Reinforcing the degree to which Republicans do not want the truth about events on January 6 to reach the public, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has announced he will not cooperate with a request to voluntarily testify before the House Select Committee investigating the assault on the Capitol. In refusing the committee's request, McCarthy becomes the latest in a string of Republican representatives who have made it clear that talking about their role in events leading up to the insurgency is the last thing they want to do.
On Wednesday, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol sent a letter to McCarthy making clear that his testimony is critical to investigation of events that sent Congress scrambling as the Capitol was invaded. McCarthy didn’t just speak with Donald Trump before and after the attempt to prevent the counting of electoral votes, he had a phone conversation with Trump in the midst of the hours-long violence. That conversation reportedly included McCarthy yelling in anger, “Who the fuck do you think you are talking to?” after Trump refused to take action to end the violence. Current accounts of the phone call are secondhand, though they were included in an official statement from Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA).
In the past month, the committee has released text messages from members of Congress as well as those from Fox News propagandists and even Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr. Those texts clearly show that both Republican lawmakers and right-wing media understood that Trump was in control of the violence. However, the released messages were directed at former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. A full account of McCarthy’s conversation, including an accurate transcription of Trump’s replies, could be crucial in demonstrating his knowledge of the violence and his complicity in refusing to end the attack.
In refusing to testify, McCarthy is making clear—again—that his first loyalty is to Trump, with any concerns about the truth or what’s best for the nation somewhere far behind.
The letter from Committee Chair Rep. Bennie Thompson noted that McCarthy not only had conversations with Trump concerning his refusal to stop the violence on January 6, but about “the potential [Trump] 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.”
In the hours immediately following the assault, it appeared that McCarthy was angry enough to momentarily forget that he had cooperated in turning his party over to Trump. However, McCarthy swiftly remedied this situation. He flew to Mar-a-Lago to pay homage and turned his attacks away from Trump and toward his fellow Republicans who failed to join in the leadership cult. That includes attacking Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), one of two Republicans now on the select committee.
It’s been clear for months that McCarthy is terrified to make a full account of his conversations with Trump. His attempts to dodge any questions have led him into making a claim of pseudoprivilege in which “my conversations with the president are my conversations with the president.” Executive privilege does not extend to conversations held with members of the legislative branch.
On receiving the letter from the select committee, it took only a few hours for McCarthy announce that he would not be appearing. McCarthy—who earlier tried to sabotage the committee with an attempt to force the committee to include in its membership some of those known to be most involved in perpetuating the Big Lie around the 2020 election—indicated that the committee was “only out to hurt political opponents” and that he would not cooperate with what he called “an abuse of power.”
It took even less time for Cheney to make clear what she thought of McCarthy’s refusal. As reported in The Washington Post, Cheney had this to say about her titular leader in the House.
“I wish that he were a brave and honorable man,” said Cheney. “He’s clearly trying to cover up what happened. He has an obligation to come forward and we’ll get to the truth.”
However, in an interview with MSNBC, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) noted that McCarthy has some very personal reasons for keeping his lips zipped—reasons that include his involvement in possible criminal charges of conspiracy. In recent weeks, reports indicate that the select committee has been seriously considering how it may make criminal referrals to the Department of Justice for those involved not just in planning and encouraging the violence on January 6, but for the dozens of Republicans who were intimately involved in a scheme to overturn the results of the election by refusing to honor electoral votes.
Related to that scheme were revelations on Tuesday showing that Republicans forged documents in multiple states to falsely declare Trump the winner in states where President Joe Biden actually came out on top. This is just one aspect of a plan that was presented in an extensive PowerPoint slide deck to Republican members of the House so that they could properly execute their part of the conspiracy.
It’s not clear if McCarthy was present for that presentation, but if he were to appear to testify, he would certainly be asked about this event and other meetings held in preparation for overthrowing the legitimate government of the United States.
Article reprinted with permission from Alternet