McCarthy says Pelosi is the reason he's refusing to cooperate with Jan. 6 committee

Last May — four months after the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he would be willing to testify about the conversation he had with then-President Donald Trump during the attack.

“Sure,” McCarthy said when asked by a reporter if he would be willing to speak about that phone call if he were asked to do so by “an outside commission.”

But on Wednesday, McCarthy rejected a request by the Jan. 6 select committee seeking his cooperation in its investigation of the siege.

So what changed?

At his weekly press conference on Capitol Hill on Thursday, McCarthy told reporters that when he expressed his willingness to testify last May, it was before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected two of his five Republican choices for the select committee because they had voted in favor of overturning the 2020 election only hours after the mob stormed the U.S. Capitol.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy gestures with his left hand as he speaks during his weekly news conference.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy at a news conference on Capitol Hill on Thursday. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

“That was two months before Nancy Pelosi decided for the first time in history by any speaker to deny the minority to even put their individuals on a committee,” McCarthy said. “So when you asked me that question, never did I think a speaker would play such politics.”

At the time, Pelosi said she was prepared to appoint McCarthy’s three other choices, but he withdrew their names and said he’d launch his own investigation.

“Maybe if Nancy Pelosi had done what other speakers had done and not play politics with it, there could have been a different answer,” McCarthy said.

In its letter to McCarthy, the panel said it wants to discuss not only his phone call with Trump on the day of the riot but also his “conversations with President Trump before, during and after the violent January 6th attack.”

In response, McCarthy called the committee “illegitimate” and said he had “nothing else to add” to his previous statements about Jan. 6.

“There is nothing I could provide the Jan. 6 committee for legislation of them moving forward,” he said Thursday. “There is nothing in that realm. It is pure politics.”

McCarthy would not answer when asked whether he would comply with a subpoena from the select committee. Several members of Trump’s inner circle, including former chief of staff Mark Meadows and ex-chief strategist Steve Bannon, have refused to comply with its subpoenas. (Bannon was later charged with contempt of Congress.)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi holds up her right hand as she speaks at a microphone during a press conference.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Capitol Hill on Thursday. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Earlier Thursday, Pelosi said McCarthy has “an obligation” to provide the committee with answers as “we seek the truth” about the attack. But she also said she has “no intention of interfering” with its work.

“I have confidence in the bipartisan nature of the committee,” Pelosi, who is not herself a member of the panel, said.

The nine-member panel includes two Republicans — Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — who were picked by Pelosi.

Although both Cheney and Kinzinger have conservative voting records, McCarthy has dubbed the pair “Pelosi Republicans,” a disparaging label that suggests they are not true members of the GOP.

In an interview with Yahoo News on Wednesday, Kinzinger — who is not running for reelection — said the GOP is “now a party that is profiting on populism, and that has one focus: raising money.”

“It’s a disappointing moment,” he added. “We have to continue to fight for the soul of it because just as it was corrupted over time, it can be fixed over time. But the bottom line of it is that we’re in a moment where truth doesn’t matter, and this party will be around for a while. It’s depressing to think that’s where we are with it.”