WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Mike Pence is beginning to build a political future without Donald Trump, including making plans to form a policy-focused fundraising committee that would help him maintain a relationship with donors, according to multiple sources familiar with his plans.
Pence, who left Washington and took a post-inauguration vacation with his wife in St. Croix, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, ahead of resettling in Indiana, is expected to announce his new venture in the coming weeks, sources said.
To say the end of his time in office was rocky would be putting it mildly. His relationship with Trump has been virtually nonexistent since a mob of the former president's followers stormed the U.S. Capitol in a failed attempt to confront Pence and overturn the outcome of the election. Before the Jan. 6 riot, Pence's time with Trump had been defined by the vice president's role as a loyal soldier.
After Pence and his family had to be rushed from the Senate chamber and hidden from the rioters, it has raised questions about whether he might testify in Trump’s upcoming impeachment trial, which will consider whether the former president was guilty of insurrection for encouraging his supporters to go the Capitol.
However, there have not been signals from lawmakers who will conduct the impeachment trial that Pence could be called as a witness, such discussion of conducting depositions or preparing a statement.
And those close to Pence think his lawyers would argue he can avoid testifying by invoking executive privilege, according to one Republican source. Executive privilege is a doctrine that has been used to prevent the legislative branch from compelling testimony from the executive branch.
But it remains unclear whether the staff members who were with Pence on Jan. 6, and who experienced the riot as well, would also be able to invoke executive privilege.
Pence also seems prepared to start a new chapter and move on.
Within the next month, he is likely to announce the formation of a nonprofit social welfare organization to amplify his positions on a “consistent conservative philosophy,” as one person familiar with the plan described it. Such groups, known as 501(c)(4) nonprofits, can be active on political issues but are not allowed to engage in campaigning, and they can attract millions of dollars by keeping their donors secret.
Starting his own group would give Pence a foothold in the fundraising world, allowing him to maintain relationships with donors in case he decides to run for president in 2024.
Pence is not expected to make an announcement about his own future campaigns until after the 2022 midterms, and advisers caution he has not made a final decision about whether to run.
Pence may write a book. And he’s expected to hit the campaign trail ahead of the 2022 races to support Republican candidates, particularly in gubernatorial races.
Trump has been suggesting to allies he’s eager to get involved in primaries against Republicans who he feels have wronged him, according to sources familiar with those discussions. But Pence sources say the former vice president hasn't discussed the potential of backing incumbents in opposition of Trump.
“That’s a long way off,” said one of the people familiar with Pence’s thinking.
Pence is opting to remain out of the public eye for the moment.
The Pences don't own a home, after spending the previous four years living in the vice presidential residence and the four before that in the Indiana governor's residence.
He plans to stay temporarily with a family member in Indiana until he buys a home in the state later this year and plans to make that his permanent home.
He remains protected by the Secret Service, which is typical for former vice presidents but takes on added significance after the Capitol riot.
Pence allies remain furious that Trump never reached out to Pence while he was hidden in the Capitol, and by most accounts the relationship between the two is significantly diminished.
But the they may take the same stage once again later this spring: The Republican National Committee has invited Trump and other 2024 hopefuls — including, potentially, Pence — to its spring meeting in Palm Beach, Florida, in April.