Several top aides to former President Donald Trump are planning to defy subpoenas issued by the House select committee investigating the origins of the Jan. 6 Capitol Building riot, according to a Wednesday report.
A source familiar with the situation told The Guardian that the officials who plan to ignore their subpoenas including former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino, chief political strategist Steve Bannon, and Defense Department aide Kash Patel. The source indicated to the outlet that Trump is preparing to direct them to defy the subpoenas in which the Democrat-dominated committee seeks documents from the former staffers.
“The move to defy the subpoenas would mark the first major investigative hurdle faced by the select committee and threatens to touch off an extended legal battle as the former president pushes some of his most senior aides to undercut the inquiry,” The Guardian reported.
The select committee issued its subpoenas last month; at the time, Trump vowed he would vigorously defend executive privilege.
“The Committee is investigating the facts, circumstances, and causes of the January 6th attack and issues relating to the peaceful transfer of power, to identify and evaluate lessons learned and to recommend corrective laws, policies, procedures rules, or regulations,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the committee chair, said in a statement as the subpoenas were being issued.
“Executive privilege will be defended, not just on behalf of President Trump and his administration, but also on behalf of the Office of the President of the United States and the future of our nation,” Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich told CNBC. “The Fake News continues to take the Democrats bait, who are trying desperately to distract the country with this bogus process.”
“Hopefully the Unselect Committee will be calling witnesses on the Rigged Presidential Election of 2020, which is the primary reason that hundreds of thousands of people went to Washington, D.C. in the first place,” Trump added.
That said, the committee’s subpoenas came with a threat of criminal prosecution if they were not complied with while warning that defying congressional subpoenas would carry far more consequences under the Biden administration than they did during Trump’s term.
Last week, Thompson vowed to pursue legal avenues to compel the Trump aides to comply. “We’ll do whatever the law allows us to do,” he said. “For those who don’t agree to come in voluntarily, we’ll do criminal referrals.”
Nevertheless, The Guardian reported, as Trump and his former staffers grow “increasingly concerned with the far-reaching nature of the 6 January investigation,” the former president, his staffers, and their legal teams are preparing to fight the demand for statements and documents first by defying the orders.
But the source told The Guardian that one of the attorneys involved in the defense — former deputy White House counsel Patrick Philbin — is less certain than Trump about fighting the subpoenas based on claims of executive privilege.
That’s due, in part, “because the Justice Department previously declined to assert the protection for 6 January testimony, suggesting it did not exist to protect Trump’s personal interests,” the outlet reported.
Philbin “instead seems to view the strategy more as an effective way to slow-walk the select committee, which is aiming to produce a final report before the 2022 midterm elections, to keep the inquiry non-partisan,” The Guardian reported.
The outlet said it is not clear if Trump will advise all his former aides to defy the subpoenas or just some of them.
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