While the House committee investigating the January 6, 2021 Capitol attack has built its public case that Donald J. Trump was the focus of a coup attempt, the panel has relied heavily on a seemingly unlikely stream of witnesses: Mr. . Trump’s own advisers, his fellow Republicans and even his own family.
Those closest to Mr Trump have been impeached, portrayed or shown, denouncing the former president’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen. And yet the struggle to thwart the will of the people continued unabated.
The powerful testimony of a parade of Republicans, in four tightly produced hearings, has revealed in searing and consistent detail how divided the party has become between the faction accepting the reality of the 2020 election and the many others still clinging to it. Mr Trump’s anti-democratic lies about a stolen election.
“If Republicans were looking at it, it’s really impossible to defend a position that President Trump won the election based on the evidence presented so far,” Mick Mulvaney, a former acting White House chief of staff, told IPS. Trump.
There are short video clips of the former president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, and relentless testimony from top White House attorney Eric Herschmann, who said he called another pro-Trump attorney “insane” for continuing to do so. pursuing conspiracies to stop President Biden’s inauguration even the day after the Capitol riots.
“We have a lot of theories,” Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of Mr. Trump’s lead attorneys, told a group of state lawmakers as he tried to prevent the results, according to testimony Tuesday from Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives Rusty Bowers. Delegates from Arizona. “We just don’t have the evidence.”
The president’s former attorney general, William P. Barr, had one word for the whirlwind, factless theories of fraud espoused by Mr. Trump in the aftermath of the election: “Bullshit.”
“I told him it was, it was crazy stuff,” Mr Barr said in his video filing of voting machine fraud allegations, “and they wasted their time on that, and it was doing the country a serious, serious disservice.”
But Mr. Mulvaney said the partisan nature of the Democrat-led procedure — the Republican leadership boycotted the panel after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected some of their appointees — meant fewer Republicans were likely to vote.
Democrats have full control of the Commission of Inquiry, although there are two anti-Trump Republicans, including Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney, the vice chair.
“The fact that there are Republican witnesses is very compelling,” said Mr. Mulvaney. “I don’t think Bill Barr is lying. I also know that I don’t see his entire testimony. I’m going to see the pieces of his testimony that the Democrats want me to see.”
On Tuesday, Mr. Bowers and two Republican officials from Georgia testified under oath, describing in harrowing terms the pressure campaign they endured to stand up to the president and the toll it took on them personally. More testimonies will come from within the top of Mr. Trump’s Justice Department on Thursday.
“The committee has been brilliant at that tactic of using senior officials, family members, those high in the campaign and the Republicans who supported it,” said Stephanie Grisham, the former White House press secretary, who nearly spent his time under Trump served. throughout, but has since become a critic. “That gives me hope that it will break through.”
A new Quinnipiac University poll on Wednesday suggested that such a big Republican breakthrough may be a long way off.
While nearly six in 10 Americans overall think Mr. Trump bears much or some responsibility for the events of January 6, the poll found, the opposite was true only among Republicans: 25 percent said he “doesn’t take much responsibility.” responsibility, and 44 percent said they don’t carry any at all.
“My hope is there’s room for a healthy wing of the Republican Party to take off again — the odds of that being extremely low,” said Sarah Longwell, a founder of the anti-Trump Republican Accountability Project.
Still, in two 2020 Trump voter focus groups that Ms. Longwell has held since the hearings began, she said she noted an unusual shift: None of those in attendance wanted Mr. Trump to participate in 2024.
“What was interesting to me: They loved Trump, but they want to move on,” said Ms. Longwell. “That’s exactly how they talked about January 6 in general.”
Ms. Cheney, Trump’s most prominent Republican critic in Congress, has been direct about her goal of driving a wedge between Mr. Trump and the grassroots of the party, if not between him and the party’s elected leaders. Washington.
“I say this to my Republican colleagues who defend the indefensible: There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain,” Ms Cheney said at the first hearing on June 9.
Ms. Cheney, who will face a Trump-backed primary challenger this summer, has positioned herself as a potential presidential candidate against Mr Trump, should he run for office. Next week, she is due to give a speech about the party’s future at the Reagan Library in California, the same venue that has seen a number of ambitious, potential Republican 2024 contenders appear in recent months.
Several Republican strategists predicted that the Jan. 6 committee hearings would have less of an impact on the 2022 midterms — when Mr. Trump himself isn’t on the ballot — than on the 2024 Republican presidential field.
On Capitol Hill, few were as blunt about Mr Trump’s threat as J. Michael Luttig, a former federal appeals court judge who is hardly a household name but has great standing in the conservative legal world.
“Donald Trump and his allies and supporters pose a clear and current threat to American democracy,” Mr Luttig said in testimony last week.
Mr. Luttig then made the same forward-looking jump to the next presidential election that many Democrats hope voters will make when they vote in this fall’s midterm elections: If elected, Trump allies would “try to nullify those 2024 elections in the same way.” they were trying to undo the 2020 elections,” he warned.
At times, the committee’s indictment was so aimed at Mr. Trump, and so full of praise for the few Republicans who stood up against him, that some Democrats personally fear the strategy could backfire — distinguishing Mr. Trump from a Republican party. which in fact remains very loyal to him.
“It’s absolutely infuriating,” said Jessica Post, the executive director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which is involved in state house racing. “There is a much broader story than told by the Jan. 6 commission about the anti-democratic forces in the states.”
She was especially frustrated with the lionization of Mr. Bowers only for enforcing the law, noting that Arizona had passed stricter voting laws under his auspices. “I just don’t think you get a gold star for doing the least,” Ms Post said.
In addition to mr. Bowers Tuesday sat Republican Secretary of State for Georgia Brad Raffensperger, who earned praise from the committee as a “public servant.” That same day, Georgian Democrats nominated a state representative, Bee Nguyen, to run against him, and on Wednesday, Ms. Nguyen endorsed Mr Raffensperger’s previous support for stricter voting restrictions.
The gap in the GOP can easily be overstated: Some whose words have been used like a baton against Mr. Trump still say they would vote for him in 2024, should he be the nominee, including Mr. Barr and Mr. Bowers, who told The Associated Press this week, “If he were against Biden, I would vote for him again.”
Another Republican whose bravery has been commended by the committee is former Vice President Mike Pence for resisting intense pressure from Mr. Trump to undo the election.
Greg Jacob, Mr. Pence’s counsel, testified that one of Mr. Trump’s advisers, John Eastman, had asked Mr. Pence not to certify electoral college results, even in the immediate aftermath of the Capitol riots. .
“That’s rubber for a room,” Mr. Pence told him, as Mr. Jacob remembered. In other words, Mr. Jacob said, “demonstrably mad.”
The commission’s hearing on Thursday will address Mr. Trump’s “attempt to corrupt the nation’s highest law enforcement agency, the Justice Department, to overturn its bid to reverse the election,” as Mississippi Representative Bennie Thompson said. the chairman of the Democratic committee, previewed it .
Three senior Trump administration alumni are lined up as the star witnesses: Jeffrey A. Rosen, the former acting attorney general; Richard Donoghue, the former Acting Deputy Attorney General; and Steven Engel, the former Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Legal Counsel.
The lawmaker leading the interrogation will be another Republican: Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.