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House committee investigating Jan. 6 insurrection calls Congress members to testify

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The January 6 attack on the vice president and Congress, regrettably, is one of today's politically divisive issues. The House committee investigating it has interviewed hundreds of witnesses and been sued by others seeking to block subpoenas for testimony, including Michael Flynn, the one-time national security adviser to former President Trump. Committee's also in court to try to get Trump-era documents from the National Archives. And this week, they opened up a new line of inquiry and are asking fellow members of Congress to cooperate.

We're joined now by NPR's Deirdre Walsh. Deirdre, thanks so much for being with us.

DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: Hey, Scott.

SIMON: Two lawmakers in particular, Republican representatives Jim Jordan and Scott Perry of Ohio and Pennsylvania, respectively - why these two?

WALSH: Well, Congressman Jordan has already said publicly he talked to former President Trump on January 6. He may actually have had multiple conversations with him that day. And committee chairman Bennie Thompson says he wants details on any discussions. The panel's also asking for any information about any meetings that Jordan was in with White House officials or outside activists who were plotting strategy on their effort to overturn the 2020 election results.

On Scott Perry, the committee says it has evidence that he was involved in an effort to install Jeffrey Clark - that was Trump's appointee - to put him in as the acting attorney general in the days leading up to January 6.

SIMON: And what about the response from representatives Jordan and Perry?

WALSH: Well, Perry has said he's declining to appear voluntarily. It is unclear whether the committee would issue a subpoena, but they haven't ruled it out, and that could potentially end up in court. Jordan says he's reviewing the letter from the committee, but he has concerns about the panel's operations. But he said back in October, when he was asked by another committee about his involvement in January 6, that he has nothing to hide, so he could potentially cooperate.

SIMON: Do you see more requests ahead?

WALSH: I think we could see more. The committee has all kinds of testimony and documents, including text messages from White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, and those include some with lawmakers. We don't know all the identities of who he was in communication with, but committee chairman Bennie Thompson has not ruled out asking for more testimony from lawmakers. We also know House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy also talked to Trump on January 6 as rioters were storming the Capitol. Thompson has said, quote, "no one is off limits to a subpoena," and that includes former President Trump.

SIMON: And, Deirdre, what do these requests tell us about the direction of the investigation now?

WALSH: I think it just shows how prepared they are to aggressively pursue information from a wide range of witnesses. You know, after the committee didn't get cooperation from a couple of people - Steve Bannon, the former Trump adviser, and Mark Meadows, the former White House chief of staff - they moved forward had voted them in contempt of Congress, and the full House sent those contempt resolutions to the Justice Department for prosecution. You know, Bannon was charged with two counts, and we'll see what Attorney General Merrick Garland decides to do about Meadows.

Liz Cheney, a Republican on the select committee, recently talked about the panel's attitude towards those who try to avoid cooperating.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LIZ CHENEY: We cannot be satisfied with incomplete answers or half-truths, and we cannot surrender to President Trump's efforts to hide what happened.

SIMON: Deirdre, 2022 is just days ahead, and I believe it's an election year. What does that suggest about any timeline for this investigation?

WALSH: Well, there's always political considerations with these investigations. You know, that is a huge factor. The panel wants to wrap up by the summer. You know, Democrats control the House now, but political analysts are forecasting that Republicans are in good position to win back control of the chamber in those '22 midterms, and Republicans could likely do away with the select committee. So they want to put out their report, you know, by the end of the year.

There's also still a fight in the courts over records that they're trying to get from the Trump administration. The former president's lawyers appealed to the Supreme Court to block the release of those materials from the National Archives.

SIMON: NPR's Deirdre Walsh, thanks so much.

WALSH: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.