Kevin McCarthy’s Jan. 6 committee decision did Democrats a favor
In the history of American politics, there is a pantheon of ill-thought-out decisions and acts of political misconduct that includes everything from starting a land war in Asia, raising taxes after saying “read on my lips – no new taxes”, operating a system record in the oval office and rolling around in a tank (when your surname is Dukakis).
Although there have only been a handful of public hearings so far, the impact has been overwhelming.
But if the last weeks of revelations about the scope of former President Donald Trump’s bid to stay in power are one indication, we may need to add another to the list: the decision of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., of boycott the House January 6 Committee.
Although there have only been a handful of public hearings so far, the impact has been overwhelming. In highly choreographed and well-scripted cases, the committee presented in compelling detail an unbroken narrative of the potentially criminal behavior of Trump — and those around him. And Americans realize that. Six out of 10 say they pay attention to audiences and, according to at least one pollnearly 60% think the former president should be charged with a crime.
If McCarthy hadn’t barred pro-Trump Republicans from serving on the committee, things likely would have been very different. Normally, congressional hearings — especially in our highly polarized political moment — escalate into partisan food fights. During President Trump’s two House impeachments, Democrats presented overwhelming evidence of Trump’s misconduct. The Republicans then unreservedly defended Trump and attacked the Democrats. News Junkies and America’s Most Partisan – especially the democrats – listened, but many people ignored everything.
But these audiences were different. Indeed, there is no clear precedent in the history of Congress for any political party to have the unlimited ability to make its case to the American people without a single dissenting voice being heard. And that’s the direct result of McCarthy’s misguided decision to boycott the committee.
Nearly twice as many people watched the first night of the January 6 hearing as watched on the first day of Trump’s second impeachment trial.
For those who forgot how it all happened, last summer Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, agreed to allow five Republicans (McCarthy’s choice) to join the House Select Committee to investigate the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol. McCarthy gave him five names: Rep. Rodney Davis of Illinois, Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota, Troy Nehls of Texas, Jim Jordan of Ohio and Jim Banks of Indiana. Pelosi shied away from the last two because she had witnessed their partisan antics during Trump’s impeachment and countless other congressional hearings over the years.
But rather than seek replacements, McCarthy moodily withdrew all of his committee picks, ensuring that Democrats and two anti-Trump Republican House members, Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, would have carte blanche. to tell the story of Trump’s actions. January 6 and before. Perhaps McCarthy hoped that, with no pro-Trump voices on the committee, Americans would view the hearings as a partisan witch hunt. But the presence of Cheney and Kinzinger blunted that argument.
Trump recently said it was “very stupid” and a “bad decision” for Republicans not to put pro-Trump votes on the committee, but in McCarthy’s defense, if he had put House Republicans on the committee, then Trump probably would have lambasted him for legitimizing the investigation. So he was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t. And in typical McCarthy style, he chose what seemed like the path of least resistance only to have that choice blown up in his face.
Apparently no one in the House leadership put two and two together and realized that allowing a committee to be created without pro-Trump Republicans would ensure that the story it told would be extremely negative for Trump.
The narrative of Trump’s direct involvement in the plan to void the 2020 election likely raised the risk that he could face indictment.
Indeed, the powerful narrative of Trump’s direct involvement in the plan to void the 2020 election likely raised the risk that he could face indictment.
Of course, it’s not just the chair who has been caught in the committee’s crosshairs. At Thursday’s hearing, the committee revealed that at least half a dozen Republican members of Congress have sought presidential pardons of Trump. For them, the January 6 hearings were a real disaster.
The same information would likely have been released even if McCarthy had allowed MAGA Republicans to appear on the committee, but their presence may have helped soften the blow or lessen the pressure on the Justice Department to he acts.
Therefore, McCarthy’s decision – and his lack of foresight about how these public hearings will unfold – could increase the likelihood of criminal indictments for several members of Congress, Trump’s attorney, John Eastman, former DOJ attorney Jeffrey Clark (whose home was raided by federal agents last week) and possibly Trump himself. Beyond that, the hearings have put Trump and the GOP on the defensive, forcing congressional Republicans to answer for the actions of the former president on whom they have tied their political future.
By seeking to shield Trump and his fellow congressional Republicans from a Jan. 6 investigation, McCarthy put them in much more direct danger — and delivered a pre-election political gift to Democrats.
To paraphrase another political mess in the pantheon of badly thought out decisions:Job HeckuvaMcCarthy.