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Trump files lawsuit in effort to block subpoena from House Jan. 6 committee

Former U.S. president Donald Trump is suing the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to block a subpoena requiring him to testify.

Suit likely dooms prospect of former U.S. president having to testify

Former U.S. president Donald Trump is seen at his Mar-a-lago residence in Palm Beach, Fla., on Tuesday. (Andrew Harnik/The Associated Press)

Former U.S. president Donald Trump is suing the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to block a subpoena requiring him to testify.

The suit filed Friday evening contends that, while former presidents have voluntarily agreed to provide testimony or documents in response to congressional subpoenas in the past, "no president or former president has ever been compelled to do so."

"Long-held precedent and practice maintain that separation of powers prohibits Congress from compelling a President to testify before it," Trump attorney David A. Warrington said in a statement announcing Trump's intentions.

Warrington said Trump had engaged with the committee "in a good faith effort to resolve these concerns consistent with Executive Branch prerogatives and separation of powers," but said the panel "insists on pursuing a political path, leaving President Trump with no choice but to involve the third branch, the judicial branch, in this dispute between the executive and legislative branches."

The committee declined to comment on the filing, which comes days before the the deadline set by the committee for Trump to begin co-operating. But the suit likely dooms the prospect of Trump ever having to testify, given that the committee is expected to disband at the end of the legislative session in January.

It also comes just days before Trump is expected to formally launch a third campaign for president at his Mar-a-Lago club.

Members of the U.S. House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol are seen as a video of Trump plays during a hearing in Washington on Oct. 13. (Alex Wong/The Associated Press)

Trump lawyers call subpoena 'overly broad'

The committee had voted to subpoena Trump during its final televised hearing before the midterm elections and formally did so last month, demanding testimony from the former president either at the Capitol or by videoconference by mid-November, and continuing for multiple days if necessary.

The letter also outlined a sweeping request for documents, including personal communications between Trump and members of Congress, as well as extremist groups. Trump's response to that request was due last week, but the nine-member panel extended its deadline to this week.

In his suit, Trump's attorneys attack the subpoena as overly broad and frame it as an infringement of his First Amendment rights. They also argue other sources besides Trump could provide the same information the committee wants from him.

The panel — comprised of seven Democrats and two Republicans — issued a statement last week saying it was in communication with Trump's attorneys.

The committee's decision to subpoena Trump in late October was a major escalation in its investigation, a step lawmakers said was necessary because, members allege, the former president was the "central player" in a multi-part effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

"I think that he has a legal obligation to testify but that doesn't always carry weight with Donald Trump," committee vice-chair Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said during an event last week.

In addition to demanding that Trump testify, the committee also made 19 requests for documents and communication — including for any messages Trump sent on the encrypted messaging app Signal or by "any other means" to members of Congress and others about the stunning events of the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack.

The scope of the committee's request was expansive — pursuing documents from Sept. 1, 2020, two months before the election, to the present on the president's communications with the groups like the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys — as the panel looks to compile a historical record of the run-up to the Capitol attack, the event itself and the aftermath.

Trump's lawsuit was filed in the Southern District of Florida, where other Trump lawyers successfully sued to secure a special master who has been tasked with conducting an independent review of records seized by the FBI during an Aug. 8 search of Mar-a-Lago.

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