Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy has made it clear that he will likely decline to appear in response to a subpoena from the House committee probing the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack, escalating a standoff with the panel over his and other GOP lawmakers’ testimony.
An attorney for McCarthy argued in an 11-page letter to the panel on Friday that the select committee does not have the authority to issue subpoenas to members under House rules and wanted answers to a series of questions and documents if his client did comply.
Attorney Elliot Berke requested a list of “topics that the Select Committee would like to discuss with the Leader, and the constitutional and legal rationale justifying the request.”
“I expressly reserve Leader McCarthy’s right to assert any other applicable privilege or objection to the Select Committee’s subpoena,” Berke wrote.
Committee spokesperson Tim Mulvey responded Friday evening, “Leader McCarthy and other Members who have been served subpoenas are hiding behind debunked arguments and baseless requests for special treatment.”
He added, “The refusal of these Members to cooperate is a continued assault on the rule of law and sets a dangerous new precedent that could hamper the House’s ability to conduct oversight in the future.” Mulvey said committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., “will formally respond to these Members in the days ahead.”
The House panel believes Republican legislators’ testimony is critical to their inquiry because each of the men had communication with then-President Donald Trump and his allies in the weeks and days building up to the Capitol insurgency. Some attended meetings and pushed the White House to try to reverse the 2020 presidential election results, Apnews Hour reported.
McCarthy has acknowledged that he spoke with Trump on January 6, when Trump supporters were battering police outside the Capitol and forcing their way in. However, he has not provided many specifics. The committee wanted to know what he said to Trump “before, during, and after” the riot.
His apparent defiance presents a fresh issue for the committee, which has decided to take the rare and politically risky step of subpoenaing their own colleagues.
“For House Republican leaders to agree to participate in this political stunt would change the House forever,” the California lawmaker wrote Thursday in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal with GOP Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio.
The committee must now decide whether to enforce the subpoenas while finishing up its investigation and preparing for a series of public hearings in early June. It might report the lawmakers to the House Ethics Committee or hold them in contempt of Congress.
McCarthy, Jordan, and Reps. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Andy Biggs of Arizona, and Mo Brooks of Alabama were served with subpoenas in mid-May. As part of an investigation into the worst attack on the Capitol in two centuries, the panel has already interviewed over 1,000 witnesses and collected over 100,000 documents.
“I have no relevant information that would advance any legitimate legislative purpose,” Jordan said in a letter detailing his reasons for not cooperating. The others indicated after the subpoenas were issued that they too would not cooperate.
Perry’s lawyer informed the committee earlier this week that he could “not in good conscience comply” with the subpoena because he believes it is invalid under House rules.
Biggs and Brooks did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The panel had earlier requested voluntary cooperation from the five lawmakers, as well as a handful of other Republican members, but all refused to speak with the panel, which had discussed whether to issue the subpoenas for months.
McCarthy and the others have been summoned to testify before investigators this week and next. McCarthy, who hopes to become House Speaker if Republicans take control of both Houses next year, said the committee’s decision will have a long-term impact.
“Every representative in the minority would be subject to compelled interrogations by the majority, under oath, without any foundation of fairness, and at the expense of taxpayers,” he wrote in the op-ed.
Meanwhile, McCarthy and Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican, submitted a court brief in defense of Donald Trump ally Steve Bannon, who is facing criminal contempt charges for ignoring a subpoena from the committee. Lawyers for the two argue in the brief that the committee lacks the authority to issue subpoenas, an argument that has been rejected in previous court cases.
McCarthy and Scalise also filed the brief “out of concern for the possible damage to House institutional” norms and order, according to the lawyers.