Trump lawyer welcomes Pence testifying at Jan. 6 trial but does not say if Trump will too

The former president was indicted last week -- for the third time.

August 6, 2023, 12:02 PM

Former President Donald Trump's attorney on Sunday welcomed former Vice President Mike Pence potentially testifying at Trump's future trial related to his push to overturn the 2020 election -- but Trump's lawyer wouldn't discuss if Trump will do the same.

John Lauro argued on ABC's "This Week" that Pence, who is a key figure in Trump's unprecedented third indictment, could actually be beneficial to Trump -- despite Pence rebuking Trump for urging him to stop the certification of their defeat on Jan. 6, 2021, when Congress convened at the Capitol and Pence presided in a ceremonial role.

Lauro maintained that Pence, if called to testify, would agree that Trump wasn't acting with criminal intent in seeking to stay in power and reverse his loss.

"Mike Pence will be one of our best witnesses at trial. ... I cannot wait until I have the opportunity to cross-examine Mr. Pence," Lauro told "This Week" anchor George Stephanopoulos.

"Based on what Vice President Pence will say, the government will never be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that President Trump had corrupt or criminal intent. And that's what this case is about," Lauro contended.

Trump denies breaking any laws and has pleaded not guilty to the four charges in his third indictment: conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding and conspiracy against rights.

"This is a persecution of a political opponent," he claimed after his arraignment in Washington on Thursday.

Pressed by Stephanopoulos on Sunday if Trump would be willing to go under oath to challenge Pence's version of events, Lauro responded, "That's impossible to say right now. What we have to see is what the Biden administration is going to put on evidence."

Throughout Lauro's sometimes contentious interview with Stephanopoulos, he repeatedly insisted that federal prosecutors will struggle to prove Trump acted corruptly because Trump was not convinced the 2020 election was legitimately conducted -- a view rejected by the courts and election officials -- and that he was seeking legal advice on the best way to challenge the results.

"People disagree all the time about constitutional points, but nobody gets indicted," Lauro said.

Special counsel Jack Smith anticipated such defenses in his 45-page indictment, legal experts previously told ABC News as they weighed in on the case.

"The majority of the indictment is trying to establish Trump's knowledge that he lost the election and his intent to overturn the election results," said Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor and president of West Coast Trial Lawyers.

Attorney John Lauro arrives with Trump at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2023, in Arlington, Va.
Alex Brandon/AP

On "This Week," Stephanopoulos pointed to Pence's own statements and how they contradicted his former boss: "What Mike Pence has said all this week is that what President Trump did was wrong and he knew it was wrong and he was pressing him to do something that was wrong."

Pence has also said that Trump once criticized him as "too honest" for his position that he had no legal authority to reject the 2020 Electoral College results in his ceremonial role on Jan. 6. Trump, on social media, claimed on Saturday that he never said that.

Asked by Stephanopoulos what will happen if Pence can substantiate that exchange, Lauro sought to play it down.

"The issue was described in Mr. Pence's book [his 2022 memoir] with respect to some of the legislation that was going on. And Mr. Pence said that he recalls Mr. Trump saying that Mr. Pence's position on a particular piece of litigation that was going on was hyper technical and hyper legal. That's a side issue," Lauro said. "No one is going to be concerned about that."

However, Pence could end up being a key witness against Trump, given his firsthand knowledge of Trump's efforts to stay in office.

He previously spoke with a federal grand jury, under subpoena, and said on Sunday on CNN: "I have no plans to testify. But, look, we'll always comply with the law."

Lauro, on "This Week," said that while Pence disagreed with Trump, "He never said it was criminal ... You may think that somebody is acting inappropriately under constitutional principles. But Mr. Pence, who is a lawyer, never said to Mr. Trump, 'I think what you're doing is criminal,' That's very important."

The back-and-forth goes to the heart of the Trump legal team's argument, that the then-president always believed the 2020 election was stolen and had a First Amendment right to say so while, as Lauro put it, "petition[ing] his government" to intervene in on his behalf.

Smith appeared to offer a prebuttal to that argument, using the term "knowingly" in the indictment 30 times, underscoring that Trump had been told his claims of fraud were baseless before repeatedly urging allies to try to reverse the 2020 results.

Lauro's response on "This Week" was: Prove it.

"The defense has no obligation to prove anything. We put the government to its test. The government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that President Trump had criminal intent," he said.

"This is a criminal case where they have to prove not whether or not he won [in 2020]," Lauro said, "but whether or not he was acting corruptly, whether or not he was acting with a consciousness of guilt, with criminal intent."

ABC News' Alexandra Hutzler contributed to this report.