By Claire Hansen
In nine televised hearings over the course of more than four months, the House committee investigating the events of Jan. 6, 2021, made public heaps of new information about the violent insurrection: hours of illuminating witness testimony, reams of documents and communications, updated timelines and movements, and reels of never-before-seen video footage of the day – including, in the panel’s would-be final hearing Thursday, extraordinary videos of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other high-ranking lawmakers attempting to navigate and respond to the situation while the siege unfolded.
Former President Donald Trump, in response to the torrent of new disclosures, has done just the opposite.
All of the information presented by the committee has gone toward building a measured, almost prosecutorial argument that has painted Trump as the person at the center of the event, someone who instigated and perpetuated the insurrection despite knowing from a variety of sources and conceding in a variety of forums that his fraud claims about the 2020 election were false.
In response to the committee’s movements, Trump has kept up a running criticism of the investigation, cycling through a bevy of colorful insults aimed at the panel at large as well as individual lawmakers on it, and has repeatedly doubled down on the fraud claims at the heart of the issue. But rarely has Trump responded directly to any of the new information presented by the committee, refraining from mounting any kind of public defense against specific allegations made by the panel and putting forth little new information of his own.
The cycle played out again this week, after the committee on Thursday took its boldest step yet, subpoenaing the former president in the final moments of what was expected to be its last public hearing. Trump, after a more-subdued response Thursday evening in which he continued his criticisms of the investigation while questioning the timing of the panel’s vote, released a 14-page response Friday morning addressed to committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, Mississippi Democrat.
The lengthy document was quintessentially Trump: it opens with a statement in all capital letters (“THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION OF 2020 WAS RIGGED AND STOLEN”) before sliding into oft-repeated criticisms of congressional Democrats and of the investigation’s focus – some so familiar that his allies and adversaries alike have become desensitized to them.
“This memo is being written to express our anger, disappointment, and complaint that with all of the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on what many consider to be a Charade and Witch Hunt, and despite strong and powerful requests, you have not spent even a short moment on examining the massive Election Fraud that took place during the 2020 Presidential Election, and have targeted only those who were, as concerned American Citizens, protesting the Fraud itself,” the statement says.
Trump also again lobbed meritless criticism at Pelosi and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser for their actions ahead of the rally.
For the majority of the rest of the document, Trump presents pages of recycled and repeatedly debunked misinformation about the 2020 election, broken down by state – the type that the panel spent hours painstakingly deconstructing, often through the testimony of Trump’s closest allies and advisers.
“You have not gone after the people that created the Fraud, but rather great American Patriots who questioned it, as is their Constitutional right,” the statement said.
He also included photos to boast of the size of the crowd at the rally before the march to the Capitol.
Despite its length, the letter notably did not indicate whether Trump would or would not agree to testify in front of the committee – the most direct avenue available to him so far to confront the accusations and information brought forth by the panel.
Though Trump’s hostility toward the investigation has led to skepticism about his cooperation, his PAC on Friday emailed out a link to a Fox News article quoting an anonymous source close to Trump who said the former president “loves the idea of testifying” before the panel. The New York Times also on Friday reported that Trump has told those close to him that he would consider the interview as long as it would be shown live.
Before the vote to subpoena Trump, members of the committee expressed a duty to do so.
“None of this is normal, acceptable or lawful in our republic,” Rep. Liz Cheney, Wyoming Republican and committee vice chairwoman, said during the hearing.
“Our duty today is to our country and our children and our Constitution. We are obligated to seek answers directly from the man who set this all in motion,” she said later before the vote.
It is yet to be seen how – if at all – the hearings or Trump’s claims of fraud will affect the upcoming midterm elections. A poll in August found that the hearings to date had not swayed public opinion about the insurrection. And a Washington Post analysis found that more than half of Republicans running in November maintain the election was illegitimate, including a majority that are expected to win their seats.