Lawyers for former President Donald J. Trump asked a federal appeals court on Monday to narrow the scope of the testimony that former Vice President Mike Pence has to give a grand jury investigating Mr. Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The request to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to reverse a lower court’s decision ordering Mr. Pence to testify was the latest attempt by Mr. Trump’s legal team to keep witnesses close to him from divulging information to prosecutors in the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith.
Mr. Pence has always been a potentially important witness in the election inquiry into Mr. Trump because of the conversations he took part in at the White House in the weeks preceding the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. During that time, Mr. Trump repeatedly pressed him to use his ceremonial role overseeing the congressional count of Electoral College votes to block or delay certification of his defeat.
Understand the Events on Jan. 6
Prosecutors have been trying to get Mr. Pence to talk about Mr. Trump’s demands for months — first in requests by the Justice Department for an interview and then through a grand jury subpoena issued by Mr. Smith, who inherited the inquiry into Mr. Trump’s attempts to stay in power.
Should Mr. Pence end up testifying, it would be a turning point in a monthslong behind-the-scenes battle waged by Mr. Trump and several witnesses close to him to block the disclosure of details about plans to overturn the election.
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Last month, in a pair of sealed rulings, Judge James E. Boasberg, the chief judge of Federal District Court in Washington, ordered Mr. Pence to appear before the grand jury, striking down two separate challenges that would have kept Mr. Pence from answering certain questions.
In one of those challenges, Mr. Pence sought to limit his testimony by arguing that his role as the president of the Senate on Jan. 6, when Mr. Trump’s defeat was certified by Congress, meant he was protected from legal scrutiny by the executive branch — including the Justice Department. That argument was based on the “speech or debate” clause of the Constitution, which is intended to protect the separation of powers.
Judge Boasberg ruled that while Mr. Pence could claim some protections against testimony under the “speech or debate” clause, he would have to answer questions about any potentially illegal acts committed by Mr. Trump. Last week, Mr. Pence announced that he did not intend to appeal the decision.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers have now taken the opposite path, asking the appeals court to reverse Judge Boasberg’s ruling on their own attempts to narrow the scope of the questions that Mr. Pence would have to answer. Mr. Trump’s team based its arguments on the concept of executive privilege, which protects certain communications between the president and some members of his administration.
Like all matters involving the grand jury, Mr. Trump’s lawyers filed their appeal under seal. A coalition of news media organizations has asked Judge Boasberg to unseal some of the proceedings, though he has not yet made a decision in the case.
Since last summer, Mr. Trump’s lawyers have repeatedly — and unsuccessfully — asked judges to keep information from the grand jury by asserting both executive privilege and attorney-client privilege for an array of witnesses. The witnesses have included some of Mr. Pence’s chief aides, two of the top lawyers in the White House and advisers to Mr. Trump like Mark Meadows, his former chief of staff.
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