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Capitol riot panel subpoenas McCarthy, 4 others in House

by Compiled by Democrat-Gazette Staff From Wire Reports | May 13, 2022 at 7:39 a.m.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., heads to his office at the Capitol in Washington surrounded by reporters after House investigators Thursday issued a subpoena to McCarthy as part of their probe into the violent Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON -- A House panel issued subpoenas Thursday to House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy and four other GOP lawmakers in its probe into the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

The panel is investigating McCarthy's conversations with then-President Donald Trump the day of the attack and meetings the four other lawmakers had with the White House beforehand as Trump and his aides worked to overturn his 2020 election defeat. The former president's supporters violently pushed past police that day, broke through windows and doors of the Capitol and interrupted the certification of President Joe Biden's victory.

The decision to issue subpoenas to McCarthy, R-Calif., and Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Andy Biggs of Arizona and Mo Brooks of Alabama is a show of force by the panel, which has already interviewed nearly 1,000 witnesses and collected more than 100,000 documents as it investigates the worst attack on the Capitol in two centuries.

The move is not without risk, as Republicans are favored to capture back the House majority in this fall's midterm elections and have promised retribution for Democrats if they take control.

The subpoena to McCarthy is particularly noteworthy because he is in line to become speaker if Republicans win control of the House this November. Should he refuse to comply, it could set in motion a process that could lead to a Democratic-controlled House holding him in contempt of Congress as the midterm elections loom.

McCarthy has long feared being subpoenaed in the investigation. In recent months, he has been in discussions with William Burck, a longtime Washington lawyer, about how to fight a subpoena.

The committee wants to question McCarthy about conversations he had after the attack about the president's culpability in the assault and what should be done to address it. The committee has also suggested that Trump may have influenced McCarthy's refusal to cooperate with the investigation.

After the announcement, McCarthy told reporters "I have not seen a subpoena" and said his view on the Jan. 6 committee has not changed since the nine-lawmaker panel asked for his voluntary cooperation earlier this year.

"They're not conducting a legitimate investigation," McCarthy said. "Seems as though they just want to go after their political opponents."

Similarly, Perry told reporters the investigation is a "charade" and said the subpoena is "all about headlines."

Neither man said whether he would comply.

The panel, made up of seven Democrats and two Republicans, had previously asked for voluntary cooperation from the five lawmakers, along with a handful of other GOP members, but all of them refused to speak with the panel, which debated for months whether to issue the subpoenas.

"Before we hold our hearings next month, we wished to provide members the opportunity to discuss these matters with the committee voluntarily," said Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Democratic chairman of the panel.

"Regrettably, the individuals receiving subpoenas today have refused and we're forced to take this step to help ensure the committee uncovers facts concerning January 6th."

Rep. Liz Cheney, the panel's Republican vice chair, said the step wasn't taken lightly. The unwillingness of the lawmakers to provide relevant information about the attack, she said, is "a very serious and grave situation."

'FAIRLY UNPRECEDENTED'

In announcing the subpoenas, the Jan. 6 panel said there is historical precedent for the move and noted that the House Ethics Committee has "issued a number of subpoenas to Members of Congress for testimony or documents," though such actions are generally done secretly.

"We recognize this is fairly unprecedented," said Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, the other GOP member of the panel, after the committee announced the subpoenas. "But the Jan. 6 attack was very unprecedented."

Kinzinger said it is "important for us to get every piece of information we possibly can."

It is unclear what the consequences would be if any or all of the five men decline to comply.

Asked Thursday whether he thinks McCarthy and the other four Republicans will comply with the subpoenas, Thompson replied, "I hope they do."

Throughout the investigation, the names of the five Republicans "have come up in a number of ways, and we feel that information and responding to it is important," Thompson told reporters at the Capitol.

He declined to say whether a contempt vote may be in the works if the lawmakers refuse to comply.

"No conversation about contempt. We'll talk about next steps, which could be a number of things," Thompson said.

Other members of the committee similarly did not engage on next steps the panel would take if the GOP lawmakers do not comply with the subpoenas.

"I'm not going there," Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., said when asked whether the committee is prepared to hold noncompliant members in contempt. "I've got to believe that every member of Congress will want to do his or her legal duty and patriotic duty to participate in an investigation into an attack on our own institution and an attack on the political institutions in the United States."

The House has voted to hold two other noncompliant witnesses, former Trump aides Steve Bannon and Mark Meadows, in contempt, referring their cases to the Justice Department.

'SADDEST DAY'

McCarthy has acknowledged he spoke with Trump on Jan. 6 as Trump's supporters were beating police outside the Capitol and forcing their way into the building. But he has not shared many details. The committee requested information about his conversations with Trump "before, during and after" the riot.

McCarthy took to the House floor after the rioters were cleared and said in a speech that Trump "bears responsibility" for the attack and that it was the "saddest day I have ever had" in Congress -- even as he went on to join 138 other House Republicans in voting to reject the election results.

Another member of the GOP caucus, Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, said after the attack that McCarthy had recounted that he told Trump to publicly "call off the riot" and said the violent mob was made up of Trump supporters, not far-left antifa members, as Trump had claimed.

"That's when, according to McCarthy, the president said, 'Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are," Herrera Beutler said in a statement last year.

The GOP leader soon made up with Trump, though, visiting him in Florida and rallying House Republicans to vote against investigations of the attack.

The other four men were in touch with the White House for several weeks ahead of the insurrection, talking to Trump and his legal advisers about ways to stop the congressional electoral count on Jan. 6 to certify Joe Biden's victory.

"These members include those who participated in meetings at the White House, those who had direct conversations with President Trump leading up to and during the attack on the Capitol, and those who were involved in the planning and coordination of certain activities on and before January 6th," the committee said.

Brooks, who has since been critical of Trump, spoke alongside the former president at the large rally in front of the White House the morning of Jan. 6, telling supporters to "start taking down names and kicking ass" before hundreds of them broke into the Capitol.

Perry spoke to the White House about replacing acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen with an official who was more sympathetic to Trump's false claims of voter fraud, and Biggs was involved in plans to bring protesters to Washington and pressuring state officials to overturn the legitimate election results, according to the panel. Jordan, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, spoke to Trump on Jan. 6 and was also involved in strategizing how to overturn the election.

Several of their efforts were detailed in texts released to the panel by Meadows, who was Trump's chief of staff at the time.

"11 days to 1/6 and 25 days to inauguration," Perry texted Meadows on Dec. 26, 2020. "We gotta get going!"

Information for this article was contributed by Luke Broadwater and Emily Cochrane of The New York Times; by Mary Clare Jalonick, Kevin Freking, Lisa Mascaro and Marc Levy of The Associated Press; and by Felicia Sonmez, Jacqueline Alemany, Leigh Ann Caldwell, Mike DeBonis and Marianna Sotomayor of The Washington Post.

  photo  FILE - President Donald Trump speaks during a rally protesting the electoral college certification of Joe Biden as President in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021. The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection has interviewed nearly 1,000 people. But the nine-member panel has yet to talk to the two most prominent players in that day’s events – former President Donald Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
 
 
  photo  FILE — Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, takes part in a discussion at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Feb. 26, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. Jordan is seeking to retain his seat in Ohio's 4th congressional district. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)
 
 
  photo  FILE - Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., Chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 29, 2021. The congressional committee investigating the U.S. Capitol insurrection has requested for three more House Republicans to come in and testify. The requests to Reps. Andy Biggs, Mo Brooks and Ronny Jackson come weeks after investigators revealed new evidence of their involvement in former President Donald Trump’s desperate attempt to stay in power. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
 
 
  photo  FILE - House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., talks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington, April 6, 2022. House investigators said May 12 that they have issued subpoenas to McCarthy and four other GOP lawmakers as part of their probe into the violent Jan. 6 insurrection, an extraordinary step that has little precedent and is certain to further inflame partisan tensions over the 2021 attack. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
 
 
  photo  FILE - Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., speaks with reporters hours after former President Donald Trump rescinded his endorsement of Brooks in Alabama's Republican primary for Senate, dealing a major blow to the congressman's campaign, March 23, 2022 in Hueytown, Ala. The congressional committee investigating the U.S. Capitol insurrection has requested for three more House Republicans to come in and testify. The requests to Reps. Andy Biggs, Mo Brooks and Ronny Jackson come weeks after investigators revealed new evidence of their involvement in former President Donald Trump’s desperate attempt to stay in power. (AP Photo/Kimberly Chandler, File)
 
 
  photo  House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., heads to his office surrounded by reporters after House investigators issued a subpoena to McCarthy and four other GOP lawmakers as part of their probe into the violent Jan. 6 insurrection, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, May 12, 2022. The House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack has been investigating McCarthy's conversations with then-President Donald Trump the day of the attack and meetings that the four other lawmakers had with the White House as Trump and his aides conspired how to overturn his defeat. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
 
 


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