House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Thursday continued to defy the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, claiming there was no information he could provide the panel about what President Donald Trump did that day to stop the attack, although the two men spoke privately.
The committee is specifically interested in a Jan. 11 conference call between McCarthy and House Republicans. The GOP leader reportedly said during the call that Trump, in previous one-on-one conversations, had admitted “some degree of responsibility” for the deadly storming of the Capitol by a mob of his supporters. Around that time, the two reportedly discussed the consequences that Trump could face following the insurrection.
The panel is also interested in a call McCarthy had with Trump on Jan. 6 as the riot unfolded.
On Thursday, McCarthy avoided questions about the Jan. 11 call.
“I’m not sure what call you’re talking about,” McCarthy told a reporter when asked about the conference call that day.
Instead, McCarthy briefly referred to the separate call he had with Trump on Jan. 6, which he said he has publicly spoken about. He said he has no new information to give the committee about it.
“My conversation was very short, advising the president what was happening here,” McCarthy said Thursday.
McCarthy reportedly held that tense call with Trump as the riot unfolded. During the call, Trump “initially repeated the falsehood that it was antifa that had breached the Capitol,” according to Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), who said McCarthy told her about the call after it happened.
According to Herrera Beutler, after McCarthy told Trump it was his supporters storming the Capitol, Trump responded: “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”
McCarthy has since downplayed that phone call and defended Trump’s response to the insurrection.
McCarthy also doubled down Thursday on his view that the Jan. 6 committee is leading a partisan investigation under the leadership of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) with the goal of damaging Republicans.
When asked about McCarthy’s defiance of the Jan. 6 committee’s requests, Pelosi said Thursday that McCarthy “has an obligation” to cooperate with the investigation. When asked if the committee is justified in using its subpoena powers against McCarthy, Pelosi deferred to the panel’s leadership and said she “has no intention” of interfering with the committee’s work.
“It is up to the committee as to what they do next,” Pelosi said. “They know the path that they are on. I defer to their judgment.”
She emphasized that the committee has said multiple times that it will use all the tools at its disposal to investigate the attack, including its subpoena powers.
“I have confidence in the bipartisan nature of the committee,” Pelosi added. “They are working very hard, as we can see in the public domain [and] the product of their work.”
On Thursday, the committee chairman, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), and vice chair, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), said they are considering issuing a subpoena not only to McCarthy but also other defiant lawmakers such as Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Scott Perry (R-Pa.) — an option that raises complex legal and practical issues already under discussion.
Cheney, in a Thursday CNN interview, accused McCarthy of trying to cover up what happened Jan. 6.
“I wish that he were a brave and honorable man,” Cheney said. “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 to McCarthy on Wednesday, Thompson cited the GOP leader’s conversation with Trump on or about Jan. 11. 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.”
McCarthy, in response to Thompson on Wednesday, 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.”
In May, McCarthy had said he would be willing to testify about his conversations with Trump to an outside commission. On May 19, McCarthy was one of 175 Republicans to vote against the establishment of such a commission.