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Editorial: Kevin McCarthy’s picks are a bad omen for the Capitol riot investigation

Men stand around.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) was nominated by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to serve on a committee to investigate the events of Jan. 6.
(Shawn Thew / EPA/Shutterstock)

It’s possible that a House select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol will not be a partisan circus. But it’s hard to be hopeful after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy proposed five Republicans to serve on the panel.

The roster includes the shrill, smirking partisan Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana, who will be the ranking Republican on the panel. Recycling a tired talking point, Banks huffed: “If Democrats were serious about investigating political violence, this committee would be studying not only the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol but also the hundreds of violent political riots last summer when many more innocent Americans and law enforcement officers were attacked.”

Of the five McCarthy nominees, three — Jordan, Banks and Rep. Troy Nehls of Texas — voted to object to results of the 2020 presidential election. The bad-faith campaign to challenge Joe Biden’s victory in some states was inseparable from the big lie about a stolen election that motivated crazed Trump supporters to storm the Capitol.

That McCarthy chose such figures hardly comes as a surprise. After a lucid and brief interval in which he admitted that then-President Trump bore responsibility for the riot, McCarthy reverted to the apparently more congenial role of Trump toady. Last week the Bakersfield Republican paid a respectful call on the former president — who still refuses to accept his loss — at Trump’s Bedminster, N.J., golf club to talk about future elections.

We’d like to think at least some of the Republicans proposed by McCarthy — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) must confirm their selection — would approach the select committee with an open mind and a determination to establish the facts of what happened on, before and immediately after Jan. 6. But even if some of them rise to the occasion, the atmosphere is likely to be depressingly partisan.

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Of course, Republicans who now cry partisanship had their chance to vote for an investigation by an independent commission, which would have been the ideal vehicle for this investigation. That idea died at the hands of Republicans in the Senate. But rather than simply revel in the Republicans’ hypocrisy, Democrats — and Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who was named to the panel by Pelosi — should give them the opportunity to act like independent investigators rather than Trump loyalists.

Democrats should also strive to rebut the likely Republican argument that the committee’s purpose is to tarnish Trump. The fact is that Trump is already tarnished by impeachment and the abundant evidence that he placed his own ego above the interests of this country, with deadly consequences.

By all means. the committee should use its powers to fill in any gaps about Trump’s actions and omissions. But the panel also should meticulously examine other questions, including why Capitol Police seemed to be unprepared for the assault. The best strategy for Democrats is to take the commission seriously. If McCarthy’s appointees want to preen for the former president’s supporters, let them.


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