Washington - Former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday he would give "due consideration" to testifying before the congressional panel investigating the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol last year where some protesters demanded that Pence be hanged for refusing then-President Donald Trump's demand that he upend their re-election loss.
Pence was in the initial stages of overseeing the congressional certification of the state-by-state Electoral College vote showing that Democrats Joe Biden and Kamala Harris had defeated Trump and Pence in the November 2020 election when about 2,000 Trump supporters rampaged into the Capitol and blocked the proceedings for hours.
Some shouted, "Hang Mike Pence!" and a gallows was erected on the National Mall within eyesight of the Capitol.
As Pence weighs a run for the presidency in 2024, he has been making political speeches in several key early nominating states. On Wednesday, he told a gathering in the northeastern state of New Hampshire that if the House of Representatives committee makes a "formal invitation" for him to appear, "I would consider it."
The panel, which is set to resume hearings in September after a summertime recess, already has heard testimony from two of Pence's key aides - his chief of staff, Marc Short, and his counsel, Greg Jacob, who testified that Trump pressed the vice president to send the election results back to legislatures in states Trump narrowly lost so that electors favoring Trump could replace the official ones pledged to Biden.
But Pence, after studying his prescribed role in overseeing the Electoral College vote count, accepted the advice of numerous aides and legal experts who said he could only oversee the vote count and had no authority to overturn the national outcome.
In the United States, presidents are effectively chosen in separate elections in each of the 50 states, not through the national popular vote. Each state's number of electoral votes is dependent on its population, with the biggest states holding the most sway.
The rioters who stormed the Capitol tried to keep lawmakers from certifying Biden's eventual 306-232 victory in the Electoral College, which was finalized in the early hours of January 7, 2021, after the rioters had been cleared from the Capitol.
It was not immediately clear whether Pence would be called voluntarily as a witness before the January 6 panel. Committee chairman Bennie Thompson has previously said the committee ruled out a subpoena for Pence, citing the "significant information" it has gotten from Short and Jacob. The two Pence aides also have testified before a grand jury in Washington investigating Trump's role in trying to overturn the election results.
In a separate probe, Trump is also under investigation for keeping highly classified national security documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida after taking them with him when his White House term ended, rather than turning them over to the National Archives and Records Administration, as he was required to do under U.S. law.
Some Republicans have assailed agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation for conducting the search, although it was authorized by Attorney General Merrick Garland and approved by a U.S. magistrate. It was the first time a former president's home has been searched for evidence in the possible commission of a crime, as the government alleged in securing the search warrant.
In his New Hampshire speech, Pence said, 'This unprecedented action does demand unprecedented transparency' from Garland in explaining the reasons behind the search.
But Pence defended the agents who conducted the search.
"I just want to remind my fellow Republicans, we can hold [Garland] accountable for the decision he made without attacking rank-and-file law enforcement personnel at the FBI. The Republican Party is the party of law and order. These attacks on the FBI must stop," he said.