WASHINGTON — Donald Trump intends to claim executive privilege in a congressional investigation into the January 6 uprising at the US Capitol, a move that could prevent the testimony of lifelong aides, according to a letter from the former president.
The letter went to at least some witnesses who were summoned by the House committee and makes it clear that Trump plans to invoke privileges to protect the president’s communications from being shared with Congress. The gist of the letter from a lawyer for Trump was described Thursday by an acquaintance, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the letter was not yet public.
A Trump spokesperson did not immediately return messages seeking comment. Trump said in a statement last month that he would “fight subpoenas on executive privilege and other grounds for the good of our country.”
The move sets the stage for a possible confrontation with House Democrats, who are probing the roles of Trump and his aides in the riots, when a large crowd of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol as Congress was certifying the results. . The presidential election was won by Democrat Joe Biden. The committee is increasingly issuing summons to individuals who are either associated with Trump or who helped plan the massive rally on the morning of January 6, at which he told his supporters to “fight like hell”. .
The committee, which was formed over the summer, last month issued subpoenas to Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows; Dan Scavino, former deputy chief of staff for communications; Kashyap Patel, a former Defense Department official; and Steve Bannon, former Trump adviser. It was not immediately clear how those witnesses would react to Trump’s action or the consequences they could face if they refused to cooperate.
Patel said in a statement that he would “continue to tell the American people the truth about January 6. It did not say whether it would comply or not.
Committee members have stated that if any witness refuses to cooperate, they plan to try and move expeditiously to obtain the testimony. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., tweeted that if Trump’s aides don’t comply, “they could be subject to criminal contempt.”
Accusing Trump aides of contempt could still be a lengthy process, involving a full House vote and possible court proceedings.
Because Trump is no longer in office, he cannot directly claim the privilege of keeping witnesses silent or keeping documents out of the hands of Congress. As the current president, Biden will have a say in the matter.
The committee has issued more than a dozen summons to people linked to planning the January 6 protests, including three additional witnesses announced on Thursday. Those individuals would be less likely to be helped by Trump’s executive privilege claims, which would be limited to people working in the White House.
The committee’s chairman, Rep. Benny Thompson, D-Miss, said the summons were about Ali Abdul Akbar, also known as Ali Alexander, and Nathan Martin, as well as a rally near the organization “Stop the Steel”. I went to learn more. The plans were made on Capitol Ground at the same time as the large gathering on the National Mall. The committee had earlier summoned 11 other people associated with the planning of that big rally.
According to the committee, Alexander issued a statement after the riots linking “Stop the Steel” to the Capitol rally permit and explaining that the intention was to direct large rally attendees to march to the Capitol. The panel cited reports that Alexander had referred to “the potential use of violence to achieve the organization’s goals” and was in communication with the White House and members of Congress.
“The rally at Capitol grounds on January 6, like the rally near the White House that day, took place just before the violent attack on the seat of our democracy,” Thompson said in a statement. “During that day, the demonstrations turned into violence and the protesters became rioters.”
Thompson said the committee needed to “understand all the details about the events that happened prior to the attack, including who was involved in planning and funding them.”
Alexander claims that lawmakers helped him plan the rally that led to the siege of the Capitol. He has been in Trump’s orbit for a few years, even being among the participants of Trump’s “Presidential Social Media Summit” in July 2019, which included dozens of other conservative voices and far-right provocateurs.
In October 2020, the Arizona Republican Party asked supporters to consider giving their lives to keep Trump in office, retweeting Alexander’s pledge on Twitter that he was “ready to give his life for this fight. “
Associated Press writers Jill Colvin, Ben Fox and Farnoush Amiri contributed to this report.