The Jan. 6 probe is getting very, very uncomfortable for Republicans
Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio loves few things more than a bombastic interrogation, so long as he's doing the interrogating. But when it came to answering a few meaningful questions while on the witness stand at a congressional hearing Wednesday, Jordan folded like an amateur in Vegas.
Nearly three months ago, Jordan admitted in an interview with Spectrum News that he had spoken with Donald Trump on Jan. 6, but he also maintained he couldn't recall exactly when. Jordan has had 84 days since that interview to go back and check the record for specifics, as House Rules Committee Chair Jim McGovern of Massachusetts noted during Wednesday's hearing on whether the House should take up Trump adviser Steve Bannon's contempt charge. (On Thursday, the House voted 229-202 to hold Bannon in contempt, with nine Republicans joining Democrats to send a criminal referral to the Justice Department.)
"Did you talk to the former president before, during, or after the attack on the Capitol—or was it all three?" McGovern asked Jordan, who was testifying against sending the contempt resolution to the House floor.
Jordan dodged. "Of course I talked to the president—I've been clear about that. I talk to him all the time," he offered. "This is not about me, Mr. Chairman."
Au contraire, Congressman. In fact, Jordan may have dodged his way right into a subpoena, a prospect that Rep. Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania called a "very serious possibility" on MSNBC following the Rules Committee hearing.
Dean doesn't sit on the Jan. 6 committee, but she noted, "What we see from somebody like a Jim Jordan is an inability to string together a sentence because he would have to be trying to tell the truth or hiding the truth."
Well said. When you're under oath, flat-out lying about the truth becomes perilous, which is why Jordan declined to directly answer the question.
Jordan's moment in the hot seat is emblematic of how fraught the Jan. 6 investigation has gotten for Republicans this week. The discomfort has House GOP leadership circling the wagons, pushing their caucus to vote in support of flouting a congressional subpoena and being able to walk away scot-free. Why?
Because virtually no House Republicans want Bannon spilling the beans about the planning of the Jan. 6 attack. No one wants Bannon talking about the Jan. 5 Willard Hotel war room, where Bannon, Rudy Giuliani, coup architect John Eastman, and others worked the phones to convince congressional Republicans to vote against certifying the election results the following day. Ultimately, roughly two-thirds of the House GOP caucus opposed certification without a shred of verifiable evidence to support their objections.
Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, vice chair of the select committee on Jan. 6, has also been absolutely sticking it to her GOP colleagues. Before the Jan. 6 panel voted to hold Bannon in contempt Tuesday, Cheney posited that Trump and Bannon may have been "personally involved" in organizing the Capitol attack and urged her GOP colleagues to do their "duty to prevent the dismantling of the rule of law."
On Wednesday, Cheney came straight back at House Republicans as she testified before the Rules Committee in favor of sending the contempt resolution to the House floor.
"As you think about how you will answer when history asks, What did you do when Congress was attacked, when a mob, provoked by a president, tried to use violence to stop us from carrying out our constitutional duty to count electoral votes—when a mob, provoked by a president, tried to overturn the results of an election?" Cheney said, in remarks aired on MSNBC. "Will you be able to say you did everything possible to ensure Americans got the truth about those events? Or did you look away? Did you make partisan excuses and accept the unacceptable?"
Cheney also revealed that GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy has been putting the squeeze on House Republicans to help cover up details about the Capitol siege.
Her colleagues, Cheney noted, "don't want to anger Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, who has been especially active in attempting to block the investigation of the events of Jan. 6, despite the fact that he called for such a commission the week after the attack."
On Thursday, Cheney was back on the House floor making sure Americans know that Bannon forecasted the mayhem of Jan. 6 even before it happened.
"I urge all Americans to watch what Mr. Bannon said on his podcast on Jan. 5 and 6. It is shocking and indefensible," Cheney said, during debate before the House vote on Bannon's contempt charge. "He said, 'All hell is going to break loose.' He said, 'We are coming in right over the target. This is the point of attack we have always wanted.'"
Later on Thursday, the House voted 229-202 to hold Bannon in contempt, with nine Republicans joining Democrats to send a criminal referral to the Justice Department.
Whatever heat Republicans are feeling now, it's about to get a whole lot hotter. Their brazen attacks on democracy are going to be peeled back like an onion over the course of what by all appearances will be an aggressive investigation by the Jan. 6 panel.
Trump himself will only make things worse, as he continues to demand unequivocal fealty from congressional Republicans. Amid an already tense week in the probe for Republicans, Trump poured more gas on the fire.
"The insurrection took place on November 3, Election Day," Trump said Thursday in a statement. "January 6 was the Protest!"
That puts the Republican Party squarely in the anti-democracy camp. Exercising one's peaceful right to vote against Republicans is now treasonous, according to Trump and his lock-step GOP allies. And the "protest," as Trump put it, will include a trip to the gallows for anyone who falls afoul.
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