Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) was one of the two Republicans that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) booted from the Jan. 6 Committee in July, but Donald Trump’s staunch ally appears to be using his brief association with the panel to run a shadow investigation of his own.
According to two sources familiar with the situation, Banks sent letters to many of the same federal agencies that the select committee’s chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), has contacted for information regarding the U.S. Capitol attack.
The group of federal agencies that Banks has contacted includes the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Homeland Security—among others. And one of those sources said that recipients also included social media companies, like Facebook, which had also been targets of extensive evidence requests.
Representatives of these agencies and companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Daily Beast.
In at least one of those letters, Banks identified himself as the “Ranking Member”—a congressional term for the top member of the opposition party on a committee—of a committee on which he never served. Although he acknowledged that House Democrats blocked him from the panel in July on the grounds that he objected to the 2020 election, Banks insisted he still had a right to the information the committee was requesting.
The Daily Beast obtained one of the letters, sent on Sept. 16 to Interior Department secretary Deb Haaland, in which Banks requested “any information” the agency had given to the subcommittee, along with future updates and briefings.
“You are receiving this letter because the House of Representatives Select Committee to Investigate the events of January 6th may have sent you a request for information,” Banks wrote in the letter, which was first reported by CNN. “The House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy appointed me to serve as the Ranking Member of the Select Committee. Yet, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to allow me to fulfill my duties as Ranking Member.”
Banks continued that, according to House rules, the minority party in Congress retains rights to the same information that is provided to the majority party. “For those reasons, I ask that you provide me any information that is submitted to the Select Committee. Additionally, please include me on any update or briefing that you provide,” Banks said.
In a statement provided to The Daily Beast, a Banks spokesperson also identified the congressman as the Ranking Member on the committee, which he is not. The statement later contradicted that very claim, saying that the committee “doesn’t have a Ranking Member.”
“The letter clearly states that Rep. Banks was refused the opportunity to fulfill his duties as Ranking Member. This is a bizarre Democrat narrative meant to distract from the actual contents of Rep. Banks’ letter and to avoid talking about the actual activities of the Select Committee, which are partisan, authoritarian and indefensible,” the statement said. (The committee made headlines Thursday when the House voted to hold former Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon in contempt for snubbing a committeee subpoena.)
The statement went on to confirm that Banks had requested that “the minority party receive access to information shared with the Select Committee,” and questioned why “[Committee vice chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY)] and House Democrats think they’re the only ones who deserve to receive information from the executive branch.”
“Liz Cheney isn’t the Ranking Member. She is the vice-chair because she was appointed by Democrats,” the spokesperson added. “This is the first Select Committee in American history that doesn’t have a Ranking Member and is entirely partisan. Rep. Banks chose to highlight the unprecedented exclusion of the minority party in his letter.”
Two members of the minority party, Cheney and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), are serving on the panel after accepting appointments from Pelosi. The other seven members of the panel are Democrats.
Last year, the D.C. Circuit of Appeals ruled that minority members of a congressional committee can sue for information from executive agencies. The court did not guarantee that members would win those suits, however—and further, it is not clear whether Banks would even have standing to make that claim. He is not on the committee, and the committee already has Republican members.
While McCarthy recommended Banks to serve as the top Republican on the committee in July, that nomination carried no official force. Ultimately, Banks—along with fellow election objector Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH)—was rejected by Pelosi.
She said in a statement at the time that she harbored “concern about statements made and actions taken by these Members,” which might compromise “the integrity of the investigation” and its “insistence on the truth.”
After Banks and Jordan were blocked, McCarthy pulled his other three nominations, leaving the appointment of Republicans to Pelosi. But because the members she eventually named—Cheney and Kinzinger—have long been isolated from the GOP mainstream for advocating an investigation, McCarthy’s wing of the party effectively lost all insight into the committee’s knowledge and work behind the scenes.
Banks’ demands for information came to light as the select committee made one of its first big moves: holding Bannon in contempt of Congress for defying the panel’s subpoena for testimony. The House approved the contempt resolution on Thursday, with nine Republicans joining all Democrats in voting yes, formally referring the matter to the Justice Department.
In a floor speech on Thursday—the day that the panel approved the contempt resolution— Cheney, the vice chair of the bipartisan panel, cited the letters in response to Banks’ protestation earlier that day that he was in fact not a committee member. Cheney also indicated then that Banks had sent similar letters to a number of federal agencies.
House Republicans have revolted against the select committee, which has targeted some of their own.
In late August, CNN reported that the panel had asked telecommunications companies to preserve phone records for a number of members, most specifically those who participated in the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally on the National Mall. That list also included McCarthy.
And two weeks after Banks sent the letters, the panel subpoenaed a Republican House staffer: Maggie Mulvaney, senior adviser to Rep. Carol Miller (R-WV) and the niece of former Trump White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. Maggie Mulvaney was listed as “VIP Lead” on a Jan. 6 event permit.
—Updated at 10:53 p.m., 10/22/2021, with comment from a Banks spokesperson