(WASHINGTON) — Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., the chairman of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, invited House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., on Wednesday to sit for an interview with investigators.
“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 in a phone interview with ABC News.
Earlier this week, McCarthy, who spoke to then-President Donald Trump during the riot, was asked in a local television interview whether he would cooperate with the committee’s investigation.
“I don’t have anything to add. I have been very public, but I wouldn’t hide from anything, other,” he said in an interview with KBAK.
“If Leader McCarthy has nothing to hide, he can voluntarily come before the committee,” Thompson told ABC News, adding that he would consider sending McCarthy a formal request to appear.
A McCarthy spokesman did not respond to a message seeking comment on Thompson’s remarks.
The select committee has formally requested interviews with Reps. Scott Perry, R-Pa., and Jim Jordan, R-Ohio. Jordan is of interest to investigators for his conversations with Trump on Jan. 6, while Perry has been linked to unsuccessful efforts to get the Trump Justice Department to investigate claims of election fraud in late 2020.
Both have rejected the committee’s requests.
The Mississippi Democrat also told ABC News that the panel could formally invite other GOP lawmakers — House members or senators — to appear before the committee in the coming weeks.
McCarthy told at least one colleague that Trump dismissed his request to help stop the riot, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., said in a statement during Trump’s second impeachment trial.
In an interview with Fox News in April, McCarthy said Trump “didn’t see” the riot was unfolding until they spoke.
“What he ended the call with saying was telling me he’ll put something out to make sure to stop this. And that’s what he did. He put a video out later,” McCarthy said.
While committee vice chair Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., has said the committee could subpoena McCarthy or other lawmakers who don’t voluntarily cooperate with their inquiry, Thompson expressed reservations about doing so.
“If we subpoena them and they choose not to come, I’m not aware of a real vehicle that we can force compliance,” Thompson said of lawmakers.
A committee aide subsequently told ABC News the committee has not ruled out issuing subpoenas to sitting lawmakers.
Stan Brand, an ethics expert who served as House general counsel under Democratic Speaker Tip O’Neal, said such a move could be a “precedential danger” that future GOP-led committees could similarly attempt.
He also argued that lawmakers, unlike other witnesses, could argue that their actions around Jan. 6 were related to legislative activity, and protected under the speech and debate clause of the Constitution.
Jan. 6 committee enters new, public phase
Ahead of the first anniversary of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, Thompson also expanded on the committee’s plans for public hearings in the new year.
He said the committee would hear from state and local election officials about the 2020 election, to debunk Trump’s unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud and the dozens of unsuccessful lawsuits he launched to reverse the results after the presidential race was called.
“We have to look at that to dispel, or at least put before the public for their consumption, the people tasked with the responsibility of running those elections and whether or not they were legitimate or not,” Thompson said.
The select committee also plans to explore “the role of right-wing organizations” on Jan. 6, Thompson said, noting that some members of the far-right Proud Boys and Oath Keeper groups have been linked to the Capitol riot.
The committee will also publicly explore “whether or not we were prepared from an intelligence gathering position,” he said.
The panel aims to issue an interim report on its inquiry next summer, ahead of a final report in fall 2022.
“Part of what we will show is what went on to stoke the flames that ultimately led to Jan. 6.,” Thompson said. “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.”
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