The committee votes to subpoena Donald Trump on Jan. 6

The congressional committee investigating last year’s attack on the US Capitol has voted unanimously to issue a subpoena against former President Donald Trump, whom members have accused of being responsible for the violence that day.

At the end of the committee’s ninth televised live hearing, Democratic Chairman Bennie Thompson said, “He’s the only person at the heart of the story of what happened on January 6th, so we want to hear from him.”

Liz Cheney, Republican Vice Chairwoman, said, “We need to get the key player’s testimony under oath on Jan. 6.”

The vote marks only the seventh time in history that Congress has issued a subpoena to an incumbent or former president and launched a high-stakes legal battle, according to legal historians.

Several of those closest to Trump have already refused to comply with subpoenas to testify before the committee, and two of them – Steve Bannon and Peter Navarro – have subsequently been prosecuted. Bannon is scheduled to be sentenced later this month for contempt of Congress.

The former president could choose to attend a hearing and refuse to answer questions, as some of his supporters have done.

Some legal experts believe Trump will launch a legal challenge that could bind Congress until after November’s midterm elections. But others believe there is still time before the end of this Congress early next year to issue the subpoena and refer the former president to the Justice Department if he refuses to comply.

Norman Eisen, who advised the committee that handled Trump’s first impeachment, said, “I think that was the right thing to do. [Trump] may attempt to litigate, but cannot prevent members from making a referral to the DoJ for contempt of Congress.”

The vote came after another dramatic televised hearing into the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, at which the committee presented fresh evidence that Trump believed he lost the election but pushed ahead with his attempt to overturn the result.

During the hearing, several video clips were played showing close associates of the former president admitting his electoral defeat. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during his hearing that during a post-election policy debate, Trump said, “We lost, we have to leave this issue to the next man.”

Cassidy Hutchinson, a former assistant to Trump’s last chief of staff, Mark Meadows, said she heard Trump say, “I don’t want people to know that we lost, Mark, that’s embarrassing.” Find out. We have to find out.”

Trump’s honest opinion on whether or not he lost the election could prove crucial to any future prosecution linked to the attacks. Cheney said during Thursday’s hearing that members “may ultimately decide to file a series of criminal charges with the Justice Department.”

The panel has outlined in a series of nine hearings how Trump and some of those around him played a central role in fomenting violence on the day to bring down the 2020 election.

Zoe Lofgren, one of the Democratic members of the committee, showed new evidence suggesting Trump was preparing to declare victory in a disputed election long before voting began.

This included a draft speech written in late October in which Trump planned to declare himself the winner based on “ballots counted up to the deadline on election day.” After this point in time, many postal votes were counted, which tended to be in favor of his opponent Joe Biden.

The committee also showed video footage of Roger Stone, a political strategist and close Trump supporter, speaking to members of far-right groups The Proud Boys and Oath Keepers ahead of Election Day.

In one footage, Stone said, “I’m guessing [the election result] will still be in the air. When that happens, the most important thing is to get the win. Possession is nine-tenths of the law. We won. Fuck you. sorry over We won.”

In another clip, he said, “Fuck the vote, let’s get straight to the violence.”

The committee’s eight sessions, broadcast over the summer, have already helped put the former president at the forefront of the campaign, which in turn has given Democrats momentum.

Members hope Thursday’s hearing will further tarnish Trump’s reputation — at least among Democrats and independent voters — by showing how he ignored warnings about the violence his supporters planned to unleash.

According to polls, the hearings have so far met with public approval. Since its launch in June, Trump’s approval rating has fallen two percentage points to 42 percent, while the Democrats have gained two points in the polls to 45 percent.

They have also expanded the array of legal challenges facing the former president, including an investigation by US authorities into whether he mishandled sensitive and classified information after leaving office.

Trump suffered a setback in that investigation Thursday when the Supreme Court denied his request to allow a court-appointed court to review all documents seized from his Florida home earlier this year. Instead, the so-called Special Master is denied access to around 100 secret documents, while federal agents are allowed to continue working on their case.

An attorney for the former president did not respond to a request for comment. The committee votes to subpoena Donald Trump on Jan. 6

Adam Bradshaw

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