“If he has information he wants to share with us, and is willing to voluntarily come in, I’m not taking the invitation off the table,” Thompson said. Thompson also emphasized: “If Leader McCarthy has nothing to hide, he can voluntarily come before the committee.”
If McCarthy won’t, then things could start to get a bit more official.
So far, the committee has issued formal requests for voluntary compliance to two lawmakers: Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania. Both have said they would not comply with the request. The next move goes to the committee.
Perry, investigators say, may have been involved directly with a scheme to install a Trump ally, Jeffrey Clark, at the Department of Justice. As for Jordan, it was his contact with Trump and, potentially, members of Trump’s inner circle on Jan. 6 that piqued the committee’s interest.
A representative for McCarthy’s office did not return a request for comment Thursday.
Back in April, however, the Republican congressman told Fox News: “I was the first person to contact [Trump] when the riots were going on. He didn’t see it. What he ended the call with saying was telling me he’ll put something out to make sure to stop this.”
Guardedly, McCarthy also said at the time: “My conversations with the president are my conversations with the president.”
McCarthy’s claim that Trump “didn’t see” the riot is not yet supported by any public evidence.
In any event, one of those conversations with Trump was a key feature cited in Trump’s second impeachment this January.
Sometime in the middle of the afternoon of Jan. 6—the exact timing is not entirely clear— according to a public statement made by fellow Republican Rep. Jamie Beutler-Herrera, McCarthy called Trump to report on the violence playing out at the Capitol.
McCarthy was also calling to ask Trump for help—namely demanding that the president release a public statement immediately to quell the riot.
McCarthy said he asked Trump to “publicly and forcefully” call off his supporters, but his request fell on deaf ears.
Despite the sea of Trump flags fluttering in the wind just outside, the spray of “Trump for 2020” T-shirts, banners, hats, bumper stickers, posters, signs, and other ephemera in bright blue, red, or white display, Trump insisted it wasn’t his supporters mobbing the building and viciously beating police amid calls for the head of his second-in-command, then-Vice President Mike Pence.
Trump told McCarthy it was “antifa.”
McCarthy, according to Beutler-Herrera’s official statement, then went on to reject the president’s assertion, urging Trump to accept that, no, it was his supporters scaling the walls.
“Well, Kevin,” Trump said. “I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”
That reportedly set off a powder keg. McCarthy, the House GOP leader, exploded at Trump, the president of the United States.
“Who the fuck do you think you are talking to?” McCarthy said.
Several Republican members confirmed the conversation to reporters at various outlets in February. McCarthy has also publicly discussed the exchange.
Though McCarthy has long taken a position against the current investigation of the attack, a week after the assault from the House floor, he laid the blame squarely on Trump.
“The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters,” McCarthy said. “He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding. These facts require immediate action by President Trump.”
McCarthy called the attack “criminal” and “undemocratic,” and openly proclaimed that the suggestion it was “antifa” at the gates on Jan. 6 was false.
Despite this, he would not vote to impeach Trump for his conduct. That would be too divisive, he argued.
Public hearings hosted by the House select committee on the issue will begin in the new year. Lawmakers will hear testimony and parse evidence openly about the Trump administration’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. They will likely also call on state and local election officials to testify about the president’s pressure campaign to overturn electoral results.
There will be assessments on the state of national security and intelligence gathering failures in the runup to the assault. Thompson has also stressed that the role of extremist organizations like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers will come into focus.
The committee will use the information it gleans to inform a variety of legislative decisions, including those they make about possible amendments or revisions to the Electoral Count Act of 1887. The committee also has not ruled out the possibility of issuing criminal referrals, if necessary.
Only 24 hours ago, Trump filed a motion with the Supreme Court resisting the idea of the committee weighing criminal referrals. He’s currently in a tug of war with Thompson over a trove of presidential records that investigators requested from the National Archives back in August. Trump tried to shield the records, citing executive privilege, but President Joe Biden overrode him, saying that the documents were more vital to the public interest than Trump’s.
A lower court and an appeals court have ruled against Trump, and now it will be the Supreme Court that decides whether it will even hear Trump’s appeal. The Jan. 6 committee recently narrowed its request on some of the records, underlining that it only needs documents that are relevant to its probe.
The investigation was never designed to be a catch-all of Trump’s entire presidential archive, and the decision to narrow the request was strategic as it might very well chip away at Trump’s claims of abuse of the executive branch by members of Congress.
Thompson told ABC News on Wednesday that the committee’s focus would not be deterred as the anniversary of the attack looms.
“What we will do in our hearings is put the pieces of the puzzle together so the average man and woman on the street will understand how close we came to losing our democracy,” he said.