House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s months-long campaign to undermine the committee House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) set up to investigate the January 6 insurrection finally came to a culmination on Wednesday, when he announced he won’t be nominating any Republicans to serve on it after all.
Instead, he said at a news conference that House Republicans will conduct their own investigation of an attempt to reject last November’s election results that most of them supported and that was instigated by the leader of their party.
“We will run our own investigation,” McCarthy said, adding later that “no committee in Congress will work if one person is picking all who can serve.”
Kevin McCarthy says that Republicans will run their own investigation into the insurrection instigated by the leader of their party pic.twitter.com/SkclfTS3hg— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) July 21, 2021
McCarthy’s news conference came hours after Pelosi rejected the nomination to the committee of two of McCarthy’s five proposed Republicans: Reps. Jim Jordan and Jim Banks, who both voted in January against certifying two states’ results which contributed to President Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump. Instead of nominating more suitable Republicans to the committee, McCarthy opted to try to blow the whole thing up.
And while McCarthy accused Pelosi of “playing politics” by rejecting Jordan and Banks, the irony is it’s his party that has an electoral interest in maintaining a fog of confusion around an insurrection that will be a major issue heading into next year’s midterms and the 2024 presidential election.
McCarthy rejected a bipartisan committee, now claims he wants a bipartisan committee
In May, the top Democrat and Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee — Reps. Bernie Thompson (MS) and John Katko (NY), respectively — hammered out a deal for a January 6 committee that had the features McCarthy now says he wants: equal representation of Democrats and Republicans, and Republican veto power over subpoenas.
But McCarthy torpedoed that deal because the scope of the committee’s work wouldn’t include an investigation into “interrelated political violence” purportedly perpetrated by leftist groups like Black Lives Matter and antifa.
“Given the Speaker’s shortsighted scope that does not examine interrelated forms of political violence in America, I cannot support this legislation,” a statement from his office concluded, in a talking point that McCarthy also raised on Wednesday.
Kevin McCarthy says he opposed a bipartisan commission to investigate Jan. 6 -- the thing he says he wants now -- because Pelosi wouldn't empower it to study "what built up to" the insurrection (in other words turn it into a forum to bash antifa) pic.twitter.com/JO5rwE4jyi— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) July 21, 2021
Despite McCarthy’s opposition to the Thompson-Katko deal, legislation to set up an independent commission passed the House with 35 Republicans voting in favor, but was blocked by Senate Republicans in their first filibuster of the Biden era. Pelosi responded by creating a commission with eight Democratic appointees and five Republican ones, with Pelosi having veto power over the members McCarthy appointed. One of the Pelosi appointees is Republican Rep. Liz Cheney (WY).
McCarthy’s move to appoint Jordan and Banks to the commission, meanwhile, signaled how disinterested he is in an independent January 6 investigation. Not only did Jordan and Banks vote against certifying parts of Trump’s loss, but as recently as two months ago, Banks was still unable to say Biden’s win was “legitimate” (despite Trump’s own officials repeatedly stating there is no evidence of widespread fraud) and was defending his vote against accepting the election results.
CHRIS WALLACE: Is Joe Biden the legitimate POTUS?— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) May 9, 2021
JIM BANKS: Yes, Joe Biden was elected. He was inaugurated.
WALLACE: Do you still question whether Biden won the election fair and square?
BANKS: I stand by my vote to object to the election results on January 6. pic.twitter.com/d3loRlaqzp
Jordan, meanwhile, is actually a witness of the events leading up to January 6. He was part of a group of House Republicans who publicly worked with the Trump White House last December to scheme about ways to overturn the election results on January 6.
McCarthy is just as guilty as anyone of sowing doubt about the election
Beyond trying to protect Trump and his party from an investigation that is likely to result in a damaging report issued just before next year’s midterm elections, McCarthy has self-interested reasons to try to kneecap a January 6 committee. He’s just as guilty as anyone for pushing lies about the 2020 election that persuaded Trump supporters the presidency was stolen and motivated them to storm the Capitol.
Just days after the election, for instance, McCarthy went on Fox News and proclaimed, “President Trump won this election, so everyone who’s listening, do not be quiet. We cannot allow this to happen before our very eyes ... join together and let’s stop this.”
.@GOPLeader Kevin McCarthy was laying the groundwork for the attack on the Capitol for months. 11/5/2020:— Jesse Lee (@JesseCharlesLee) January 12, 2021
“President Trump won this election, so everyone who’s listening, do not be quiet. We cannot allow this to happen before our very eyes... join together and let’s stop this.” pic.twitter.com/9Ys6elhUln
Two months later, McCarthy joined Banks and Jordan in voting against accepting the election results from Arizona and Pennsylvania (he’s since tried to claim he never supported efforts to overturn the election results wholesale).
McCarthy might not have been in favor of the storming of the Capitol itself — as Trump supporters rioted inside the Capitol on January 6, McCarthy had a phone call with Trump that remains shrouded in mystery, but during which McCarthy reportedly confronted Trump about why he wasn’t doing more to quell the unrest. But he also doesn’t seem in favor of interrogating why that unrest happened or what role his party and the former president could have played in prompting it: Asked about that call during Wednesday’s news conference, McCarthy quickly pivoted to law enforcement failures on January 6 — a topic he made clear will be a focus of the Republican investigation.
Asked about his mysterious phone call with Trump while the insurrection was ongoing, McCarthy quickly changes the topic to law enforcement failures pic.twitter.com/uYxjU1Un00— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) July 21, 2021
In the immediate aftermath of the insurrection, McCarthy gave a speech on the House floor in which he acknowledged that Trump “bears responsibility” for the events of January 6 — but in a remarkable turnaround, during a July 1 news conference he refused to acknowledge Trump bears responsibility for January 6.
Republicans didn’t really try to hide the fact they wanted to turn the January 6 investigation into a circus
Shortly before Pelosi announced she wouldn’t accept Banks and Jordan on the January 6 commission, Banks released a statement in which he indicated he intended to turn the committee into a circus.
“Make no mistake, Nancy Pelosi created this committee solely to malign conservatives and to justify the Left’s authoritarian agenda,” Banks said.
Pelosi on Thursday cited statements of that sort as a reason she rejected Banks and Jordan.
“They had made statements and taken actions that I think would impact the integrity of the committee,” Pelosi said during a news conference. “It’s my responsibility as Speaker of the House to make sure we get to the truth on this. We will not let their antics stand in the way of that.”
Pelosi on rejecting Jordan & Banks for Jan 6 committee: "They had made statements & taken actions that I think would impact the integrity of the committee ... it's my responsibility [to] make sure we get to the truth on this. We will not let their antics stand in the way of that" pic.twitter.com/U74etUYYs7— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) July 22, 2021
While McCarthy may not be appointing Republicans to serve on Pelosi’s committee, it remains the case that the House investigation will be bipartisan. Republican Rep. Cheney already agreed to serve on it, and on Wednesday she criticized McCarthy for “at every opportunity attempt[ing] to prevent the American people from understanding what happened.”
“We must have this select committee investigation,” Cheney told reporters. “We cannot allow those voices who are attempting to prevent the American people from getting the truth to prevail.”
Republicans, predictably, have responded by suggesting Cheney isn’t really a Republican.