“As a representative and the leader of the minority party, it is with neither regret nor satisfaction that I have concluded to not participate with this select committee’s abuse of power that stains this institution today and will harm it going forward,” McCarthy said in a statement Wednesday night.
The Republican leader charged that the committee “is not conducting a legitimate investigation,” citing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s rejection of some of his picks to serve on the panel, and claimed that it “is not serving any legislative purpose.”
The committee’s vice chairwoman, Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, did not rule out the possibility of the panel subpoenaing McCarthy in the future, saying late Wednesday: “We’re going to evaluate our options, but we will get to the truth.”
The committee’s request to McCarthy, detailed in a new letter released Wednesday, marks a significant moment in the ongoing investigation as the panel is now seeking cooperation from the top Republican in the House.
“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,” wrote committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi. “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.’ “
The letter cited several previous comments made by McCarthy following the riot, including interviews where he discussed his conversations with Trump as the violence unfolded.
“As is readily apparent, all of this information bears directly on President Trump’s state of mind during the January 6th attack as the violence was underway,” it stated, offering a window into what the committee wants to discuss with the minority leader.
The panel also made clear it wants to question McCarthy about his communications with Trump, White House staff and others in the week after the January 6 attack, “particularly regarding President Trump’s state of mind at that time.”
“The Select Committee has contemporaneous text messages from multiple witnesses identifying significant concerns following January 6th held by White House staff and the President’s supporters regarding President Trump’s state of mind and his ongoing conduct. It appears that you had one or more conversations with the President during this period,” the letter states.
“It appears that you may also have discussed with President Trump the potential he would face a censure resolution, impeachment, or removal under the 25th Amendment. It also appears that you may have identified other possible options, including President Trump’s immediate resignation from office,” it added.
In the letter, the committee traces McCarthy’s public comments since the attack and questions whether Trump pressured him to change his tone when the pair met in late January 2021.
“Your public statements regarding January 6th have changed markedly since you met with Trump,” the panel said in the letter. “At that meeting, or at any other time, did President Trump or his representatives discuss or suggest what you should say publicly, during the impeachment trial (if called as a witness), or in any later investigation about your conversations with him on January 6th?”
The panel cites multiple public reports about the heated exchange between McCarthy and Trump as the attack unfolded that it wants to learn more about.
CNN previously reported about an expletive-laced phone call between McCarthy and Trump while the Capitol was under attack on January 6 where Trump said the rioters cared more about the election results than McCarthy did.
The letter also cites an interview where McCarthy told a local California news outlet that on January 6 he had a “very heated” conversation with Trump where he told the then-President to “get help” to the Capitol.
In May 2021, McCarthy had told CNN’s Manu Raju that “Sure,” he’d be willing to testify about his conversations with Trump on January 6 if he were asked to by an outside commission.
McCarthy is the third Republican lawmaker whom the committee has requested cooperation from, following letters to Reps. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and Jim Jordan of Ohio in recent weeks. Both Perry and Jordan have indicated they will not cooperate with the committee voluntarily, and CNN reported earlier Wednesday that even the panel is currently weighing its options to get members to comply.
At issue is determining a path that would give them the best opportunity to obtain the information and interviews they are looking for by using the powers of the committee at their disposal.
The committee is wrestling with whether they have the constitutional right to subpoena their fellow members, and if they do, if they have an enforcement mechanism in place that will ultimately lead to cooperation.
But Wednesday’s letter makes clear that the committee will continue to seek information from their fellow members even as they deliberate what to do if Republicans continue to resist their overtures.
Thompson separately told CNN that the committee specifically wants to hear from McCarthy about why he gave a floor speech on January 13 where he said that Trump “bears responsibility” for the January 6 attack.
“We need to get him before the committee to just say, why did you make that statement?” Thompson said. “We’d like to know, did you call the White House and say, ‘hey, what’s going on?’ We don’t know. We think it’s significant because a few days later, he was on the floor, saying that the President bared some responsibility for what occurred. And so we’d like to know, where did you arrive at that decision?”
Thompson said that the committee does not currently have phone records from McCarthy or anything other than his public statements, and the decision of whether the panel will ask the minority leader to turn over documents is “to be determined.”
Asked whether the panel would subpoena McCarthy if he refuses to accept its voluntary request, Thompson said, “We’ll consider it.”
This story and headline have been updated with additional developments Wednesday.