After failing to present evidence linking him to the Capitol riot, and just days before the 2022 midterm elections, the U.S. House January 6 Committee used its first meeting in months on Thursday to subpoena former President Donald Trump to speak before it.
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), the committee’s chair, explained that Trump was at the “center” of events surrounding the Capitol riot, and that the need for him to testify “goes beyond our fact-finding” toward “accountability” to the American people as a whole.
The resolution to force Trump’s testimony was proposed by outgoing Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), a fierce opponent of Trump whose position caused her to lose her primary to keep her congressional seat.
Previously, Thompson — who, along with many other committee members, had objected to former presidential election results being certified, an act regarded by the committee as an attempt to destroy democracy — alleged that the committee’s investigation was “not about politics. It’s not about party. It’s about facts, plain and simple.”
The committee is made up entirely of members of Congress who oppose Trump and was hand-picked by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), in breach of the committee’s authorizing resolution. As a result, its jurisdiction to issue subpoenas is being challenged in federal court.
Critics contend that because Cheney is not a “ranking member” of the committee, as defined in the authorizing legislation, the committee lacks the authority to enforce its subpoenas.
Members of the committee alleged Trump’s “personal and substantial role” in the riot but provided no evidence. They read from a Teleprompter in a highly scripted “hearing” that has been compared to a show trial rather than a congressional inquiry.
Given executive privilege, the committee is unlikely to be able to compel Trump’s testimony. However, the committee has resulted in at least two prosecutions for contempt of Congress against witnesses who refused to testify and cited legal reasons for their refusal to cooperate.