A former top aide to Vice President Mike Pence returned before a grand jury Thursday to testify in a criminal probe of efforts to overturn the 2020 election after federal courts overruled President Donald Trump’s objections to the testimony, according to people familiar with the matter.
In a sealed decision that could clear the way for other top Trump White House officials to answer questions before a grand jury, Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell ruled that former Pence chief of staff Marc Short probably possessed information important to the Justice Department’s criminal investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol that was not available from other sources, one of those people said.
Trump appealed, but the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit refused to postpone Short’s appearance while the litigation continues, the people said, signaling that attempts by Trump to invoke executive privilege to preserve the confidentiality of presidential decision-making were not likely to prevail.
The people spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.
Short on Friday declined to comment about his court appearance, which stretched through much of the day. His attorney, Emmet Flood, an attorney for Trump, John P. Rowley III, and a Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.
Grand jury matters are typically secret, but The Washington Post has reported that prosecutors are working with grand jurors and looking extensively at the actions of Trump and his advisers in the period between the November 2020 election and Jan. 6, 2021. Short’s case came to light on Sept. 22 after Trump attorneys M. Evan Corcoran, Timothy C. Parlatore and Rowley were seen at federal court in Washington when there were no publicly scheduled matters, along with a lead Jan. 6 federal prosecutor, Thomas Windom.
According to people familiar with the matter, Short had appeared before a grand jury in downtown Washington in July, but declined to answer certain questions after Flood argued the communications of top White House advisers are protected — and presented written documentation from Trump’s lawyers that they were asserting executive privilege.
The Justice Department asked the court to intervene, urging Howell to override Trump’s claim and to compel Short to answer questions about his communications with Trump, one person said. After arguments Sept. 22, Howell granted the government’s motion, the people said, but because the investigation and an appeal are ongoing, it is unclear if or when a redacted opinion will become public. [Continue reading…]