Liz Cheney's revelation about the Jan. 6 committee should terrify McCarthy

Liz Cheney's revelation about the Jan. 6 committee should terrify McCarthy
Rep. Liz Cheney

Imagine for a moment House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy leisurely sipping on his morning coffee when he suddenly sees the news that the select committee investigating Jan. 6 has interviewed more than 150 people already in their probe.

Fun, right? That heart-attack-inducing moment may have actually occurred Thursday when Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming dropped a bomb.

"We've had, actually, over 150 interviews with a whole range of people connected to the events, connected to understanding what happens, so that just gives you a sense," Cheney, the panel's vice-chair, told Politico. "It is a range of engagements—some formal interviews, some depositions … There really is a huge amount of work underway that is leading to real progress for us."

In other words, the Jan. 6 panel has been burning through witnesses even as they face reluctance from a handful of holdouts close to Donald Trump. It's been known that the committee has interviewed some Trump officials, like former Trump White House aide Alyssa Farah and former Trump Department of Justice officials like Jeffrey Clark and Richard Donoghue. But by the sounds of it, the committee's work is proceeding urgently and at a break-neck pace. As the other GOP member of the Jan. 6 panel, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, noted last weekend on ABC's This Week, Republicans will surely kill the Jan. 6 probe if they retake control of the chamber in next year's midterms.

The Justice Department has yet to act on a two-week-old criminal referral from the House for Steve Bannon after defying a congressional subpoena. That surely hasn't helped the committee's bid to secure testimony from other Trump confidants, including former chief of staff Mark Meadows, former deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino, and former national security and Defense Department aide Kash Patel.

But the committee's efforts could soon be getting a real boost nonetheless in the form of a treasure trove of information from the National Archives. Trump has sought to block congressional investigators from obtaining key call records, visitor logs, and sensitive files of his inner circle. But the federal judge who heard arguments in Trump's legal challenge Thursday, Judge Tanya Chutkan, appeared to take a very skeptical view of his executive privilege claim.

President Joe Biden has repeatedly rejected Trump's assertion of executive privilege. Politico reports that unless the court intervenes, Archivist David Ferriero plans to ship the first batch of information to lawmakers on Nov. 12.

A rejection of Trump's privilege claim could also light a fire under the Justice Department on the matter of Bannon's criminal referral. Bannon has also claimed he is shielded from complying with investigators based on executive privilege, but his claim is even weaker than Trump's is. So an official rejection of Trump's claim by Judge Chutkan could deal a final blow to Bannon's already flimsy argument in the eyes of Justice Department officials.

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