The Lawfare Podcast: Can the Speech or Debate Clause Shield Mike Pence from a Subpoena?

By Jen Patja Howell
Wednesday, February 22, 2023, 5:01 AM

Special Counsel Jack Smith has issued a subpoena to former Vice President Mike Pence as part of the investigation into Trump’s role in instigating the Jan. 6 riot. But Pence has said he’ll fight the subpoena. And he’s pointed to the Speech or Debate Clause—a constitutional immunity that protects members of Congress—on the argument that he was acting as part of the legislative branch when he presided over the electoral count on January 6, 2021.

Setting aside Pence’s motives for taking this approach, the merits of the legal argument are less crazy than they might sound. Lawfare senior editors Quinta Jurecic and Molly Reynolds sat down to talk through these issues with two former congressional lawyers: Eric Columbus, who recently served as Special Litigation Counsel in the House Office of General Counsel under Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Mike Stern, a former senior counsel to the House of Representatives.