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Jan. 6 committee votes to subpoena former President Donald Trump

The subpoena comes more than a year after the committee began investigating the insurrection.

WASHINGTON — The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol voted unanimously Thursday to subpoena former President Donald Trump.

Members of the panel, which held what was expected to be its final hearing before the midterm elections Thursday, had previously said they were still considering seeking an interview with Trump or former Vice President Mike Pence. Sources familiar with the committee's plans told NBC News about the subpoena earlier Thursday.

The panel's chair, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said the committee had an "obligation" to hear from Trump.

"This is a question about accountability to the American people. He must be accountable. He is required to answer for his actions. He’s required to answer to those police officers who put their lives and bodies on the line to defend our democracy. He’s required to answer to those millions of Americans whose votes he wanted to throw out as part of his scheme to remain in power," Thompson said, acknowledging the move as a "serious and extraordinary action."

The resolution to subpoena Trump passed with the support of all members, 9-0. It was introduced by the panel's vice chair, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., who called Trump the riot's "central player."

A source familiar with the committee's plans said the panel plans to issue the subpoena in the coming days.

The panel is on a tight time frame — the subpoena will expire at the end of this congressional term, and Trump is likely to challenge it. Asked after the hearing whether the committee is prepared to fight over a subpoena in court, Thompson said, “Let’s see what happens," adding of Trump, "We hope that he honors it."

Supporters of then-President Donald Trump storm the Capitol
Supporters of then-President Donald Trump storm the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Samuel Corum / Getty Images file

The former president mocked the committee on his social media website, Truth Social, but did not say how he would respond to the subpoena.

“Why didn’t the Unselect Committee ask me to testify months ago? Why did they wait until the very end, the final moments of their last meeting? Because the Committee is a total 'BUST' that has only served to further divide our Country,” the post said.

In a series of tweets after the subpoena vote, Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich also did not say how Trump would respond to the subpoena. He predicted that "Trump-endorsed candidates will sweep the Midterms" next month "and America First leadership & solutions will be restored."

The subpoena comes more than a year after the committee began investigating the insurrection and despite previously acknowledgments by multiple members of Congress that it was unlikely Trump would comply.

Still, subpoenaing the former president had been under consideration for a while, and it had been an active topic of discussion among committee members.

In its wide-ranging investigation, the panel has already conducted more than 1,000 interviews and depositions. It has also received hundreds of thousands of documents, and about 100 subpoenas are known to have been issued.

Thursday's hearing once again placed Trump at the center of plans to overturn the election — which ultimately led to the bloodshed on Jan. 6, Cheney said in her opening statement.

Then-President Donald Trump
Then-President Donald Trump speaks to supporters from the Ellipse on Jan. 6, 2021.Brendan Smialowski / AFP via Getty Images file

"None of this would have happened without him. He was personally and substantially involved in all of it," she said. "Today, we will focus on President Trump’s state of mind, his intent, his motivations and how he spurred others to do his bidding. And how another Jan. 6 could happen again if we do not take necessary action to prevent it."

Cheney also said the committee "may ultimately decide to make a series of criminal referrals to the Department of Justice," although she said lawmakers "recognize that our role is not to make decisions regarding prosecution."

Trump would not be the first former president subpoenaed by Congress. Several sitting and former presidents and vice presidents have also testified before congressional committees, including Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson and Gerald R. Ford.

It is unclear whether the committee will seek to interview Pence, who blocked Trump's effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election and who faced threats of being hanged on Jan. 6.

Pence said during an event in New Hampshire in August that he would consider testifying before the committee if he was invited to appear, but he suggested he would need to sort out some constitutional questions before he committed.

"If ever any formal invitation were rendered to us, we’d give it due consideration," he said.

Thompson said after the hearing there were no plans to subpoena Pence and suggested the panel might not formally ask to interview him. "We have collected enough evidence that former Vice President Pence did his job," Thompson said. 

Thompson had suggested that Thursday’s session would be the committee's final hearing, but several of its members recently have said that might not be the case.

Asked on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" whether there will be more hearings, Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., said the investigation "has its own life, and we keep finding new information."