WASHINGTON (AP) — The House panel investigating the U.S. Capitol insurrection requested an interview and records from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Wednesday, shifting their investigation to a top ally of former President Donald Trump in Congress.
Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, Democratic chairman of the panel, requested that McCarthy, R-Calif., provide information to the nine-member panel regarding the violence that took place last January and his communications with former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in the days prior to the attack.
“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," Thompson said in the letter. "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 request seeks information about McCarthy’s conversations with Trump “before, during and after” the riot, with lawmakers seeking a window into Trump’s state of mind from an ally who has acknowledged repeated interactions with the then-president. The committee also wants to question McCarthy about communications with Trump and White House staff in the week after the violence, including a conversation with Trump that was reportedly heated.
The committee acknowledged the sensitive and unusual nature of its request as it proposed a meeting with McCarthy on either Feb. 3 or 4. “The Select Committee has tremendous respect for the prerogatives of Congress and the privacy of its Members,” Thompson wrote. “At the same time, we have a solemn responsibility to investigate fully the facts and circumstances of these events.
A request for comment from McCarthy's office was not immediately returned.
McCarthy attracted the committee’s attention through his public characterizations after the riot of his private discussions with Trump. Thompson’s letter cites multiple statements and interviews in which McCarthy described his interactions with the president, including a CBS interview in which McCarthy said: “I was very clear with the President when I called him. This has to stop and he has to go to the American public and tell them to stop this.”
One of his Republican colleagues, Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera Butler, has said McCarthy told her that Trump told him, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”
The Republican leader is the third member of Congress the committee has reached out to for voluntary information. In the past few weeks, GOP Reps. Jim Jordan and Scott Perry were also contacted by the panel but have denied the requests to sit down with lawmakers or provide documents.
The panel, comprised of seven Democrats and two Republicans, has already interviewed more than 300 people and issued subpoenas to more than 40 as it seeks to create a comprehensive record of the Jan. 6 attack and the events leading up to it.
The committee says the extraordinary trove of material it has collected — 35,000 pages of records so far, including texts, emails and phone records from people close to Trump — is fleshing out critical details of the worst attack on the Capitol in two centuries, which played out on live television.
Thompson told The Associated Press in an interview last month that about 90% of the witnesses subpoenaed by the committee have cooperated despite the defiance of high-profile Trump allies like Meadows and Steve Bannon. Lawmakers said they have been effective at gathering information from other sources in part because they share a unity of purpose rarely seen in a congressional investigation.
Farnoush Amiri And Eric Tucker, The Associated Press