Congress' Jan. 6 investigators face an inevitable reckoning with their GOP colleagues

These Republicans linked the former president with willing partners in the Justice Department who could fuel accusations of excessive fraud. They huddled with Trump for advice. And they spoke to Trump on the phone on Jan. 6 as he watched his own “Stop the Steal” rally turn into a violent riot that overtook the Capitol.

Veterans of the recent high-level Congressional investigation say the committee’s seven Democrats and two Republicans will soon recognize the importance of direct testimony from GOP peers.

In order to uncover the truth, the committee must selectively, carefully and precisely examine the testimony, documents and other evidence of some of these statements [lawmakers]”Said Norm Eisen, a senior official at the Brookings Institution who advised the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee during Trump’s first impeachment trial. “Of course they are central.”

That reality became clearer this week when Senate Justice Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) Called on the House of Representatives to investigate MP Scott Perry (R-Pa.) For helping Trump subordinate the Justice Department To put pressure to overturn the choice. Perry played a key role in connecting Trump with a Justice Department official willing to support the former president’s bid to overturn the election, the Senate Justice Democrats found.

Your report also referred to Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) ‘s contacts with the White House during this period.

The January 6th committee also issued a subpoena last week to Ali Alexander, leader of the pro-Trump organization Stop the Steal, who claimed he worked with several GOP lawmakers on the pre-insurrection rally, including MP Paul Gosar (Ariz.), Mo Brooks (Ala.) and Andy Biggs (Ariz.). (Biggs and Brooks denied the connection while Gosar did not address them.)

These steps follow the panel’s early move to ask telecommunications companies to keep records of several lawmakers – including House GOP Chairman Kevin McCarthy, who spoke directly to Trump when a mob broke through the Capitol on Jan. 6. That was like a warning shot. Selected committee members would not shy away from the unprecedented step of targeting their colleagues.

Since the committee was formed on Jan. 6 in June, House Republicans closest to Trump have attacked him, evading questions about whether they would cooperate. POLITICO contacted many of these lawmakers and their offices and received a mixture of direct denials, non-responses and shrugs.

When asked about a possible collaboration with the committee, Jordan repeatedly said: “I have nothing to hide”. Rep. Greg Pence (R-Ind.), Huddled in an office with his brother, then Vice President Mike Pence, during the riot, declined repeated requests to speak to the panel. And Gosar suggested not to cooperate because “the Supreme Court says no”. Gosar declined to elaborate and his office did not respond to a request for comment.

McCarthy, on the other hand, danced this year at various press conferences on the topic of cooperation with the selected body and tried to present its members and its mission as openly political. In May he said he had “no concerns” about a request for his testimony. In July, he said details of his phone call with Trump were already public. And in September he did not want to say explicitly whether he would cooperate. instead, he noted that he had “received no subpoena”.

Any refusal by a lawmaker to cooperate will put the committee in the difficult position of deciding whether to unload its legal arsenal on other lawmakers – from subpoenas to reprimands of criminal contempt to internal House policies that could enforce compliance , like fines or removal from committees.

As Eisen put it, the committee’s strategy of building a factual case to get the testimony of their colleagues is particularly important because it could help all challenges stand up to legal scrutiny. Investigators should tailor their requests to lawmakers, who had direct contact with key players during the January 6th events, advised Eisen, adding that the committee should have direct evidence of these episodes.

“Strategically, it’s the smartest thing to do first, because you know that each of these document requests, let alone testimonial requests, will be hotly contested,” said Eisen. “The lawyers of these potentially criminal members will certainly examine the possible legal arguments carefully.”

Any attempt to force lawmakers to testify or release documents would create a conflict over the powers of the House of Representatives to monitor its own members. Legal experts say there is no modern precedent for the House of Representatives to subpoena other lawmakers except as part of an ethics committee investigation.

In the 1990s, courts upheld a Senate Ethics Committee subpoena for the personal diaries of then Sen. Robert Packwood (R-Ore.), Who was suspected of sexual harassment. But there has been no comparable attempt at an investigation outside of the ethics committees of Congress.

Most lawmakers who have faced legal problems over the years have turned to the protection of the “speak or debate” clause in the Constitution, which prohibits them from being sued or legally for actions taken in an official capacity to be held accountable. But this legal protection should protect against the intrusion of other branches of government – not from the house itself, say experts.

“The issues here are political, not constitutional,” said a former member of the House of Representatives office, who spoke openly on condition of anonymity. “The privileges we normally think of, such as B. Speech or debate, apply to cross-cutting interference in the affairs of an equal branch of government. In this case it is internal to the industry and these privileges do not apply. “

The Republicans have, according to spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi. largely tried to dismiss the investigation as illegitimate rejected two of McCarthy’s recommendations to the committee – including Jordan – leading the GOP leader to withdraw all of his selections to join the January 6 investigation.

Two Republicans are on the panel, reps Liz Cheney from Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger from Illinois, but the broader GOP conference turned them down because their nomination came from the House Democrats and because both are outspoken critics of Trump after they did Voted to impeach him on January 6th attack. Some Republicans on Capitol Hill have privately wondered why a GOP member would agree to testify before the January 6 panel without counterbalancing McCarthy’s selection.

For Jordan, the top Republican on the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, the question of whether to deal with the elected body is particularly resonant. He made a name for himself as an aggressive Conservative investigator after Republicans made allegations of inappropriateness to the FBI and the Justice Department during the 2016 presidential election. Back then, House Republicans vigorously defended the power of subpoena to compel statements from executive officials.

Now Jordan and several of his colleagues are breaking new ground and are faced with possible subpoenas from their own office. And Republicans are warning Democrats that if the January 6 panel cracks down on other lawmakers, a GOP majority in 2023 would be ready to hold subpoenas against a handful of prominent liberals who themselves face behavioral issues.

Leave a Comment