House Democrats probably could have gotten all the cooperation they wanted for their January 6 Select Committee, if only they had run it as a deliberative body, examining just the facts without wild accusations, assumptions, and finger-pointing. They could have avoided the widespread perception of the investigation as an inquisition for political gain. Instead, Democrats burned their bridges early, and now House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is the latest Republican to rebuff the committee’s ongoing quest for legitimacy. GOP Reps. Jim Jordon of Ohio and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania had already refused to cooperate with the committee. Unfortunately for Democrats, it seems somewhat unlikely there is anything they can do about it.
An Illegitimate Exercise
Both McCarthy and Jordon pointed out that the Jan. 6 inquiry has no legitimate legislative purpose – which is the one criterion every congressional investigation must meet. Since Democrats claim they are looking into what they describe as an attempted insurrection, they cannot argue their probe is intended to facilitate some new law – for what would this new law be? An act making insurrection illegal? A ban on political protest? A law forbidding Americans from questioning the validity of an election result?
Without any defined lawmaking purpose, the Jan. 6 committee is, according to House rules and custom, an illegitimate exercise. Whether true or not, the perception is that Democrats are far less interested in the events at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, than they are in tying the dispute over the 2020 presidential election to a need for electoral reform and greater censorship of social media activity – and to somehow prevent Donald Trump from running for office again.
No matter what the committee puts into its final report – which, one can safely assume, will be released a couple of weeks before the 2022 midterm elections – it will never overcome this perception of partisan intimidation. The left will eat it up, of course, but that doesn’t move the needle; a committee devoted to proving, once and for all, that Orange Man bad is merely preaching to the choir. If committee chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and his band of usual suspects – the same people who brought us the Russia collusion hoax and two phony impeachments – hope to sway Republican voters against Trump, they could hardly have picked a worse strategy.
Another perception among Trump supporters is that federal government agents may have played a role in planning violence during the Jan. 6 event. While no proof of this theory has been revealed, a senior FBI official refused to give Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) a single straight answer when he recently raised the issue during a Senate hearing. One would have thought it would be easy enough for the FBI to categorically deny any involvement but, since the Bureau official declined to do so, the 45th president’s supporters are entirely justified in suspecting a possible conspiracy to paint them as violent terrorists.
That the Jan. 6 committee has made no attempt to determine the extent of federal agent presence, participation, or purpose speaks volumes about where Democrats intended to steer this inquiry from day one. Since the FBI concluded that no seditious conspiracy took place – and yet, 11 Oath Keepers now face charges for exactly that – the story of the Bureau’s involvement with Jan. 6 is even more worthy of examination.
Rep. Thompson must now figure out what, if any, authority he has to subpoena those Republicans who have declined to appear before his committee. Given that he is no doubt under pressure to produce results before the midterms, would it even be worth his while doing so? Any such subpoena will probably run up against a legal challenge, further delaying the committee’s work. Then, even if he were able to compel the likes of Reps. Jordan, Perry, and McCarthy to appear, what can he realistically expect to learn from them that will help the Democrats’ case? And what does it mean for the House, going forward, that one party can subpoena the members of another, to advance a partisan investigation?
~ Read more from Graham J. Noble.