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The chair of the Jan. 6 panel says the committee will ask Mike Pence to appear

Hours after rioters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, Vice President Mike Pence listens after reading the final certification of the Electoral College votes cast in the 2020 presidential election.
J. Scott Applewhite
/
AP
Hours after rioters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, Vice President Mike Pence listens after reading the final certification of the Electoral College votes cast in the 2020 presidential election.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, chair of the Democratic-led House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, says members expect this month to ask former Vice President Mike Pence to voluntarily appear.

Pence's role on the day of the siege has drawn close interest from the committee, as it examines then-President Donald Trump's actions that day, as well as in the days leading up to the attack. Trump had been pressuring Pence to step out of his ceremonial role and reject Joe Biden's election results in several key states.

Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, shared the timing plans for the Pence ask in an interview with NPR.

"I think you could expect that before the month's out," Thompson said.

He described Pence's appearance as critical, especially as the former vice president ultimately issued a letter before the Jan. 6 proceedings that said he would not step out of his ceremonial role.

"The vice president was put in a tough spot. The president was putting a lot of pressure on him to break the law, and he stood fast," added Thompson. "And because of his respect for law, there were people who came to the Capitol a year ago wanting to hang him. And so, if for no other reason, our committee really needs to hear what are his opinions about what happened on Jan. 6."

The committee is meeting next week behind closed doors and expects to firm up final plans regarding Pence and the voluntary ask then, Thompson said.

Seeking information from Ivanka Trump and others

The effort comes as the committee moves into a new phase of its investigation, with a closer look into Donald Trump's inner circle and new public requests for voluntary testimony. In the last several weeks, the committee has asked that Fox News personality Sean Hannity and Republican Reps. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and Jim Jordan of Ohio come before the panel.

None has signaled interest in doing so.

Thompson did not rule out more requests for other witnesses in Trump's inner circle, including daughter and former senior White House adviser Ivanka Trump.

"Look, we are absolutely open to anyone coming voluntarily to the committee," Thompson said. "If in fact we think somebody has information that as a committee we need, and getting a subpoena for that person's participation is important, then we will do it."

The committee has obtained information that Ivanka Trump tried to get her father to call off the riot several times that day, Thompson and other members have said.

"We have information that Ivanka did try to get the president to call off what was occurring at the Capitol. We don't have all the information. That's why we would love to have access to it," Thompson said.

Thompson said more details on Ivanka Trump's requests to her father regarding the attack are likely held within White House documents that are the subject of an ongoing legal fight. Donald Trump has lost several rounds in federal courts seeking to block the committee's access to a tranche of those documents and is now asking the Supreme Court to intervene.

"So we think once we have access to that, it will help clear up all the drips and drabbles of the information that we are getting," Thompson said.

The committee has issued more than 50 subpoenas, has interviewed about 350 witnesses, has received more than 45,000 documents and is chasing nearly 350 tips.

The committee is also assessing whether Donald Trump or others should be considered for criminal referrals for their actions tied to the siege. So far, the House has approved the committee's two criminal referrals for ex-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and former strategist Steve Bannon.

Thompson said the committee is also working to issue "significant recommendations" for new legislation. This could include reforms to the Electoral Count Act or new penalties for obstructing an official proceeding, such as the certification of presidential election results.

"Because one of the dangers, as you know, is if the insurrectionists had been successful and gotten their hands on the ballots from the different states and destroyed [them]," Thompson said, "we would have had a constitutional crisis of no end."

The panel is in a race to wrap up its investigation before the November midterm elections this year, as Republicans could take back control of the lower chamber next year and shut down the probe.

Hearings to present those findings could be held by this spring or summer, members have said.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.