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GOP leader dubs Jan. 6 riot probe committee as ‘illegitimate’, refuses cooperation

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US House of Representatives Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has rejected a congressional committee investigation into the deadly January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol as “illegitimate” and “abuse of power.” (Photo by AP)

A top Republican leader in the US Congress has refused to cooperate with a committee probing the deadly Jan. 6 riot on the US Capitol, slamming its work as “illegitimate” and “abuse of power.”

The Minority Leader in the US House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, in a statement on Wednesday said he will refuse to voluntarily give information asked by the selection committee investigating the deadly insurrection by the supporters of former US president, Donald Trump.

"As a representative and the leader of the minority party, it is with neither regret nor satisfaction that I have concluded to not participate with this select committee’s abuse of power that stains this institution today and will harm it going forward," McCarthy said.

The contemptuous refusal came hours after the US House panel sent him a letter requesting details of events in the days leading up to Jan. 6 insurrection, and its aftermath.

The committee -- which he described as “illegitimate” -- is trying to establish Trump's actions and state of mind on the day of riot, as thousands of his supporters assaulted police officers, vandalized the Capitol building and sent lawmakers and then-vice president Mike Pence running for their lives.

One police officer who battled rioters died the day after the attack and four others who guarded the building later took their own lives. Four rioters also died, including a woman who was shot by a police officer while trying to climb through a shattered window.

In a move that highlighted the extent of hostilities between congressional members of US’s two ruling political parties, the Republican leader also alleged that the committee "is not conducting a legitimate investigation," citing Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's rejection of some of his picks to serve on the panel, and insisted that it "is not serving any legislative purpose."

The panel’s request to McCarthy, detailed in a new letter released on Wednesday, marks a significant moment in the ongoing investigation as the panel is now seeking cooperation from the top Republican in the House.

"We also must learn about how the President's plans for January 6th came together, and all the other ways he attempted to alter the results of the election," wrote committee chairman, Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi.

In the letter, the committee traces McCarthy's public comments since the attack and questions whether Trump pressured him to change his tone when the pair met in late January 2021.

"Your public statements regarding January 6th have changed markedly since you met with Trump," the panel said in the letter.

"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?"

The letter cites several remarks made by McCarthy following the riot, including interviews where he discussed his conversations with Trump as the violence unfolded.

"As is readily apparent, all of this information bears directly on President Trump's state of mind during the January 6th attack as the violence was underway," it stated, offering a window into what the committee wants to discuss with the minority leader.

McCarthy is the third Republican lawmaker the probe committee has asked for cooperation in recent weeks, after Reps. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and Jim Jordan of Ohio.

Both Perry and Jordan -- who has also dismissed the panel as “illegitimate” -- have indicated they will not cooperate with the committee voluntarily.

This is while the committee members are wrestling with whether they have the constitutional right to subpoena their fellow members, and if they do, if they have an enforcement mechanism in place that will ultimately lead to cooperation.

The select committee has interviewed more than 340 witnesses and issued dozens of subpoenas as it investigates the storming of the Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters as lawmakers were certifying President Joe Biden's election victory.

The committee is aiming to release an interim report in the summer and a final report in the fall, a report said last month.

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