Just weeks ahead of the midterm elections, the House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol voted unanimously to subpoena former President Donald J. Trump to testify about what happened that day.
Could that qualify as an October surprise?
The former president’s reaction was predictable. Soon after the committee’s vote, he posted a response on Truth Social, the platform he founded after being kicked off of more traditional sites because of his incendiary rhetoric.
“Why didn’t the Unselect Committee ask me to testify months ago?” he asked. “Why did they wait until the very end, the final moments of their last meeting? Because the Committee is a total ‘BUST’ that has only served to further divide our Country which, by the way, is doing very badly – A laughing stock all over the World?”
The committee chair, Democratic U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, called the former president’s actions surrounding Jan. 6 a “staggering betrayal” of his oath of office.
“The committee needs to do everything in our power to tell the most complete story possible and provide recommendations to help ensure that nothing like Jan. 6 ever happens again,” Thompson said. “We need to be fair and thorough in getting the full context for the evidence we’ve obtained.”
Almost no one believes Trump will actually testify, but the committee clearly thinks he should.
“He is required to answer to those police officers who put their lives and bodies on the line to defend our democracy,” Thompson said. “He is required to answer to the millions of Americans whose votes he wanted to throw out as part of his scheme to remain in power.”
At least five people died in the attack and its aftermath, including a Trump supporter who was shot by Capitol Police while trying to force her way into the House chamber. More than 850 people have been charged, and some have been sentenced to long prison terms.
The committee carried out more than 1,000 interviews and obtained countless documents. It is due to release a report of its findings late this year.
During its latest hearing, the committee showed a video shot by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s daughter, Alexandra Pelosi, a documentary filmmaker. The video showed leaders of both parties calling for help in the midst of the attack.
“They’re breaking the law in many different ways,” Pelosi says at one point. “And quite frankly, much of it at the instigation of the president of the United States.”
Thompson’s Republican co-chair, Liz Cheney, offered the resolution calling for the subpoena. In it, the committee accuses the former president of acting in a “premeditated” way to convince supporters the election was stolen despite countless aides and officials telling him that wasn’t true.
“There is no defense that Donald Trump was duped or irrational,” Cheney said. “No president can defy the rule of law and act this way in our constitutional republic, period.”
Taylor Budowich, director of communications for Trump’s Save America movement, responded on Twitter, calling the United States “a nation in decline.”
“Inflation is out of control, the crime rate is at an all-time high and the crisis at our southern border has never been worse,” he wrote.
He accused Democrats of engaging in “partisan theatrics.”
“Democrats have no solutions, and they have no interest in leading our great nation,” he wrote. “They are simply bitter, power hungry & desperate.”
The tweet, sounding almost like it had come from the keyboard of the former president himself, insisted Trump would not be intimidated by Democrats’ “meritless rhetoric or un-American actions.“
“Trump-endorsed candidates will sweep the Midterms,” Budowich tweeted, “and America First leadership & solutions will be restored. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”
It’s a tug of war for the future of our country. Which side will win?
Kelly Hawes is a columnist for CNHI News Indiana. This column is shared via the Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to [email protected].