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Political Notebook

House minority leader Kevin McCarthy rejects Jan. 6 committee request

House minority leader Kevin McCarthy has said there was no information he could provide the Jan. 6 panel about what then-President Donald Trump did that day to stop the attack.Alex Wong/Getty

WASHINGTON — House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California, on Thursday continued to defy the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, claiming there was no information he could provide the panel about what then-President Donald Trump did that day to stop the attack, although the two men spoke privately.

In a contentious news conference, McCarthy repeatedly evaded questions about whether he would defy a subpoena from the committee, and he accused the investigation of being “pure politics.” The committee’s leaders said Thursday they are considering issuing a subpoena to McCarthy after he rejected a request to voluntarily provide information about his communications with Trump and then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows during and after the attack.

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The committee is specifically interested in a Jan. 11 conference call between McCarthy and House Republicans. The GOP leader reportedly said during the call that Trump, in previous one-on-one conversations, had admitted “some degree of responsibility” for the deadly storming of the Capitol by a mob of his supporters. Around that time, the two reportedly discussed the consequences that the former president could face following the insurrection.

The panel is also interested in a call McCarthy had with Trump on Jan. 6 as the riot unfolded.

On Thursday, McCarthy avoided questions about the Jan. 11 call.

“I’m not sure what call you’re talking about,” McCarthy told a reporter when asked about the conference call that day.

Instead, McCarthy briefly referred to the separate call he held with Trump on Jan. 6, which he said he has publicly spoken about. He said he has no new information to give the committee about it.

“My conversation was very short, advising the president what was happening here,” McCarthy said Thursday.

McCarthy reportedly held that tense call with Trump as the riot unfolded. During the call, Trump “initially repeated the falsehood that it was antifa that had breached the Capitol,” according to Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler, Republican of Washington, who said McCarthy told her about the call after it happened.

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According to Herrera Beutler, after McCarthy told Trump it was his supporters storming the Capitol, Trump responded: “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”

McCarthy has since downplayed that phone call and defended Trump’s response to the insurrection.

Meanwhile, the same committee has issued subpoenas to four social media companies who have so far provided “inadequate response” to requests for information and records relating to the spread of misinformation and efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

The subpoenas were issued to giants in the industry, including Alphabet, Meta, Twitter, and Reddit.

“We cannot allow our work to be delayed any longer,” said the committee’s chairman, Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi, in a statement. “Two key questions for the Select Committee are how the spread of misinformation and violent extremism contributed to the violent attack on our democracy, and what steps — if any — social media companies took to prevent their platforms from being breeding grounds to radicalizing people to violence.”

Thompson said that despite months of engagement “we still do not have the documents and information necessary to answer those basic questions.”

Spokespeople for YouTube, Twitter, Facebook parent Meta, and Reddit did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In a letter sent this week to Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta, Thompson cited reports that Facebook disbanded a Civic Integrity Team that was to focus on election misinformation ”and reduced the application of tools used to restrain the spread of violent content. However, despite repeated and specific requests for documents related to these matters, the Select Committee still has not received these materials.”

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A letter to Alphabet, formerly known as Google, asked for specific information regarding YouTube, a platform it described as providing “significant communications by its users that were relevant to the planning and execution of January 6th attack on the United States Capitol.” The letter noted that Stephen Bannon live-streamed his podcast on YouTube in the days before and after Jan. 6, 2021, and that images of the Capitol insurrection were carried live on YouTube.

Washington Post

Republican National Committee threatens debate boycott

WASHINGTON — The Republican National Committee is threatening to keep its party’s future presidential nominees from participating in debates sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates, the nonprofit organization that has hosted them for more than three decades.

In a letter dated Thursday, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel wrote that Republican voters have “lost faith in your organization.” She also expressed frustration with the commission’s unwillingness to adopt several “commonsense” changes that the RNC has advocated.

“Accordingly, the RNC will initiate the process of amending the Rules of the Republican Party at our upcoming Winter Meeting to prohibit future Republican nominees from participating in CPD-sponsored debates,” McDaniel wrote in a letter first reported by The New York Times.

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In a statement, Frank Fahrenkopf, cochairman of the debates commission, noted that his organization has dealt “directly” with the candidates for president and vice president who qualify for general-election debates, not their party organizations.

“The CPD’s plans for 2024 will be based on fairness, neutrality, and a firm commitment to help the American public learn about the candidates and the issues,” Fahrenkopf said.

Republicans have previously accused the Washington-based commission of bias. During the 2020 cycle, then-President Donald Trump complained vociferously about the commission, at one point tweeting that it was “stacked with Trump Haters & Never Trumpers.”

Trump for months considered not participating in debates, although he was ultimately won over by the national television ratings and his belief that he could embarrass then-Democratic nominee Joe Biden onstage, people close to him said.

In her letter, McDaniel pressed several arguments about the commission’s perceived bias, saying it was “a glaring conflict of interest” that one of the moderators it tapped in 2020 had once worked for the Democratic nominee.

She was referring to Steve Scully of C-SPAN, who was an intern for Biden for one month in 1978 when Biden was a senator from Delaware, according to a biography published by George Washington University. The debate Scully was scheduled to moderate wound up being canceled after Trump objected to holding it virtually because of COVID concerns.

Washington Post

Trump gives clear support to booster shots

Former president Donald Trump gave a full-throated endorsement of coronavirus booster shots Tuesday night and said politicians who refused to say whether they had received one were “gutless.”

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After nearly two years in which Trump downplayed the threat of the coronavirus — and in which his allies spread misinformation about the vaccines — many of his supporters are resisting even their initial shots, much less a booster. Vaccination rates are much lower among Republicans than among Democrats.

Trump himself received his initial vaccine series quietly in January 2021, and did not publicly encourage Americans to get vaccinated until the end of February. When he said in an appearance last month that he had gotten a booster, the audience booed him.

In the interview aired Tuesday on the far-right One America News network, Trump said: “I’ve had the booster. Many politicians — I watched a couple of politicians be interviewed and one of the questions was, ‘Did you get the booster?’ Because they had the vaccine. And they’re answering like, in other words, the answer is yes, but they don’t want to say it. Because they’re gutless. You got to say it, whether you had it or not. Say it.”

Trump did not mention any politicians by name in his comments, but many viewers interpreted his statement as a criticism of Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, who is one of those politicians — and who has not ruled out running against Trump in a Republican primary in 2024. DeSantis’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

But, Trump said, he continued to oppose vaccine mandates, which some state and local officials have enacted and the Biden administration is pursuing.

New York Times