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Republican leader Kevin McCarthy says he won’t cooperate with Jan. 6 panel

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy gestures as he speaks against a background of flags
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), pictured in September, said in a statement that the House committee’s Jan. 6 investigation was an illegitimate “abuse of power.”
(Associated Press)

The House panel investigating the U.S. Capitol insurrection requested an interview and records from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Wednesday as it shifts its focus to former President Trump’s inner circle — and what Trump was doing as hundreds of his supporters beat police, stormed the building and interrupted the certification of President Biden’s victory.

But hours after the committee’s request, McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) issued a statement saying he would not cooperate. He said the investigation was not legitimate and was an “abuse of power.”

Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, chairman of the panel, had asked McCarthy to provide information to the nine-member committee on the violence last January, including on his communications with then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in the days before the attack.

“We also must learn about how the President’s plans for January 6th came together, and all the other ways he attempted to alter the results of the election,” Thompson said in a letter to McCarthy. “For example, in advance of January 6th, you reportedly explained to Mark Meadows and the former President that objections to the certification of the electoral votes on January 6th ‘was doomed to fail.’”

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Without the minority leader’s voluntary cooperation, it is unclear whether the panel will be able to gain testimony from him or any of Trump’s congressional allies. The committee has considered subpoenaing them, but that extraordinary move could run into legal and political challenges.

Panel members are seeking a window into Trump’s state of mind from McCarthy, who has acknowledged repeated interactions with the then-president.

They also want to ask him about communications with Trump and White House staff in the week after the violence, including a conversation with Trump that was reportedly heated.

Immediately after the Jan. 6 attack, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy seemed united. But the two have grown increasingly apart over how to move forward from the insurrection.

The committee acknowledged the sensitive and unusual nature of its request as it proposed a meeting with McCarthy on Feb. 3 or 4.

“The Select Committee has tremendous respect for the prerogatives of Congress and the privacy of its Members,” Thompson wrote. “At the same time, we have a solemn responsibility to investigate fully the facts and circumstances of these events.”

Democrats have been seeking more information about McCarthy’s Jan. 6 call with Trump since the former president’s second impeachment trial in the days after the attack.

Democrats said at one point in the trial that they would try to call Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) as a witness because she had heard McCarthy describe the call. In the end, Democrats read a statement from Herrera Beutler into the record, and Trump, who had just left office, went on to be acquitted by the Senate.

Herrera Beutler said in the statement that McCarthy told her he had asked Trump to publicly “call off the riot” and said the violent mob was made up of Trump supporters, not far-left antifa activists.

“That’s when, according to McCarthy, the president said, ‘Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,’” she said.

McCarthy had initially criticized Trump’s actions after the 2020 election, saying he “bears responsibility” for the Jan. 6 attack.

It was “the saddest day I have ever had” in Congress, McCarthy said that night.

He then joined 137 other House Republicans in voting to overturn Biden’s win.

On Jan. 6, 2021, an insurrection unfolded at the U.S. Capitol when a mob stormed the building while lawmakers voted to certify the electoral college results and Joe Biden’s victory.

The panel’s latest request would have put McCarthy face to face with its vice chair, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), whom he dumped from the No. 3 House leadership position last summer amid as her very public criticism of Trump’s lies about the 2020 election being stolen from him.

McCarthy had warned Cheney to stay on message, but as she continued to speak out, he groomed a newly transformed Trump acolyte, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), as her replacement.

McCarthy is the third member of Congress the committee has reached out to for voluntary information. In the last few weeks, GOP Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania were also contacted but denied requests to be interviewed or provide documents.

The panel’s seven Democrats and two Republicans have interviewed over 300 people and issued subpoenas to over 40 as it seeks to create a comprehensive record of the Jan. 6 attack and the events leading up to it.

Depicting Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene as a 1st Amendment martyr shows his lack of integrity

On Wednesday, former White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany spoke to the panel virtually, according to a person familiar with the interview who requested anonymity to discuss it.

The committee says the trove of material it has collected — 35,000 pages of records including texts, emails and phone records from people close to Trump — is fleshing out crucial details of the attack on the Capitol.

Thompson told the Associated Press in an interview last month that about 90% of those subpoenaed had cooperated, despite the defiance of high-profile Trump allies like Meadows and Stephen K. Bannon.

Panel members have said they’ve been able to gather information from other sources in part because they share a unity of purpose rarely seen in a congressional investigation.

Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.


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