House notified sergeant at arms faces DOJ subpoena for documents as speculation swirls

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The House was notified Monday that the Office of Sergeant at Arms has been served a grand jury subpoena issued by the Justice Department for documents, and that the office will comply.

“The Honorable, the Speaker, House of Representatives. Sir, this is to notify you formally pursuant to rule 8 of the rules of the House of Representatives that the Office of the Sergeant at Arms for the House of Representatives has been served with a grand jury subpoena for documents issued by the U.S. Department of Justice,” clerk Susan Cole said before the lower chamber of Congress, formally relaying House Sergeant at Arms William McFarland’s message to House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La.

“After consulting with the office of general counsel, I have determined that compliance with the subpoena is consistent with the rights and privileges of the House. Signed, sincerely, William P. McFarland, sergeant at arms of the House of Representatives.” 

The sergeant at arms is the chief law enforcement and protocol officer of the House and is responsible for maintaining order in the House side of the U.S. Capitol complex, according to the House website. Duties include reviewing and implementing all issues related to the safety and security of members of Congress and the Capitol complex. The sergeant at arms “also coordinates extensively with the U.S. Capitol Police and various intelligence agencies to assess threats against Members of Congress and the Capitol complex.”

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William McFarland testifies during a House Administration Committee hearing titled “Looking Ahead Series: House Sergeant at Arms Strategic Plan for the 118th Congress,” on April 18, 2023. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

The last House sergeant at arms, Paul Irving, served for nine years and resigned the day after the Jan. 6, 2021, riot. 

Neither the Justice Department nor the House sergeant at arms has publicly disclosed the subject of the subpoena, prompting a wave of speculation online about McFarland’s announcement. Some attorneys and political observers speculated without evidence that it could be linked to the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, but a new report indicates it could be something else entirely.

Citing multiple sources familiar with the investigation, Punchbowl News reported that the Justice Department is looking into an unnamed House Democrat for allegedly misusing government money allocated to members of personal security. 

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy walks with Sergeant at Arms William McFarland as he leaves a meeting with members of Congress at the Capitol on Sept. 21, 2023. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

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“This was the subpoena read out on the House floor today,” Punchbowl News founder Jake Sherman wrote on X. 

McFarland and Gibson, sergeants at arms for House and Senate

William McFarland, acting House sergeant at arms, and Karen  Gibson, Senate sergeant at arms, testify during a joint oversight hearing on July 26, 2023. (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Subpoena announcements are not new on the House floor. Last November, another House reading clerk, Tylease Alli, delivered a similar announcement from Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who formally notified Congress that she had been served with “third party subpoenas from the prosecution and the defendant to produce documents in a criminal case in United States District Court for the Northern District of California.” Pelosi also relayed that she would comply. 

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A specific case was not named before the House floor then, but the subpoena came around the same time David DePape faced a federal trial. DePape was later convicted in the 2022 hammer attack on Paul Pelosi, the then-speaker’s husband, at their San Francisco home while Nancy Pelosi was out of town. 

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