“The suit likely dooms the prospect of Trump ever having to testify, given that the committee is expected to disband at the end of the legislative session in January.”
Less than a month after he expressed eagerness to provide testimony on live television, former President Donald Trump sued the House January 6 panel to block a subpoena ordering him to testify.
In a lawsuit filed Friday night in the Southern District of Florida, Trump’s legal team argues that while ex-presidents have voluntarily agreed to cooperate with congressional subpoenas in the past, “no president or former president has ever been compelled to do so.”
“Long-held precedent and practice maintain that separation of powers prohibits Congress from compelling a president to testify before it,” Trump attorney David Warrington said in a statement announcing his client’s plans.
According to Warrington, Trump had worked with the committee “in a good faith effort to resolve these concerns consistent with executive branch prerogatives and separation of powers,” but the panel “insists on pursuing a political path, leaving President Trump with no choice but to involve the third branch, the judicial branch, in this dispute between the executive and legislative branches.”
The committee did not comment on the filing, which comes just days before its Monday deadline requiring Trump to appear for a deposition.
As The Associated Press reported, “the suit likely dooms the prospect of Trump ever having to testify, given that the committee is expected to disband at the end of the legislative session in January.”
According to Politico, the suit is destined to result in “a complex and lengthy legal battle that is sure to last beyond the committee’s lifespan.”
The panel’s vote to subpoena Trump during its last televised hearing prior to the midterm elections, something it formally did on October 21, “was a major escalation in its investigation,” AP noted. Lawmakers said the move was necessary given the “central” role Trump played in a multi-layered effort to overturn his loss in the 2020 election—an anti-democratic campaign that culminated in a deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.
The committee demanded that Trump provide testimony on Capitol Hill or via video by mid-November.
“In addition to demanding that Trump testify,” AP reported, “the committee also made 19 requests for documents and communication—including for any messages Trump sent on the encrypted messaging app Signal or by ‘any other means’ to members of Congress” as well as far-right extremist groups—about the January 6 assault.
According to the news outlet, “The scope of the committee’s request was expansive—pursuing documents from September 1, 2020, two months before the election, to the present on the president’s communications with groups like the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys—as the panel looks to compile a historical record of the run-up to the Capitol attack, the event itself, and the aftermath.”
As Politico noted:
The subpoena’s prospects for securing testimony from Trump always seemed remote for a variety of reasons, including the fact that the Justice Department has an ongoing criminal investigation into efforts to subvert the 2020 election.
In a November 9 letter to the panel, Trump’s attorney David Warrington said Trump would refuse to appear in person but would consider responding to written questions.
The select committee appeared to anticipate this outcome, accusing Trump’s attorneys in a November 4 letter of deploying a “delay tactic” by raising voluminous objections to the specific demands of the committee’s subpoena.
Although control of the House remains up for grabs, Republicans are well-positioned to win at least 218 seats, after which they are not expected to prolong the committee’s work beyond the lame-duck session. The panel is set to publish a final report in December prior to being dissolved the following month.
Trump’s attempt to thwart the panel’s investigation also comes before “a very big announcement” he has scheduled for Tuesday at Mar-a-Lago.
That’s when Trump is expected to launch his third bid for the White House, though a growing number of Republican operatives have called on the former president to stay out of the 2024 race after the GOP failed to pick up more seats in the midterm elections, thanks in large part to the poor performance of many of Trump’s hand-picked candidates.
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