The committee formed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to examine the origins of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol Building issued a number of subpoenas on Thursday, all involving officials from the Trump administration, though the former president says he’ll vigorously defend executive privilege.
According to multiple reports, the select committee sent subpoenas to Trump’s last chief of staff, Mark Meadows, as well as former deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino; Kash Patel, then chief of staff to the acting defense secretary on the day of the riot; and former top political adviser Steve Bannon, now a top podcaster and host of “War Room.”
The committee announced the subpoenas Thursday evening, “which has moved the inquiry into a new, more aggressive stage after requesting White House records last month and sending preservation requests for records to telecom and social media companies,” The Washington Post reported.
“The Committee is investigating the facts, circumstances, and causes of the January 6th attack and issues relating to the peaceful transfer of power, to identify and evaluate lessons learned and to recommend corrective laws, policies, procedures rules, or regulations,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the committee chair, said in a statement Thursday.
Trump, as well as most congressional Republicans, have blasted the committee as a partisan exercise aimed at laying blame at the former president’s feet for the riot, which occurred the day he gave a major speech in advance of Congress certifying electoral ballots for then-President-elect Joe Biden.
Trump has frequently claimed that the 2020 election was stolen from him through a “rigged” process in several battleground states, but to date, there has been no credible evidence of widespread voter fraud in any of those states; the former president and his surrogates have honed in on changes made to election laws and voting rules in several states ahead of the Nov. 3 election by Democrat secretaries of state and some state courts, to include widespread use of mail-in ballots, citing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Trump and his team have also pledged to push back on any attempt by the committee to force testimony, either from him or his advisers. The Post reported that “a debate about a former president’s ability to restrict access to information and individuals has already begun in Washington,” and it will likely intensify now that subpoenas have actually gone out.
In addition to seeking records from the four former Trump officials, the committee is also seeking testimony from them in mid-October, the Post reported.
In a statement, Trump blasted the subpoenas in a reference to the now-completed ballot audit in Maricopa County, Ariz., the results of which are scheduled to be revealed on Friday.
“Interesting that the Unselect Committee of political hacks ‘dropped’ their subpoena request the night before Arizona is expected to announce its findings from the Forensic Audit on voter fraud in the 2020 Presidential Election Scam. This is what they do, this is what they are good at—but everybody will be watching Arizona tomorrow to see what the highly respected auditors and Arizona State Senate found out regarding the so-called Election!” Trump said in a statement from his Save America PAC.
this is what they are good at—but everybody will be watching Arizona tomorrow to see what the highly respected auditors and Arizona State Senate found out regarding the so-called Election!” – President Donald J. Trump
— Liz Harrington (@realLizUSA) September 24, 2021
Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich went on to lament the “Communist-style” committee in a statement, saying that the subpoenas were overly broad and lacked credibility.
“Executive privilege will be defended, not just on behalf of President Trump and his administration, but also on behalf of the Office of the President of the United States and the future of our nation,” Budowich told CNBC. “The Fake News continues to take the Democrats bait, who are trying desperately to distract the country with this bogus process.”
“Hopefully the Unselect Committee will be calling witnesses on the Rigged Presidential Election of 2020, which is the primary reason that hundreds of thousands of people went to Washington, D.C. in the first place,” Trump added, according to the outlet.
Patel noted in a statement that he was not contacted to offer testimony voluntarily. “I am disappointed, but not surprised, that the Committee tried to subpoena me through the press . . . before seeking my voluntary cooperation. I will continue to tell the truth to the American people about the events of January 6th,” he said.
As to the claim of executive privilege, the Washington Post reported separately that the Biden administration was considering waiving it in this case, which is certain to set up additional legal battles while also butting up against precedent.
Citing two sources familiar with the White House’s thinking, the Post said that the current administration “plans to err on the side of disclosure given the gravity of the events of Jan. 6.”
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