Trump and Democrats are both losers so far in Jan. 6 hearings

Democrats have made some significant points against former President Trump during the House Select Committee’s hearings on the Jan. 6, 2021, riot in the Capitol. Yet the decision by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to disallow certain Republicans, chosen by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), to serve on that committee has weakened the committee’s credibility among many of the very voters who Democrats are attempting to influence with these hearings — independents and disenchanted Republicans. 

To my best knowledge, this type of arbitrary action by the Speaker was unprecedented. Certainly, when I was chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and Republicans controlled the House, there were a few very partisan Democrats on the committee who I would have preferred to do without. But it never entered my mind to ask then-House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to remove or reject them. 

Without strong minority voices on the select committee to challenge witnesses and presentations, these proceedings have come across as scripted and rehearsed, which indeed they are. Watching committee members reading their statements and questions from a teleprompter, without fear of objection or interruption, removes the spontaneity and the unexpected elements which make most congressional hearings credible and memorable. It also denies viewers the opportunity to see possible weaknesses in unchallenged statements, which are seldom as strong as they seem when subjected to intense questioning.

Republican House members also could have used these hearings to question why self-righteous Democrats such as Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) used unproven, meritless charges of collusion with Russian operatives to challenge Donald Trump’s lawful, legitimate election victory in 2016. While I am generally reluctant to rely on anecdotal evidence, I’ve spoken with a number of previous Trump supporters who stopped watching these hearings early on because they were so obviously choreographed.

Having said all of this, the select committee’s hearings have demonstrated Trump’s heavy-handedness and recklessness in pursuing unproven claims of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election, even after being told by his own attorney general, William Barr, and a battalion of elections lawyers, campaign advisers and even family members that he had lost the race. I would say that three other modern-day presidential candidates — Richard Nixon (R) in 1960, Al Gore (D) in 2000, and John Kerry (D) in 2004 — all had stronger reasons to challenge the results of their respective campaigns, but they respected the American tradition of maintaining faith in the electoral system.

Trump’s endless charges of a rigged election show his failure to respect this very pillar of democratic self-government. Contrary to the Democrats’ narrative, however, I don’t view the events from Election Night through Jan. 6 as a conspiracy to obstruct democracy. Instead, I see a flow of unstructured, not-thought-out, increasingly disjointed and desperate moves to deny reality.

If one person emerges heroic thus far, it is then-Vice President Mike Pence, who withstood immense, unending pressure from Trump to reverse the election and then literally risked his life on Jan. 6 rather than violate his oath of office. That is the Mike Pence I have known and respected over the years. 

To anyone who says Pence only did what he was supposed to do, I would reply that if more people in government and everyday life did what they were supposed to do when confronted by immense pressure or great enticement, we would be living in a Utopian world.

There are still more hearings ahead, and more damaging details may emerge. But as of right now, I think Democrats have forfeited their goal to score political gain and, more importantly, to serve the nation’s interest.

Peter King was the U.S. representative of New York’s 2nd and 3rd congressional districts for 28 years, including serving as chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security. Follow him on Twitter @RepPeteKing.

Tags 2020 election Adam Schiff Al Gore Donald Trump Donald Trump Jan 6 committee jan 6 hearings John Boehner John Kerry Kevin McCarthy Mike Pence Nancy Pelosi Peter King Politics of the United States Richard Nixon William Barr

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