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Select committee formally asks Kevin McCarthy to appear
Request escalates pressure on Trump’s top allies in Congress
The House select committee investigating the Capitol attack formally asked the Republican House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, on Wednesday to cooperate with its inquiry into the 6 January insurrection, escalating the pressure on Donald Trump’s top allies in Congress.
The select committee said in a letter to McCarthy that the panel was seeking details about his conversations with the Trump White House and the former president in the days leading up to and during the Capitol attack, as well as discussions in its aftermath.
McCarthy quickly announced that he would not cooperate with the investigation, but the select committee’s request demonstrated its resolve to pursue testimony from the highest-ranking Republican in Congress as it examines potential criminal conduct by Trump.
The denial of the select committee’s request also set the stage for a bitter political showdown. Congresswoman Liz Cheney, the Republican vice-chair of the panel, later refused to rule out issuing a subpoena for McCarthy to compel his testimony.
“I wish that he were a brave and honorable man,” Cheney said of McCarthy to CNN. “He’s clearly trying to cover up what happened. He has an obligation to come forward and we’ll get to the truth.”
Congressman Bennie Thompson, the chair of the select committee, said that McCarthy was of particular interest to investigators as he spoke to Trump directly while the former president’s supporters stormed the Capitol to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election win.
The committee wrote to McCarthy on Tuesday as it seeks to understand Trump’s involvement in, and response to, the Capitol riots, a moment seen as the committee members demonstrating their resolve to examine potential criminal conduct by the former president.
Thompson had said that the committee was, in the first instance, interested in McCarthy’s phone call to Trump on 6 January, during which he unsuccessfully begged the former president to call off the pro-Trump mob as they stormed the Capitol in his name.
According to an account of that call presented at Trump’s second impeachment last year, Trump sided with the rioters and in refusing to take action, told McCarthy that they were evidently more upset about the election than the House Republican leader.
“You have acknowledged speaking directly with the former president while the violence was underway on January 6,” Thompson wrote. “This information bears directly on Trump’s state of mind during the January 6 attack as the violence was underway.”
The chairman said that House investigators wanted to ask McCarthy about why he still objected to Biden’s election certification even after the Capitol attack took place, and even though he appeared to recognize that Trump was responsible for the insurrection.
“The select committee wishes to question you regarding communications you may have had with President Trump, President Trump’s legal team, Representative [Jim] Jordan, and others at the time on that topic,” Thompson wrote.
The select committee’s request to McCarthy about his contacts with Jordan comes days after Jordan, another of Trump’s top allies on Capitol Hill, suggested that he would ignore a request for an interview he received from the panel in December.
Thompson said that the committee was also seeking details about McCarthy’s conversations with Trump and Trump’s former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows before 6 January, suggesting an inquiry into what McCarthy knew of plans to stop Biden’s certification.
Having already established that McCarthy had informed Trump and Meadows before 6 January that the plan to stop Biden’s certification would not work, investigators want to learn why they were still “so confident the election result would be overturned”, Thompson said.
The Guardian first reported last week that the committee has in its possession messages turned over by Meadows and others suggesting the Trump White House coordinated with Republican lawmakers to stop Biden’s certification, according to sources familiar with the matter.
Thompson said that the committee was also interested in McCarthy’s communications with Trump in the week after the Capitol attack, including the possibility that Trump could have faced a censure resolution, impeachment and removal under the 25th amendment.
Thompson added that the panel was not interested in McCarthy’s political conversations with Trump when he visited the former president at Mar-a-Lago on 28 January, but was taking an interest in why his characterization of Trump’s culpability changed so dramatically.
“Did President Trump or his representatives discuss or suggest what you should say publicly, during the impeachment trial (if called as a witness), or in any later investigation about your conversations with him on January 6?” Thompson said in the letter.
The chairman also revealed for the first time that the select committee has contemporaneous messages showing McCarthy talked to Trump about his immediate resignation, among a number of other potential consequences he may have faced for inciting the Capitol attack.
‘The American people deserve to understand all the relevant details,” Thompson said, suggesting an interview in the first week of February.