January 6 Committee Subpoenas of GOP Members Leads to Conflict of Interest

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s hand-picked Select Committee on January 6 made the unprecedented move on Thursday of issuing subpoenas for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) along with Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH), Scott Perry (R-PA), Mo Brooks (R-AL), and Andy Biggs (R-AZ).

Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) said that after turning the Congressional subpoena power into a political weapon, the “illegitimate” committee has now “turned that weapon on their own colleagues.” Banks had been named by McCarthy to act as the ranking GOP member of the committee but was then rejected by Pelosi.

Banks added that if “anyone deserves a subpoena, it’s the Speaker.” He said that Pelosi is the primary person “covering up key documents” regarding the events of January 6.

The circumstances surrounding the issuance of the subpoenas have also been called into question. Congressional subpoenas can only be requested by authorized committees. The actual subpoena is not issued by the committee but by the Congress acting as full body.

No committee subpoenas are issued until they have been reviewed and approved by the House General Counsel. That office is also responsible for representing lawmakers acting in their official capacity.

The currently serving House General Counsel is Douglas Letter. After the subpoenas were issued, he sent a message to the subject members offering to accept the legally required service of the subpoenas on their behalf.

He wrote in his message that he is allowed by law to accept “service of process” on behalf of House members when they are being called as a witness or are named in their official capacities as defendants in lawsuits. He noted that the arrangement is usually used to simplify service and to prevent members’ offices from being “bothered by persons trying to serve the process.”

Attorney Stan Brand told The Federalist that the arrangement proposed by Letter presents a “grave conflict of interest.” He compared the situation with asking an opponent in litigation if you can accept service on their behalf. Brand went on to call the situation “remarkable.” He said that it presents “constitutional legal issues” regarding potential enforcement actions taken pursuant to the subpoenas.

The House members who were subpoenaed last week had previously refused to testify voluntarily, claiming that the committee is illegitimate. The authority used to create the committee has been called into question after Pelosi blocked all Republican nominations to the committee by McCarthy.

Jordan and Banks have initiated their own investigation of the security failures that occurred on January 6. That work has placed Pelosi in the center of the controversy. Like Banks, Jordan was barred by Pelosi from serving on the January 6 committee. Pelosi has also blocked Republicans from reviewing the material possessed by the committee that has been leaked by political opponents.