It's been about a week since House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy threatened telecommunications companies, warning that "a Republican majority will not forget" if the private sector leaders cooperate with the congressional investigation into the Jan. 6 attack. The GOP leader added that the companies will be "in violation of federal law" if they provide materials to the bipartisan House select committee.
Even for McCarthy, the tactics were bizarre. For one thing, the law the Republican leader referenced does not appear to exist. For another, it was unsettling to see one of Congress's most powerful members — a man who may soon become House Speaker — actively try to undermine a federal investigation into an insurrectionist attack on the U.S. Capitol.
The Washington Post's Michael Gerson, a former speechwriter in the Bush/Cheney White House, argued that McCarthy's threat "is probably a violation of House ethics rules, and maybe even a violation of federal law." The newspaper's editorial board added, "Mr. McCarthy should be defending Congress's prerogative to investigate, not trying to curb it with threats and bullying. His fevered reaction can only prompt questions about what he and members of the House GOP caucus seek to hide."
It was a provocative and underappreciated point. It's problematic enough to see congressional Republicans deliberately interfere with a bipartisan investigation they oppose, but the dynamic is made vastly worse by the prospect that some members of the House GOP may be concerned about secrets coming to light.
Indeed, McCarthy wasn't alone in writing letters to telecommunications companies. As a HuffPost report explained, 11 House Republicans did the same thing late last week, urging the businesses not to cooperate with their own chamber's probe.
The lawmakers, including Reps. Mo Brooks (of Alabama), Madison Cawthorn (N.C), Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), Paul Gosar (Ariz.) and Lauren Boebert (Colo.), sent letters to 13 businesses telling them not to comply with requests from the House select committee investigating the events of Jan. 6.
The GOP signatories specifically warned that they're prepared to "pursue all legal remedies" if the companies agree to provide information to the House select committee.
Part of what made the 11 House Republicans' letter notable is the fact that they sent the correspondence to a Yahoo CEO who left the company several years ago.
But more important is the fact that they sent the warning to the 13 telecoms in the first place.
These are not just 11 random legislators who've taken an interest in the examination of the Jan. 6 riot. Several of these Republicans have faced allegations, to varying degrees of seriousness, of having ties to the rioters who launched the assault on our seat of government. Some even spoke at Donald Trump's pre-riot event ahead of the violence.
It's these same GOP members who now seem eager, if not desperate, to stop telecommunications companies from providing possible relevant information to a bipartisan congressional probe.
As a rule, when politicians like these act like they have something to hide, it becomes all the more important to ask why.