Column: The original sin that plagues Congress’ Jan. 6 committee

It’s easy to see why so many Republicans don’t believe the House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the US Capitol is legitimate. In her view, she was born of original sin: her membership was unfairly stacked from the start, and her course of action can therefore be dismissed as biased.

The committee has been in existence for almost a year now, hearing testimonies, collecting documents, issuing subpoenas, looking for facts.

But even as it prepares for a dramatic series of public hearings beginning June 9, it continues to carry the stigma of its controversial founding.

If you’re a Democrat, you might have gotten that episode out of your head. But Republicans certainly don’t.

Stipple style portrait illustration by Nicholas Goldberg

opinion columnist

Nicholas Goldberg

Nicholas Goldberg was the editorial page editor for 11 years and is a former editor of the Op-Ed page and the Sunday Opinion column.

You recall vividly and bitterly how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) established the committee in July 2021 — and then promptly installed two of the GOP leadership’s proposed committee members, Rep. Jim Jordan (R- Ohio) and Jim Banks, blackballed (bark.). In doing so, Pelosi cited her hostility to the very investigation the committee was to conduct.

Republicans were outraged. Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield condemned what he called a “egregious abuse of power.”

“This body has lost all legitimacy and credibility,” McCarthy said.

Both sides agreed that Pelosi’s move was “unprecedented.” Committee members were supposed to be selected “in consultation” with McCarthy, but instead Pelosi selected her own Republicans for the panel — anti-Trump Reps Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.). The Republican leadership announced that it would boycott the committee.

The committee now consists of seven Democrats and the two Republican rebels.

Predictably, GOP voters have reacted with deep skepticism. A Pew Research Center poll in January showed that nearly 8 in 10 Republicans have little or no confidence in the fairness of the committee’s investigation.

So the question remains: was Pelosi right or wrong to black out McCarthy’s selection?

The Republican argument is clear: Committee members are biased and their conclusions cannot be trusted.

But the Democrats’ counter-argument is also quite compelling: Banks and Jordan were obstructionists and would have undermined an honest investigation. As cronies of the lying ex-President Trump, they would have voted no at every opportunity and worked from the inside to present the investigation as a witch hunt.

“If you’re Pelosi, you know you’d put two people on the committee who have no interest in pursuing the truth or finding evidence, but are there to distract, disrupt and impede,” says Norman Ornstein , a scientist emeritus at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

He is undoubtedly right. Additionally, Jordan has now been subpoenaed to testify before the committee about his communications with Trump on and about January 6. He was involved in the very events being investigated, for heaven’s sake.

But I still think Pelosi made the wrong decision.

To be sure, the events of January 6 were an open attack on democracy, a violent attempt to undermine a legitimate election. people lost their lives. Americans deserve a rigorous, full investigation to determine how well the attacks were planned and coordinated, and by whom.

Additionally, many Republicans have behaved with tremendous cowardice and cowardly hypocrisy, both in their response to the attacks and in their acceptance of Trump’s election phony narrative. Jordan and Banks, for example, fought the whole idea of ​​an investigation at every stage and helped spread the falsehoods that have led two-thirds of Republicans to say they believe Trump won the 2020 election.

But blacking them out didn’t solve anything.

Like many people, I am torn about how to respond to irresponsible Republican behavior. But in the end I believe in certain established rules of the game, because democracy cannot work if the opponents cannot cooperate. Republicans and Democrats don’t have to be best friends or backslappers, but they do need a mutually accepted modus vivendi.

This is not the same as giving up or turning the other cheek. Democrats shouldn’t be pushovers or suckers. But wherever possible, they must defend the rules and institutions that allow government to function, not toss them aside in a “you go low, we go low” race to the bottom. Even if that means working with McCarthy and his ilk.

And let’s be honest: In the end, this body has little power other than persuasion, so its credibility is particularly important. Offending 8 out of 10 Republicans before the investigation even began was just plain counterproductive.

Moreover, Pelosi’s high-handed move hasn’t just alienated die-hard Trumpist stop-the-stealers. Certainly, it’s also raised questions among moderate Republicans, anti-Trump conservatives, and independents — the very communities whose support the committee could potentially have garnered.

That was a self-inflicted wound.

I don’t like Jordan or Banks. If they had been appointed, they would have caused nothing but trouble.

So what? Let them rant and rave. They could not have overruled the majority. And Republicans couldn’t say they were silenced now.

Having Cheney and Kinzinger on the board could enable him to issue a unanimous, nominally bipartisan final report at the end of his work. But no one will be fooled into thinking it’s truly bipartisan.

I still believe in the committee. His work in crafting a coherent narrative from a complex set of facts will lead us to a better understanding of the schemes and machinations that fueled both the January 6 melee and the fraudulent Stop the Steal movement .

Along the way, that could result in additional criminal referrals to the Justice Department for those officials (possibly including Trump) who blocked the committee or who are alleged to have broken the law in trying to overturn the election.

The committee must not be deterred, undermined, or ignored. Americans must seriously contend with the evidence they have gathered.

So it’s a shame that so much of the panel’s credibility on opening day was squandered by Pelosi’s decision.

@Nick_Goldberg Column: The original sin that plagues Congress’ Jan. 6 committee

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