That’s how bad it was for Donald Trump on Thursday.
A House committee on Jan. 6 voted to subpoena him after revealing his depraved efforts to overthrow the 2020 election and his dereliction of duty when a mob invaded the U.S. Capitol.
But that’s not the worst for the former president.
The committee’s dramatic (though possibly futile) effort to get Trump to testify was a mic-drop moment to wrap up its final hearings before the midterms and warn Trump owes the nation a An explanation of the infamous day in January 2021.
The hearing showed unprecedented footage of congressional leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, huddled in a safe place during the riots to deal with the fallout from a pro-Trump mob attacking the Capitol. It also paints an almost pathetic portrait of the former president’s desperate attempt to avoid publicly admitting he’s a loser in 2020, and demonstrates that his well-understood failure makes his subsequent actions all the more heinous.
But the development that could hurt Trump the most happened offstage. They reflect the extraordinary legal jungle surrounding the former president, who has not been charged with a crime and is still far from trying to explain his riotous exit from power and a presidency that constantly tests the rule of law.
While Trump has routinely defied the gathering investigation storm and has repeatedly confused predictions of his imminent death since launching his presidential campaign in 2015, there is a sense that he is slipping into a deeper and deeper legal loophole.
As House select committee hearings continued, the Supreme Court sent a message from across the road that it had no interest in getting involved in Trump’s attempt to undermine the Justice Department’s investigation into classified materials he kept at Mar-a-Lago.
The court denied his request for emergency intervention, which could delay the case, without explaining why. No dissent was noted, including from conservative Justice Trump’s ascension to the bench, who often seems to think Trump owes him a loyal debt.
For all the political drama surrounding the ongoing revelations of one of the darkest days in modern American history on January 6, it was a showdown of classified documents that seemed to represent the most explicit and direct revelation of true crime from the former president. threat.
While the committee’s hearing was fully covered by television, more news emerged suggesting the former president could face further serious legal problems in a separate Justice Department investigation — also running until Jan. 6. day. Unlike the House version, the Justice Department’s criminal investigations have the power to draft indictments.
Mark Short, the former chief of staff to then-Vice President Mike Pence, was spotted leaving a courthouse in Washington, D.C. Short was forced to testify before a grand jury for the second time, according to people familiar with the matter, CNN’s Pamela Brown reported. Another Trump adviser, former national security aide Cash Patel, was also seen walking into the area where the grand jury was meeting. Patel would not tell reporters what he was doing.
More often than not, Trump’s legal threats pile up not one after the other, but at the same time.
CNN’s Brown reported late Wednesday that a Trump employee told the FBI that the former president instructed the former president to remove the boxes from the Florida club after Trump’s legal team received a subpoena for any classified documents. basement storage room removed. The FBI also has surveillance footage showing a staff member moving boxes.
On the face of it, this development is troubling because it may suggest a pattern of deception that could obstruct justice. In a preliminary search warrant before the FBI appeared at Trump’s home in August, the bureau told a judge that there may be “obstruction evidence” at the resort.
Still, David Schoen, who is a defense attorney in Trump’s second impeachment case, told CNN’s “New Day” that while the details of what happened at Mar-a-Lago raise troubling questions, the does not necessarily constitute an obstruction of justice case.
But he added: “If President Trump or someone acting on his behalf knew…they had no right to these documents, these documents belonged to the government or the American people, etc., and deliberately disobeyed the subpoena to deliberately hide the documents or block The documents were found, which, in theory, could constitute obstruction.”
Trump’s days of deepening legal anxiety began with a shakeout.
On Thursday morning, New York Attorney General Letitia James asked a state court to stop the Trump Organization from transferring assets and continuing what she claimed in a civil lawsuit was a decades-long fraud.
“There is every reason to believe that unless an inspection is ordered by this court, the defendants will continue to engage in similar fraudulent conduct until trial,” James wrote in a preliminary injunction application related to her $250 million lawsuit against Trump. , his three eldest children and his company.
Trump called the James investigation a stunt and denied wrongdoing. The Justice Department has not charged the former president, nor anyone else, in its investigation into the Capitol riots. The House select committee cannot bring criminal charges, although it is debating whether to refer criminals to the Justice Department. Trump also slammed the Justice Department’s investigation into classified documents unearthed during an FBI search of his Mar-a-Lago residence, calling it a witch hunt and witch hunt.
These aren’t even the only investigations related to Trump. Georgia also opened another probe into attempts by the former president and his allies to overturn a key 2020 battleground state election.
As usual, Trump went into battle on Thursday, a day when the severity of the crisis he faced can often be gauged by the intensity of the rhetoric he used to respond.
Trump’s first spokesman, Tyler Budovich, mocked the select committee’s unanimous 9-0 vote to subpoena the former president for documents and testimony.
“President Trump will not be intimidated by their worthless rhetoric or un-American behavior. Trump-endorsed candidates will sweep the midterms and America First leadership and solutions will be restored,” Budovic said in wrote on Twitter.
The former president then made another post on his truth social network, which failed to answer the charges against him, but was apparently meant to provoke a political reaction from his supporters.
“Why didn’t the non-selection committee ask me to testify months ago? Why did they wait until the very end, the last moment of their last meeting? Because the committee is a ‘BUST’ through and through,” Trump wrote.
The former president asked why it made sense for the panel to wait so long to call him. But his obstruction of the investigation and his attempts to prevent a former aide from testifying meant he was walking on thin ice in criticizing the conduct of the investigation. It is not uncommon for investigators to build a case before approaching the most prominent potential target of an investigation.
Given that the former president has been obstructing efforts to scrutinize his volatile presidency, it would be surprising if he didn’t fight the subpoena, although some of him may have enjoyed prime-time hearings in person.
Committee Chairman Benny Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, warned that the former president had an obligation to explain himself.
“This committee needs to hear from Donald Trump, which is beyond our fact-finding scope. It’s a matter of being accountable to the American people. He has to be held accountable. He has to be held accountable for his actions,” Thompson said.
The subpoenas could also provide some cover for pro-Trump Republicans on the bipartisan committee, who they say is a politicized attempt to blast Trump for not allowing witnesses to be cross-examined. If it hopes to enforce the subpoena, the committee will have to seek contempt of Congress from the full House of Representatives to the Justice Department. Trump’s political guru, Steve Bannon, took such a step as he was convicted of two counts of contempt of Congress and will soon face a sentencing hearing.
But if Trump refuses to testify, any effort to follow a similar path could take months and involve a protracted legal battle. It’s unclear whether the Justice Department would consider it a good investment, especially given the progress of its Jan. 6 investigation. Regardless, there’s a good chance the committee will be drawn into history, with Republicans leaning toward taking over the House majority after the midterm elections.
Given that Trump was unlikely to comply with congressional subpoenas at the time, many observers would see the dramatic vote against the former president as yet another dramatic boom in a series of elaborate hearings that often resemble televised courtroom dramas.
But the committee’s Republican vice chair, Rep. Liz Cheney said the investigation is no longer just about what happened on January 6, but about the future.
“By doing everything to justify or justify the actions of a former president, we have weakened the foundation of our republic,” said the Wyoming lawmaker, who will not return to Congress after losing this summer’s primary to a Trump-backed president. challenger.
“The inexcusable behavior is defended, and the inexcusable behavior is forgiven. Without accountability, everything will be normal and it will happen again.”