Thursday’s meeting of the special U.S. House committee to investigate the Capitol riot of Jan. 6, 2021, included few, if any, big reveals. But I nonetheless found it well worth my time to see this bipartisan panel wrap up its (public) hearings season with a unanimous vote to subpoena former President Donald
U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, and the ranking Republican on the committee moved for the committee to subpoena Trump, and it passed 9-0, but one doubts Trump will comply.
The committee also referred hearing transcripts to the Department of Justice, suggesting possible cooperation between the legislative and executive branches.
There may be some questions about Congress’ power in these areas, but if the cross-branch cooperation goes well, several key players, who have so far refused to talk to the committee, may yet be questioned under oath. (Here’s a background piece on the efforts of Congress to subpoena presidents and ex-presidents.)
Congress itself does have the power to subpoena witnesses up to and including private citizen Donald Trump. (Steve Bannon has already been convicted of contempt of Congress for his refusal to testify after being subpoenaed. He is scheduled for sentencing later this month.)
Trump and his allies could, of course, decline to answer questions from the DOJ, but only based on their willingness to acknowledge that the answers might tend to incriminate them. We may be heading into ever-more-uncharted territory.
Trump already tried his luck in court after the election, filing 62 lawsuits challenging his defeat. He lost 61, with the exception being nowhere near sufficient to overturn the result in a single state, thus leaving Joe Biden with a solid 306-232 victory in the Electoral College.
To complete the statistical overview, the committee established that it was a bit more than two and a half hours (from about 1:20 to 4 p.m. on January 6) between the time Trump was told that his supporters were marching to, then breaking into the Capitol building to interrupt the congressional
counting of the electoral vote, to the time that Trump made a statement asking the “protesters” to stand down.
In fact, the committee aired a small film showing the response of witnesses including Trump pals Roger Stone and Steve Bannon,, former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, former Acting Attorney General (at the time of the riot) Jeffrey Clark, former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, and
others all refusing to answer the committee’s questions, all asserting their Fifth Amendment right against self-crimination, by simply repeating “fifth,” “fifth,” “fifth” to all substantive questions.
In his final statement before adjournment, the committee Chair Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi, summarized the record of the committee’s work and made a final, token request for Trump to testify saying:
“We have left no doubt — none — that Donald Trump led an effort to upend American democracy that directly resulted in the violence of January 6. He tried to take away the voice of the American people in choosing their president, and replace the will of the voters with his will to remain in power. He is the one person at the center of the story of what happened on January 6. So we want to hear from him.”
As of now, they stand adjourned. Stay tuned.