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January 6 committee issues first subpoenas for witness testimony to four Trump loyalists

<i>Jon Cherry/Getty Images North America/Getty Images</i><br/>The select committee investigating the January 6 riot at the US Capitol
Jon Cherry/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
The select committee investigating the January 6 riot at the US Capitol

By Ryan Nobles and Annie Grayer, CNN

The select committee investigating the January 6 riot at the US Capitol issued its first round of subpoenas Thursday, targeting close aides and allies of former President Donald Trump.

The subpoenas come as the select committee seeks to investigate efforts the Trump White House took to potentially overturn the 2020 presidential election and how the spread of misinformation fueled the anger and violence that led to the Capitol insurrection.

The four subpoenas are going to former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, former deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino, former adviser Steve Bannon and Kash Patel, a former chief of staff to then-acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller who had also served as an aide to Republican Rep. Devin Nunes.

The former Trump staffers are being issued subpoenas for private depositions and records. All document requests are due by October 7.

The committee requests that Patel and Bannon appear on October 14, while Scavino and Meadows have been requested to appear before the committee on October 15.

CNN has reached out to Meadows, Scavino and Bannon for comment.

Patel said in a statement late Thursday that he was “disappointed, but not surprised” that the committee had subpoenaed him “before seeking (his) voluntary cooperation,” adding: “I will continue to tell the truth to the American people about the events of January 6th.”

The decision to call a group of Trump loyalists in front of the committee at this early stage demonstrates the direction of their investigatory process. The committee members have said they are very interested in what information was known within Trump’s orbit about the planning leading up to the insurrection and decisions made that day.

A select committee aide told CNN on Thursday that the panel expects “all witnesses to cooperate with the select committee’s probe. Congress has broad investigative authority and we won’t permit our investigation to be stonewalled.”

House Select Chairman Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, said in a statement that “the Select Committee is investigating the facts, circumstances, and causes of the January 6th attack and issues relating to the peaceful transfer of power, in order to identify and evaluate lessons learned and to recommend to the House and its relevant committees corrective laws, policies, procedures, rules, or regulations.”

Thompson told CNN’s Manu Raju on Friday that criminal contempt is “on the table” if the individuals the committee has sent subpoenas to do not cooperate.

“We’ve discussed it,” Thompson said. “And if it comes to that, there will be no reluctance at all on the committee to do that.”

Thompson said that of the first four the committee subpoenaed, “we are not holding the opinion that they will cooperate.”

He added that the committee went straight to issuing subpoenas because the information they possess is too valuable to the panel to wait and they anticipated it would be a process getting what they need.

“Our problem is we can’t wait forever for people to talk. We have to get information,” Thompson said. “So, this is a matter of cutting the time allotted for the committee to do its work to get it done.”

All four of the former Trump staffers were part of a larger records request the committee had sent to government agencies last month when it requested the records of hundreds of former Trump staffers, campaign employees and supporters who played a role in either spreading misinformation around the 2020 election results or the planning of the “Stop the Steal” rally that served as a prelude to the riot at the Capitol, as well as those who played a role in the security response that day.

The National Archives, which serves as the custodian of the Trump administration White House records, told CNN earlier Thursday that it had no comment on whether it had been contacted by members of Trump’s orbit or the White House regarding executive privilege.

“We have no comment, no comment, since we consider the entire PRA notification process to be deliberative until a final decision is made,” a spokesperson told CNN.

The subpoenas to the four Trump loyalists underscore an effort by the committee to understand what the former President knew in the lead-up to January 6 and in its direct aftermath, based on those who were closest to him in that period of time. The information the committee is seeking also points to a clear interest in learning more about what Trump and those around him attempted to do to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

In the letter to Bannon, the committee cites communications he had with Trump on December 30, 2020, “and potentially other occasions” in which Bannon reportedly urged the former President “to plan for and focus his efforts on January 6.” The committee also references Bannon’s incendiary comments made on his podcast on January 5, in which he said “all hell is going to break loose tomorrow.”

To Meadows, the committee wrote, “The investigation has revealed credible evidence of your involvement in events within the scope of the Select Committee’s inquiry,” citing his close proximity to Trump on the day of the attack.

The committee also said it is pressing to learn more about Meadows’ efforts to aid in overturning the 2020 presidential election, and noted it has evidence that shows Meadows communicated with “the highest officials at the Department of Justice requesting investigations into election fraud matters in several states,” citing documents it has received from DOJ.

The committee, citing documents it has obtained, told Patel “there is substantial reason to believe” that he has important insight and information into how the Department of Defense and White House prepared for and responded to the attack at the US Capitol. The committee also said it wants to learn more about the direct communication Patel had with Meadows on the day of the insurrection.

In its letter to Scavino, the committee said it “has reason to believe that you have information relevant to understanding important activities that led to and informed the events at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, and relevant to former President Trump’s activities and communications in the period leading up to and on January 6th.”

The committee also cites Scavino’s long history of working for Trump as key to providing important insight into how the former President handled the January 6 insurrection and efforts to overturn the election. The committee also cited an example of Scavino’s tweets that indicated he encouraged participants to “be a part of history” on the day of the riot.

Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, one of two Republicans serving on the committee, tweeted after the subpoenas were delivered that he is looking “forward to getting a full accounting of everything that happened in the Trump White House on, before, and after January 6th.”

“And we’re just getting started,” he added.

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said Thursday evening that he hopes the committee will move swiftly to enforce the subpoenas should any of the witnesses defy them and that “the Justice Department will be open to considering potential criminal contempt charges against anyone who ignores the law.”

Speaking with CNN’s Chris Cuomo on “Prime Time,” Schiff said that “unlike the last four years, these witnesses are not going to be able to count on the former President to protect them if they, essentially, thwart the law.”

The subpoenas, he said, show the committee is “moving with great alacrity.”

“And essentially, no one is off the table. We are going to determine what went wrong in the lead-up to January 6. We’re going to find out who was involved, who was knowledgeable, what roles they played in the planning, what expectation they had of violence, what the former President was doing,” the California Democrat added.

“Among the biggest unknowns was what was going on within the White House, on January 5th and 6th, at that critical time when our democracy was being threatened with violent insurrection. So we are not wasting time.”

This story has been updated with additional developments Friday.

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CNN’s Zachary Cohen, Manu Raju and Paul LeBlanc contributed to this report.

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