Repeated gaslighting by Republicans
At the insurrection hearing, some Republicans used their time to shamelessly defend the rioters and turn them into the victims instead of the perpetrators of a heinous attack on US democracy.
The gaslighting came early from Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar and Georgia Rep. Jody Hice, who both voted to overturn results from key states even after the attack. Gosar said the crowd was full of “peaceful patriots,” even though many brought weapons, dozens assaulted police, and hundreds have been charged with federal crimes. Hice suggested the violence was on the part of outside agitators. In an incredible soft-on-crime moment, Gosar condemned the Justice Department investigation into the attack and complained that the FBI asked the public to help identify suspects. He and Hice rallied behind Ashli Babbitt, the QAnon-believing Trump supporter who was fatally shot by an officer while climbing through a window into an area where lawmakers were evacuating.
Rep. Andrew Clyde, a Georgia Republican, said point-blank: “There was no insurrection.” He added that TV footage of people in Statuary Hall taking pictures and video could be mistaken for tourists. “If you didn’t know the TV footage was a video from January the six, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.
The theme of the day became clear as the hearing progressed. The vast majority of House Republicans are still on board with the “big lie” about 2020 and are willing to lie about January 6.
Rosen dodges questions about Trump
Rosen revealed that he met with Trump on January 3, just three days before the insurrection. He said they didn’t talk about the security planning for January 6, but he repeatedly refused to answer questions from House Oversight Committee Democrats about what he discussed with Trump at that meeting.
“I cannot tell you, consistent with my obligations today, about private conversations with the President, one way or the other,” Rosen said, later saying he “tried to be as forthcoming as I can” but that there are “ground rules” set by the Justice Department that he must “abide by.” Rosen did not elaborate on the alleged “ground rules” and passed on opportunities to shed more light on the insurrection.
This left Democrats stunned, including Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia, who pointed out that nobody invoked executive privilege before the hearing, and Rep. Kweisi Mfume of Maryland, who asked Rosen if Trump ever talked to him about overturning the results of the 2020 election.
“I think you’re evading a question that most of America wants to know,” Mfume said.
Partisan acrimony kills real oversight
The insurrection hearing descended into a useless shouting match, with most lawmakers peppering witnesses with “gotcha” questions instead of posing genuine fact-finding inquiries.
Democrats tried, rather unsuccessfully, to get Miller and Rosen to criticize Trump. Republicans tried to get the witnesses to sign onto some of their dubious theories about the attack. Both sides used cherry-picked facts to push incomplete and inaccurate narratives about January 6.
Rep. Stephen Lynch, a Massachusetts Democrat, tried to get Miller to blame Trump for the riot, which he did previously to VICE. When Miller partially walked back his critique, Lynch said he was reversing himself. But Miller responded, “absolutely not, that’s ridiculous.” Without missing a beat, Lynch retorted, “you’re ridiculous.”
That dispute was a perfect example of why Congress appears unlikely to get to the bottom of what happened on its own. Partisan speeches and trick questions dominated the day. Very few new facts were unearthed. Everyone claimed they wanted to get to the truth, but when it was their turn to ask questions, most lawmakers repeated talking points and tried to dunk on the other party.
A bipartisan array of former officials and experts have said a 9/11-style commission would be better suited to conduct a serious investigation, but efforts to launch a commission have stalled.
Garland doubles down on riot probe
Attorney General Merrick Garland was having none of the insurrection whitewash Wednesday, calling it the most “dangerous threat to democracy” at a hearing on the Senate side on domestic extremism.
Asked whether the Justice Department should be prioritizing cases such as the Capitol riot against other federal prosecutions, Garland said there is no question that the riot should come first.
“In my career as a judge and in law enforcement, I have not seen a more dangerous threat to democracy than the invasion of the Capitol,” Garland said. “This was an attempt by some … to interfere with the fundamental passing element of our democracy, the peaceful transfer of power.”
“And if there has to be a higher hierarchy of things that we prioritize, this would be the one we prioritize because it is the most dangerous threat to our democracy,” Garland added, while also noting that the Justice Department would continue cracking down on other threats and crimes.
The Justice Department has charged more than 415 people in connection with the riot.
Republicans boo, then oust a top Trump critic in their ranks
It took just 16 minutes for House Republicans to oust Cheney from her leadership position on Wednesday morning. The fight over her role in the Republican Party and its future is going to last much longer.
The swift conference meeting that led to Cheney’s dismissal underscored the desire among Republican leaders to wash their hands of Cheney’s Trump criticisms, which they have argued is distracting from their goal of winning back the House in 2022.
Cheney has made clear she has no intention of going quietly, and her dismissal from leadership will free her to speak her mind, and to condemn Trump’s lies about the election that most of her House Republicans have embraced.
When she spoke to the GOP conference one last time as chair before the vote, she was booed when she criticized Trump once again. After the conference voted — by voice, rather than on the record — Cheney emerged from the meeting and declared she would now lead the fight for the future of the Republican Party.
Cheney has effectively emerged as the biggest counterweight to Trump in the Republican Party, even if the House GOP conference’s actions Wednesday show she’s decidedly in the minority of Republicans when it comes to Trump.
McCarthy completes his embrace of Trump, then says Biden’s election was legitimate
On the day the House voted to impeach Trump for a second time, one week after the insurrection at the Capitol, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said that Trump bore some responsibility for the violence that had occurred on January 6.
Four months later, McCarthy fully completed his embrace of Trump as he seeks to become House speaker in 2023.
After criticizing Trump — and facing a backlash from the former President — McCarthy went to Mar-a-Lago to make amends with the former President. While he helped Cheney fend off a challenge to her leadership spot in February, he pushed the President’s most vocal House Republican critic out the door on Wednesday.
After Cheney’s ouster, however, McCarthy sought to erase the GOP’s opposition to Biden’s win despite everything Republicans have said over the past few months and efforts in statehouses to curb voting access in the name of alleged voter fraud.
“I don’t think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election. I think that is all over,” McCarthy said following a meeting at the White House with President Joe Biden and congressional leaders.
Trump, of course, has done anything but give up his lies about the election being stolen from him. And now he’ll have no one in House GOP leadership to call him on it.
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