The January 6th committee's final warning
The January 6th House committee voted unanimously on Thursday to subpoena former President Donald Trump. It was a dramatic end to the committee's series of public hearings, and its last meeting before the midterm elections.
Guests: Axios’ Margaret Talev and Alayna Treene.
Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Fonda Mwangi, Ben O'Brien and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.
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NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!
It’s Friday, October 14th.
I’m Niala Boodhoo.
LIZ CHENEY: Why would Americans assume that our constitution and our institutions in our republic are invulnerable to another attack? Why would we assume that those institutions will not falter next time?
NIALA: The January 6th committee issues a final warning and a key subpoena. That’s our One Big Thing.
LIZ CHENEY: So, this afternoon I am offering this resolution that the committee direct the chairman to issue a subpoena for relevant documents and testimony under oath from Donald John Trump in connection with the January 6th attack on the United States Capitol.
NIALA: The January 6th House committee voted unanimously yesterday to subpoena former President Donald Trump, a dramatic end to its series of public hearings in its last meeting before the midterm elections. Axios’ managing editor for politics Margaret Talev and Congressional and White House reporter Alayna Treene are here for our Friday State of Play. Alayna, Margaret, hello.
MARGARET TALEV: Hi, Niala.
ALAYNA TREENE: Hello.
NIALA: Margaret, can you just start by explaining what the significance of this subpoena is and what the committee's hoping to achieve with this?
MARGARET: Niala, there’s so many threads to pull in yesterday's hearing, but this is certainly a big deal. This is a select Committee of Congress subpoenaing a former US president, for documents and for testimony in connection with the January 6th attacks and his role in the incitement of the January 6th attacks. And the chairman of the committee Bennie Thompson, who's a Democrat, made clear that he understood the significance of that and that's why the committee wanted to discuss it and sort of roll it out in plain public view so that Americans would understand why they were taking this extraordinary step.
NIALA: Alayna, do we see former President Trump defying this subpoena? How in practicality, will this actually work?
ALAYNA: I think it's extremely unlikely that Donald Trump agrees to comply with the subpoena and offer his testimony. And I think there's a couple things really interesting here. One, the committee bypassed asking him at all to come in voluntarily and invite him to testify they went straight to subpoena. And two, I think the timing of this vote. It's very late in the investigation. The committee is expected to disband by the end of this year. Really, it is a bit of a symbolic move and one I think they're trying to lay down a marker, one to prove that they are in fact trying to speak with the central figure of their investigation it all comes back to Donald Trump, but also for the history books to show that they have subpoenaed the former president that they tried to seek his testimony and make that very clear.
MARGARET: I have to say, I don't see it as purely symbolic though, and I'll tell you why. Liz Cheney, the top Republican on the panel, the member who actually brought forth this subpoena of former President Trump, made pretty darn clear that the committee believes that it has the evidence to bring forth criminal referrals. And if one of those referrals is of the former president himself, and we don't know that, she didn't say that, but if it is, it would certainly behoove the committee to have tried to compel him for testimony and documents.
NIALA: So let's start pulling some other threads from this public meeting. We saw some new footage of lawmakers, including house speaker Nancy Pelosi, stepping in during the chaos of the attack.
NANCY PELOSI: There has to be some way we can maintain the sense that people have, that there's some security or some confidence that government can function and that we can elect the President of the United States.
NIALA: How does this footage add to our understanding of that day?
MARGARET: To see top House and Senate Democrats and Republicans huddled together trying to bring some semblance of order and security and safety to the Capitol itself to assure the American public to get, at the time the President, to call his supporters off and have them stand down and send them home. And then another moment, that was captured extraordinarily, it's Nancy Pelosi on speaker phone talking with at the time, Trump's number two, Vice President Mike Pence, who had defied Trump's political pressure and gone ahead and fulfilled his obligation to certify the election. And Pelosi and Pence trying to come together. Pence updating Pelosi on what he knew best to be what was going on. This shows how everybody across both parties understood that what was happening was a threat to national security, a threat to the US government, a threat to the fair election system and needed to be stopped. Everyone except the President.
NIALA: In a moment, we're back with more of our Friday state of play.
NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Niala Boodhoo. I'm here with Axios’ Alayna Treene and Margaret Talev talking about the week in politics, including yesterday's January 6th committee hearing. One of the other new things that came to light yesterday was what the Secret Service knew ahead of the January 6th attack. Why did they fail to act despite knowing that rioters were likely armed?
ALAYNA: One of the messages that the January 6th committee showed that I thought was really striking was service members exchanging text messages on the morning of January 6th, where they were warning each other of weapons that were spotted amongst supporters at a rally near the White House and having already been kind of aware of and anticipating even potential violence at the Capitol. and I think that's really key to why the Secret Service at all was, was such a, a big area of investigation for the committee and why they wanted these text messages from January 5th and January 6th, because some of it does show that there was a level of anticipation of what the violence could be, or an expectation that there could be violence at the Capitol.
NIALA: Margaret, are people paying attention to all of this? What does this mean for voters ahead of the midterms?
MARGARET: Niala. I'm really glad you asked that question because we're now less than four weeks away from election day and we know that the economy and abortion continue to be two of the biggest drivers of what voters are thinking about as they head to the polls or as they think about early voting. And we also know that at least up until now, a lot of the way Americans feel about the January 6th hearings, whether they should be going on, how important the revelations are, depends on what their party affiliation is and to a large extent, a lot of people already have made up their minds about that too. Will this, will the new evidence that has been released, will the committee's decision to vote to subpoena the former president, will that shake things up, will that make a difference in how people cast their votes not for president, but for Congress and for governors, we'll see. But up until now, the evidence suggests that it won't.
ALAYNA: Yeah. Just to add to what Margaret's saying. The committee from the beginning had this big challenge with voters and trying to convince them of both Donald Trump's culpability and also warn them of the continuing threat to democracy. Republicans immediately had painted this from the start as a partisan witch hunt, and they're still doing that. I mean we saw statements come out yesterday following the hearing, continuing to try and discredit the work that they were doing. And I think one of the big things that I know many of the members they've shared with me was they wanna try to convince voters of what happened that day on January 6th and convince them that the threat of another potential January 6th or Capitol attack could happen again, and it's hard to say if they were able to do that.
NIALA: Last question. What happens to the January 6th committee now? What's next?
ALAYNA: Ultimately they're looking at putting out their final report, which will come after the midterm elections. But then after the final report, I think really a lot of the attention now will be turning away from the committee and to the Justice Department. And I think Attorney General Merrick Garland is gonna have a massive decision to make about whether and who, if any, people that he will bring criminal charges against, will there be indictments. A lot of this is gonna turn away from Congress into the Department of Justice.
NIALA: Our White House and Congressional reporter, Alayna Treene. I wanna thank Axios Managing Editor for Politics Margaret Talev as well. Thank you.
MARGARET: Thanks Niala.
ALAYNA: Thank you.
NIALA: Axios Today is produced by Fonda Mwangi, Lydia McMullen-Laird and Robin Linn. Our sound engineers are Alex Sugiura and Ben O’Brien. Alexandra Botti is our supervising producer. Sara Kehaulani Goo is Axios’ editor in chief. And special thanks as always to Axios co-founder Mike Allen.
I’m Niala Boodhoo. Stay safe, enjoy your weekend and we’ll see you back here on Monday.