Former US Vice President Mike Pence speaks during the Nixon National Energy Conference at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library & Museum in Yorba Linda, California, on Wednesday, April 19, 2023.
Eric Thayer | Bloomberg | Getty Images
WASHINGTON — 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 marks a significant development in the special counsel’s probe, as Pence could provide critical insights on Trump’s thinking in the days leading up to the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. The former vice president published a memoir and Wall Street Journal opinion article detailing several of his interactions with Trump, but some details were left vague. Special counsel Jack Smith’s team is particularly interested in Trump’s efforts to try to block the certification of the election, NBC News previously reported.
Pence’s appearance came amid an increased security presence at the federal courthouse in Washington, D.C. on Thursday. NBC News spotted multiple black SUVs with tinted windows entering the parking garage in the morning. Two black SUVs entered the courthouse garage at around 9 a.m., an entrance that would allow grand jury witnesses to head up to the grand jury rooms on the third floor without being seen in the public areas of the courthouse.
The SUVs left the courthouse at about 4:30 p.m.
When reporters asked Chief Judge James Boasberg, who oversees grand jury proceedings, what was happening, he demurred.
A spokesman for special counsel Jack Smith declined to comment.
Last month, a federal judge ordered Pence to comply with a subpoena to testify and Trump failed in a bid to block his former vice president’s testimony. On Wednesday, a federal appeals court rejected Trump’s appeal.
Pence’s testimony took place as five members of the Proud Boys — the far-right group that Trump told to “stand back and stand by” before the 2020 election — awaited a jury’s verdict in a seditious conspiracy trial. During closing arguments, an attorney for former Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio argued that the federal government was trying to make Tarrio a “scapegoat” for Trump, blaming the former president for the violent attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6.
In his bid to not testify, Pence’s team had argued — partially successfully — that he was protected by the Constitution’s “speech or debate” clause, which details that lawmakers cannot be forced to testify about legislative activity. His team said that the clause should apply to him because he was acting in his role as president of the Senate when Jan. 6 unfolded.
The federal judge ruled that while the speech or debate clause gave some limited protection to Pence, it did not prevent him from testifying about alleged illegal behavior by Trump.
Smith subpoenaed Pence in February. Smith was appointed in November by Attorney General Merrick Garland to head the DOJ investigation into the former president’s role in Jan. 6 and his handling of classified documents after Trump announced his 2024 presidential run.
In a Newsmax interview last month, Pence maintained that he has nothing to hide.
“I believe we did our duty that day under the Constitution of the United States, and in this matter, I thought it was important that we stand on that constitutional principle again,” Pence said in the interview. “But we’re currently speaking to our attorneys about the proper way forward.”
Pence has previously broken with his former running mate over the Jan. 6 insurrection.
“President Trump was wrong. I had no right to overturn the election,” Pence said at the Gridiron Dinner for politicians and journalists in March. “And his reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day, and I know history will hold Donald Trump accountable.”