As the ninth Jan. 6 hearing came to a close, the nine members of the select committee investigating that Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol were presented with a resolution from Vice Chair Liz Cheney: Would they vote to issue a subpoena for Donald J. Trump in relation to the attack on the Capitol? They would.
With a roll call vote, the nine members of the panel were all yeas.
“This is a question about accountability to the American people,” Chairman Bennie Thompson said. “He must be held accountable.”
Trump would be the first president in nearly 50 years to be subpoenaed by Congress. But the stakes—the future of democracy—require it, argued Cheney.
Within hours, Trump responded on Truth Social with a defense of Jan. 6. “The Unselect Committee knowingly failed to examine the massive voter fraud which took place during the 2020 Presidential Election – The reason for what took place on January 6th,” he claimed.
This hearing—along with the eight previous ones—laid bare Trump’s culpability in instigating the violence at the Capitol and his months-long plan to overturn the will of the American people that paved the way.
The vote to subpoena Trump was preceded by investigative findings from seven of the panelists: Reps. Zoe Lofgen, Adam Kinzinger, Elaine Luria, Stephanie Murphy, Adam Schiff, Pete Aguilar, and Jamie Raskin reviewed information already presented and revealed new information that drove home their arguments of Trump’s culpability.
Lofgen reminded the American public that Trump had been told repeatedly that he should not declare victory, that his election conspiracy theories were baseless, and that he had lost the election.
But she also revealed that the plan to declare premature victory was laid out in advance. The committee revealed that Tom Fitton—the president of Judicial Watch, a right-wing legal outfit known for spreading baseless claims of voter fraud to roll back Americans’ access to the polls—had sent a memo to Trump on Oct. 31, 2020, urging him to simply declare, “We had an election today and I won.” On Nov. 3, Election Day, at 5 p.m., long before all the votes had been counted, Fitton indicated that he had spoken to the president about the draft memo.
Former Vice President Mike Pence’s legal counsel Greg Jacob testified that Pence’s chief of staff Marc Short had also informed him of the president’s plan to prematurely declare victory, and that he had written a memo reflecting that it was imperative that the vice president could “not be perceived by the public as having decided questions concerning disputed electoral votes prior to the full development of all relevant facts.”
The committee also reviewed footage and audio recordings of Roger Stone—a longtime Trump confidant with connections to far-right groups who stormed the Capitol like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers—and Steve Bannon—former Trump campaign chief strategist and White House adviser—who both suggested Trump would declare victory whether or not he had the votes.
“I really do suspect that [the election result] will still be up in the air,” Stone said on Nov. 1, as shown in the video clip provided by Danish documentary filmmakers of “A Storm Foretold.” “When that happens, the key thing to do is to claim victory. Possession is nine tenths of law. ‘No, we won, fuck you. Sorry, you’re wrong, fuck you.’”
Stone also advocated for violence. “I say fuck the voting, let’s get right to the violence,” Stone says in another clip a day before the election.
While Trump lied to the American people in public, in private, he admitted that he had lost the election, according to numerous witnesses. White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified that Trump was embarrassed to have lost to President Joe Biden and refused to publicly admit his defeat.
Kinzinger revealed that Trump had signed a memo to bring home troops from Afghanistan and Somalia by before the inauguration of Biden. That memo was reported by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa in their book “Peril,” but the committee obtained interviews with those involved in drafting it and those who received it. It would have been “catastrophic,” according to officials, but it was evidence that Trump knew he was not likely to remain in the White House and was willing to sacrifice the national interest in order to create problems for Biden to deal with.
The committee also presented new evidence from the Secret Service. The agency had turned over more than 1 million pages after the agency came under fire for deleting texts from agents’ phone during that key period, a result, the agency claims, of a software update.
The emails and chat texts revealed by the panel provided further evidence that intelligence agencies and Trump knew that there were threats of violence on Jan. 6, and that Trump sent his armed supporters to the Capitol anyway.
In one report dated Dec. 26, 2020, the Secret Service received intel on the Proud Boys. “They think that they will have a large enough group to march into DC armed and will outnumber the police so they can’t be stopped,” the report read. “Their plan is to literally kill people.”
The panel also presented new footage of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, along with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnel and Pence, working to ensure the safety of those who worked in the Capitol and to finish vote counting. Notably missing from those videos and photos was the then-Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy.
According to the panel, while many witnesses have been cooperative, more than 30 witnesses pled the Fifth Amendment, every American’s right against self-incrimination, many in relation to their communications with Trump. That included Roger Stone, Mike Flynn, John Eastman, and Jeffrey Clark.
Whether or not they will be able to get Trump to testify before their committee comes to an end is another question. Republicans are expecting to win the House this November and are keen to shut down the investigation.
Throughout the country, election-deniers and Trump loyalists are running for office at every level of government. Right-wing groups are seeking to roll back access to the polls. They’re eager to make sure that Trump will be successful should he decide to make another run for the White House.
At the beginning of the hearings, Thompson and Cheney appeared to address this reality, reminding the American public of the importance of getting to the bottom of what happened on Jan. 6 and of protecting our democracy.
“This investigation is not about politics,” Thompson said. “It’s about the facts, plain and simple. And it’s about making sure our government functions under the rule of law as our Constitution demands.”
“Consider whether we can survive for another 246 years,” Cheney said. “Most people in most places on Earth have not been free. America is an exception, and America continues only because we bind ourselves to our founders’ principles, to our Constitution.”
“We recognize that some principles must be beyond politics, inviolate, and more important than any single American who has ever lived.”