Mike Pence ruling suggests VPs have protections presidents don’t

Pence Iowa
Former Vice President Mike Pence waits to speak at the Westside Conservative Club Breakfast, Wednesday, March 29, 2023, in Urbandale, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall) Charlie Neibergall/AP

Mike Pence ruling suggests VPs have protections presidents don’t

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A recent ruling requiring former Vice President Mike Pence to testify before a grand jury about Jan. 6 established that vice presidents get their rights to immunity from their role in Congress, not the executive branch.

Chief U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ruled that vice presidents are protected from testifying about certain topics related to their duties in Congress through the “speech or debate” clause on Tuesday. The clause protects members of Congress from law enforcement inquiries related to their official duties.

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”For the first time ever, a federal court has recognized that these protections extend to a vice president,” Pence said, according to Politico. “I am pleased that the judge recognized the Constitution’s speech and debate protection applies to my work as vice president.”

It is the first time a federal court has said that vice presidents are entitled to immunity like presidents and members of Congress.

Boasberg’s ruling noted that Pence does still have to testify in front of a Washington, D.C., grand jury, but he is protected from answering certain questions about his role as the president of the Senate on Jan. 6, 2021.

The vice president’s role is mostly assigned by the president and is usually to serve the executive branch. But the Constitution names the vice president as the president of the Senate, which is part of the legislative branch. While the role in the Senate is almost entirely ceremonial, the vice president casts tiebreaking votes and presides over the count of electoral votes of a presidential election every four years.

The decision comes after former President Donald Trump opposed the subpoena on executive privilege grounds, which Boasberg rejected. Although Pence did not agree with Trump’s reason for the opposition, the former vice president has long argued that his role presiding over Congress on Jan. 6 should afford him the speech-or-debate immunity.

Pence is also debating whether to appeal the ruling on the basis that it did not go far enough in its protections. If he does appeal, the case could be picked up by the Supreme Court.

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The Supreme Court previously said the clause gives immunity to lawmakers for “legislative” activities, such as voting on bills and giving speeches on the floor of Congress, but not necessarily on conversations that Pence had with Trump before the certification. Pence indicated that he is willing to testify about his conversations with Trump before the attack on the Capitol.

Before Jan. 6, 2021, Trump allegedly pressed Pence to use his capacity as president of the Senate to refuse to count President Joe Biden’s electoral votes. Pence said he viewed Trump’s actions as unconstitutional and certified the results.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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