Subpoena could complicate Pence decision to run for president in 2024

Special counsel Jack Smith subpoenaed Pence after months of unsuccessful negotiations with his legal team to obtain his testimony.

Mike Pence
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WASHINGTON — The subpoena issued Thursday to former Vice President Mike Pence by the special counsel investigating former President Donald Trump’s involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol will likely complicate the Indiana Republican’s White House prospects.

Special counsel Jack Smith subpoenaed Pence after months of unsuccessful negotiations with his legal team to obtain his testimony, according to multiple news reports. While Pence has been critical of Trump’s actions leading up to and on Jan. 6, when a mob of his supporters sought to block the Electoral College certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election, he refused to voluntarily sit for questioning with the Department of Justice and the special counsel.

ABC News first reported the subpoena had been issued Thursday evening.

Pence’s path to winning the Republican nomination in 2024 was narrow to begin with, and the latest development may make it that much harder for him, Republicans keeping tabs on the rapidly developing 2024 field told Yahoo News.

“It is hard, in my view, to say you are the grown-up in the room and in favor of law and order if you refuse DOJ subpoenas,” said one former Trump administration official. “Though, in the end, he still has no hope in 2024.”

Pence should respect the subpoena and cooperate, said Vin Weber, a former House Republican leader and longtime Republican operative.

“He’s got to be the straight-up guy he is, or he loses his brand,” Weber said.

Pence has been aggressively putting together a political team in recent months in anticipation of a formal announcement that insiders say will come this spring.

Donald Trump
Former President Donald Trump at a New Hampshire Republican State Committee fundraiser, Jan. 28, 2023. (Cheryl Senter for the Washington Post)

A Pence spokesman declined comment for this story.

After leaving the White House two years ago, Pence largely avoided talking about his former running mate and the stunning attack on the Capitol, at which Trump’s supporters, egged on by the president, angrily chanted “Hang Mike Pence!” as they ransacked the building and delayed the certification vote.

But slowly, as Pence traveled the country in apparent preparation for his own presidential run, he began talking more about how it felt to have Trump falsely claim he could have overturned the 2020 election results.

Pence’s top aides played a key role in providing testimony and evidence to the House Jan. 6 select committee, and Pence himself floated the idea last summer that he might testify before the panel.

Following the 2022 midterm elections, many Republicans blamed Trump for the party’s worse than expected showing. The day after Pence’s memoir was released in November, revealing for the first time his thoughts on what transpired on Jan. 6, Pence announced he would not testify before the House committee.

Since then, Pence has continued aggressively campaigning in early primary states that will play a key role in deciding the party’s next nominee. He has routinely polled in third place in polls of Republican voters assessing a hypothetical field of candidates, outperforming other top names like former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who is set to announce her entry into the race next week, but his standing has also slipped over the past year or so.

“I think Pence was always vastly overpriced as a 2024 stock. For all that, I think the subpoena is a low-intensity thing,” said Rick Wilson, a former longtime Republican operative who co-founded the Lincoln Project, a Never Trump group. “His campaign is already over ... he just doesn’t know it yet.”