McCarthy Tapes Become Focus of the Jan. 6 Committee!
The unflattering recordings released by the New York Times of Kevin McCarthy’s comments immediately following the Capitol attack may become the key focus of the Jan. 6 Committee.
As the witch hunt known as the Jan. 6 Committee continues, it may have been given some ammunition by the leaked recordings of McCarthy.
Specifically, the committee is intrigued by the taped recording with McCarthy that not only relays McCarthy’s privately-held feeling that Trump bore responsibility for the attack but indicated his concern that some actions the former president took leading up to that day could be “criminal.”
Legal experts believe that the committee is likely to zero in on that exchange, as the audio shows Republicans at the highest level may have been worried about the legality of Trump’s actions leading up to Jan. 6.
“You would not want to be the middleman in a conversation about Trump being pardoned by Pence because [McCarthy] would be concerned about somebody saying he obstructed justice in some way,” said Jeff Robbins, a former U.S. attorney who also served as chief counsel for the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
“There’s no need to have a personal fear about being involved in a pardon conversation unless there’s been some suggestion of a conversation about a pardon. And there’s no need to have a discussion about a pardon unless people within McCarthy’s sphere are having serious discussions about Trump’s culpability in a crime,” he added.
“And there’s no need for a pardon if all you’ve done is something that is immoral or unethical or optically bad. The need for a pardon exists only when there is criminal culpability.”
The conversation itself, Robbins said, suggests such questions were likely a topic of conversation among McCarthy and other high-ranking Republicans between Jan. 6 and Jan. 10.
The select committee has asked McCarthy to voluntarily speak with the committee’s investigators — an invitation he has thus far rebuffed.
Among the things the panel outlined to the minority leader were a desire to speak about his conversations with Trump during and after the attack, as well as prior reports that McCarthy said the former president admitted to being somewhat responsible for the attack — a line receiving renewed attention after being relayed in audio recordings of McCarthy.
“I think it is very important that Kevin McCarthy has evidence the former president acknowledged bearing some responsibility for that attack on the Capitol. This is an admission of guilt by the former president,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told CBS News.
“The reports of what the president said, that he understood that he bore responsibility, that’s consciousness of his guilt. And it is an important element of piecing together all of the facts relative to Jan. 6,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), another committee member, told the outlet.
However, Michael Stern, who previously served as special counsel to the House Intelligence Committee, has a different take than Robbins on the implications and impact of McCarthy’s “pardon” conversation.
Stern said the conversation may not carry as much water with Trump, who frequently asserted well before Jan. 6 that he may even be able to pardon himself and used the legal tool heavily while in office.
And while McCarthy may have wanted to steer clear of any conversation that involved a quid pro quo, the discussion itself doesn’t indicate guilt related to Jan. 6, Stern said.
“There are many things that [Trump’s] being investigated for which don’t have anything to do with Jan. 6 and which probably are more legally dangerous for him. So [I wouldn’t] draw the conclusion that this was specifically about potential legal jeopardy related to Jan. 6, as opposed to just Trump would recognize the fact that if he left the presidency, with respect to Jan. 6 or lots of other things, he’s going to face a lot of investigations,” and may seek a pardon as a “sweetener” for leaving office, Stern said.
But getting those details would be difficult, he added.
“As far as if this is something that the committee is interested in, the problem that they have is the problem they have with all of these members, which is they really don’t have a practical way of forcing them to testify,” Stern said.
While the call could hold value for the committee, it’s less clear it will be of any use to the Department of Justice.
“I don’t think the McCarthy tapes shed any light on a criminal investigation. I think it is harmful to him politically in that it shows that he appreciated the gravity of Trump’s conduct at one time,” said Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. attorney.
Indeed, it is more than likely that what has been exposed in the recordings will ultimately be more damaging to McCarthy and his aspirations to be House Speaker than they ever will be to Donald Trump.