Short, who was with Pence at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, and participated in a critical White House meeting on January 4, 2021, is seen as a potentially crucial witness in the committee’s investigation as the panel pieces together the pressure campaign then-President Donald Trump and his allies waged to try to convince Pence not to certify the presidential election.
Short testified before the select committee in person last Wednesday in a lengthy session, according to a source familiar with the matter. Short had previously supplied a limited number of documents that were subpoenaed by the committee, according to one source, including a memo from Trump aide Johnny McEntee comparing Trump to Thomas Jefferson. It’s also customary that witnesses hand over more documents when they testify, according to another source familiar with the matter.
Short’s testimony, obtained after months of discussions between his attorney Emmet Flood and lawyers on the committee — as well as a subpoena — comes as the panel still does not know whether Pence himself will testify.
Short declined to comment. A spokesman for the committee declined to comment.
While the committee has had early, informal discussions with Pence’s legal team and hopes he will cooperate in some way, multiple sources told CNN that Pence would prefer aides like Short act as the former vice president’s “proxy” so Pence himself does not have to appear.
The prospect of Pence appearing before the January 6 committee underscores the dilemma facing the former vice president, whose political ambitions are intertwined with his strained relationship with Trump. The former President still blames Pence for not trying to overturn the election results in Congress — and Pence has faced a backlash from Trump’s base for his role on January 6.
As recently as this weekend, Trump was still blaming Pence, including in a written statement where he bluntly admitted had been trying to use Pence to overturn the election result. “He could have overturned the Election!” Trump said of Pence.
Pence is seeking to walk a tightrope between affirming that he did the right thing on January 6 and the fact that he will need the support of Trump’s base, which falsely believes the 2020 election was stolen, to gain traction in a 2024 Republican presidential primary. Pence has been vague about how much he will cooperate with the committee, and his advisers have pushed back in the media after committee members praised Pence as a “hero” and “patriot.”
“This is all a political calculation because he wants to run for president. Somehow he thinks he can straddle and do the right thing but not alienate the base,” one source said.
Pence may respond to Trump’s comment about him having the right to “overturn” the 2020 election later this week when the former vice president speaks before a Federalist Society gathering in Florida, according to a source familiar with Pence’s thinking.
While Pence’s aides have spoken to the committee, his allies have signaled that when it comes to executive privilege, there’s an inclination to remain deferential to Trump. According to multiple sources, the focus on privilege is one way to send a message to Trump and his base that Pence and his aides are not crossing the former President.
Committee sources, however, say privilege should not become an issue with Pence and his team. “Discussions up to this point have been about what questions and what answers could be asked and given without running into any potential privilege roadblocks,” said one source familiar with the discussions.
In addition, the committee has made a point publicly of saying that executive privilege can be pierced by criminal activity.
Richard Cullen, who was Pence’s lawyer before joining the administration of GOP Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, began initial negotiations about how Pence might cooperate with Tim Heaphy, the committee’s chief investigator. Heaphy used to be a partner in Cullen’s firm.
With Cullen leaving Pence’s team to join the Virginia governor’s office, it’s unclear who is now representing Pence.
Earlier this month, Select Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson told NPR he expected the committee would invite Pence to testify by the end of the month, though the Mississippi Democrat later told CNN he hoped Pence would “do the right thing and come forward and voluntarily,” while noting the committee had not yet formally asked.
In addition to Short, the committee has already questioned retired Gen. Keith Kellogg, his former national security adviser who was with Trump at the White House on January 6, as well as retired Judge Michael Luttig, whose tweets on Pence’s role on January 6 were cited by Pence in his letter released the morning of January 6 announcing he would certify the election. Another top Pence aide, Greg Jacob, is a potential witness.
The committee is interested in piecing together how Trump pressured Pence when he and his team called on the vice president to throw out presidential electors while Congress certified Joe Biden’s 2020 election win.
The committee cited Kellogg’s testimony in a letter earlier this month seeking testimony from Ivanka Trump, saying Kellogg had testified about how Trump had attempted to coerce Pence to try to overturn the election on a phone call the morning of January 6.
“You’re not tough enough to make the call,” Kellogg testified that Trump told Pence.
Short was with Pence at the Capitol on January 6 when rioters were chanting “hang Mike Pence” and Trump tweeted, “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.”
Short was also at Pence’s side in the Oval Office for a pivotal January 4 meeting when Trump and attorney John Eastman tried to convince the then-vice president he could overturn the presidential election results in Congress on January 6. Eastman had drafted a memo arguing Pence could throw out states’ results in a scheme to push the election to the House of Representatives, and the meeting is a key part of the select committee’s investigation into Trump’s efforts to overturn the election result.