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GOP effort to hamstring the Jan. 6 investigation enters a new phase

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and former president Donald Trump have expanded in recent months on what they said during their Jan. 6 call. (Video: JM Rieger/The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
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A group of 11 House Republicans sent letters to various technology company CEOs last week warning them against complying with subpoenas from the House Jan. 6 select committee.

The letters were notable for a couple reasons. One was that the signatories included a murderer’s row of fringe figures in the House GOP — Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), Louie Gohmert (Tex.), Paul A. Gosar (Ariz.), Mo Brooks (Ala.), etc. — with almost nobody from the mainstream of the party joining in, save for Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Banks (Ind.). The second was that the letter to Yahoo was incorrectly addressed to a former CEO who left the company in 2017, Marissa Mayer.

The letters were, in many ways, emblematic of the GOP’s increasingly pitched and slapdash efforts to prevent the committee from gaining information about the historic attack on the U.S. Capitol.

While the letters didn’t include the signatures of more-established Republicans, they did follow similar comments from the most senior House Republican, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.). McCarthy last week threatened tech companies that complied with the subpoenas with retribution if Republican retake the House.

“If these companies comply with the [Democratic] order to turn over private information, they are in violation of federal law and subject to losing their ability to operate in the United States,” McCarthy said. “If companies still choose to violate federal law, a Republican majority will not forget and will stand with Americans to hold them fully accountable under the law.”

Except it’s not at all clear what McCarthy is even talking about when it comes to what law would be violated, nor has his office specified. PolitiFact cited experts who said there is “no such law barring companies from turning over information sought through a proper subpoena or warrant.”

If one really wanted to send a “do not comply” threat, it would seem helpful to detail exactly what leverage you have. Otherwise it risks looking like a political — rather than legal — threat born of desperation. And while McCarthy didn’t sign the letter, it’s pretty clear these members were following his lead.

Beyond subpoenas, there is the matter of people who know important information simply being forthright about it. And on this count, McCarthy and others have also been far less than helpful.

McCarthy is one of several prominent Republicans who have key knowledge of Jan. 6 and what President Donald Trump said and did — and when. He would also seem to have been concerned about Trump’s response, given that he pleaded with Trump to call off the dogs in the middle of the riot.

But despite initially blaming Trump for not doing so quickly enough and even floating a historic censure resolution against Trump, McCarthy later backed off and actually suggested Trump had heeded his calls. McCarthy also, despite the stakes of the matter, declined to further detail his talks with Trump — despite Trump being someone who, again, he said bore blame for that day.

The story has been similar with another prominent Republican wrapped up in the matter who spoke with Trump that day. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) has offered some uncharacteristically awkward responses when questioned about those conversations.

At one point a month ago, he said he couldn’t recall whether he spoke with Trump before, during or after the riot. As I noted at the time, the content of the call would probably help Jordan place it. And sure enough, Politico reported a week ago that Jordan and Gaetz, like McCarthy, pleaded with Trump during the riot to get his supporters to back off. People forget stuff, and Jordan has said he talks with Trump often, but it would seem pretty difficult to forget the time you asked the president to rein in allies who were overrunning the U.S. Capitol.

A final key element of the effort to hamstring the committee involves other punitive measures — these ones against Republicans who are serving on the committee. Greene and Gaetz have re-upped an effort on behalf of many of those who signed the Mayer letter to get Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) kicked out of the House GOP conference. The supposed reason: They are acting effectively as “spies for the Democrats” in conference meetings.

The question is what are they supposedly spying upon? High-profile Republicans including McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) have blamed Trump for both his actions before and his response to the riots.

There is certainly a strategic reasons to not want Cheney and Kinzinger around, especially if you view the investigation as a partisan witch hunt, as GOP leaders contend it is.

But these are also people who have stood by the party for years before now, and whose views of the situation lined up with many higher-ups in the party, at least before it reverted to a batten-down-the-hatches, defend-the-party mentality. It also suggests that there is indeed something interesting and relevant to be “spied” upon.

It’s possible that Republicans genuinely don’t see this investigation as fair, and are responding accordingly. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) rejected both Banks and Jordan as McCarthy’s selections for the committee. This prompted McCarthy to pull all of his appointees and leave Cheney and Kinzinger as the only Republicans on the committee.

But since then, we’ve seen both Banks and Jordan engage in the kind of conduct that would again seem to invite suspicions that they were picked more to brawl than to find the truth. Jordan’s status as a key witness, in particular, suggests he wouldn’t have been the most ideal committee member.

And even before that, we saw Republicans reinforce over and over again that their true objection to the efforts to investigate Jan. 6 was more that they were worried about how it would hurt them politically than anything else.

What we’re seeing today — including weird legal threats against subpoenas and a lack of disclosure of foundational events — certainly reinforces that.