Panel chair says Trump will be part of Jan. 6 inquiry
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who is chairing the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, said former President Trump will be part of his inquiry, telling The Guardian that “nothing is off limits.”
Thompson, who also serves as the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and authored the bill creating the independent commission, said he is prepared to depose lawmakers and senior Trump administration officials who might have taken part in the attack.
He told The Guardian that he “absolutely” intends on conducting a wide-ranging probe against Trump and some of his top allies on Capitol Hill.
“The issues of January 6 are one of the most salient challenges we have as a nation, to make sure that this democracy does not fall prey to people who don’t really identify with democracy,” Thompson told the news outlet.
He said Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy are among the key witnesses in the investigation, largely because the California Republican was on the phone with Trump when the attack was taking place.
“There will not be a reluctance on the part of the committee to pursue it,” Thompson said, referring to McCarthy’s call. “The committee will want to know if there is a record of what was said.”
He also said any communication with Trump from that day will be important to examine.
“If somebody spoke to the president on January 6, I think it would be important for our committee to know what was said. I can’t imagine you talk about anything else to the president on January 6,” he said.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) appointed eight lawmakers to serve on the select committee probing the January attack, including Republican Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), who has become the most prominent critic of Trump and his role in provoking the riot.
McCarthy announced his picks for the panel on Tuesday. They include Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who has been one of Trump’s most loyal allies on Capitol Hill and voted to overturn the election results in January.
Thompson said the primary focus of the investigation will be the facts and circumstances surrounding the attack. The first hearing is set to take place on Tuesday.
He emphasized that he is prepared to issue subpoenas to Trump officials connected to the attack if they refuse to speak to the committee voluntarily. He said stall tactics, like the ones used during Trump’s first impeachment, will not be viable this time around because there is no deadline to publish a report.
Thompson said if officials refuse to testify, the committee “will pursue it in court.”
He also warned that the committee will refer criminal charges against Trump if it becomes apparent that White House records from the period between the November election and Jan. 6 are missing or destroyed, which has reportedly become a concern among some Democrats.
“I don’t see any hesitation on our part to pursue that,” Thompson said. “If the respect for the rule of law is not adhered to, that’s even more reason for this select committee to exist.”