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.

Likely no subpoenas from Jan. 6 probe for sitting lawmakers

Anonymous sources cited in a report published by ABC Wednesday have cast new doubt that the Jan. 6 committee will pursue enforcement of subpoenas it has issued to a handful of sitting Republican lawmakers with alleged ties to the Capitol attack. 

Reports of a similar nature have circulated for months as investigators have continued taking deposition and records from over 500 witnesses, including high- and low-level aides and Trump White House staff, election officials, and many others.  

Related: Who’s who: A rolling guide to the targets of the Jan. 6 committee

According to ABC, GOP House Leader Kevin McCarthy and Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania have had “no follow-up discussions” about their cooperation since receiving their respective subpoenas.

The decision to drop the pursuit of the Republican legislators' records and testimony has “not been formalized” and ABC said their “sources caution that the committee's plans could change,” but “the emerging consensus is to proceed without taking this step.”

A representative for the Jan. 6 committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment to Daily Kos on Wednesday.

Forcing compliance with sitting lawmakers is tricky for the panel both politically and legally. Committee Chair Bennie Thompson has said since late last year that if those lawmakers targeted do not come forward, he was uncertain what tools the probe might have in its chest to force their testimony. 

Committee members have been outwardly devoted to pursuing the investigation regardless of the political toll it exacts—Liz Cheney was ousted from her leadership role in the GOP after joining the committee. But the fact remains that political retribution could be swift if Republicans take back the House and Senate in the coming elections. 

Rep. Jim Jordan, for example, is among Trump’s most fierce lapdogs in Congress and has been spurned by the Jan. 6 committee already when Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi rejected his nomination to the panel by McCarthy.

Jordan has made it clear since Trump’s first impeachment when he defended the former president unflaggingly that he would relish a chance to drag Biden White House officials through public hearings should the GOP retake Congress. 

Jordan is a member of the powerful House Judiciary Committee and is also a member of a Jan. 6 shadow committee. That committee has no subpoena power, but it has been running a parallel investigation to the official probe for months, largely relying on U.S. Capitol Police testimony to support its contention that security and intelligence failures were solely to blame for the rioting. 

Related: A Jan. 6 shadow committee sets its sights on U.S. Capitol Police

Investigators allege Jordan spoke to Trump on Jan. 6. They have based this on Trump White House call logs received from the National Archives in February. 

Jordan has flip-flopped on his account of the day, regularly buckling under scrutiny in interviews. But with or without his testimony, Trump’s former White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, has already given the probe text messages illuminating how Jordan was campaigning for then-Vice President Mike Pence to stop the certification. 

Related: White House call logs confirms what Jim Jordan couldn’t—or wouldn’t

Constitutionally, Pence did not have that authority. 

As for Perry, the committee asked him to voluntarily comply in December. Thompson alleges that Perry was the engine behind a scheme to install a Trump-friendly lawyer Jeffrey Clark at the Department of Justice as the nation’s attorney general. 

Scott Perry Letter by Daily Kos

Politico reported on March 2 that committee investigators “have repeatedly asked witnesses to describe contacts with Perry.”

The panel has already conducted over 550 interviews. Frustrating it may be for watchers of the probe, the lack of participation by certain lawmakers does not preclude the reams of evidence and other materials the committee has already amassed.

Before eventually turning his back on the committee following extensive cooperation, Meadows turned over heaps of text messages and other correspondence, only some of which has been made public.

Meadows has since been held in contempt of Congress. It is up to the Justice Department to decide whether it will bring a criminal indictment for his obstruction.

The Meadows messages alone painted a frantic picture of the White House and Washington both before and after the attack.

Related: Texts show Fox hosts and Trump Jr. begging Mark Meadows to get Trump to stop the insurgency

@Liz_Cheney reads texts sent by Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Brian Kilmeade, and Donald Trump Jr. to Mark Meadows during the insurrection, imploring him to get Trump to do something. pic.twitter.com/mgzFeHiHsy

— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) December 14, 2021

The committee itself does not have the ability to indict anyone. It has taken pains to reiterate this as Republicans like Meadows, Jordan, and several others already subpoenaed actively claim the probe acts beyond the scope of its authority.

They argue the select committee moves as a law enforcement arm, not a legislative arm. 

But the committee has underlined, time and again, it does not need to indict.

It needs only to amass information and investigate all of the different avenues in which the attempted overthrow of the 2020 election was undertaken. 

If it finds criminality or evidence of criminality, it will be up to the Department of Justice to act next.