House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday rejected two of the five Republican choices for a select committee that is set to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, citing concerns about preserving the quality of the probe and asking that the GOP choose two replacements.
“With respect for the integrity of the investigation, with an insistence on the truth and with concern about statements made and actions taken by these Members, I must reject the recommendations of Representatives [Jim] Banks and [Jim] Jordan to the Select Committee,” Pelosi said in a statement.
Because Republicans rejected the chance to form a bipartisan commission that would have been evenly split between five Democrats and five Republicans, Pelosi’s next option was to create a select committee to investigate the riot. Unlike the bipartisan commission, which would have given Republicans the opportunity to appoint whoever they wanted from outside Congress or any other branch of government, the select committee was set up by Pelosi and the rules for it were determined by her office as well.
Pelosi, a California Democrat, reserved veto power over the five members appointed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. And she used that power to boot Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., from the committee.
Pelosi said Wednesday she was prepared to appoint McCarthy’s three other choices: Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., and Rep. Troy Nehls, R-Texas. But McCarthy indicated he would withdraw all his choices and launch his own investigation.
“Unless Speaker Pelosi reverses course and seats all five Republican nominees, Republicans will not be party to their sham process and will instead pursue our own investigation of the facts,” McCarthy said in a statement.
Pelosi’s eight appointments to the panel included one Republican, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming. If McCarthy does not fill the five other seats set aside for Republicans, Pelosi could fill them herself.
For her part, Cheney said Wednesday that she agreed with Pelosi’s decision to block Banks and Jordan from joining the committee, and called McCarthy’s rhetoric “disgraceful.”
Pelosi’s reference to an “insistence on the truth” in her statement appeared to refer to the fact that both Banks and Jordan voted in favor of overturning the 2020 election only hours after a mob incited by then-President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol and tried to prevent Congress from certifying the result.
The vote to overturn the result stemmed from Trump’s insistence that he had somehow won the 2020 election — an assertion with no basis in fact. This was a fantasy that spurred thousands of Trump supporters into committing their Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol.
Nehls, whom Pelosi said she would accept, also voted to overturn the results. But Pelosi, along with two senior Democrats on the 13-member select committee, said she felt Jordan and Banks would attempt to turn the proceedings into a circus and to bog the committee down with distractions, rather than helping to conduct a serious fact-finding inquiry. Jordan played that role during Trump’s first impeachment trial, using his time during hearings to make bombastic speeches rather than asking questions of witnesses.
“This is about the integrity of the investigation, period. It has been more than six months since the attack, we owe it to our democracy to stay the course and not be distracted by side shows,” Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., the select committee chair, said in a statement.
Banks, meanwhile, had already said the investigation was intended not to find facts but “solely to malign conservatives and to justify the left’s authoritarian agenda.” The Indiana Republican has emerged as an ambitious and policy-minded voice in this Congress, but one who is willing to go along with Trump’s continuing assault on truth. In addition, he has met twice with Trump in the last few weeks.
Thompson and another veteran lawmaker on the panel, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., both felt strongly that Pelosi should reject Banks and Jordan, according to Politico. A Lofgren spokesperson declined to comment when contacted by Yahoo News.
Republicans took Pelosi’s decision as an opportunity to further criticize a panel they have already been attempting to discredit. McCarthy said the investigation had “lost all legitimacy and credibility.” Banks said the move proved his point: “We said all along this was a purely partisan exercise.”
Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., the third-ranking Republican in the House, made the claim that Pelosi was “destroying this country” and was afraid of the GOP. Stefanik even attempted to blame the speaker for the Jan. 6 insurrection, saying her “gross mismanagement of the U.S. Capitol led to the tragic events of that day.”
Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill responded on Twitter to Stefanik: “The Speaker didn't try to assassinate herself and she doesn't manage the U.S. Capitol any more than McConnell does. Think of how you are going to look in the history books with this delusional statement.”
The fact that Trump — who held a rally a short distance from the Capitol where he again lied about winning the election and encouraged his supporters to “fight like hell” immediately before the riot — was the driving force behind the Jan. 6 insurrection is not in serious dispute. The investigation is intended to discover details not yet known, such as what exactly Trump was doing, what he was saying to others as the riot unfolded and what his role in the delayed law enforcement response might have been.
“We need a comprehensive investigation as to who organized this attack, who paid for it, how they nearly succeeded in overthrowing a presidential election, why they did it and how we must organize ourselves to prevent anything like it from ever happening again,” Pelosi said.
The committee will hold its first hearing next Tuesday, and is expected to continue its work well into 2022.
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