Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy is signaling that he would likely ignore a subpoena from a House committee probing the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol incident, heightening a confrontation with the panel over his and other GOP members’ testimony.
McCarthy’s lawyer argued in an 11-page letter to the panel on Friday that the select committee has the authority to issue subpoenas to members of Congress under House rules, and requested answers to a series of questions and documents if his client agreed to comply.
Attorney Elliot Berke asked for a list of “issues the Select Committee would like to examine with the Leader, as well as the constitutional and legal reasons for the request.”
Berke said, “I clearly reserve Leader McCarthy’s right to assert any other applicable privilege or oppose to the Select Committee’s subpoena.”
“Leader McCarthy and other Members who have been given subpoenas hide behind disproved arguments and unfounded pleas for special treatment,” said Committee spokesperson Tim Mulvey on Friday evening.
“These Members’ reluctance to assist is a sustained assault on the rule of law, and it establishes a dangerous new precedent that could impede the House’s capacity to conduct oversight in the future,” he concluded. “In the days ahead,” Mulvey stated, committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Missouri) “will formally react to these Members.”
Because each of the men had communication with then-President Donald Trump and his associates in the weeks and days leading up to the Capitol insurgency, the House panel feels the Republican legislators’ testimony is critical to its inquiry. Some attended meetings and encouraged the White House to intervene in the presidential election of 2020.
McCarthy has admitted that he spoke with Trump on Jan. 6, when Trump fans were pelting police with rocks outside the Capitol and forcing their way inside. He hasn’t given many details, though. The committee wanted to know what he said to Trump “before, during, and after” the disturbance.
After taking the uncommon and politically hazardous step of subpoenaing their own colleagues, members’ apparent disobedience poses a new issue for the committee.
“For House Republican leaders to accept to participate in this political charade would transform the House forever,” the California congressman wrote in a joint op-ed with GOP Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio in The Wall Street Journal on Thursday.
While looking to wind up the inquiry and prepare for a series of public hearings in early June, the committee must now determine whether to enforce the subpoenas. It could send the legislators to the House ethics committee or take legal action against them.
McCarthy, Jordan, and Pennsylvania Reps. Scott Perry, Andy Biggs, and Mo Brooks were served with subpoenas in mid-May. In its investigation of the greatest attack on the Capitol in two centuries, the commission has already questioned over 1,000 witnesses and gathered more than 100,000 documents.
Jordan wrote in a letter explaining his refusal to cooperate, “I have no relevant knowledge that would assist any legitimate legislative objective.” Others stated that they would not cooperate after the subpoenas were issued.
Perry’s lawyer wrote to the committee earlier this week, saying he couldn’t “in good conscience comply” with the subpoena because he doesn’t believe it’s legal under House rules.
Biggs and Brooks did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.
The panel had previously requested the five senators, as well as a few other GOP members, for voluntary assistance, but they all refused to speak with the panel, which had deliberated whether to issue the subpoenas for months.
McCarthy and the others have been summoned to appear before investigators this week and next week. McCarthy, who hopes to become House speaker if Republicans gain control of the House next year, said the committee’s decision would have long-term consequences.
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In the op-ed, he said, “Every representative in the minority would be subjected to compelled interrogations by the majority, under oath, without any foundation of fairness, and at taxpayers’ expense.”
Separately, McCarthy and the House’s No. 2 Republican, Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, submitted a court brief in defense of Donald Trump ally Steve Bannon, who is facing criminal contempt charges for ignoring the committee’s subpoena. Lawyers for the two argue in the brief that the committee lacks the authority to issue subpoenas, an argument that has already been rejected in court.
McCarthy and Scalise also filed the brief “out of concern for potential damage to House institutional” norms and order, according to the lawyers.