On Wednesday, multiple Republicans, including Donald Trump, expressed their dissatisfaction with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy over how he has handled the House select committee on Jan. 6. On Thursday, as the committee prepares to air its next hearing, the “blame McCarthy” message seems to just keep expanding. One thing is absolutely clear: Republicans can see that the series of public hearings are devastatingly effective.
When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi informed McCarthy that she would not seat either Rep. Jim Jordan or Rep. Jim Banks on the committee because both were likely to be sought as witnesses because of their involvement in the Jan. 6 conspiracy, McCarthy made an immediate response. Rather than appoint replacements, McCarthy reacted by withdrawing his three other nominees to the committee and refusing to cooperate. The intention from McCarthy was to create the impression that the select committee was, as Trump repeatedly claims, “a partisan witch hunt.” However, McCarthy could not stop Republican Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger from participating.
In spite of the continuing cries on the right that the committee is “partisan” and “slanted,” it’s obvious Republicans can see the effect the public hearings are having. Day by day, the committee has reminded the public of the violence committed on Jan. 6. It has shown how white supremacist militias were involved in planning and promoting that violence. In the most recent hearings, the committee has begun the process of unfolding the conspiracy, led by Trump, that hoped to use Jan. 6 as a means of subverting a national election.
The effectiveness of those hearings can be directly measured in the scorn now being heaped on McCarthy.
It’s not as if total noncooperation was an idea original to McCarthy. Refusal to cooperate and forcing House committees to go to court to get the most trivial documents that are usually handed over as a matter of course was standard operating procedure during the Trump White House. That noncooperation has continued as Trump has made it clear he doesn’t want any of his insiders testifying before the select committee on Jan. 6.
However, as The New York Times now reports, pro-Trump Republicans have discovered that since McCarthy cut them out off the committee, they have, shockingly, been cut out of the committee. That is, they haven’t been privy to the inner workings of the investigation or had any clarity on how the committee staff was building the case against Trump and his supporters. That’s left them open to surprises in terms of documents and testimony turned up in the investigation.
The absence of Trump-defenders on the committee has become exceedingly obvious during the public hearings, as the testimony of witnesses has not been hijacked or sidetracked as it frequently was during the House impeachment hearings. Witnesses to Jan. 6 violence have not been asked to give their opinion on Hunter Biden’s laptop, to discuss how President Joe Biden is responsible for high gas prices, or about anything related to Hillary Clinton. And Republicans are suddenly regretting that.
As The Washington Post notes, McCarthy is still instructing Republicans to simply ignore the hearings until they go away. Except a few Republicans seemed to have removed their heads from holes long enough to note that people are watching these hearings and seeing things that are not so good for Republicans. And especially not good for Trump.
That’s why Trump is said to be at “the point of about to scream at the TV” and why he has been going on right-wing media to complain that McCarthy made “a very, very foolish decision.” Not only does this information highlight the growing rift between Trump and McCarthy, it also provides the satisfying knowledge that Trump is sitting down at Mar-a-Lago, watching the hearings and fuming.
As he watches, Trump is complaining that there is no one to defend him. Blame for that lack is “falling squarely on McCarthy’s shoulders.”
Elsewhere in the Post, a new Quinnipiac poll shows that 26% of Americas say they are watching the hearings very closely, while 32% say they are watching somewhat closely. In that poll, 64% of Americans also say they believe the Jan. 6 attack was planned, rather than spontaneous.
As Politico notes, Republicans are now finding themselves in an uncomfortable schism between Trump, who multiple sources indicated intends to run again in 2024, and McCarthy, who hopes to replace Pelosi as House speaker after the fall midterms. The hearings are already hurting them both, but the growing rancor against McCarthy is making things worse.
Trump has refused to endorse McCarthy for the speaker position. And Republicans like Jim Jordan, who is regarded as an ally of McCarthy but a disciple of Trump, is finding there is no safe ground in this fight. Trump is reportedly “leaving room to turn on McCarthy if he chooses.”
Considering the public statements he’s already making, the question should be if Trump chooses to turn on McCarthy more.
However, one thing is certain: If Republicans didn’t see these committee hearings as effective, McCarthy wouldn’t be getting criticism. If they thought the hearings were really being viewed as partisan, or that Americans weren’t paying attention, McCarthy would be collecting praise.
And it’s not as if there haven’t been plenty of Republicans in the committee hearings. They’ve been in there every day, testifying to how Donald Trump pressured them, threatened them, and terrorized them in an effort to overturn a federal election.