The U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob on Thursday announced that it subpoenaed five Republican members of Congress, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), after they refused to cooperate with the panel’s inquiry.
The move marks a significant escalation in the committee’s efforts to obtain information related to lawmakers’ communications with President Donald Trump and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows before, during and after the attack.
All five of the Republican lawmakers subpoenaed Thursday have declined to voluntarily provide information to the committee.
In a statement, Thompson said the committee “has learned that several of our colleagues have information relevant to our investigation into the attack on January 6th and the events leading up to it.”
“Before we hold our hearings next month, we wished to provide members the opportunity to discuss these matters with the committee voluntarily,” Thompson said. “Regrettably, the individuals receiving subpoenas today have refused and we’re forced to take this step to help ensure the committee uncovers facts concerning January 6th. We urge our colleagues to comply with the law, do their patriotic duty, and cooperate with our investigation as hundreds of other witnesses have done.”
The committee said in its letters to McCarthy and Brooks that it is compelling the two Republicans to appear for depositions on May 31. Depositions of Biggs and Perry are scheduled for May 26, and Jordan is scheduled to testify on May 27.
The committee’s long-awaited public hearings are scheduled to begin June 9.
Until Thursday, the committee had been reluctant to subpoena GOP lawmakers because of a variety of issues, including time constraints — a protracted fight could last beyond the November midterm elections — and fears of retribution if Republicans win back the House majority, which many Democrats privately believe will happen.
Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), a member of the committee, said the five lawmakers subpoenaed Thursday have “some of the most pertinent information for the committee” as it investigates the Jan. 6 attack.
“These are people who participated in the rally, were on the phone with the president, who the president reportedly told to rescind the election and one of whom may have been pursuing pardons for those involved,” Schiff told reporters at the Capitol. “It’s hard to imagine witnesses with more directly relevant evidence for our committee and more important information for the American people.”
Investigators had been working to identify precedents for subpoenaing sitting members of Congress, according to two people familiar with the inquiry. One example on which they have focused is the House Ethics Committee’s two-year probe into the personal finances of former congressman Charles B. Rangel. The New York Democrat, who was ultimately found guilty on 11 ethics charges, was subpoenaed by the investigative subcommittee of the House Ethics panel after refusing repeated requests for a forensic accountant’s report and other documents.
The Republicans subpoenaed by Jan. 6 committee did not commit to abiding by the orders. In a brief interview with reporters, McCarthy declined to say whether he would comply with the subpoena while reiterating his criticism of the committee.
“My view on the committee has not changed,” he said. “They’re not conducting a legitimate investigation. It seems as though they just want to go after their political opponents.”
Jordan, Perry, Biggs and Brooks also declined to say whether they would comply and said they hadn’t yet seen the subpoenas as of Thursday afternoon.
“This is all for headlines and sensationalization,” Perry told reporters.
In an interview on Fox News Channel, Biggs argued without evidence that the committee doesn’t “really have the authority to issue subpoenas” and that he doesn’t “want to dignify what they are doing.”
Brooks issued a lengthy statement in which he derided the panel as the “Witch Hunt Committee” and repeated Trump’s false claim that the 2020 election was stolen.
In a January letter to McCarthy, 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,” he 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 in January by arguing in a statement that the committee’s “only objective is to attempt to damage its political opponents.”
Jordan has given conflicting answers about his communications with Trump. He previously said that he could not recall how many times he spoke with Trump on Jan. 6 but that they spoke at least once. The panel has also sought details of any communications Jordan had with Trump’s legal team, White House staffers and any others involved in planning related to Jan. 6.
Perry introduced Trump to Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official whom Perry sought to install in the role of acting attorney general. Clark went on to play a key role in Trump’s efforts to challenge the election results.
In a letter to Biggs earlier this month, the Jan. 6 committee said text messages indicate that the Arizona Republican was seeking to persuade state-level officials of the false notion that the 2020 election was stolen. The panel also said Biggs was part of an effort by “certain House Republicans after January 6th” to seek a pardon from Trump over their efforts to overturn Joe Biden’s election victory.
Brooks said in a recent interview that Trump has repeatedly asked him to “rescind the election of 2020.” He and Biggs are among a trio of GOP lawmakers who right-wing activist Ali Alexander has said aided him in planning the “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington that preceded the riot. Both lawmakers have denied any involvement.
If Republicans retake the House in November, McCarthy is widely expected to be elected speaker — although some members of the House GOP conference have expressed reservations after the recent leak of audio recordings in which McCarthy blamed Trump for the insurrection and voiced alarm about the actions of several House Republicans days after the Jan. 6 attack.
Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, said he would defer to McCarthy and others on whether they should comply with the subpoenas. He maintained — as almost all in the House GOP have said — that the bipartisan committee is “a witch hunt.”
“It’s a political circus,” Banks said. “It’s a joke. And nobody’s surprised that they’ve taken another step to completely politicize this.”
Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), one of two Republicans serving on the panel, told reporters that the decision to subpoena lawmakers “was not a decision that was taken lightly.”
“It’s a reflection of how important and serious the investigation is and how grave the attack on the Capitol was,” Cheney said.
Asked Thursday whether he thinks McCarthy and the other four Republicans will comply with the subpoenas, Thompson replied, “I hope they do.”
Throughout the investigation, the names of the five Republicans “have come up in a number of ways, and we feel that information and responding to it is important,” Thompson told reporters at the Capitol.
He declined to say whether a contempt vote may be in the works if the lawmakers refuse to comply.
“No conversation about contempt. We’ll talk about next steps, which could be a number of things,” Thompson said.
Other members of the committee similarly did not engage on next steps the panel would take in the likely case that GOP lawmakers do not comply with the subpoenas.
“I’m not going there,” Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.) said when asked whether the committee is prepared to hold noncompliant members in contempt. “I’ve got to believe that every member of Congress will want to do his or her legal duty and patriotic duty to participate in an investigation into an attack on our own institution and an attack on the political institutions in the United States.”
It’s likely that the committee has already collected ample evidence fleshing out the full extent of the role some lawmakers played with regard to the Jan. 6 attack. So far, the committee has conducted nearly 995 depositions and interviews, received 125,000 documents and is following up on 470 tips received through its tip line.
Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (Md.), the No. 2 Democrat in the House, shrugged off suggestions that members of his party may be exposing themselves to future subpoenas under a potential Republican majority.
“I have no problem being subpoenaed personally,” said Hoyer, who is not a member of the committee. “You know, I’ll tell the truth. If I have information they need, that’s fine. I do not understand this extraordinary reaction to pursuing a legal, appropriate process.”
Mike DeBonis contributed to this report.