A US Congressional Committee decided in a surprise vote on Thursday to issue a subpoena to former President Donald Trump for his testimony and documents regarding the January 6 rioting by his supporters on the Capitol in Washington, DC, to prevent a joint session from certifying Joe Biden as the next President.
“It is our obligation to seek Donald Trump’s testimony,” said Bennie Thompson, Chairman of the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 riots.
“There’s precedent in American history for Congress to compel the testimony of a President.”
Trump is not the first sitting or former President asked by the Congress to give testimony — there have been at least seven previous instances of it — but there is only one previous instance of a former President defying the subpoena, Harry S. Truman. Trump is also likely to refuse to testify.
Thursday was the ninth and possibly the final public hearing of the nine-member committee, which has two Republicans. It has deposed hundreds of witnesses, including top officials and aides of former President Trump and associates such as Roger Stone, who and others appeared but refused to say anything asserting their constitutional right to not implicate themselves.
Hordes of Trump’s supporters had marched on to US Congress after a rally in which the former President and his associates had railed against the election, falsely alleging Biden won fraudulently.
Trump had called on them to go to Capitol Hill — and he would along with them, he told them — and prevent a joint sitting of Congress from certifying Biden’s victory.
Trump was dissuaded by his Security Service protectors from accompanying the rioters, an aide told the committee in one of the hearings, who also provided shocking details of how the former President physically grappled with his Security Service personnel, and had tried to grab the steering wheel of the presidential limousine to guide towards the Capitol.
Representative Liz Cheney, the Republican who is Deputy Chair of the committee, said the panel must hear from Trump calling him “January 6’s central player”.
“Every American is entitled to those answers,” she added.
On January 6, 2021, following then-US President Donald Trump’s defeat in the 2020 presidential election, a mob of his supporters attacked the Capitol Building in Washington, DC. They sought to keep Trump in power by preventing a joint session of Congress from counting the electoral college votes to formalize the victory of President-elect Joe Biden.
According to the House select committee investigating the incident, the attack was the culmination of a seven-part plan by Trump to overturn the election. Five people died either shortly before, during, or following the event: one was shot by Capitol Police, another died of a drug overdose, and three died of natural causes. Many people were injured, including 138 police officers. Four officers who responded to the attack died by suicide within seven months. As of July 7, 2022, monetary damages caused by attackers exceed $2.7 million.
A week after the riot, the House of Representatives impeached Trump for incitement of insurrection, making him the only US president to have been impeached twice.
In February, after Trump had left office, the Senate voted 57–43 in favor of conviction; because this fell short of a two-thirds majority, requiring 67 votes, he was acquitted for a second time.
The House passed a bill to create a bipartisan independent commission to investigate the attack, modeled after the 9/11 Commission, but it was blocked by Republicans in the Senate, so the House approved a select committee with seven Democrats and two Republicans to investigate instead.
By March 2022, Justice Department investigations of participants in the attack had expanded to include activities of others leading up to the attack.