Here are some of the legal news stories making headlines this week:
Former Vice President Mike Pence will challenge the subpoena issued to him by special counsel Jack Smith as part of the January 6 investigation.
- Smith reportedly subpoenaed Pence for documents and testimony relating to January 6, including his communications with former President Donald Trump in advance of the 2020 election and up until the morning of January 6. The Pence subpoena comes after prosecutors have reportedly already secured testimony from a number of Pence aides, including his former chief counsel Greg Jacob and former chief of staff Marc Short.
- Pence said that he will challenge the subpoena, which he called “unconstitutional.” “I am going to fight the Biden DOJ subpoena for me to appear before the grand jury because I believe it’s unconstitutional and unprecedented,” he said. “We’re prepared to take this fight into the court, and if need be take it to the Supreme Court,” Pence continued.
- In an attempt to avoid testifying, Pence will rely on the Constitution’s “Speech or Debate” clause. The clause shields members of Congress from the specter of law enforcement scrutiny for conduct within the scope of their duties in Congress. It states that “Senators and Representatives…for any Speech or Debate in either House…shall not be questioned in any other Place.” Here, Pence is expected to argue that the vice president’s role as the president of the Senate, and, specifically, his role presiding over the election certification process, should be protected under the clause. This is a novel legal argument and is a shift from his position in opposition to testifying before the House January 6 Committee. Pence never received a subpoena from the House Committee, but he had said that testifying would set “a terrible precedent.”
- Trump’s lawyers are also expected to challenge the subpoena. Trump will reportedly argue that their communications should be protected under executive privilege.
A judge in Georgia ruled that a grand jury report detailing the findings from an investigation into Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election will remain under seal until a district attorney has decided whether to bring charges from the probe.
- For the past two years, Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis’s office has conducted a probe into Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in the state. Last month, a special purpose grand jury empaneled to investigate the matter concluded its work and submitted to Willis a final report. Under Georgia law, such a report would normally be released to the public upon recommendation by the jurors. However, Willis objected to releasing the report until her charging decisions were finalized.
- This week, Judge Robert McBurney ordered that most of the report not be released to the public until Willis completes her investigation. According to McBurney, despite the fact that the law seemingly compels publication of the report, “As with many things in the law, it is not that simple.” In order to protect the due process rights of the individuals implicated in the report, the writings must be limited to “the District Attorney’s eyes only — for now,” McBurney said.
- However, three segments from the report were unsealed on Thursday: the introduction, the conclusion, and section VIII, which detailed jurors’ concerns that some witnesses may have committed perjury while testifying. The grand jury also determined “by unanimous vote that no widespread fraud took place in the Georgia 2020 presidential election that could result in overturning that election.”
- It remains to be seen whether Willis will bring charges from the probe. Last year, her office sent target letters to 18 individuals, which suggests they could potentially face charges. Among the recipients were Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s former personal attorney, and David Shafer, the chair of the Georgia Republican Party. It is unclear whether Trump is a target of the investigation.