Donald Trump is preparing to direct his top aides to defy subpoenas from the House select committee investigating the Capitol insurrection.
And, according to a report from the Guardian, those four aides are expected to obey the former president's wishes.
"The move to defy the subpoenas would mark the first major investigative hurdle faced by the select committee and threatens to touch off an extended legal battle as the former president pushes some of his most senior aides to undercut the inquiry," the Guardian reported Wednesday. "All four Trump aides targeted by the select committee – Meadows, deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino, strategist Steve Bannon and defense department aide Kash Patel – are expected to resist the orders because Trump is preparing to direct them to do so, the source said."
On Tuesday, CNN reported that the House committee has been unable to serve a subpoena to Scavino, Trump's longtime social media director.
If they defy the subpoenas, Trump's top aides face the threat of prosecution, if the committee makes criminal referrals to the Department of Justice, as chairman Bennie Thompson has threatened. The House select committee has demanded that the four aides turn over emails, call records and other documents by Thursday before appearing for closed-door depositions next week.
Like Trump, the four top aides are expected to argue that the subpoenaed documents and testimony are protected by executive privilege. However, even the attorney leading Trump's legal team, former deputy White House counsel Patrick Philbin, reportedly has doubts about the executive privilege claims.
"Philbin appears less convinced than Trump about the strength of the legal argument, the sources said, in part because the justice department previously declined to assert the protection for 6 January testimony, suggesting it did not exist to protect Trump's personal interests," the Guardian reports. "The former president's lawyer, sources said, instead seems to view the strategy more as an effective way to slow-walk the select committee, which is aiming to produce a final report before the 2022 midterm elections, to keep the inquiry non-partisan."