Trump skirts testimony question in hostile 14-page Jan. 6 response

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Former President Trump on Friday skirted the question of whether he would testify under subpoena in a 14-page response to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol, instead doubling down on his disproven claims that the 2020 election was stolen.

Trump posted a letter to Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the committee’s chairman, one day after the panel voted unanimously to subpoena him for testimony about his role in the events of Jan. 6, when supporters of the former president stormed the Capitol to halt the certification of the 2020 election results.

“This memo is being written to express our anger, disappointment, and complaint that with all of the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on what many consider to be a Charade and Witch Hunt, and despite strong and powerful requests, you have not spent even a short moment on examining the massive Election Fraud that took place during the 2020 Presidential Election, and have targeted only those who were, as concerned American Citizens, protesting the Fraud itself,” Trump wrote in the letter, which is dated Oct. 13.

The document includes numerous photos meant to demonstrate the crowd size at his Jan. 6 rally, as well as a state-by-state breakdown renewing baseless claims of election fraud in five states Trump lost to President Biden.

There was no widespread fraud in the 2020 election — something Trump’s own campaign concluded. Courts on 62 different occasions ruled against Trump when he brought suits seeking to challenge the election based on fraud claims.

Trump’s response is not a formal compliance with the subpoena, which has yet to be sent after the committee voted unanimously to compel testimony from Trump.

Such documents have to be served and, in the case of prior subpoenas sent by the Jan. 6 committee, include a list of topics the panel wishes to discuss in a formal deposition as well as a breakdown of documents and other evidence that must be turned over.

In taking the vote in a public setting, lawmakers on the panel stressed the importance of hearing directly from Trump.

“We are obligated to seek answers directly from the man who set this all in motion,” said Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the vice chair of the committee, shortly before the vote. “And every American is entitled to those answers.”

The subpoena is likely to kick off another legal battle for the former president. Others subpoenaed by the committee, including Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, have gone to court to block the subpoena.

And some of those who have refused to comply have landed in legal trouble as well — though often only after a lengthy back-and-forth between committee lawyers and representation for those who have been subpoenaed.

But in the face of refusal to comply, the committee has moved to hold in contempt of Congress those who have rebuffed them, a matter that has to be taken up by the full House in order to make a formal criminal referral to the Justice Department.

The House has done that four times since the committee has begun its work, but the Justice Department has only acted on two of the referrals: one for former White House strategist Stephen Bannon, and another for White House adviser Peter Navarro. Bannon was found guilty and is awaiting sentencing next week.

In other cases where the committee has subpoenaed high-ranking figures — including five Republican lawmakers — the panel has done little to enforce its subpoenas. It also remains unclear whether they will subpoena Vice President Mike Pence.

Thursday’s hearing synthesized much of the information already presented by the committee, underscoring that Trump’s early declaration of victory on election night 2020 was premeditated; that he was aware he had lost the election but publicly claimed otherwise; that he wanted to join his supporters at the Capitol; and that he stood by while the attack unfolded.

Trump’s letter rehashes many of the same claims he’s made in the more than 18 months since the riot. He claimed he had authorized thousands of National Guard troops to defend the Capitol, a claim that his former acting Defense secretary has refuted in testimony to the committee.

And he repeated his claims that election results in Georgia, Michigan, Arizona, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania were all dubious because of reports of irregularities or suspicion about movement of ballots. But in each state, officials certified the results after audits and recounts. Testimony from Justice Department officials to the committee laid out how the department looked into each of Trump’s claims and was able to debunk or explain each of them.

Trump closed his letter to Thompson by defending the rioters as “great American patriots” who questioned the election results, even as the Justice Department has prosecuted numerous members of the mob for their actions that day.

“The people of this Country will not stand for unequal justice under the law, or Liberty and Justice for some. Election Day is coming. We demand answers on the Crime of the Century,” Trump wrote.

Updated at 10:04 a.m.

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