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McCarthy tells Jan. 6 committee he’s unlikely to comply with subpoena

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who was subpoenaed by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack, responded to the committee with an 11-page letter explaining why he isn't likely to testify. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
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House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) issued a statement Friday indicating that he is unlikely to comply with a subpoena issued this month requesting that he testify before the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

An 11-page response to the committee from McCarthy’s counsel questioned the committee’s authority and claimed that lawmakers on the panel are “not exercising a valid or lawful use of Congress’ subpoena power,” according to a letter from Elliot S. Berke, McCarthy’s lawyer.

Berke goes on to request information from the committee, including a more specific list of the subjects and topics the committee intends to discuss with McCarthy, along with the legal rationale justifying the subpoena request. McCarthy’s counsel also asks whether the committee is adhering to the confines of the resolution that authorized the panel.

“While Congress maintains a vast and awesome power of constitutional oversight to serve as an important piece of our system of checks and balances and separation of powers, it is undemocratic for a majority party to attempt to use the full force of the federal government to attack perceived political rivals,” Berke argues.

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McCarthy’s decision comes after Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) told the panel that he would cooperate with the committee’s subpoena only if they met certain conditions, such as sharing ahead of time all the evidence the committee has obtained regarding his role in the Jan. 6 attack.

McCarthy and Jordan penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal this week that criticized the bipartisan committee for “weaponizing government to attack Republicans,” and claimed that they had “no relevant information” to provide the panel in “advancing its legislative purpose.”

Other Republican members of Congress who were subpoenaed include Reps. Mo Brooks (Ala.), Andy Biggs (Ariz.) and Scott Perry (Pa.), who have all declined to voluntarily provide information to the committee.

“The refusal of these Members to cooperate is a continued assault on the rule of law and sets a dangerous new precedent that could hamper the House’s ability to conduct oversight in the future,” committee spokesman Tim Mulvey said in a statement Friday night. “Chairman [Bennie G.] Thompson will formally respond to these Members in the days ahead.”

The House committee is on track to begin the public hearings about the attack next month.

The escalatory move by McCarthy means the panel will quickly have to decide next enforcement actions for noncompliant lawmakers.

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Lawmakers on the panel have previously pointed to a palette of potential disciplinary measures for recalcitrant House Republicans, including criminal contempt referral to the Justice Department and a House Ethics Committee referral.

“No conversation about contempt. We’ll talk about next steps, which could be a number of things,” Thompson (D-Miss.) told reporters earlier in May after the committee announced the subpoenas.

The response from GOP lawmakers may also set the precedent for more potential future member-on-member subpoenas in the case that Republicans win back the majority in the November midterms. House Republicans are already laying the groundwork for a number of GOP-led investigations against the Biden administration and Democrats.