WASHINGTON (AP) – The House committee investigating the Capitol riot will not give Donald Trump the chance to reverse a possible live TV appearance of his subpoenaed testimony into a “circus” and “mad fight” as lawmakers try to ensure he complies with their demands, the panel’s vice chairman said Sunday.
The committee is demanding Trump’s testimony under oath next month as well as records relevant to its investigation. To avoid a complicated and lengthy legal battle, Trump had reportedly told staffers that he might consider complying with the subpoena if he could answer questions during live testimony.
When asked if the committee would consider taking his testimony live, Rep. Liz Cheney Sunday not directly. She said the committee would not allow Trump’s testimony to turn into a televised “food fight” — much as was seen, she said, in Trump’s broadcast appearances such as one of his 2020 presidential debates — and she warned that the committee will take action if he does not comply with the summons.
“We will continue to question the former president under oath,” Cheney, R-Wyo., said on “Meet the Press” on NBC. “It could take several days and it will be done with a level of rigor and discipline and seriousness that it deserves. We will not allow — he will not turn this into a circus.”
“We have many, many alternatives that we will consider if the former president decides that he will not comply with his legal obligation, a legal obligation that every American citizen has to comply with a subpoena,” she said.
Her office later made clear that she and the committee on Jan. 6 did not rule out the possibility of live testimony. It did not indicate what form it might take to avoid the “food fight” or “circus” that Cheney said would not happen.
The subpoena, issued Friday, calls for Trump to hand over documents by Nov. 4 and testify “on or about” Nov. 14.
It is unclear how Trump and his legal team will respond. He could comply or negotiate with the committee, announce that he will defy the subpoena or ignore it altogether. He could go to court and try to stop it.
Last week, Steve Bannon, a longtime Trump ally, was sentenced to serve four months behind bars after defying a subpoena from the same committee. He remains free pending appeal. Former Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro is also awaiting trial next month on similar contempt of Congress charges.
The subpoena includes requests for any communications referencing extremist groups that were headed to Washington, pressure on state lawmakers to overturn the 2020 election vote and messages about Vice President Mike Pence, whom Trump pressed to protest President Joe Biden’s victory.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Sunday she doubted Trump would show up for his impeachment and that the public should know “that no one is above the law.”
“I don’t think he’s man enough to show up,” Pelosi said on MSNBC. “I don’t think his lawyers wanted him to appear because he (would) have to testify under oath. … We’ll see.”
There remains little legal upside for Trump to cooperate with the committee at a time when he faces other legal battles in various jurisdictions, including over his family business in New York and the handling of presidential posts at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
It is possible that Trump’s lawyers could simply choose to run out of the subpoena if they go to court to try to quash it, as the committee of two Republicans and seven Democrats is required to finish its work by the end of the year.
In the televised interview, Cheney made his position clear that Trump had committed “multiple criminal acts” and should be prosecuted. She cited his repeated efforts, as described by the committee on Jan. 6, to undermine democracy by denying his election loss to Biden and by inciting his supporters in the violent attack on the Capitol.
“We’ve been very clear about a number of different criminal acts that are likely involved here,” Cheney said. “If the Justice Department determines that they have the evidence that we believe is there, and they make a decision not to prosecute, I think that really calls into question whether or not we are a nation of laws.”
Cheney, who lost in Wyoming’s August primary after becoming Trump’s fiercest GOP critic and has signaled a possible 2024 presidential runexpressed dismay at the number of Republican candidates in the Nov. 8 midterms who are denying the legitimacy of the 2020 election. She acknowledged that the committee’s Jan. 6 investigation will be permanently closed in January if Republicans regain control of the House.
While saying it may take “a few election cycles,” Cheney insisted the Republican Party can rebound as a defender of democracy and the Constitution, as she put it. She pointed to the 2024 presidential campaign as a defining moment.
“I think the party either needs to come back from where we are right now, which is a very dangerous, toxic place, or the party will splinter and there will be a new Conservative party rising up, ” she said. “And if Donald Trump is the nominee of the Republican Party, the party will break down and there will be a conservative party rising up in its place.”
She said Trump has shown “his willingness to use force to try to stop the peaceful transition of power. And there are simply many, many millions more Americans who, regardless of party affiliation, understand how dangerous that is.”
On whether she could run in 2024, Cheney said, “I’m focused on what we have to do to save the country from this dangerous moment we’re in … not right now on whether or not I’m going to be a candidate.”
For full coverage of the Jan. 6 hearings, go to https://www.apnews.com/capitol-siege
This story has been corrected to reflect that Cheney did not rule out the possibility of live televised testimony from Trump.