Trump's Truth Social rant called "sharply self-incriminating": Now it's up to DOJ

Trump's rambling 14-page response to Jan. 6 subpoena is "powerfully incriminating evidence," says one expert

Published October 16, 2022 6:00AM (EDT)

A protest demanding the indictment of former President Trump on April 8, 2022, in New York. (Pablo Monsalve/VIEWpress via Getty Images)
A protest demanding the indictment of former President Trump on April 8, 2022, in New York. (Pablo Monsalve/VIEWpress via Getty Images)

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As former President Donald Trump faced an onslaught of criticism and ridicule over his "rambling" 14-page response Friday to a subpoena from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack, calls for action by the Department of Justice continued to mount.

The bipartisan panel voted unanimously to subpoena Trump at the end of Thursday's hearing — the ninth that the committee has held publicly since June and is expected to be the last before next month's midterm elections.

Throughout the hearings, "the evidence has proven" that "in a staggering betrayal of his oath, Donald Trump attempted a plan that led to an attack on a pillar of our democracy," committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., declared Thursday. "It's still hard to believe. But the facts and testimony are clear, consistent, and undisputed."

Trump's response to the subpoena, said former federal prosecutor and NBC News legal analyst Glenn Kirschner, "is powerfully incriminating evidence that will be introduced against him when he's prosecuted. And those who helped him draft it are co-conspirators."

The ex-president began his missive with what's known as his "Big Lie," writing to Thompson, "THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION OF 2020 WAS RIGGED AND STOLEN!"

The letter continues:

The same group of Radical Left Democrats who utilized their Majority position in Congress to create the fiction of Russia, Russia, Russia, Impeachment Hoax #1, Impeachment Hoax #2, the $48 Million Mueller Report (which ended in No Collusion!), Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine, the atrocious and illegal Spying on my Campaign, and so much more, are the people who created this Committee of highly partisan political Hacks and Thugs whose sole function is to destroy the lives of many hard-working American Patriots, whose records in life have been unblemished until this point of attempted ruination. The double standard of the Unselects between what has taken place on the "RIGHT," and what has taken place with Radical Left, lawless groups such as Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and others, is startling and will never be acceptable, even to those who will be writing the history of what you have done to America.

This memo is being written to express our anger, disappointment, and complaint that with all of the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on what many consider to be a Charade and Witch Hunt, and despite strong and powerful requests, you have not spent even a short moment on examining the massive Election Fraud that took place during the 2020 Presidential Election, and have targeted only those who were, as concerned American Citizens, protesting the Fraud itself.

Trump's letter to the panel spans four pages but includes a 10-page appendix featuring photos and bullet-point lists attacking the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election results in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Noting that Trump's response "doubles down on the bogus claim that he won the election and on siding with the violent insurrectionists," Noah Bookbinder of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) said that "he not only tried to overturn an election and incited insurrection, he is still doing it."

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Bookbinder and his group also shared Philip Bump's Washington Post column about Trump's letter, which Bump described as "exactly what you would have expected."

Noting that Trump used the term "fraud" many times, Bump argued that "what hinders Trump's response, of course, is that there was no rampant fraud in the 2020 election. This is by now so concretely established — following nearly two years of desperate digging and countless tennis matches of debunking and rebunking — that it barely merits lengthy examination."

"To a good-faith actor, regurgitating the same debunked nonsense would be embarrassing. To have every part of your claims collapse under scrutiny would be humiliating. But Trump is not worried about it," Bump added. "He knows he can just produce this document and his allies will simply skim it and nod. And he knows that people who work for the Washington Post will angrily print it out and scribble on it and reinforce to the reality-adjacent that his arguments are reality-defiant."

Several federal lawmakers said after the committee's vote that, in the words of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, "Donald Trump must testify before Congress."

Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., also demanded "the former occupant of the White House" testify about "his role in inciting the violent, white supremacist attack on our democracy," while Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., called the subpoena "an important step" to bring to justice "everyone involved in this attack on democracy — including the former president."

Some, such as Rep. Jimmy Gomez, D-Calif., even said that if Trump "refuses to comply, he must be held in contempt of Congress."

Some experts don't believe the committee will be able to force Trump to testify, however, given that its work could end in early January, if the Republicans win control of Congress next month. Notably, the panel's GOP vice chair, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, lost her primary race against a Trump-backed candidate, and its only other Republican, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, is leaving office after this term.

"They're essentially out of time to enforce a subpoena like this," explained former federal prosecutor and University of Alabama law professor Joyce White Vance on MSNBC. "If Trump were to come in voluntarily and tell the truth, well, we all know, I think, that that's unlikely to happen. And going through a court process to enforce this would take some period of time — so likely... we will not hear his testimony but this will simply become a part of the public record."

Analyzing the panel's work after the vote Thursday, the New York Times' Peter Baker noted that there has been "relatively little movement in public opinion since the hearings opened in June, at least as measured by an array of polls." He continued:

Having fallen short of changing many minds, however, the committee may yet have influenced the thinking closer to home. It amassed an overwhelming collection of interviews, documents, and other evidence that may have lit a fire at the Justice Department just half a dozen blocks from the Capitol, as federal prosecutors appeared to ratchet up their own investigation in recent months.

The real verdict, therefore, may still be months away. If Attorney General Merrick B. Garland ultimately pursues a criminal prosecution against Mr. Trump or his closest allies, the committee will have set the stage by airing the case in painstaking detail. And as they made their final arguments before next month's midterm elections, the panel members on Thursday left little doubt what they think should happen but left any decision on criminal referrals until after the vote.

As The Hill reported Saturday, NYU law professor Ryan Goodman similarly said of the panel, "I think they were trying to hand the Justice Department all the evidence on a silver platter."

"I do think that it's very significant information for a Justice Department with much more powerful tools to pursue a full-blown investigation," he said. "I do think that they did a very good job of handing that off, and, in a certain sense, showing what a closing argument can look like in a powerful way."

The panel, concluded CREW's Bookbinder, "has masterfully laid out overwhelming evidence that Donald Trump engaged in a criminal conspiracy to overturn an election, but the committee cannot itself bring accountability. It's up to the Justice Department to act now."

By Jessica Corbett

Jessica Corbett is a staff writer for Common Dreams. Follow her on Twitter: @corbett_jessica.

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