The Republican House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, should testify before the commission to investigate the 6 January Capitol attack, the Wyoming representative Liz Cheney said on Friday, because he has “said publicly that he’s got information about the president’s state of mind that day”.
House Democrats and Republicans have agreed to create a bipartisan commission to investigate the Capitol riot. The terms of the proposed commission fell short of Republican demands, however, casting doubt on whether the GOP will vote for its creation.
This week, McCarthy presided over the ejection of Cheney from Republican House leadership, over her refusal to back Donald Trump’s lie that his election defeat by Joe Biden was the result of mass electoral fraud and the role of that lie in stoking the attack on Congress.
Speaking to ABC News’ This Week in an interview to be broadcast on Sunday, Cheney said McCarthy “absolutely should” testify before any commission, and that she “wouldn’t be surprised if he were subpoenaed”.
As agreed by the Democratic chairman of the House homeland security committee, Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, and the ranking Republican, John Katko of New York, the commission would have subpoena power if its Democratic-appointed chair and Republican-appointed vice-chair agree, or if a majority of the evenly split 10-person panel voted in favor.
I’m very glad they rejected Leader McCarthy’s suggestions that somehow we should dilute the commission
The panel would be modeled on the 9/11 Commission, which was created in late 2002 and published its report in 2004. A vote on the National Commission to Investigate the 6 January Attack on the United States Capitol Complex Act, legislation necessary to create the panel, could happen as early as next week.
McCarthy did not immediately back the deal.
The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, proposed a commission in February but the process stalled. Democrats wanted the commission to focus solely on the 6 January attack. Republicans wanted to include violence during protests over police brutality last summer, which they attribute to leftwing groups.
There was also disagreement about the makeup of the commission and its subpoena powers.
Thompson was asked to negotiate with Katko, like Cheney one of 10 House Republicans who voted for Trump’s impeachment on a charge of inciting an insurrection. Trump was not convicted, as only seven Republican senators voted to do so.
Should the commission be formed, it would only investigate the events of 6 January. Five members, including the chair, would be selected by Pelosi and the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer. Five, including a vice-chair, would be appointed by McCarthy and the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell.
Current government employees would not be appointed. The members would have “significant expertise in the areas of law enforcement, civil rights, civil liberties, privacy, intelligence and cybersecurity”. A final report will be required, outlining facts and causes and providing recommendations to prevent future attacks.
Authorities are still examining videos and photos from 6 January.
Told by Trump to “fight like hell”, hundreds of his supporters broke into the Capitol. Some looked for lawmakers, including Trump’s vice-president, Mike Pence, to capture and possibly kill. Five people died.
More than 440 people have been arrested in connection with the attack and charged with crimes including use of a deadly or dangerous weapon and assaulting a police officer. Prosecutors have said they expect to charge about 100 more.
McCarthy spoke to Trump as the attack proceeded. Jaime Herrera Beutler, a Washington state Republican, has said McCarthy told her that when he asked the president to call his supporters off, Trump replied: “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”
In a recent interview on Fox News, McCarthy, who has aligned his party firmly with Trump, avoided questions about Beutler’s statement but did not deny it.
Cheney told ABC: “I would hope he doesn’t require a subpoena, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he were subpoenaed.”
Announcing his deal with Katko, Thompson said: “There has been a growing consensus that the January 6 attack is of a complexity and national significance that what we need is an independent commission to investigate.”
Pelosi said: “It is imperative that we seek the truth of what happened on January 6 with an independent, bipartisan 9/11-type commission to examine and report upon the facts, causes and security relating to the terrorist mob attack.”
Cheney said “the elements of that commission are exactly as they should be. I’m very glad they rejected Leader McCarthy’s suggestions that somehow we should dilute the commission. It’s really important that it be focused on just on 6 January and the events leading up to it.”
Cheney, a hardline conservative, is the daughter of the former vice-president Dick Cheney and a member of the Republican establishment. But she has been replaced in House leadership by Elise Stefanik, a New Yorker backed by Trump.
Cheney said her ejection was “dangerous. I think that we have to recognise how quickly things can unravel. We have to recognise what it means for the nation to have a former president who has not conceded and who continues to suggest that our electoral system cannot function, cannot do the will of the people.”
She also said she regretted voting for Trump.
“I was never going to support Joe Biden and I do regret the vote,” she said. “It was a vote based on policy, based on substance and in terms of the kinds of policies he put forward that were good for the country. But I think it’s fair to say that I regret the vote.”