Democrats will live to regret House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s imperious rejection of two zealously pro-Trump Republican picks to serve on the select committee investigating the January 6 Capitol riot.
Pelosi is saving Republicans from themselves. As I’ve argued, it is not in the GOP’s interest to be perceived to be defending President Trump’s actions in connection with the riot. That is exactly the position in which Republicans were prepared to put themselves, though, because Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy continues to curry favor with Trump.
After high-tailing it to Bedminster, N.J., for consultations at the former president’s summer digs, McCarthy announced the selection of Representatives Jim Jordan (Ohio) and Jim Banks (Indiana) to fill two of his five seats on the committee — with the other three GOP seats given to Rodney Davis (Illinois), Kelly Armstrong (North Dakota), and Troy Nehls (Texas). Although Nehls also supported Trump’s effort to reverse the election result — which Democrats blame for what they insist was an “insurrection” — Pelosi presumed only to forbid participation by the more high-profile Jordan and Banks.
This dictatorial move justifies McCarthy’s decision to pull all his selections from the committee in response. That spares the GOP the damage defending Trump would entail, while reinforcing the perception that the committee is a partisan sham rather than a good-faith investigation.
Contrary to Pelosi’s smug suggestion, the appointment of Wyoming Republican Liz Cheney does not camouflage the Democrats’ partisanship. Cheney was Pelosi’s choice, not the GOP’s, and she was picked precisely because she is the nation’s most notable Republican Trump detractor. Cheney makes compelling arguments for her position. (For what it’s worth, I agree with her that, for their own good, Republicans must move on from Trump.) But even if she were not outnumbered seven-to-one on the committee by partisan Democrats, Cheney’s acceptance of Pelosi’s invitation to join the committee, over vehement Republican objections, would not assuage Republican fears that the entire exercise is designed to promote Democratic political narratives. The issue is not the congresswoman’s good faith; it is public perception.
Moreover, the speaker — in line with the Democrats’ habit of being roused by their radical base into destructive precedents that will eventually blow up on them — has adopted what she admits is the “unprecedented” position that the majority party may dictate which minority party members are fit to serve on important committees. You can already hear the media-Democrat complex’s caterwauling, sure to follow when the next Republican speaker starts exploiting this new “Pelosi Rule.”
The speaker’s move is audacious. Jordan and Banks are prominent House Republicans, the ranking members, respectively, of the Judiciary and Armed Services Committees. Banks also chairs the Republican Study Committee. As ardent Trump backers, they were also all-in on the unconstitutional gambit to reject state-certified electoral votes and prevent Congress, at the January 6 session, from counting the votes and acknowledging Joe Biden’s victory.
Does this create a conflict of interest? That concept is nigh-inapposite in the House, an inherently political body whose members rarely even pretend to be impartial. Pelosi, to cite a couple of notorious examples, sees no problem in assigning of Representative Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) to the Foreign Affairs Committee and Representative Eric Swalwell (D., Calif.) to the Intelligence Committee, notwithstanding Omar’s history of anti-Semitic and anti-American rhetoric and Swalwell’s ensnarement in a Chinese-spying scandal. The implication that Jordan and Banks are somehow too conflicted to be objective fact-finders is especially rich in this instance, given that Pelosi named some of her most strident anti-Trump partisans, including Congressmen Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) and Jamie Raskin (D., Md.), to sit on the January 6 committee.
Schiff, of course, was one of the most culpable demagogues in the Trump–Russia collusion saga. Once we finally got the long-delayed publication of transcripts from the closed-door Intelligence Committee hearings he chaired, they confirmed that he had long known there was no evidence of Trump–Russia collusion in disseminating the hacked DNC emails. Indeed, Schiff had concealed for two years testimony that the cybersecurity firm the DNC retained to examine its servers (which the DNC withheld from the FBI) could not even prove that Russia was responsible for the hacking. Yet Schiff aggressively peddled the collusion fable. When that went poof with the dud that was the Mueller report, Schiff then served as chief prosecutor in the Democrats’ next partisan excess, the impeachment of Trump over the Ukraine kerfuffle.
Raskin has a history of doing the same thing Jordan and Banks are being rebuked over. In January 2017, he urged that state-certified electoral votes not be counted in favor of the candidate who’d clearly won the state (Donald Trump’s Florida victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton). Raskin, a former law professor, knew his challenge was frivolous, not least because federal law requires such an objection to be joined by a senator. Raskin’s objection was too baseless to draw support from even a single one of the Senate’s many anti-Trump Democrats.
Raskin was also the chief prosecutor in the second Trump impeachment. As such, he has yet to explain why he included in his brief, filed on the eve of the Senate impeachment trial, the allegation that Trump supporters had killed Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick by “striking him in the head with a fire extinguisher” (see brief, p.28). As a competent, non-partisan investigator would have known, Sicknick had died weeks earlier from natural causes — two strokes that occurred after the riot. Though he, like many other police, had been bear-sprayed in the riot, there was no indication that Sicknick had been hit over the head, and prosecutors have not even alleged, much less proved, that the rioters caused his death.
It is simply not credible to posit that Jordan and Banks cannot be trusted as legitimate fact-finders but Schiff, Raskin, and other Democrats can. The salient issues for the committee’s examination include, for example, the police agencies’ lack of preparedness on January 6, and the Democrats’ selective outrage over politically motivated violence. There is no reason to believe Jordan and Banks would be less suitable than Schiff and Raskin to weigh these matters.
It was foolish of Minority Leader McCarthy to pick Representatives Jordan and Banks to serve on the January 6 committee. Fortunately for the GOP, Speaker Pelosi is being even more foolish. She has given Republicans ample justification to boycott a process in which, under pressure from former President Trump, they were poised to damage themselves with voters by defending the indefensible.
National Review is an American conservative editorial magazine, focusing on news and commentary pieces on political, social, and cultural affairs.