January 6 Committee Democrats Seek Records from GOP Lawmakers
Plus: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's Afghanistan response.
For the first Tuesday in 20 years, there are no American troops in Afghanistan. Let’s get to the news.
January 6 Select Committee Heats Up
On Monday, the Democratic-led House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol issued a wide-ranging request to a group of telecommunication companies asking for records connected to the riot to be preserved. The committee is seeking the records of those who participated or may have had a hand in planning the attack, as well as those who participated in January’s “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded it.
The 35 companies the committee is querying include AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon, as well as social media companies like Apple, Signal, Google, and Twitter. The request seeks information such as records of incoming and outgoing calls, metadata, text messages, and emails ranging from April 1, 2020, to Jan. 31, 2021. The letters to companies also note that they are seeking records of individuals as well. Although the specific names were redacted from the orders, Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson told reporters last week that members of Congress would likely be included in the records request.
On Monday, CNN first reported that the records request included GOP Reps. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar of Arizona, Mo Brooks of Alabama, Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Jody Hice of Georgia, and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania.
Among those on the list, some reportedly had phone conversations with Trump on January 6. Others, like Brooks, participated in the “Stop the Steal” rally that day. Many on the list continue to trumpet false claims about the 2020 election being fraudulent or stolen, and some voted to object to the election results in the wake of the insurrection.
A spokesman for the committee declined to confirm the names on the list.
It’s rare for Congress to directly seek members’ communication records. However, the committee’s move shows that the panel’s members believe the events of January 6 have justified the unusual step.
“The Select Committee is at this point gathering facts, not alleging wrongdoing by any individual,” select committee spokesman Tim Mulvey said in a statement.
It’s unknown whether the companies will comply with the request or whether the panel will seek to compel cooperation. The committee does have subpoena power, but attempts to wield it will most likely result in court battles, particularly if members of Congress are targeted.
Rep. Jim Banks, Republican from Indiana, sent a letter to Thompson Friday slamming the move: “This type of authoritarian undertaking has no place in the House of Representatives and the information you seek has no conceivable legislative purpose,” he wrote. He also sent letters to AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Twitter, and Facebook arguing that the companies should not release any private information.
“It is a desperate partisan act that would only further reveal the political nature of the Select Committee,” Banks wrote. On January 6, Banks was among those who voted not to certify President Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 presidential election.
The select committee’s work has been intensifying. Last Wednesday, the panel demanded records from eight executive branch agencies, including the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Justice. The wide-ranging request asks for “all documents and communications relating in any way to remarks made by Donald Trump or any other persons on January 6.” It asks for calendars, schedules, and movement logs related to the former president, as well as for former Vice President Mike Pence. The request also asks for information on a list of Trump aides, including Mark Meadows, Stephen Miller, Kayleigh McEnany, and others.
The committee also sent a request to 15 social media companies asking for records to be preserved that have some bearing on “the spread of misinformation, efforts to overturn the 2020 election or prevent the certification of the results, domestic violent extremism, and foreign influence in the 2020 election.” The targeted companies include 4chan, Gab, Parler, and Reddit, among others.
So far, the panel has held only one hearing, a July 27 session that heard from four police officers who testified about the law enforcement response to the rioters. At the hearing, one of the two Republicans appointed to the panel, Rep. Liz Cheney, hinted that the committee would be prepared to wield its subpoena power: “We must … know what happened every minute of that day in the White House, every phone call, every conversation, every meeting leading up to, during, and after the attack.”
Kevin McCarthy’s Knee-Jerk Afghanistan Policy
The Biden administration’s handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan has been roundly criticized by elected officials from both sides of the aisle in the federal government. Some Republicans, however, are stuck in an odd position: After all, it wasn’t long ago that it was President Donald Trump who was beating the drum about “endless war” and negotiating a U.S. exit from Afghanistan with the Taliban.
At that time, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was an advocate for withdrawal, praising the Trump administration’s February 2020 deal with the Taliban as a “positive step.” When asked at a press conference in March 2020 if he had any concerns about the deal, he told his members to look at “all the details” before developing an opinion.
Since then, of course, nearly all the political considerations surrounding Afghanistan have changed. So rather than try to find a consistent through-line between his past support of withdrawal and his current desire to criticize the administration, McCarthy seems to have opted for the simpler route of making his current Afghanistan policy “the opposite of what Biden thinks.”
Here’s McCarthy on troop presence on Wednesday of last week (emphasis ours):
Reporter: Sounds like you were for leaving some sort of troop presence in Afghanistan if you were in charge.
Reporter: What would that look like and what would their mission be? And how long would you anticipate—
The first thing you would want to not have done is give Bagram Airbase up. That’s where the prisoners were, as well. You had two runways, not one. You had an outsert that you would have another ability to move people out. For the last year, we had a small number of troops, less than that we have today there. You didn’t, for 18 months, have one casualty. You had those who were Christians, those who had helped us in Afghanistan, not being beaten or beheaded. You have comedians not being killed at that time, too. You actually had some peace in the country. I think that was working.
And then on Friday of that same week:
Reporter: The bill that you would like to see passed specifically has a line in there about keeping American troops there only if the situation there becomes too dangerous, which would essentially still give the White House the discretion as to whether or not the troop should be there or not. And couldn’t you make the argument that the situation there is already too dangerous? So does that effectively achieve the goal that you want of keeping troops there beyond—
Reporter: —the 31st deadline?
The only way we want troops to be there is to make sure Americans get back safely and that the troops are safe. The number of troops you bring to bring safety, prior to the Biden administration, you only had 2500 troops there. You had Bagram Air Force base. You had 18 months of not one casualty. He actually has more troops on the ground today, and he has the most casualties that have happened in the last decade.
Then here he is again in the very next question:
Reporter: Just to clear this up... you said you believed the U.S. should have a permanent force in Afghanistan when I asked you that. You no longer—
McCarthy: I would have checked and maintained the Bagram Air Force base. Why? Because of the proximity. The proximity to the region it is in from Russia, from China, from Pakistan. The ability— when the president tells me to look over the horizon, how can you look over the horizon if you don’t have the opportunity? I believe we could have maintained it safely. We’ve just gone 18 months with no casualties, we could have maintained two runways, it's only 30 nautical miles from Kabul. And I think it gave us an opportunity, for in the future, to maintain peace.
Not all Republican lawmakers have floundered like McCarthy. In most cases during the Trump era, House Republicans championed any and all policies put out by the White House. That made it all the more notable when the Doha Agreement of 2020, which the Trump White House struck with the Taliban, was met by significant and heated GOP opposition. Senate Republicans, including Leader Mitch McConnell, were critical of the Doha agreement very early on.
For several days now, House GOP leadership has called on Speaker Nancy Pelosi to reconvene Congress to address the problems with the Afghanistan withdrawal. She has refused. And in a pro forma session today, House GOP leaders tried to introduce a bill from Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin that would require the Biden administration to update Congress on the American citizens, allies, and equipment left in Afghanistan. It would also prohibit funds from being sent to the Taliban and says the U.S. shall offer no formal recognition of the Taliban. Democrats blocked the bill: Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan, serving as Speaker Pro Tempore for the day, refused to take up the bill or even let Republicans speak.
We hope you are enjoying Uphill. To ensure that you receive future editions in your inbox, opt-in on your account page.