September 3, 2021

On Tuesday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy issued an ugly threat to phone companies. According to McCarthy, if the companies complied with requests from the House Select Committee on Jan. 6, and turned over phone records connected to the assault on the Capitol, those companies could be “subject to losing their ability to operate in the United States” when Republicans are once again in control of Congress. “A Republican majority will not forget,” wrote McCarthy.

It’s a direct threat that should telecommunications companies and social media companies turn over the requested records, Republicans will punish them to the tune of billions of dollars. Or, as Rep.  Eric Swalwell tweeted, “McCarthy just made the Congressional equivalent of a ‘Snitches Get Stitches’ threat.”

What McCarthy did is also called witness intimidation. As NBC legal analyst Glenn Kirschner makes clear, what the Republican leader is a clear and indisputable form of obstruction in which McCarthy threatened to retaliate against witnesses for providing information that is being lawfully sought by the committee. “Somebody better prod the Department of Justice into wakefulness,” said Kirshner, “because they should already have an arrest warrant for Kevin McCarthy.”

What McCarthy did wasn’t politics. It wasn’t tough talk. It was a crime, one that he committed blatantly and in public. And it’s only made worse by the confirmation that some of the records being sought by the committee were those belonging to—Kevin McCarthy.

On many published lists of the records being sought by the committee, McCarthy’s name did not appear. However, updated reporting from CNN and others makes it clear that the records that McCarthy was trying to suppress included records of his personal calls made on Jan. 6. It’s also worth noting that the only thing the committee has asked of telecommunications and social media companies is that they preserve these records against possible future requests—which would presumably come in the form of subpoenas for individual records. 

McCarthy’s original statement declares that in preserving these records at the request of the House committee, companies would be “in violation of federal law” when questioned about the claim, McCarthy has been unable or unwilling to name a statute that is being violated. However, it’s absolutely clear that McCarthy’s attempt to obstruct the violation is in violation of federal statutes. 

In addition to McCarthy’s attempt to threaten phone companies into silence, Rep. Andy Biggs has increased pressure to bar Rep. Liz Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger from the Republican Conference for their participation on bipartisan commission. There are definitely reasons for Biggs—who described Jan. 6 events as “an ordinary tourist visit”—to be concerned about what might surface in the committee’s investigations. As one of the founders of the “Stop the Steal” plan has made clear, the whole “Jan. 6 idea” for “putting max pressure on Congress” during the counting of the Electoral College votes was created with the help of “Congressman Gosar, Congressman Mo Brooks and then Congressman Andy Biggs.”

For Biggs and others involved in driving the whole scheme, demeaning the committee and trying to turn it into a partisan political entity is critical to refusing to cooperate personally and to support McCarthy in trying to intimate witnesses. That’s why Biggs is so anxious to get Cheney, who on Thursday was named vice chair of the committee, exiled from Republican ranks.

  • Republicans are now warning American companies that if they cooperate with the Jan. 6 committee, they will be put out of business when Republicans return to power.
  • Republicans are prepared to expel their fellow Republicans for the crime of investigating Jan. 6.

All of which makes for the obvious question: What are they so afraid of? It’s known that McCarthy had at least one conversation with Donald Trump in the midst of the assault on the Capitol. In that conversation, McCarthy was overheard begging Trump to call off the attack, and shouting a “who the f**k do you think you’re talking to” in response to some statement from Trump. From this alone it’s clear that McCarthy knew that the people smashing their way into the House chamber were Trump supporters, and that Trump was capable of controlling them. But is that the limit of what McCarthy is hiding? What other information did he exchange with Trump? Did he make additional calls, possibly to someone else?

In the case of Biggs, Rep. Mo Brooks, and Rep. Paul Gosar, it’s clear that they had deep connections with the people who organized and planned events on that day. In addition to brainstorming the whole idea of the Stop the Steal rallies, which led to violence in multiple cities, Brooks spoke at the rally on Jan. 6, directly challenging those present to march on the Capitol and “fight.” And, as the Arizona Central reported, Gosar not only has connections to the white supremacist community that came before Jan. 6, he hasn’t hesitated to attend a white nationalist rally that took place after Jan. 6.

But then, Gosar did say that he thought the attack on the Capitol was “awesome.”

For these three, and for others like Rep. Lauren Boebert, Rep. Matt Gaetz, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the question might not be whether they talked to Trump on that day, but who else they spoke with. Boebert has been accused of leading “tours” of the Capitol in the days before Jan. 6 where some of those involved in the rioting and insurgency may have been given information about the building’s defenses and the best routes to critical locations. She also sent a series of tweets during the assault that appeared to keep those outside informed of the movement of Congress members and the location of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Those tweets are public, but what were Boebert, Taylor Greene, Biggs, Gosar, Brooks, and Gaetz sending in private texts and calls bother before and during the attack? 

Whatever is in the communications records connected with that day, it has McCarthy and Biggs running scared. And considering what we already know, that’s saying something.

Republished with permission from Daily Kos

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