Former President Trump’s legal team is appealing a sealed order requiring limited testimony from former Vice President Pence after a judge determined he must answer questions from the Justice Department about some aspects of Trump’s attempts to stay in power.
The challenge from Trump’s team comes after Pence’s lawyers said they would not appeal a ruling from D.C. District Court Chief Judge James Boasberg that in part sided with Pence. The ruling ordered him to answer questions about Trump’s efforts to stay in power ahead of Jan. 6 but agreed Pence’s role as president of the Senate allowed for him to be shielded from being questioned about the day itself.
A spokesperson for Pence declined to comment on Trump’s appeal.
The vice president’s team announced last week that Pence would not appeal Boasberg’s ruling, saying that while they believed the ruling was too narrowly applied, the judge had vindicated Pence’s argument on constitutional grounds.
At the same time, Pence’s team recognized that Trump could separately choose to appeal the executive privilege ruling. Pence would comply with any decisions made on executive privilege grounds, an official said.
The ruling allows Pence to walk a careful line, complying with a Justice Department issued subpoena while dodging some questions about Trump as Pence weighs whether to launch his own race for the White House in 2024.
The effort from Trump’s team seeks to block any Pence involvement in the inquiry, arguing that the former president can block his testimony through executive privilege.
But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has rejected that argument from Trump in an earlier case, siding with the Justice Department within a matter of hours on another sealed ruling from a prior chief judge who ordered several former Trump White House officials to testify, including chief of staff Mark Meadows.
The back and forth over whether Pence will testify, and how much he will say, comes amid the backdrop of the 2024 Republican presidential primary. Trump is already a declared candidate and is leading in national polls by a healthy margin, while Pence is expected to decide in the coming weeks whether he will launch a campaign of his own.
Attorneys for Trump did not respond to request for comment, but a Trump campaign spokesman called the case a continuation of an effort to hinder his electoral prospects.
“The DOJ is continuously stepping far outside the standard norms in attempting to destroy the long accepted, long held, Constitutionally based standards of attorney-client privilege and executive privilege,” a Trump spokesman said in a statement.
“The Special Counsel is conducting a witch-hunt where the government has sought to violate every Constitutional norm, including the safeguards that protect a President’s ability to confer with his Vice President on matters of the security of the United States.”
Pence’s team had argued the Speech and Debate clause should shield the former vice president from questions relating to his role leading the Senate the day of the riot, using the unique role as a buffer against the DOJ investigation as lawmakers have a constitutional protection from being “questioned in any other place.”