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Trump’s Refusal to Testify Before Jan. 6 Panel Could Result in Contempt Charges

“Donald Trump orchestrated a scheme to overturn a presidential election,” the committee said on Twitter.

Former President Donald Trump greets supporters before a rally at the Dayton International Airport on November 7, 2022, in Vandalia, Ohio.

According to tweets this week from the House select committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol building on January 6, 2021, by a mob of Trump loyalists, it is considering its next moves over the former president’s refusal to appear before them to give testimony about his actions on that day and in the days leading up to it.

Last month, the committee unanimously voted to subpoena Trump to compel him to speak before them and to provide several documents related to their inquiry. Trump, who initially appeared open to the idea of providing an in-person deposition, sued the committee last week to block the subpoena order.

“Long-held precedent and practice maintain that separation of powers prohibits Congress from compelling a President to testify before it,” Trump attorney David Warrington said in a statement accompanying the lawsuit, glossing over the obvious point that Trump is no longer a sitting president.

The January 6 committee had subpoenaed Trump in mid-October, asking him to appear before the panel by November 14. On that day, the committee’s official Twitter account took note of his absence and the fact that his attorneys had made no efforts to coordinate a plan to have him testify.

“Former President Trump has refused to comply with the Select Committee’s subpoena requiring him to appear for a deposition. His attorneys have made no attempt to negotiate an appearance, and his lawsuit parades out many of the same arguments that courts have rejected repeatedly,” the committee said in one of its tweets.

“Donald Trump orchestrated a scheme to overturn a presidential election and block the transfer of power,” the committee said in an accompanying tweet. “He is obligated to provide answers to the American people.”

“The committee will evaluate next steps in the litigation and regarding the former President’s noncompliance,” the tweet added.

Those “next steps” may include having to decide whether to hold Trump in contempt of Congress — a federal charge that can be levied upon individuals who refuse to respond to questions from congressional committees, and which carries with it a potential penalty of one year of imprisonment.

The committee, if it decides to take that route, would have to vote in favor of doing so before passing the question on to the full House to consider. If the House votes in the affirmative, it then becomes a question for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to decide on.

The committee has forwarded contempt of Congress charges before, relating to its inquiry. The DOJ has successfully pursued charges against former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, but it has refused to take action on charges recommended by the committee on other former Trump advisers, such as former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

If the DOJ pursued a contempt of Congress charge against Trump, it could signal that the department is likely pursuing other criminal charges against the former president — including possible indictments relating to his involvement in the Capitol attack as well as his improper transfer of government documents (some of them highly classified) from the White House to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida following his departure from office.