January 6 panel issues subpoena for Trump, demands testimony

US panel probing Capitol riot says subpoena for testimony, documents from former president ‘significant and historic’.

Former US President Donald Trump at a rally in October
The US Congressional panel investigating the January 6, 2021, riot has said former President Donald Trump 'personally orchestrated' an effort to overturn the 2020 election results [File: Jose Luis Villegas/ AP Photo]

The US congressional committee investigating last year’s attack on the United States Capitol has issued a subpoena demanding the testimony of former President Donald Trump, who it says was “at the centre” of the January 6, 2021, riot.

The nine-member House panel announced on Friday that it had sent a letter to Trump’s legal team, calling on him to testify by November 14.

The letter also laid out a request for a series of documents, including the former president’s communications with members of Congress and far-right groups.

“We recognize that a subpoena to a former President is a significant and historic action,” committee Chairman Bennie Thompson and Vice Chair Liz Cheney said in the letter. “We do not take this action lightly.”

The subpoena is one of the most dramatic actions taken by the panel, which for months has made the case that Trump “personally orchestrated” an effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

The move came just more than a week after the committee voted to issue a subpoena for Trump at the conclusion of its ninth public hearing on its probe into the Capitol riot, which saw a mob of Trump supporters storm the seat of the US legislature in Washington, DC.

While Congressional committees have the power to compel testimony, with potential legal consequences for those who refuse, it is unclear how Trump and his legal team will respond to the subpoena.

The former president could comply or negotiate with the committee, announce he will defy the subpoena or ignore it altogether. He could also go to court and try to stop it.

“We understand that, once again, flouting norms and appropriate and customary process, the Committee has publicly released a copy of its subpoena,” David Warrington, a partner with the Dhillon Law Group, which is representing Trump, said in a statement late on Friday.

“As with any similar matter, we will review and analyze it, and will respond as appropriate to this unprecedented action.”

A day after the panel’s last public hearing on October 13, Trump posted a lengthy statement on his social media site Truth Social that repeated his false claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 elections. He also expressed “​​anger, disappointment and complaint” that the committee had not focused on those allegations.

Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee also were quick to reject the panel’s unanimous vote in favour of issuing the subpoena.

“The country is experiencing record crime and record inflation,” the House Judiciary GOP wrote on Twitter last week. “Sadly, Democrats can’t get over their weird OBSESSION of President Trump to do anything about it.”

In their letter to Trump on Friday, the committee leaders said they “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”.

But panel members have said key details about what Trump was doing and saying during the riot remain unknown.

“He is the one person at the centre of the story of what happened on January 6, so we want to hear from him,” Thompson, the committee chair, said during last week’s hearing.

“The committee needs to do everything in our power to tell the most complete story possible and provide recommendations to help ensure nothing like January 6 ever happens again.”

Trump’s actions leading up to and during the events of January 6 have raised concerns about the fragility of US democracy, especially as the country prepares for critical midterm elections early next month.

The stolen election lie has become an article of faith for many Republican voters and officials, but polls show that the committee’s investigation has done little to loosen Trump’s grip on the party, despite a number of alarming revelations.

Meanwhile, Steve Bannon, Trump’s former adviser, was sentenced on Friday to four months in prison and a fee of $6,500 for his refusal to comply with a subpoena issued by the January 6 committee.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies