McCarthy warns telecoms and social media companies complying with January 6 committee’s requests for files

“If these companies comply with the Democratic order to hand over private information, they are breaking federal law and risk losing their ability to operate in the United States,” the California Republican said in a statement. posted on twitter. “If businesses still choose to violate federal law, a Republican majority will not forget and stand with Americans to hold them fully accountable under the law.”

McCarthy’s office would not provide CNN with a specific federal law that a company would violate if it complied with a properly constituted congressional committee.

McCarthy’s threat to businesses could go against a House rule that prohibits members from acting in a manner that discredits the House, according to ethics expert Norm Eisen.

Eisen, who was a Democratic adviser for Trump’s first impeachment, said McCarthy’s threat could violate House Rule 23, which states that members “must behave at all times in a manner that reflects such a honorable in the House “.

“What could be more dishonorable than the House minority leader openly shaking companies to break the law and withhold evidence of a legitimate investigation that could implicate him and his colleagues,” Eisen asked in a statement. telephone interview.

Eisen said McCarthy’s threat provided a “clear basis” for an ethical investigation. If the House Ethics Committee takes up the matter, it can still refer it to the Department of Justice. But this process is done in secret and often takes months, if not years, to complete.

Eisen also acknowledged that the Constitution’s speech and debate clause could help protect McCarthy from any attempts to prosecute him. He also said the scope of the clause’s protections for lawmakers has not been fully tested in the courts.

The select committee made its first step in the investigative process on Monday, asking more than 30 social media and telecommunications companies to keep phone records of some lawmakers and members of former President Donald Trump’s orbit who played a role in the “Stop the Steal” rally that served as a prelude to the Capitol uprising.

While the committee has not made public the names of lawmakers whose files it is targeting, several sources familiar with the panel’s work confirmed to CNN that the files of several members of Congress are among those the committee would like to keep.

The committee did not formally request any documents, but simply requested that the files be kept in case the investigation so requires. McCarthy’s suggestion that cooperation with the committee might be illegal may make it more difficult for the committee to obtain records.

A spokesperson for the committee said later on Tuesday that the threat would not impact its work.

“The select committee is investigating the violent attack on the Capitol and is trying to overturn last year’s election results. We have asked companies not to destroy records that could help answer the questions of the American people.” spokesman Tim Mulvey said in a statement. at CNN. “The committee’s efforts will not be deterred by those who want to whitewash or cover up the events of January 6, or hinder our investigation.”

McCarthy also accused the select committee of powerful private companies, specifically naming in its statement committee chairman Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Representative Adam Schiff, both Democrats from California.

It is not known what means the committee will use to force the telecommunications companies to cooperate with their request. The committee has subpoena power, but asking for information – especially from members of Congress – could lead to a long legal battle.

As CNN previously reported, McCarthy’s name was notably not on the initial list of names the committee sent to companies for record preservation, sources said.

Still, the contents of the congressman’s call with Trump at the height of the riot should be of great interest to the committee, and Thompson has not repeatedly ruled out calling McCarthy to testify before the committee if that’s where the investigation is going. .

This story was updated with additional developments on Wednesday.

CNN’s Manu Raju, Zachary Cohen and Whitney Wild contributed to this report.

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