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House Jan. 6 committee will consider subpoena to Kevin McCarthy after he refuses to cooperate

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)

The leaders of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol said Thursday that they will consider issuing a subpoena to Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) after he refused to cooperate with the inquiry.

McCarthy on Wednesday rejected a request to voluntarily provide information about his communications with President Donald Trump and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

Both the committee’s chairman, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), and the vice chair, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wy.), said Thursday the panel would now consider issuing a subpoena to McCarthy and other lawmakers — an option that raises complex legal and practical issues already under discussion.

Cheney accused McCarthy of trying to cover up what happened Jan. 6.

“I wish that he were a brave and honorable man,” Cheney told CNN. “He’s clearly trying to cover up what happened. He has an obligation to come forward and we’ll get to the truth.”

In a letter sent to McCarthy on Wednesday Thompson said the panel is interested in his correspondence with Meadows ahead of the attack, along with McCarthy’s communications with Trump during and after the riot. Details of those conversations could provide the committee with further insight into Trump’s state of mind at the time, Thompson wrote.

“We also must learn about how the President’s plans for January 6th came together, and all the other ways he attempted to alter the results of the election,” Thompson wrote. “For example, in advance of January 6th, you reportedly explained to Mark Meadows and the former President that objections to the certification of the electoral votes on January 6th ‘was doomed to fail.’”

McCarthy responded by saying he will not cooperate, arguing in a statement that its “only objective is to attempt to damage its political opponents.”

McCarthy criticized the committee for wanting “to interview me about public statements that have been shared with the world, and private conversations not remotely related to the violence that unfolded at the Capitol. I have nothing else to add.”

The letter came on the same day that the committee interviewed former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, a source with knowledge of her testimony confirmed to The Washington Post. McEnany was subpoenaed in November, with the committee noting that she was with Trump at times during the attack on Jan. 6.

McCarthy is the latest Republican House member whose cooperation has been requested by the panel. Letters were sent recently to Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania. Both have said they do not intend to cooperate.

The committee is now actively considering how best to get members to comply with its requests, including by issuing subpoenas.

“If we can get the necessary authorities and assurances that go with it, we’ll do it,” Thompson said in a Washington Post Live interview last week of the requests to Jordan and Perry. “Both those individuals are important and have been implicated into this illegal activity that occurred on January 6.”

In his letter Wednesday, Thompson cited McCarthy’s conversation with Trump on Jan. 11, during which McCarthy “may also have discussed with President Trump the potential he would face a censure resolution, impeachment, or removal under the 25th Amendment,” Thompson wrote. “It also appears that you may have identified other possible options, including President Trump’s immediate resignation from office.”

The committee also mentioned various news reports that further detailed McCarthy’s conversations with Trump on and after Jan. 6, including a conversation with Trump in which he “admitted ‘some degree of responsibility’ for January 6th in his one-on-one conversations with you,” Thompson wrote.

Conversations with Trump’s legal team, Jordan and others about McCarthy’s “continued objections to the electoral votes from multiple states late in the evening of January 6th and into the morning of January 7th” are also of interest to the committee, Thompson wrote.

The request from the committee also revealed a text message from Fox News host Laura Ingraham to Meadows in which she wrote that Trump would be “well advised” to discourage “protest at state capit[o]ls esp with weapons … given how hot the situation is.”

Thompson’s letter cited public statements by McCarthy expressing concern that Trump’s false claims of a “stolen election” raised the specter of violence, and he asked whether McCarthy “received FBI briefings regarding potential violence immediately following January 6th” — and whether he communicated those concerns about violence to Trump or White House staff.

The letter to McCarthy underlines Thompson’s determination to question members of Congress with knowledge of Jan. 6, and it seems likely that similar letters to other members will be forthcoming.

The reaction among House Republicans to those entreaties so far has not been positive. Jordan wrote to Thompson last week that the committee’s request “is far outside the bounds of any legitimate inquiry, violates core constitutional principles and would serve to further erode legislative norms.”

McCarthy on Wednesday described the committee’s request for information as an “abuse of power.”

“As a representative and the leader of the minority party, it is with neither regret nor satisfaction that I have concluded to not participate with this select committee’s abuse of power that stains this institution today and will harm it going forward,” he said in the statement.