Jan. 6 panel subpoenas Trump, demanding historic testimony

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol officially issued a extraordinary summons to Donald Trump Friday, demanding testimony from the former president who lawmakers say “personally orchestrated” a multi-part effort to cancel the 2020 election results.

The nine-member panel released a letter to Trump’s lawyers saying he is due to testify, either at the Capitol or by videoconference, “beginning on or around” Nov. 14 and continuing for several days if necessary.

The letter also described a broad request for documents, including personal communications between Trump and members of Congress as well as extremist groups. These must be returned by November 4, although committee deadlines are usually subject to negotiation.

“We recognize that subpoenaing a former president is an important and historic action,” President Bennie Thompson and Vice President Liz Cheney wrote in the letter to Trump. “We do not take this step lightly.”

The panel anchored its action in history, listing former presidents from John Quincy Adams to Gerald Ford who testified before Congress after leaving office – and noted that even sitting presidents have responded to subpoenas of Congress.

It’s unclear how Trump and his legal team will react. He could comply or negotiate with the committee, announce that he will defy the subpoena or ignore it altogether. He could also go to court and try to arrest her.

“We understand that once again, flouting proper and customary standards and process, the Committee has publicly released a copy of its subpoena,” said David Warrington, a partner at Dhillon Law Group, which represents Trump, in a statement Friday evening. . “As with any similar matter, we will review and analyze it, and respond appropriately to this unprecedented action.”

The subpoena is the latest and most dramatic escalation in the House committee’s 15-month investigation into the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, bringing panel members into direct conflict with the man they are dealing with. investigated from afar through the testimony of aides, allies and associates.

In the letter, the committee wrote about the “damning evidence” it has gathered showing that Trump “personally orchestrated” an effort to reverse his 2020 election defeat, including spreading false allegations of widespread voter fraud, “attempting to bribe” the Justice Department and pressuring state officials, members of Congress and his own vice president to alter the results.

“In short, you were at the center of the first and only effort by an American president to nullify an election and obstruct the peaceful transition of power, ultimately resulting in a bloody attack on our own capitol and on Congress itself,” Thompson and Cheney said.

Lawmakers say key details about what Trump was doing and saying during the siege remain unknown. According to the committee, the only person who can fill in the gaps is Trump himself.

The panel – made up of seven Democrats and two Republicans – approved Trump’s subpoena in a surprise vote last week. Each member voted in favour.

The subpoena calls for testimony about Trump’s dealings with several former aides and associates who asserted their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination with the committee, including Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, John Eastman, Jeffrey Clark and Kelli Ward .

“These Fifth Amendment assertions — made by people you have interacted with — relate directly to you and your conduct,” the subpoena read. “They provide specific examples where your truthful testimony under oath will be important.”

The committee also made 19 requests for documents and disclosure – including for all messages Trump sent over the Signal encrypted messaging app ‘or any other means’ to members of Congress and others about the events. narcotics from the attack on the Capitol.

The scope of the committee’s request is broad – searching for documents from September 1, 2020, two months before the election, to the present day on the president’s communications with groups like the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys – as the panel seeks to compile a historical record of the build-up to the attack on the Capitol, and then the aftermath.

But there remains little legal benefit for Trump to cooperate with the committee as he already facing other civil and criminal legal battles in various jurisdictions, including on his family business in New York and handling presidential records at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

It’s possible his lawyers could simply run out of time for the subpoena if they go to court to try to crush him, as the committee is due to complete its work by the end of the year.

“It seems unlikely to me that this could be argued to conclusion in the time remaining in committee of this Congress,” Peter Keisler, who served as acting attorney general under President George W. Bush, told The Associated Press. .

There are many precedents for Congress to request the testimony of a former president. Over the past century and a half, at least six current and former presidents have testified on Capitol Hill, including John Tyler and Quincy Adams after the two were subpoenaed in 1848.

This could be an opportunity for Trump to respond directly to the committee, to tell his version of events, but the defeated president is unlikely to take it. He ridiculed the panel and its work, preferring to share his opinions on his own terms. And testifying under oath could create legal exposure in several other investigations in which he is caught.

If Trump refuses to comply with the subpoena, the panel will have to weigh the practical and political implications of holding him in contempt of Congress.

“It’s a bridge we’re crossing if we’re going to get there,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican member of the committee, told ABC on Sunday. “He made it clear he had nothing to hide, that’s what he says. So he should come in.

If the full House votes to recommend a contempt charge against Trump, the Justice Department would then review the case and decide on any further action.

Other witnesses have faced legal consequences for defying the committee, including a close Trump ally Steve Bannon, found guilty of contempt in July and sentenced Friday to four months behind bars. But despising a former president would be another matter.

The subpoena to Trump comes as the committee seeks to wrap up its investigative work and compile a final, comprehensive report to be released by the end of the year. Investigators have interviewed more than 1,000 witnesses, including many of Trump’s top White House aides, and obtained tens of thousands of pages of documents since the committee was established in July 2021.

But the panel is only allowed through this Congress, which ends on January 3. That means members have just a few months — amid a hectic legislative period after the midterm elections — to hone their historical record of the worst attack on the Capitol in two centuries. Whether that will include testimony from the 45th President of the United States remains to be seen.

The committee ended its subpoena to Trump by quoting one of his predecessors: “President (Theodore) Roosevelt explained during his testimony to Congress, ‘an ex-president is just a citizen of the United States. United, like any other citizen, and it is his duty to try to help this committee or to respond to its invitation.


Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro, Jill Colvin and Mark Sherman contributed to this report.


Follow AP’s coverage of the January 6 uprising at https://apnews.com/hub/capitol-siege

Follow AP investigations related to Donald Trump: https://apnews.com/hub/donald-trump

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