Cheney hits back as Pence says January 6 committee has ‘no right’ to testimony

Panel vice-chair issues statement with chair Bennie Thompson after Trump vice-president gives interview to CBS

The chair and vice-chair of the January 6 committee hit back after Mike Pence said they had “no right” to his testimony about the Capitol attack, and claimed they presided over a “partisan” investigation.

Testimony presented to the panel and to the nation in a series of dramatic public hearings was “not partisan”, Bennie Thompson and Liz Cheney said. “It was truthful.”

Pence was speaking to CBS, to promote a new book in which he sets out his version of events on the day supporters of his president, Donald Trump, attacked Congress, some chanting that Pence should be hanged.

Pence previously said he would consider testifying. But to CBS, he said: “Congress has no right to my testimony on separation of powers under the constitution of the United States.

“And I believe it will establish a terrible precedent for the Congress to summon a vice-president of the United States to speak about deliberations that took place at the White House.”

Trump supporters attacked Congress after he told them to “fight like hell” to stop certification of Joe Biden’s election win, in service of the lie that it was the result of electoral fraud. Nine deaths have been linked to the riot, including suicides among law enforcement.

Trump was impeached a second time but acquitted when Senate Republicans stayed loyal. On Tuesday, he announced a third consecutive presidential run.

Pence is also eyeing a run for the Republican nomination. In doing so he must balance promoting his record as vice-president to Trump, thereby appealing to Trump’s supporters, with distancing himself from a former president whose standing is slipping after Republican disappointment in the midterm elections.

Pence said he was “closing the door” on the prospect of testifying.

“But I must say again, the partisan nature of the January 6 committee has been a disappointment to me. It seemed to me in the beginning, there was an opportunity to examine every aspect of what happened on January 6, and to do so more in the spirit of the 9/11 Commission, non-partisan, non-political, and that was an opportunity lost.”

The January 6 committee was appointed by the Democratic House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, after the Republican leader in the House, Kevin McCarthy, previously tried to appoint Trump allies to the committee. Pelosi rejected those appointments, leading McCarthy to withdraw from the process.

The January 6 committee consists of seven Democrats and two Republicans, Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, anti-Trump figures who will soon leave Congress.

The panel is wrapping up its work, after it was confirmed on Wednesday that Republicans will take control of the House.

In their statement, Thompson and Cheney said: “The select committee has proceeded respectfully and responsibly in our engagement with Vice-President Pence, so it is disappointing that he is misrepresenting the nature of our investigation while giving interviews to promote his new book.

“Our investigation has publicly presented the testimony of more than 50 Republican witnesses, including senior members of the Trump White House, the Trump campaign, and the Trump justice department.

“This testimony, subject to criminal penalties for lying to Congress, was not ‘partisan’. It was truthful.”

• This article was amended on 29 November 2022. Kevin McCarthy tried to appoint Trump allies to the January 6 select committee, not to an earlier 9/11-style independent commission as a previous version of the article said.


Martin Pengelly in New York

The GuardianTramp

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