WASHINGTON (HPD) — In an extraordinary step, the House committee investigating the assault on Capitol Hill has voted unanimously to subpoena former President Donald Trump — a final effort to fully determine the details of the Jan. 2021, with the panel concluding its work by the end of the year.
Trump remains unrecognizable in his electoral defeat and has been tirelessly hostile to the investigation. On Friday, he called it a “sham and witch hunt” in a letter to the commission, but notably did not mention the summons or say whether he will comply with the summons.
This is a glimpse of what will follow in the final stretch of the panel’s investigation.
THE SUBPOENA TO TRUMP
The nine-member panel has interviewed more than 1,000 witnesses, including many of the former president’s aides, and laid out a detailed timeline of Trump’s efforts to ignore his 2020 election loss, including his inaction as supporters stormed Capitol Hill. , but even so they want to hear the words of Trump himself.
Now that the subpoena has been authorized, it must be served in writing on Trump. That step, expected early next week, will set a date and submit the document requests.
Trump and his lawyers will then decide how they respond.
They could comply, negotiate with the commission, announce that they will contest the citation, or ignore it. They could also go to court to stop it.
If Trump doesn’t abide by it, the panel will have to weigh the practical and political implications of a vote to hold him in contempt of Congress. If the full House votes to recommend that charge, the Justice Department would review the case.
The commission has already taken such action with some Trump allies who refused to comply with subpoenas, including Steve Bannon, who was convicted of contempt in July. But holding a former president in contempt would be something else, a rare step for any Congress.
In his letter on Friday, Trump repeated his lies about alleged voter fraud, saying he was writing to express his “anger, disappointment and complaints” that the panel was not investigating his own allegations. He also used the opportunity to brag about the size of the crowd that gathered near the White House on the morning of January 6, before he sent them marching toward the Capitol. He included aerial photos, but never mentioned the citation.
Even if he does abide by it, there are reasons to doubt that Trump’s appearance will help the investigation. He answered some written questions from special counsel Robert Mueller during the investigation of Russia’s cooperation with his campaign in 2016, but his answers produced little or nothing to advance the investigation. Most recently, he appeared in a hearing with the office of New York State Attorney General Letitia James, but invoked his constitutional right against self-incrimination more than 400 times for refusing to answer questions.
The commission is still talking to attorneys for former President Mike Pence, as it has for months, but it’s unclear whether lawmakers will subpoena Pence or ask for his testimony.
Several Pence aides have spoken with investigators, some going into great detail about his steps and state of mind as he resisted Trump’s calls to challenge the certification of electoral votes that day and try to overturn his loss to Joe Bien and Kamala. Harris.
In a video shown Thursday at the commission’s final hearing before the midterm elections, Pence was seen coordinating assistance with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer while the assailants were inside the Capitol. and some called for Pence’s execution. Leaders were working with security officials to ensure they could return to Capitol Hill and certify Biden’s victory.
The commission will also have to decide whether to send some of the allegations of possible crimes to the Justice Department. As federal prosecutors conduct their own investigations into the assault and Trump’s efforts to overturn his defeat, the legislative committee has its own mound of evidence.
Lawmakers on the panel have hinted numerous times in the past year that they will issue criminal recommendations. At Thursday’s hearing, Republican Rep. Liz Cheney, the panel’s vice chair, said the committee “may ultimately decide” to do so. She said they have “enough information to consider criminal recommendations for multiple individuals.”
While such a recommendation would not force any action, it would amplify political pressure on Attorney General Merrick Garland as the department conducts its own investigations.
The panel recently received more than 1.5 million pages of Secret Service documents, but lawmakers say they still don’t have everything they want. The Secret Service is a federal agency that, among other functions, protects the integrity of the president, vice president, former presidents, and their close relatives.
The commission is working to verify accounts from Trump aides who described his actions on Jan. 6 as he tried to go to Capitol Hill and escort supporters, hundreds of whom were eventually forced into it. Security officials, along with many White House aides and Republican congressmen, were vehemently opposed to the idea. Trump was furious and tried unsuccessfully to go to Capitol Hill anyway, according to multiple accounts released by the panel.
Democratic Rep. Pete Aguilar, a member of the committee, said lawmakers “will be calling witnesses again and conducting more interviews” based on the Secret Service material. The agency has not released text messages that it claims were deleted.
The final step expected from the panel will be a colossal report detailing the evidence, conclusions and legislative recommendations to ensure that nothing like what happened on January 6 happens again, but it is not clear how much of that material will be released. publicly.
In one of eight hearings last summer, Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin said, “We’ve only shown a small fraction of what we’ve found.”
Lawmakers have made it clear that the report will present what they see as the stakes for the country when many Republicans falsely think the 2020 election was stolen and when Trump ponders running for president in 2024.
“With every attempt to justify or excuse the former president’s conduct, we undermine the foundations of our republic,” Cheney said during the hearing.
Associated Press writers Jill Covin and Eric Tucker contributed to this report.