The United States House of Representatives committee probing the 6 January 2021 attack on the US Capitol by Donald Trump’s supporters, on Thursday, 14 October, unanimously voted to subpoena the former president, a move that could lead to criminal charges if Trump fails to comply.
The House select committee’s members, seven Democrats and two Republicans, issued a subpoena to Trump, in an attempt to get him to provide documents and testimony under oath, in connection to the storming of the Capitol.
"He must be accountable. He is required to answer for his actions. He is required to answer for those police officers who put their lives and bodies on the line to defend our democracy. He is required to answer to those millions of Americans whose votes he wanted to throw out as part of his scheme to remain in power.”Representative Bennie Thompson, Chairman, Select Committee to Investigate the 6 January Attack on the United States Capitol
The committee’s 9-0 vote came close to two hours after the committee made its case via statements from members, recorded testimony and documents.
The documents aimed to conclusively show that Trump planned to denounce his 2020 election defeat in advance, failed to call off thousands of supporters who stormed the Capitol, and followed through with fictional claims that the election was “stolen."
A Congressional Subpoena
US federal law states that failure to comply with a congressional subpoena is a misdemeanour and is punishable by one to twelve months in prison.
If Trump ignores the House select committee’s subpoena, the full House must vote on whether to refer the matter to the Department of Justice, which has the authority to bring charges.
While Thompson acknowledged that issuing a subpoena to a former president is an “extraordinary action” he said that the move is being taken “in full view of the American people.”
Meanwhile, Donald Trump denounced the subpoena and reiterated his highly-disputed and controversial election fraud claims.
“The Unselect Committee knowingly failed to examine the massive voter fraud which took place during the 2020 Presidential Election – The reason for what took place on January 6th."Donald Trump writes on 'Truth' Social platform.
Cassidy Hutchinson, former top aide to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, provided damning testimony with detailed accounts of the day of the incident, and Trump’s acknowledgement of losing the election.
Hutchinson’s testimony had been some of the most damning against Trump during the summer hearings, as she provided detailed accounts about Trump’s actions on 6 January .
On Thursday, the committee showed new video deposition from Hutchinson where she spoke to Meadows about Trump’s January 2021 call where he urged the Georgia secretary of state to “find” the votes he needed to win.
The committee also showed a new video deposition from Hutchinson where she said that she spoke to Meadows about Trump's call with the Georgia secretary of state to "find" the votes he needed to win.
Trump, reportedly “berated Secretary Raffensperger, tried to flatter him, begged him to act and threatened him with vague criminal consequences,” so that his defeat, in the consequential swing-state of Georgia, to the then-US President-elect Joe Biden could be overturned.
Midterms Around the Corner
One should note that the panel is issuing the subpoena nearing the end of its recognition as a select committee. If Trump chooses to object to the subpoena, it could lead to a lengthy court battle that outlives the committee.
If Republicans take back control of the House in the upcoming midterms, which they are favoured to do according to poll surveys, the January 6 committee, in its current construction, will cease to exist. This scenario gives the panel less than three months to issue a final report of its findings.
However, the subpoena marks a serious escalation. While it is not an unprecedented event, congressional subpoenas to former or sitting presidents are extremely rare. Previously, former presidents Richard Nixon, Harry Truman, John Tyler, and John Quincy Adams have been subpoenaed by Congress.
Reuters reported that the subpoena is expected within days and typically would give Trump a date by which he should comply, but no confirmation has been received regarding when the full house could vote on possible decision to make a criminal referral.
Takeaways From the Hearing
Representative Adam Schiff said that on 5 December 2020, a Secret Service field office shared a tip that the FBI had received which claimed that right-wing extremist group Proud Boys planned to march into Washington DC with weapons.
The Secret Service email read:
"They think that they will have a large enough group to march into D.C. armed and will outnumber the police so they can't be stopped,"Secret Service
The source wrote:
"Their plan is to literally kill people. Please, please take this tip seriously and investigate further."Source tells FBI
Moreover, the hearing also went into the details of Trump’s state of mind after losing the election and his continuous pursuit to find ways to overturn the election result.
"He (Trump) 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," committee chairperson Thompson said.
The House select committee has been investigating the attack on the Capitol, which left over 140 police personnel injured and killed at least five people, for over a year and have interviewed 1,000 witnesses, going through millions of documents.
Thursday’s hearing was the ninth such meeting this year.
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