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The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol issued subpoenas to five Republican members of Congress, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), on Thursday as the panel prepares for a slate of public hearings next month.
McCarthy along with Reps. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) and Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) received subpoenas.
It marks the first time the select committee has sent subpoenas to its own House colleagues.
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the chairman of the Jan. 6 panel, said the committee decided to issue subpoenas after the GOP lawmakers refused the opportunity to speak with the lawmakers voluntarily.
“The Select Committee has learned that several of our colleagues have information relevant to our investigation into the attack on January 6th and the events leading up to it. Before we hold our hearings next month, we wished to provide members the opportunity to discuss these matters with the committee voluntarily. 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,” Thompson said in a statement.
“We urge our colleagues to comply with the law, do their patriotic duty, and cooperate with our investigation as hundreds of other witnesses have done,” he added.
The move is a significant escalation in the committee’s inquiry. Investigative panels have rarely used their subpoena powers on fellow legislators, but there is some precedent from entities like the House Ethics Committee. So far the panel has focused its subpoenas on members of the Trump administration and various figures linked to the attack on the Capitol.
GOP members could try to challenge the subpoenas with lawsuits, as at least a dozen other potential witnesses have done, raising the possibility that the partisan battle over the select committee’s work will spill into court.
So far, federal courts have largely upheld the panel’s investigative demands and its authority to issue subpoenas in the face of various legal challenges. But any legal challenge from the GOP lawmakers is sure to be tied up in court for months as the panel races to complete its work ahead this year’s midterm elections.
The panel said the group of lawmakers issued subpoenas include members who took part in meetings at the White House, had conversations with then-President Trump in the lead-up to the Capitol attack and were involved
Late last month, after The New York Times published audio of McCarthy airing concerns about his GOP colleagues in the aftermath of the Capitol riot, Thompson told reporters that the Republican leader would be issued another invitation “in all probability.”
He did not, however, rule out the possibility of a subpoena for McCarthy if he rebuffed the second invitation, saying “that will be a consideration for the committee.”
In a statement announcing the subpoenas, the committee said McCarthy was in communication with Trump and White House staffers before, during and after the Capitol attack.
The panel also said McCarthy “claimed to have had a discussion with the President in the immediate aftermath of the attack during which President Trump admitted some culpability for the attack,” likely a reference to an interview the GOP leader did with a local California radio station in the days after the attack.
McCarthy told KERN on Jan. 12, 2021, “I say he has responsibility,” adding, “He told me personally that he does have some responsibility. I think a lot of people do,” according to CNN.
McCarthy told reporters on Thursday that he had not seen the subpoena and would not say if he will comply.
“My view on the committee has not changed. They’re not conducting a legitimate investigation. It seems as though they just want to go after their political opponents,” he said.
The panel in its statement claimed that Perry “was directly involved” with efforts to install Department of Justice attorney Jeffrey Clark as acting attorney general, an undertaking that was reportedly considered to forward election fraud probes when other department officials refused to.
The committee also wrote that the Pennsylvania Republican communicated with the White House “about a number of matters relevant to the Select Committee’s investigation, including allegations that Dominion voting machines had been corrupted.”
Perry reacted to the subpoena in a statement, claiming that the panel, which he called an “illegitimate body” had leaked the subpoenas before contacting lawmakers. He said such a move was “proof positive” that the probe is a “political witch hunt.”
“That this illegitimate body leaked their latest charade to the media ahead of contacting targeted Members is proof positive once again that this political witch hunt is about fabricating headlines and distracting Americans from their abysmal record of running America into the ground,” Perry wrote.
He told reporters that the investigation is a “charade.”
The panel said Jordan communicated with Trump on Jan. 6 and said he took part in meetings and conversations in late 2020 and early 2021 that focused on “strategies for overturning the 2020 election.”
Biggs, according to the committee’s statement, engaged in meetings regarding plans for Jan. 6 and had involvement in “plans to bring protestors to Washington for the counting of Electoral College votes.”
The group also said Biggs “was involved in efforts to persuade state officials that the 2020 was stolen.” Additionally, the panel said former White House personnel have indicated that Biggs was potentially involved with an effort to receive a presidential pardon for actions related to Trump’s effort to overturn the results of the presidential election.
The committee noted in its statement that Biggs spoke at the rally that preceded the Capitol riot and said he encouraged those in the crowd to “start taking down names and kicking ass.”
The panel also said Brooks has publicly spoken about conversations he had with Trump.
“Mr. Brooks has publicly described conversations in which the former President urged him to work to ‘rescind the election of 2020’ and reinstall Mr. Trump as President,” the committee wrote.
Additionally, the panel said it has evidence that members of Brooks’s staff met with staff working for then-Vice President Mike Pence prior to Jan. 6 where his team “conveyed the view that the Vice President does not have authority to unilaterally refuse to count certified electoral votes.”
The subpoenas come less than one month before the committee is scheduled to begin a series of eight public hearings. Thompson in April said the hearings will pull together a “combination of witnesses, exhibits, things that we have through the tens of thousands of exhibits we’ve […] looked at, as well as the hundreds of witnesses we deposed or just talked to in general.”
The committee has already spoken to almost a thousand individuals, according to The Associated Press, including those close to Trump.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters on Thursday that the subpoenas are “not an escalation at all.”
“We ought to all be subject to being asked to tell the truth before a committee that is seeking information that is important to our country and to our democracy,” he said.
Asked if he is concerned that the subpoenas are putting his own members at risk of the same requests if the GOP takes the majority, Hoyer said “I have no problem being subpoenaed.”
“Personally, you know, I’ll tell the truth. If I have information they need, that’s fine. I do not understand this extraordinary reaction to pursuing a legal, appropriate process.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) declined to comment.
Emily Brooks contributed. Updated at 2:42 p.m.