Former president Donald Trump may be facing a new avenue of potential criminal exposure in the Captiol riot probe.
Until now, much of the focus has been on whether Trump and/or his allies corruptly tried to obstruct an official proceeding — Congress' counting of electoral votes on Jan. 6.
But in its Wednesday letter requesting testimony from Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the House Select Committee investigating the insurrection noted that the minority leader's view of Trump’s role in the insurrection "shifted over time, eventually becoming much more favorable to the former president," the Washington Post reports.
"Soon after Jan. 6, McCarthy blamed Trump for his tardy response to the attack on the Capitol and even suggested a historic censure of Trump," the Post reports. "A few months later, though, McCarthy was talking as if Trump’s response once the riot began was sufficient."
The committee's letter to McCarthy "suggestively" noted that his change of heart appeared to happen after visiting Trump at Mar-a-Lago on Jan. 26, before asking point blank whether the meeting had any bearing on his reversal, according to the Post.
“Your public statements regarding January 6th have changed markedly since you met with Trump,” committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) wrote in the letter to McCarthy. “At that meeting, or at any other time, did President Trump or his representatives discuss or suggest what you should say publicly, during the impeachment trial (if called as a witness), or in any later investigation about your conversations with him on January 6th?”
McCarthy denied that he had any such conversation with Trump in an interview with Fox News last April. However, McCarthy also acknowledged that if such a conversation had occurred between him and Trump, it would constitute witness tampering.
A few weeks later, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), who serves as vice chair of the committee, appeared on Fox News and confirmed that McCarthy's meeting with Trump raised questions of witness tampering, without providing any detail.
Noting that Trump has a history of borderline witness tampering, the Post adds that McCarthy isn't the only Republican "to adjust his Jan. 6 commentary in a more Trump-friendly direction."
"Perhaps, like the others, McCarthy simply decided Trump was there to stay and that it was time to adjust accordingly," the Post reports. "Either way, it’s a notable suggestion from the Jan. 6 committee, and one that like Cheney’s comments last month suggests a specific investigative target — a target that, if actually substantiated, would involve the potential for a criminal referral to the Justice Department."