WASHINGTON (AP) — The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the United States Capitol officially issued its extraordinary subpoena against Donald Trump on Friday, demanding testimony from the former president who , according to lawmakers, “personally orchestrated” a multi-party effort to overturn the 2020 election results.
The nine-member panel sent a letter to Trump’s lawyers saying he was to testify, either on Capitol Hill or by videoconference, “beginning on or about November 14” and continuing for several days if necessary. The letter also described a request for a series of matching documents, including personal communications between Trump and members of Congress as well as extremist groups.
“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 rooted its action in history, listing former presidents from John Quincy Adams to Gerald Ford who testified before Congress after leaving office – and noting that even sitting presidents have responded to congressional subpoenas .
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.
A request for comment from Trump’s spokesperson was not immediately returned.
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.
The committee writes in its letter that it has gathered ‘overwhelming evidence’ 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 lobbying state officials, members of Congress and his vice president to try to alter the results.
But 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 next day, Trump posted a lengthy memo on Truth Social, his social media website, repeating his false allegations of widespread voter fraud and expressing his “anger, disappointment and complaint” that the committee was not investigating his objections. . He made no mention of the subpoena.
The subpoena calls for testimony about his dealings with several former Trump 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 .
Committee makes 19 requests for documents and disclosure – including specific requests for any messages sent by Trump over encrypted messaging app Signal ‘or any other means’ to members of Congress and others about the stunning events of January 6.
The scope of the committee’s request is broad – searching for documents from September 1, 2020, two months before the election, to today on the president’s communications with the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys and other extremist groups – while the panel compiles a dossier of the preparation for the attack on the Capitol, then the aftermath.
There are few legal benefits for Trump to cooperate with the committee as he is already facing other civil and criminal legal battles in various jurisdictions, including over his family business in New York and the handling of presidential records. at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. .
But there are many precedents for Congress to seek testimony from former presidents. Over the past century and a half, at least six current and former presidents have testified on Capitol Hill, including John Tyler and John Quincy Adams after both were subpoenaed in 1848.
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 Steve Bannon, a close Trump ally, who was found in contempt in July and sentenced Friday to four months behind bars. But despising a former president would be another, truly exceptional affair.
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 only 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.
“It’s hard for me to imagine an American citizen being accused of essentially trying to overthrow his own government and wouldn’t relish the opportunity to come forward and testify,” the official told reporters. Representative Jamie Raskin, a Democrat on the committee. Last week.
Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro and Jill Colvin contributed to this report.
FILE – Former President Donald Trump pauses during a speech during a rally at Minden Tahoe Airport in Minden, Nevada, October 8, 2022. (AP Photo/José Luis Villegas, Pool, File)