Stage set for dramatic showdown as Jan 6 panel summons Trump

The decision of whether to indict the president for crimes relating to the 6 January 2021 attack on the US Capitol rests with the justice department, not Congress.
Donald Trump
Donald TrumpReuters

WASHINGTON: The stage for a dramatic showdown has been set between ex-President Donald Trump and the Jan 6 Congressional panel probing the capital hills insurrection of 2021 which led to nine deaths and arrests of over hundreds of Trump supporters.

The last meeting of the January 6 committee did not conclude its ninth and possibly final public hearing by referring Donald Trump to the US justice department for criminal conduct - a move many, including some members of the panel, had urged, The BBC reported.

Instead, all nine members of the bi-partisan panel, including democrats and republicans, voted to issue a subpoena to Trump to appear before the panel and testify to the events of the attack by his supporters on capitol.

The decision of whether to indict the president for crimes relating to the 6 January 2021 attack on the US Capitol rests with the justice department, not Congress.

And the committee's formal subpoena of the former president, while historic, is almost certain to be ignored by Mr Trump, The BBC said.

Reacting angrily to the subpoena, Trump, in a 15-page letter to the Chairman of the Jan 6 panel Bennie Thompson, Democrat from Mississippi, said the "committee was a total BUST" and filled with "political hack and thugs".

But apparently in a rethink following an advice by fellow republicans close to him, he decided to reconsider his decision to appear before the committee, The Independent of London reported quoting authoritative sources close to Trump.

While the committee could vote to hold the former president in contempt of Congress, the clock is ticking towards next month's midterm elections and what could be a Republican takeover of the House of Representatives in January, when the committee would be unceremoniously shuttered, The BBC said.

Still, the vote to call Trump to offer his defence made for a dramatic flourish at the end of what was another stinging round of accusations directed at the former president - one that included some never-before-seen footage from the Capitol attack and recently acquired documentary evidence from speaker Nancy Pelosi's daughter, Alexandra Pelosi, a documentary filmmaker.

The January 6 committee has laid responsibility for the attack at Donald Trump's feet, but one of the challenges it has faced has been tying the former president directly to the violence.

Investigators have said Trump created an atmosphere that led to violence and that he was aware that trouble was possible, but they have yet to directly link Trump to those who attacked the Capitol.

In her presentation on Thursday, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren suggested that longtime Trump confidante Roger Stone was that missing link.

Stone was in contact with members of the right-wing militant groups Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers - individuals who have been charged with seditious conspiracy by the justice department for their involvement in the Capitol attacks.

Lofgren showed photographs of Stone with leaders of the Oath Keepers the day before the Capitol attack. She also noted that Stone was in touch with Trump in late December and that the president wanted to talk with Stone in the days leading up to January 6, 2021.

Still, however, the committee has been unable to fully document interactions between Stone and the president. "We don't yet have all the relevant records of Roger Stone's communications," Lofgren said. If Stone is the missing link, it is one that remains in the shadows.

Congressman Adam Schiff was tasked with presenting new evidence that the select committee had received from the Secret Service detailing their agents' communications during and before the Capitol attack. He read one email from an anonymous tipster warning that groups were planning violence.

In texts and emails on January 6, the agents noted the large crowds lingering outside Trump's morning "Stop the Steal" rally and speculated that it could be because they were armed.

Other reports, of sightings of handguns, assault rifles, riot shields and pepper spray, back this up.

All this, the congressman continued, was evidence that the White House - and its security teams - knew that violence was not only possible but probable as the crowd moved up Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol. He even suggested agents may have lied to congressional investigators.

"Despite this, certain White House and Secret Service witnesses previously testified that they had received no intelligence about violence that could potentially threaten any of the protectees on January 6, including the vice-president," Schiff said. "Evidence strongly suggests that this testimony is not credible."

Congressman Pete Aguilar later added that the committee is reviewing testimony and will consider whether some witnesses were pressured not to tell the full story about what the White House and the Secret Service knew in advance.

The Committee v Donald Trump

After the hearing concluded, Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland told reporters outside the room that he thought Trump ought to take the committee up on its offer to testify.

"I would consider it a great honour and a privilege to testify if somebody accused me of trying to overthrow a presidential election and subvert the government of the United States," he said.

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