WASHINGTON (AP) — The committee’s remarkable Jan. 6 decision to subpoena House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and other congressional Republicans for the insurgency on Capitol Hill is as rare as the deadly riot itself, deepening acrimony and mistrust between lawmakers and raising questions about what happens next.
The outcome is sure to reverberate beyond the immediate investigation into Donald Trump’s unfounded efforts to overturn Joe Biden’s presidential victory. Smoldering Republicans vow to use same tools, weaponizing Congress’s subpoena powers if they take control of the House in November’s midterm elections pursue Democrats, even at the highest level of Congress.
“This sets a very shocking and dangerous precedent,” said Rep. Peter Meijer of Michigan, who was among a handful of Republicans who voted to impeach Trump over the insurgency.
Subpoenas for McCarthy and the other four Republican lawmakers were served on Friday. as the committee of inquiry into the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol completes its initial phase. Public hearings are scheduled to begin in June, and the panel is still determining whether to call Republican senators to testify.
While the summoning of McCarthy and other Republican lawmakers wasn’t entirely unexpected, it did amplify concerns about the new normalization in Congress.
McCarthy, set to become Speaker of the House, brushed up on reporters on Friday, declining to say whether he would comply with the committee’s summons to testify. Asked repeatedly for comment, McCarthy was a mom.
The other Republicans – Andy Biggs of Arizona, Mo Brooks of Alabama, Jim Jordan of Ohio and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania – have denounced the investigation as illegitimate, and it is unclear whether any of them them will comply. The four all had conversations with Trump’s White House about contesting the election, and McCarthy unsuccessfully tried to convince Trump to call off the Capitol siege that day as rioters smashed windows near his own office.
“They have a duty to testify,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, DN.Y., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
“I mean, we’re investigating an insurgency against the United States government,” Nadler said. “An insurrection. Treason.”
The next steps are highly uncertain as the House, with its Democratic majority, debates whether to take the serious, if unlikely, action of holding its own colleagues in contempt of Congress by voting to send a criminal referral to the department. Justice for prosecution.
While other lawmakers have voluntarily come forward to speak to the committee, a move to force subpoenaed members to share information would be certain to become entangled in broader constitutional issues — among them whether the executive power should intervene in the governance of the legislative branch which tends to establish its own rules. The action would drag on for months, if not longer.
Instead, the House could take other actions, including a public vote of no confidence from McCarthy and the four GOP lawmakers, a referral to the ethics committee, imposing fines or even removing their assignments. to the committee.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declined to answer questions on Friday.
“I’m not talking about what’s going on in the January 6 committee,” she said in the halls, deferring to the panel as she usually does.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., who chairs the Jan. 6 bipartisan panel, said he had options after the five GOP lawmakers declined his request for voluntary interviews and now faces a summons.
“Look, all we’re saying is these are members of Congress who took the oath,” he said. “Our investigation indicated that January 6 actually happened, and what people saw with their own eyes did indeed happen.”
It’s a volatile time for Congress, with heightened political toxicity settling into a new normal since the Capitol insurgency left five people dead. This included a Trump supporter shot dead by police and a police officer who later died after fighting the mob.
The Capitol is slowly reopening to tourists this spring after being closed for security reasons and the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, but unease remains. Tensions are running high and at least one lawmaker on the panel, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., a vocal critic of Trump, is flanked daily by security guards, a shocking sign of how America has changed.
Trump’s influence over the Republican Party remains strong, leaving many GOP lawmakers reluctant to publicly accept Biden’s election victory, with some enacting their own false claims of a fraudulent 2020 election. Courts across the country have dismissed allegations that the elections were rigged.
If Republicans win power this fall, they are almost certain to launch investigations into Biden, Jan. 6 and other matters, now armed with the tool of subpoenas for their fellow lawmakers.
“It’s a race to the bottom, it is what it is,” said Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., who won Trump’s endorsement last week for his own re-election, despite his be beaten with him in the past.
“I mean, I hope when we come to power, we don’t do the same things they did,” he said. “But you know, turning around is fair play.”
While Democratic leaders say they’d be happy to testify if summoned by newly empowered Republicans next year, more rank-and-file lawmakers are privately expressing their unease with the aftermath, fearing they’ll be dragged into the melee.
Congress issuing a subpoena to one of its own would be rare, but not a first.
Ethics committees have subpoenaed individual lawmakers for potential wrongdoing. This includes the Senate’s vote in 1993 to subpoena the newspaper of Sen. Bob Packwood, R-Ore., during an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment. Faced with expulsion, he resigned first.
But traditionally, Congressional subpoenas are directed outward. Shortly after the founding of the country, Congress’s first subpoena was issued not to a lawmaker but to a real estate speculator who attempted to buy up what is now Michigan and attempted to bribe members of Congress, according to the House History website.
The Jan. 6 panel wrestled privately for weeks over whether to subpoena fellow lawmakers, understanding the seriousness of the action it would take.
Once the committee members made their choice to issue the subpoenas, Pelosi was notified of their decision.
Representative Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a panel member, suggested the decision was warranted due to the severity of the Jan. 6 attack.
“People have asked, ‘Does this set a precedent for issuing subpoenas for members of Congress in the future?’ If there are coups and insurgencies, then I guess there are,” Raskin said.