Jan. 6 committee has a message for Republicans, but it’s unclear if they’re listening
WASHINGTON — The Committee’s Season 1 finale on Thursday night Jan. 6 explored former President Trump’s hours of deliberate inaction in the face of a vicious attack on the U.S. Capitol that threatened the safety of his own vice president.
The hearing included statements from an unnamed White House official describing members of Mike Pence’s Secret Service trying to bid farewell to family members as rioters poured into the halls of the Capitol.
Plano State Republican Rep. Jeff Leach was ready to say enough is enough.
“When he turned on Vice President Mike Pence – his incredibly efficient vice president, fiercely loyal friend and staunchest supporter. It was THE moment for me. Turning. The nail in the coffin”, Leach said on Twitter. “And all I need to know is that we Republicans need someone else to run for president in 2024.”
It remains to be seen, however, whether Leach’s reaction is an anomaly or a harbinger of a significant number of Republicans abandoning Trump and seeking a new champion.
The committee has at times appeared to plead directly with Republicans with Vice President Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., noting that much of the testimony and evidence against Trump has come from within his own inner circle. This includes his hand-picked Cabinet officials, his trusted aides and even his family members.
They repeatedly told Trump that his claims about a stolen election were false even as he sued and urged his loyal supporters to descend on Washington.
“Here’s the worst part: Donald Trump knows that millions of Americans who supported him would stand up and defend our nation if threatened,” Cheney said. “They would put their lives and freedom on the line to protect it and it feeds off their patriotism. It attacks their sense of justice and on January 6, Donald Trump turned their love of country into a weapon against our capital and our Constitution.
The committee plans to continue gathering information and may hold additional sessions after the August recess. The eight hearings so far have filled in the blanks and provided stark detail about Trump’s role in creating the conditions for the violent attack on the Capitol.
But many Republicans cut sessions.
The latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found that a majority of independents and 4 in 5 Democrats pay at least some attention to ratings.
But that number among Republicans was only 44 percent. The poll also found that when it comes to voting issues, the Jan. 6 committee hearings lag far behind the main issue of inflation.
“I haven’t seen any evidence that it’s had much of an effect on, I’d say over 30% of the hard-core Trump base,” said Jon Bond, a political science professor at Texas A&M University.
Bond, who stressed he was speaking only for himself and not for the university, said the hearings could have some impact on “soft Republicans” and independents, but it is difficult to penetrate what he described as a dogmatic tribalism that has come to dominate the GOP.
Republican critics of the hearings pointed to how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., rejected some members chosen by House GOP leaders for the committee.
Republican leaders then opted out, meaning there are no Trump advocates on the committee. Its two Republican members, Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, are both vocal critics of the former president.
This dynamic has helped the department with clarity, avoiding the kind of interruptions and crosstalk exhibited in the most contentious congressional hearings.
But it also resulted in tightly scripted, skillfully produced audiences that are easy to characterize as one-sided.
Mark Owens, a political scientist at UT-Tyler, said it’s too early to predict what effect the hearings will have on the electorate, but noted they come at a natural time for the Republican Party to identify its new leader.
“Every time a party loses the presidency, they spend about two years trying to figure out who’s going to be the next standard bearer,” Owens said.
Although the hearings covered many already known facts, they remind people a year and a half later of what happened, he said.
Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler, denounced the hearings and denied claims by a former White House aide that he sought a presidential pardon in relation to Jan. 6.
Gohmert said on Twitter Thursday that he was looking for a full transcript of the aide’s deposition, which he said could have been misleadingly edited.
“The manipulation of information by these Soviet-style propagandists puts even Joseph McCarthy to shame,” Gohmert said.
But most of the other Republican members of the Texas delegation chose to focus their social media activities on issues such as border security or inflation rather than the Jan. 6 hearings.
Rep. Beth Van Duyne, R-Irving, had no comment on the hearings, and most other GOP members of the Texas congressional delegation did not respond to requests for comment.
Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin, provided a written statement after the committee’s first hearing, saying Americans outside of Washington are suffering from 8.6% inflation, a supply chain crisis and a border overrun by drug cartels.
“The day Speaker Pelosi rejected the Minority Leader’s picks for the committee is the day the committee lost all credibility and accountability,” Williams said then. “Americans see past partisan theater which is nothing more than a continuation of their obsession with President Trump.”
Six weeks and many hours of hearings later, Williams delivered a statement with much of the same wording as the first – although he updated the inflation rate to 9.1%.