Witnesses Subpoenaed in Jan. 6 Probe May Stay Mum After Trump Invokes Executive Privilege

Former President Donald Trump plans to invoke his executive privilege in Congress' probe on the January 6 Capitol riot, which could prevent his former aides from testifying before the investigative committee, according to a letter sent by Trump's lawyers.

An individual who had seen the letter, but was not yet authorized to speak publicly on it, described its message to the Associated Press.

Executive privilege is meant to bar presidential communications from being shared with Congress. The letter, which was sent to at least some of those subpoenaed by the committee, stipulates that Trump intends to use that privilege in regard to the investigation.

The connotations of the letter could precede further conflict with House Democrats looking to learn what part Trump and his allies played in the riot, when thousands of the former president's supporters violently stormed the Capitol while Congress was attempting to certify the election victory of President Joe Biden.

The House Select Committee has been looking at those who participated in, helped plan or had any connection to the January 6 rally where supporters gathered to watch Trump speak before they breached the Capitol, AP reported.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Donald Trump at Georgia Rally
Former President Donald Trump plans to invoke his executive privilege in Congress’ probe of the January 6 Capitol riot, which could prevent his former aides from testifying before the investigative committee. Above, Trump speaks at a rally on September 25, 2021, in Perry, Georgia. Sean Rayford/Getty Images

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 decision to invoke executive privilege or what consequences that might face if they refuse to cooperate.

The committee has issued more than a dozen subpoenas to people linked to plans for the January 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, Representative 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 has 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 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."

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 of 2019 that included dozens of other conservative voices and far-right provocateurs.

In October of 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."

Rep. Bennie Thompson
The January 6 investigative panel has subpoenaed four advisers and associates of former President Donald Trump who were in contact with him as hundreds of his followers violently broke into the Capitol and tried to overturn his defeat. Above, Representative Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Select Committee on the January 6 attack, speaks with reporters outside the Capitol in Washington on September 24, 2021. J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo