Senate GOP shrugs off latest Trump revelation
The Jan. 6 select committee filing that set off a siren in the political world landed with a thud among Senate Republicans on Thursday.
The House panel said it had “a good-faith basis for concluding” former President Trump and members of his campaign “engaged in a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States,” and that Trump tried to obstruct Congress’s formal counting of the Electoral College vote.
The filing marked a bombshell moment for the committee, offering a preview into the panel’s thinking about the former president months into its investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack, when a mob of his supporters breached the Capitol.
But Senate Republicans, many of whom have been skeptical of the House panel, shrugged off the revelation —or said they missed it altogether.
“I’m aware of the reporting on it. I haven’t seen the filing or anything around it, and so I just really don’t have anything for you on that,” said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican.
Asked about the filing, Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), who Trump helped recruit for his 2018 Senate bid, said he “didn’t see that” before pivoting to President Biden.
“The current president does so many … things every day I can hardly worry about the last one,” he said, as he left the Capitol for the week.
The filing from the House select committee is tied to the panel’s legal battle to force John Eastman, the lawyer charged with drafting Trump’s strategy for the Jan. 6 certification, to turn over documents. Eastman had filed a lawsuit to try to block the committee’s subpoena, arguing that it was privileged in part because of his legal work for Trump.
The committee’s filings aren’t formal charges, and no former U.S. president has been charged with a crime. But the House panel does plan to release a report of its findings, which could be formally referred to the Justice Department for potential prosecution.
It’s hardly the first time Trump-focused drama has ricocheted back around to Senate Republicans, many of whom are eager to keep the focus on Biden, and not the former president, heading into the November election when they are optimistic about their chances of winning back the majority.
Trump faced pushback from some senators earlier this week over his warm rhetoric toward Russian President Vladimir Putin. Senate Republicans broke with the Republican National Committee (RNC) resolution last month censuring GOP Reps. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) and referring to Jan. 6 as “legitimate political discourse.”
And they’ve seen a steady churn of legal drama that they’ve tried to parse to figure out what it could mean for Trump and their party when he’s still widely considered to be the front-runner for the 2024 nomination.
But Senate Republicans have been wary for months of the House Jan. 6 committee. Six GOP senators voted last year in support of a failed effort to start an independent commission to probe the Jan. 6 attack. But most Republicans warned that a probe could be used against the party during the 2022 election by keeping Jan. 6, 2021 and Trump in a spotlight.
Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) said on Thursday that he had only heard about the court filing from another reporter.
“I just heard about it now,” Braun said. “I think we’ll have that kind of thing be highlighted here until the time Trump announces whether he’s going to run or not. …To be honest I don’t pay much attention to that.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who has remained close to Trump, also cast doubt on any Justice Department case that could stem from a potential referral from the committee. If the panel makes a referral to the Justice Department, it would then have to determine whether to move forward.
“I don’t see anything coming out of this committee not tainted by politics,” Graham said.