When the DOJ appointed Special Counsel Jack Smith to oversee the prosecution of Donald Trump, not only did it mean Trump was going to be indicted, it meant there were multiple prosecution teams within the DOJ who are looking to indict Trump on various charges. The point of a Special Counsel in these situations is to play traffic cop for these various teams and help decide who gets to indict Trump and in what order.
Now we’re seeing some confirmation of this. Yesterday’s appeals court hearing made more clear than ever that the DOJ intends to criminally indict Trump in its classified documents probe. But there has been grand jury related reporting for months that has also pointed to the DOJ continuing to target Trump for January 6th-related and election-related crimes.
Sure enough, the New York Times is now reporting that the DOJ is seeking testimony from Mike Pence in relation to January 6th. This tells us a few things. First, Donald Trump is obviously the target; you don’t go as far as seeking testimony from the former Vice President of the United States just to use it to indict some low level January 6th thugs. Second, the highest ranking witnesses tend to be interviewed last, suggesting the DOJ’s 1/6 criminal case against Trump is nearly complete.
Third, the NYT says that the DOJ actually reached out to Pence weeks ago about testifying. This means the process was initiated shortly before Special Counsel Jack Smith was appointed. It suggests that Attorney General Merrick Garland decided that now was the time to put a Special Counsel in charge, because DOJ prosecution teams are nearly ready to charge Trump and therefore need someone coordinating those charges.
Finally, this sentence from the NYT article pretty clearly gives away that it’s Mike Pence himself who leaked this story: “Mr. Pence, according to people familiar with his thinking, is open to considering the request, recognizing that the Justice Department’s criminal investigation is different from the inquiry by the House Jan. 6 committee, whose overtures he has flatly rejected.”
For one thing, Pence doesn’t get to decide whether to “consider” a “request” when it comes to this sort of thing. As we keep seeing in various jurisdictions, witnesses don’t get to decide whether to cooperate with grand jury criminal probes. If they refuse to cooperate, they get subpoenaed, they immediately lose in court, and – just ask Lindsey Graham – they end up having to testify in short order.
So it’s clear that Pence, in leaking this, is trying to make himself look more powerful than he is. But it’s also notable that Pence is choosing to leak this at all. He could have just secretly testified against Trump, and the public might not have known about it until the day Trump is indicted. Instead, Pence seems to want the public to know that the DOJ is indeed gearing up to indict Trump. Given that Pence is gearing up to run in 2024, it would make sense that he wants the public to know that Trump – who is currently pretending he’ll also be a 2024 candidate – will actually be in prison instead.
In any case, it’s more clear than ever that Special Counsel Jack Smith is hitting the ground running. He’s inheriting multiple DOJ criminal probes against Donald Trump, all of which are visibly nearing the point where indictments are ready to be brought. And as yesterday’s court hearing proved, Smith isn’t having anyone at the DOJ take their foot off the gas.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report