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Many of Donald Trump’s political allies, including former advisor Steve Bannon, have described the U.S. House of Representatives select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack as a “show trial.” It is an interesting choice of words.
The committee’s investigative work isn’t even a trial. And Bannon should know this, given that he just lost a real trial, when an actual jury found him guilty of contempt for his failure to comply with a subpoena from the Jan. 6 committee. This is the same Steve Bannon who Trump preemptively pardoned in the face of charges that Bannon and others defrauded supporters of an effort to build a southern border wall. Two of Bannon’s former co-defendants eventually pleaded guilty.
Given this familiarity with the legal system, you’d think Bannon would be able to distinguish between an actual trial and a legislative committee conducting an investigation. But that hasn’t stopped him and others from trying to frame the committee’s work as illegitimate because it is largely (but not entirely) comprised of Democrats who have already been critical of Trump’s actions and inaction on Jan. 6, 2021.
This not only misrepresents the committee’s current work, but also distorts the recent history that led to its creation.
Despite this deflective talk about a “show trial” and the House committee being slanted toward Democrats, no one should forget that Republicans had a chance to support a more bipartisan panel — styled after the 9/11 Commission — to conduct this investigation. With only a few exceptions (including Maine Sen. Susan Collins), most Republicans rejected this option. And after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected a couple of Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy’s picks for the current committee, McCarthy pulled all his members. Pelosi said the two rejected members, Reps. Jim Jordan and Jim Banks, “made statements and took actions that just made it ridiculous to put them on such a committee seeking the truth.”
There are still two Republican members, however, with Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger breaking with their party leadership to serve on the committee.
It is awfully rich to hear some of the same people who helped derail the more bipartisan commission last year, and then refused to participate in the current committee when they didn’t get everything they wanted, attack its composition and work now.
It was McCarthy himself who floated the idea of a bipartisan commission as an alternative to Trump’s impeachment in January of 2021. He liked that commission idea, until it was close to coming to fruition, when he opposed the compromise commission bill crafted by his own negotiator.
“After he negotiated with the Democrats and got all of the terms he wanted, he pulled the rug out from under the Republicans who were supporting it and made sure that it was defeated in the Senate,” Cheney told Bret Baier on Fox News recently. “Once the outside, bipartisan commission was defeated, the only alternative left to us was this committee.”
“The notion now that somehow the committee is incapable of getting to the facts of what happened because Kevin McCarthy withdrew his nominees is nonsensical,” Cheney said before pointing out that most of the witnesses so far have been Republicans.
These witnesses have provided further detail about how Trump appealed to extreme right-wing groups before and on Jan. 6, how the former president rejected calls from his advisors to accept his election loss, and how he and members of his administration responded (or didn’t respond) when violence erupted at the U.S. Capitol.
The slate of Jan. 6 committee hearings in the House is not the process that we preferred for this fact finding effort. We wanted to see a 9/11-style commission. But the House committee is the process that America got, after other avenues were blocked or abandoned by Republican leadership. So when committee detractors talk about a “show trial,” people should recognize that they are the ones putting on a show.