Trump flunky Kevin McCarthy, rarely known for effective leadership, is doing his damndest to undermine Speaker Nancy Pelosi even before the opening gavel comes down Tuesday at her consolation hearings investigating Jan. 6—a substitute for the independent 9/11-type commission that the attack warranted but Republicans killed even before it was born.
The House minority “leader” has assigned a clown car of representatives of little accomplishment, dubious character, and a penchant for cheap theater. Not one of them voted for the committee they’re joining. Three of the five voted to overturn the election of Joe Biden after the mob stormed the Capitol to try and lynch Pelosi or Mike Pence and overturn the election. All were chosen after McCarthy met with Donald Trump at his Bedminsters Club.
McCarthy’s posse goes from right—Jim Banks is chair of the conservative Republican Study Committee—to the far right in Ohio's Jim Jordan, the founder of the Freedom Caucus and Trump’s fiercest defender known for legislating in shirtsleeves. Liz Cheney, who was demoted from her number three role in the Republican caucus because she called out Trump’s Big Lie before and after Jan. 6 and who Pelosi had already named to the commission had been with “That fucking guy, Jim Jordan. That son of a bitch” when the mob invaded on Jan. 6.
She recalled, according to one of the many new books about Trump’s disastrous final year, that “While these maniacs are going through the place, I’m standing in the aisle and he said ‘We need to get the ladies away from the aisle. Let me help you.’ I smacked his hand away and told him, ‘Get away from me. You fucking did this.’”
Now, the two of them will be on the same Commission examining what it is that he F’ing did. The other Republicans joining Gym Jordan, as he’s known, are unknowns. The only one with a criminal record—at least that we know of—is Rep. Troy Nehls. He destroyed evidence in his first police job in Richmond, Texas, then lied about it after he was fired to get his next police job. He was also officially cited for drinking, holding a side job, chronic failure to follow orders, going to stores and restaurants on the job, giving civilians rides in his cruiser, taking a picture of an anti-Trump bumper sticker in hopes of getting a country prosecutor to file charges, and on and on.
Nehls, a member of the Army Reserve who served combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, said in the midst of the Capitol invasion that he was “proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with Capitol police,” and that “violence is never the answer” There’s an iconic photo of him standing next to two officers with their guns drawn inside the House chamber while he talks to the invaders through broken panes of glass.
But, like McCarthy, he quickly got over his initial shock and returned to his kneeling position at the altar of Trump. After declaring that “what I’m witnessing is a disgrace” in the midst of the attack, he promptly voted to challenge the election results in Arizona and Pennsylvania.
The Republicans who are now charged with investigating what happened during that invasion are united in calling on us to all get along and move on; nothing to see here. Upon his selection, ranking member Banks said "Make no mistake, Nancy Pelosi created this committee solely to malign conservatives and justify the left's authoritarian agenda.”
By charging the left with being authoritarian, Banks is projecting his party’s support for a proto-fascist attempt to overturn an election onto his enemies. And just because McCarthy is sending in a few clowns to make the point there’s nothing to investigate here doesn’t mean Democrats won’t have their hands full. Like AOC, who didn’t want to demean herself by debating Marjorie Taylor Greene, Democrats are caught between trying to not to lower themselves to constantly squabbling with Republicans, but not wanting to leave their lying lies on the record, uncorrected.
They have to call out their fictions and then quickly get back to the business of getting at what the GOP is trying to keep secret: What did they know and when did they know it about the mob’s “spontaneous” plans for an invasion when the attackers with weapons and pre-printed t-shirts were bussed into town? Who got them inside for reconnaissance before the attack? Who gave up maps of underground tunnels and the way to the Speaker’s Office? Where are the visitor logs and emails? Who could have called for reinforcements but chose not to?
We know Trump, who never so much as checked in with Pence as the mob hunted for him, called McCarthy amid the bloody assault. Did the “leader,” that weasel, even ask the president to call off his supporters? We don’t know the answer to that, but the committee should find out. What we do know is that Trump did not call them off.
All the while, Democrats have to be mindful the clock is ticking not at a chess match but a raucous hockey game. It won’t take long for Republicans to pronounce the hearings boring.
There are maybe two token moderates among the McCarthy Five, depending on your definition of moderate. Since he’ll hardly be heard from if his more voluble colleagues have anything to say about it, meet Rep. Rodney Davis, of the House Administration Committee, whose portfolio includes underground parking spaces. There’s also first term Rep. Kelly Armstrong, whose position in a letter signed by seven colleagues was to agree with Trump’s Big Lie but argue that Congress couldn’t stop the steal because it lacked the authority.
If Pelosi doesn’t nix any of McCarthy’s choices, they will join her appointments—-seven Democrats plus Cheney—as the first witnesses testify. They will be policemen on duty that day—the men and women in blue Republicans support when they are turning traffic stops into justifiable homicide but not when they lie bloodied and beaten at the hands of Trump supporters. First among them will be D.C. police officers Michael Fanone, who begged for his life in fear of it that day.
McCarthy, who said on Jan. 6 that Trump bore some responsibility for what had happened, is determined now to keep Trump from being held responsible, and to obscure the historical record. He’s taking this Congressional effort seriously only in so far as he is actively aiming to derail it by nominating a crew whose members are unaware of, fine with, or hope that those who don’t examine history are doomed to repeat it.