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Happy Friday morning.
If you’re reading this newsletter, the likelihood is that you watched the Jan. 6 select committee hearing last night.
What we’re going to do is try to put in context just how damaging the hearing was to Republicans and former President Donald Trump. And what future proceedings by the select committee could mean for both.
Will these hearings have an impact on the 2022 or 2024 elections? We can’t say right now. But it was plain to anyone watching that the select committee is far from a sham, as Trump and GOP leaders have asserted for months. Its presentation was delivered extraordinarily effectively. Trump and his Republican allies were eviscerated by the testimony and statements from his own former aides and administration officials. Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the chair and vice chair of the panel, orchestrated a brutal takedown. Cheney’s performance was particularly poignant given how Republicans treated her over the last two years.
There’s also a clear plan for this series of hearings during the rest of June. It’s going to be a long few weeks for the House Republican leadership, which has stood unflinchingly behind Trump.
Yet the dissonance in the American political system is as loud as it’s ever been, as well. Republicans are charging toward the House majority even as they stand by a former president exposed as supporting a violent attack on American democracy.
It’s also fair to say that after last night’s hearing, Republicans’ complaints about the structure of the select committee look frivolous, especially when weighed against the seriousness of what occurred that long, bloody day.
Sure, it was long winded at times – the opening statements from Thompson and Cheney lasted a combined 50 minutes.
Yet their message was forceful and persuasive, and one the American public could easily understand. Jan. 6 was all about power. Trump had it, and he and those around him didn’t want to give it up under any circumstances.
“Any legal jargon you hear about ‘seditious conspiracy’, ‘obstruction of an official proceeding’, ‘conspiracy to defraud the United States’ boils down to this: January 6th was the culmination of an attempted coup.”
Cheney declared “President Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame.”
“As you hear this, all Americans should keep in mind this fact: On the morning of Jan. 6, President Donald Trump’s intention was to remain president of the United States despite the lawful outcome of the 2020 election and in violation of his constitutional obligation to relinquish power.”
The committee made more news than we can easily categorize here, but here’s one critical issue to consider. Cheney disclosed that Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), who was involved in efforts to install a Trump ally at the Justice Department in order to help overturn the election, “contacted the White House in the weeks after Jan. 6 to seek a presidential pardon.” Perry has refused to comply with a subpoena from the select committee. His office denied Cheney’s claim Thursday night.
Cheney added that “multiple Republican congressmen also sought presidential pardons” for their roles in trying to overturn the election. We reported in early April that the select committee has testimony that Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) asked for a presidential pardon.
There was more. Just consider some of the other damning evidence the committee presented, much of it from first-hand witnesses on video and under oath:
Former Attorney General Bill Barr – who resigned two weeks before the insurrection – told the committee that he warned Trump that his claims the election was stolen was “bullshit.” More from Barr to the select committee:
“We can’t live in a world where the incumbent administration stays in power based on its view, unsupported by specific evidence, that there was fraud in the election.”
Alex Cannon, a Trump campaign lawyer, testified that he told former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows there was no evidence of fraud. Meadows responded, according to Cannon’s recollection, “So there’s no there there?” In other words, Meadows was told there was no election fraud by someone who was paid by Trump to find it. Having covered Meadows for many years, we can tell you that the “no there there” construct was one he used frequently.
Ivanka Trump told committee investigators that when Barr said the election wasn’t stolen, she believed it:
“I respect Attorney General Barr, so I accepted what he was saying.”
Cheney quoted a witness claiming that Trump said Vice President Mike Pence deserved to be hung.
“You will hear that President Trump was yelling and ‘really angry’ at advisers who told him he needed to be doing something more. And aware of the rioters chants to hang Mike Pence, the president responded with this sentiment, ‘maybe our supporters have the right idea.’ Mike Pence ‘deserves it.’”
Cheney noted that Trump didn’t contact any military officials or congressional leadership to offer assistance in defending the Capitol during the insurrection, a breach of his duties as president.
The select committee disclosed that Pat Cipollone, the former White House counsel, repeatedly threatened to resign. Jared Kushner chalked it up to “whining.”
Gen. Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Meadows called him to try to “kill the narrative” that Pence was making decisions. Milley said Pence called him, urging to put down the riot. Milley said Meadows told him that they needed to establish that Trump was still in charge.
Thompson told CNN’s Jake Tapper after the hearing that the committee has evidence that the extremist groups involved in the insurrection – the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers – had contact with Trump’s orbit.
Former U.S. Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards recounted a harrowing scene outside the Capitol. She compared it to a battle zone. Her testimony was riveting at times:
“What I saw was just a war scene. It was something like I’d seen out of the movies. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There were officers on the ground. They were bleeding. They were throwing up. I saw friends with blood all over their faces. I was slipping in people’s blood.
“I was catching people as they fell. It was carnage. It was chaos. I can’t even describe what I saw. I never in my wildest dreams did I think that as a police officer – as a law enforcement officer – I would find myself in the middle of a battle. I’m trained to detain a couple of subjects and handle a crowd, but I’m not combat trained. And that day, it was just hours of hand-to-hand combat. Hours of dealing with things that were way beyond any law enforcement officer has ever trained for. I just remember that moment of stepping behind the line and just seeing the absolute war zone that the West Front had become.”
And remember – this was just the first hearing.
Need some context for how brutal of an evening it was for Republicans and Trump? Here’s Peter Baker on A1 of the NYT:
In the entire 246-year history of the United States, there was surely never a more damning indictment presented against an American president than outlined on Thursday night in a cavernous congressional hearing room where the future of democracy felt on the line.
Today is Friday and the House is out of session. For that, the GOP leadership is lucky. With all evidence the select committee disclosed last night, there are dozens of questions to be answered by senior Republicans. Most will have to wait until next week.
One of the most interesting dynamics will be the split between the House and Senate GOP leadership. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he had no plans to watch last night’s session. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested he’d be interested to see what the committee turned up.
We’re also wondering whether Republicans stick with their message that the hearings don’t matter because Biden is unpopular, inflation is soaring and gas prices are high. This is, of course, all true. Biden is unpopular. Gas is $5 per gallon. The newest inflation numbers come out at 8:30 a.m. today, and they’re likely to be pretty bad.
But it’s also true that Trump supporters – at the urging of the former president – stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 to try to overturn the results of the 2020 election. And there’s still a lot we don’t know about what went on and why.
By the way: It’s worth restating that it was Republicans’ choice to have a committee like this. They voted against a bipartisan commission on which Republicans would have had equal say. Furthermore, McCarthy consciously decided to not cooperate when Pelosi disallowed Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Jim Banks (R-Ind.) from serving on the panel. These were choices the GOP made. As we’ve argued before, this was probably a big error.
Here’s something to think about: Will anything that comes out in this series of hearings force corporations to reexamine donations to Republicans? Corporations are going to be eager to pony up to Republicans as they near the majority, but may be hesitant given what’s being unearthed here.
Also: The pressure on Attorney General Merrick Garland and top DOJ officials to take action against Trump or some of his Republican allies will only increase as these hearings go on.
Here’s Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), one of at least 20 House Democrats who sat in the crowd to watch the hearing:
“I think the Justice Department should pursue this. This should be the number one priority. We almost lost our democracy.
“I know there’s a lot going on at the Department of Justice that I don’t know. So I’m hopeful that maybe there’s many things happening to build a case that none of us know about.”
We are also eager to see if the select committee has evidence about the House GOP leadership’s actions in the wake of the insurrection. Cheney and McCarthy despise one another, and Cheney isn’t likely to miss an opportunity to surface any damaging evidence on her fellow Republican.
What to expect going forward
During the next few weeks, the committee will explore in detail what it described as Trump’s “seven-part plan to overturn the 2020 election and prevent the transition of presidential power.”
The select committee will focus on each of these specific topics during its seven hearings.
President Trump engaged in a massive effort to spread false and fraudulent information to the American public claiming the 2020 election was stolen from him.
President Trump corruptly planned to replace the Acting Attorney General, so that the Department of Justice would support his fake election claims.
President Trump corruptly pressured Vice President Pence to refuse to count certified electoral votes in violation of the U.S. Constitution and the law.
President Trump corruptly pressured state election officials and state legislators to change election results.
President Trump’s legal team and other Trump associates instructed Republicans in multiple states to create false electoral slates and transmit those slates to Congress and the National Archives.
President Trump summoned and assembled a violent mob in Washington and directed them to march on the U.S. Capitol.
As the violence was underway, President Trump ignored multiple pleas for assistance and failed to take immediate action to stop the violence and instruct his supporters to leave the Capitol.
The next select committee hearing is on Monday. That’s followed by two more on Wednesday and Thursday.
NYT: “5 Takeaways From the First Jan. 6 Hearing,” by Jonathan Weisman
WaPo: “Jan. 6 committee blames Trump for ‘carnage’ at U.S. Capitol,” by Rosalind S. Helderman and Jacqueline Alemany
CNN: “January 6 committee chairman says witnesses have described conversations between extremists and Trump’s orbit,” by Paul LeBlanc, Jeremy Herb and Katelyn Polantz
Politico: “Hutchinson, former Meadows aide, replaces lawyer on cusp of Jan. 6 hearings,” by Betsy Woodruff Swan … “Jan. 6 panel lets Trump allies narrate the case against him,” by Kyle Cheney and Jordain Carney
– Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan
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Rep. Jim McGovern on broadening food access
Last night, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) joined us at Hawk ‘N’ Dove to discuss broadening food access through policy. We’re live streaming the event this morning at 9 a.m. ET for our virtual audience and you won’t want to miss it. Tune in to the livestream here!
Nadler, Maloney in the spotlight ahead of primary contest
New York Democratic Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Jerry Nadler are locked in an unprecedented member-on-member primary that will only get more intense as the Aug. 23 election draws closer.
And now the two committee chairs – Democratic power brokers in the final years of lengthy public service careers – find themselves at the center of the biggest issue facing the country: gun violence.
As the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Nadler shepherded the most aggressive package of gun control bills in decades through the chamber this week. Maloney, meanwhile, led a gut-wrenching Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing that featured testimony from victims and survivors of the recent massacres in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, N.Y.
To be clear, neither Maloney or Nadler are trying to exploit the gun violence crisis.
But the events of the last two weeks, and their ability to place themselves into the center of the story, show the influence and reach of the two panels they chair. And it further illustrates what an extraordinary situation the two longtime New York colleagues, both in their mid-70s, find themselves in.
“It’s unfortunate that this friendship has to fall victim to a completely flawed redistricting process,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who serves on both committees.
There’s a fierce debate among Maloney and Nadler’s allies about who actually has a better claim to the newly redrawn 12th District, which combined the East and West sides of Manhattan for the first time in decades. Both lawmakers live in the newly drawn district.
And Nadler and Maloney each say they tried to prevent this collision from happening in the first place. Nadler and Maloney privately encouraged the other to run in an open 10th District, which includes lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. Other Democrats gently suggested one or both of them should just retire. The two quickly put down both those ideas.
Now they’re each racing to secure endorsements from local leaders, forcing longtime allies to pick a side, and woo Democratic voters they never had to think of across Central Park.
For many Manhattan voters, the two are probably interchangeable as liberal Democrats with 30 years in Congress and similar policy positions on numerous issues.
Ask their colleagues to describe them and an adjective that comes up often for both is “quirky.”
Maloney is known for a dogged focus on local issues that range from health care for 9/11 responders to a years-long quest to bring pandas to the Central Park Zoo.
Nadler presents himself as a progressive thought leader. He also highlights that he’s the delegation’s sole Jewish Democrat in a district with a significant Jewish population.
The rest of the Empire State congressional delegation is expected to stay out of the contest, according to several Democrats we spoke to.
“I mean the whole ordeal is just so awful, I think for our state delegation, for the city,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said of the race. Side note: Ocasio-Cortez has endorsed a primary challenger against her colleague and DCCC Chair Sean Patrick Maloney.
Here’s an example to illustrate how delicate the situation is: New York Mayor Eric Adams testified before Maloney’s panel on gun violence on Wednesday. But Adams made sure to separately issue a joint statement with Nadler on the issue at the very same time.
Maloney, who has previously introduced several gun control bills, said she’s “proud to work with” Nadler and other Democrats to move the debate on gun violence forward.
“The purpose of the chairwoman’s hearing was to open the hearts of her colleagues and try to move the needle on legislation like the ‘Protecting Our Kids Act,’” Maloney spokesperson Paul Iskajyan said.
Nadler, meanwhile, was commended by several committee Democrats for pushing the gun control package through a volatile Judiciary Committee hearing and onto the House floor this week.
“Under Chairman Nadler’s leadership, the Judiciary Committee has been one of the most productive committees in Congress,” Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who serves on the panel, told us.
Yet both lawmakers have faced criticism from inside their committees and the broader House Democratic caucus for how they run their panels. Nadler, for example, was supplanted by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) during the first impeachment of then President Donald Trump.
Maloney was passed over for the Oversight gavel in 2010 in favor of the late Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who senior Democrats thought would be a much more effective foil to the panel’s top Republican, firebrand Rep. Darrell Issa (Calif.).
Even before the court-ordered redistricting maps were released, there was intense chatter within the caucus about how effective both Nadler and Maloney would be in a GOP-run House next year.
As the top Democrats on two of the most influential House committees, both would be tasked with defending President Joe Biden and his administration from what’s going to be an onslaught of Republican investigations.
On Judiciary in particular, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) is poised to take the gavel if Republicans win back the House. Jordan has a reputation as one of the most hardline GOP lawmakers in the chamber, as well as being a fierce Biden critic. Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) is the top Republican on Oversight.
We’ve talked to more than two dozen members over the last few weeks about this race. We focused on the dynamics both in New York and within the caucus. The word Democrats have told us over and over is “unfortunate.” It’s unfortunate, they said, that Nadler and Maloney ended up in this situation, unfortunate the two decided not to retire on a high note and retire and unfortunate that one of their two storied careers will fizzle out in defeat.
Suraj Patel, who came within four points of beating Maloney in 2020, is also running for the 12th District seat.
– Heather Caygle, John Bresnahan and Christian Hall
House leaders swipe at Chamber over privacy bill letter
With a key House panel set to hold a hearing on a bipartisan, bicameral consumer data privacy proposal next week, Republicans were upset to see the U.S. Chamber of Commerce already bashing the bill.
The group was circulating a draft letter saying the American Data Privacy and Protection Act “is unworkable and should be rejected,” CNBC reported on Thursday.
The influential business group complains the proposal doesn’t go far enough in preempting state laws while also creating a “private right of action” that would allow individuals to sue companies if they believe their data is being misused.
“A national privacy law should be a true national standard but the bill’s preemption language carves out fifteen different state laws including those in California and Illinois,” the group wrote. “This legislation would create a new national patchwork of privacy laws.”
The draft proposal would give consumers more control over their personal data, including limiting information that can be collected on the front end, supporters say.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), top Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee, was especially unhappy over the Chamber letter.
“It is disappointing to see the Chamber – who has urgently called for a national privacy framework for years – suddenly change their tune like this,” Sean Kelly, CMR’s spokesperson, said in a statement.
“They are not being constructive by asking Congress to abandon ongoing bipartisan, bicameral efforts on a federal privacy standard,” said This draft bill is going through the regular order process, and includes policies that have been public and received comment in one form or another for several years. We are continuing to welcome and encourage stakeholder feedback, especially from those who still believe a federal data privacy standard is urgently needed.”
This is just the last flare-up between the Chamber and Republicans on the Hill. The big business lobby, once an ally to Republicans, has faced increased skepticism from GOP lawmakers, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
House Energy and Commerce’s Consumer Protection and Commerce subcommittee has a hearing set for Tuesday on this issue, so we’ll definitely hear a lot more on this proposal.
– John Bresnahan
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GoPuff, the food delivery service, hired Akin Gump to lobby on “[i]ntersection of international tax and deductibility of interest.”
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All times eastern
8:30 a.m.: The May 2022 CPI data will be released.
1:45 p.m.: President Joe Biden will speak about inflation “and the actions the Administration has taken to lower prices and address supply chain challenges” at the Port of Los Angeles.
4:05 p.m.: Biden will join “heads of delegation to adopt a migration declaration.”
4:30 p.m.: Biden will take a photo with heads of delegation at the Summit of the Americas.
4:45 p.m.: Biden will host a leaders retreat and luncheon.
7:30 p.m.: Vice President Kamala Harris will speak at the South Carolina Democratic Party Blue Palmetto Dinner in Columbia, S.C.
8 p.m.: Biden will attend a DNC reception.
10:10 p.m.: Biden will attend another DNC reception.
“Biden, Looking for Unity, Faces Criticism From Latin American Leaders,” by Michael Shear, Miriam Jordan and Anatoly Kurmanaev in Los Angeles
“Proud Boys, Tarrio blast sedition charge as politically orchestrated,” by Spencer S. Hsu and Rachel Weiner
“Some in GOP question red-flag laws as Senate tries to clinch gun deal,” by Mike DeBonis and Leigh Ann Caldwell
“How a D.C. Bureaucrat Amassed Power Over Businesses, Banks and Consumers,” by Ryan Tracy and Andrew Ackerman
“China Ties at ‘Lowest Moment’ Since 1972, US Ambassador Says,” by Iain Marlow and Ana Monteiro
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