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The Jan. 6 committee has issued subpoenas for 5 House Republicans

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

There was an unprecedented move today in the January 6 investigation. The Democratic-led House select panel investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol issued subpoenas for five House Republicans, including for the top GOP leader, Kevin McCarthy. The committee's ranking Republican, Liz Cheney, said it was a big decision.

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LIZ CHENEY: It's a reflection of how important and serious the investigation is and how grave the attack on the Capitol was.

CHANG: Well, this move escalates the fight between the committee leading the probe and the House Republicans opposed to the investigation.

Joining us now with more is NPR congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales. Hi, Claudia.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Hi, Ailsa.

CHANG: OK, so just walk us through these new subpoenas.

GRISALES: Right. As you mentioned, the list includes GOP leader McCarthy, plus Jim Jordan of Ohio, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Andy Biggs of Arizona and Mo Brooks of Alabama. In the past few months, a committee asked them to appear voluntarily, but they all refused, and now the panel wants to compel their testimony by month's end. And we should note, one other Republican who refused to appear voluntarily - this is Ronny Jackson of Texas - was not subpoenaed, but he has argued the panel has bad information about his connection to January 6.

As for McCarthy, the panel wants to know what he was saying privately about former President Trump right after the attack, and they also want to know the roles these other congressmen - Jordan, Perry, Biggs and Brooks - played in the efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.

CHANG: OK, so what possible risks does the committee now face after taking this new step - these new subpoenas?

GRISALES: Right. Members of Congress usually testify voluntarily. And while they have been subpoenaed in House Ethics Committee probes, this is in no way common. Also, Republicans have warned that if they take control of the House next year, as is projected, they'll issue their own subpoenas to investigate Democrats. But Maryland Democrat Jamie Raskin, who also sits on the panel, said that's not a concern and told reporters the stakes are much higher than worrying about new, awkward dynamics that this could trigger.

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JAMIE RASKIN: Nothing's more awkward than a violent insurrection where people died, so we're trying to extricate ourselves from the politics of violence, insurrection and coups. And the way to get out of it is through the truth.

GRISALES: Raskin went on to say that if someone has relevant information, they have, quote, "every legal and moral reason to participate in the probe."

But this does get into tricky legal territory if these Republicans don't comply with the subpoenas. The panel has moved to criminal contempt referrals when subpoenas are defied, but it's not clear if the panel will go that far in these cases against their Republican colleagues.

CHANG: Well, what are these Republicans saying in response to these subpoenas?

GRISALES: Well, they reiterated their position that this panel is not conducting a legitimate investigation. For example, they attacked the committee for telling the media about the subpoenas first, but none would say if they would comply as of yet. Cheney, who was the No. 3 House Republican before she was ousted by McCarthy and others for defying Trump, said this decision was a very heavy one for the panel.

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CHENEY: We asked these five individuals to come in and speak with us, and they have refused. And they have an obligation. They have critically important information about the attack that we need for the investigation.

GRISALES: For his part, McCarthy said he still believes the panel is focused on going after political opponents.

CHANG: Well, we are less than six months away from the midterms, right? Like, how close are we to this investigation getting wrapped up?

GRISALES: Pretty close. This is the final chapter. They've issued about a hundred subpoenas, they've seen voluntary witnesses - so a total of a thousand interviews so far.

CHANG: Wow.

GRISALES: And they're planning to hold a series of hearings next month - eight in total, starting on June 9 - and release their final report later this year.

CHANG: That is NPR's Claudia Grisales. Thank you, Claudia.

GRISALES: Thank you much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.