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January 6 Committee chairman wants to speak directly with Mike Pence

By Ryan Nobles and Annie Grayer, CNN

Rep. Bennie Thompson, chairman of select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection, wants to hear directly from then-Vice President Mike Pence, who certified the 2020 presidential election despite an extensive pressure campaign led by then-President Donald Trump and his allies to halt the process.

Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, wants Pence to voluntarily speak with the panel about what he witnessed on January 6 and the conversations he was privy to in the days leading up to it, which could provide extensive insight to the panel’s investigation.

“I would hope that he would do the right thing and come forward and voluntarily talk to the committee,” Thompson told CNN in an interview Tuesday.

A spokesperson for Pence declined to comment on Thompson’s remarks.

Thompson added that the panel has not officially asked Pence to speak with them, but did not rule out making that ask in the future.

“We have not formally asked. But if he offered, we’d gladly accept. Everything is under consideration.”

Thompson made note that Pence’s decision to disregard the pressure campaign he was under put him at extreme risk from the rioters on January 6.

“His life was at risk,” Thompson said. “There were people who had gallows erected on the lawn of the Capitol ostensibly to hang the vice president. There were people on them threatening the life of the vice president. The vice president could not leave the Capitol of the United States because of the riot. He was sequestered in an area in the Capitol. So his life was in danger.”

Thompson also raised how threats to Pence’s life did not seem to motivate Trump to act, further calling into question why Trump took so long to respond to the riot.

“I think it’s important that the public needs to know this was the no. 2 person in government,” he added. “And for our President, at that time, to take 187 minutes to say the rioters you need to stop and go home because my vice president is in the building and his life is in danger is an absolute shame.”

The chairman said they are interested in the evacuation plan for Pence and specifically the role his Secret Service detail played.

“We’d like to know what his security detail told him was going on,” he said.

The committee’s interest in speaking directly with Pence comes after various Pence aides have started engaging with the panel. CNN reported last month that Marc Short, Pence’s former chief of staff, is cooperating with the committee, a significant development that gave investigators insight from one of the highest-ranking Trump administration officials.

Short’s assistance signals a greater openness among Pence’s inner circle. One source told CNN the committee is getting “significant cooperation with Team Pence,” even if the committee has not openly discussed that. Another source told CNN that Short’s help is an example of the “momentum” the investigation is enjoying behind the scenes.

The committee also recently spoke with Pence’s then-national security adviser Keith Kellogg in December, who was with Trump in the White House when the riot was happening, and has contributed to the panel’s knowledge of what Trump was doing during the riot.

Multiple sources have told CNN that some individuals close to Pence may be willing, either voluntarily or under the guise of a “friendly subpoena,” to provide critical information about the pressure campaign they witnessed.

According to sources familiar with the discussions, some Pence aides have been proving more willing to engage with the committee than previously made public.

Thompson confirmed to CNN in November the committee was in the process of reaching out to Pence associates but said their efforts had been met with mixed success.

“Well, yes and no,” Thompson replied when asked if Pence associates had been cooperative. “I don’t want to just say yes, when there have been some people who clearly have said no. So we’ve had, you know, people on both sides.”

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