Pelosi says Jan. 6 panel to move ahead without GOP's choices
WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says a committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection "will do the job it set out to do" despite Republicans' vow to boycott the probe.
House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy said on Wednesday that Republicans won't participate after Pelosi rejected two of the Republicans he chose to sit on the panel, Reps. Jim Banks of Indiana and Jim Jordan of Ohio. Pelosi made clear on Thursday that she won't relent, telling reporters that the two men "took actions that made it ridiculous to put them on such a committee seeking the truth."
"It is my responsibility as the speaker of the House to make sure we get to the truth of this, and we will not let their antics stand in the way of that," Pelosi said.
Banks and Jordan are outspoken allies of former President Donald Trump, whose supporters laid siege to the Capitol on Jan. 6 and interrupted the certification of President Joe Biden's electiwin. Both men voted to overturn the election results in the hours after the siege.
It is unclear, for now, whether Pelosi will try and appoint other members to the panel, as she has the authority to do under committee rules. She left open the possibility, saying that there are other members who would like to participate. "We'll see."
One possibility is Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who was one of only two Republicans to vote in favor of setting up the committee. The other, Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, has already been appointed by Pelosi to sit on the panel along with seven Democrats — ensuring they have a quorum to proceed, whether other Republicans participate or not.
The back and forth over the panel is emblematic of the raw political tensions in Congress that have only escalated since the insurrection and raises the possibility that the investigation — the only comprehensive probe currently being conducted of the attack — will be done almost entirely by Democrats. The House voted in May to create an independent investigation that would have been evenly split between the parties, but Senate Republicans blocked that approach in a vote last month.
McCarthy called Pelosi's move an "an egregious abuse of power" and said it will damage the institution of Congress.
"Unless Speaker Pelosi reverses course and seats all five Republican nominees, Republicans will not be party to their sham process and will instead pursue our own investigation of the facts," McCarthy said.
It is unclear how McCarthy would lead a separate investigation, as the minority does not have the power to set up committees. He said the panel has lost "all legitimacy" because Pelosi wouldn't allow the Republicans to name their own members.
Most in the GOP have remained loyal to Trump despite the violent insurrection of his supporters that sent many lawmakers running for their lives. McCarthy wouldn't say for weeks whether Republicans would even participate in the probe, but he sent the five names to Pelosi on Monday.
Pelosi accepted McCarthy's three other picks — Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis, North Dakota Rep. Kelly Armstrong and Texas Rep. Troy Nehls. But McCarthy said that all five or none would participate.
Like Jordan and Banks, Nehls voted to overturn Biden's victory. Armstrong and Davis voted to certify the election.
Banks recently traveled with Trump to the U.S.-Mexico border and visited him at his New Jersey golf course. In a statement after McCarthy tapped him for the panel, he sharply criticized the Democrats who had set it up.
"Make no mistake, Nancy Pelosi created this committee solely to malign conservatives and to justify the Left's authoritarian agenda," Banks said.
Democrats whom Pelosi appointed to the committee earlier this month were angry over that statement, according to a senior Democratic aide familiar with the private deliberations and who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss them. They were also concerned over Banks' two recent visits with Trump, the person said.
Jordan, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, was one of Trump's most vocal defenders during his two impeachments and last month likened the new investigation to "impeachment three." Trump was impeached by the House and acquitted by the Senate both times.
Cheney said she would support fellow Republican Kinzinger's appointment if Pelosi goes that route. Maryland Democrat Jamie Raskin said he'd be open to anyone who doesn't want to obstruct the work of the committee, and "I'm sure Kinzinger does not want to obstruct the work of the committee."
The panel is also considering hiring former Rep. Denver Riggleman of Virginia, a Republican who has criticized Trump's lies about election fraud, as an outside adviser, according to a person familiar with the committee's work who was granted anonymity to discuss the private talks.
Cheney told reporters Wednesday she agrees with Pelosi's decision to reject the two Republicans named by McCarthy.
"At every opportunity, the minority leader has attempted to prevent the American people from understanding what happened — to block this investigation," Cheney said.
The panel will hold its first hearing next week, with at least four rank-and-file police officers who battled rioters that day testifying about their experiences. Dozens of police officers were injured as the violent mob pushed past them and broke into the Capitol building.
Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, the chair of the panel, said the committee would carry out its duties.
"It has been more than 6 months since the attack, we owe it to our democracy to stay the course and not be distracted by side-shows," Thompson said in a statement. "That is exactly what we will be doing next Tuesday, when the bipartisan committee members take testimony from frontline heroes who put their lives on the line to protect our democracy."
Seven people died during and after the rioting, including a woman who was shot by police as she tried to break into the House chamber and three other Trump supporters who suffered medical emergencies.
Two police officers died by suicide in the days that followed, and a third officer, Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, collapsed and later died after engaging with the protesters. A medical examiner determined he died of natural causes.
Associated Press writer Kevin Freking in Washington contributed to this report.