Support The Bulwark and subscribe today.
  Join Now

Kevin McCarthy’s Jan. 6th Coverup is Underway

The man who wants to be speaker of the House refuses to cooperate with the Jan. 6th investigation.
May 31, 2022
Kevin McCarthy’s Jan. 6th Coverup is Underway
U.S. House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks as Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), and House Minority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) listen during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Conditioned to accept the idea that most Republican officials are zombified “ultra MAGA” automatons for former President Trump, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy seems to be getting a pass for stonewalling the January 6th Committee.

He shouldn’t. Politically convenient subservience to Trump isn’t enough of an excuse for McCarthy anymore.

More than 1,000 people have cooperated with the Jan. 6th Committee. Yet, McCarthy, one of the few people who spoke with Trump as the attack was underway, refuses to be one of them. Why is this seen as acceptable?

The GOP House leader made his position plain on Friday, when he signaled his intention to defy a subpoena from the committee. In doing so, he has transformed from a powerful party loyalist who could claim he was merely doing the former president’s bidding into an active participant in the coverup.

Recall that in the waning days of Trump’s presidency, McCarthy said that Trump “bears responsibility” for the attack. Shortly after making that statement, McCarthy changed his mind.

Within days he traveled to Mar-a-Lago to talk with Trump about winning the House majority in 2022. McCarthy issued a statement saying, “President Trump’s popularity has never been stronger than it is today, and his endorsement means more than perhaps any endorsement at any time.”

What’s more, McCarthy said he had no regrets about tanking an independent, 9/11-style, bipartisan commission of the attack. After Speaker Nancy Pelosi then moved to create the House Jan. 6th Committee, McCarthy withdrew all his picks when Pelosi rejected his selections of Reps. Jim Jordan and Jim Banks to serve as two of the five GOP members. (Note: Jordan has been subpoenaed by the committee as well. Choosing someone to serve on the committee who was also a target of the committee was an understandable non-starter for any worthy investigation. Additionally, Banks has since engaged in questionable behavior which proves why Pelosi was wise to nix him, too.) McCarthy has, nevertheless, blasted Pelosi for structuring the committee to “satisfy her political objectives.”

McCarthy’s opposition to the committee led to the entire Republican caucus voting against establishing it, with the exceptions of Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. Kinzinger’s Illinois district was eliminated by Democrats. McCarthy then targeted Cheney, endorsing her primary opponent after he greenlit her removal from GOP leadership and then installed Trump apologist Elise Stefanik in her place.

So why the change of heart? The Jan. 6th Committee wants to know; McCarthy won’t tell.


On January 12, 2022, the committee sent McCarthy a letter asking for his voluntary cooperation regarding his communications with Trump before, during, and after the attack. It said:

Despite the many substantial concerns you voiced about President Trump’s responsibility for the January 6th attack, you nevertheless visited President Trump in Mar-a-Lago on January 28th (the impeachment trial began on February 9, 2021). While there, you reportedly discussed campaign planning and fundraising to retake the House majority in 2022. The Select Committee has no intention of asking you about electoral politics or campaign-related issues, but does wish to discuss any communications you had with President Trump at that time regarding your account of what actually happened on January 6th. Your public statements regarding January 6th have changed markedly since you met with Trump. At that meeting, or at any other time, did President Trump or his representatives discuss or suggest what you should say publicly, during the impeachment trial (if called as a witness), or in any later investigation about your conversations with him on January 6th?

McCarthy declined a voluntary interview. The committee sent McCarthy and four other Republican members of Congress subpoenas on May 12. In response, McCarthy’s lawyer sent the committee an 11-page letter on Friday, questioning the committee’s legality and constitutionality and making other arguments previously rejected by the courts.

Although the committee has stated many times that “our investigation will inform our specific legislative recommendations, and ensure that we can take action to prevent another January 6th from ever happening again,” McCarthy’s lawyer, Elliot S. Berke, rejected the idea the committee had any legislative purpose.

“Its only objective appears to be to attempt to score political points or damage its political opponents—acting like the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee one day and the Department of Justice the next,” Berke wrote.

Berke closed his letter with a request: that the committee give McCarthy a list of all topics and subjects it would like to discuss, as well as copies of “all documents” the committee would like to ask about, along with the “constitutional and legal rationale” for each of those requests.

Which is lots of lawyer-speak for people who bill by fractions of the hour.

What this request really meant was that McCarthy has absolutely no intention of acting as a cooperative witness. He wants information from the committee; he doesn’t want to give them any.


McCarthy, by his own account, pleaded with Trump to call off the rioters as the attack was underway. Despite McCarthy’s request, the attack (inexplicably) went on for more than three hours.

McCarthy can speak to what Trump’s state of mind was during that pivotal time; he may have knowledge about why the Capitol was not quickly secured. What did Trump say when McCarthy begged him for help? Why is that being kept a secret? How could any official sit on this information—let alone a man who could very soon be speaker of the House?

Also, how in the world did McCarthy go from blaming Trump for the attack to championing him for the midterms? No one in Washington with McCarthy’s level of power has flipped harder and faster on such an important question than McCarthy did in those short days. It stands to reason that if McCarthy had an honorable explanation, he would be proud to give it. So what is he hiding?

These questions, and more, need to be answered. Hopefully, some of them have already been answered by the hundreds of people who have spoken to investigators.

For now, one conclusion can be safely made in light of House Republican Leader McCarthy’s explicit refusal to talk. The GOP’s Jan. 6th coverup is still happening, even now.

Whether the coverup has succeeded or not will soon be revealed. The Jan. 6th Committee will be holding hearings during primetime beginning on June 9.

Amanda Carpenter

Bulwark political columnist Amanda Carpenter is a CNN contributor, author, and former communications director to Sen. Ted Cruz and speechwriter to Sen. Jim DeMint.