Liz Cheney said Sunday that the House panel investigating the Capitol riot won't have Donald Trump testify live on TV.
Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, speaks as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on Oct. 13, 2022. Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / AP

WASHINGTON — Raising the stakes on its extraordinary subpoena to Donald Trump, the House committee investigating the Capitol riot indicated Sunday it would not consider letting the former president testify live on television about the direct role that congressional investigators says he played in trying to overturn the 2020 election.

The committee is demanding Trump’s testimony under oath next month as well as records relevant to its investigation. To avoid a complicated and protracted legal battle, Trump reportedly had told associates he might consider complying with the subpoena if he could answer questions during live testimony.

But Rep. Liz Cheney, the committee’s vice chair, on Sunday rejected the possibility. She said the committee, which makes its major decisions with unanimous consent, would not allow Trump’s testimony to turn into a “food fight” on TV and she warned that the committee will take action if he does not comply with the subpoena.

“We are going to proceed in terms of the questioning of the former president under oath,” Cheney, R-Wyoming, said on “Meet the Press” on NBC. “It may take multiple days, and it will be done with a level of rigor and discipline and seriousness that it deserves. We are not going to allow — he’s not going to turn this into a circus.”

“We have many, many alternatives that we will consider if the former president decides he is not going to comply with his legal obligation, a legal obligation every American citizen has to comply with a subpoena,” she said.

It is unclear how Trump and his legal team will ultimately respond. He could comply or negotiate with the committee, announce he will defy the subpoena or ignore it altogether. He could go to court and try to stop it.

Still, there remains little legal advantage for Trump to cooperate with the committee at a time when he faces other legal battles in various jurisdictions, including over his family business in New York and the handling of presidential records at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

It’s possible his lawyers could simply run out the clock on the subpoena if they go to court to try to squash it as the committee of two Republicans and seven Democrats is required to finish its work by the end of the year.

Cheney, in the television interview, made her position clear that Trump had committed “multiple criminal offenses” and should be prosecuted. She cited his repeated efforts as outlined by the Jan. 6 committee to undermine democracy by denying his election loss to Democrat Joe Biden and by spurring his supporters in the violent attack on the Capitol.

“We’ve been very clear about a number of different criminal offenses that are likely at issue here,” Cheney said. “If the Department of Justice determines that they have the evidence that we believe is there and they make a decision not to prosecute, I think that really calls into question whether or not we’re a nation of laws.”

Story by Hope Yen.