The investigation into the storming of the US Capitol on January 6th was thrown into disarray on Wednesday after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi vetoed two of the Republican nominees to the committee.
In an unprecedented move, Ms Pelosi announced that she was rejecting the nomination of congressmen Jim Jordan and Jim Banks – allies of former president Donald Trump – to the committee, a move that provoked a furious reaction from House minority leader Kevin McCarthy who threatened to walk away from the process if all his five nominees were not approved.
“With respect for the integrity of the investigation, with an insistence on the truth and with concern about statements made and actions taken by these members, I must reject the recommendations of Representatives Banks and Jordan to the Select Committee, ” Ms Pelosi said in a statement. “The unprecedented nature of January 6th demands this unprecedented decision.”
Both Mr Jordan and Mr Banks voted against certifying the presidential election results on January 6th, just hours after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol building where members of congress were voting.
Originally, Ms Pelosi had proposed setting up an independent national commission, modelled on the investigation into the September 11th terrorist attacks of 2001, but Republicans blocked the proposal. Instead, a select committee was set up to investigate and report on the events of January 6th.
As the top Republican in the House of Representatives, Mr McCarthy was permitted to nominate five members to serve on the committee, but his decision to appoint Mr Banks and Mr Jordan, who remain in close contact with the former president, irked Democrats.
Mr Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives for his role in inciting the January 6th insurrection and continues to falsely claim that the presidential election in November was rigged.
Mr McCarthy reacted furiously to Ms Pelosi’s decision, calling an impromptu press conference with Mr Banks and Mr Jordan in the US Capitol.
“Denying the voices of members who have served in the military and law enforcement, as well as leaders of standing committees, has made it undeniable that this panel has lost all legitimacy and credibility and shows the Speaker is more interested in playing politics than seeking the truth,” he said. “Unless Speaker Pelosi reverses course and seats all five Republican nominees, Republicans will not be party to their sham process and will instead pursue our own investigation of the facts.”
In particular, he has focused on Ms Pelosi’s role in the run-up to the events of January 6th, questioning why security at the building was so weak.
Should Ms Pelosi proceed with the committee without the co-operation of Mr McCarthy, she will still have a Republican representative. Congresswoman Liz Cheney, who lost her leadership position in the House for calling out Mr Trump’s behaviour, has already been tapped by the House Speaker to join the committee. In a sign of the continuing tensions between Ms Cheney and Republican leadership in the House, the Wyoming representative lambasted Mr McCarthy yesterday.
“The attack on this building on January 6th was the worst attack on this capitol since 1814,” she said. “The American people deserve to know what happened, the people who did this must be held accountable. There must be an investigation that is non-partisan, that is sober, that is serious, that gets to the facts wherever they may lead. At every opportunity the minority leader has attempted to prevent the American people from understanding what happened, to block this investigation.”