Jan. 6 committee may have another ‘invitation’ for Kevin McCarthy

The Jan. 6 committee is not done with Kevin McCarthy. 

The leader of Republicans in the House of Representatives and longtime ally to former President Donald Trump will soon find himself on the receiving end of another request to appear before the panel investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

McCarthy was never formally subpoenaed by the committee, but investigators asked that he cooperate voluntarily this January. His refusal to come forward has simmered as options have been explored by the committee behind the scenes on how to go about navigating the legal thicket that is demanding another member of Congress testify under subpoena. 

“We’ve invited him to come earlier before the latest revelation that was reported on tapes. So in all probability, he will be issued another invitation to come just like some other members,” Jan. 6 committee Chairman Bennie Thompson told reporters Tuesday. 

That decision will be made “soon,” Thompson added.

RELATED STORY: The Jan. 6 committee wants you, Kevin McCarthy

Audio recordings of McCarthy obtained by The New York Times over this week have exposed the Republican as a leader on edge, fearful, and prepared to call on Trump to resign after Jan. 6 because he believed the president had some responsibility for the attack. McCarthy has denied making the comments.

Markos and Kerry talk Ukraine and speak with Wisconsin Democratic Party chair Ben Wikler on how hitting back at Republicans helps win elections

But in a phone call four days after the insurrection, McCarthy is reportedly heard openly worrying to GOP leadership about the inflammatory remarks pouring out from fellow lawmakers like Reps. Mo Brooks of Alabama and Matt Gaetz of Florida—among others—who supported Trump’s push to overturn the election. 

Brooks took the stage at the Ellipse on Jan. 6 and called on the president’s supporters to “fight like hell” before they descended on the Capitol. Gaetz used the aftermath of the attack to lash out at fellow Republicans critical of Trump, including Liz Cheney, who is now the Jan. 6 committee vice chair. 

“The other thing I want to bring up and I’m making some phone calls to some members, I just got something sent now about … Matt Gaetz where he’s calling peoples names out … this is serious stuff people are doing that has to stop,” McCarthy said.

“I’m calling Gaetz, I’m explaining to him, I don't know necessarily what to say but I’m going to have some other people call him too … This is serious shit, to cut this out,” McCarthy said.

When Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana pointed out to McCarthy that Gaetz’s remarks bordered on illegality, the House leader acknowledged again the severity of the situation. 

“Well, he’s putting people in jeopardy, he doesn't need to be doing this. we saw what people would do in the Capitol and these people came prepared well with everything else,” McCarthy said.

Gaetz has retreated from McCarthy since the recordings were published. In a statement posted on Twitter, the congressman—who is currently under investigation by the Department of Justice—defended his comments and called McCarthy and Scalise “weak men.”

Gaetz said he was “protecting President Trump from impeachment” while the House GOP leader was defending Rep. Adam Kinzinger and “protecting Liz Cheney from criticism.”

Gaetz has not yet been asked to appear before the Jan. 6 committee thus far—at least not publicly. A spokesman for the committee did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday. Gaetz also did not immediately return a request for comment to Daily Kos.

Besides McCarthy, the committee has previously issued requests for records and deposition to Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania. Both Republicans have refused to appear voluntarily. 

Details about Jordan and Perry’s conduct in the runup to Jan. 6 have been made more transparent with the recent publication of text messages sent to Trump’s chief of staff at the time, Mark Meadows. 

More than a month after the 2020 election, Perry texted Meadows frantically in search of guidance as the administration sought a path to overturn the election results. 

“Mark, just checking in as time continues to count down. 11 days to 1/6 and 25 days to inauguration. We gotta get going!” Perry wrote on Dec. 26. 

Perry wasn’t just looking for guidance, however—he was also offering some of his own.

It was Perry who spurred Meadows to meet with Jeffrey Clark, an assistant attorney general at the Department of Justice on board with Trump’s claims of rampant election fraud.

According to the testimony that former Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen provided to the Senate Judiciary Committee last year, Trump not only pushed the Department of Justice to discredit the election results, but it was Clark who led a charge to have him ousted so the scheme could be better controlled.

Clark pleaded the Fifth Amendment over 100 times when he finally sat with members of the committee in February following weeks of delays. 

The texts show Perrry also spewed conspiracy theories to Meadows about rigged voting machines and accused the CIA of a cover-up. 

As for Jordan, White House call logs show the Ohio Republican spoke with Trump for roughly 10 minutes on Jan. 6. A text message obtained by the committee and made public in December also appeared to show Jordan sharing legal arguments in support of an unconstitutional pressure campaign leveled at then-Vice President Mike Pence to stop the count.

Jordan said the text was a forward from former Pentagon Inspector General Joseph Schmitz, but it is not clear whether the text was in fact a forward or why it was sent at all, based on what the committee released.

Jordan has been notoriously inconsistent when fielding questions about his engagement with Trump on Jan. 6. 

Both he and Perry voted against the formation of the select committee investigating the attempted overthrow. Both now sit on a shadow committee purporting to analyze the events of Jan. 6.

RELATED STORY: White House Jan. 6 call log confirms what Jim Jordan couldn’t—or wouldn’t

When Thompson told reporters Tuesday that another invitation was due soon for McCarthy, the Mississippi Democrat also did not rule out issuing “invites” to other members of Congress. 

“We’ll make a decision on any others before the week is out,” Thompson told The Hill

When asked if he would skip the second invite for McCarthy and move straight to a subpoena, Thompson said it was “a consideration.” 

According to the Times, in the Jan. 10 GOP leadership call where McCarthy lamented the remarks from Gaetz and Brooks, Cheney was on the line too and raised concerns about Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado publicly tweeting about the movement of lawmakers as they were under siege. 

In other clips, McCarthy is heard asking about whether Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia was involved in any remarks at the Ellipse on Jan. 6. She did not speak at the rally that morning but had spent weeks advocating for Trump and promoting the lie that the election was stolen by Democrats.  

McCarthy is gunning to become speaker of the House should Republicans take the majority. It has been a long-awaited goal for the legislator and may explain the increasingly light touch he has employed with some of the most extreme members in the House and in particular those on the uber conservative House Freedom Caucus. 

When Rep. Paul Gosar was censured and removed from his committees for posting an animated video depicting the murder of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, McCarthy called it an “abuse of power” inflicted by “one-party rule.” 

A month after the insurrection, when Greene posted a sign outside of her Capitol Hill office targeting a fellow lawmaker who is the parent of a transgender child, McCarthy was quiet. 

A few months later in May 2021, when Greene was reportedly stalking Ocasio-Cortez through the halls of Congress and harassing her, McCarthy was quiet.

When Greene spewed conspiracy theories on social media about everything from “staged” school shootings to questioning whether a plane actually hit the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001 to antisemitic rhetoric, she was booted off her committee assignments. 

McCarthy said he was opposed to Greene’s remarks but said in the same breath that her ouster was a Democrat “power grab” and called it “dangerous.” 

When both Gosar and Greene attended a conference organized by white nationalists this February, McCarthy said he spoke to both lawmakers but wouldn’t divulge what, if any, the repercussions might be.  

According to CNN, during a House GOP conference meeting Wednesday morning, McCarthy said his remarks on the calls were merely him “floating scenarios about Trump’s future after Jan. 6.”

He reportedly received a standing ovation.

NEW: Kevin McCarthy just gave a full throated defense of the Nyt tapes during a House GOP conference this morning, saying he was just floating scenarios about Trump’s future after Jan 6, and received a standing ovation, per multiple sources in the room.

— Melanie Zanona (@MZanona) April 27, 2022

McCarthy did not respond to multiple requests for comment by Daily Kos.

Jan. 6 committee wrestling with criminal referral for Trump

The Jan. 6 committee has amassed so much evidence in the nearly 500 days since Donald Trump incited an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol that congressional investigators are weighing a criminal referral to the Department of Justice for the twice-impeached ex-president. 

Whether they ultimately issue that referral is a question that hangs heavy in the air over the probe and members are internally split on the path ahead, according to a report by The New York Times from Sunday. 

Nonetheless, after some 800 interviews and extensive cooperation from those orbiting the Trump White House and campaign in the runup to Jan. 6,  the committee’s bipartisan leadership has said the evidence strongly indicates Trump illegally obstructed Congress—again—and committed fraud against the American people as he and those who sought to keep him in power worked to pull off a scheme that hinged on his lies about the outcome of the 2020 election.

During an interview on CNN following the Times report, committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney, a Republican ousted from GOP leadership for her participation in the probe, brushed off the notion that division was stewing among members. 

The sources in the Times said some lawmakers on the committee are at odds over whether it is actually necessary to throw their weight behind a criminal referral for the ex-president to the Department of Justice. 

That referral is mostly symbolic as the committee has acknowledged countless times over the last year in court and to the press that it simply does not have the authority to prosecute Trump.

A criminal referral could also potentially trigger a lengthy series of delay tactics from Trump or his allies in Congress that would draw time and resources away from key areas of the probe. 

From the Times:

The members and aides who were reluctant to support a referral contended that making one would create the appearance that Mr. Garland was investigating Mr. Trump at the behest of a Democratic Congress and that if the committee could avoid that perception it should, the people said.

This assessment on optics reflects, at least in part, the scars left in Washington from the deeply contentious and circus-like atmosphere created in the wake of Trump’s first impeachment for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. 

Prosecution in this case, as a matter of constitutional fact, must be left to the proper—and separate—channels at the Department of Justice.

To that end, over the sprawl of its inquiry the select committee has issued subpoenas aplenty and filed lawsuits to claw back or expose various records from integral Trump White House and campaign officials. In this process, it has left a trail of morsels for the Department of Justice to consider as that department conducts its own separate and massive review of Jan. 6.

Take the case of John Eastman, the Trump attorney who wrote a memo proposing how to overturn the election through an unconstitutional pressure strategy involving former Vice President Mike Pence. 

RELATED STORY: Trump led a criminal conspiracy, Jan. 6 lawyers say in court

When a federal judge in California finally reviewed the emails Eastman sought to keep away from the committee during his tenure at Chapman University, the judge found information that led him to believe Trump and Eastman “more likely than not” engaged in a federal crime. 

The ruling was a boon for transparency overall, to be sure, but it also provided the Department of Justice with something deeply important, at least in the eyes of some members of the Jan. 6 committee: A federal judge’s ruling, they reportedly said, would simply mean more in the eyes of Attorney General Merrick Garland. 

Once the committee completes its investigation, it will issue a report on its complete findings and recommendations. That report alone may have so much information and relevant evidence in it that the Department of Justice could use it as its guide to bring criminal charges. 

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat who previously served on both impeachment inquiries for Trump and for former President Bill Clinton, now sits on the Jan. 6 probe. She is of the opinion that a criminal referral isn’t the end all be all to accountability or justice. 

When asked whether the select committee would issue a criminal referral for Trump, Lofgren told the Times, “Maybe we will, maybe we won’t.”

“It doesn’t have a legal impact,” Lofgren said. 

Other panel members like Rep. Elaine Luria of Virginia have been insistent, however, that it is about the principle of the matter, political ramifications of the criminal referral be damned. 

“This committee, our purpose is legislative and oversight, but if in the course of our investigation we find that criminal activity has occurred, I think it’s our responsibility to refer that to the Department of Justice,” Luria recently told MSNBC. 

This weekend, Cheney told CNN “there’s not really a dispute on the committee” over the referral and emphasized that members are working in a “really collaborative way.” 

The committee, reportedly, has not yet met formally to discuss issuing a referral to the Department of Justice for Trump, however, and there may not be a meeting in the mix any time soon. 

Public hearings are expected this summer, potentially in May and June, and according to committee member and Rep. Pete Aguilar, the probe is not interested in “presupposing” what will be in its final report. 

As of April 6, the Department of Justice has made nearly 800 arrests in its investigation of the attack on the U.S. Capitol.