As the select committee formed to investigate the Jan. 6 riot continues to interview witnesses and issue subpoenas, House Republicans who were originally submitted to sit on the panel are quietly working on their own counterinvestigation and plan to release a report on their findings.
“Republicans, at the direction of Leader McCarthy, are conducting our own investigation,” Indiana Rep. Jim Banks said on Wednesday.
“I can’t go into many of the specifics of what we’ve done or what we are doing,” Banks said. “But I will tell you that we will be releasing our findings publicly in the future.”
The resolution to create the select committee allowed House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to “recommend” five members to sit on the committee but allowed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi the final say on the picks. Pelosi, in a never-before-seen move, blocked Banks (who was set to be ranking member) and Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio from sitting on the committee. That prompted McCarthy to pull his other three appointments in protest unless all five were seated.
JAN. 6 COMMITTEE SUBPOENAS PHONE RECORDS OF PRIVATE CITIZENS BUT NOT MEMBERS OF CONGRESS
The two Republicans who do sit on the committee, Vice Chairwoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, were appointed by Pelosi rather than McCarthy.
After pulling his picks, McCarthy declared: “We will run our own investigation … Why was the Capitol so ill-prepared for that day when they knew on Dec. 14 they had a problem? And what have we done to make sure that never happens again?”
This effort, led by Banks, is fulfilling that pledge. He said that the Jan. 6 committee is based on a "conspiracy theory" that "Jan. 6 was an inside job ... secretly orchestrated by President Trump and his closest advisers."
Cheney had already exposed some of what Banks had been working on in a countereffort. During debate on whether to hold former President Donald Trump’s adviser Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a congressional subpoena, she revealed that Banks sent letters to executive branch agencies identifying himself as the original ranking member of the committee and requesting that they provide him with the same information that it gave the committee.
Banks argues that an effort controlled by the minority party should have access to those records. Because McCarthy declined to seat any Republicans on the committee, the minority does not have access to materials that the committee receives from government agencies or the ability to object to majority questioning in deposition interviews.
That effort has not been particularly successful. A response from the FBI said: "We respectfully refer you to the Select Committee regarding issues of access to records and information."
The Republicans are focusing on Capitol security failures, which were also the focus of a joint Senate committee report on Jan. 6. But they are also focusing in on any role that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had in failing to secure the Capitol.
“They don't want to get to the main question, which is why wasn't the Capitol properly secured that day? And the only one who can answer that question is Speaker Pelosi,” Jordan said on Wednesday. “In fact, I still believe the reason Mr. Banks and I were not permitted to be on the committee is because Speaker Pelosi knew we were going to focus on that fundamental question.”
Pelosi and Mitch McConnell, who was then the Senate majority leader, had technical control over two key figures in charge of Capitol security and two of the three members of the Capitol Police Board: The House and Senate sergeants-at-arms.
The then-Capitol Police chief asked on Jan. 4 that the board authorize that he request for National Guard support in advance of Jan. 6, but the House sergeant-at-arms said he was concerned about the “optics.” He testified that he did not alert leadership in Pelosi’s office about the possibility of National Guard troops, though, until Jan. 6.
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“The committee is ignoring this obvious and crucial fact: A mob of rioters — that, according to the FBI was unorganized and acted spontaneously — somehow managed to break into the United States Capitol,” Banks said. “We know that there was an internal security breakdown on Jan. 6.”
Pelosi, he charged, showed that by blocking him and Jordan from sitting on the committees, she “doesn’t intend to fix” the security problems. “The Capitol remains as vulnerable today as it was on Jan. 6,” Banks said.