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What the Jan. 6 committee wants to know from members of Congress

There is no one consistent request.

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) speaks on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, at the “Save America Rally” in support of President Donald Trump. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
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On Monday, the House select committee investigating the pro-Trump riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 issued three more letters seeking information from members of Congress. In total, the committee has now sent similar letters to six of its colleagues.

What the requests focus on is not a concerted effort to till the soil for the riot. Instead, they suggest a scattershot effort to compile information hinted at by public reporting. Though, of course, that impression is probably incomplete.

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Here are the six members of the House who have been contacted by the committee and what the committee wants to learn.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)

Read the committee’s letter from Jan. 12.

The focus of the committee’s interest in McCarthy appears to be the call he had with President Donald Trump as the riot was underway. At the time, McCarthy told other members of the House Republican caucus that Trump had chastised him for being less worried about the 2020 election results than the rioters. He has generally declined to offer more detail on the call in the months since.

The committee’s argument is that the conversation could show Trump’s “state of mind” during the riot. In its letter, the committee notes that McCarthy also said that Trump accepted “some degree of responsibility” when they spoke, a potential indication of some culpability for what unfolded.

McCarthy’s conversations with Trump both before and after the day of the riot are also mentioned. He had reportedly told Trump that his objections to the election were “doomed to fail,” according to reporting from Jonathan Karl of ABC News. If true, it reinforces the idea that Trump should have known that his election claims were false, a central component of proving that Trump’s efforts to derail his ouster from office had a corrupt intent. After the riot, McCarthy again spoke with Trump, including a call in which McCarthy implored the president to stop making false claims about the election.

In the months since the letter was sent, more information about McCarthy’s post-riot conversations with his colleagues — including committee vice chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) — has emerged. The committee has expressed interest in learning more about those conversations as well.

Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.)

Read the committee’s letter from May 2.

One of the questions that has lingered around the riot is the extent to which members of Congress were sympathetic to or explicitly supportive of what unfolded. Biggs was one of the first representatives directly implicated in working with those planning events for Jan. 6, when protest organizer Ali Alexander claimed that Biggs had participated in planning calls before the event.

This is a central issue in the committee’s letter to Biggs. A number of members of Congress were identified by rally planners as potential speakers, but the implication from Alexander and other organizers is that Biggs had a more important role. The congressman has denied the allegations, but the committee’s letter claims that it has received testimony indicating that Biggs was involved. What’s more, the letter states that Biggs was involved in the broader effort to subvert the electoral vote count, including by sending a text message to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Nov. 6, 2020, proposing alternate slates of electors.

Most intriguingly, the letter extends reporting that Biggs sought a post-riot pardon from Trump to suggest that this request may have been validated by “former White House personnel.”

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.)

Read the committee’s letter from May 2.

Brooks was one of a few people selected to speak during Trump’s rally outside the White House on Jan. 6, 2021. But it’s comments made more recently that have piqued the committee’s interest.

After Trump rescinded his endorsement of Brooks’s Senate bid, the representative released a remarkable statement, making a number of claims about Trump:

“President Trump asked me to rescind the 2020 elections, immediately remove Joe Biden from the White House, immediately put President Trump back in the White House, and hold a new special election for the presidency. As a lawyer, I’ve repeatedly advised President Trump that January 6 was the final election contest verdict and neither the U.S. Constitution nor the U.S. Code permit what President Trump asks. Period.”

This, the committee writes, “appears to provide additional evidence of President Trump’s intent to restore himself to power through unlawful means.”

Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Tex.)

Read the committee’s letter from May 2.

As the riot was underway, Jackson is one of a number of individuals in the House chamber who helped barricade entrances to stop the rioters’ advance. But communications obtained by criminal investigators has also raised questions about Jackson’s interactions with groups central to the day’s violence.

The right-wing group the Oath Keepers was providing security for several of those involved in the rallies and protests surrounding Jan. 6, including Trump’s longtime adviser Roger Stone. At one point on Jan. 6 itself, as the rioters were inside the Capitol, a member of the Oath Keepers allegedly sent a message to an organizational chatroom indicating that Jackson “needs [Oath Keeper] help.” The representative “has critical data to protect,” a later message read, with Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes saying that Jackson should be given his cellphone number.

Jackson has denied knowing any members of the group. Perhaps relatedly, though, the committee also pointed to photos showing Jackson at the Ellipse before violence broke out.

“We would like to discuss how and when you returned from the Ellipse to the Capitol,” the letter reads, “and the contacts you had with participants in the rally or the subsequent march from the Ellipse to the Capitol.”

After the letter was sent, Jackson announced on Monday afternoon that he would not “participate in the illegitimate Committee’s ruthless crusade against President Trump and his allies.”

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio)

Read the committee’s letter from Dec. 22.

The focus of the committee’s requests to Jordan are phone calls he has said he had with Trump that day. One is documented; call logs show an 11-minute call that morning. More broadly, the committee’s request includes a desire to talk to Jordan about the wider effort to upend the electoral vote count that day.

It also includes a desire “to ask [Jordan] about any discussions involving the possibility of presidential pardons for individuals involved in any aspect of January 6th or the planning for January 6th.”

Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.)

Read the committee’s letter from Dec. 20.

Perry is an interesting figure in all of this. He’s been identified as central to one of Trump’s last efforts to prove that rampant voter fraud occurred in the days before Jan. 6, with Perry reportedly connecting the White House with Jeffrey Clark, a Justice Department official. Clark advocated for publicly challenging the certified results of the election, leading to a remarkable meeting in the Oval Office in which Trump considered making Clark acting attorney general.

The letter noted communications between Perry and Meadows, some of which were recently published by CNN. It also alleges that Perry communicated with Meadows over Signal, an encrypted messaging app, and that Perry was involved in efforts to discredit electronic voting machines. One such effort is included in the CNN cache of messages: Perry tells Meadows that “an Intel friend” suggests that the government’s director of national intelligence should “task NSA to immediately seize and begin looking for international comms related” to one manufacturer of electronic voting machines.

Perry, like each of the other members of Congress named above, has not spoken with the committee.

Who’s missing

What’s also interesting about the letters sent from the committee is who isn’t included.

In the days after the riot, attention turned to Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.). Both were stalwart supporters of Trump’s and both were listed on a proposed speaker lineup for one proposed rally on Jan. 6 (though it’s not clear that either had actually agreed to speak). Boebert had additionally been accused of leading tours of the Capitol in the days before the riot, tours that the freshman legislator explained were for members of her family.

That neither has been targeted by the committee suggests that neither is believed at this point to have participated in planning the day’s events or to have spoken with Trump at key moments. Or — given the explanations for the letters that have been issued — it may suggest that public reporting has not yet provided a rationale for the committee to contact them.

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