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On Jan. 6, Kevin McCarthy eager to investigate the investigation

Republicans have embraced the “investigate the investigation” tactic as a go-to move, intended to discredit probes they consider politically inconvenient.


Over the summer, Rep. Rodney Davis made a curious move: The Illinois Republican, in his role as the ranking member on the House Administration Committee, announced plans for a “a full investigation” into the Jan. 6 committee and its efforts. In other words, the House GOP wouldn’t seek answers about the attack, but it looked forward to investigating the investigation.

Soon after, Davis’ career was derailed by a member-vs.-member primary, in part because he fell out of favor with the party’s far-right flank. But as The New York Times reported, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy picked up on the same idea this week, warning the House select panel to expect a GOP-led inquiry in the next Congress.

In a letter sent to the committee’s chairman, Mr. McCarthy instructed the panel to preserve its records ... including any recorded transcripts of its more than 1,000 interviews. The missive was the first official indication that newly empowered House Republicans plan not only to end the inquiry at the start of the new Congress, but also to attempt to dismantle and discredit its findings — the latest piece of a broader effort the party has undertaken over the past two years to deny, downplay or shift blame for the deadly attack by a pro-Trump mob.

Right off the bat, the politics surrounding such a move are unsubtle: McCarthy, desperate to become House speaker, is struggling to lock down the support he needs from some of his more radical members. The GOP leader realizes that they loathe the bipartisan Jan. 6 panel, its members and its work, so McCarthy very likely targeted the committee this week in the hopes of strengthening his position.

It’s also worth appreciating the performative nature of the California congressman’s letter, most notably his demand that the investigators “preserve all records.” As my MSNBC colleague Hayes Brown explained, “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.”

McCarthy has already embraced redundant stunts as part of his desperate appeals to the right, and this is yet another unfortunate element of the same pattern.

But I’m also struck by the frequency with which Republicans have embraced the “investigate the investigation” tactic as a go-to move, intended to discredit examinations they consider politically inconvenient.

The party didn’t care about Donald Trump’s Russia scandal, but it’s invested in John Durham and his investigation into the investigation. The party didn’t care that Hillary Clinton was cleared in the controversy surrounding her email protocols, but the party expressed a keen interest in investigating the investigation. The GOP didn’t much care about Trump extorting Ukraine in 2019, but the then-president was an enthusiastic proponent of investigating the investigators.

McCarthy’s move is cheap and unnecessary, but it has a partisan pedigree.