Banks fights Jan. 6 committee effort to seek lawmaker records

Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) leaves the Capitol after the first of the week on Monday, July 19, 2021. Banks was assigned a spot on the recently-formed January 6 Select Committee.
Greg Nash

One House Republican is gearing up to fight an effort from the committee probing the Jan. 6 Capitol attack to collect the communications of members of Congress.

The pushback from Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) comes after committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) told reporters this week that he plans to ask telecommunications companies to turn over the records of several hundred people, including lawmakers.

“Rifling through the call logs of your colleagues would depart from more than 230 years of Congressional oversight. This type of authoritarian undertaking has no place in the House of Representatives and the information you seek has no conceivable legislative purpose,” Banks wrote in a letter to Thompson that was also sent to the general counsels of AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon.

The Indiana Republican called the push for records “a desperate partisan act that would only further reveal the political nature of the Select Committee.”

Banks was at one point slated to serve on the very committee whose efforts he is now seeking to stall. His selection, along with that of Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), was opposed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) due to “concern about statements made and actions taken by these members.”

Thompson on Monday wouldn’t provide specifics on whose records the panel planned to request.

​​“We have quite an exhaustive list of people. I won’t tell you who they are, but it’s several hundred people that make up the list of people we are planning to contact,” he said when asked if the list included family members of former President Trump.

The committee declined to comment on Friday.

The panel released a flurry of requests this week, though it has not yet publicly sought lawmakers’ direct communications.

A request sent Friday to tech companies and social media companies didn’t specifically ask for lawmaker records. But a Wednesday letter to the National Archives, which stores presidential records, asked for all Trump administration communications with any lawmaker or their staff on Jan. 6.

Banks suggested that Congress’s subpoena power is “subject to several limits” and that “recipients of legislative subpoenas retain their constitutional rights throughout the course of an investigation” — something he claims includes “the ability of the individuals to challenge the collection and release of their private telecommunication records” before Congress collects them. 

The cases he pointed to, however, largely cover disputes between the executive branch as it has sought to withhold records from Congress, including a recent case where Trump fought efforts to obtain his tax returns.

And it is often telecom companies, not the entity presenting the subpoena, that alert people their records are being sought — giving them an opportunity to challenge the seizure.

Barbara McQuade, who served as a U.S. attorney in the Obama administration and who recently penned a list of questions the committee should ask of numerous Trump officials, said asking for lawmaker records would be an unusual but important step for the committee.

“I think that is somewhat unusual because of the traditional courtesies that have been shown to members of their own body and I think those courtesies can sometimes be detrimental to getting to the work of the people,” McQuade said. 

“So I think this committee is correctly recognizing that it represents the people and if it means embarrassing or stepping on the toes of one of their colleagues, that it’s their duty.”

Lawmakers have recently had their communications seized by the executive branch, with the Trump Department of Justice (DOJ) obtaining the records of House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff and Rep. Eric Swalwell, both Democrats from California.

The move has resulted in a probe by the department’s inspector general.

“The review will examine the Department’s compliance with applicable DOJ policies and procedures, and whether any such uses, or the investigations, were based upon improper considerations,” Michael Horowitz, DOJ’s inspector general, said in June.

Tags Adam Schiff Bennie Thompson Capitol breach Capitol riot Donald Trump Eric Swalwell Jan 6 Jim Jordan Nancy Pelosi
See all Hill.TV See all Video