Former President Trump has been subpoenaed by the special House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol, but much remains uncertain about what happens next.
A source close to the Jan. 6 committee says that Trump is in the driver’s seat. The former president can either comply with the subpoena and provide an interview to the panel or face legal repercussions.
“It’s a waiting game right now,” the source told Fox News Digital. “Trump can come forward, or he can obstruct this effort by Congress to shed light on what appears to be an organized plan to subvert democracy and overturn the 2020 election.”
The committee has given Trump’s legal team a Nov. 4 deadline to furnish documents related to its probe. It has further requested the former president provide deposed testimony starting on Nov. 14. It remains uncertain if the former president will comply.
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Shortly after the committee voted to subpoena Trump, sources close to the former president said he “loves the idea of testifying” publicly. Since then, Trump’s legal team has responded to the committee but has been ambiguous whether the former president will comply.
“Despite very poor television ratings, the Unselect Committee has perpetuated a show trial the likes of which this country has never seen before,” Trump wrote in a 14-page letter to the committee after the subpoena. “It is a witch hunt of the highest level, a continuation of what has been going on for [a] year.”
Trump’s legal team and the Jan. 6 Committee did not respond to requests for comment for this story.
If Trump refuses to comply with the subpoena for testimony, a protracted legal battle could ensue. Trump allies say the former president could refuse to testify on the grounds of executive privilege.
“It is unclear if Trump will contest the subpoena, but he has contested virtually every previous subpoena in civil and criminal cases,” said Jonathan Turley, a professor at the George Washington University Law School.
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The legal fight could be time-consuming. For example, it took the House more than two years to force testimony from former White House Counsel Don McGahn in connection with alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.
A federal court recently sentenced Trump-ally Steve Bannon to a four-month prison sentence for contempt of Congress. Prosecutors argued that executive privilege was not a sufficient defense for refusing a congressional subpoena.
The Jan. 6 committee could cite the case if it opts to move forward with a resolution declaring Trump in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify.
The resolution would then have to pass the nine-member committee, made up of two never-Trump Republicans and seven House Democrats. It would then go to the full House for a vote.
While the Democrat-controlled House would likely pass the contempt resolution, timing is a problem. The subpoena is set to expire at the end of December, when the current congressional term ends.
The House is only scheduled to be in Washington for 17 days between November and December. In that time frame, lawmakers must pass a government funding measure and the annual defense policy bill.
Public polls show that Democrats are in danger of losing their majority in the House and Senate, but they are also hoping to pass legislation protecting same-sex marriage and a ban on stock trading by lawmakers. The White House and Democratic leaders are further mulling a year-long budget deal and a hike to the debt ceiling, a cap on how much the federal government can borrow to meet expenses, to undercut GOP efforts to take either vehicle hostage for their priorities next year.
Republicans say that despite the hectic schedule Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., will likely find time to pass the contempt resolution against Trump. However, they claim the timing shows the exercise is political in nature.
“Why didn’t the Unselect Committee ask me to testify months ago,” Trump wrote in a post on his social media site. “Why did they wait until the very end, the final moments of their last meeting?”
If the House votes to hold Trump in contempt of Congress, it could also include language in the resolution referring the matter to the Department of Justice for prosecution. At that point, Attorney General Merrick Garland would have discretion over whether to charge Trump with a crime.
Garland, whose nomination to serve on the Supreme Court was dashed by Senate Republicans and Trump’s 2016 election, has already allowed the DOJ to prosecute Bannon on similar charges. The attorney general also approved a raid on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate earlier this year over the allegation the former president did not hand over classified government documents in a timely manner.
Given the history, GOP lawmakers have increasingly criticized Garland’s decision-making relating to Trump and the Jan. 6 probe.
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“Steve Bannon being sentenced to four months in jail is absolutely outrageous,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. “Merrick Garland’s DOJ is simply a partisan weapon to attack Biden’s political opponents.”
Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report.