Jul 6, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Republicans plot vengeance on Jan. 6 committee

 A video of former President Donald Trump is played during a Jan. 6 hearing
A video of former President Trump is played during a Jan. 6 committee hearing. Photo: Shawn Thew-Pool/Getty Images

Key House Republicans are threatening to subpoena records of the Jan. 6 committee if the GOP retakes the majority next year — an escalation of the party's effort to undercut the investigation's findings.

Why it matters: Fresh talk of 2023 subpoenas, following last week's vivid testimony by former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, means the committee's "final report” expected this fall may be far from the last word on the Capitol attack.

Between the lines: Ever since the Jan. 6 committee subpoenaed GOP members of Congress — including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) — Republicans have been threatening unspecified subpoenas in retaliation.

  • The hearings have painted a damning portrait of Trump, with many former aides testifying they told him his claims of a stolen election were bogus.
  • While Republicans have been eager to move beyond what happened on Jan. 6, 2021, many want to use a GOP-controlled majority to frame their own narrative of what happened that day — and also raise questions about the Jan. 6 committee's work and spending.

Details: On June 9, Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), the top Republican on the committee that oversees Capitol security and election reforms, said a GOP-controlled House Administration Committee would launch a "full investigation" into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the Jan. 6 committee as one of its top priorities next year.

  • Davis said he had filed a preservation request for "all records produced by or in the possession" of the select committee. But on June 28, Davis lost his primary to the Trump-endorsed Rep. Mary Miller (R-Ill.)
  • Some Republicans also have sought to dispute elements of Hutchinson's explosive testimony about President Trump's behavior and state of mind, including her accounts of conversations with former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Tony Ornato.
  • Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), who chairs the largest bloc of House conservatives, on July 1 sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, requesting that DHS "review White House gate logs, surveillance videos, and all other records that could indicate which of these senior staff were present at the White House during the times referenced" in Hutchinson's testimony.

What they’re saying: "When Republicans retake the majority, we will exercise our oversight responsibilities including subpoena authority to review all transcripts and information that the committee has access to in order to identify the truth," a senior GOP staffer on the House Administration Committee told Axios.

  • The Jan. 6 committee declined comment.
  • Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Pelosi, dismissed GOP suggestions that Pelosi bears responsible for security failures. "Numerous independent fact checkers have confirmed that Speaker Pelosi did not plan her own assassination," Hammill said. “The former president’s desperate lies aside, the speaker was no more in charge of the security of the U.S. Capitol that day than [Senate GOP Leader] Mitch McConnell.”

Flashback: Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who's up for reelection this year, told CNN earlier this year that "there's a larger story to be told about January 6 ... they're not asking what Nancy Pelosi knew, when she knew it" and that "the American public needs a full accounting."

  • If Johnson hangs on and if the GOP retakes the Senate, he could chair a subcommittee focusing on such themes.

The bottom line: Republicans want to make Biden’s last two years in office as difficult as possible in the run up to 2024. A Jan. 6 counteroffensive is just one way. Republicans have also been plotting subpoenas and the potential creation of select committees to investigate the president's son, Hunter Biden, the handling of the coronavirus, and Biden’s flawed withdrawal from Afghanistan.

  • "The base is out for blood on subpoenas," a House Republican aide told Axios. "A lot of it will just depend on how far McCarthy wants to go."
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