas. Millett and Wilkins were appointed by Barack Obama and Katsas was appointed by Trump.
Trump spokesperson Steven Cheung had said the Justice Department is stepping outside its standard norms in violation of executive privilege to keep communications with the president confidential.
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Pence’s testimony is considered crucial because he was at the heart of Trump’s strategy to reject Electoral College votes from states he lost.
The strategy mapped out by Trump lawyer John Eastman called for Pence, in his role as president of the Senate, to reject electors from seven contested states that President Joe Biden won.
Pence could then either accept alternate electors who supported Trump or send the contest to the House, where a majority of state delegations supported Trump.
Pence refused to participate. He fled the Senate chamber ahead of a mob that erected a gallows outside the Capitol and chanted, “Hang Mike Pence.”
In testimony before the House committee that investigated the attack, Pence aides described how Trump pressured and scolded his vice president.
Greg Jacob, Pence’s general counsel, testified that Trump called Pence the morning of Jan. 6 in a “heated” exchange. Jacob said Pence took the call privately but returned looking “steely, determined, grim.”
After evacuating the Senate chamber, Pence refused to get in a Secret Service car in an underground parking garage because he worried it would carry him away from the Capitol rather than finish the Electoral College vote count that night.
Pence didn’t wanted to take the chance “the world would see the vice president of the United States fleeing the Capitol,” Jacob said.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Mike Pence talks to federal grand jury about Donald Trump and Jan. 6