Real life doesn’t work like the movies, particularly when it comes to any type of hearing.
In court cases, there’s never a bombshell conclusion like in “A Few Good Men,” where Tom Cruise’s character is able to call Jack Nicholson’s Col. Nathan Jessup to the stand at the last minute. The witness is never caught in a logical trap. There’s never a peroration like, “You can’t handle the truth! … You want me on that wall! You need me on that wall!”
It doesn’t work like that. It’s never worked like that. But nobody’s told Rep. Bennie Thompson.
Thompson is a Mississippi Democrat who was supposed to have raised his profile considerably when he was offered the chair of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s sham commission, officially known as the United States House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack. However, after it became clear the committee was a partisan farce without serious Republican participation being allowed, interest quickly waned.
The primary news out of the kangaroo-court committee on Thursday was a recommendation that an adviser to former President Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, be dealt a criminal contempt charge for refusing to comply with a subpoena — which probably isn’t the headline-grabbing stuff Thompson imagined he’d be doing when he agreed to take the job.
Thompson managed to grab some headlines later on Thursday, however, when he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer the prospect of subpoenaing Trump is still very much in play.
“Are you ruling out or ruling in the possibility of eventually subpoenaing Trump?” Blitzer asked Thompson during the interview.
“Well, I would say this at this point, Wolf, nobody is off-limits to a subpoena from this committee,” Thompson said.
.@WolfBlitzer: “Are you ruling out or ruling in the possibility of eventually subpoenaing trump? @BennieGThompson: “I would say this at this point wolf, nobody is off limits to a subpoena from this committee.”
Wolf: “I assume that means the former president as well.” pic.twitter.com/KVXEZHjDIh
— Ryan Nobles (@ryanobles) October 14, 2021
“I assume that means the former president, as well,” Blitzer said. Never let it be said that ol’ Wolf is slow on the uptake.
The former president has asserted executive privilege over documents the committee has demanded, although the White House of President Joe Biden has rejected Trump’s assertion because — well, duh.
“I appreciate the White House agreement to look at executive privilege and give us consideration on a lot of the information we want. A lot of what we decide on former President Trump is dependent on what we find in this information,” Thompson told Blitzer, according to The Hill.
“I believe the Biden information and deliberate efforts to make sure that we have access to certain information is crucial to what we do,” he added.
Trump has been readying himself for a legal fight, saying in a statement last month that he would “fight the Subpoenas on Executive Privilege and other grounds,” arguing it would be “for the good of the country.”
Here’s the full interview from Thursday evening:
This isn’t the first time that Thompson has said he’s open to subpoenaing officials like Trump, former Vice President Mike Pence and others. “If the facts themselves lead us to any individual, we will not hesitate to bring them before the committee,” he told PBS NewsHour in July.
At some level, of course, Thompson could merely be keeping his options open, but what we know about “the facts themselves” shouldn’t necessitate subpoenas or appearances by Trump, Pence or anyone in their immediate orbit. In fact, the knowledge we’ve gleaned about the Capitol riot since Thompson’s July statement seems to make their appearance even less necessary than it already would have been; Reuters reported in August that sources within the FBI reported no evidence of central planning.
“Ninety to ninety-five percent of these are one-off cases,” an individual described by Reuters as “a former senior law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation” said.
“Then you have five percent, maybe, of these militia groups that were more closely organized,” the official said. “But there was no grand scheme with Roger Stone and Alex Jones and all of these people to storm the Capitol and take hostages.”
But then, these are facts, and that’s not what the Jan. 6 committee is about. Instead, it’s a show of power by a gaggle of Democrats and two NeverTrump Republicans — Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — who are going to drag the specter of the Capitol incursion out until the midterms because they can.
Perhaps I’m reading too much into this, but I noticed a slight but significant shift in Thompson’s statements from July and from Thursday. A few months ago, he told PBS he’d issue a subpoena to Trump or others if “the facts themselves lead us to any individual.” This time, he simply told CNN that “nobody is off-limits to a subpoena from this committee.”
There was no mention about facts or where they might lead the committee — and that’s probably because facts aren’t leading the committee; publicity is, and there’s no bigger publicity draw than the former president.
Will a subpoena produce a “you can’t handle the truth” moment? No.
Is it good for the country? No.
Is it good for Bennie Thompson? Of course it is.
It’s not terribly difficult to see where this is headed if legal experts think Democrats can clear the executive privilege hurdle.
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