Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s January 6 Commission was supposed to help Democrats hold onto their slim majority during tough 2022 midterm elections. Instead, it stumbled out of the gate, failed to gain legitimacy among the public, and has been plagued with serious legal and ethical problems.
Pelosi’s decision to politically exploit the riot at the Capitol was a no-brainer. Democrats nearly lost the chamber in 2020 when Democrats took control of the Senate and presidency. The president’s party almost always loses significant numbers of House seats during midterm elections. The only time that didn’t happen in recent history was 2002, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Pelosi understandably felt her best bet to preserve power was, with a massive assist from left-wing media, to somehow turn disgruntled Donald Trump supporters’ riot at the Capitol into the next 9/11.
There were massive problems with the scheme. For one thing, Republicans had immediately and vociferously denounced the riot. This was a far cry from the Summer of Violence, when Democrats and their media enablers cheered as leftist groups destroyed sectors of cities throughout the country, resulting in “some 15 times more injured police officers, 23 times as many arrests, and estimated damages in dollar terms up to 1,300 times more costly than those of the Capitol riot.”
Democrats did not condemn these serious and lengthy attacks on the White House, federal courthouses, police buildings, private businesses, and homes. Instead, they joined with the rioters in calling for the defunding of police and other radical measures.
The riots were the result of a deeply destructive lie, pushed by top Democrats, that the country and its policing are irredeemably evil and racist. What’s more, any and all attempts to quell the siege of federal buildings were condemned in the most hysterical terms by Pelosi and other Democrats.
Kamala Harris, then a senator from California and the Democrats’ vice-presidential nominee, supported bailing out rioters who destroyed much of Minneapolis. Pelosi pooh-poohed the destruction of federal statues and historical markers. Republicans had consistently opposed political violence, beginning in the summer of 2020, but Democrats had not.
Still, the plan might have worked had Pelosi put together a decent committee. Yet she made several critical errors if she hoped it would be taken seriously.
Consider, first, how Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy managed a similarly important committee with a confidence that Pelosi has lacked.
Democrats threw together their first impeachment of President Trump in 2019 after their long-promised Russia collusion impeachment fell apart due to lack of evidence. Democrats and their media enablers had been claiming for years that Trump was an illegitimate president, and some Republicans had helped them in their general efforts to oust him. McCarthy had a difficult task, knowing that Republican voters weren’t nearly so weak as some of their leaders and would desert the party if it helped Democrats impeach President Trump.
McCarthy was constrained by Democrats’ avoidance of the Judiciary Committee as the venue for the impeachment investigation. Pelosi was concerned that Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-New York, didn’t have what it would take to run impeachment. Impeachment was instead run through the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, then led by Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.
That committee included a few Republican members known for opposing Trump, such as Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas. He and Mike Conaway, also of Texas, had already announced they weren’t running again. Some were urging McCarthy to remove Hurd and replace him with someone else. But McCarthy let everyone who wanted stay, while also encouraging any members who enjoyed performing oversight of the intelligence community but didn’t want to take part in an impeachment circus to step away temporarily. When Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Arkansas, graciously agreed to such a move, McCarthy replaced him with Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.
Even that choice showed McCarthy’s confidence, since both McCarthy and Jordan had run for the top leadership spot not long prior. Jordan had also successfully helped block McCarthy from becoming speaker a few years prior. But once McCarthy was made Republican leader, he made Jordan the top Republican on the House’s Oversight and Reform Committee, even over the objections of his supporters on the Steering Committee.
The diverse Republican group on the Intelligence Committee ran an effective opposition, even with Schiff and Pelosi manipulating the proceedings for maximum gain. In the end, Republicans held together, with not a single member of the conference voting to impeach Trump over his phone call with the Ukraine president. It was significant that conservatives and moderates all agreed the charges didn’t pass muster. In the Senate, only Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah fell for the impeachment trial as led by Schiff, leading to Trump’s first acquittal.
By contrast, Pelosi’s roster management has been something of a disaster.
Chairman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi is not even pretending to aim for impartiality and is not well versed in due process. He filed a lawsuit against Trump months before Pelosi chose him as her chairman. And he recently told rabid MSNBC conspiracy theorist Rachel Maddow that if you invoke your constitutional rights against being forced to testify, you are “part and parcel guilty” of crimes.
Pelosi picked Schiff for the committee despite — or perhaps because of — his years of fabulism and lies concerning the Russia collusion hoax. Schiff falsely claimed for years that he had secret evidence that Trump had colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 election, leaked fake Donald Trump, Jr. emails, fabricated the transcript of a 2019 phone call between former President Donald Trump and Ukraine’s president, and lied about his interactions with the so-called whistleblower behind House Democrats’ first impeachment of Trump.
Far from protecting members from the politicized committee, Pelosi also harmed a few vulnerable members by putting them on it. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Florida, was viewed as a “rising star” in the party, even being floated in May as a tough potential opponent for Republican Sen. Marco Rubio. But a few weeks ago, she announced she would not even try to win re-election for her House seat.
Rep. Elaine Luria of Virginia is also facing a tough re-election race, in a district the Republican governor-elect just won. Her seat is being targeted by Republicans. Being part of a uniparty probe with ethical problems can not be helping.
Pelosi’s fatal error, however, was blowing up her own committee by taking what she herself admitted was the “unprecedented” step of removing the Republican ranking member and another top member from it. Pelosi said that she would not allow Rep. Jim Banks, R-Indiana, a distinguished Afghanistan veteran and leader of the Republican Study Committee, from serving. She also banned Jordan, now ranking member of the Judiciary Committee.
Pelosi later claimed the members’ concerns with the integrity of the 2020 election were the reason. But that made no sense, since she appointed Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland, and he objected to Trump’s election in 2017. Pelosi herself objected to President George W. Bush’s election in 2004 and said there was “no question” that the 2016 election was “hijacked.”
The resolution establishing the committee requires the committee to follow House rules on the ranking member and minority party representation. But since Pelosi removed the ranking member, its subpoena and deposition activities are at best questionable, and at worst illicit.
Worse, the committee has been falsely claiming to witnesses to have ranking representation. Pelosi’s hand-selected “co-chair” is Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who is expected to lose her re-election bid in a few months. The Republican Party of Wyoming does not recognize her as a member, and she lost her Republican leadership position last year because of her vindictive obsession with fighting Trump, whose less interventionist foreign policy she regularly opposed during his time in office.
Known for being a primary pusher of the false “Russian bounties” claim, Cheney has falsely been presented as the ranking member of the committee. She is not. She was chosen even before the Republican-appointed members were removed by Pelosi.
After Pelosi removed the choices of the Republican conference, she added another hand-selected “Republican” to represent her Democratic conference. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, also announced he would decline to run for re-election, rather than face defeat from his voters. No Republican-appointed member serves on the committee.
Pelosi wanted to run the commission as a star chamber, and that’s precisely how it’s being run. It’s being used to persecute political opponents, violate due process, and obtain the private communications of Republican members, citizens, and journalists. It has been exposed for repeatedly fabricating evidence. And Pelosi herself has blocked the release of evidence implicating her office in mishandling security at the Capitol.
Pelosi is expected to step down from Congress following her lame-duck term and expected loss of the majority in November. Her handling of her J6 Committee shows she has lost her leadership skills and lacks the confidence necessary to run such a political operation.