The US House committee investigating the Capitol riot will ask former vice president Mike Pence to voluntarily answer its questions, the probe’s leader says.
“I think you could expect that before the month’s out,” Rep Bennie Thompson, chair of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, told NPR.
Mr Pence played a central role in the drama of 6 January, 2021, when Congress certified Joe Biden’s presidential election victory. As the date approached, outgoing president Donald Trump pressured his VP, who oversaw the final vote, to go beyond his ceremonial role and block the certification, thereby throwing the election to Mr Trump. Mr Pence refused.
“The vice president was put in a tough spot,” Mr Thompson explained to the radio station. “The president was putting a lot of pressure on him to break the law, and he stood fast.”
Furious that the certification was moving ahead, a crowd of Mr Trump’s supporters – egged on by a speech in which he encouraged them to “walk down to the Capitol” – violently stormed Congress in an attempt to stop the vote. Some of the rioters chanted “Hang Mike Pence,” while others built makeshift gallows outside.
“Because of his respect for the law, there were people who came to the Capitol a year ago wanting to hang him,” Mr Thompson said. “And so, if for no other reason, our committee really needs to hear what are his opinions about what happened on January 6.”
The committee has not yet asked Mr Pence to testify, and no subpoena has been issued. If the investigators did make the request, Mr Thompson said, they would start by asking Mr Pence to speak voluntarily.
“I would hope that he would do the right thing and come forward and voluntarily talk to the committee,” Mr Thompson said in a separate interview with CNN. “We have not formally asked. But if he offered, we’d gladly accept. Everything is under consideration.”
On the day of the riot, Secret Service members rushed Mr Pence to safety before the mob could reach him. Mr Thompson says that’s one of the things his committee wants to ask him about.
“We’d like to know what his security detail told him was going on,” the congressman said.
The former vice president has not yet said whether he will speak to the committee. Members of his inner circle, however, are reportedly already cooperating. According to CNN, Mr Pence’s former chief of staff, Marc Short, and his former national security advisor, Keith Kellogg, have both answered the committee’s questions.