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G.O.P. Testimony at Jan. 6 Panel Exposes a Party Torn Between Truth and Trump


Because the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol has built its public case that Donald J. Trump was at the middle of an attempted coup, the panel has relied heavily on a seemingly unlikely stream of witnesses: Mr. Trump’s own advisers, his fellow Republicans and even his circle of relatives.

Those closest to Mr. Trump have been deposed, portrayed or shown dismissing the previous president’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen. And yet the fight to thwart the desire of the people continued unabated.

The powerful testimony from a parade of Republicans, in 4 tightly produced hearings, has exposed in searing and consequential detail how divided the party has change into between the faction that accepts the fact of the 2020 election and the various more who still cling to Mr. Trump’s anti-democratic falsehoods a couple of stolen election.

“If any Republicans were watching it, there is actually no way they might defend a position that President Trump won the election based on the evidence presented thus far,” said Mick Mulvaney, a former acting White House chief of staff to Mr. Trump.

There have been transient video clips of the previous president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, and unsparing testimony from a top White House attorney, Eric Herschmann, who said he scolded one other pro-Trump attorney as “out of your” mind for continuing to pursue conspiracies to stop President Biden’s inauguration even the day after the Capitol riot.

“We’ve got numerous theories,” Rudolph W. Giuliani, one among Mr. Trump’s lead lawyers, told a gaggle of state legislators as he sought to forestall the outcomes, in line with testimony on Tuesday from Rusty Bowers, the Republican speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives. “We just don’t have the evidence.”

The president’s former attorney general, William P. Barr, had one word for the swirling fact-less theories of fraud embraced by Mr. Trump within the election’s aftermath: “Bullshit.”

“I told him that it was, it was crazy stuff,” Mr. Barr said in his video deposition of claims of voting machine fraud, “they usually were wasting their time on that, and it was doing grave, grave disservice to the country.”

But Mr. Mulvaney said that the partisan nature of the Democratic-led proceedings — the Republican leadership boycotted the panel after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi nixed a few of their appointees — meant that fewer Republicans were prone to tune in.

Democrats fully control the investigative committee, though its members include two anti-Trump Republicans, one among them Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the vice chair.

“The indisputable fact that there are Republican witnesses may be very compelling,” Mr. Mulvaney said. “I don’t think Bill Barr is lying. I also know I’m not seeing his entire testimony. I’m going to see the pieces of his testimony that the Democrats want me to see.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Bowers and two Republican officials from Georgia testified under oath, describing in harrowing terms the pressure campaign they endured for standing as much as the president and the toll that it took on them personally. On Thursday, more testimony is coming from contained in the top ranks of Mr. Trump’s Justice Department.

“The committee has been sensible in that tactic of using senior officials, members of the family, those high up within the campaign and Republicans who supported him,” said Stephanie Grisham, the previous White House press secretary, who served under Mr. Trump for nearly his entire term but has since emerged as a critic. “That’s what gives me hope that it’s going to break through.”

A recent Quinnipiac University poll on Wednesday suggested that such a breakthrough with large numbers of Republicans should still be a ways off.

While nearly six in 10 Americans overall think Mr. Trump bears quite a bit or some responsibility for the events of Jan. 6, the poll found, the alternative was true just amongst Republicans: 25 percent said he bears “not much” responsibility, and 44 percent said he bears none in any respect.

“My level of hope that there may be room for a sane wing of the Republican Party to change into ascendant again — the probabilities of which are extremely low,” said Sarah Longwell, a founding father of the anti-Trump Republican Accountability Project.

Still, in two focus groups of 2020 Trump voters that Ms. Longwell has held for the reason that hearings began, she said she noticed an unusual shift: Not one among the attendees wanted Mr. Trump to run in 2024.

“What was interesting to me: They liked Trump, but they wish to move on,” Ms. Longwell said. “Which is strictly how they talked about Jan. 6 usually.”

Ms. Cheney, Mr. Trump’s most outstanding Republican critic in Congress, has been direct about her goal to attempt to drive a wedge between Mr. Trump and the party’s base, if not between him and the party’s elected leaders in Washington.

“I say this to my Republican colleagues who’re defending the indefensible: There’ll come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain,” Ms. Cheney said at the primary hearing, on June 9.

Ms. Cheney, who’s facing a Trump-backed primary challenger this summer, has positioned herself as a possible presidential candidate against Mr. Trump should he run. Next week, she is slated to deliver a speech on the long run of the party on the Reagan Library in California, the identical venue where numerous ambitious, potential Republican contenders in 2024 have appeared in recent months.

Several Republican strategists predicted that the Jan. 6 committee hearings would have less of an impact on the 2022 midterms — when Mr. Trump himself will not be on the ballot — than on the 2024 Republican presidential field.

On Capitol Hill, few were as blunt in regards to the threat posed by Mr. Trump as J. Michael Luttig, a former federal appeals court judge, who’s hardly a household name but holds great stature within the conservative legal world.

“Donald Trump and his allies and supporters are a transparent and present danger to American democracy,” Mr. Luttig said in testimony last week.

Mr. Luttig then made the identical forward-looking leap to the subsequent presidential election that many Democrats are hoping voters will make as they vote on this fall’s midterms: If elected, Trump allies “would try to overturn that 2024 election in the identical way that they attempted to overturn the 2020 election,” he warned.

At times, the committee’s indictment has been so focused on Mr. Trump, and so filled with praise for the few Republicans who stood as much as him, that some Democrats privately fear the strategy could backfire — by setting Mr. Trump aside from a Republican Party that, in reality, stays deeply loyal to him.

“It’s absolutely infuriating,” said Jessica Post, the chief director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which is involved in statehouse races. “There’s a wider story than is being told by the Jan. 6 committee in regards to the anti-democracy forces within the states.”

She was particularly frustrated on the lionization of Mr. Bowers merely for upholding the law, noting that Arizona had passed more restrictive voting bills on his watch. “I just don’t think you get a gold star for doing the absolutely least,” Ms. Post said.

Sitting next to Mr. Bowers on Tuesday was Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, who earned plaudits from the committee as a “public servant.” That very same day, Georgia Democrats nominated a state representative, Bee Nguyen, to run against him, and on Wednesday Ms. Nguyen assailed Mr. Raffensperger’s past support for greater restrictions on voting.

The divide within the G.O.P. can easily be overstated: A few of those whose words have been used as a cudgel against Mr. Trump still say they might vote for him in 2024, should he be the nominee, including Mr. Barr and Mr. Bowers, who told The Associated Press this week, “If he was up against Biden, I’d vote for him again.”

One other Republican whose courage has been hailed by the committee is the previous vp, Mike Pence, for resisting Mr. Trump’s intense pressure to overturn the election.

Greg Jacob, Mr. Pence’s counsel, testified that one among Mr. Trump’s advisers, John Eastman, had asked Mr. Pence to not certify the Electoral College results even within the immediate aftermath of the Capitol riot.

“That’s rubber room stuff,” Mr. Pence told him, as Mr. Jacob recalled. In other words, Mr. Jacob said, “certifiably crazy.”

The committee’s hearing on Thursday might be about Mr. Trump’s “try to corrupt the country’s top law enforcement body, the Justice Department, to support his try to overturn the election,” as Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the Democratic committee chairman, previewed it.

Three senior Trump administration alumni are lined up because the star witnesses: Jeffrey A. Rosen, the previous acting attorney general; Richard Donoghue, the previous acting deputy attorney general; and Steven Engel, the previous assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel.

The lawmaker leading the questioning might be one other Republican: Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.

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