The committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection is now seeking the voluntary cooperation of Kevin McCarthy, the top Republican in the House of Representatives, as the panel continues to look into the roots of the attack on the Capitol. The committee is interested in McCarthy’s conversations with Trump on the day of the riot and, according to Kyle Cheney of Politico, whether Trump or his allies pressured McCarthy to change his tone about the attack after he initially blamed the former president for it.
McCarthy on Wednesday said he had rejected the committee’s request, saying the inquiry — which is examining a violent attack aimed at overturning the results of a presidential election — is illegitimate and politically minded. “Now [the committee] wants to interview me about public statements that have been shared with the world, and private conversations not remotely related to the violence that unfolded at the Capitol,” McCarthy said in a statement posted Wednesday evening. “I have nothing else to add.”
In its letter to the House minority leader, the committee cites “conversations with President Trump before, during and after the violent January 6th attack” before laying out multiple instances in which McCarthy publicly acknowledged that he spoke with Trump on the day of the attack. “I was very clear with the president when I called him,” McCarthy told CBS while the attack was underway. “This has to stop, and he has to go to the American public and tell them to stop this.”
The Select Committee is seeking information from Rep. McCarthy about the violence of January 6th.
In a letter, Chair @BennieGThompson underscored the Minority Leader’s public statements & other reporting demonstrating that McCarthy has information relevant to the investigation. pic.twitter.com/7ftBN8kp7s
— January 6th Committee (@January6thCmte) January 12, 2022
The letter also references a conversation he had with a news outlet in his California congressional district, which reported that McCarthy had a “very heated conversation” with Trump as the riot was taking place. Other reports note that when McCarthy told Trump to issue a statement, Trump initially refused to do it before finally relenting and saying he would send a tweet. “That tweet wasn’t good enough for McCarthy, who wanted more,” Punchbowl news wrote on Jan. 8.
McCarthy also detailed his conversation with the president to colleagues in Congress. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) later issued a statement about the conversation, noting that when McCarthy told Trump to call off the riot, Trump “repeated the falsehood that it was antifa that had breached the Capitol.” McCarthy then told the president the rioters were his supporters. “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,” Trump replied, according to the account.
In the days following the attack, McCarthy blamed Trump explicitly. “The President bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters,” he said on the House floor on Jan. 13. “Let’s be clear,” he added, “Joe Biden will be sworn in as the President of the United States in one week because he won the election.”
McCarthy may have been incensed at the president’s lack of action on and immediately after Jan. 6, but it didn’t take him long to fall in line with the subsequent party-wide effort to downplay the significance of the attack. In June, he put multiple Republicans who did so on an “American Security” task force. One of them, Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.), likened the siege to a “normal tourist visit.” In July, he appeared at a press conference in which he blamed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for not doing more to fortify the Capitol. A few weeks earlier he’d worked to block the creation of the Jan. 6 committee, which is now asking for his cooperation.
McCarthy isn’t the first lawmaker the Jan. 6 committee has requested information from. Reps. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) received letters last month. The committee noted that Perry played an “important role” in Trump’s efforts to install loyalist Jeffrey Clark as acting attorney general, and that Jordan spoke with Trump on Jan. 6. Both Perry and Jordan have indicated they will not comply with the committee’s request.