Democrats plow ahead with Jan. 6 probe, eyeing new GOP reinforcements
House Democrats are plowing ahead with their investigation into the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, brushing off the boycott from GOP leaders and weighing the addition of other Republicans to help negate criticism that the panel will be overly partisan.
The eight members of the select committee examining the siege huddled for more than an hour Thursday in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) office — a strategizing session ahead of the panel’s first hearing next week — as they consider whether to boost their GOP roster beyond Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.).
That topic wasn’t mentioned during the meeting, several participants said. But the select committee’s chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), confirmed that GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) could be invited to serve on the panel. Kinzinger is a centrist who, like Cheney, voted to impeach former President Trump for his role in inciting the insurrection and has been critical of GOP leaders for advancing Trump’s lies about the results of last year’s presidential election.
Thompson said it would “absolutely” benefit the committee to add members after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) decision Wednesday to boycott the process.
“We have positions for 13 people, and I hope we can ultimately get all of them,” he said.
Thompson did not make specific endorsements — “I’m just the mere chairman of the committee,” he quipped — but gave a glowing review of Kinzinger’s character.
“He’s a fine person, level-headed, and wants to get to the facts,” Thompson said.
Pelosi, for her part, said a number of Republicans have expressed interest in joining the panel. She also declined to name names, but when asked if she thought Kinzinger would be a good addition, Pelosi said: “Everybody else does.”
No decision has been made yet, and Kinzinger’s office didn’t immediately return a request for comment on Thursday.
Kinzinger was the only other Republican aside from Cheney to vote in favor of legislation to establish the select committee last month. And even some of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump are making clear they have no interest in serving on the select committee.
“We’re not going to trust a bunch of politicians who are trying to get reelected or elected into leadership positions,” said Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.).
Leaders of the committee, meanwhile, are busy hiring staff, and Thompson said some aides will likely be Republicans. Cheney hinted at one possible GOP hire. She expressed support for former Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Va.), who lost his GOP primary last year and has also been critical of his party’s spread of false claims, to serve as an adviser to the panel.
“I think that Denver has a really interesting and important skill set that would be a tremendous benefit,” Cheney said.
McCarthy, meanwhile, blasted the panel as a partisan “sham” after announcing the day before that he was yanking all five of his GOP picks for the panel in response to Pelosi refusing to allow two of them to be appointed.
“From what the Speaker has done, that puts a great deal of doubt in it,” McCarthy said Thursday of the select committee.
Pelosi maintained that it would have been “ridiculous” to allow two of McCarthy’s picks, Reps. Jim Jordan (Ohio) and Jim Banks (Ind.), to serve on the panel given their particularly close alliances with Trump and string of statements obfuscating the former president’s role on Jan. 6.
She pointed to Banks issuing a statement earlier this week vowing to investigate the Biden administration’s role in Jan. 6 — even though Trump was still in office that day — while making no mention whatsoever of the former president. Banks also arranged a recent trip with Trump to the southern border, where GOP lawmakers were accompanied by a conservative activist who had stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.
“I think that, just to take this to an end, these people are going to act up, cause a problem. And people said to me, ‘Put them on and then when they act up, you can take them off.’ I said, ‘Why should we waste time on something as predictable?’ ” Pelosi said.
Some Republicans have lashed out at Cheney — who was booted from GOP leadership in May for refusing to stay quiet about her criticisms of Trump — for further demonstrating party disloyalty by accepting a committee slot from Pelosi.
Republicans such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), a top Trump ally, even suggested Wednesday that Cheney should join the Democratic Party altogether for defending Pelosi’s decision to reject some of McCarthy’s appointees.
McCarthy didn’t rule out the possibility of the GOP conference stripping Cheney of her one committee assignment, a seat on House Armed Services, that was allotted by the party.
“I think it’s a conference decision, and [the] conference will look at it,” McCarthy said.
Tuesday’s inaugural hearing will feature emotional testimony from Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police officers who defended the Capitol on Jan. 6 from the mob of Trump’s supporters attempting to stop Congress from ratifying the 2020 election results.
“It’s going to be an opportunity for the country to hear from some of the very brave people who defended the Capitol on that day, to hear their experiences directly, to put some facts on the table, in particular, to counter some of the attempts of at whitewash[ing] that have been going on and to help the American people hear from the perspective of some of the people who put their lives on the line to defend and fight for all of us,” Cheney said after exiting Thursday’s meeting in Pelosi’s office.
The committee has not yet decided the topic or timing of the next hearing, Thompson said.