Posted by on January 11, 2022 6:06 am
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Jan. 6 committee at crossroads as Republican members refuse to aid inquiry

FILE – House Jan. 6 Select Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., center, flanked by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., left, and Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., meet Dec. 1, 2021, at the Capitol in Washington. The House panel says it has “no choice” but to move forward with contempt charges against former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Jan. 6 committee at crossroads as Republican members refuse to aid inquiry

Emily Brooks January 11, 06:00 AMJanuary 11, 06:00 AM

The House select committee formed to investigate the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol faces a decision on how far it will go in handling Republican lawmakers who refuse to voluntarily speak to the panel or provide it with information.

Both Reps. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and Jim Jordan of Ohio, the two sitting members of Congress from whom the committee has requested further information so far, have said they will not comply.

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While the committee has been quick to subpoena former members of President Donald Trump’s administration, vote to hold them in contempt of Congress, and refer them for criminal prosecution if they refuse to comply, taking such a route with sitting lawmakers would break congressional norms and likely prompt a legal battle.

But the committee has not yet come to a consensus about whether it has the authority to issue subpoenas of other members. In the meantime, it hopes public pressure either convinces Republicans to change their minds or influences other members to cooperate willingly.

JIM JORDAN DECLINES ‘UNPRECEDENTED AND INAPPROPRIATE’ JAN. 6 COMMITTEE REQUEST

The riot panel in December requested voluntary cooperation from Perry, the new chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, and Jordan, the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, whom House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had originally appointed to sit on the Jan. 6 committee before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi vetoed his appointment. The panel wanted to know about Perry’s role in efforts to install a new acting attorney general who would pursue former President Donald Trump’s claims of election fraud and about Jordan’s communications with Trump on the day of the riot, among other matters, such as plans to contest or reject Electoral College results.

Perry swiftly declined the committee’s request, calling the committee “illegitimate, and not duly constituted under the rules of the US House of Representatives.” Jordan responded two and a half weeks later in a four-page letter, saying that “it amounts to an unprecedented and inappropriate demand to examine the basis for a colleague’s decision on a particular matter pending before the House of Representatives.”

Their refusal to cooperate could leave gaps in the key areas that the committee is probing, such as who pushed false claims about the election, what Trump was doing on the day of the riot, and why he did not call off the rioters sooner.

The committee is now plotting how to respond to the refusals. 

“Mr. Jordan has previously said that he would cooperate with the committee’s investigation, but it now appears that the Trump team has persuaded him to try to hide the facts and circumstances of January 6th. The Select Committee will respond to this letter in more detail in the coming days and will consider appropriate next steps,” a committee spokesperson said in a statement Monday, the Hill reported.

Chairman Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, is keeping open the possibility of subpoenaing members of Congress.

“I think there are some questions of whether we have the authority to do it. We’re looking at it. If the authorities are there, there’ll be no reluctance on our part,” Thompson said on NBC’s Meet the Press on Jan. 2.

Thompson told reporters Monday evening that the committee had not yet made a decision about subpoenaing other members.

“We’ll look into every option available and try to get them before the committee,” Thompson said.

Monday was the House’s first day back in session since leaving for the holidays, and the committee has not yet had the chance to meet as a group since sending out the compliance requests to Perry and Jordan and getting their refusals.

In the meantime, the committee might rely on “the court of public opinion” to deal with members who do not comply, as Thompson told Politico.

“Every few years on the House side, those members will have to defend not telling what they did about what occurred on Jan. 6,” he said.

The panel may send more voluntary compliance requests to members, raising questions as to whether it has any leverage if it does not do more to compel Jordan and Perry to provide information. North Carolina Rep. Madison Cawthorn and Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks both spoke at Trump’s rally at the Ellipse ahead of the riot.

Thompson told the Washington Examiner “there probably will be” more members who receive requests to comply with the committee voluntarily.

The proposition of subpoenaing members of Congress enrages Republicans.

“This is the most viciously partisan committee in history, and it has been since before day one. No member has ever been blocked from serving on a Select Committee, and now, for the first time in history, they’re threatening to subpoena a sitting member of Congress. No committee has ever violated House rules so flagrantly,” said Indiana Rep. Jim Banks, who was originally selected by McCarthy to be the ranking member on the committee but was also vetoed by Pelosi.

But pushing out subpoenas could be tricky, not only authority-wise, but politically.

There is no precedent for a congressional committee other than the Ethics Committee issuing subpoenas.

“What would stop a committee from subpoenaing members of the opposite party to obtain a political advantage?” Stanley Brand, a congressional ethics expert and legal counsel for former White House chief of staff Dan Scavino, told the Washington Post. “That is why the Ethics Committee is evenly split — to prevent abuse of the minority by the majority.”

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It may also add to Republicans’ argument that the committee is purely political. Pelosi’s never-before-seen move of blocking Jordan and Banks from the committee prompted McCarthy to pull his other three appointments in protest unless all five were seated, leaving the committee with only Democratic-appointed members, two of whom, Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, are Republicans.

However, those on the committee may not see this as a disincentive. Asked if he was worried about how issuing subpoenas to members might change the dynamic of Congress, Thompson said, “No.”

“Democrats overstepped and overpromised, and they know it. The Russia hoax was exposed as a fraud, and this is their attempt to appease disappointed radicals who fantasize about putting Republicans in jail,” Banks said.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

Originally appeared at Washington Examiner

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