The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot subpoenaed former President Donald Trump on Friday for testimony and documents on his actions surrounding the bloodshed they say he instigated at the U.S. Capitol.
The subpoena calls for Trump to testify either at the Capitol or by videoconference at 10 a.m. ET on Nov. 14 — after the midterm elections.
“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 transition of power,” the committee's leaders told Trump in a letter accompanying the subpoena.
The "multi-part effort" included “maliciously disseminating false allegations” of voter fraud in the 2020 election, attempting to “corrupt the Department of Justice” to get it to bolster those claims, “illegally pressuring state officials and legislatures to change the results of the election in their states,” and "corruptly pressuring your own vice president to unilaterally refuse to count electoral votes" on Jan. 6, panel Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., wrote.
“You took all of these actions despite the rulings of more than 60 courts rejecting your election fraud claims and other challenges to the legality of the 2020 presidential election, despite having specific and detailed information from the Justice Department and your senior campaign staff informing you that your election claims were false, and despite your obligation as president to ensure that the laws of our nation are faithfully executed," the letter said. "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 Capitol and on the Congress itself.”
The committee told Trump it wants to ask him about conversations he had with former national security adviser Michael Flynn, Arizona GOP chair Kelli Ward, longtime confidant Roger Stone, attorney John Eastman and former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark — all of whom invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when they were interviewed by panel.
The panel is demanding Trump turn over a number of documents by Nov. 4 — including any communications he had regarding extremist groups, such as the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, that were involved in the riot. It also seeks any communications Trump has had in the past year involving contacts or attempted contacts with witnesses testifying before the committee, and either "directly or indirectly" paying their legal fees or "offering or discussing employment" with them.
A lawyer for Trump, David A. Warrington of the Dhillon Law Group, said in a statement: “We understand that, once again, flouting norms and appropriate and customary process, the Committee has publicly released a copy of its subpoena. As with any similar matter, we will review and analyze it, and will respond as appropriate to this unprecedented action.”
In their letter, Thompson and Cheney called the subpoena a "significant and historic action," but told Trump he "would not be the first former President to testify before Congress or to receive a Congressional subpoena." Previous presidents who have testified before Congress include John Quincy Adams, Theodore Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman and Gerald Ford, the letter said.
The panel voted unanimously to subpoena Trump last week following a dramatic hearing that spotlighted the former president's role in trying to overturn the 2020 election results and spurring the deadly riot.
Cheney described Trump as the riot's "central player" at the hearing, while Thompson said the panel had an "obligation" to get answers directly from the former president.
"He must be accountable," Thompson said. "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.”
Trump responded with a 14-page letter last Friday in which he vented his “anger, disappointment, and complaint” at the panel for not investigating his baseless claims of fraud in the 2020 election, but did not directly say whether he plans on challenging the subpoena.
Any legal challenge would likely give Trump time to run out the clock on the subpoena, which will expire at the end of this congressional term in early January.
Asked after last week's hearing if the committee was prepared to fight a court battle over the subpoena, Thompson said, “Let’s see what happens.”
“We hope that he honors it,” he added.