The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol is blasting Republican attacks on the panel's legitimacy, contending in a court filing that the argument is "fatally flawed" and that it ignores precedent set by the Republicans themselves.
The committee launched the counterattack — its first detailed legal response to the challenges against it — in a filing Wednesday night responding to allegations by former President Donald Trump's spokesman, Taylor Budowich. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said Wednesday that he wouldn't comply with the panel's request for an interview because it is "not conducting a legitimate investigation."
Committee Chair Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., told reporters Thursday that he was "disappointed" by McCarthy's decision and that a subpoena is "under discussion."
"We have information that he made calls to the White House, telling him [Trump] he needed to call the people off," Thompson said. "And for whatever reason, he decided not to come to the committee and say what many things he said in public."
At his weekly news briefing Thursday, McCarthy dodged questions about how he would respond if the committee were to subpoena him. He also said that his phone conversation with Trump during the riot was "very short" and that he was "advising the president what was happening here."
"There is nothing that I can provide the January 6 committee for legislation of them moving forward," he said. "There is nothing in that realm. It is pure politics."
Budowich contended in a lawsuit filed last month that the committee's subpoena of his financial records is invalid because the committee "lacks the lawful authority" to issue subpoenas. Echoing arguments made by other Trump allies who have sought to block subpoenas by the committee, Budowich's lawyers contended that the panel is improperly constituted because it doesn't have enough members, it doesn't include Republicans appointed by McCarthy and it lacks a legislative purpose.
In its response, filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., the committee said Budowich's arguments are "wrong on the merits" and "badly flawed."
A federal judge has found that the committee "plainly has a 'valid legislative purpose,'" and it is considering several bills it could recommend as a result of its inquiry.
Budowich and his lawyers also say House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., "has appointed only nine members to the select committee, rather than the thirteen allowed for by the resolution" that created it. The committee's lawyers said the resolution "does not require that all thirteen members be appointed for the select committee to be validly constituted or to conduct business."
The committee's filing noted that a select committee to investigate Hurricane Katrina in 2005 allowed for 20 members but that the Republican House speaker at the time, Dennis Hastert, appointed only 11 members, all of whom were Republicans.
The filing also argues that Pelosi had no obligation to name McCarthy's picks to the panel. The resolution, which passed the Democratic-controlled House, said Pelosi would appoint Republican members "after consultation with" McCarthy.
"Here, there can be no serious contention that House Resolution 503 was not followed: the minority leader was consulted," the filing says.
McCarthy initially gave Pelosi the names of five Republicans he wanted to join the committee, including Jim Jordan of Ohio, a possible witness who had spoken to Trump on Jan. 6, and Jim Banks of Indiana, who said the panel was a sham.
McCarthy wound up withdrawing all five names after Pelosi said she would seat neither Jordan nor Banks. Two Republicans, Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, are on the committee, which officially asked to interview Jordan last month. He has indicated that he won't cooperate.
That Pelosi "made different selections as to two of the members, and that the minority leader subsequently withdrew his recommendations, does not make the select committee improperly constituted, nor does it invalidate any of its actions," the filing says.
The committee on Wednesday asked to interview McCarthy — who, like Jordan, spoke to Trump during the riot — and he said he wouldn't, citing concerns about the committee's composition and lack of legislative purpose.
Sources have previously said McCarthy and Trump got into an expletive-laden argument during the call, with Trump telling McCarthy, "Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are."