The House panel investigating the U.S. Capitol insurgency has asked House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy for an interview and records, as it continues to seek first-hand accounts from members of Congress about former President Donald Trump’s actions on the day hundreds of his supporters brutally beat police, stormed the building, and disrupted the certification of the 2020 election.
McCarthy said he will refuse to comply in a statement released on Wednesday. He accused the panel of “abuse of authority” and stated the probe was not legal.
McCarthy, R-Calif., was asked by Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, the panel’s Democratic chairman, to present material to the nine-member panel on his conversations with Trump “before, during, and after” the disturbance. McCarthy’s conversations with former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in the days leading up to the incident are also being sought.
“We also need to uncover how the President’s plans for January 6th came together, as well as all the other ways he tried to tamper with the election results,” Thompson said in the letter. “For example, you apparently told Mark Meadows and the previous President in advance of January 6th that any objections to the certification of the electoral votes on that day ‘were bound to fail.'”
It’s uncertain whether the panel will be able to get McCarthy or any other Trump congressional friends to testify if he doesn’t cooperate. While the committee has discussed subpoenaing members of Congress, this would be a bold action that might have legal and political repercussions.
Lawmakers are hoping to get a glimpse into Trump’s thoughts from an ally who has admitted to having numerous conversations with the president. McCarthy will also be questioned by the committee on his communications with Trump and White House aides in the week following the incident, including a reportedly angry chat with Trump.
The committee acknowledged the delicate and uncommon nature of their request when it recommended meeting with McCarthy on February 3 or 4. Thompson added, “The Select Committee has profound regard for Congress’s prerogatives and the privacy of its Members.” “At the same time, we have a serious obligation to properly investigate the facts and circumstances surrounding these incidents.”
Since Trump’s second impeachment trial last year, Democrats have been demanding additional information concerning McCarthy’s conversations with him. Democrats said they will want to call Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Washington, as a witness at one point during the trial because she detailed a potentially important call between the two men after hearing McCarthy’s story.
McCarthy informed Herrera Beutler that he had requested Trump to officially “call off the riot” and that the violent crowd was made up of Trump fans, not far-left antifa members, according to Herrera Beutler’s account.
“That’s when, according to McCarthy, the president remarked, ‘Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more unhappy about the election than you are,'” she added in the statement.
Finally, Democrats read Herrera Beutler’s comments into the record. The Senate acquitted Trump, who had recently left office.
McCarthy had blasted Trump’s behavior after the 2020 election, saying he “bears responsibility” for the horrific Jan. 6 incident, which is still the worst domestic attack on the building in its history.
McCarthy called the night of the attack “the darkest day I have ever had” in Congress, even as he joined 138 other House Republicans in voting to overturn the election results.
The panel’s new request also brings McCarthy face to face with Rep. Liz Cheney, the panel’s vice-chair, whom he ousted from the No. 3 House leadership post last summer after her outspoken condemnation of Trump’s claims about his 2020 election defeat resonated across the Republican Party.
McCarthy had advised Cheney to keep on track, but when she continued to warn the GOP about Trump’s lies, he groomed a newly changed Trump disciple, Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-NY, to take her place.
McCarthy is the committee’s third request for voluntary information from a member of Congress. The panel has also called GOP Reps. Jim Jordan and Scott Perry in recent weeks, but they have declined requests to meet with them or produce papers.
In order to compile a thorough record of the Jan. 6 attack and the events leading up to it, the panel, which is made up of seven Democrats and two Republicans, has interrogated about 350 people and issued public subpoenas to roughly 50 persons and organizations.
According to a source familiar with the interview who asked anonymity to discuss it, former White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany talked to the panel remotely on Wednesday. McEnany was subpoenaed by the committee in November.
The committee claims that the massive amount of information it has gathered — 35,000 pages of documents so far, including texts, emails, and phone records from Trump associates — is helping to flesh out key details of the worst attack on the Capitol in two centuries, which was broadcast live on television.
Despite the opposition of high-profile Trump friends like Meadows and Steve Bannon, Thompson told The Associated Press in an interview last month that around 90% of the witnesses summoned by the committee had complied. Lawmakers said they’ve been successful in obtaining evidence from other sources in part because they have a common goal, which is unusual in a congressional probe.