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House Jan. 6 panel issues subpoena for Donald Trump

Lawmakers seek testimony from the former president and 19 categories of documents related to the attack on the Capitol Building

Chairman Bennie Thompson and Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., take their seats for a hearing of the House Jan. 6 select committee on Oct. 13.
Chairman Bennie Thompson and Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., take their seats for a hearing of the House Jan. 6 select committee on Oct. 13. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol issued its subpoena Friday that seeks testimony and documents from Donald Trump, but the panel did not further clarify what it might do to enforce the subpoena if the former president does not comply.

The panel’s chair, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and vice chair, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., released a letter and subpoena that requests documents from Trump by Nov. 4 and his testimony by Nov. 14. Trump is not expected to cooperate with the probe.

The panel in the letter argued it has assembled “overwhelming evidence” that Trump “personally orchestrated and oversaw a multi-part effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election and to obstruct the peaceful transition of power.”

That effort included purposefully spreading false claims of voter fraud, pressuring state and local officials to change election results and pressuring former President Mike Pence to change the election result, the panel wrote.

The committee seeks 19 categories of documents, including communications or notes about the Jan. 6, 2021, joint session of Congress, Pence and witnesses before the panel. The subpoena also includes communications that Trump had with prominent allies such as Roger Stone, Michael Flynn and Rudy Giuliani.

The letter called for Trump’s testimony on interactions with witnesses like Stone and Flynn who have since asserted their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

“These Fifth Amendment assertions — made by persons with whom you interacted — related directly to you and your conduct,” the letter said. “They provide specific examples where your truthful testimony under oath will be important.”

Enforcement questions

Committee members have not said whether they intend to enforce the subpoena through a civil lawsuit if Trump does not comply or seek to have the House recommend to federal prosecutors a charge of criminal contempt of Congress. Cheney said at an event Tuesday that the panel would “take the steps we need after that” if Trump does not comply with the subpoena.

The panel voted to issue the subpoena at its hearing last week, possibly its final public airing of its findings. That presentation focused almost entirely on Trump’s role in the effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election result.

Immediately after the vote, Thompson told reporters the committee’s approach would depend on Trump’s actions. There is less than three months left in the current Congress, giving the panel little time to enforce the subpoena.

Committee members also said during that hearing they are investigating potential interference in their investigation and considering multiple criminal referrals for conduct related to the attack.

After the committee vote last week, Trump issued a lengthy statement that criticized the committee, repeated unfounded claims of election fraud and did not address whether he would respond to the subpoena.

The panel plans to issue a report on its findings by the end of the year, which is meant to include legislative recommendations to prevent another such attack.

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