January 6, the panel seeks an interview with Kevin McCarthy

WASHINGTON – The House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol on Wednesday formally requested an interview with Representative Kevin McCarthy, and took the unusual step of contacting the minority leader, who was in close contact with former President Donald J. Trump before, during and after the violence They fought to close any investigation into the events.

The public request sent a clear message that commission investigators, including two former US attorneys, are willing to go after even high-ranking figures on Capitol Hill as they seek information about Mr. Trump’s mindset as violence erupts, a federal order. The judge suggested it would be pivotal to determine whether Mr. Trump could face any responsibility for today’s chaos.

It set up a politically charged standoff between House Democrats investigating the assault and McCarthy, a California Republican who is on track to become House Speaker if Republicans retake the room in November. She noted that investigators believe that Mr. McCarthy, who admitted to having spoken on the phone with Mr. Trump as rioters stormed the Capitol, may also have been involved in conversations afterward about the then-president’s guilt in the attack and what it should have been. act to treat it.

In a letter on Wednesday, Representative Benny Thompson, the Democrat from Mississippi and the committee chair, said the committee had obtained “contemporary text messages from multiple witnesses” referring to White House staffers who had expressed “significant concerns” about “Mr. Trump.” State of mind and persistent behavior” in the days following January 6th.

Mr. Thompson wrote to Mr. McCarthy, referring to the part of the constitution that permits a president to be impeached if he is determined to be unable to perform his function. “It also appears that you may have identified other potential options, including President Trump’s immediate resignation from office.”

Mr. McCarthy did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But he led his party’s opposition to a bipartisan commission to investigate the riots, opposed the commission’s creation and attacked the commission’s weeks-long work.

That made it less likely he would agree to sit down for an interview — though he told a California news station in December he was “not going to hide from anything” — and raised the question of whether the committee would issue a subpoena to try to force him to testify, or despise him for Congress. If refused to comply. The moves would mark a significant escalation in the battle over the investigation, which most Republicans have described as a partisan exercise aimed at discrediting Mr. Trump and his party.

The committee suggested meeting with Mr. McCarthy on 3 or 4 February. It is the highest legislature that the committee is pursuing to investigate.

In September, the commission included McCarthy on a list of hundreds of people whose records it had directed on social media and telecom companies to retain for possible use in the investigation. McCarthy’s spokesman, Mark Bednar, criticized the committee at the time as “politically motivated” and classed its request as a “authoritarian and unconstitutional attempt to override individuals’ call records”.

In the days following the gang attack, Mr. McCarthy used a different tone. At first he denounced the violence and said Mr Trump “takes responsibility” for the violence.

“What we saw last week wasn’t the American way,” McCarthy told the House of Representatives. Nor the constant rhetoric that Joe Biden is not the legitimate president.

But Mr. McCarthy eventually changed his mind, re-embracing Mr. Trump – still popular with the Republican base – and visiting his club Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, near the end of January.

“Your public statements on January 6 have changed markedly since you met Trump,” Mr. Thompson wrote in his letter. “At that meeting, or at any other time, did President Trump or his representatives discuss or suggest what you should say publicly?”

In a recent interview, Representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming and vice chair of the committee, cited the Mar-a-Lago meeting as a turning point for McCarthy. Subsequently, he led his party’s efforts to remove her from her leadership position for continuing to loudly call out Mr. Trump, the lies of his election and the complicity of many Republicans in spreading them. Having initially said he would support a bipartisan investigation into the January 6 attack, he reversed course and argued vigorously against any investigation by Congress.

“Looking back, the moment Commander McCarthy went to Mar-a-Lago towards the end of January, it was quite clear which path he chose,” Cheney said. “She was unfaithful to the Constitution. I think we have a duty to our oath of office that requires that you put that above politics.”

The letter to Mr McCarthy is the commission’s latest attempt to learn more about Mr. Trump’s actions when rioters walked in the building for hours on Jan. 6 and his state of mind in the days that followed.

In particular, the committee said it was interested in a phone call Mr McCarthy had with Mr Trump during the riots. McCarthy previously described the call, in which he asked Trump to send aid to the Capitol, as “very hot.”

During that call, according to a report filed last year during impeachment proceedings, Mr. Trump sided with the rioters, telling Mr. McCarthy that they were clearly more upset with the election than the Republican leader.

The committee also cited a Politico article stating that McCarthy had disclosed to other Republicans that Mr. Trump had admitted some degree of responsibility for the January 6 attack in his one-on-one conversations with Mr. McCarthy.

The commission interviewed more than 340 witnesses, including former White House aides. On Wednesday, Kayleigh McEnany, the Trump White House press secretary, appeared before the committee for a virtual interview, according to a person familiar with the situation.

McCarthy’s request to meet is the third time the committee has asked a Republican to voluntarily consent to an interview. Representatives Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and Jim Jordan of Ohio declined to cooperate with the committee.

Mr. Jordan – who told the Rules Committee in November he had “nothing to hide” – Denouncing the team’s investigation On Sunday, he described the request for an interview as an “unprecedented and inappropriate request.”

Mr. Perry, who is close to Mr. Jordan, declined last month to meet with the commission, calling the commission “illegitimate”.

So far, the committee has been reluctant to issue subpoenas to sitting members of Congress, citing the deference and respect that House lawmakers are supposed to show. But Mr. Thompson pledged to take such a step if necessary.

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Andrew Naughtie

News reporter and author at @websalespromo