McCarthy called out Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for what he called “attempts to strong-arm private companies to turn over individuals’ private data.” He asserted that such a forfeiture of information would “put every American with a phone or computer in the crosshairs of a surveillance state run by Democrat politicians.”
The select panel investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection took its first step in obtaining phone records on Monday, asking an array of telecommunications companies to save records relevant to the attack — a request that could include records from some lawmakers. More than 30 companies, including Apple, AT&T and Verizon, received a request for records from April 1, 2020, to Jan. 31, 2021.
“The Select Committee is investigating the violent attack on the Capitol and attempt to overturn the results of last year’s election,” a committee spokesperson said in a statement, responding to McCarthy’s threat. “We’ve asked companies not to destroy records that may help answer questions for the American people. The committee’s efforts won’t be deterred by those who want to whitewash or cover up the events of January 6th, or obstruct our investigation.”
On the substance of McCarthy’s complaint, congressional committees have routinely used subpoena power to obtain data from private companies, including phone records, emails and other communications. The Jan. 6 committee has not identified whose communications it is seeking, but it has made clear that members of Congress are among the potential targets, which would be a departure from past practices — one that members of the panel have said they believe is warranted in this case.
The Democratic-led committee’s investigators are looking for a fuller picture of the communications between then-President Donald Trump and members of Congress during the attack. McCarthy is among the Republicans known to have spoken with Trump on Jan. 6.
Republicans have already slammed the investigation’s interest in phone records as an “authoritarian” overreach by Democrats. Though two anti-Trump Republican lawmakers, Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, sit on the select panel, most of the party voted against the committee’s creation, and GOP senators filibustered a bill that would have formed an independent commission to investigate the Capitol insurrection.
“If these companies comply with the Democrat order to turn over private information, they are in violation of federal law and subject to losing their ability to operate in the United States,” McCarthy said in Tuesday’s statement. “If companies still choose to violate federal law, a Republican majority will not forget and will stand with Americans to hold them fully accountable under the law.”
Schiff said on Tuesday that McCarthy’s threat was “premised on a falsehood.”
“He’s scared. And I think his boss is scared,” Schiff said on MSNBC. “They didn’t want this commission and this select committee to go forward. They certainly didn’t want it to go forward as it is on a bipartisan basis, and they don’t want the country to know exactly what they were involved in.
“And Kevin McCarthy lives to do whatever Trump wants. But he is trying to threaten these companies, and it shows yet again why this man, Kevin McCarthy, can never be allowed to go anywhere near the speaker’s office.”