Four aides to former President Donald Trump are expected to defy subpoena orders from the House of Representatives select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol building.
According to reporting from The Guardian, which cited a source familiar with the matter, the former aides — which include Dan Scavino, who managed Trump’s social media when he was president; Steve Bannon, a right-wing provocateur and former chief strategist to Trump; Kash Patel, who served as the acting chief of staff for the defense secretary on January 6; and Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows — will refuse to comply with the commission’s orders to turn over documents relevant to the Capitol breach, and will not appear behind closed doors to testify about it later this month.
Per the subpoena orders themselves, documents these four individuals have regarding the Capitol attack by a mob of Trump loyalists should be given to the commission no later than Thursday, October 7. Testimonies from the former aides are scheduled to take place on October 14 and 15.
The defiance of the subpoenas is likely being directed by Trump and his legal team, The Guardian reported. Trump’s lawyers plan to argue that the executive privilege rights of the former president limit what the four individuals who worked with him during his tenure can say to the select committee.
If the aides agree to go along with Trump’s plans to defy the subpoenas, they could face repercussions. In late September, after the aides were issued the subpoenas, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-California) said that refusal to comply with the orders could result in criminal charges.
“We want to give them the benefit of the doubt that they will respond as they should to this subpoena,” Lofgren said, adding that the commission was willing to use “all of the available options” if any of the former aides refused to respond to the orders, including getting the Justice Department involved.
Despite the commission’s pledge to take legal action, it’s possible that a drawn-out litigation process could prevent the aides from facing any consequences for subverting the orders.
Trump’s defense lawyer, former deputy White House counsel Patrick Philbin, isn’t necessarily confident that asserting executive privilege to prevent the aides from testifying rests on solid legal ground, the source speaking to The Guardian said. But Philbin does believe that the strategy could be an effective way to stretch out the committee’s work, possibly past the 2022 midterm elections.
If the matter isn’t resolved by next fall and Republicans win control of Congress, the commission will likely be disbanded, and Trump’s aides would not have to hand over any evidence they have surrounding Trump’s mindset or communications on the day of the Capitol breach or in the time leading up to it.
In addition to his attempts to stop his former aides from testifying, Trump is planning to sue the commission to prevent them from obtaining other records that were archived from his time in office, arguing that his executive privilege allows him to deny access to those documents, too.
The Presidential Records Act allows former presidents to evaluate records from their time in office, and to formally object to them being viewed if they believe it violates their executive privilege rights. However, the current president has the ultimate deciding power and can ultimately override those claims.
If former presidents still disagree with the decision, they can pursue litigation — but lawsuits related to the release of information deemed relevant to the public’s best interest have generally sided with those seeking to make the information public record.