Nancy Pelosi is poised to take a hard line should Republicans try to derail her recently announced select committee into the 6 January Capitol attack and she may appoint its members at her sole discretion, according to a source familiar with the matter.
The committee, which passed the House in a near-party-line vote on Wednesday, will have eight members appointed by Democrats and four members appointed by Republicans, as well as broad subpoena power and no deadline to complete its work.
“We have the duty, to the constitution and the country, to find the truth of the January 6th insurrection and to ensure that such an assault on our Democracy cannot happen again,” the House speaker wrote in a letter to colleagues.
But, deeply distrustful of the GOP, Pelosi is prepared to veto any Republican member and is considering not allowing any Republican who objected to the certification of Joe Biden’s election win to serve on the select committee, the source said.
The thinly veiled warning being sent behind the scenes to the Republican House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, reflects Pelosi’s resolve to investigate the root causes of the Capitol attack that left five dead and scores more injured and shocked many Americans.
It also underscored Pelosi’s far-reaching power over the select committee in the Democratic-controlled House and her ability to shape the contours of an investigation that could continue through the midterm elections in 2022 and give Democrats a powerful tool to hit Republicans with.
The speaker remains acutely aware of how Republicans, in a stark display of loyalty to Trump and self-interest to shield themselves from an inquiry that could tarnish their party, blocked the creation of a 9/11-style commission into the Capitol attack.
Pelosi has expressed in private that she will not allow the select committee to be derailed, the source said, and could block the appointment of extremist Republicans such as Marjorie Taylor Greene, who refused to accept Biden’s win.
An additional concern raised by some Democrats, but not Pelosi herself, revolves around how to approach conflict of interest situations with Republicans who might be named to the select committee but also be connected to events on or before 6 January.
McCarthy is likely to be deposed by the select committee himself over his phone call to Trump as the insurrection unfolded. McCarthy begged Trump to call off the rioters, only for the former president to side with his supporters.
The top Republican on the House judiciary committee, Jim Jordan – a likely pick by McCarthy for the select committee – also appeared to suggest in recent months that he spoke with Trump during the insurrection.
Such conversations between Trump and top House Republicans are significant as they address the crucial question of what Trump was doing and saying as the Capitol was overrun, and will almost certainly be of central importance to the committee’s investigation.
In a sign of her hard line Pelosi picked Republican congresswoman Liz Cheney as a member, despite McCarthy threatening to strip Republicans of committee assignments if they accepted such an appointment. Cheney was removed from her party’s leadership this year because of her criticism of Trump.
Pelosi also named House homeland security committee chair, Bennie Thompson, who negotiated the framework of the aborted 9/11-style commission into 6 January, to head the committee.
The fraught situation surrounding the select committee, which would hand Democrats sweeping power to issue subpoenas for witnesses and documents that could reveal new information about the Capitol attack, is indicative of a highly partisan dynamic on Capitol Hill.
The bill to create the select committee became a lightning rod for Republicans after the framework mirrored the language the GOP used for the 2014 select committee to investigate the attack on a US compound in Benghazi, Libya.
Pelosi has reiterated the 6 January select committee will examine the root causes of the Capitol attack, though for months, Republicans have argued Democrats are fixated on 6 January as a way of tarnishing Trump and their party.
Pelosi moved to create a special House select committee – among the top weapons for congressional oversight – after Senate Republicans blocked the commission, fearful that a close accounting of the Capitol attack could pose an existential threat to the GOP.
The speaker maintained that she preferred an independent inquiry modeled on the commission set up after the September 11 terrorist attacks. But with Republicans opposed and downplaying the riot, she eventually conceded that only a select committee was possible.
“It is imperative that we seek the truth,” Pelosi said. “It is clear the Republicans are afraid of the truth.”
Several investigations into the Capitol attack are already under way across the justice department and Capitol Hill, but they have lacked a mandate to conduct a forensic examination of both the circumstances and causes of the assault.