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As Trump misses Jan. 6 subpoena deadline, what happens now?

Donald Trump was supposed to comply with a Jan. 6 committee's subpoena by last week. He didn't. So what happens now?


It was a few weeks ago when the Jan. 6 committee took the bold step of subpoenaing Donald Trump for testimony and documents. “In short,” the bipartisan panel told the Republican, “you were at the center of the first and only effort by any U.S. President to overturn an election and obstruct the peaceful transition of power, ultimately culminating in a bloody attack on our own Capitol and on the Congress itself.”

As part of the legal directive, lawmakers gave Trump until Nov. 14 — after the midterm elections — to testify under oath and answer investigators’ questions. But the committee’s subpoena also told the former president to turn over several documents by Nov. 4 — including any communications he had regarding extremist groups, such as the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, and possible interactions he had with witnesses testifying before the Jan. 6 committee.

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Nov. 4 was late last week. Trump and his lawyers did not turn over the materials. As NBC News reported, the panel agreed to extend the deadline.

The House committee investigating the attack on the Capitol gave former President Donald Trump an extra week to provide requested documents after lawmakers said Friday that they did not receive any records from a subpoena issued last month in connection with the Jan. 6 riot.

In a written statement, the panel’s bipartisan leadership — Democratic Chairman Bennie Thompson and Republican Vice Chair Liz Cheney — acknowledged having heard from the former president and his legal team. “We have received correspondence from the former President and his counsel in connection with the Select Committee’s subpoena,” they said, without elaborating on what the correspondence said.

The statement added, “We have informed the former President’s counsel that he must begin producing records no later than next week and he remains under subpoena for deposition testimony starting on November 14th.”

In other words, Team Trump didn’t entirely blow off the preliminary deadline. There was some kind of interaction, which the committee interpreted as constructive, and which led to the former president having another week to comply with the subpoena.

To hear Cheney tell it, the process will advance. “The committee is in discussions with President Trump’s attorneys, and he has an obligation to comply,” the outgoing Wyoming congresswoman said last week.

As a New York Times report went on to note, Cheney went on to say that the former president should not be allowed to dictate the terms of his committee interview. “This is not a situation where the committee is going to put itself at the mercy of Donald Trump in terms of his efforts to create a circus,” Cheney said, adding, “We haven’t made determinations about the format itself, but it will be done under oath; it will be done potentially over multiple days.”

In theory, this might sound encouraging for those who support the investigation. A congressional subpoena isn’t a request, so much as it’s a legal order, and Trump shouldn’t have much of a choice about compliance.

In practice, however, he’s likely to simply run out the clock: As we’ve discussed, the pending summons will expire at the end of the current Congress, which will wrap up in roughly 57 days. If Americans elect a Republican majority in the House, as appears likely, the select committee’s work will come to an abrupt end. Even if the panel and its investigators were to take the matter to court, or try to move forward with some kind of contempt proceedings, it's unrealistic to think the matter would be resolved in 57 days.

Circling back to our earlier coverage, this might make Trump look like something of a coward. The former president has had plenty to say about Jan. 6 and the investigation — in conservative media, at rallies, and online — but given a chance to answer questions under oath, Trump’s too afraid to respond to a legal subpoena? A profile in courage it is not.

Of course, as his lawyers have probably explained to him, it’s better to look like a coward than to show up and deliver incriminating testimony in the midst of multiple investigations.