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The Morning Dispatch: January 6 Committee Gets Rolling
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The Morning Dispatch: January 6 Committee Gets Rolling

Nancy Pelosi and Kevin McCarthy clash over the inclusion of GOP members who voted not to certify Joe Biden's 2020 win.

Happy Monday! We may not have gotten the Kanye West album we were promised on Friday, but we did get Ted Lasso Season 2 and the Olympics. Two out of three ain’t bad.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • The Department of Justice wrote a letter to GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin over the weekend announcing it will not be conducting a civil investigation into the handling of nursing home coronavirus cases by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The department also will not investigate fellow Democratic Govs. Gretchen Whitmer and Tom Wolf for similar policies.

  • In response to the Biden administration’s recent warning to companies about doing business in Hong Kong, the Chinese Communist Party sanctioned seven people, including former Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Carolyn Bartholomew, chair of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

  • At least 113 people in western India are dead following landslides and flooding sparked by heavy monsoon rains. Officials say about 100 people remain missing.

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Sunday she was appointing GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger to serve on the January 6 Select Committee, a position Kinzinger said he would accept. The committee is now made up of seven Democrats and two Republicans after Pelosi blocked two of Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s five appointees, leading McCarthy to withdraw the remaining three.

  • The Tokyo Olympics kicked off in earnest over the weekend, with China jumping out to an early lead in the overall medal count—15 total so far—while the U.S. paces the field in gold medals with seven. Nearly 30 sports are in action today.

Partisanship Roils January 6 Select Committee

It’s been a few weeks since we last provided an update on the status of the January 6 select committee. But in anticipation of the new committee’s first hearing tomorrow, we figured it was worth checking back in. 

When Senate Republicans used the legislative filibuster to block legislation establishing a truly bipartisan January 6 commission back in May, it appeared to scupper the already tenuous path toward an investigation both Republicans and Democrats could get behind. Following that vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi moved forward with her Plan B: establishing a 13-member select committee that she argued was necessary to “investigate and report on the facts and the causes of the attack.”

While the membership of the select committee was guaranteed to be more partisan than the proposed commission—the former would split power equally between Republicans and Democrats, the latter would ensure a 60 percent Democratic majority—Pelosi nevertheless offered House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy the opportunity to select five Republicans for the panel. After a few weeks of deliberations, McCarthy decided to play ball, announcing his picks on July 19: Reps. Jim Banks of Indiana, Rodney Davis of Illinois, Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota, Troy Nehls of Texas, and Jim Jordan of Ohio.

Of these Republicans, three—Nehls, Jordan, and Banks—supported objections to the election results in January, and two—Jordan and Banks—backed Texas’ lawsuit contesting the election results in four battleground states.

McCarthy claimed his picks were intended to “make sure you get the best people on the committee.”

“You’ve got a mix from the entire conference, from people who objected, people who didn’t object,” he told reporters. “You’ve got people who authored the commission. … So, you’ve got a microcosm of the conference.”

On some level, McCarthy had a point. If the goal of the committee was to reach a consensus about the events leading up to the attack on the Capitol, it would require a degree of buy-in from representatives across the political spectrum. But Banks quickly gave away the game in a statement last week, making clear he had his own motives for accepting the position. 

“We need leaders [on the committee] who will force Democrats and the media to answer questions so far ignored. Among them, why was the Capitol unprepared and vulnerable to attack on January 6?” he wrote. “If Democrats were serious about investigating political violence, this committee would be studying not only the January 6 riot at the Capitol, but also the hundreds of violent political riots last summer when many more innocent Americans and law enforcement officers were attacked.”

“Make no mistake, Nancy Pelosi created this committee solely to malign conservatives and to justify the Left’s authoritarian agenda,” the statement continued.

Pelosi showed less enthusiasm about expanding the scope of the investigation in this manner, issuing a press release announcing that she would block Banks and Jordan from serving on the committee. “With respect for the integrity of the investigation, with an insistence on the truth and with concern about statements made and actions taken by these Members, I must reject [these] recommendations,” she said.

While Pelosi said she would accept Davis, Armstrong, and Nehls, McCarthy blasted her selective approvals as an “egregious abuse of power” and promptly withdrew all his nominations.

“Unless Speaker Pelosi reverses course and seats all five Republican nominees, Republicans will not be party to their sham process and will instead pursue our own investigation of the facts,” McCarthy warned.

McCarthy has yet to announce when or how the GOP effort will proceed, but barring any changes, it now appears likely that there will be two investigations into the January 6 insurrection. Pelosi’s commission will retain at least two Republican members, however: Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who was one of Pelosi’s original picks, and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who was added to the panel yesterday. Cheney and Kinzinger were the only two House Republicans who voted in favor of the select committee’s formation last month, after 35 House Republicans voted for the bipartisan commission a few weeks earlier.

In a statement Sunday, Kinzinger said he accepted Pelosi’s invitation to serve on the committee in order to shed light on how and why the insurrection occurred. “Self-governance requires accountability and responsibility,” he wrote. “Let me be clear, I’m a Republican dedicated to conservative values, but I swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution—and while this is not the position I expected to be in or sought out, when duty calls, I will always answer.”

On the surface, Cheney and Kinzinger’s involvement should complicate the narrative being put forth by House GOP leadership that the select committee is merely a “partisan political charade.” But in reality, most Republican lawmakers stopped viewing those two as party members long ago—and some are starting to say so publicly. Cheney making clear she agreed with Pelosi’s decision to exclude Banks and Jordan was likely the final straw.

“She should probably just go and switch parties and be a Democrat,” GOP Rep. Ralph Norman told Politico—despite the fact that, according to VoteView, Cheney votes in line with the Republican position more often than he does. “She’s gonna violate everything. She’s not in a leadership position so she has got some freedom, but this is so blatant.”

In a statement Sunday, McCarthy chastised Cheney and Kinzinger without mentioning them by name. “The Speaker has structured this select committee to satisfy her political objectives,” he said. Her “rejection of the Republican nominees to serve on the committee and self-appointment of members who share her pre-conceived narrative will not yield a serious investigation.”

The Democratic response is that the presence of Banks and Jordan would have yielded an unserious investigation. “Jordan and Banks had no business being on the committee to investigate January 6,” Democratic Rep. Jimmy Gomez argued last week. “Both tried to block the election’s certification and Jordan’s communications with Trump prior to the insurrection means he could potentially be asked to testify.”

As members of the select committee prepare to hear witness testimony this week, Democratic committee leaders are still determining the full scope of the investigation. Tomorrow, four police officers—two from the Capitol police force and two from D.C.—will provide the first public testimony to the select committee.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat who is serving as the committee’s chairman, told PBS earlier this month that “if the facts themselves lead us to any individual, we will not hesitate to bring them before the committee.” And on Wednesday, Cheney suggested that Jordan himself “may well be a material witness to events that led to that day, that led to January 6.” But forcing Trump—or any of his staunch allies—to testify would likely involve legal battles that would jeopardize a timely completion of the investigation.

Democrats originally planned to complete the probe by December 31, but Thompson has already cast some doubt on that timeline.

“We want to hire the best professionals out here, the best legal minds, the best investigators, and turn them loose,” he said. “We have a fiduciary responsibility to get this right.”

Worth Your Time

  • In a piece for National Review, friend of The Dispatch Thomas Koenig argues that political tribalism goes against the principles of the American Founding. “Binding ourselves so tightly to our in-group and growing so hate-filled toward the ‘other side’ necessarily runs counter to our Founding principles—to what made us exceptional,” he writes. “Why? Because to some significant degree, tribalism is necessarily anti-reason, anti-intellectual. Our in-group is so just and the out-group so despicable that only knee-jerk condemnation of ‘them’ and support for ‘us’ will suffice. That sort of thinking walls us off from independently reasoning our way through political issues, and it is part and parcel of the intolerance, warring, and group loyalties and antagonisms that dominated the pages of human history prior to the Revolution.”

  • For its Inheritance Project, The Atlantic got Mississippi-born sportswriter Wright Thompson to pen a retrospective on the murder of Emmett Till—and everything we still don’t know about it—just days before Till would have turned 80 years old. Thompson’s piece centers on the barn where a band of white men tortured and killed the 14-year-old Till—a barn that an unsuspecting Jeff Andrews bought in 1992. “The barn’s existence conjures a complex set of reactions: It is a mourning bench for Black Americans, an unwelcome mirror for white Americans. It both repels and demands attention,” Thompson writes. “I called Jeff Andrews a month or two after my first visit to the barn and asked if I could come back and talk. I explained that I felt compelled to do this story because one of the central conflicts for white Mississippians is whether to shine a bright light on the past or—‘—move on?’ he said, finishing my thought. That remains a fraught and divisive question for white Mississippians. Should you dig deep enough that you might come to hate a place you also love?”

  • In the New York Times, American Enterprise Institute fellow Michael Strain argues against $4 trillion in new federal spending. “Economists can’t say for sure whether the inflationary pressures caused by this spending would push the economy into a damaging inflationary period,” he writes. “Regardless, it would increase the risk of a policy mistake by the Federal Reserve. In the face of another multi-trillion-dollar spending package and consistently disquieting monthly inflation numbers, the Fed might feel it had fallen behind the curve and attempt to withdraw some support for the economy, decreasing or eliminating asset purchases or raising interest rates. But the Fed may not have the necessary precision to slow the economy without putting it into reverse. Prematurely ending the expansion would hurt low-wage workers and low-income households the most, threatening to leave them out of the recovery.”

Presented Without Comment

Toeing the Company Line

  • In Friday’s Uphill, Harvest spoke with Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger about her moderate streak and willingness to buck party leadership, as well as the direction she hopes the party moves leading into 2022. “We are now the majority party. We now have the responsibility of actually governing,” she told The Dispatch. “I find it just so surprising that instead of saying, this is what we’re doing, and these are the policies we’re for—that it’s sometimes easier to just be reductive down to a slogan.”

  • Echelon Insights co-founder Patrick Ruffini dropped by Friday’s Dispatch Podcast to chat with Sarah and Chris about his firm’s efforts to find the political center of gravity in the United States. Could either party run the table for years with a few tweaks to their platform? Why are moderate Democrats outperforming progressives? And why are educated voters drifting left while less educated ones are drifting right?

  • David’s Sunday French Press focuses on a dispute within McLean Bible Church, where a group of congregants are upset with what they see as Pastor David Platt’s embrace of wokeness. But “on the core issues of American racism,” David argues, “Platt is biblically and historically right, and it’s his detractors who are biblically and historically wrong.”

Let Us Know

What do you think will ultimately be a bigger deal: any new information the January 6 select committee is able to uncover, or what the battles over the committee’s creation say about the current state of our politics?

Reporting by Declan Garvey (@declanpgarvey), Andrew Egger (@EggerDC), Charlotte Lawson (@charlotteUVA), Ryan Brown (@RyanP_Brown), Harvest Prude (@HarvestPrude), Tripp Grebe (@tripper_grebe), Emma Rogers (@emw_96), Price St. Clair (@PriceStClair1), Jonathan Chew (@JonathanChew19), and Steve Hayes (@stephenfhayes).