Jan. 6 Committee Votes to Subpoena Donald Trump: 'We Need to Hear From Him'

"He must be accountable," Chairman Bennie Thompson said Thursday

President Donald Trump speaks during a rally on November 3, 2020 in Grand Rapids, Michigan
President Donald Trump speaks during a rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Photo: Kamil Krzaczynski/Getty Images

The latest (and possibly final) hearing by the U.S. House committee investigating the riots of Jan. 6, 2021 on Thursday ended with a bombshell: a unanimous vote to subpoena President Donald Trump for testimony and documents related to the investigation.

"He must be held accountable," Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson said in Thursday's hearing, noting that there was historic precedent for seeking a president's testimony.

"We recognize that a subpoena to a former president is an ... extraordinary action," Thompson said, adding that the "stakes are so high" that the committee would hold its vote in public view.

Committee vice-chairman Liz Cheney — a longtime Republican who found herself the target of ire by Trump after she voted to impeach him for his role in the riot — offered the motion to subpoena the former president, which passed unanimously.

Experts say it is unlikely Trump would testify, though the dramatic moment in Thursday's hearing could still have legal fallout: if Trump does not testify, the committee would vote on whether to hold Trump in contempt of court, and could then send the matter on to the Department of Justice.

Two Trump allies — Steve Bannon and Peter Navarro — have previously been charged with contempt of court by the Department of Justice for failing to appear before the committee. Bannon will be sentenced later this month.

The hearings began on June 9 and featured new revelations about the events leading up to the attacks and how the former president and his allies responded.

The committee has heard testimony from former White House aides and Trump family members about Trump's anger at having lost the election, and his behavior on the morning of Jan. 6, 2021. The committee has also heard testimony from Justice Department officials who detailed Trump's unrelenting pressure to find evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

In previous court filings, the committee has argued that Trump could potentially be charged by the Department of Justice with criminal violations for his role in the event.

Trump has long maintained the investigation into his conduct around Jan. 6 is politically motivated and he did nothing wrong. He alternately praised the mob of his supporters when they stormed the U.S. Capitol and told them to be peaceful.

He later warned, "These are the things and events that happen .... Remember this day forever!"

Elsewhere in Thursday's hearing (which is expected to be the final public hearing in the investigation), the committee aired never-before-seen footage of lawmakers being evacuated as Trump supporters breached the Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021.

While the committee's investigation wasn't a criminal one, members of the committee have said the hearings would help determine exactly what sorts of charges could arise.

Speaking to CNN's Jake Tapper in December, Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger — an anti-Trump Republican serving on the committee — said he wasn't prepared to say whether he believes the former president committed a crime, but that the House committee should have "a pretty good idea" once its probe is over.

"I don't want to go there yet to say, 'Do I believe he has [committed a crime]'? I think that's obviously a pretty big thing to say. We want to know though, and I think we'll — by the end of our investigation and by the time our report is out — have a pretty good idea," Kinzinger, 43, said on CNN's State of the Union. "We'll be able to have out on the public record anything Justice Department needs maybe in pursuit of that."

The congressman continued then: "Nobody is above the law. And if the president knowingly allowed what happened on Jan. 6 to happen and, in fact, was giddy about it, and that violates a criminal statute, he needs to be held accountable for that."

A poll conducted by ABC News/Ipsos found that nearly six in 10 Americans believe Trump should be criminally charged for his alleged role in the Capitol riots.

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