Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), who was denied a seat on the House’s Jan. 6 Select Committee, appears to be running his own investigation into what happened that day, and has even sent letters to Cabinet agencies requesting the same information being sent to the committee be shared with him.
“You are receiving this letter because the House of Representatives Select Committee to Investigate the events of January 6th may have sent you a request for information,” Banks wrote to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in a letter from September. “The House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy appointed me to serve as the Ranking Member of the Select Committee. Yet, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to allow me to fulfill my duties as Ranking Member.”
“I ask that you provide me any information that is submitted to the Select Committee,” Banks added. “Additionally, please include me on any update or briefing that you provide,” He signed the letter with the title “Ranking Member” — a title he has not been appointed to by the speaker.
On the House floor, Liz Cheney entered this into the record calling out Jim Banks for sending letters to government agencies claiming he is the ranking member of the 1/6 committee even though he is not on the committee. pic.twitter.com/C1OxGeVhXN
— Annie Grayer (@AnnieGrayerCNN) October 21, 2021
Banks sent similar letters to numerous government agencies. Defending his actions, a spokesman for the congressman issued a statement to CNN claiming that Banks was not being deceitful. “The letter clearly states that Rep. Banks was refused the opportunity to fulfill his duties as Ranking Member,” the spokesperson said. “This is a bizarre Democrat narrative meant to distract from the actual contents of Rep. Banks’ letter and to avoid talking about the actual activities of the Select Committee, which are partisan, authoritarian and indefensible.”
But it’s not just Democrats who were concerned with what Banks was doing. The committee’s vice chair, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), one of two Republicans who sit on the committee, was the first to reveal that Banks sent the letters, called him out for it Thursday on the House floor.
“[Rep. Banks] noted that the Speaker had determined that he wouldn’t be on the committee, so I would like to introduce for the record number of letters the gentleman from Indiana has been sending to federal agencies, dated September 16 2021,” Cheney said during the debate on whether to hold Steve Bannon in contempt for refusing to comply with a subpoena from the committee. “For example, signing his name as the ranking member of the committee he’s just informed the House that he’s not on, and that he in fact is not on.”
In his letter, Banks stated that the rules of the House entitle the minority party to the same information as the majority party. But an appeals court ruled last December that minority committee members are entitled to sue in order to get information from federal agencies. Since Banks is not a member of the committee (and other Republicans are), however, that may not even be a right he can claim.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected Banks and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) as members of the committee in July, citing “concern about statements made and actions taken by these members.” Both Banks and Jordan voted against certifying Joe Biden’s election on Jan. 6, and Pelosi said that having either on the panel could “impact … the integrity of the investigation.”
By running this secret investigation of his own, Banks may have landed himself in a bit of hot water. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who sits on the Jan. 6 committee, told CNN that by sending the letters, Banks may have violated House rules. “That’s not only delusional and fantastical, but it might be some kind of violation of the rules of the House,” he said.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) added some perspective Thursday night after the House voted to hold Bannon in contempt. “Feels like there are a zillion scandals a month Republicans get in that would result in my expulsion or sanction if I ever did the same,” she wrote on Twitter. “I know it’s a tired thing to say, but over time it’s a bummer to experience how systematically an institution treats different people.”