A federal judge’s ruling that former Vice President Mike Pence must testify before a grand jury investigation into Donald Trump‘s alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election signals that courts are done allowing the former president and his allies to “weaponize” court delays, according to former federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner.
Trump has claimed that the 2020 election was stolen via widespread election, though the claims have not been backed by evidence, and he allegedly urged Pence to block President Joe Biden‘s Electoral College victory while presiding over the U.S. Senate on January 6, 2021, when a mob of Trump supporters rioted at the U.S. Capitol to protest Trump’s loss.
Pence, who has voiced criticisms of Trump’s stance on the 2020 election, has fought a subpoena compelling his testimony before the grand jury. But these efforts were dealt a blow with Tuesday’s ruling, which the former vice president will be able to appeal, according to the Associated Press.
Kirschner, a legal analyst who regularly criticizes the Trump administration’s alleged violations of the law, weighed in on the ruling Tuesday afternoon.
“Pence has some of the most sharply incriminating evidence of Trump’s criminal conduct AND his criminal intent,” Kirschner tweeted.
Legal experts have said Trump has sought to use this “delay” tactic to push back potential trials amid several legal battles, including a New York investigation into an alleged hush payment made to adult film star Stormy Daniels during his 2016 campaign and another DOJ probe into classified documents found at his Mar-a-Lago residence.
Kirschner said the ruling signals that “the courts are done letting Trump and his lackeys weaponize court delay.”
While a federal judge ruled that Pence must testify, he will not have to answer questions about his actions on January 6, AP reported.
Pence’s attorneys argued that requiring him to testify about those actions would violate the Constitution’s “speech or debate” clause, which says that members of Congress cannot be questioned over legislative duties. Pence’s legal team made the case that the privilege applies to him because he was serving as the president of the Senate on the day of the riot.
Kirschner previously told Newsweek that he expected Pence to be compelled to testify. He said Pence’s testimony could be among the most damaging evidence against Trump because he has “direct evidence of Donald Trump’s crimes.”
“The fact that Mike Pence can relay first to a grand jury, but then to a trial jury, the very words Donald Trump used when he was trying to pressure Pence to join the conspiracy, is direct evidence both of Donald Trump’s criminal conduct and perhaps more importantly, it’s evidence of Donald Trump’s criminal intent, his corrupt state of mind, his guilty mens rea,” Kirschner said on Saturday.
According to Cornell Law School: “Mens Rea refers to criminal intent. The literal translation from Latin is ‘guilty mind….A mens rea refers to the state of mind statutorily required in order to convict a particular defendant of a particular crime.”
Pence’s legal team is now evaluating whether or not they will appeal the ruling, AP reported.
Despite seeking to avoid testifying in the investigation, Pence has been critical of Trump’s actions surrounding the election. This month, Pence said he believes history will hold Trump “accountable” for the January 6, 2021, riot.
“President Trump was wrong,” Pence said during the March 11 Gridiron Dinner. “I had no right to overturn the election. And his reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day, and I know history will hold Donald Trump accountable.”
Trump, however, has maintained his innocence, accusing prosecutors of engaging in a politically motivated “witch hunt” aimed at harming his 2024 presidential bid.
Newsweek reached out to Pence’s press office via email for comment.
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