WASHINGTON — The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol is requesting interviews with three Republican members of Congress, including one whom members of the Oath Keepers militia group are alleged to have said they needed to protect because he had "critical data."
Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., contended in letters sent Monday to Reps. Ronny Jackson of Texas, Andy Biggs of Arizona and Mo Brooks of Alabama that the trio have information that could be helpful to the panel's investigation into "the facts, circumstances, and causes of the January 6th attack."
The panel asked that the lawmakers meet with committee in the next week. All three rejected the request on Monday.
One of the issues about which the panel wants to question Jackson, a former White House physician, is text messages members of the Oath Keepers, including the group's leader, traded about him during the assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
In one of the encrypted messages referred to in the letter, a member, identified only as "User #1," wrote: "Ronnie Jackson (TX) office inside Capitol — he needs [Oath Keeper] help. Anyone inside?"
Eight minutes later, at 3:08 p.m., the person wrote: "Dr. Ronnie Jackson — on the move. Needs protection. If anyone inside cover him. He has critical data to protect."
Two minutes later, the group's leader, Stewart Rhodes, replied, "Give him my cell."
Rhodes was charged this year with seditious conspiracy in connection with the Jan. 6 attack. He has pleaded not guilty.
The committee said it had "several specific questions" for Jackson about the messages, which were first reported last month after the Justice Department included them in a court filing related to the prosecution of an alleged Oath Keepers associate.
Among their questions, the panel's letter said, are: "Why would these individuals have an interest in your specific location? Why would they believe you 'have critical data to protect?' Why would they direct their members to protect your personal safety? With whom did you speak by cell phone that day?"
The letter also asks, "If you had no contact with the individuals who sent these messages, who else would have informed them of your security needs or your location?"
Jackson blasted the committee probe as a "witch hunt" in a statement, saying: "I do not know, nor did I have contact with, those who exchanged text messages about me on January 6. In fact, I was proud to help defend the House floor from those who posed a threat to my colleagues."
The committee's letter noted that Jackson "recognized the need to barricade the doors of the House chamber, and participated in that effort." It added, "We wish to record your firsthand observations of that period, including the reactions and statements of other members of Congress to the violence at that moment."
Jackson quickly declined the offer. "I will not participate in the illegitimate Committee’s ruthless crusade against President Trump and his allies,” his statement said.
The panel told Biggs it wants to ask him about his involvement in planning the rally for Jan. 6, as well as his "efforts to persuade state legislators and officials that the 2020 election was stolen and/or to seek assistance from those individuals in President Trump’s efforts to overturn the election." It added, "Certain communications that you had with Mark Meadows relate to this topic."
Meadows was former President Donald Trump's White House chief of staff.
Thompson and Cheney also wrote that the panel has information from former White House personnel about "an effort by certain House Republicans after January 6th to seek a presidential pardon for activities taken in connection with President Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election." They said, "Your name was identified as a potential participant in that effort."
"We would like to understand all the details of the request for a pardon, more specific reasons why a pardon was sought, and the scope of the proposed pardon," the letter says.
Biggs responded on Twitter, saying he will "not be participating in the illegitimate and Democrat-sympathizing House Jan. 6 committee panel."
His statement Monday did not respond to any of the specific allegations in the letter, and it accused the committee of operating "with the same kind of bias present at the Salem Witch Trials. Everyone is guilty and must demonstrate their innocence."
The panel wants to ask Brooks, a former top Trump ally who spoke at the Jan. 6 rally ahead of the riot, about comments he made after his recent falling out with the former president.
It noted Brooks' comments in a news release, where he said Trump had "asked me to rescind the 2020 elections, immediately remove Joe Biden from the White House, immediately put President Trump back in the White House, and hold a new special election for the presidency."
"As a lawyer, I’ve repeatedly advised President Trump that January 6 was the final election contest verdict and neither the U.S. Constitution nor the U.S. Code permit what President Trump asks. Period," the release said.
Thompson and Cheney told Brooks that the exchange "is directly relevant to the subject of our inquiry, and it appears to provide additional evidence of President Trump’s intent to restore himself to power through unlawful means."
Brooks went public with his complaints about the former president after Trump withdrew his endorsement of him in the Alabama Senate race.
Asked in March whether he would agree to an interview with the committee, Brooks said he would take a request “under advisement if they ever contact me.” He made the comment before Trump accused of him being “woke“ and took back his endorsement.
In a statement Monday evening, Brooks declined the committee's request to meet with him in the coming days.
“I wouldn’t help Nancy Pelosi and Liz Cheney cross the street. I’m certainly not going to help them and their Witch Hunt Committee. If they want to talk, they can send me a subpoena.”