WASHINGTON -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday named Republican Rep. Liz Cheney to the new select committee on the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, elevating the most unyielding GOP critic of former President Donald Trump to work alongside seven Democrats on the high-profile investigation.
Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, will lead the panel, which will investigate what went wrong around the Capitol when hundreds of Trump supporters broke into the building. The rioters brutally beat police officers, hunted for lawmakers and interrupted the congressional certification of Democrat Joe Biden's election victory over Trump.
Standing with other members of the committee after a meeting with Pelosi, Wyoming's Cheney said she was "honored" to serve on the committee and that her duty is to the Constitution.
"And that will always be above politics," Cheney said.
Her appointment came just hours after House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of California threatened to strip Republicans of committee assignments if they accepted a select-committee appointment from Pelosi, also of California.
McCarthy said at a closed-door meeting of first-term House GOP members Wednesday that he, not Pelosi, controls Republicans' committee assignments, according to a top GOP aide. The aide spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the private meeting.
After Pelosi's announcement, McCarthy demurred, saying at a news conference that "I'm not making any threats." But he made clear he wasn't happy with Cheney.
"I was shocked that she would accept something from Speaker Pelosi," McCarthy said. "It would seem to me, since I didn't hear from her, maybe she's closer to her than us."
And, he said, "I don't know in history where someone would get their committee assignments from the [Democratic] speaker and then expect to get them from the [Republican] conference as well."
Asked if she had been informed that she might lose her committee assignments, Cheney said she had not.
Cheney's appointment and the warning from McCarthy underscore the sharp and growing differences between the two parties over the insurrection.
Many Republicans remain loyal to Trump and are loath to spend time reviewing the attack by some of his supporters. GOP leaders are working to shape the narrative about the committee's work, complaining that it will be dominated by Democrats even though the Republicans scuttled an earlier attempt to form a bipartisan commission.
The House voted to form the 13-member panel Wednesday over the objections of 190 Republicans. Cheney, who was ousted from GOP leadership this year over her criticism of Trump, was one of only two Republicans who supported forming the committee. Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger was the other.
"We cannot ignore what happened on January 6th; we cannot ignore what caused it," Kinzinger said Thursday on Twitter, appending the hashtag "TheBigLie," which refers to Trump's claim that the election was stolen from him.
It is unclear when the other five members of the panel will be appointed. The resolution specifies that they will be named after Pelosi consults with McCarthy, and GOP leaders have not said whether Republicans will participate.
In addition to Thompson, other Democratic members of the panel will be House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff of California, House Administration Committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren of California and Reps. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, Elaine Luria of Virginia, Stephanie Murphy of Florida and Pete Aguilar of California.
Raskin led the House prosecution in Trump's second impeachment trial, which came in the weeks after the insurrection. The former president was eventually acquitted by the Senate.
Murphy, a moderate Democrat whose family fled Vietnam, said she is "acutely aware that democracy is fragile" and feels a responsibility to make sure the Jan. 6 insurrection doesn't happen again. She described hiding in an office near the Capitol's West Front that day, listening to police officers battle the insurrectionists.
"We are committed to proceeding in a nonpartisan, apolitical way that honors our democracy," she said of the committee.
After the meeting with Pelosi, Thompson told reporters that they hoped to hold their first hearing with officers who fought the protesters "as a positive statement to the men and women who put their lives on the line."
Thompson said he was staying in town as the committee sets up office space and hires staff members, saying the investigation could unfold in public hearings or closed-door interviews. He did not rule out issuing subpoenas for testimony and made clear that the committee's work will continue if Republicans choose not to participate.
Asked when the work would begin, he said, "About 30 minutes ago."
It's unclear whether the panel will call for testimony from McCarthy, or from others who are known to have spoken with Trump during the run-up to the siege and as it unfolded. He seemed to indicate that Trump himself would not be called to testify.
"I think there's a lot of other things that we have to do," Thompson told reporters.
"We have to get to the bottom of finding out all the things that went wrong on Jan. 6," he said.
The select committee is in charge of investigating "the facts, circumstances and causes relating to the ... domestic terrorist attack." It's also to report its findings, conclusions and recommendations for preventing future attacks.
As one of only 10 Republicans -- and the only member of GOP leadership -- who voted for Trump's second impeachment, Cheney has separated herself from most of her Republican colleagues in recent months by directly blaming the former president for the insurrection.
She accused Trump of betraying the Constitution by fomenting the attack, saying he "summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack."
The impeachment resolution blamed Trump for the siege because of his claims about the election and for his words to supporters ahead of the insurrection, including telling them to "fight like hell" to overturn his defeat to Biden.
The gap between Cheney, the daughter of Dick Cheney -- who served as vice president under President George W. Bush -- and many of her Republican colleagues has grown only wider and more bitter in recent weeks. She withstood a February effort by conservatives to remove her from her No. 3 post, but was finally dumped in May in a voice vote of GOP lawmakers that underscored Trump's hold on the party.
Though she's had a lower profile since leaving her leadership post and her political future is unclear, Cheney has continued speaking out against the former president.
McCarthy, meanwhile, is facing pressure to take the investigation seriously. That pressure is from the police officers who responded to the attack, dozens of whom suffered injuries that day. Several officers sat in the gallery and watched Wednesday's vote, and some expressed surprise that so many Republicans opposed it.
One of the officers, Michael Fanone of Washington's Metropolitan Police, said he was angry at Republicans for voting against an investigation after he almost lost his life to protect them.
"I try not to take these things personally, but it's very personal for me," Fanone said.
Information for this article was contributed by Mary Clare Jalonick, Alan Fram and Lisa Mascaro of The Associated Press; and by Luke Broadwater of The New York Times.