We should be thankful that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) just pulled Republicans out of any involvement in the select committee to examine the Jan. 6 insurrection. In so doing, he ensured that the committee’s investigation will both have more integrity and be more likely to undertake a valuable accounting.
Which goes to a larger truth about this moment: Efforts at a real examination of arguably the worst outbreak of political violence in modern times — and efforts to protect our democracy more broadly — will not be bipartisan. These things will be done by Democrats alone.
McCarthy’s handling of the Jan. 6 committee illustrates the point. It comes after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced that she is nixing two of McCarthy’s picks to serve on it: Reps. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).
McCarthy mustered great outrage about this, railing that it was an “abuse of power” that had cost the committee “all legitimacy and credibility.”
In fact, precisely the opposite is true: By pulling out, McCarthy has boosted the committee’s legitimacy and credibility immeasurably. The less involved McCarthy is with this committee, the more likely it will be to undertake a genuine and comprehensive accounting.
McCarthy’s picks were expressly designed to prevent that accounting. This is not speculation or a mere guess at McCarthy’s motives. It is unavoidably clear from the public statements and conduct of Banks and Jordan themselves.
Banks’s first act on getting named by McCarthy was to release a statement declaring that the committee must investigate the “hundreds of violent political riots” in which “many more innocent Americans and law-enforcement officers were attacked.”
That’s an explicit declaration that the insurrection and President Donald Trump’s incitement of it should not be the focus of the committee and is a less serious matter than those riots.
Similarly, after Jordan was picked, he immediately declared he wants to serve on the committee because “this is impeachment Round 3,” unwittingly revealing — or perhaps unabashedly declaring — that he saw his role as solely a means for working to exonerate Trump.
What’s more, Jordan had already played a prominent role in spreading the very lies about the 2020 election that helped inspire the insurrection the committee will be investigating. Given that the committee is charged with probing the causes of the violence — and that those lies are a major cause — any real accounting must also implicate Republicans such as Jordan.
On top of all this, remember that McCarthy could have exercised even more control over the investigation — yet declined. Back in May, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), the Homeland Security Committee chair, announced an agreement with the ranking Republican on an evenly divided 10-member bipartisan commission, with both parties having veto power over subpoenas.
Guess who voted against that commission? McCarthy, Banks and Jordan did.
All three also voted to object to President Biden’s electors, a vote that represented the culmination of the lies this committee will investigate as a cause of the violence.
There’s another hidden dynamic here, too: McCarthy and Jordan are very likely witnesses themselves. McCarthy made a frantic appeal to Trump to call off the rioters; he likely has firsthand experience of Trump’s truly sociopathic and insurrectionist intentions that day.
And Jordan was present in a Dec. 21 White House meeting with Trump and others, at which they discussed how to overturn Biden’s electors on the day of what would become the insurrection. What was said at that meeting will be of great interest to the committee.
“Anyone who is a material witness to the key events leading up to the Jan. 6 insurrection doesn’t really belong on the committee,” Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the select committee, told us.
“The investigative inquiry is being shaped right now,” Raskin continued, “but those are likely to be key events in the chronology.”
Here’s the bottom line: By nixing Banks and Jordan, Pelosi actually protected the integrity of the committee’s investigation, from their openly advertised intention to misdirect, disrupt and sabotage it. By appointing publicly committed saboteurs, McCarthy openly advertised the same intention.
The conventions of political reporting are such that this basic and obvious truth will not be faithfully rendered in press accounts. But it follows from a straightforward interpretation of the statements and conduct of those Republicans themselves.