WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump is suing the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol to avoid cooperating with a subpoena compelling him to testify.
The lawsuit filed Friday night argues that although former presidents have voluntarily agreed to provide testimony or documents in response to congressional subpoenas in the past, “no president or former president has ever been compelled to do it”.
“Precedent and long-standing practice hold that the separation of powers prohibits Congress from compelling a president to testify before it,” Trump attorney David A. Warrington said in a statement announcing Trump’s intentions.
Warrington said Trump engaged with the committee “in a good faith effort to resolve these concerns consistent with executive prerogatives and the separation of powers,” but said the panel “insists on following a political path , leaving President Trump no choice but to involve the third branch, the judicial branch, in this dispute between the executive and legislative branches.”
The committee declined to comment on the filing, which comes days before the committee’s deadline for Trump to start cooperating. But the lawsuit likely condemns the prospect that Trump will ever have to testify, given that the committee is expected to disband at the end of January’s legislative session.
It also comes just days before Trump officially launches a third presidential campaign at his Mar-Lago club.
The committee had voted to subpoena Trump in its last televised hearing before the midterm elections and formally did so last month, demanding the former president testify either on Capitol Hill or via videoconference in mid -November, and continuing for several days if necessary.
The letter also described a broad request for documents, including personal communications between Trump and members of Congress as well as extremist groups. Trump’s response to that request was expected last week, but the nine-member panel extended its deadline until this week.
In his lawsuit, Trump’s lawyers attack the subpoena as too broad and frame it as a violation of his First Amendment rights. They also argue that sources other than Trump could provide the same information the committee expects from him.
The panel – made up of seven Democrats and two Republicans – released a statement last week saying it was in communication with Trump’s attorneys.
The committee’s decision to subpoena Trump in late October was a major escalation in its investigation, a step lawmakers said was necessary because members said the former president was “the central player” in an effort to several parties to annul the results of the 2020 election.
“I think he has a legal obligation to testify, but that doesn’t always carry weight with Donald Trump,” the committee’s vice chair, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said during an interview. an event last week.
In addition to demanding that Trump testify, the committee also made 19 requests for documents and disclosure – including for any messages Trump sent on the Signal encrypted messaging app or by “any other means” to members of the Congress and to others on the jaw-dropping events of the January 6, 2021, Attack on Capitol Hill.
The scope of the committee’s request was broad – searching for documents from September 1, 2020, two months before the election, to the present day on the president’s communications with groups like the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys – as the panel seeks to compile a historical record of the build-up to the attack on the Capitol, the event itself, and the aftermath.
Trump’s lawsuit was filed in the Southern District of Florida, where other Trump attorneys successfully sued to secure a special counsel who was tasked with conducting an independent review of records seized by the FBI during a raid on August 8 at Mar-a-Lago.