The House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot has unanimously voted to subpoena former president Donald Trump to testify.
The subpoena likely sets up a battle between the House Committee and the former president, who’s expected to fight the order to testify and turn over documents. Moreover, if the intent of the hearing was to turn the spotlight on Trump’s role in the insurrection, the case presented by the panel, with evidence from some of the former president’s own advisers and allies, has been fairly damning in placing blame squarely on Trump.
What is less clear is how much the hearings have swayed the American public, particularly with midterms right around the corner.
Kimi Lynn King, a political science professor at the University of North Texas, spoke with Texas Standard about the subpoena and the implications heading into election season. Listen to the story above or read the transcript below.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Texas Standard: What was your reaction to the hearing yesterday as someone who’s been following this process; did anything surprise you?
Kimi Lynn King: So there was no doubt that part of having the hearings now timed directly before the November midterms were designed to highlight everything that had gone over the summer and to remind everyone of what they’d been through. Whether or not it was the kind of strategic success they had hoped for, we will see come November. Your point about the limited duration of the House committee doing the investigation and the powers regarding the subpoena are in many ways really symbolic, because while subpoenaing the president or the people who work for him is not unprecedented, it is always difficult to fight. And as President Trump has shown, he always fights these legal battles.
What do you make of the unanimous vote by the committee to subpoena Donald Trump? I mean, you mentioned symbolic, but I’m curious what you actually see playing out over the next several weeks.
I think that our country is so polarized over these issues that it does not matter. Whether there had been a divided vote on the subpoena would have only further polarized everyone. And of course, the Republicans have already distanced themselves from [Reps. Adam] Kinzinger and [Liz] Cheney on the committee. So their votes really do not count anyway in the eyes of those who support former President Trump.
You’re talking about the two Republicans on the committee who’ve been outspoken against the former president. We’re fast approaching midterms. Let’s talk about how this might play out. Republicans are in control in Texas, and there have been a lot of projections. Who knows? I mean, a lot of people are skeptical about polling and that part of the process. But is it possible that, with yesterday’s conclusion of the evidentiary phase of this hearing, that it’s the end of the Jan. 6 investigation by the House? I mean, what’s the likelihood of that?
I think that’s a very real possibility. And I do not think it is the January 6th committee that is driving voter turnout in the country. It is always, first and foremost, the economy and inflation. There will also be no doubt in Texas this year the issue of Uvalde and the gun shootings, because those have been high on the governor race. In addition, across the country, abortion is something that seems to be potentially driving mobilization. But there is no doubt – when you go back in time, it’s the economy.
If the intent were to try to turn their attention to the events of Jan. 6, what could they have done better? Was it sort of a perfect storm of other events that overtook the news agenda?
I think that the Democrats should have mobilized earlier on in terms of how the impeachment inquiry was addressed. I think that some of the recent information that we found out yesterday does matter. I mean, this idea that Trump knew that he lost, which we’ve talked about before with [former Trump aide Cassidy] Hutchinson, but they highlighted that yesterday. Additionally, no doubt the 1 million Secret Service documents that they received where it was clear that [former Trump adviser] Jason Miller had boasted to [former Trump chief of staff Mark] Meadows that he got the base fired up and that they were heading to the Capitol.[Miller was] a key top adviser and one of the people who’s thought to be one of the links between what went on with the crowd and then what went on with the president. But when you have things that are on a website that the Secret Service are seeing that say [former Vice President Mike] Pence is a dead man walking if he doesn’t do the right thing, those kinds of statements will no doubt stick in the minds of those voters who have not made up their mind and who are at the polls voting on a number of different issues.