A year later, some Republicans boycotted the panel on January 6th

Written by Javed Iqbal

WASHINGTON – The four hearings the House of Representatives has held in the last few weeks investigating the January 6 attack, with their clear, uninterrupted accounts of President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to undermine the peaceful transfer of power, have left some pro-Trump Republicans wring their hands in regret over a decision made nearly a year ago.

California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, last summer chose to withdraw all of his nominees to the committee – amid a dispute with speaker Nancy Pelosi over her rejection of his first two choices – a turning point that left the nine-member committee of inquiry without a single ally with Mr. Trump.

Mostly privately, Republicans who are loyal to Mr. Trump, for several months complained that they have no insight into the committee’s internal work, as it has issued dozens of subpoenas and conducted interviews behind closed doors with hundreds of witnesses.

But the public display this month of what the panel has learned – including condemnatory evidence against Mr. Trump and his allies – left some Republicans who wanted more loudly that Mr. Trump had strong defenders on the panel to try to counter the evidence that his investigators are digging up.

»Would that have created a completely different debate? Absolutely, “said Representative Brian Mast, a Republican from Florida. “I would have defended him to hell.”

Among those who guess at Mr. McCarthy’s choice has been Mr. Trump.

“Unfortunately, a bad decision was made,” Trump told conservative radio host Wayne Allyn Root this week. He added: “It was a bad decision not to have representation on that committee. It was a very, very foolish decision.”

The committee hired more than a dozen former federal prosecutors to investigate the actions of Mr. Trump and his allies in connection with the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol.

With former TV producers on staff, the committee has built up a narrative told in chapters about the former president’s attempts to cling to power.

As it has done, the committee has not had to struggle to speak from the rostrum about Mr. Trump’s conservative political results. There have been no cross-examination of the panel witnesses. No derailment of the hearings with criticism of President Biden. No one steers the investigation away from the former president. In the end, there has been no defense at all by Mr. Trump.

This month, the committee presented significant evidence to Mr. Trump’s role, and explained how former president pressured Vice President Mike Pence to agree to a plan to unilaterally overthrow his election defeat, even after he was told it was illegal.

On Tuesday, the panel directly linked Mr Trump to a plan to put forward false lists of pro-Trump voters and presented new details on how the former president sought to bully, persuade and bluff his way to invalidate his 2020 defeat in states around the country.

The committee has also used prominent Republicans as witnesses to present its case, leaving Mr. Trump’s ally with an impossible task: How are they going to defend him – even from the outside – when the evidence against him comes from Republican lawyers, a widely respected Conservative judge, his campaign advisers and even his own daughter?

The effectiveness of the hearings in putting Mr Trump at the center of efforts to overturn the election results has attracted the attention of, among others, Mr Trump. He has made it clear this week that he wants more Republicans to defend him, and he is unhappy that the hearings are taking place on national television without pro-Trump votes.

The only Republicans on the committee are two who have sharply opposed Mr. Trump: Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. They were appointed by Ms. Pelosi, not Mr. McCarthy.

Mr. McCarthy reckoned in July that it was politically better to beat the committee from the sidelines instead of appointing members of his party who were acceptable to Mrs Pelosi. He has said he had to take a stand after she rejected two of his top choices for the panel: Representatives Jim Banks of Indiana and Jim Jordan of Ohio.

Ms. Pelosi she said could not allow the couple to attend, based on their actions around the riot and comments they had made to undermine the investigation. (Mr. Jordan has subsequently been issued a writ of summons by the committee because of his close association with Mr. Trump.) The speaker’s decision led directly to Mr. McCarthy’s announcement that Republicans would boycott the panel.

“When Pelosi wrongfully did not allow them, we should have chosen other people,” Trump said in one interview with Punchbowl News. “We have a lot of good people in the Republican Party.”

Mr. Trump has openly complained about the composition of the panel, according to a person familiar with his remarks. Some members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus have also privately complained about the lack of pro-Trump Republicans on the panel, the person said.

Those close to Mr. McCarthy argues that the Democrats in control of the committee would most likely not have given his nominee much power or influence over the panel’s work.

The hearings will pick up speed again on Thursday with a session dedicated to Mr. Trump’s efforts to install a loyalist at the top of the Justice Department to carry out his demands for more investigations into baseless allegations of electoral fraud.

The panel is scheduled for at least two more hearings in July, according to its chairman, Representative Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat. These hearings are expected to describe how a mob of violent extremists attacked the Capitol, and how Mr. Trump did nothing to stop the violence for more than three hours.

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

“They focused on a topic 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 resigned from the committee, Representative Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota was a defense attorney before being elected to Congress.

Ms. Pelosi had approved Mr. Armstrong to serve on the panel along with Representative Rodney Davis of Illinois and Representative Troy Nehls of Texas.

Sir. Armstrong said he had attended the hearings while the committee presented evidence in a “choreographed, well-written manner.”

Had he been allowed to sit on the committee, he would have tried to steer the investigation and its questions through public hearings into security breaches at the Capitol, he said, repeating a line of criticism that many Republicans have tried to direct at Ms. Pelosi.

“It would be a much smaller script. We would ask questions,” Mr Armstrong said. “There are real questions that need to be answered. My heart goes out to the law enforcement officials. They needed more people down there. “

Still, he said, he stands by the decision made by Mr McCarthy, who is considered the leading candidate to become spokesman, if Republicans gain control of Parliament in the midterm elections in November.

“I was in the room when we made that decision, and I still think it was the right decision,” he said, arguing that Republicans in the House of Representatives had to take a stand after Ms. Pelosi removed Mr. Jordan and Mr. Banks. “I think that was the only option.”

Mr. Trump’s comments have sparked much discussion among House Republicans about whether it was the right decision.

“Everyone has a different opinion about it,” said Representative Tom Cole, a Republican from Oklahoma. “Personally, I think the manager made the right call. The moment the speaker decided who the Republican members were, it turned against its legitimacy. “

Representative Daniel Crenshaw, a Republican from Texas, said he would have preferred to see an exchange of opposing views in the panel. “Let the public see how that debate goes,” he said. “Of course it would have been better.”

But Representative Fred Upton, a Republican from Michigan who voted to silence Mr. Trump to incite the Capitol attack and withdraw from Congress, said he saw nothing but hypocrisy and foolishness in Mr. Trump’s complaints. He noted that Mr. Trump made the strategic mistake of opposing a bipartisan commission, with no current lawmakers involved, to investigate the attack on the Capitol.

That commission should have completed its work last year. Instead, Mr. Trump’s miscalculation for the creation of the House committee on Jan. 6, which continues to investigate him, said Mr. Upton.

“Trump was against the two-part commission,” he said. Upton. “Again, he rewrites the story.”

Stephanie Lai contributed with reporting.

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Javed Iqbal

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