Trump Lawyer: Mike Pence Will Be “One of Our Best Witnesses”
In the week since former president Donald Trump was hit with his third criminal indictment, which charges him in connection with his attempt to overturn the 2020 election, his lawyers haven’t been shy about broadcasting his legal strategy. Apparently, Trump’s defense hinges on cooperation from former Vice President Mike Pence. In a Sunday interview with ABC’s The Week, Trump lawyer John Lauro made the bizarre claim that Pence, whom Capitol rioters vowed to hang on January 6, will “be one of our best witnesses” when Trump goes to trial.
Lauro, who was brought onto the former president’s defense team last month, added that he’d read Pence’s recent memoir, So Help Me God, “very carefully,” and if Pence “testifies consistent with his book, then President Trump will be acquitted.”
“I cannot wait until I have the opportunity to cross-examine Mr. Pence, because what he will do is completely eliminate any doubt that Mr. Trump—President Trump—firmly believed that the election irregularities had led to inappropriate results,” Lauro said.
The question of whether Trump truly believed the election was stolen is likely to become a major theme of the trial. Responding to Lauro’s claims, former U.S. Attorney Gene Rossi told Newsweek Sunday that Pence would likely be a devastating witness for Trump on that subject. “The conversations that Pence had with Trump show a guilty mind. When the president says, ‘You are too honest,’ that is code for ‘I know I am asking you to do something illegal,'” he said.
The conversation Rossi was referring to, which is contained in special counsel Jack Smith’s 45-page indictment, was a January 1, 2021 phone call in which Pence allegedly told Trump he felt he did not have constitutional authority to reject or return electoral votes to the states on January 6. In response, according to the document, Trump said, “You’re too honest.”
For his part, the former vice president responded to Trump’s latest indictment by tweeting that “anyone who puts himself over the Constitution should never be president of the United States.” On Wednesday, Pence further criticized the former president for surrounding himself after the 2020 election with “crackpot lawyers” who said only what his “itching ears” wanted to hear.
Lauro’s ABC appearance was just one of multiple interviews he gave Sunday in which he seemed to outline the former president’s legal strategy. In an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press, Lauro admitted that Trump may have committed a “technical violation of the Constitution,” but argued that his actions were not a violation of criminal law. Later on the show, Maryland Democrat Rep. Jamie Raskin, a member of the January 6 Committee, called Lauro’s comments “deranged.”
“First of all, a technical violation of the Constitution is a violation of the Constitution. The Constitution in six different places opposes insurrection,” he said, adding that Trump “conspired to defraud the American people out of our right to an honest election by substituting the real legal process we have under federal and state law with counterfeit electors.”
And still, Trump’s defense insisted: in a third Sunday interview, this one with CNN’s Dana Bash, Lauro outlined how Trump’s free speech defense is likely to unfold. Attempting to draw a distinction between “asking” and “directing,” Lauro argued that Trump pressuring Pence to block the election certification was done in an “aspirational” way.
“What President Trump did not do is direct Vice President Pence to do anything,” Lauro argued. “He asked him in an aspirational way. Asking is covered by the First Amendment.” Later in the interview, Lauro argued that the “transition of power” from Trump to President Joe Biden “was certainly peaceful.”
“Did you see what happened on January 6?” an awestruck Bash responded.