Top Trump Aides Face A ‘Prisoner’s Dilemma’ As January 6 Subpoena Deadline Looms

White House aide Dan Scavino listens to President Donald Trump address the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Gaylord National Resort in Oxon Hill, Md., on February 23, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

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Four former aides to President Donald Trump have one more day to comply with subpoenas issued by the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th attack. With the deadline looming, reports have emerged that the Trump allies plan to defy the subpoenas and, in one case, may have gone into the wind entirely. But a source familiar with the committee, who requested anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation, said refusal to comply with the subpoenas will lead to serious repercussions. 

“You can’t ignore a congressional subpoena,” the source said. “The fact that they think they can get away with it doesn’t surprise me but there will be a legal reaction to that behavior.”

The committee issued subpoenas last month to the president’s on-again-off-again adviser Steve Bannon, ex-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, West Wing social media guru Dan Scavino, and Kashyap Patel, a Trump loyalist who was placed at the Pentagon in the days after the election. The subpoenas instructed the four men to produce documents by Oct. 7. They also called on Patel and Bannon to testify on October 14th, and Meadows and Scavino to testify on the 15th.

On Wednesday, The Guardian published a report saying all four men plan to “defy” the subpoenas. According to that story, their decision was made with instruction from Trump’s legal team, which is being led by former White House attorney Justin Clark. CNN also reported that the committee has been unable to locate Scavino to physically serve his subpoena.

Scavino, Patel, Bannon, Clark, and Trump did not respond to questions from The Uprising. A representative for Meadows declined to comment. 

Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon exits the Manhattan Federal Court on August 20, 2020 in the Manhattan borough of New York City. (Photo by Pablo Monsalve/VIEWpress via Getty Images)

A spokesperson for the committee declined to comment on potential subpoena refusals. The strategy echoes Trump’s handling of investigations during his time in office. Trump refused to testify during his impeachment trial, which was held earlier this year and focused on his role inciting the mob that stormed the Capitol on January 6. 

The source familiar with the committee investigation argued the situation is far different now that President Joe Biden is in office. 

“This is no longer the Trump administration. We have a Department of Justice who cares about doing their job,” the source said. 

Members of the committee have addressed the possibility Trump’s associates might try to refuse the subpoenas and similarly suggested the Biden administration is open to criminal contempt charges for those who try to defy the committee. At a press breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor last month, Rep. Adam Schiff, a member of the committee, suggested he and his colleagues “anticipate” some people might decline to cooperate. But Schiff also suggested the Biden administration had given “encouraging” signs about willingness to penalize people who attempt to dodge the committee.

“We may have additional tools now that we didn't before, including a Justice Department that may be willing to pursue criminal contempt when people deliberately flout compulsory process," said Schiff. 

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, one of two Republicans on the committee, recently told CNN they are "going to do everything in our power to get them to testify” and similarly suggested there would be penalties for refusing the subpoenas. 

"I mean, there is civil, there is criminal referrals that can happen if they refuse, refusing a subpoena from congress is a crime. We aren't out to try to hang this around anybody's neck. We want answers," Kinzinger said. 

The subpoenas to the four Trump aides are part of a wide ranging investigation the committee is conducting into the Trump administration’s strategizing for overturning the election results, planning for the rallies that took place at the Capitol on January 6 as the results were certified, and the response to the breach of the building. Along with the subpoenas to the former president’s top aides, the committee has subpoenaed several Trump allies who were involved in organizing protests against the election. The committee has also asked for records from social media and telecommunications companies. Most importantly, the committee made a “sweeping” request for records from the executive branch to obtain communications from the White House, Pentagon, and other agencies. This last effort could mean that the committee is able to open a window into what happened within the president’s inner circle on January 6 and in the leadup to the attack. And the source familiar with the committee suggested that, with Biden in office, the agencies were complying with the records requests. 

“The executive privilege lies with the Biden administration, not with the former Trump administration, so we’re going to get a lot from there anyway,” the source said. 

The source also speculated that, with pressure ramping up, some of the targets of the investigation would turn on each other and cooperate with the committee.

“The prisoner’s dilemma is a real thing,” said the source. “Self-preservation is going to come into play.” 

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