House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) says Republicans will probe the work of the House select committee that has been investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, after the GOP takes control of the chamber next year.
In a letter sent Wednesday to Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), the chairman of the bipartisan panel, McCarthy instructed the committee’s members to preserve all of its records and testimony transcripts, even as he acknowledged that was already required under House rules.
McCarthy also vowed that Republicans would launch their own inquiry into “why the Capitol complex was not secure” on the day a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol seeking to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral win. Five people died in the insurrection or in its immediate aftermath, and dozens were injured, including at least 140 law enforcement officers, who were harassed, beaten and sprayed with gas substances by the mob.
“You have spent a year and a half and millions of taxpayers’ dollars conducting this investigation. It is imperative that all information collected be preserved not just for institutional prerogatives but for transparency to the American people,” McCarthy wrote. “The American people have a right to know that the allegations you have made are supported by the facts and to be able to view the transcripts …”
McCarthy’s letter echoes the desire of many other Republican lawmakers to aggressively go after the Jan. 6 committee, which they have long criticized as a purely political vehicle to attack former president Donald Trump. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) — the likely next chairman of the House Judiciary Committee — and his staff are already preparing to examine any evidence omitted from the final report that is more flattering or at least exculpatory about Trump’s actions leading up to the Jan. 6 assault, according to one Republican operative who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe GOP strategy.
The bipartisan Jan. 6 committee has held 10 public hearings and plans to release a final report about its findings. Many of its hearings have focused on the role that Trump — and his supporters, aides and allies — played in fomenting distrust in the 2020 presidential election leading to the violent assault on the Capitol.
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the committee’s vice chair, has said that the committee could make multiple criminal referrals of Trump to the Department of Justice. Representatives for the committee and for Thompson’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday morning.
McCarthy has been at odds with the committee since its inception, pulling all GOP nominees for it after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) blocked two of McCarthy’s picks. The panel still was a bipartisan one — with Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) — but McCarthy has repeatedly decried the committee as purely political.
In his letter to Thompson on Wednesday, McCarthy continued to suggest the committee was politically motivated, citing a Washington Post report that indicated more than a dozen committee staffers were upset that the final report could focus too much on Trump, at the expense of revelations about militia and extremist groups, financing behind the attack, and the law enforcement and intelligence community’s failure to prepare for the siege.
“It is clear based on recent news reports that even your own members and staff of the Committee have no visibility into the totality of the investigation. Some reports suggest that entire swaths of findings will be left out of the Committee’s final report,” McCarthy wrote. “The official Congressional Records do not belong to you or any member, but to the American people, and they are owed all of the information you gathered — not merely the information that comports with your political agenda.”
Trump often has tried to blame Pelosi for the for the breach of the Capitol, falsely suggesting that the absence of enough security to turn back the pro-Trump mob was her responsibility, not that of the commander in chief. He also has falsely claimed Pelosi rejected his order for 10,000 National Guard troops — something that never happened.
Trump’s false claims were echoed by Republican lawmakers, including some who — according to a released video — were literally in the room when Pelosi and others were calling in reinforcements.
McCarthy was reelected party leader last month but is trying to garner enough votes to become the next House speaker when the 118th Congress convenes. He faced a challenge for GOP leadership from Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), a member of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus, which criticized McCarthy for saying Trump bore responsibility for the Capitol attack, shortly after it had happened.
McCarthy quickly backtracked, however, voting against impeaching Trump and then flying to Florida to meet with the former president weeks after the insurrection. McCarthy has since steadfastly defended Trump’s response to the Jan. 6 violence and tried to retract some of his earlier statements about Trump’s culpability.
Marianna Sotomayor, Jacqueline Alemany, Josh Dawsey, Carol D. Leonnig, Glenn Kessler and Azi Paybarah contributed to this report.