Capitol Riot

Trump Plans to Invoke Executive Privilege in Probe of Capitol Riot

The move sets the stage for a likely clash with House Democrats who are investigating the roles of Trump and his allies in the run-up to the riot

Evan Vucci/AP File photo

Donald Trump intends to assert executive privilege in a congressional investigation into the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, a move that could prevent the testimony of onetime aides, according to a letter on behalf of the former president.

The letter went to at least some witnesses who were subpoenaed by the House committee and it makes clear that Trump plans to invoke privileges meant to protect presidential communications from being shared with Congress. The substance of the letter from a lawyer for Trump was described Thursday by a person familiar with it who spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because the letter was not yet public.

Spokespeople for Trump did not immediately return messages seeking comment. Trump said in a statement last month that he would “fight the Subpoenas on Executive Privilege and other grounds, for the good of our Country.”

The move sets the stage for a likely clash with House Democrats who are investigating the roles of Trump and his allies in the run-up to the riot, when a large mob of Trump supporters broke into the Capitol as Congress was certifying the results of the presidential election won by Democrat Joe Biden. The committee is rapidly issuing subpoenas to individuals who are either connected to Trump or who helped plan the massive rally on the morning of Jan. 6 at which he told his supporters to “fight like hell."

The committee, which was formed over the summer, last month issued subpoenas to Mark Meadows, Trump's former chief of staff; Dan Scavino, the former deputy chief of staff for communications; Kashyap Patel, a former Defense Department official; and Steve Bannon, a former Trump adviser. It was not immediately clear how those witnesses would respond to Trump’s action or what consequences they might face if they refuse to cooperate.

Patel said in a statement that he will “continue to tell the American people the truth about January 6.” It did not say whether he would comply.

Committee members have said they plan to try and move swiftly to obtain testimony and documents should any witnesses refuse to cooperate. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., tweeted that if the Trump associates do not comply, “they can be subject to criminal contempt.”

Charging the Trump associates with contempt could still be a lengthy process, including votes of the full House and potential court proceedings.

Because Trump no longer is in office, he cannot directly assert privilege to keep witnesses quiet or documents out of the hands of Congress. As the current president, Biden will have some say in the matter.

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The committee has issued more than a dozen subpoenas to people linked to plans for the Jan. 6 protests, including three additional witnesses announced Thursday. Those individuals would be less likely to get help from Trump’s executive privilege claims, which would be limited to people who worked in the White House.

The committee chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said subpoenas had gone to Ali Abdul Akbar, also known as Ali Alexander, and Nathan Martin, as well the organization “ Stop the Steal, " to learn more about a rally that was planned on the Capitol grounds at the same time as the larger gathering on the National Mall. The committee earlier subpoenaed 11 other individuals connected to the planning of that larger rally.

According to the committee, Alexander released a statement after the riot linking “Stop the Steal” to the Capitol rally permit and explaining that the intention was to direct attendees of the larger rally to march to the Capitol. The panel cited reports that Alexander had made reference “to the possible use of violence to achieve the organization’s goals” and had been in communication with the White House and members of Congress.

“The rally on the Capitol grounds on January 6th, like the rally near the White House that day, immediately preceded the violent attack on the seat of our democracy," Thompson said in a statement. “Over the course of that day, demonstrations escalated to violence and protestors became rioters.”

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Capitol police stand with guns drawn near a barricaded door as protesters try to break into the House Chamber at the Capitol, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, DC.
(Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
Supporters of US President Donald Trump enter the US Capitol’s Rotunda on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, DC.
(Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
Supporters of US President Donald Trump enter the US Capitol’s Rotunda on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, DC.
(Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
Supporters of US President Donald Trump enter the US Capitol’s Rotunda on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, DC.
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U.S. Capitol police officers take positions as demonstrators enter the U.S. Capitol during a protest in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021.
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A protester is seen hanging from the balcony in the Senate Chamber on Jan. 6, 2021 in Washington, DC.
(Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
Supporters of US President Donald Trump enter the US Capitol’s Rotunda as reported tear gas smoke fills a corridor on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, DC.
(Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
US Capitol police officers try to stop supporters of US President Donald Trump to enter the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, DC.
(Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
Supporters of US President Donald Trump enter the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, DC.
(Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
Supporters of US President Donald Trump roam under the Capitol Rotunda after invading the Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, DC.
(Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
US Capitol police officers try to stop supporters of US President Donald Trump to enter the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, DC.
(Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
Supporters of US President Donald Trump enter the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, DC.
(Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
Supporters of US President Donald Trump confront Capitol police officers enter the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, DC.
Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images
Supporters of US President Donald Trump roam under the Capitol Rotunda after invading the Capitol building on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. – Demonstrators breeched security and entered the Capitol as Congress debated the a 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification. (Photo by Saul LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
Police hold back supporters of US President Donald Trump as they gather outside the US Capitol’s Rotunda on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, DC.
Win McNamee/Getty Images
Protesters gather inside the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, DC.
(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
A protester is seen inside the US Capitol Building on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, DC.
(Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
A supporter of US President Donald Trump sits at a desk after invading the Capitol Building on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, DC.
(Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
Supporters of US President Donald Trump protest in the US Capitol’s Rotunda on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, DC.
(Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
Supporters of US President Donald Trump protest in the US Capitol’s Rotunda on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, DC.
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Capitol police try to hold back protesters outside the east doors to the House side of the Capitol in Washington, DC, Jan. 6, 2021.
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House of Representatives members leave the floor of the House chamber as protesters try to break into the chamber at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, DC.
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People shelter in the House gallery as protesters try to break into the House Chamber at the Capitol, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, DC.
WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 06: Protesters interact with Capitol Police inside the U.S. Capitol Building on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congress held a joint session today to ratify President-elect Joe Biden’s 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. A group of Republican senators said they would reject the Electoral College votes of several states unless Congress appointed a commission to audit the election results. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT – Damage is seen inside the US Capitol building early on January 7, 2021 in Washington, DC, after supporters of US President Donald Trump breeched security and entered the building during a session of Congress. – Donald Trump’s supporters stormed a session of Congress held today, January 6, to certify Joe Biden’s election win, triggering unprecedented chaos and violence at the heart of American democracy and accusations the president was attempting a coup. (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 06: Two members of a pro-Trump mob look out through a broken window from inside the Capitol Building after breaking into it on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. A pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, breaking windows and clashing with police officers. Trump supporters gathered in the nation’s capital today to protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory over President Trump in the 2020 election. (Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 06: A member of a pro-Trump mob screams out at the crowd from the inside of the Capitol Building after breaking into it on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. A pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, breaking windows and clashing with police officers. Trump supporters gathered in the nation’s capital today to protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory over President Trump in the 2020 election. (Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 06: A member of a pro-Trump mob shatters a window with his fist from inside the Capitol Building after breaking into it on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. A pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, breaking windows and clashing with police officers. Trump supporters gathered in the nation’s capital today to protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory over President Trump in the 2020 election. (Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
Supporters of President Donald Trump are confronted by Capitol Police officers outside the Senate Chamber inside the Capitol, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021 in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
(Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
Supporters of US President Donald Trump sit inside the office of US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi as he protest inside the US Capitol in Washington, DC, January 6, 2021. – Demonstrators breeched security and entered the Capitol as Congress debated the a 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)
(Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
A supporter of US President Donald Trump sits inside the office of US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi as he protest inside the US Capitol in Washington, DC, January 6, 2021. – Demonstrators breeched security and entered the Capitol as Congress debated the a 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)
(Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
A supporter of US President Donald Trump sits inside the office of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi as he protest inside the US Capitol in Washington, DC, January 6, 2021. – Demonstrators breeched security and entered the Capitol as Congress debated the a 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)
(Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP via Getty Images)
Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as they gather inside the US Capitol in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021. – Demonstrators breeched security and entered the Capitol as Congress debated the a 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification. (Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP)
(Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP via Getty Images)
Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as they gather inside the US Capitol in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021. – Demonstrators breeched security and entered the Capitol as Congress debated the a 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification. (Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP)
(Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP via Getty Images)
Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as they gather inside the US Capitol in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021. – Demonstrators breeched security and entered the Capitol as Congress debated the a 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification. (Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP)
(Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP via Getty Images)
Supporters of US President Donald Trump protest inside the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. – Demonstrators breeched security and entered the Capitol as Congress debated the a 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification. (Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP)
Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images
Supporters of US President Donald Trump protest inside the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. – Demonstrators breeched security and entered the Capitol as Congress debated the a 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification. (Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP)
(Photo By Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES – JANUARY 6: A U.S. Capitol Police officer maces a Trump rioter who broke through a window on the first floor of the Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (Photo By Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
(Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
A Congress staffer holds his hands up while Capitol Police Swat team check everyone in the room as they secure the floor of Trump suporters in Washington, CD on January 6, 2021. – Donald Trump’s supporters stormed a session of Congress held today, January 6, to certify Joe Biden’s election win, triggering unprecedented chaos and violence at the heart of American democracy and accusations the president was attempting a coup. (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP)
(Photo By Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES – JANUARY 6: A U.S. Capitol Police officer is treated for injuries on the first floor of the Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (Photo By Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
(Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
A Capitol Police Swat team member patrols the US Capitol in Washington, CD on January 6, 2021. – Donald Trump’s supporters stormed a session of Congress held today, January 6, to certify Joe Biden’s election win, triggering unprecedented chaos and violence at the heart of American democracy and accusations the president was attempting a coup. (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP)
Photographer: Ting Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A members of the U.S. Capitol Police responds to demonstrators at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S. on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. The U.S. Capitol was placed under lockdown and Vice President Mike Pence left the floor of Congress as hundreds of protesters swarmed past barricades surrounding the building where lawmakers were debating Joe Biden’s victory in the Electoral College. Photographer: Ting Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photographer: Ting Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Members of the U.S. Capitol Police respond to the demonstrators at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S. on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. The U.S. Capitol was placed under lockdown and Vice President Mike Pence left the floor of Congress as hundreds of protesters swarmed past barricades surrounding the building where lawmakers were debating Joe Biden’s victory in the Electoral College. Photographer: Ting Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Thompson said the committee “needs to understand all the details about the events that came before the attack, including who was involved in planning and funding them.”

Alexander has claimed lawmakers helped him plan the rally that led to the siege on the Capitol. He has been in Trump’s orbit for a few years, even being among the participants of Trump's “Presidential Social Media Summit” in July 2019 that included dozens of other conservative voices and far-right provocateurs.

In October 2020, the Arizona Republican Party appeared to ask supporters to consider giving their lives to keep Trump in office, retweeting Alexander’s pledge on Twitter that he was “willing to give my life for this fight.”

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Associated Press writers Jill Colvin, Ben Fox and Farnoush Amiri contributed to this report.

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