Why the Jan. 6 committee's investigation is now giving McConnell a glimmer of hope

Why the Jan. 6 committee's investigation is now giving McConnell a glimmer of hope
Mitch McConnell/Shutterstock

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, deemed by some to be a master tactician, has missed every chance he had this year to help secure the downfall of Donald Trump and his increasingly ascendant wing of the party. Until now.

After failing to lead his caucus in January to a Trump conviction and then in May killing off a carefully negotiated independent commission on Jan. 6, McConnell is clearly relishing the fruits of the House select committee cobbled together by Speaker Nancy Pelosi in spite of his dismal efforts.

“Interesting” has become McConnell’s word of choice for the Jan. 6 committee whenever he is asked about its work and latest revelations. It was a word he repeatedly deployed the week of Dec. 13 as he ginned up interest in the committee’s eventual findings.

On Tuesday, Dec. 14, McConnell was asked whether he was one of the GOP lawmakers who had personally texted White House chief of staff Mark Meadows as the Jan. 6 assault unfolded. He wasn’t, McConnell told Capitol Hill reporters, adding, “It will be interesting to reveal all the participants who were involved.”

But that was just the beginning of McConnell’s week-long campaign plugging the committee’s probe.

“I read the reports every day,” McConnell offered a couple of days later at a different press conference. “And it’ll be interesting to see what they conclude.”

But the capper to McConnell’s sales pitch came later that evening in an interview with Julia Benbrook of Spectrum News. Asked to comment further about his curiosity in “all the participants,” McConnell responded, “The fact-finding is interesting. We’re all going to be watching it. It was a horrendous event, and I think what they are seeking to find out is something the public needs to know.”

So not just interesting, but an actual necessity in terms of public knowledge.

But why the sudden burst of cheerleading from a man who once panned an independent commission on the Capitol siege as a useless exercise unlikely to unearth any “new facts”? Quite simply, the Jan. 6 probe is giving McConnell a do-over on what he was incapable of accomplishing himself—neutralizing the Trump wing of the party. He had chances in 2021, and he either didn’t take them or fumbled the ball at the 1-yard line, particularly in the case of impeachment.

The prospect that the House probe might implicate and ensnare Trump and pro-Trump members of his own party is both enticing and existential for McConnell. Just imagine what a criminal prosecution of Trump could do for McConnell, not to mention someone like Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas being found complicit in the crime. That’s an entirely possible scenario, especially with a new book out from Trump aide Peter Nevarro claiming that Cruz played a key role in an election-stealing scheme Nevarro concocted with Trump henchman Steve Bannon.

“We spent a lot of time lining up over 100 congressmen, including some senators. It started out perfectly. At 1 p.m., [Rep. Paul] Gosar and Cruz did exactly what was expected of them,” Navarro told The Daily Beast of the GOP lawmakers’ initial blockade of certification. Gosar, of Arizona, lodged the first objection to certifying his state’s vote, and Cruz officially signed off on it, sending the two chambers of Congress into recess to weigh the objection in their respective chambers. That was before Trumpers breached the police barricades and stormed the Capitol, brutalizing and killing people along the way.

What has become perfectly clear throughout 2021 is that McConnell entirely misjudged the hold Trump had on the party’s base, even going so far as to call him “a fading brand” at one point.

But by the end of the year, McConnell had lost so much control that he was reduced to endorsing candidates like alleged wife beater and former football star Herschel Walker for a Georgia Senate seat that offers the GOP one of its best pick up chances in 2022. In other words, Trump is now towering over the supposedly masterful McConnell, who is bending like a wet reed to Trump’s every wish.

The Jan. 6 panel is now giving McConnell a glimmer of hope. And after fumbling away all his opportunities to dispense with Trump earlier this year, the least he can do is stoke a little interest and intrigue in what promises to be a fascinating year of revelations.

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