The House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol escalated its clash with Republican lawmakers on Monday, recommending a formal ethics inquiry into House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and other top allies of former President Trump for their refusal to cooperate in the probe.

The recommendations to the House Ethics Committee mark a milder step than the criminal referrals to the Justice Department that the select committee made Monday against Trump and several members of the former president’s inner circle for their role in the Capitol rampage. 

But as a political matter, the ethics complaints will put a bright light on the actions of McCarthy and three other prominent House Republicans — Reps. Jim Jordan (Ohio), Scott Perry (Pa.) and Andy Biggs (Ariz.) — in both the lead up and the aftermath of the attack. Those actions ranged from attending Jan. 6 planning meetings with Trump at the White House, as Jordan had done, to conversations with the then-president in the midst of the riot, which McCarthy undertook. 

Perry, who rose in prominence as a staunch Trump defender during the former president’s first impeachment, has caught the attention of Jan. 6 investigators for his role in pushing Trump to install Jeffrey Clark as head of the Justice Department after the election. Clark was sympathetic to Trump’s “stop the steal” campaign, and Republicans saw him as an ally in the effort to use the DOJ to keep Trump in office. 

According to the committee’s 154 summary report, in which Perry was named 22 times, “The Committee’s investigation has shown that Congressman Perry was working with one Department of Justice official, Jeffrey Clark, regarding the stolen election claims. Perry was working with Clark and with President Trump and Chief of Staff Mark Meadows with this goal: to enlist Clark to reverse the Department of Justice’s findings regarding the election and help overturn the election outcome.”

The report also alleges “Perry reminded Meadows that there are only “11 days to 1/6…We gotta get going!,” and, as the days went on, one asking, “Did you call Jeff Clark?””

The committee’s report alleges Perry was “involved in discussions with White House officials about Vice President Pence’s role on January 6th as early as November 2020,” “present for conversations in which the White House Counsel’s Office informed him and others that President Trump’s efforts to submit fake electoral votes were not legally sound,” and that Perry “was involved in President Trump’s efforts to install Jeffrey Clark as the Acting Attorney General in December 2020 and January 2021.”

Beginning in early December 2020, Representative Perry suggested Clark as a candidate to Mark Meadows, then introduced Clark to President Trump. In the days before January 6th, Representative Perry advocated for President Trump to speak at the Capitol during the joint session, speaking to Mark Meadows on at least one occasion about it. He was also a participant in the January 2, 2021 call in which Representative Jordan, President Trump, and others discussed issuing social media posts to encourage Trump supporters to march to the Capitol on January 6th.

Jan. 6 committee summary report

The report also reiterated the committee’s claim that Perry requested a pardon, something Perry has denied.

Perry’s office issued the following statement to abc27 after the committee hearing on Monday.

“More games from a petulant and soon-to-be defunct kangaroo court desperate for revenge and struggling to get out from under the weight of its own irrelevancy. Congressman Perry is pressing on with his commitment to help his constituents, who, once again — unlike several members of this illegitimate entity — overwhelmingly sent him back to Washington to fix what President Biden and his enablers have broken.”

Jay Ostrich
Scott Perry Spokesman

Perry won re-election in 2022 10 Pennsylvania’s 10th District with nearly 54% support over Democrat Shamaine Daniels.

The committee had initially requested that the four lawmakers, among others, appear voluntarily before the panel. When the Republicans refused, the panel issued subpoenas for their testimony in May, almost a year into the sweeping investigation into Trump’s efforts to remain in power after his 2020 defeat. 

None of them complied with the inquest, arguing the select committee was, from the start, a political witch hunt orchestrated by Trump’s adversaries — most notably Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — to damage Trump’s chances of winning another term in the White House. Heightening those accusations, Trump last month announced his entrance into the 2024 presidential race.

During Monday’s gathering on Capitol Hill, the last in a long series of public forums to air its findings, the select committee argued that ignoring congressional subpoenas — even for sitting lawmakers — sets a dangerous precedent that will hobble Congress’s powers to function effectively as an oversight body.

It’s unclear if the Ethics panel will launch an investigation based on the select committee’s new recommendations. Unlike most other standing committees, membership on the Ethics panel is evenly divided between the parties. And the committee strives — at least rhetorically — to avoid the divisive partisan politicking that practically defines some of the other panels. 

Yet with just weeks left in the 117th Congress, there’s a small and closing window for the committee to launch any new probes while Democrats are still in the House majority. And it’s unlikely that a GOP-led Ethics Committee would take the remarkable step of investigating the role of sitting Republicans in an event as polarizing as the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. 

Indeed, in a sign of how partisan Jan. 6 has become, McCarthy — who is vying to become Speaker next year and has outsize influence over committee chair spots — is vowing to investigate the Jan. 6 investigation as a first order of business in the new Congress.  

Heading into Monday’s forum, panel members seemed resigned to the idea that they had little recourse against McCarthy and the other Republicans who refused to cooperate in the short window before the panel sunsets.

“We don’t have a lot of time right now,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), one of the two Republicans on the select committee, told reporters last week. “That’s the reality of where we’re at.”

By their own telling, each of the Republicans has information pertaining to the Jan. 6 attack that is relevant to the investigation. 

McCarthy had called Trump from the Capitol amid the attack, urging the president to call off his supporters, and he later went to the House floor to say Trump bore the responsibility for the rampage. But despite initially supporting an outside investigation into the riot, McCarthy reversed course after Trump opposed the idea. 

Jordan, another close Trump ally, was among the most vocal proponents of Congress’s effort to overturn Trump’s defeat in certain closely contested states. He’d attended a meeting at the White House in late December of 2020, just weeks before Jan. 6, to help plan the Republicans’ strategy for blocking Congress’s vote to formalize Joe Biden’s victory. And he was on a conference call on Jan. 2, 2021, for the same purpose. Jordan also spoke with Trump more than once on Jan. 6. 

Biggs, a former head of the far-right Freedom Caucus, had been a part of a campaign led by Arizona state lawmakers to seat a slate of alternative electors who would side with Trump despite his loss in the Grand Canyon State.  

 A fifth GOP lawmaker, Rep. Mo Brooks (Ala.), had also been a target of investigators for his coordination with the Trump White House leading up to Jan. 6, as well as his combative speech on the Ellipse that morning, when Brooks — clad in body armor — urged the crowd to “start taking down names and kicking ass.” 

Brooks, who lost a bid for Alabama Senate this year, is not returning to Capitol Hill next year, and the Jan. 6 committee did not include him on its list of ethics referrals.