Jan. 6 Committee Weighs Further Actions as Trump Refuses to Testify
WASHINGTON — The chairman of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol said on Monday that a contempt of Congress referral against former President Donald J. Trump “could be an option” after Mr. Trump failed to appear for a scheduled deposition.
Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and the chairman of the panel, said in an interview that lawmakers were evaluating their next steps, which could include pursuing a contempt charge.
“That could be an option. And we’ll have to wait and see,” he said, adding: “The first thing we’ll do is see how we address the lawsuit. At some point after that, we’ll decide the path forward.”
Mr. Trump filed a suit against the panel on Friday, seeking to block its subpoena that required him to testify and hand over documents related to the effort to overturn the 2020 election. He refused to turn over a single document to the panel and did not show up for a deposition on Monday morning, Mr. Thompson said.
“Former President Trump has failed to comply with the select committee’s subpoena requiring him to appear for a deposition today,” Mr. Thompson and the panel’s vice chairwoman, Representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming, said in a joint statement.
“His attorneys have made no attempt to negotiate an appearance of any sort, and his lawsuit parades out many of the same arguments that courts have rejected repeatedly over the last year,” the committee leaders wrote. “The truth is that Donald Trump, like several of his closest allies, is hiding from the select committee’s investigation and refusing to do what more than a thousand other witnesses have done.”
The House has voted four times to hold in contempt of Congress allies of Mr. Trump who refused to testify or supply documents. Two of those allies — Stephen K. Bannon, an outside adviser who briefly worked in the Trump White House, and Peter Navarro, the former White House trade adviser — were indicted. The Justice Department declined to charge two others: Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s final chief of staff, and Dan Scavino Jr., another top aide.
Mr. Bannon has been convicted and was sentenced to four months in jail and fined $6,500. Mr. Navarro’s trial is scheduled for January.
Mr. Trump’s 41-page lawsuit, filed in federal court in Florida, came just days before he was scheduled to appear before the panel. The suit seeks to declare the subpoena invalid for a variety of reasons, including that it is overly broad and unnecessary. Mr. Trump’s lawyers say the subpoena lacks a legislative purpose and infringes upon executive privilege and his First Amendment rights.
The suit makes it highly unlikely that Mr. Trump will testify, given that the committee is set to dissolve at the end of this Congress in January. With Republicans on a path to take control of the House, it is all but certain they will not continue the inquiry.
At least three former presidents have been issued congressional subpoenas, and several voluntarily testified before Congress. But in 1953, Harry S. Truman refused to comply with a subpoena from the House Un-American Activities Committee, claiming that it would violate the separation of powers.
Lawmakers at the time chose not to try to enforce that subpoena. The question of whether Congress can compel testimony from a former president remains unresolved by the courts.