Team Trump is apparently daring Rep. Bennie Thompson and the January 6th Commission he chairs to come and get them when it comes to subpoenas.
The former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and other top aides subpoenaed by the House select committee investigating the Capitol attack are expected to defy orders for documents and testimony related to 6 January, according to a source familiar with the matter.
The move to defy the subpoenas would mark the first major investigative hurdle faced by the select committee and threatens to touch off an extended legal battle as the former president pushes some of his most senior aides to undercut the inquiry.
All four Trump aides targeted by the select committee – Meadows, deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino, strategist Steve Bannon and defense department aide Kash Patel – are expected to resist the orders because Trump is preparing to direct them to do so, the source said.
The select committee had issued the subpoenas under the threat of criminal prosecution in the event of non-compliance, warning that the penalty for defying a congressional subpoena would be far graver under the Biden administration than during the Trump presidency.
But increasingly concerned with the far-reaching nature of the 6 January investigation, Trump and his legal team, led by the ex-Trump campaign lawyer Justin Clark the former deputy White House counsel Patrick Philbin, are moving to instruct the attorneys for the subpoenaed aides to defy the orders.
The basis for Trump’s pressing aides to not cooperate is being mounted on grounds of executive privilege, the source said, over claims that sensitive conversations about what he knew in advance of plans to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory should remain secret.
Philbin appears less convinced than Trump about the strength of the legal argument, the source said, in part because the justice department previously declined to assert the protection for 6 January testimony, suggesting it did not exist to protect Trump’s personal interests.
The former president’s lawyer, the source said, instead seems to view the strategy more as an effective way to slow-walk the select committee, which is aiming to produce a final report before the 2022 midterm elections, to keep the inquiry non-partisan.
It was not clear on Tuesday whether Trump would push aides to defy all elements of the subpoenas, the source cautioned – access to some emails or call records demanded by the select committee might be waived.
But Trump’s strategy mirrors the playbook he used to prevent House Democrats from deposing his top advisers during his presidency. The former White House counsel Don McGahn, for instance, only testified to Congress about the Mueller inquiry once Trump left office.