Trump subpoenaed by Jan. 6 committee
WASHINGTON (CN) — The Jan. 6 committee voted to subpoena former President Donald Trump on Thursday after laying out his complicity in a scheme to overturn the 2020 election culminating in last year’s insurrection.
Asking for documents and testimony, the committee said every American is entitled to answers from Trump on the events of Jan. 6.
“We must seek the testimony under oath of January 6th’s central player,” said Representative Liz Cheney, one of only two Republicans on the committee, as the body held what will likely be its meeting until the midterm elections.
Chairman Bennie Thompson said there is precedent for Congress to ask for presidential testimony, and there is also precedent for presidents' compliance with these requests. He said the committee wanted to take this vote in front of the American people because the “subject matter at issue is so important.”
“The need for this committee to hear from Donald Trump goes beyond fact,” Thompson said. “This is a question about accountability to the American people. He must be accountable. He is required to answer for his actions.”
Cheney also said the committee has information for criminal referrals for multiple individuals.
As in eight previous hearings — the last one was in July — lawmakers on the committee focused Thursday on Trump's actions when it was irrefutable that he had lost reelection.
“What Donald Trump proceeded to do after the 2020 election is something no president has done before in our country,” Thompson said. “In a staggering betrayal of his oath, Donald Trump attempted a plan that led to an attack on a pillar of our democracy.”
The committee provided evidence of Trump’s knowledge of his election loss through videotaped witness testimony and evidence of key individuals in Trump’s orbit who enabled the former president’s denial of the results. Regardless of the election’s outcome, lawmakers observed, Trump never intended to concede.
“Claims that President Trump actually thought the election was stolen are not supported by fact and are not a defense,” Cheney said. “There is no defense that Donald Trump was duped or irrational. No president can defy the rule of law and act this way in a constitutional republic.”
Representative Zoe Lofgren zeroed in on the bombastic tone that Trump set on Election Night.
"The evidence shows that his false victory speech was planned well in advance before any votes have been counted,” she said. “It was a premeditated plan by the president to declare victory no matter what the actual result was. He made a plan to stay in office before Election Day.”
Trump’s knowledge of his election loss is further detailed, according to the committee, by his issuance of a memo weeks before he left office, ordering a large-scale troop withdrawal. The committee claims this shows Trump’s rush to complete unfinished business and that he was brash and irrational while doing so. Trump signed the order on Nov. 11 to require the removal of troops from Somalia and Afghanistan before President Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20.
“Keep in mind the order was for an immediate withdrawal,” Representative Adam Kinzinger said. “It would have been catastrophic, and yet President Trump signed the order. These are the highly consequential actions of a president who knows his term will shortly end. At the same time, President Trump was acknowledging privately that he had lost the election, he was hearing that there was no evidence of fraud or irregularities sufficient to change the outcome.”
Trump was “irate” when his election challenges — particularly those at the Supreme Court — were shot down. According to former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, Trump told his chief of staff Mark Meadows that the loss was embarrassing and he “didn’t want people to know” about it.
The committee said Trump was not only involved in efforts to overturn the election but the driver behind the plan. Among the evidence for these claims is a call from Trump to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
“[Trump] personally reached out to numerous state officials and pressured them to take unlawful steps to alter the election results in those states,” Representative Elaine Luria said. “These actions — taken directly by the president himself — made it clear what his intentions were, to prevent the orderly transfer of power.”
Failing to convince the courts or lawmakers to support his false claims of election fraud, according to the committee, Trump turned to a last-ditch attempt at remaining in power: obstructing the ceremony set for Jan. 6 in which Congress would certify the election's results.
Top government and security officials were aware of the potential violence on Jan. 6, the committee said, despite their claims to the contrary.
“Certain White House and Secret Service witnesses testified that they received no intelligence about violence that could have potentially threatened any of the protectees on Jan. 6, including the vice president,” Representative Adam Schiff said. “Evidence suggests that this testimony is not credible.”
Ten days prior to the insurrection, according to committee evidence, the FBI was tipped off about what the Proud Boys, a right-wing extremist group, was cooking up.
“Their plan is to literally kill people,” the tip presented by the committee states. “Please please take this tip seriously and investigate further.”
Schiff also revealed a multitude of threats directed at Vice President Mike Pence. On the morning of Jan. 6, six Secret Service agents were informed of online threats of what would happen to Pence should he certify the election for Joe Biden. One agent said he saw threats that the Capitol would be stormed if Pence “didn’t do the right thing.”
Trump finally told his supporters to go home about three hours after they stormed the Capitol. Rather than condemn them, the panel said, Trump excused and glorified the mass violence.
“Trump did nothing to stop the deadly violence for obvious reasons: He thought it was all justified, he incited it, and he supported it,” Representative Jamie Raskin said.
In the three-month lead-up to Thursday's hearing, the committee managed to make some waves with its interview of Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, whose efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election have been widely reported.
Thomas is said to have texted White House chief of staff Mark Meadows after the election and emailed lawmakers in key battleground states. The committee interviewed Thomas for over four hours, and Representative Thompson said she has continued to maintain the false claim that the election was stolen.
The wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has a long history of conservative activism but maintains she does not discuss her work with her husband. In February 2021, Justice Thomas was one of three dissenting members as the court rejected challenges to Trump's election defeat, and he was the lone dissenting justice in January of this year in a fight to keep Trump’s White House records out of the committee’s hands.
Trump's role in the insurrection has been an overarching focus of the probe, which has brought interviews from more than 1,500 people.
Lawmakers say Trump spurred the attack by claiming against all evidence that the election was stolen, and that he neglected his presidential responsibility on Jan. 6 to rein in his supporters.
On the morning of Jan. 6, Trump held a rally on the Ellipse where he told supporters he would march to the Capitol with them even though security protocols stopped this from happening. This past summer, testimony from one witness suggested Trump got into a physical altercation with a Secret Service agent who prevented him from going to the Capitol.
Congress had been set to certify the election results on Jan. 6, but the riot delayed that ceremony one day. The committee has said that Trump's refusal to take immediate action during riot put lawmakers and his own vice president at risk.
The committee says it took Trump was informed of the uprising about 15 minutes after he had left his rally but waited a little over three hours to put out a public response.
Hearings like the one taking place Thursday are just one part of the committee’s effort to share its investigation with the public. A report on the committee's findings is expected by the end of the year, after midterms.
While the committee’s work is presumed to end in January, the Department of Justice will continue its investigation into the attack. So far the government has charged more than 850 people for their roles in the attack.