January 6 committee subpoenas Donald Trump to testify on Capitol Hill attack
The U.S. House Jan. 6 committee voted unanimously on Thursday to subpoena Donald Trump, demanding his personal testimony as he unveiled a startling new video of close aides outlining his multi-part plan to quash his 2020 election defeat that led to his supporters’ fierce assault on the United States Capitol.
« We need to request the sworn testimony of the central actor from January 6, » said Republican Rep. Liz Cheney, vice chair of the committee.
« We are compelled to seek answers directly from the man who set this all in motion, » she added. « And every American is entitled to those answers. »
With alarming messages from the US Secret Service warning of violence and a vivid new video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other congressional leaders pleading for help, the panel showed raw desperation on Capitol Hill during its last public hearing. Using language frequently used in indictments, the panel said Trump acted « premeditatedly » before Jan. 6, 2021, despite countless aides and officials telling him he lost.
Trump is almost certain to fight the subpoena and refuse to testify. On his social media, he blamed the members for not asking him to testify sooner – although he didn’t say he would – and called the panel a « total BUST ».
In one of its most compelling exhibits, the committee showed never-before-seen footage of congressional leaders phoning officials for help during the assault.
Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer can be seen talking to the governors of neighboring Virginia and Maryland. Later footage shows Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republican leaders as the group asks the acting attorney general for help.
« They’re breaking the law in different ways — quite frankly at the instigation of the President of the United States, » Pelosi said at one point.
The footage also shows Vice President Mike Pence stepping in to help quell the violence, speaking directly to Capitol police, as Congress planned to resume session that evening to certify Biden’s election. The video was shot by Pelosi’s daughter, a documentary filmmaker.
« Their plan is literally to kill people »
In never-before-seen Secret Service messages, the panel produced evidence of how extremist groups provided the muscle in the fight for Trump’s presidency, planning weeks before the attack to send a violent force into Washington.
« Their plan is literally to kill people, » read a tip sent to the Secret Service more than a week before the January 6 violence.
The Secret Service warned in a December 26, 2020, email from a tip that members of the right-wing Proud Boys were planning to march in Washington on January 6 with a group large enough to outnumber police.
« It was like the calm before the storm, » a Secret Service agent wrote in a group chat.
Diving into Trump’s mindset
The committee’s 10th public session, just weeks before the midterm congressional elections, looked at Trump’s « state of mind, » committee chairman Bennie Thompson said.
To describe the president’s state of mind, the committee disclosed new material, including interviews with key aides and officials in Trump’s cabinet – including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Attorney General William Barr and Secretary at Labor Eugene Scalia – in which some described the president being grateful that he had lost.
In one, according to former White House official Alyssa Farah Griffin, Trump looked up at the TV and said, « Can you believe I lost to this? [expletive] dude? »
Cabinet members also said in interviews broadcast during the hearing that they believed that once legal avenues were exhausted, that should have been the end of Trump’s efforts to stay in power.
« In my opinion, that was the end of the matter, » Barr said of the Electoral College’s Dec. 14 vote.
But rather than the end of Trump’s efforts, it was just the beginning – as the president summoned the crowd to Washington on Jan. 6.
The panel showed clips of Trump at his rally near the White House that day, saying the opposite of what he was told. He then tells his followers that he will march with them to the Capitol. It never happened.
“There is no defense that Donald Trump was duped or irrational,” Cheney said. « No president can defy the rule of law and act that way in our constitutional republic, period. »
The committee may well make a decision on whether to make a criminal referral to the Department of Justice.
Thursday’s hearing opened in a mostly empty US Capitol complex, with most lawmakers at home campaigning for re-election. Several people who were among the thousands around the Capitol on Jan. 6 are now running for office, some with Trump’s backing. The police who fought off the crowd occupied the front row of the courtroom.
‘Just FYI. POTUS is pissed’
Along with the interviews, the committee is relying on the treasury of 1.5 million documents it received from the US Secret Service, including an email from December 11, 2020, the day the Supreme Court dismissed the one of the main lawsuits that Trump’s team had filed against the election results.
« Just FYI. POTUS is pissed, » the Secret Service wrote, according to documents obtained by the committee.
White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, a top aide to chief of staff Mark Meadows, recalled that Trump was « livid » and « excited » about the court’s decision.
Trump told Meadows « something to the effect of, ‘I don’t want people to know we lost, Mark. It’s embarassing. Understand it,’” Hutchinson told the panel in a taped interview.
The January 6 committee has been meeting for more than a year and is expected to produce a report on its findings. It was set up by the House after Republican senators blocked the formation of an outside panel similar to the 9/11 commission panel that examined the 2001 terrorist attacks.
House Republicans are expected to drop the Jan. 6 inquiry if they gain control of the chamber after the midterms.
The seven Democrats and two Republicans on the panel argued that their work is not just a summary of the past, but a dire warning of threats to the democratic process.
Millions of Americans still mistakenly believe Trump has won in 2020, polls show, while a Washington Post analysis published last week indicated that half of Republicans who will enter races next month for major offices of the US Congress and states have denied or questioned the 2020 outcome, including the governorship. candidates Doug Mastriano of Pennsylvania and Kari Lake of Arizona.
Trump associate Peter Navarro is set to go on trial next month for refusing to cooperate with a House committee subpoena, while Steve Bannon is set to be sentenced next week after being found guilty of charges of similar outrage.
Outside of committee work, more than 850 people have been criminally charged by the Justice Department in the Capitol attack, some of whom have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms for their roles. Several leaders and associates of the extremist Oath Keepers and Proud Boys have been charged with rare sedition charges. Trump faces various state and federal investigations into his actions in the election and its aftermath.
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