Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has a message for the House Jan. 6 committee: Keep doing exactly what you’re doing — because we’re watching you. That was the takeaway from the letter McCarthy sent the committee on Thursday, telegraphing the incoming Republican majority’s commitment to relitigate all the work the panel has undertaken in the last year and a half.
Much like McCarthy’s other campaign stunts in his bid to win over his far-right members ahead of next month’s new Congress, there’s absolutely nothing of substance to this warning. It’s all a performance to show Republican hard-liners that he will be tough on Democrats in defense of former President Donald Trump. So, no matter what winds up in the Jan. 6 committee’s final report, McCarthy and the GOP have to stand firm against it.
The House Jan. 6 committee is holding its final public hearing on Monday, Dec. 19 at 1 p.m. ET. Get expert analysis in real time on our live blog at msnbc.com/jan6report.
In his letter, McCarthy reminds committee chair Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., “to preserve all records and transcripts of testimony taken during your investigation.” He goes on to say the GOP will hold hearings into why the Capitol complex wasn’t secure on Jan. 6, 2021. Americans, he writes, “are owed all the information you gathered — not merely the information that comports with your political agenda. … The American people have a right to know that the allegations you have made are supported by the facts and to be able to view the transcripts with an eye toward encouraged enforcement of 18 USC 1001.”
Let’s break down how pointless most of those words are. The subtext is that there is a chance that the committee might hide or destroy some key evidence that shows that it was always meant to be a political weapon against Trump. But the committee was already saving all the documents being produced, as required under the resolution that created it. Thompson himself said Tuesday that all the transcripts produced will be released after redaction of names of witnesses who agreed to testify anonymously.
As for the Capitol’s security, the House has already held hearings on the matter, and the Senate has already released a bipartisan report. And “18 USC 1001?” That’s a section of the law that says government officials can’t knowingly lie in the course of their work.
All in all, it shows that McCarthy is willing to adopt the Trump administration’s playbook: investigate the investigation in hopes of deflecting any accountability. His letter echoes special counsel John Durham’s efforts to uncover the “real” reason the FBI began a counterintelligence investigation into Trump’s 2016 campaign. That effort has been a near-complete failure, but it provided Trump’s supporters cover to make their conspiracy theories about “Spygate” feel more credible. Even during the GOP’s trifecta control of Washington during the early Trump years, though, Congress didn’t play along with Trump to the same degree that McCarthy is previewing.
It’s not clear yet which committee will get jurisdiction over the GOP’s counter-investigation. That choice will be largely up to whoever the next speaker of the House is, be it McCarthy or some other Republican. But my money is on one of three committees: Oversight and Reform, House Administration or Judiciary, with the latter most likely. First, Oversight and Reform will be plenty busy with its targeted campaigns against the Biden administration. Second, House Administration isn’t high-profile enough to take the reins on something this political. And third, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, is likely to chair the Judiciary Committee. And if there’s someone the GOP wants to be the point person for this project, it’s the man who has turned flooding the zone with nonsense at hearings into an art form.
It’s also unclear what exactly this focus on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s “failures” to protect the Capitol is supposed to really prove. That Trump didn’t really want a mob of his supporters to attack the Capitol on Jan. 6? That Pelosi should have been more afraid of a right-wing mob trying to capture her and Vice President Mike Pence? That it really was antifa disguised as Trump supporters that day, despite no evidence otherwise?
But as ever, the outcome isn’t as important to McCarthy as the insinuations the process entails. There’s a reason Trump’s first impeachment was centered on his demand for investigations into Joe Biden, with all the suggestions of guilt that come with it. McCarthy knows this meta-inquiry could reprint the Jan. 6 committee’s final report verbatim, for all it matters. So long as Fox News can trumpet ongoing investigations until November 2024, that’s a win in his eyes.