The House Select Committee on Jan. 6 is set to get a reality check Thursday into how much cooperation it can expect from former President Donald Trump‘s allies into its probe of the attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, longtime Trump aide Daniel Scavino, former Defense Department official Kashyap Patel, and former Trump adviser Steve Bannon were issued subpoenas last month requesting they provide specific documents and records by Thursday and to appear before the committee for closed-door depositions next week.
On Wednesday, Timothy Mulvey, spokesman for the Jan. 6 committee, refused to comment on whether the four Trump allies will comply with the subpoena. He is waiting for the Thursday deadline to pass before providing an update on where things stand, he said.
What happens next could test the legal reach of the committee and its ability to enforce its subpoena requests.
CNN reported this week the committee has been unable to physically serve the subpoena to Mr. Scavino. The Guardian, meanwhile, reported that Mr. Meadows, Mr. Scavino, Mr. Patel and Mr. Bannon plan to defy the subpoenas.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, Mississippi Democrat and chair of the committee, recently told reporters the panel will pursue “criminal referrals” against witnesses who refuse to fall in line.
“The committee will probably for those who don’t agree to come in voluntarily, we’ll do criminal referrals and let that process work out,” Mr. Thompson said.
John Turley, a prominent professor at George Washington University Law School, said a threat of contempt for noncompliance could face pushback.
“Many of the Democratic members opposed contempt sanctions against figures like [former Obama Attorney General] Eric Holder,” Mr. Turley said. “Likewise, the Justice Department has routinely blocked such contempt prosecutions.”
Mr. Holder refused to turn over documents sought in an investigation by a House committee into the failed Fast and Furious gun-running operation.
“An alternative route is to appear and invoke the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination,” Mr. Turley said. “That is a constitutionally protected act and would force the committee to grant immunity to the witnesses.”
“They would then be protected in any use or derivative use of the testimony,” he said. “This was the very grant that led to the undoing of Oliver North prosecution.”
The committee issued another round of subpoenas last week to 11 individuals involved in organizing the rallies and events preceding the attack — including Amy Kremer, co-founder of Women for Trump, and Katrina Pierson, a former Trump campaign official.
Mr. Trump, meanwhile, appears to be relishing the prospect of a showdown with the committee, firing off statements Wednesday attacking the effort.
“The Unselect Committee of partisan Democrats, and two very weak and pathetic RINOs, should come to the conclusion after spending many millions of dollars, that the real insurrection happened on November 3rd, the Presidential Election, not on January 6th—which was a day of protesting the Fake Election results,” Mr. Trump said in a statement.
Mr. Trump holds a massive sway among Republicans. Some Republicans have increasingly come to see the probe in a partisan light and have latched onto his stolen election claims.
A Pew Research analysis released Wednesday found two-thirds of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say they want Mr. Trump to be a “major political figure for many years to come” — including 44% who want him to run for president in 2024.
It also showed that Mr. Trump had regained some of the mojo he lost after the pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol to protest the results of the 2020 election, which the former president insists was stolen.
“The share of Republicans who say Trump should continue to be a major national figure has grown 10 percentage points — from 57% to 67% — since a January survey conducted in the waning days of his administration and in the immediate wake of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol,” the analysis said.
A separate Pew Research survey of US adults released last month found that the share of Republicans who think it is important for federal law enforcement agencies to find and prosecute those who participated in the mayhem at the U.S. Capitol has fallen since March from 79% to 57%.
So far federal prosecutors have charged over 600 people with taking part in the Jan. 6 attack, according to a running USA Today tally.
Congressional Republicans blocked attempts earlier this year to create a 9/11 style, independent, commission to investigate the attack.
House Democrats went on to pass legislation creating a select committee tasked with looking into what led up to the events of Jan. 6 and how similar events can be avoided in the future.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, however, pulled his appointees off the panel after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred a pair of his picks — Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Jim Banks of Indiana, a pair of Trump allies — from serving.
Mrs. Pelosi, in turn, tapped a pair of Republicans who have been critical of Mr. Trump’s stolen election claims — Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — to serve alongside seven Democrats.