A year later, some Republicans question boycotting January 6 panel

WASHINGTON. Four hearings over the past few weeks by the House Committee on the Jan. 6 Attack, with their clear, uninterrupted narratives of President Donald J. Trump’s attempts to undermine the peaceful transition of power, have left some Trump supporters as Republicans. wringing his hands with regret about the decision made almost a year ago.

California State Representative Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, decided last summer to withdraw all of his committee nominees — amid a dispute with Speaker Nancy Pelosi over her rejection of his first two options — a turning point left by a nine-member investigative committee. without a single ally of Mr. Trump.

Mostly in private, Republicans loyal to Trump complained for months that they had no idea of ​​the committee’s inner workings as it issued dozens of subpoenas and conducted closed-door interrogations with hundreds of witnesses.

But this month’s public display of what the commission has learned, including damning evidence against Mr. Trump and his allies, has led some Republicans to more vocally wish Mr. Trump had strong advocates on the commission to try to refute the evidence they unearthed. her investigators. .

“Would it cause a completely different discussion? Absolutely,” said Representative Brian Mast, a Florida Republican. “I would have protected him, damn it.”

Among those questioning Mr. McCarthy’s choice was Mr. Trump.

“Unfortunately, a bad decision was made,” Trump told conservative radio host Wayne Allin Root this week. He added: “Not having representation on this committee was a bad decision. It was a very, very stupid decision.”

The committee hired more than a dozen former federal prosecutors to investigate Trump and his allies in preparation for the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

With former television producers on staff, the committee built a chapter-by-chapter narrative about the former president’s attempts to hold on to power.

In doing so, the committee did not have to object to speaking from the podium about Mr. Trump’s achievements in conservative politics. There was no cross-examination of the commission’s witnesses. No disruption of hearings critical of President Biden. You can’t take the investigation away from the former president. After all, no one defended Mr. Trump at all.

This month, the committee provided compelling evidence for Mr. Trump’s role by laying out how the former president pressured Vice President Mike Pence to agree to a plan to unilaterally reverse his electoral defeat, even after being told that it’s illegal.

On Tuesday, the commission directly linked Mr. Trump to a fake pro-Trump voter roll nomination scheme and provided fresh details of how the former president tried to intimidate, cajole and bluff to have his 2020 defeat voided in states around the world. country.

The effectiveness of the hearings in placing Mr. Trump at the center of efforts to overturn the election results attracted the attention of Mr. Trump in particular. He made it clear this week that he wants more Republicans to defend him and is unhappy that the hearings are being broadcast on national television without the votes of Trump supporters.

The only Republicans on the committee are two lined up strongly against Mr. Trump: Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. They were appointed by Ms. Pelosi, not Mr. McCarthy.

In July, Mr. McCarthy concluded that it would be politically better to smash the committee from the outside than appoint members of his own party acceptable to Ms. Pelosi. He said he had to take a stand after she turned down two of his top group candidates: Reps Jim Banks of Indiana and Jim Jordan of Ohio.

Ms. Pelosi said she could not allow the couple to get involved based on their handling of the riots and the comments they made to undermine the investigation. (The committee subsequently subpoenaed Mr. Jordan because of his close relationship with Mr. Trump.) The speaker’s decision led directly to Mr. McCarthy’s announcement that Republicans would boycott the commission.

“When Pelosi wrongfully prevented them, we should have chosen other people,” Trump said in an interview. interview with Punchbowl News. “We have a lot of good people in the Republican Party.”

According to a person familiar with his remarks, Mr. Trump openly grumbled about the composition of the commission. Some members of the House’s far-right Freedom Caucus have also privately complained about the lack of pro-Trump Republicans in the group, the source said.

Those close to Mr. McCarthy argue that the Democrats who control the committee would likely not allow his candidates to have much power or influence over the commission’s work.

Hearings will resume again on Thursday with a session on Trump’s efforts to put a loyalist in charge of the Justice Department to meet his demands for more investigations into baseless allegations of electoral fraud.

The commission plans to hold at least two more hearings in July, according to chairman, Representative Benny Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi. These hearings are expected to detail how a violent extremist mob attacked the Capitol and how Mr. Trump did nothing to stop the violence for more than three hours.

Asked Tuesday about the former president’s comments about the Jan. 6 committee, Mr. McCarthy instead talked about inflation and gas prices.

“They focused on an issue that the public is not focused on,” he said of the committee. Mr. McCarthy added that he spoke with Mr. Trump this week.

One of the Republicans whose nomination Mr. McCarthy withdrew from the committee, North Dakota Representative Kelly Armstrong, served as defense counsel before being elected to Congress.

Ms. Pelosi endorsed Mr. Armstrong’s participation on the commission, along with Representative Rodney Davis of Illinois and Representative Troy Nels of Texas.

Mr. Armstrong said he watched the hearings as the committee presented evidence in a “choreographic, well-prepared manner.”

If he were allowed to serve on the committee, he would try to direct the investigation and his public hearing questions to security breaches at the Capitol, he said, echoing a line of criticism that many Republicans have tried to direct to Ms. Pelosi. .

“It would be a lot less than a script. We asked questions,” Mr. Armstrong said. “There are real questions that need to be answered. My heart goes out to law enforcement officers. They needed more people down there.”

However, he said he supports Mr. McCarthy’s decision, who is seen as the leading candidate for speaker if the Republicans gain control of the House in November’s midterm elections.

“I was in the room when we made that decision, and I still believe it was the right decision,” he said, arguing that House Republicans should have taken the stand after Ms. Pelosi fired Mr. -for Jordan and Mr. Banks. “I think that was the only option.

Mr. Trump’s comments sparked a heated debate among Republicans in the House of Representatives over whether this was the right decision.

“Everyone has different opinions on this,” said Rep. Tom Cole, a Republican from Oklahoma. “Personally, I think the leader did the right thing. The minute the speaker decides who the Republicans are, it will backfire on the legitimacy of it.”

Rep. Daniel Crenshaw, a Texas Republican, said he’d rather see an exchange of opposing views at the panel. “Let the public see how this debate is going,” he said. — It would be better, of course.

But Congressman Fred Upton, the Michigan Republican who voted to impeach Mr. Trump for inciting the Capitol attack and is retiring from Congress, said he sees nothing but hypocrisy and stupidity in Mr. Trump’s complaints. He noted that Mr. Trump made a strategic mistake in opposing the creation of a bipartisan commission without the participation of current lawmakers to investigate the attack on the Capitol.

This commission was supposed to finish its work last year. Instead, Mr. Trump’s miscalculation led to the creation of a House committee on Jan. 6 that continues to investigate him, Mr. Upton said.

“Trump opposed the bipartisan commission,” Mr. Upton said. “He’s rewriting history again.”

Stephanie Lai made a report.

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