WASHINGTON — Four House Republicans, including Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, signaled Thursday that they would not cooperate with subpoenas from the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, posing a dilemma for the panel that could have broad implications for the inquiry and for Congress itself.
Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and Andy Biggs of Arizona each sent letters to the committee objecting to the investigation before the depositions scheduled for this week, and McCarthy, of California, filed a court brief arguing the panel’s subpoenas are illegitimate.
“For House Republican leaders to agree to participate in this political stunt would change the House forever,” McCarthy and Jordan wrote in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. In a statement, Perry called the Democratic-led committee a “kangaroo court” and accused the panel of “perpetuating political theater, vilifying and destroying political opponents.”
The Republicans’ resistance could hinder the committee’s investigation, leaving unanswered questions about the deadly mob attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, that left more than 150 police officers injured. It will also likely force the panel to decide whether to pursue criminal contempt of Congress charges against the men, which could prompt a legal showdown whose outcome could set a precedent for future congressional investigations.
Perry, Biggs and Jordan were summoned to testify this week, with McCarthy and Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama scheduled for next week.
CNN earlier reported that Perry and Biggs had sent letters to the committee objecting to the subpoenas. Brooks did not respond to a request for comment.
The men have employed slightly different tactics in resisting the subpoenas. While Perry refused to appear — his lawyer stated flatly that the congressman “declines to appear for deposition on May 26 and requests that you withdraw the subpoena” — Jordan issued a lengthy list of demands to which the panel was unlikely to agree.
Jordan, who is in line to become Judiciary Committee chair should his party take control of Congress after November’s midterms, demanded “all documents, videos or other materials in the possession of the select committee” to be used in his questioning and any material the panel has in which his name appears.
“Your attempt to compel testimony about a colleague’s deliberations pertaining to a statutorily prescribed legislative matter and an important constitutional function is a dangerous escalation of House Democrats’ pursue of political vendettas,” Jordan wrote to Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chair of the committee.
A spokesperson for the committee declined to comment.
The men’s resistance came as 21 former Republican members of the House urged them to cooperate with the panel.
“We understand you may have concerns about this exercise of the committee’s subpoena power,” the former members wrote in their letter, posted to Medium. “Indeed, under most circumstances, we would strongly counsel against compelling the testimony of sitting members of Congress. But the exceptional nature of this circumstance is clear: one in which sitting members may have firsthand knowledge regarding an assault on our government. The best way to ensure a full and fair accounting of what happened before and on Jan. 6 is for you to provide your understanding of the events and to explain it to the American people.”
The committee issued the subpoenas this month as it dug deeper into the role Republicans played in attempts to overturn the 2020 election.
Perry, who coordinated a plan to try to replace the acting attorney general after he resisted former President Donald Trump’s false claims of widespread voting fraud, argued in a letter to the committee that there was “nothing improper” about his actions.
“The committee is without authority to issue the subpoena, and we respectfully request that it be immediately withdrawn,” his lawyer, John P. Rowley III, wrote.
The panel has been told by at least one witness that former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows burned documents in the fireplace in his office after a meeting with Perry, a person familiar with the committee’s activity said Thursday. The information was first reported by Politico. The Times reported Wednesday that the committee had information that Meadows had used his fireplace to dispose of documents.
McCarthy, along with Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 House Republican, filed a brief in support of Steve Bannon, a Trump ally who has been indicted on charges of contempt of Congress after he failed to comply with a subpoena from the committee.
In the brief, lawyers for McCarthy argued that the committee’s subpoenas were illegitimate because, they said, the panel is not following the rules of the House regarding the number of members of the committee and Republicans’ role on the panel. Several judges have already rejected that argument in other suits.
Bannon is attempting to have the contempt charges dismissed, and McCarthy and Scalise sided with him, arguing the Jan. 6 committee’s pursuit of Bannon could cause “potential damage” to the institution of the House.
The panel’s move to compel cooperation from the Republicans was widely seen as unprecedented in the modern history of congressional investigations. In the House, subpoenas are almost never issued outside of the Ethics Committee, which is charged with investigating allegations of members’ misconduct.
Before sending their letters, the Republicans under subpoena privately discussed how best to respond, according to people familiar with their thinking who described it on the condition of anonymity. Some argued there was a clear political benefit to defying the committee — because former Trump’s base would almost certainly look favorably on the move — but some also are worried about weakening the authority of their own subpoenas if their party takes over Congress.
Thompson has said that if the men do not comply, another option beyond a contempt charge could be a referral to the Ethics Committee.