House demands his own grave new norm in the wake of the January 6 attack

House demands his own grave new norm in the wake of the January 6 attack

WASHINGTON (AP) — The committee’s remarkable Jan. 6 decision to subpoena House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and other Republicans in Congress over the Capitol riot is as rare as the deadly riot itself, deepening the acrimony and distrust among lawmakers and raising questions about what comes next.

The outcome is sure to resonate beyond the immediate investigation into Donald Trump’s unfounded efforts to topple Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election. Furious Republicans vow to use the same tools and arm Congress’s subpoena powers when they take control of the House of Representatives in November’s midterm elections to persecute Democrats, even at the highest levels in Congress.

“It’s a very upsetting and dangerous precedent,” said Michigan Rep. Peter Meijer, who was among the few Republicans who voted to impeach Trump over the riot.

Subpoenas for McCarthy and the four other Republican lawmakers were served Friday As the committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol completes its initial phase. Public hearings are expected to begin in June, and the panel is still deciding whether to call Republican senators to testify.

While the subpoena was not entirely unexpected for McCarthy and the other Republican lawmakers, it increased concerns about the new rule-making in Congress.

McCarthy, who is in line to be Speaker of the House of Representatives, brushed past reporters on Friday and declined to say whether he would comply with the committee’s summons to testify. McCarthy has been repeatedly approached for comment and was a mother.

The other Republicans — Arizona’s Andy Biggs, Alabama’s Mo Brooks, Ohio’s Jim Jordan and Pennsylvania’s Scott Perry — have condemned the investigation as illegitimate, and it’s unclear if any of them will comply. The four have all had talks with the Trump White House over contesting the election, and McCarthy was unsuccessfully trying to persuade Trump to call off the siege of the Capitol that day when rioters smashed windows near his own office.

“You have a testimony,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, DN.Y., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

“I mean, we’re investigating an insurgency against the United States government,” Nadler said. “A rebellion. Treason.”

The next steps are highly uncertain as the House, with its Democratic majority, weighs whether to take the grave, albeit unlikely, action of bringing its own peers into contempt of Congress by voting to grant a criminal referral to the Justice Department send law enforcement.

While other lawmakers have volunteered to speak to the committee, an attempt to compel the subpoenaed members to share information would certainly become entangled in broader constitutional issues — including whether the executive branch is involved in the governance of the legislature branch that tends to make its own rules. The action would drag on for months or more.

Instead, the House of Representatives could take other action, including a public vote of no confidence in McCarthy and the four GOP lawmakers, a referral to the Ethics Committee, imposing fines, or even removing their committee assignments.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declined to answer any questions on Friday.

“I’m not talking about what’s happening on the January 6th committee,” she said in the Halls, shifting to the panel as she normally does.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chair of the Jan. 6 bipartisan panel, said it had options after the five GOP lawmakers denied their request for voluntary interviews and are now facing the subpoena.

“Look, all we’re saying is these are members of Congress who took an oath,” he said. “Our investigation found that January 6th did indeed happen and that what people saw with their own eyes did indeed happen.”

It’s a volatile time for Congress, with heightened political toxicity settling into a new normal since the Capitol riot left five dead. These included a Trump supporter shot dead by police and a police officer who later died after fighting the mob.

The Capitol is slowly reopening to tourists this spring after being closed over security concerns and the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, but unease remains. Tensions run high and at least one lawmaker on the panel, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., a vocal Trump critic, is flanked by security guards daily, a staggering sign of how America has changed.

Trump’s hold on the Republican Party remains strong, leaving many GOP lawmakers unwilling to publicly accept Biden’s election victory and some making their own false claims about a fraudulent 2020 election. Courts across the country have dismissed claims that the election was rigged.

When Republicans come to power this fall, they will almost certainly launch investigations into Biden, January 6th, and other issues that are now armed with the tool of subpoenas for other lawmakers.

“It’s a race to the bottom, it is,” said Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., who last week won Trump’s support for his own re-election despite having fought with him in the past.

“I mean, I hope when we come into power, we don’t do the same things as they do,” he said. “But you know, turnabout is fair play.”

While Democratic leaders say they would be happy to testify if subpoenaed by newly empowered Republicans next year, more lawmakers are privately expressing unease about what comes next and worried about being dragged into the fray.

Congress issuing a subpoena for one of its own would be rare, but not the first time.

The ethics committees have subpoenaed individual lawmakers for possible misconduct. These include the Senate vote in 1993 to subpoena the diary of Senator Bob Packwood, R-Ore., during an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment. In view of the expulsion, he initially resigned.

But traditionally, subpoenas from Congress are outward-facing. Shortly after the country’s incorporation, Congress’ first subpoena was issued not to a legislature but to a real estate speculator who was attempting to buy what is now Michigan and attempted to bribe members of Congress, according to the history website House of Representatives.

The Jan. 6 panel privately wrestled for weeks over whether to subpoena other lawmakers, understanding the seriousness of the actions it would take.

After the committee members made their decision to issue the subpoenas, Pelosi was informed of their decision.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a member of the panel, suggested the decision was justified given the seriousness of the Jan. 6 attack.

“People have been asking, ‘Is this a precedent for issuing subpoenas for members of Congress in the future?’ If there are coups and uprisings, then I assume that’s the case,” Raskin said.

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