A top-ranking Democrat who will serve on the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol appears to have confirmed Republican suspicions that the investigation will be wielded as a political weapon against the GOP.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), one of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's appointees to the committee, told MSNBC's Nicole Wallace last week that the investigation will seek to learn whether former President Donald Trump was aware of extremist groups that attended his Washington, D.C., rally before a mob of Trump supporters moved to the Capitol, trespassing there in an attempt to stop the certification of the 2020 presidential election by Congress.
Schiff, who led the House Democrats' second impeachment effort against Trump after the Capitol riot, indicated the select committee will examine if Trump or any other Republican lawmakers were aware of plans to incite people to violence at Trump's rally.
"You have weeks and indeed months leading up to that date that we need to examine," Schiff said.
He predicted that the Biden administration will be "much more forthcoming" than the Trump administration in releasing documents and providing information or evidence to the committee.
House Republicans have opposed new investigations into the Jan. 6 riot, bipartisan or otherwise, claiming that existing probes by law enforcement agencies and inquiries by lawmakers already underway in Congress are sufficient to determine what happened on Jan. 6. Republicans also worry that any committee with subpoena power would attempt to drag GOP members to testify about their conversations with Trump, turning the proceedings into a kangaroo court meant to politically damage Republicans ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.
Schiff hinted that the select committee investigation would seek evidence that would indeed implicate Republican lawmakers in the events of Jan. 6.
"If it leads to some of our colleagues, it leads to some of our colleagues," Schiff said.
Democrats are particularly interested in a phone call that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) had with Trump on Jan. 6, during which the two men reportedly got into a shouting match over what was happening. McCarthy would later claim that he contacted the president to inform him of what was happening at the Capitol and that after their talk Trump agreed to put out a statement urging the rioters to cease and desist. Trump eventually released a video statement that told the rioters to "go home" and that "we love you" while repeating his claims that the election was stolen.
But McCarthy's account of the phone call is disputed by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wa.), who said in February that McCarthy told her that Trump had repeated a false claim about Antifa breaching the Capitol in disguise to frame Trump supporters.
"McCarthy refuted that and told the president that these were Trump supporters," Herrera Beutler said. "That's when, according to McCarthy, the president said: 'Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.'"
Schiff said he wants to know if Trump had purposefully delayed deploying the National Guard to stop the riot.
"What was going on in the White House? What the reasons were behind the delay in the deployment of the National Guard?" he asked, listing unanswered questions he had regarding Jan. 6. "Was there any warning given to the president about the violence that may ensue?"
"Was the president on advance notice of who some of these extreme elements were that were going to be gathering there? Was there any concern about any of the rhetoric that might be used in light of who was attending?" he added.
Schiff stated as fact that Trump incited the "attack" at the Capitol, adding that the committee's responsibility would be to determine the full extent of Trump's "role."
Schiff also said that the committee would seek testimony from Capitol Police officers who were assaulted by members of the mob in order to showcase how a "domestic terrorism threat" is the biggest national security issue facing the nation.
He denied claims that Democrats were engaged in a partisan effort to politically damage Republicans.
"We really are going to do our very best to operate in a nonpartisan way," he said. "We'll see what Kevin McCarthy does, whether he appoints people, what kind of people he wants to appoint."
McCarthy has not yet appointed any Republican lawmakers to serve on the select committee. Politico reported Wednesday that many veteran lawmakers have either dismissed the investigation as a partisan exercise or are "reluctant to take on a time-consuming probe they fear will cut into their time to shape legislation."
The Republicans most willing to serve on the committee, according to Politico, "are the party's firebrands," such as Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), and Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.).
Speaker Pelosi appointed Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) to serve on the committee, ensuring that at least one anti-Trump Republican will feature prominently in the committee's work.