Jan. 6 select committee votes to subpoena Trump for testimony, documents in connection with Capitol assault

Washington — The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol unanimously voted Thursday to issue a subpoena to former President Donald Trump for documents and testimony.

The 9-0 vote occurred before the conclusion of a formal committee business meeting the panel convened Thursday, during which all of its nine members delivered presentations about the campaign by Trump to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and prevent the transfer of power. NBC News was first to report the news of the committee’s plans to vote on subpoenaing Trump.

“Thanks to the tireless work of our members and investigators, we have left no doubt, none, that Donald Trump led an effort to upend American democracy that directly resulted in the violence of Jan. 6,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson, the committee’s chairman. “He tried to take away the voice of the American people in choosing their president and replace the will of the voters with his will to remain in power. He is the one person at the center of the story of what happened on Jan. 6. So we want to hear from him.” 

Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, said it is the committee’s “obligation” to seek Trump’s testimony.

House January 6 Committee Holds Public Hearing
Representative Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi and chairman of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, center, speaks during a hearing in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022.

Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

“This is a question about accountability to the American people. He must be accountable,” he continued. “He is required to answer for his actions. He is required to answer to those police officers who put their lives and bodies on the line to defend our democracy. He is required to answer to the millions of Americans whose votes he wanted to throw out as part of his scheme to remain in power. And whatever is underway to ensure his accountability under the law, this committee will demand a full accounting to the American people of the events of January 6th.”

Rep. Liz Cheney, the committee’s vice chair, offered the resolution that the committee direct the chairman to issue the subpoena to Trump for documents and testimony in connection with the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol building.

“Our duty today is to our country, and our children, and our Constitution,” she said. “We are obligated to seek answers directly from the man who set this all in motion. And we are entitled to the answers today, so we can act now to protect our republic.”

In a Thursday post on his social media platform Truth Social, Trump questioned why the select committee did not ask him to testify sooner.

“Why did they wait until the very end, the final moments of their last meeting? Because the Committee is a total ‘BUST’ that has only served to further divide our Country which, by the way, is doing very badly — A laughing stock all over the World?” he wrote.

Late Thursday night, he posted there again, saying, “The Unselect Committee is a giant Scam, presided over by a group of Radical Left losers, and two failed Republicans, the likes of which our Country has rarely seen before. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” 

Then, on Friday morning, Trump sent a letter to Thompson that did not mention the subpoena and instead railed at the committee’s work. He said he was writing “to express our anger, disappointment, and complaint that with all of the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on what many consider to be a Charade and Witch Hunt.” He also attacked the committee for not looking into election fraud and appeared to defend the targets of the committee, who, he claimed were just acting “as concerned American Citizens, protesting the Fraud itself.” 

He also brought up crowd size in the letter, complete with an appendix of photos of the crowd

Thompson told reporters ahead of the proceedings that the committee had “not ruled out” subpoenaing Trump.  While delivering an opening statement at the start of the hearing, he noted it was a formal committee business meeting, allowing members to “potentially hold a committee vote on further investigative action based upon that evidence.”

The vote to compel the former president to provide evidence is a dramatic escalation in the committee’s investigation, across which the panel conducted more than 1,000 interviews and depositions, including with a range of White House officials, members of Trump’s Cabinet, and campaign aides. Thompson noted the gravity of the decision to subpoena Trump, calling it “a serious and extraordinary action” that warranted a vote in public view. 

Committee members repeatedly said over the course of its probe publicly they were weighing whether to ask Vice President Mike Pence to appear before them, but had not yet decided whether to do so. But asked whether the committee would subpoena the former vice president, Thompson on Thursday said “no.” Before Thursday they also had not yet said whether they had decided to issue a subpoena to the former president.

Trump will likely challenge the select committee’s subpoena. In the past, he has asked the federal courts to intervene in efforts by the congressional Democrats to obtain his tax returns and financial records, as well as the select committee’s attempt to get Trump’s White House records from the National Archives and Records Administration.

In January, the Supreme Court turned down Trump’s request to block the release of his White House documents, and the committee received the records soon after. Only Justice Clarence Thomas noted he would have granted Trump’s request to shield the records from House investigators. 

As the committee held its meeting Thursday, the Supreme Court declined a request from Trump for it to intervene in a dispute over documents he brought with him from the White House to his South Florida residence, Mar-a-Lago, at the end of his presidency in Jan. 2021. There were no noted dissents.

Over the course of its year-long investigation, the select committee mapped out what it has described as the multi-pronged effort by the former president to stay in office despite losing the 2020 election to President Biden.

Those efforts, which were rooted in his baseless claims the election was rife with voter fraud, culminated in the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol.

House investigators held eight public hearings through the summer, with Thursday’s proceeding, their ninth, likely to be its last. Cheney said during opening remarks that the focus of the meeting is Trump’s “state of mind, his intent, his motivations, and how he spurred others to do his bidding.” 

“The vast weight of evidence presented so far has shown us that the central cause of Jan. 6 was one man, Donald Trump, who many others followed,” she said. “None of this would have happened without him. He was personally and substantially involved in all of it.” 

In her final remarks before the vote on the subpoena to Trump, Cheney said the committee has “sufficient information” to answer questions about the Jan. 6 assault, as well as “sufficient information” to consider criminal referrals to several people.

“But,” she said, “a key task remains: We must seek the testimony under oath of January 6th’s central player.”

Kathryn Watson contributed to this report.

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