The House committee probing the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol is requesting interviews with three Republican congressman, including one that members of the Oath Keepers militia group allegedly said they needed to protect because he had “critical data.”
In letters sent Monday to Reps. Ronny Jackson of Texas, Andy Biggs of Arizona and Mo Brooks of Alabama, committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and Vice Chair Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., contended the trio have information that could be helpful to the panel’s investigation into “the facts, circumstances, and causes of the January 6th attack.”
One of the issues the panel wants to question Jackson, a former White House physician, about is text messages members of the Oath Keepers, including the group’s leader, traded about him during the 2021 assault on the Capitol.
In one of the encrypted messages referenced in the letter, a member, identified only as “User #1,” wrote “Ronnie [sic] Jackson (TX) office inside Capitol — he needs [Oath Keeper] help. Anyone inside?”
Eight minutes later, at 3:08 p.m., the person wrote, “Dr. Ronnie Jackson — on the move. Needs protection. If anyone inside cover him. He has critical data to protect.”
Two minutes later, the group’s leader, Stewart Rhodes, replied, “Give him my cell.”
Rhodes was charged earlier this year with “seditious conspiracy” for the Jan. 6 attack. He has pleaded not guilty.
The committee said it had “several specific questions” for Jackson about the messages, which were first reported last month after the Justice Department included them in a court filing related to the prosecution of an alleged Oath Keepers’ associate.
Among their questions, the panel’s letter said, is, “Why would these individuals have an interest in your specific location? Why would they believe you ‘have critical data to protect?’ Why would they direct their members to protect your personal safety? With whom did you speak by cell phone that day?”
The letter also asks, “If you had no contact with the individuals who sent these messages, who else would have informed them of your security needs or your location?”
Jackson blasted the committee probe as a “witch hunt” in a statement to NBC News, saying, “I do not know, nor did I have contact with, those who exchanged text messages about me on January 6. In fact, I was proud to help defend the House floor from those who posed a threat to my colleagues.”
The committee’s letter noted that Jackson “recognized the need to barricade the doors of the House chamber, and participated in that effort.” It added, “We wish to record your firsthand observations of that period, including the reactions and statements of other members of Congress to the violence at that moment.”
Jackson quickly declined the offer. “I will not participate in the illegitimate Committee’s ruthless crusade against President Trump and his allies,” his statement said.
The panel told Biggs it wants to ask him about his involvement in planning the rally for Jan. 6, as well as his “efforts to persuade state legislators and officials that the 2020 election was stolen and/or to seek assistance from those individuals in President Trump’s efforts to overturn the election. Certain communications that you had with Mark Meadows relate to this topic.”
Thompson and Cheney also wrote that the panel has information from former White House personnel about “an effort by certain House Republicans after January 6th to seek a presidential pardon for activities taken in connection with President Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Your name was identified as a potential participant in that effort.”
“We would like to understand all the details of the request for a pardon, more specific reasons why a pardon was sought, and the scope of the proposed pardon,” the letter says.
Biggs’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
It noted his comments in a press release that Trump had “asked me to rescind the 2020 elections, immediately remove Joe Biden from the White House, immediately put President Trump back in the White House, and hold a new special election for the presidency. As a lawyer, I’ve repeatedly advised President Trump that January 6 was the final election contest verdict and neither the U.S. Constitution nor the U.S. Code permit what President Trump asks. Period.”
Thompson and Cheney told Brooks that exchange “is directly relevant to the subject of our inquiry, and it appears to provide additional evidence of President Trump’s intent to restore himself to power through unlawful means.”
Brooks, who went public with his complaints about the former president after Trump withdrew his endorsement of him in the Alabama Senate race, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Asked by NBC News in March if he would agree to an interview with the committee, Brooks said he’d take a request “under advisement if they ever contact me.” That comment was before Trump accused of him being “woke” and took back his endorsement.
The panel asked that all three meet with committee in the next week.