Former President Donald Trump may have celebrated the latest news from the January 6 committee a touch too early, excited about a “white flag” that came from maybe the wrong opponents.
On Wednesday, the House panel investigating the Capitol riot announced it would withdraw the subpoena it had issued Trump, citing that congressional investigators had run out of time to pursue the former president’s testimony given the committee’s end date.
Over Twitter, Trump lawyer Harmeet Dhillon applauded the news, declaring that “the committee waved the white flag & withdrew subpoena” after her firm helped Trump file suit to block the order.
But Trump may not be entirely clear of testifying just yet. Even though the committee pulled out of its subpoena, the Department of Justice (DOJ) could still issue its own—one with even more weight in the decision on whether federal prosecutors will indict Trump for his role in the attack on the Capitol.
Unlike the House committee, which must rely on the DOJ to enforce its subpoena, the DOJ would not have to rely on another agency, attorney Andrew Lieb told Newsweek. He explained that the department could use its own authority to enforce Trump to comply, and that if the former president still ignored the DOJ’s subpoena, prosecutors could easily bring an application to hold Trump in contempt.
Wednesday’s withdrawal could also spell an even worse legal fate for Trump, according to criminal lawyer Olga Izmaylova.
“My guess is that the January 6 committee likely withdrew their subpoenas because they know that the DOJ is getting ready to issue some of their own,” she told Newsweek.
And if the DOJ begins issuing subpoenas, criminal charges are likely to follow.
Izmaylova said while testimony before the House panel could be used for criminal charges, an indictment is not the primary goal of a congressional committee. On the other hand, the DOJ’s primary goal in any investigation is to bring criminal charges.
So, a subpoena from the DOJ would signify that prosecutors are “conducting a criminal investigation with the goal of indictment.”
And because the DOJ has the power to subpoena not only Trump, but anyone, the department may decide to go after Trump’s inner circle before indicting the former president to build an even stronger case against Trump himself.
For example, the committee also formally withdrew the subpoena issued to GOP gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano on Wednesday, but the DOJ could issue its own subpoena to Mastriano, a central figure in Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election in Pennsylvania.
Several legal scholars have contended that the final report and cache of evidence released by the January 6 committee last week would give the DOJ enough information to flip Trump’s associates.
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