(WASHINGTON) — Donald Trump has been formally subpoenaed by the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
The subpoena requires Trump to turn over documents by Nov. 4 and to appear for one or several days of deposition under oath beginning on Nov. 14.
“We recognize that a subpoena to a former President is a significant and historic step,” Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., wrote in a letter to Trump on Friday. “We do not take this action lightly.”
Thompson previously said the committee had an “obligation” to seek an interview with the former president, who they’ve argued was central in an attempted coup to remain in office.
“As demonstrated in our hearings, we have assembled overwhelming evidence, including from dozens of your former appointees and staff, that you personally orchestrated and oversaw a multi-part effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election and to obstruct the peaceful transfer of power,” the committee chairs wrote Friday.
That effort, Thompson and Cheney wrote, included attempts to “corrupt the Department of Justice” and “maliciously disseminating false allegations of fraud” as well as “summoning tens of thousands” of supporters to Washington.
The unanimous decision to compel Trump’s testimony came at the end of the panel’s tenth — and possible last — hearing, which again focused on Trump’s behavior in the days before and after the riot.
The committee wants Trump to testify about his interactions with several individuals who’ve invoked their Fifth Amendment rights when questioned by the committee. That list includes his former political adviser Roger Stone; former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn; Trump’s former elections lawyer John Eastman; former Trump Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark; and chair of the Arizona Republican Party Kelli Ward.
“These Fifth Amendment assertions — made by persons with whom you interacted — related directly to you and your conduct,” the two panel leaders wrote in their Friday letter. “They provide specific examples where your truthful testimony under oath will be important.”
The committee on Friday made clear that the deposition, which is under oath, will be before committee investigators and members. But the subpoena does not specifically request that Trump appear for a hearing.
“In short, you were at the center of the first and only effort by any U.S. President to overturn an election and obstruct the peaceful transition of power, ultimately culminating in a bloody attack on our own capital and on the Congress itself,” Thompson and Cheney wrote Friday. “The evidence demonstrates that you knew this activity was illegal and unconstitutional, and also knew that your assertions of fraud were false. But, to be clear, Even if you know claim that you actually believed your own false election claims, that is not a defense; your subjective belief could not render this condo justified, excusable, or legal.”
Trump first responded to the committee’s vote to subpoena him in a series of posts to his conservative social media platform Truth Social.
“Why didn’t the Unselect Committee ask me to testify months ago?” Trump wrote, calling the committee a “total BUST.”
Later, in a memo addressed to Thompson, Trump continued to rail against the committee but didn’t address the subpoena.
“Despite very poor television ratings, the Unselect Committee has perpetuated a Show Trial the likes of which this Country has never seen before,” Trump said in the letter, in which he also continued to make false claims about the 2020 election.
Trump has told advisers he’d welcome a live appearance, according to sources familiar with his thinking, but has yet to say publicly whether he’ll cooperate.
Cheney said there was “no disagreement” among members on whether to subpoena Trump.
“We all felt that our obligation is to seek his testimony, that the American people deserve to hear directly from him, that it has to be under oath, that he has to be held accountable,” Cheney said this week during an appearance at a Harvard Institute of Politics forum.
Cheney said she’s “assuming Trump will fulfill his legal obligation and honor the subpoena.”
“If that doesn’t happen, then we’ll take the steps we need to take after that,” Cheney said. “But I don’t want to go too far down that path at this point.”
Experts said if Trump refuses to cooperate, the committee could move to have the full House hold him in contempt and refer the matter to the Justice Department for prosecution — something it’s done for four other individuals related to the Jan. 6 investigation.
Trump could also try to drag the matter out by fighting the subpoena in court, the experts said.
The Jan. 6 committee is expected to wrap up its investigation by the end of this year by releasing a final report on its findings and recommendations.
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