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Pelosi names Republican Cheney to select committee investigating Jan. 6 attack on Capitol by pro-Trump mob

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), right, gestures towards lone Republican Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) as the House Select committee on the Jan. 6 insurrection gathers outside of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) office after meeting with the Speaker in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), right, gestures towards lone Republican Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) as the House Select committee on the Jan. 6 insurrection gathers outside of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) office after meeting with the Speaker in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday that Rep. Liz Cheney, an outspoken critic of former president Donald Trump, will serve on a select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.

Pelosi (D-Calif.) also tapped Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) to chair the 13-member panel and announced her other appointments. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who opposed the committee, has repeatedly declined to say whether he plans to appoint members; at a news conference Thursday morning, he dodged questions on the subject.

Cheney (Wyo.) was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for “incitement of insurrection” in the attack that resulted in five deaths, injured some 140 members of law enforcement and was the worst assault on the Capitol in centuries.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) would be on a commission investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. (Video: The Washington Post)

The House approved legislation Wednesday establishing the 13-member committee, with all but two Republicans — Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) — opposing the measure.

The move to form the committee comes more than one month after Senate Republicans blocked an effort to create an independent, bipartisan commission.

Addressing reporters after the group held its first meeting Thursday afternoon, Thompson said that the selected lawmakers plan to begin by inviting police officers who defended the Capitol on Jan. 6 to testify at a hearing.

“The select committee is determined to assemble a comprehensive and authoritative report on the events constituting the January 6th insurrection, the relevant causes of the insurrection and policy recommendations necessary to prevent any reoccurrence of this nightmare in the future,” Thompson said. “Although we eagerly await the arrival of our five other colleagues, many of us hope to begin the process with a hearing in which Capitol Police officers themselves could be able to testify about their experiences.”

Beginning the committee’s work in such a manner “makes a positive statement” to those who put their lives on the line to defend the Capitol and those who work there, Thompson said, noting that the hearing has not yet been scheduled.

In a statement, Cheney said she was “honored” to have been named to serve on the committee.

“Congress is obligated to conduct a full investigation of the most serious attack on our Capitol since 1814. . . . What happened on January 6th can never happen again,” Cheney said in the statement. “Those who are responsible for the attack need to be held accountable and this select committee will fulfill that responsibility in a professional, expeditious, and non-partisan manner.”

She added: “Our oath to the Constitution, our commitment to the rule of law, and the preservation of the peaceful transfer of power must always be above partisan politics.”

In addition to Thompson and Cheney, Pelosi announced six other appointees to the panel Thursday: Democratic Reps. Zoe Lofgren (Calif.), Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), Pete Aguilar (Calif.), Stephanie Murphy (Fla.), Jamie B. Raskin (Md.) and Elaine Luria (Va.).

Schiff and Raskin were the lead impeachment managers during Trump’s first and second impeachment trials, respectively; Lofgren also was an impeachment manager.

Pelosi designed the Jan. 6 select committee to have 13 members, five of whom would be appointed “after consultation with” McCarthy. That means she will maintain the power to overrule any McCarthy pick whom Democrats consider objectionable.

“It was our hope that we could have done this with the bipartisan outside commission,” Pelosi said at a news conference Thursday morning. “Maybe one day that will be possible. . . . But I’m very proud. And, as I say, decisions are liberating. They enable you to go to the next step. And the next step for us has always been to seek and find the truth.”

As chairman of the panel, Thompson alone will wield power to subpoena witnesses and documents. Taking depositions would require him to consult with the most senior member of the minority appointees, who have yet to be announced.

McCarthy was pressed by reporters Thursday about whether Republicans would participate in the investigation.

“When I have news on that, I’ll give it to you,” McCarthy said, casting Pelosi’s panel as a partisan effort.

Thompson told reporters that it’s up to McCarthy to decide whether he will appoint members, although the committee will go forward with its work regardless because a majority of the 13 members necessary to gather and conduct committee work have been announced.

“Well, we have a quorum, so we have to do something,” Thompson said. “I would encourage the minority leader to make recommendations.”

McCarthy also declined to say Thursday whether he thinks Trump is responsible for the violence of Jan. 6 — a statement at odds with a floor speech McCarthy delivered days after the riot, in which he laid the blame squarely on Trump’s shoulders.

“The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters,” McCarthy said in his Jan. 13 floor speech. “He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding. These facts require immediate action by President Trump — to accept his share of responsibility, quell the brewing unrest and ensure President-elect Biden is able to successfully begin his term.”

McCarthy spoke by phone with Trump the day of the insurrection and could be called as a witness in the investigation. Thompson declined to say Thursday whether he plans to compel McCarthy’s testimony.

“Well, we’ll let the investigators do their job,” Thompson told reporters. “If they say we need it, I won’t hesitate. But obviously, I won’t commit to it right now.”

McCarthy said on Jan. 13 that a “fact-finding commission” should be formed to investigate the riot and the events surrounding it. But since then, he has opposed both the formation of a bipartisan independent commission and Pelosi’s plan for a select House committee — even as he has continued to raise questions about the attack and why the Capitol was not better protected.

Republican leaders have suggested that any members of their conference who agree to serve as a Pelosi appointee will face consequences — although it remains to be seen what action in particular they may seek to take against Cheney, who was ousted from her No. 3 spot in GOP leadership earlier this year over her continued criticism of Trump.

During a meeting Wednesday night, McCarthy warned Republican freshmen that if they accept an offer from Pelosi to sit on the committee, he would remove them from their other committee assignments, according to two House Republican aides, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. McCarthy also has been relaying that message to Republican members on and off the floor, the aides said.

On Thursday, McCarthy denied that he had made any threats about committee assignments. But he said it was “unprecedented” for a Republican to accept a committee assignment from a Democratic speaker.

“I was shocked that she would accept something from Speaker Pelosi,” McCarthy said of Cheney. “It would seem to me, since I didn’t hear from her, maybe she’s closer to her than us. I don’t know.”

Cheney told reporters Thursday afternoon that she has not heard anything from McCarthy about her committee assignments.

“But again, my oath, my duty — all of our oaths and our duty is to the Constitution, and that will always be above politics,” she said.

The lawmaker who replaced Cheney in the third-ranking spot in House GOP leadership, Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), sharply criticized Cheney after Pelosi’s announcement.

“If she wants to be a pawn of Pelosi, that’s her choice,” Stefanik said as she left the Capitol after House votes Thursday morning.

Jacqueline Alemany, Karoun Demirjian and Colby Itkowitz contributed to this report.