A video of former President Donald Trump is played during a hearing by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol

The Jan 6 Committee Knows What a Bad Idea It Would Be To Put Donald Trump on Live TV

At their last public hearing, the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol unanimously voted to subpoena Donald Trump. That means Trump will be compelled to testify about his knowledge of and his role in the attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election, which he very blatantly incited via his repeated claims that the election was “rigged” and “stolen.”

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“We are obligated to seek answers directly from the man who set this all in motion,” Rep. Liz Cheney said at the time. “And every American is entitled to those answers, so we can act now to protect our republic.”

It does seem like there would be a huge hole at the center of this sprawling investigation if Trump weren’t made to answer questions. At the same time, the committee’s live hearings have had massive audiences tuning in and they’ve proven to be impactful. Giving Trump that sort of platform seems really ill-advised.

Fortunately, the committee agrees. Cheney says they’re all aware of what would happen if they let Trump take the microphone during a live hearing, and they’re not willing to let him turn that process into a “circus” or a “food fight.”

“We are going to proceed in terms of the questioning of the former president under oath,” she said on Meet the Press this weekend. “It may take multiple days, and it will be done with a level of rigor and discipline and seriousness that it deserves. We are not going to allow—he’s not going to turn this into a circus.”

At their last public hearing, the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol unanimously voted to subpoena Donald Trump.

Of course, this is all moot if Trump simply refuses to show up. He has refused to comply with subpoenas before. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told MSNBC this weekend that she doesn’t think Trump is “man enough” to show up and testify before Congress. Gendered notions of courage aside, she’s absolutely right.

Pelosi said that “No one is above the law,” and that if Trump behaves as if he is, then Americans “should make a judgment about how he responds to that request.”

That’s a pretty feckless statement. Cheney, at least, acknowledges that Congress has the power to actually do something about it if Trump refuses to comply and we don’t have to leave the consequences up to the court of public opinion.

“We have many, many alternatives that we will consider if the former president decides he is not going to comply with his legal obligation, a legal obligation every American citizen has to comply with a subpoena,” she said during her NBC interview.

Legal convictions for contempt of Congress are extremely rare but the possibility is not off the table. In fact, just last week, longtime Trump ally Steve Bannon was sentenced to four months in prison, specifically for refusing to comply with a congressional subpoena. That sentence sets a modern and extremely relevant precedent for something that hadn’t happened in several decades.

(via HuffPost, image: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.