House Republicans are plotting revenge on the select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, insurrection, as the GOP weighs a broader effort to re-litigate some of Donald Trump’s biggest election grievances if it recaptures the House majority.
The former President has been itching for payback and leaning heavily on his Capitol Hill allies to defend him against a recent slew of damaging revelations about his role in the deadly attack on the US Capitol. Now, as Republicans search for ways to undermine those findings, their party has started to lay the groundwork to investigate the select committee itself.
Republicans have already asked the January 6 panel to preserve a broad range of documents in its possession – a signal they’re preparing to force those records to be turned over should they wield powerful committee gavels next year. And privately, Republican sources say there have been discussions about subpoenaing members of the select committee, particularly Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who is fighting an uphill battle for reelection, and retiring Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, if both Republicans are private citizens next year.
It’s an idea that has garnered support among allies of the former President. But House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy – who has refused to comply with a subpoena from the select committee and has long held that the panel lacks the authority to haul in private citizens – is cool to the idea, according to a Republican source familiar with his thinking.
Other investigative ideas under consideration among House Republicans include establishing their own select committee – or repurposing the current one – to investigate matters such as Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s role in Capitol security enforcement on January 6, 2021; the intelligence and security failures surrounding that day; and the treatment of the rioters who have been jailed for their role in the insurrection.
Meanwhile, some of Trump’s fiercest acolytes have started to publicly push for hearings and probes into his baseless claims of fraud in the 2020 election – even as the select committee reveals an avalanche of testimony about how those lies incited a violent mob to attack the Capitol.
“I think that it is important to seek the truth – wherever it may lead – on all of this,” GOP Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, a member of the hard-line House Freedom Caucus, told CNN. “We should be looking at whatever we can through the standing committees and have a robust debate about it.”
The GOP’s growing desire to craft a counternarrative on January 6 – and shift the blame away from Trump – comes as the former President is gearing up to soon announce another White House bid. Pursuing that effort could also be politically advantageous for McCarthy, whose expected bid for speaker would be made easier with support from Trump. The former President has sometimes criticized the California Republican over how he has handled the GOP’s defense of Trump during the select committee’s investigation.
While McCarthy has vowed to conduct aggressive oversight and investigations, it’s unclear just how far he is willing to go when it comes to January 6 and the 2020 presidential election. And there could be some risks for turning the House into a venue for Trump’s vengeance campaign: Some Republicans have warned against rehashing old issues, arguing that the party would be better served by moving past 2020.
“I get it. There are people that still want to kick that dead horse,” said Rep. Steve Womack of Arkansas, who quit the powerful GOP Steering Committee because he was outraged some of his colleagues weren’t reprimanded for their conduct on January 6. “But at the end of the day, I think the smartest political move for us is to concentrate our efforts on the policies that will absolutely make life better for all Americans.”
Kinzinger, meanwhile, said he wasn’t sweating the GOP subpoena threats and accused Republican leaders of being willing to destroy the Constitution to do Trump’s bidding.
“It just shows (McCarthy) is trying to impress the Freedom Caucus,” Kinzinger told CNN. “It’s who he is.”
McCarthy began working to craft an oversight agenda earlier this year in anticipation of a House Republican majority. He has gathered input from key stakeholders, influential conservatives and — of course – Trump. The GOP leader and relevant committee heads have been actively pursuing document requests and preservation notices, and McCarthy will continue to seek input from across the House GOP Conference about which probes to pursue next year, according to the Republican source familiar with his thinking.
Aside from possible election-related inquiries, some of the GOP’s potential investigative targets include the origins of the novel coronavirus, particularly the laboratory leak theory that has gained steam in Republican circles; the bureaucratic decision-making behind Covid-related school closures and vaccine mandates; any business dealings involving President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter; the chaotic pullout from Afghanistan; and the border policies being overseen by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
But there’s also been growing calls on the right for the GOP to use its firepower to rewrite the narrative on January 6.
Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, a Trump ally and major proponent of overturning the 2020 election who was subpoenaed by the select committee, sent a letter to the House Oversight Committee this week demanding hearings into the election conspiracy theories featured in the widely debunked movie “2000 Mules.”
“Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, Arizona and Texas, all have issues. … They fall into categories that we call irregularities, abnormalities and inconsistencies,” said Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas, who signed the letter long with 10 other House Republicans. “We believe we’re due answers.”
But not everyone in the GOP believes they should use their power and platform to revisit the 2020 election. “We need to move on. I don’t support retribution politics,” one senior Republican told CNN. “This is not what the majority of Americans care about.”
There seems to be more of an appetite in the GOP for focusing on the security failures that enabled the Capitol to be breached on January 6.
Reps. Rodney Davis of Illinois and Jim Banks of Indiana have been leading a GOP investigation into the matter and are planning to unveil their findings in a report sometime this fall, according to sources familiar with the matter. That timeline that would coincide with – and, the GOP hopes, help counter-program — the select committee’s final report about the insurrection.
But Davis, who was poised to chair the House Administration Committee in a GOP-led chamber, recently lost his primary to a colleague backed by Trump.
Rep. Barry Loudermilk of Georgia, who is next in line to lead the Administration Committee, told CNN he is “definitely interested” in chairing the panel next year, though the decision is ultimately up to McCarthy. Loudermilk feels strongly that the committee, which has jurisdiction over Capitol security and election issues, should pick up the reins of Davis’ probe if Republicans control committee gavels next year.
“Rodney’s doing yeoman’s work. But there’s a lot of info we aren’t privy to or able to get our hands on,” Loudermilk told CNN, citing his party’s lack of subpoena power in the minority.
Loudermilk has his own grievances about the select committee, which publicly raised concerns about a tour he gave in the Capitol complex the day before the January 6 insurrection.
On the GOP’s requests for the select committee to preserve documents, Loudermilk said: “If they have not preserved or turned those over – especially those that are departing – then we would definitely have to look at (subpoenas).”
There’s also a debate inside the conference about whether to create a select committee to investigate these issues. But lawmakers familiar with McCarthy’s thinking believe his preference is to see any investigations housed within the committees that have relevant jurisdiction, although he may need to offer concessions to his right flank to secure the speaker’s gavel.
“That’s a conference decision, it’ll be a Speaker Kevin McCarthy decision,” said Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, who is in line to chair the powerful House Judiciary Committee if the GOP wins the majority. When asked whether Trump was itching for investigations, he added: “He wants the truth out there for the American people, just like we all do.”
McCarthy was noncommittal when asked by CNN whether he wants to pursue investigations into January 6 security failures, potentially in the form of a select committee, if Republicans are in charge next year.
“Let’s wait. Don’t prejudge our report,” McCarthy said. “Let’s see what our report is. … Then we’ll evaluate.”
But it’s not just 2020 that Trump’s allies are interested in revisiting. There’s also been talks of scrutinizing the special counsel investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, GOP sources said.
Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee quietly met with former Trump national security official Kash Patel in a secured classified setting on Wednesday, raising eyebrows in the Capitol as GOP lawmakers weigh potential investigative targets for next year.
Patel, who remains close with Trump and speaks to the former President regularly, was an aide to former House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, a onetime Republican congressman from California, and played a prominent role in pushing back against the investigation into the Trump campaign’s connections to Russia.
Patel was “waived in” by GOP members of the Intelligence Committee, according to a source familiar with the matter, who said it was “very odd” for the minority party to hold such a meeting. Democrats on the committee were not notified that the meeting was taking place, according to the source, raising questions about its purpose.
If elected speaker, McCarthy will have to balance the investigative demands of his right flank with the preferences of his so-called governing wing.
While McCarthy and Trump speak “weekly,” according to people familiar with their relationship, several Trump allies said the former President hasn’t felt the need to pressure the California Republican to consider wielding his potential investigative powers aggressively because McCarthy has already shown he wants to do so.
“There is crossover with what Trump wants because, in general, he wants Kevin to be tougher, but a lot of this is being driven by McCarthy on his own,” said a person familiar with the former President’s thinking.
Still, McCarthy continues to hold some cards close to his chest – not wanting to telegraph his moves and tip off potential witnesses.
While that thirst for vengeance may dictate some of Republicans’ targets of inquiries, people close to McCarthy said it would not affect the investigative process or the conduct of committee members and their staff.
The House minority leader has also rejected some oversight targets floated to him by conservatives that he doesn’t believe have merit and would thus be a waste of time and taxpayer resources.
Inside Trump’s orbit, allies told CNN that McCarthy’s attitude toward aggressive oversight investigations changed earlier this year after Pelosi rejected his bid to install two staunch Trump allies – Banks and Jordan – on the House panel investigating the former President’s involvement in January 6. McCarthy was also enraged when the panel slapped him and several other GOP lawmakers with subpoenas.
“Pelosi rejecting Jordan and Banks [from the House Select Committee investigating January 6] was a turning point for Kevin,” said a person familiar with his thinking.
“He was like, ‘OK, if that’s how you want to play.’ I think you’re going to see him play a lot harder ball when he takes the majority than people realize,” this person continued.