The GOP just keeps stoking the 'clear and present danger' of Jan. 6
For all the bravado among Republicans that they'll deep-six the work of the Jan. 6 committee as soon as they take power from Democrats in the House next month, they and their shrinking leader, Donald Trump, have become its best promoters.
Their (mis)behavior ensures that the panel's findings — the full report is expected Wednesday — are as relevant looking ahead as they are looking back to that tragic time. In fact, you could say they've legitimated what the House Republican leader, Rep. "My Kevin" McCarthy, once tried to label the "least legitimate committee in American history."
At the committee's public finale Monday, it plans to release a summary of its report and vote to recommend criminal and ethics actions against various parties —likely including Trump and some of his House henchmen — to the Justice Department, House Ethics Committee and various state bar associations.
While the committee's life extends 30 days beyond its report's release, under terms of the House resolution that created it last year, the panel effectively dies next week. Not only is there no chance the Republican-led House would renew it, McCarthy has vowed the new majority will investigate the investigators. This from the man who made "Benghazi" a catchword for truly illegitimate, politically motivated congressional investigations.
Yet McCarthy's fellow House Republicans, and Trump, have greatly complicated those plans to diminish the investigation. Recent actions of the defeated former president and fangirl Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, along with newly reported texts from Republican lawmakers about overturning the 2020 presidential election, only underscore that the Jan. 6 report won't simply amount to a rehash of a nearly 2-year-old event.
Instead, the committee's findings will illuminate an ongoing "clear and present danger," in the words of conservative former federal Judge J. Michael Luttig, as we look toward the next national election in 2024. That's especially so because election deniers will increase in numbers and power in the House.
'Enemy of the Constitution': First, Trump. His declaration a month ago that he's running again for the job from which voters fired him, and his continued lies about that defeat, make all the more essential a full accounting of his role leading to the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
From what we already know, that accounting should disqualify him for voters. But the report and the criminal referrals accompanying it could help make a case that he shouldn't even be on the ballot, given the 14th Amendment's bar to office for anyone who "shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion."
There's more. Trump, who's been silent about the officers who died in defense of the Capitol, early this month sent a supportive video to a fundraiser for the so-called patriots who attacked it on Jan. 6. He's already said he would issue an apology and pardons to the rioters and plotters who are prosecuted, if he's reelected.
More recently, he dug lower still, calling for the "termination" of the Constitution to "throw the Presidential Election Results of 2020 OUT."
As Rep. Liz Cheney, the Republican vice chair of the Jan. 6 committee, tweeted in response: "That was his view on 1/6 and remains his view today. No honest person can now deny that Trump is an enemy of the Constitution."
Speaking of enemies of the Constitution, we turn to Georgia Rep. Greene. Last weekend, she regaled a Republican audience in Manhattan that included Donald Trump Jr., boasting that if she and fellow Trump warrior Steve Bannon had "organized" the force attacking the Capitol that day, the effort to block Joe Biden's certification as president wouldn't have failed. "Not to mention," she mentioned, "it would've been armed."
This from a lawmaker who soon will be newly empowered in the House majority and is a celebrity among the party's radicalized base. She has emerged as perhaps McCarthy's most prominent backer in his beleaguered bid to become speaker; if he wins despite the opposition of some of Greene's fellow right-wingers, he'll be in her debt.
Messages to Meadows: And then there are the other House Republicans who are likely to be singled out in the Jan. 6 committee's report for various degrees of culpability in helping Trump become a truly historic president: the first to resist the peaceful transfer of power. This week we got something of an advance look at who they are.
The online site Talking Points Memo reported on hundreds of previously unpublicized text messages that 34 Republicans in Congress sent to Mark Meadows, Trump's White House chief of staff, after the 2020 election. The messages, culled from thousands that Meadows gave the committee and the Justice Department, included this cry of desperation from South Carolina Rep. Ralph Norman 11 days after the Capitol attack and three days before Biden's inauguration: "Our LAST HOPE is in invoking Marshall Law!! PLEASE URGE TO PRESIDENT TO DO SO!!" Yes, Norman wrote "Marshall Law."
In late 2020, Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania wrote to Meadows: "11 days to 1/6 and 25 days to inauguration. We gotta get going!" Other Republicans supported having Republican-controlled legislatures in states that Biden won discard their slates of Biden electors for Trump's, on faux fraud grounds.
Last January, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich warned on Fox News and in an op-ed that members of the Jan. 6 committee would go to jail if Republicans won control of Congress in the midterm elections. They were partisan wolves, a "lynch mob," he charged.
Lucky for us we'll have the Jan. 6 committee's report to document the actual lynch mob, the one that built a gallows on the Capitol grounds and bellowed "Hang Mike Pence!" and "Where's Nancy?" The one that threatened American democracy.
House Republicans think they'll bury the committee's work? By their own words and actions, they give it life.
— Jackie Calmes is an opinion columnist for the Los Angeles Times in Washington, D.C.