This morning we get another reminder that Mike Pence is no hero.
Pence clearly doesn’t want to confront Donald Trump in any kind of sustained way in order to preserve his own political viability — and it leads to laughable contradictions.
I want to expand briefly on a point I alluded to in Morning Memo.
Pence wants to have it both ways: He said he couldn’t testify to the House Jan. 6 select committee because he was an executive branch official, and now he’s preparing to say he can’t testify to a federal grand jury because he was a legislative branch official (as president of the Senate).
Seeking to take advantage of the ambiguity that still remains about the constitutional role of the vice presidency, Pence seems content to play coy and seek a court order commanding he testify rather than voluntarily defend the legislative branch from Trump’s attack.
The greatest contradiction here may not be that he’s an executive branch official until such time as it suits him to be a legislative branch official instead. Rather, it’s that an underlying purpose of the Jack Smith probe is to investigate whether crimes were committed by the executive branch against the legislative branch on Jan. 6. To use the Speech and Debate Clause as a shield to thwart an executive branch investigation of a violent attack by the executive on the legislative branch is to turn legislative immunity on its head.
Congress was one of the victims of Jan. 6. If Pence sitting as Senate president is a legislative branch role, then he is a crime victim refusing to cooperate with the criminal investigation into the attack against him. Trump unleashed a mob against his own vice president that was intent on killing him — recall the “hang Pence” taunts — and publicly egged it on from the comfort of the White House. The analogy that comes to mind is a battered spouse too scared and mentally and emotionally abused to testify against her abuser.