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"There's a fight underway." Mike Pence, in Minneapolis, talks tough on education, and subpoena to testify against Trump

Former VP Mike Pence visits Minnesota
Former VP Mike Pence visits Minnesota 02:56

MINNEAPOLIS -- Former Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday vowed to fight a subpoena from the U.S. Department of Justice while simultaneously digging into a key division with former President Donald Trump ahead of a potential presidential campaign.

"I'm proud of what we did on Jan. 6, as difficult as it was," Pence said after a speech at the Minnesota Club in downtown Minneapolis. "I have nothing to hide and I'm proud of what we accomplished, but for me this is a moment where you have to decide where you stand, and I stand on the Constitution of the United States."

CBS News confirmed last week that Pence was subpoenaed by special counsel Jack Smith, who was appointed in November to take over two DOJ investigations into Trump. One of the probes involves Trump's handling of sensitive government records discovered at his south Florida residence, Mar-a-Lago. The second centers around efforts to stop the transfer of presidential power after the 2020 election and interfere with the counting of Electoral College votes on Jan. 6, 2021.

Pence maintained that his opposition to the subpoena is based on legislative privilege instead of executive privilege because of his role as president of the Senate.

"The fact that no vice president has ever been subject to a subpoena to testify about the president with whom they served makes this unprecedented, but that goes to executive privilege," Pence said. "It's my understanding that President Trump will fight that, but that's not my fight. My fight is on the separation of powers. My fight against the DOJ subpoena, very simply, is on defending the prerogatives I had as president of the Senate to preside over the Joint Session of Congress on Jan. 6."

The former vice president's decision to challenge the subpoena comes as he is expected to make a 2024 presidential run. If Pence declares his candidacy, he will go up against Trump, who announced a third White House bid in November.   

Mike Pence CBS

There is speculation that several Republicans will also enter the race, including former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, as well as former governors Chris Christie (NJ), Larry Hogan (MD) and Asa Hutchinson (AR).

As for Pence's potential campaign, the former VP said coyly: "I'll keep you posted."

Education, "Culture War" as potential campaign theme  

Officially, Pence came to Minnesota on Wednesday to coincide with oral arguments for Parents Defending Education v. Linn-Mar Community School District being heard at the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Paul. The case surrounds a gender support policy at an Iowa public school district that does not require parental consent nor knowledge.

Pence is not a party to the case, but his remarks before a crowd of parents, school board members, state lawmakers and children, appeared to make a case on what could be a winning issue and campaign theme.

"The truth is it wasn't our choice to start the left's culture war, but now we have no choice but to win it for the sake of our children and grandchildren, and we will win this fight," Pence said to applause. "What we need in this country is a return to common sense and common values and return to the common good that the overwhelming majority of the American people will support."

Pence also took aim at other hot-button education issues like school curricula, including what's known as critical race theory, which posits that race is a social concept rooted in white supremacy, and permeates all aspects of society.

"Science, history and math are increasingly being taught through the lens of racial grievance in public classrooms across America," Pence said. "Critical Race Theory is nothing short of state-sanctioned racism and it should be opposed in every city and every state in the land."

On Tuesday, DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin issued the following statement on Pence's impending visit: "Vice President Pence will never be anything more than Donald Trump's most embarrassing lapdog. If Pence thinks his record of failure in the White House, his attacks on LGBTQ Americans, and his repeated efforts to cut Social Security and Medicare will help him win the presidency, he's in for a very long two years."

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