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McConnell says 'the public needs to know' what the January 6 committee is finding even though he tanked an effort to create a bipartisan commission

Business Insider logo Business Insider 12/17/2021 bmetzger@insider.com (Bryan Metzger)
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pushes his glasses into place before talking to reporters at a press conference at the US Senate on December 14, 2021. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images © Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pushes his glasses into place before talking to reporters at a press conference at the US Senate on December 14, 2021. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
  • McConnell said Thursday that "the public needs to know" what the January 6 committee is uncovering.
  • But in May, McConnell led Senate Republicans in tanking a bill that would've created a bipartisan commission.
  • "I do not believe the additional, extraneous 'commission'... would uncover crucial new facts," he said at the time.

In an interview on Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled ongoing interest in the House's investigation into the January 6th attack even though he blocked a proposal to create a bipartisan version of the commission in May.

"I don't have any evaluation of the performance of the committee," said McConnell when asked about it by Spectrum News reporter Julia Benbrook. "I think it's fact-finding, it's interesting, we're all going to be watching it."

He went on to call the January 6 storming of the US Capitol a "horrendous event," before signaling his ongoing interest in the committee's work.

"I think that what they're seeking to find out is something the public needs to know," he said. 

McConnell's comments largely echo those that he gave to reporters on Tuesday, when he was asked whether he'd been in contact with former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on January 6.

"I was not," McConnell responded, before offering an intriguing comment on the House select committee investigating the Capitol siege. "I do think we're all watching, as you are, what is unfolding on the House side."

"It will be interesting to reveal all the participants who were involved," he added.

McConnell was also asked by Spectrum News about his evaluation of Rep. Liz Cheney's performance on the committee, but he declined to do so.


Video: January 6 committee subpoenas retired colonel (MSNBC)

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Though McConnell has endorsed Cheney in her hotly contested primary, ABC News' Jonathan Karl reported in his book that McConnell called Cheney in June to tell her to stop criticizing Trump so often, warning her that it would damage the party's prospects in the 2022 midterms.

'There is no new fact about that day'

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell walks into his office at the US Capitol on May 27, 2021 after expressing opposition to a January 6 commission. Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post via Getty Images © Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post via Getty Images Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell walks into his office at the US Capitol on May 27, 2021 after expressing opposition to a January 6 commission. Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post via Getty Images

In May, when an effort to create a bipartisan commission to investigate January 6 came up for a vote in the Senate, McConnell led an effort to tank the legislation.

"There is no new fact about that day that we need the Democrats' extraneous 'commission' to uncover," McConnell said on May 27, as the Senate was considering the legislation. "I do not believe the additional, extraneous 'commission' that Democratic leaders want would uncover crucial new facts or promote healing. Frankly, I do not believe it is even designed to."

A motion to begin debate on the bill ultimately garnered 54 votes in the Senate, failing to reach the 60 votes needed to break a "filibuster" and allow a vote on the bill.  Every Democrat present voted for it, while only Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, and Rob Portman of Ohio voted for it.

Asked about the apparent contradiction in his positions, McConnell's office declined to comment for this story. Republicans tried to block the creation of the committee largely due to political considerations.

"I want our midterm message to be on the kinds of things that the American people are dealing with: That's jobs and wages and the economy and national security, safe streets and strong borders — not relitigating the 2020 elections," Sen. John Thune told CNN in May. "A lot of our members, and I think this is true of a lot of House Republicans, want to be moving forward and not looking backward."

With the blockage of a bipartisan commission, House Democrats moved forward in creating their own select committee to investigate January 6, which is now uncovering the evidence that has drawn McConnell's interest.

Just this week, the House voted to hold former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in criminal contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from the committee.

But Meadows also turned over thousands of documents to the committee, including texts messages from Fox News hosts and Donald Trump Jr. himself calling on former President Donald Trump to call off the mob on the day.

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