Court Battles

House Jan. 6 committee pushes back on legal challenge to its structure

The House Jan. 6 Select Committee pushed back against legal challenges to its authority to issue subpoenas, defending its Democratic-controlled structure as it tries to fend off a mounting number of lawsuits from former President Trump and allies.

In a court filing Wednesday night, the select committee argued that the structure of the panel — comprised of seven Democrats and two Republicans — is consistent with the House’s rules and that it has the authority to issue investigative demands. The filing came in response to a lawsuit from Taylor Budowich, a Trump spokesman challenging a subpoena for his financial records.

“Plaintiffs’ specific contentions—that the Select Committee cannot conduct business unless the Speaker appoints exactly thirteen Members after ‘consultation’ with (and, in Plaintiffs’ understanding, approval by) the Minority Leader — are belied by the text of the House’s governing resolution and the indisputable facts surrounding the appointments,” the committee’s lawyers wrote in the brief.

The panel has been fighting in court for months as Republican leaders and operatives seek to block its subpoenas, but Wednesday’s legal brief is perhaps the most comprehensive articulation of its authority that the select committee has submitted to a court.

Republicans have argued that the committee is improper because of its partisan imbalance and because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) did not give the GOP authority to select its own delegates.

The two Republicans that Pelosi tapped as members — Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the committee’s vice chair, and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) — are some of the most outspoken Trump critics in their party.

But the House’s lawyers argued on Wednesday that the committee’s structure is consistent with the resolution that created it. The brief pointed to recent examples of select committee structures, including one formed in 2005 to investigate the George W. Bush administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina, which was comprised entirely of Republican members.

The panel’s lawyers wrote that the House resolution does not require that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) be able to select the Republican members who sit on the committee.

“Had the House intended a binding role for the Minority Leader, it could have provided for such a requirement. For instance, in the 116th Congress, the House created two Select Committees, both of which required that a portion of the Members be appointed by the Speaker ‘on the recommendation of the Minority Leader,'” the filing reads.

“Similarly, had the House wanted to delegate appointment power directly to the Minority Leader, it knew how to do so.”

“In contrast, when creating the Select Committee, the House did neither, instead deliberately selecting the phrase ‘after consultation with the Minority Leader,’ which plainly allows the Speaker greater authority and opportunity regarding the appointment of minority party Members.”

A federal judge will hear arguments Jan. 20 over whether to grant Budowich an emergency restraining order against the committee.

–Updated 10:17 a.m.

Tags Adam Kinzinger Capitol riot Donald Trump Jan. 6 Insurrection Jan. 6 select committee Joe Biden Kevin McCarthy Liz Cheney Nancy Pelosi
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