WASHINGTON — The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol issued subpoenas Thursday to five Republican members of Congress, including Representative Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, who had refused to meet with the panel voluntarily.
The committee’s leaders had been reluctant to issue subpoenas to their fellow lawmakers. That is an extraordinarily rare step for most congressional panels to take, although the House Ethics Committee, which is responsible for investigating allegations of misconduct by members, is known to do so.
The panel said it was demanding testimony from McCarthy, of California, who engaged in a heated phone call with then-President Donald Trump during the Capitol violence in 2021; Representative Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, who coordinated a plan to try to replace the acting attorney general after he resisted Trump’s false claims of widespread fraud; Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, who was deeply involved in the effort to fight the election results; Representative Andy Biggs of Arizona, the former leader of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus; and Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama, who has said Trump has continued to seek an unlawful reinstatement to office for more than a year.
All five have refused requests for voluntary interviews about the roles they played in the buildup to the attack by supporters of the former president who believed his lie of widespread election fraud.
McCarthy told reporters on Capitol Hill on Thursday that he had not yet seen the subpoena.
“My view on the committee has not changed,” he said. “They’re not conducting a legitimate investigation. It seems as though they just want to go after their political opponents.”
Perry called the investigation “a charade” and a “political witch hunt” by Democrats that is “about fabricating headlines and distracting the Americans from their abysmal record of running America into the ground.”
The subpoenas come as the committee is ramping up for a series of public hearings next month to reveal its findings. The eight hearings are scheduled to take place over several weeks beginning June 9, some during prime time in an effort to attract a large television audience.
“The select committee has learned that several of our colleagues have information relevant to our investigation into the attack on Jan. 6 and the events leading up to it,” Democratic Representative Bennie Thompson, of Mississippi, chair of the committee, said in a statement. “Before we hold our hearings next month, we wished to provide members the opportunity to discuss these matters with the committee voluntarily. Regrettably, the individuals receiving subpoenas today have refused, and we’re forced to take this step to help ensure the committee uncovers facts concerning Jan. 6.”
Republican representative Liz Cheney, of Wyoming, vice chair of the committee, said the decision was not made lightly. “It’s a reflection of how important and serious the investigation is, and how grave the attack on the Capitol was,” she said.
The subpoena to McCarthy is particularly noteworthy because he is in line to become speaker if Republicans win control of the House this November. Should he refuse to comply, it could set in motion a process that could lead to a Democratic-controlled House holding him in contempt of Congress as the midterm elections loom.
Congressional investigators have rarely confronted a situation that carries such hefty stakes for their institution.
McCarthy has long feared being subpoenaed in the investigation. In recent months, he has been in discussions with William A. Burck, a longtime Washington lawyer, about how to fight a subpoena.
The committee wants to question McCarthy about conversations he had after the attack about the president’s culpability in the assault and what should be done to address it. The committee has also suggested that Trump may have influenced McCarthy’s refusal to cooperate with the investigation.
McCarthy issued a blistering statement in January condemning the committee as illegitimate and saying he would refuse to cooperate with its inquiry. He has argued that the panel was violating the privacy of Republicans through subpoenas for bank and phone records. McCarthy also denounced Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, for having rejected two of his five choices to sit on the panel — one of whom was Jordan.
The committee informed Jordan in December by letter that its investigators wanted to question him about his communications related to the run-up to the Capitol riot. Those include Jordan’s messages with Trump and his legal team as well as others involved in planning rallies Jan. 6 and congressional objections to certifying Joe Biden’s presidential victory.
In the weeks after the 2020 election, Perry, a member of Congress since 2013 who is close to Jordan, compiled a dossier of voter fraud allegations and coordinated a plan to try to replace the acting attorney general, who was resisting Trump’s attempts to overturn the election, with a more compliant official. Perry also endorsed the idea of encouraging Trump’s supporters to march on the Capitol on Jan. 6.
In a letter to Biggs, the committee’s leaders wrote that they wanted to question him about evidence they had obtained on efforts by certain House Republicans to seek a presidential pardon after Jan. 6 in connection with Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
And the panel said it wanted to question Brooks about statements he made in March saying that Trump had asked him repeatedly in the months since the election to illegally “rescind” the results, remove Biden, and force a special election.