It offers a disturbing reality check 17 months after the Capitol uprising about how the House Republican conference chose the promise of future political progress over the protection of American democracy.
Committee set to mount devastating case on Trump’s behavior as he tried to steal the 2020 election in the run-up to and during the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, which he instigated and failed to act to stop as lawmakers showed up for their lives.
There are potential pitfalls for Republicans who support Trump as the grim story of violence, lies and autocratic power grabs are retold for the American people and for the benefit of history. The evidence could be so overwhelming that those who seek to discredit the hearings will find themselves defending the indefensible – a dark moment in American history that is so heinous it will live in infamy.
There are also good electoral reasons to pass. It is uncertain whether the hearings will achieve their apparent goal and engage Americans so long after the event. After all, after four years of tumult that ended in political cataclysm, it’s hard to imagine that many voters haven’t made up their minds on Trump.
Engaging and turning audiences into a partisan spectacle could only elevate them. And Republicans have a much clearer path to power five months before the midterm elections than to appease Trump’s autocracy once again. They can just blame President Joe Biden for the ills plaguing the country, given the dire political environment for Democrats as gas prices hit record highs and the cost of living soars.
Anything that deviates from this goal seems reckless.
There’s also a risk that standing alongside Trump will again mark the GOP with the stain of defending a strongman who tried to overthrow a Democratic election. This vision repeatedly punished the party when Trump was in office. And defending him could once again remind critical suburban voters just how extreme their party has become.
Trump demands strong defense
But Trump’s determination to paint an alternative version of events for Americans through conservative media suggests the ex-president really doesn’t want the real story of his behavior out.
If the committee succeeds in convincing Americans of its guilt, it could seriously damage the ex-president’s hopes of having a wider following in the general election if he seeks to run for the White House again in 2024. It is also possible that the panel discovered information. it could put the twice-impeached president in legal jeopardy, though any criminal removal from the committee would require the Justice Department to press charges — a potential long shot.
As worried as Trump may be about the hearings, the willingness of leading House Republicans to defend his assault on democracy shows his grip on the party.
CNN’s Melanie Zanona, Zachary Cohen and Ryan Nobles reported that Trump’s team communicated with allies on Capitol Hill that the former president wanted a vigorous defense while the public hearings unfolded on television. This impulse clearly aligns with Trump’s desire to be in the spotlight and shape the television narrative of his own life.
It’s also remarkable that a former president, removed from office in disgrace after just one term, still has the political juice to wield that kind of influence. This speaks to his appeal to the GOP base and underscores his status as a frontrunner for any 2024 Republican presidential primary race, even if some of his chosen candidates struggle in the 2022 midterm primaries.
And it offers insight into how a new GOP House majority next year could be largely a tool for Trump’s increasingly extreme efforts to hobble Biden and regain power.
Trump’s power over McCarthy
Another Trump sidekick who promises to destroy the credibility of the Jan. 6 committee is Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, a former moderate whose embrace of the big election lie set her on a fast track to power in the House GOP.
“We will set the record straight. We will tell the truth to the American people, share the facts and also highlight how unprecedented, unconstitutional and illegitimate this committee is,” Stefanik told the right-wing site Breitbart in an interview. .
The daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney broke with Trump over the insurgency and is one of two Republicans on the House Select Committee. She lost her party leadership job and now faces a major challenge from a Trump-backed candidate over her determination to speak the truth about the threat to American democracy posed then and now by the ex-president.
Another key figure in Trump’s defense will likely be Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, who, like McCarthy, defied a subpoena to testify before the House Select Committee.
The tireless Trump supporter will be watched closely by the White House as he will be one of the top candidates to head the House Judiciary Committee if Republicans take control of the House – and is likely to submit the administration Biden has a withered investigative agenda. ahead of the 2024 elections.
All of this will be designed to damage Biden and boost Trump — who will be the real power behind the gavel in any House GOP majority and is already using that leverage to his advantage.