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Washington Wednesday - Shortcomings of the January 6th hearings


WORLD Radio - Washington Wednesday - Shortcomings of the January 6th hearings

Republican leaders say the hearings are merely a partisan political show

A video image shows the U.S. Capitol grounds being breached as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds its first public hearing to reveal the findings of a year-long investigation, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 9, 2022. Mandel Ngan/Pool via Associated Press

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Wednesday the 22nd of June, 2022.

Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Today is Washington Wednesday. Once again, we turn our attention to Capitol Hill.

AUDIO: [gavel] The select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the United States Capitol will be in order.

The special select committee is back in front of the tv cameras this week. And Republican leaders say that is the whole point—the cameras, that it is merely a partisan political show.

We’ll have much more on those concerns here in just a bit.

REICHARD: But on Tuesday, the committee heard from multiple election officials who spoke with President Trump after the 2020 election, including Brad Raffensperger. He is the Republican secretary of state in Georgia.

He testified that he simply could not find evidence of the widespread voter fraud that Trump said would’ve turned Georgia his way.

RAFFENSPERGER: He just has bad data, and that’s what we tried to help him understand. For example, I mentioned that he had over a thousand people listed on there, people who had passed away, and he said they had voted here in Georgia. Our records show that there are only two.

And Arizona Republican House Speaker Rusty Bowers told members that Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani never provided evidence to back up claims of fraud.

BOWERS: My recollection, he said ‘We have lots of theories, we just don’t have the evidence.’ And I don’t know if that was a gaffe or maybe he didn’t think through what he said, but both myself and others in my group, the three in my group and my counsel, both remember that specifically.

EICHER: And on Tuesday, the panel highlighted what it claimed was a coordinated pressure campaign against state officials and election workers.

AUDIO: [Election worker protest]

Members played video footage of protests outside the homes of election workers, calling to mind current demonstrations at the homes of Supreme Court justices.

PROTEST: You’re a threat to democracy. You’re threat to free and honest elections.

REICHARD: The members said many local elected officials, mostly Republicans, came under fire in the wake of the election.

The chairman of the committee, Mississippi Congressman Bennie Thompson claimed that behind all of it—directly or indirectly—President Trump was pulling the levers.

Last week, the panel accused Trump of pushing his Vice President Mike Pence to reject the election results.

In pre-recorded testimony, several people, including the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump … said they overheard a heated phone call between Trump and Pence in the Oval Office on the day of the Capitol riot.

Former aide to President Trump Nicholas Luna testified…

LUNA: In my memory, I remember hearing the word wimp. Either he called him a wimp; I don’t remember if he said you are a wimp, you’ll be a wimp; wimp is the word I remember.

EICHER: But Republicans say both the panel’s investigation and the recent public hearings are a farce using taxpayer dollars to villainize Donald Trump, his allies, and those who voted for him.

Congressman Jim Jordan noted the highly partisan makeup of the panel, nine anti-Trump members handpicked by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

She made those selections after first rejecting the members chosen by Republican leadership. Jordan said the hearings have lacked adversarial cross-examination of witnesses or—in his view—any of the hallmarks of serious proceedings.

JORDAN: And it is just a production, selectively pulling out information that we get no chance to see and presenting that to the American people in a completely partisan fashion …

REICHARD: House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik said Democrats are clearly putting on a show.

STEFANIK: It truly is a political circus. Look no further than the fact that they ran it during primetime hours. A typical serious congressional hearing happens during the day, typically starting at 10 a.m. In addition, they hired a producer, the former president of ABC News.

And House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy says Democrats are in for a rough midterm election and are trying to change the subject.

MCCARTHY: It’s really just something that goes after their political opponents. What we really should be going after is a rise in inflation, the gas price, crime, and secure our borders.

Well joining us now to discuss is our own WORLD Radio news director Kent Covington. And Kent, we thought it would be good to talk with you today, since you’re the one closest to the reporting on all of this.

EICHER: Right, so let’s talk about the concerns of Republican leaders since that’s something we haven’t discussed very much up to this point.

What do you say, Kent, about Republicans who complain about the unfairness of the process?

KENT COVINGTON, NEWS DIRECTOR: Yeah, let me start by referring to last week’s Washington Wednesday and the analyst who was complimentary of the panel’s work.

I remember he did also note that there is going to be an asterisk next to these hearings, next to this panel, because of the fact that it is, again, nine members handpicked by Speaker Pelosi—again, who rejected the slate of members the Republicans chose. That went against the norms of the House.

Important to state the obvious here: The percentage of things politicized in Washington is 100. And when you have a panel controlled entirely by one side. There are a couple of Republicans on the panel, but they are ardent Trump critics. When you have a committee entirely controlled from one perspective and almost entirely from one party, you are going to get something that is, by definition, politicized only in one direction.

And I think it’s true that if the focus of the panel were on how to prevent this type of event from happening again, which is to say, how do we secure the capitol and other high-level government facilities while, at the same time, protecting the rights of Americans to peacefully assemble and protest? Then these hearings would be entirely uncontroversial. Well, less controversial.

But this is essentially a trial in the court of public opinion. And there is no defense. There is only prosecution.

And the goal of the prosecution in this case clearly is to convince Americans that Donald Trump’s election claims directly led to the Capitol riot and that many of Trump’s allies were complicit.

That doesn’t mean all of the evidence presented is invalid. People can listen and make up their own minds. But yes, it is a one-sided trial in the court of public opinion.

REICHARD: Well, if that is the intent, what effect is it having? Are members succeeding in swaying public opinion?

COVINGTON: It’s hard to say right now, but the polling I’ve seen up to this point suggests the impact is somewhat minimal.

ABC and the Washington Post conducted a poll just after the committee’s first few public hearings. And they found that just over half of respondents say the investigation will not affect their voting choices this November.

About 30 percent said the hearings have made them more likely to support Democrats, while just under 20 percent said they’re now leaning more strongly toward Republicans.

An earlier poll also found that the hearings haven’t moved the needle much. Its hard to put too much stock in a couple of polls, especially with four-and-a-half months left until the next election.

EICHER: What about the precedent of the majority party rejecting a slate of members from the minority, especially in such a controversial hearing? Isn’t that just going to lead to Republicans doing the same thing to Democrats when they get power and are feeling justified about it?

COVINGTON: Probably, yeah. That’s how these things tend to work in Washington. When Democrats used the nuclear option to get rid of the Senate filibuster on judicial nominations, Republicans a short time later felt justified in doing the same thing for Supreme Court nominations.

So whatever the Democrats do right now, I think they can probably expect to have it done unto them when the tables have turned.

And we seem to be in an age right now in Washington when a lot of precedents are going by the wayside, for better or for worse.

EICHER: Kent, has anything you’ve heard so far in these public hearings that has surprised you?

COVINGTON: I wouldn’t say anything has surprised me. The members did present some video footage that I think anyone listening right now would find shocking, a group of people chanting “hang Mike Pence,” assault of police officers. Clearly some things took place on Jan. 6th that we hope we never see again.

It’s important to note, however, that the footage being shown during these hearings is not an accurate broad brush of Trump supporters. Some on the left would like to suggest that it is, but that’s not accurate.

The vast majority of the people who assembled near the Capitol were peaceful demonstrators. It was a relatively small subset of that crowd that breached the Capitol or committed acts of violence.

I will say that, again, this trial, basically, is not balanced, and it’s not fair. However, that does not mean that all of the evidence presented is illegitimate or untrue.

And it’s important to recognize that the elected officials are fallen men, like each and every one of us. And I think it’s important as believers to check our instincts to be protective of politicians whose policies we favor. We can try to be fair-minded, even if politicians won’t be.

REICHARD: Well, to be fair, Trump supporters aren’t the only ones who’ve complained recently about election integrity. When Trump won in 2016, Democrats contested that. When President George W. Bush won his first election, that went all the way to the Supreme Court. This is not a new issue and I wonder whether legitimate complaints about clean elections will simply go unheard and most importantly, rebuild much-needed trust in the legitimacy of elections.

COVINGTON: Yeah, I think that’s the larger conversation that still has to be had.

President Biden was recently asked about whether he would be confident in the results of this year’s midterm elections in states where Republicans have passed new election laws and he was hesitant to answer.

And years before any of these new laws were in place, in my home state of Georgia, Democrat Stacy Abrams claimed that the gubernatorial election was stolen from her due to voter suppression. She is running again and still hasn’t backed off of those claims to my knowledge.

So both sides have voiced plenty of concerns in recent years about their votes and the legitimacy of elections.

King’s College Professor David C. Innes wrote a piece for WORLD Opinions recently. I’ll paraphrase him here. He said…

America needs a non-partisan National Commission on Election Integrity to compile a trustworthy report on contested voting issues like paper and computerized voting, early voting, mail-in ballots, ballot harvesting, ballot-counting, and more. He said our system depends upon public confidence in elections.

And it’s hard to argue that point.

REICHARD: One can hope. Kent Covington is director of WORLD Radio news. Thanks, Kent!

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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