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Happy Thursday morning.
In about 14 hours – at 8 p.m. this evening – the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol will hold its first public hearing in the cavernous Cannon Caucus Room. It’s the same room where the House Un-American Activities Committee held its hearings. Impeachment hearings for former President Donald Trump – the first one – took place there as well.
This session is, quite literally, a made-for-television event. The select committee is working with a former ABC News executive to help produce the hearing. All of the networks and cables, save Fox News, will air tonight’s proceedings live. The hearing is expected to last 90 minutes, but it could easily go longer.
Not since Trump’s impeachment – or the Jan. 6 attack itself – has a singular event captivated Capitol Hill in such an all encompassing manner.
But the Jan. 6 insurrection was decidedly different from Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine and the subsequent impeachment inquiry and trial. The events of that deadly day directly touched the lives of far more people, with an impact that’s still rippling through American society. It will all be rehashed again tonight.
The nitty gritty. We have been told the committee has several hearings throughout the next two weeks including tonight, June 13, 15, 16, 21 and 23. The last hearing will also likely be in primetime.
Aides are promising “a whole lot of new material, unseen material, documents from Jan. 6, video and audio that the select committee has obtained through the course of our investigation.” The panel has interviewed more than 1,000 individuals and gathered 140,000-plus documents. This includes recorded interviews with senior Trump White House and campaign officials. A U.S. Capitol Police officer who suffered a serious injury in the attack that day – one of dozens – and a documentary producer will be witnesses at this initial hearing.
Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the chair and vice chair, will make statements giving an overview of what the select committee has been able to uncover so far.
We’re going to focus this morning on what’s at stake for both parties going into the hearings, which begin just over five months before the 2022 midterm election.
→ The select committee can’t miss. Let’s be abundantly clear here. The reason the Jan. 6 committee is holding these open hearings is because Democrats want to make the case to the public that Trump and Republicans in Congress are responsible for the insurrection as part of a broader effort to overturn the 2020 election. This wasn’t a “dust up” that went wrong, or simply some unhappy Trump supporters exercising their First Amendment rights. The insurrection, the violence, that was the point. What happened was the only possible outcome to the events Trump and his allies set in motion in the days and weeks leading up to the attack.
Here’s what Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a member of the panel who led Trump’s first impeachment, told us:
“This was not an isolated occurrence. This was the end result of multiple failed efforts to overturn the election by other means.
“I think [the American public] will see the broader picture and get a good sense of the hearings to come, the volume of evidence we’ve accumulated. …
“Our principal goal is to tell the American people how close we came to losing our democracy, and how deeply at risk we remain.”
There’s a risk here, of course. We’ve seen high-stakes hearings go awry. Think Hillary Clinton and Benghazi. Or remember former special counsel Robert Mueller’s regrettable appearance before the House Judiciary Committee in July 2019 following his long probe into the Trump-Russia scandal? So the select committee has little margin for error. Republicans will seize on any discrepancies or mistakes to discredit the whole probe.
The facts of the insurrection aren’t really at issue. Following weeks of failed election challenges, Trump set a rally for Jan. 6 on the Ellipse, telling his supporters that it would be “wild.” At that rally – the same day as Congress was to certify Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory – Trump called on former Vice President Mike Pence to stop the certification process. Then Trump told his supporters to march to the Capitol because the election was stolen. “We will never give up, we will never concede,” Trump declared. “It doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved.”
Democrats do have a leg up compared to previous blockbuster hearings. The committee has an unimaginable amount of information that we’ve never seen or heard. Members and aides involved with the committee say the public will be shocked by what people said and what the footage they’ve put together will show. Republicans won’t even be in the room to push back.
→ Did the committee wait too long? It’s June of an election year, and the select committee is finally making its work product public. They’re going to have multiple hearings in the course of two weeks, roughly 150 days before the midterms.There’s a reason committees don’t hold this many hearings in such a compressed time period. We’ll have to see if this strategy works for the Jan. 6 panel.
→ What’s the end game? House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and other top Republicans have criticized this panel for being illegitimate, overtly partisan and having no real legislative or oversight purpose. That’s false, of course. Congress has broad oversight powers, and this committee hasn’t ruled out offering proposed legislation when it wraps up its investigation.
But this does raise interesting questions about what precisely the committee will do. Will they issue criminal referrals against Trump or his top aides? Will the panel offer proposed legislation to ensure another attack on the Capitol will never happen again?
→ What’s happening with DOJ? The Department of Justice — which has its own parallel criminal probe — has so far been unwilling or unable to charge anyone besides former Trump aide Stephen Bannon and Peter Navarro with contempt of Congress for failing to comply with the congressional investigation. Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, for example, has gotten away unscathed. This has frustrated members of both the select committee and the House Democratic leadership.
→ Institutional concerns. There was vigorous debate among Democrats over whether the Jan. 6 committee should subpoena McCarthy as part of its probe. When the select committee did so, they targeted a lawmaker who could be the next speaker of the House. No one is above the law, that’s true. But this move may come back to bite Democrats. We’ve already spoken to Republicans who vow to subpoena Speaker Nancy Pelosi about Jan. 6 should they take the majority in 2023.
The select committee has also seen extensive leaks of the materials it’s turned up, another dual-edged sword. Leaks are part of the everyday business of Congress and government. We love ‘em. But these leaks have also been used to attack the select committee, with Republicans claiming that the investigation is little more than a media stunt designed to hurt Trump or GOP lawmakers rather than an attempt to get at the truth of what happened.
→ What’s Republicans’ message? And can they break through? So far, the GOP message on this investigation has been notably weak. Republicans assert voters don’t care about the Jan. 6 attack, but rather are more worried about inflation and sky high gas and food prices. There’s some truth to that. Americans care very much about the soaring cost of living. Yet there are also tens of millions of Americans who care very deeply about a defeated president rallying his supporters in a failed bid to overturn a free and fair election result.
Here are the facts: The House created this committee and granted it subpoena power. The hearings are going to rehash a particularly ugly day in American history. And Republicans’ only retort is that the committee is partisan and voters don’t care about the attack on the Capitol. That’s not a particularly effective counter-stroke. Perhaps the only blessing for the GOP is that the House will be out of session by noon today and they won’t be forced to respond until next week.
→ Trump still looms large. If this hearing will cement anything about the current political environment, it’s that Trump still looms large over McCarthy and House Republicans. For the next few weeks, the GOP leader will again be forced to answer for Trump, and the chaos of the Trump era.
→ Republicans will have to reap what they’ve sown. If Republicans win the majority, one of their top priorities will be investigating the Biden administration and various scandals, both real and imagined.
Yet in defying the select committee’s subpoenas, Republicans have set a dangerous precedent for congressional oversight. You can be sure that Democrats and the White House will look mighty hard at what Republicans said in defying the Jan. 6 committee’s subpoenas and try to use those excuses if and when Republicans hold the majority in the House.
→ On McCarthy. We’ve argued that McCarthy erred in whipping against a bipartisan commission to investigate Jan. 6. As a reminder, McCarthy said privately for weeks he wanted such a commission, deputized Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) to negotiate a compromise with Thompson, but eventually worked to quash it when those two struck a deal.
Had McCarthy not done so, Republicans would’ve had visibility into the investigation, they would’ve been in the room for these hearings to push back on what they considered Democratic overreach and, most importantly, they could’ve stopped any subpoena in its tracks before it was issued.
– Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan
THE GUN DEBATE
NEWS: Pelosi talks about the Senate gun negotiations
The Senate is deep into gun-control negotiations. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told us Wednesday that he’s hoping to pass a bill by the July 4 recess – a tall task that would require the bipartisan group to step on the gas and come to an agreement soon.
The House, meanwhile, voted Wednesday to raise the age to buy semi-automatic assault rifles. Members will vote today on a bill by Reps. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.) and Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.) to institute a nationwide red-flag law, as well as incentivizing states to set up their own.
In the middle of all of this, we caught up with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who told us she has “no idea” what the Senate is discussing, but acknowledged that the final agreement would look nothing like what the House is passing.
“I do trust the fact that they are talking,” Pelosi told us. “Chris Murphy has been a champion of all this and his standards are high. But again, the expectation is obviously they’re not going to get what we would pass. But we can make progress. My point is we’re only making history today if we make progress on the legislation. This is a strong package. If we get some of it, it will save lives.”
We asked Pelosi if a narrow Senate gun package would be acceptable and would represent progress for the nation.
“Well it depends on how narrow,” Pelosi said, while expressing broad hope that a deal could come together.
As a reminder, the Senate is working on a package that would incentivize states to create red-flag laws, bolster the nation’s mental health network, secure schools and crack down on gun dealers that don’t conduct background checks.
Senators on both sides of the aisle have expressed optimism that an accord could come together in the coming weeks.
– Jake Sherman
JUNE EVENTS REMINDER!
Today and Tomorrow: Join us for our conversation with Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) about broadening food access through policy. The in-person event takes place tonight, and it will be streamed online tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. In-Person RSVPs are full, but we hope you’ll join us online! RSVP Here.
Tuesday, June 14: We’re sitting down with Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) at 5 p.m. ET to talk about the future of energy alternatives and the need for an all-of-the-above energy approach. This pop-up conversation will take place at the Southern Company D.C. Office. RSVP Here.
Tuesday, June 28: Join us in New Hampshire for the second event in our “Road to Recovery” series. We’ll be interviewing Gov. Chris Sununu (R) about the challenges facing small business owners coming out of the pandemic. RSVP Here.
INSIDE THE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS
Levin ad featuring John Lewis infuriates CBC
Several senior members of the Congressional Black Caucus are steaming over a recent campaign ad released by Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.). The ad features the late Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), an icon for Democrats and the Black community. Levin’s use of Lewis’ image – which has raised eyebrows within the tightly knit CBC – comes as he’s locked in a heated primary with fellow Democratic Rep. Haley Stevens (Mich.).
In the ad, Levin talks about his relationship with Lewis saying, “I was proud to work with John Lewis in Congress and earn his support.” The ad then shows a clip of the civil rights icon endorsing Levin back in 2018. Lewis died in July 2020.
We talked with multiple senior CBC members who said they strongly disapproved of Lewis being featured in the ad. They’re especially upset that Levin is using it in his campaign against a fellow Democrat.
CBC Chair Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio.) said in an interview that she was “shocked,” and that she found it especially inappropriate considering it was a campaign ad. “You know, If he was out there invoking it that we were standing up for civil rights and we were fighting, but to put it in a political campaign, I don’t support that,” Beatty said.
“Many of us had relationships with John. I’m not saying he didn’t have a relationship with [Levin.] But I don’t know how somebody dead could approve something,” Beatty added.
Levin, though, told us he received approval from the John Lewis Trust to use the footage and talked to some members of the CBC who had “no concern” with the ad. Levin declined to name those members.
“It was all good, very well,” Levin said of his conversations with CBC members.
Levin’s ad has been a hot discussion within the CBC since it was launched on Monday. Lewis, who served 17 terms in Congress, was a towering figure within the CBC, the Democratic Caucus and national politics for decades. Multiple CBC members said in interviews they hadn’t talked to Levin before the ad went up, despite him being advised to do so.
“I’ve never seen anything like that before. You invoked a dead person to validate you. I haven’t spoken to him about it,” Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.) said. Lawrence, who is retiring after this Congress, endorsed Stevens earlier this year.
“Let me just say it like this, anytime you use somebody else’s likeness in a political ad, I would get some permission from somebody,” another CBC member said.
This latest controversy comes as the battle between Levin and Stevens has roiled the Democratic Caucus for months.
Several Democrats tried to avoid the head-to-head match up by encouraging Levin to run in the new 10th District, which includes a bigger portion of his current district but will also be more competitive this cycle. Democrats are desperate to hold onto that seat and thought Levin, who is part of a family political dynasty in Michigan, would be their best opportunity to do so.
Levin, instead, chose to challenge Stevens in the newly drawn 11th District. That district, which heavily favors Democrats, has much more of Stevens’ current seat but also is where Levin lives. The primary is Aug. 2.
– Christian Hall and Heather Caygle
Biden administration releases plan to vaccinate kids once FDA approves
Much to many parents’ chagrin, the FDA still hasn’t approved vaccinating children under the age of five against Covid-19.
But with the FDA and CDC scheduled to meet next week to consider approving the vaccine, the Biden administration has released its plan to quickly inoculate young children.
The administration says it’s “planning for all scenarios, including for the first vaccinations to start as early as the week of June 20th – with the program ramping up over time as more doses are delivered and more appointments become available.”
Here’s the Biden administration’s plan. We’ll focus on a couple of highlights:
The Administration has procured a significant supply of vaccines for this age group, with 10 million doses available initially and millions more available in the coming weeks. To ensure that we are able to reach a broad range of pediatric providers—including those in smaller practices and in rural settings—vaccines will be available in package sizes of 100 doses and will come with all of the supplies that health care providers need to serve younger kids, including small needles. …
Vaccinations will be available at pediatricians’ and other doctors’ offices, community health centers, rural health clinics, children’s hospitals, public health clinics, local pharmacies, and other community-based organizations. The Administration will also work with state and local public health departments and others to ensure that every child—including those who may not have a pediatrician or primary care provider—has access to the vaccine. And, the Administration will work with states and other entities to make vaccinations available at convenient hours for children, parents and their guardians—including after school and evenings, and on weekends.
If you are a parent of a child under five, you’re probably jumping for joy right now.
– Jake Sherman
→ New: Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes is releasing a new biographical ad today introducing himself to voters.
“Hard work needs to be respected again, With fair wages and opportunities to get ahead. That’s how my parents opened doors for me,” Barnes says in the spot. “My mom was a teacher and my dad worked third shift. I’m not one of these millionaires.”
That last line appears to be an implicit dig at Barnes’ main challenger Alex Lasry, the son of billionaire hedge fund manager and Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry.
While Barnes began the race as the frontrunner, recent public polling shows Lasry starting to close the gap between them.
The ad is Barnes’ second of the campaign. It’s part of a multi-million dollar blitz on broadcast, cable and digital throughout Wisconsin.
– Max Cohen
MORE FROM PUNCHBOWL NEWS
Punchbowl News is more than just a newsletter. We’re bringing our community events, custom content, and more. Check out everything we’re up to today!
All times eastern
10:45 a.m.: Speaker Nancy Pelosi will hold her weekly news conference
11:30 a.m.: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Minority Whip Steve Scalise, House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, Reps. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.) and Troy Nehls (R-Texas) will hold a news conference on the Jan. 6 hearing.
2 p.m.: President Joe Biden will speak at the IV CEO Summit of the Americas.
2:45 p.m.: Biden will have a bilateral meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
4:30 p.m.: Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will meet with Caribbean heads of state.
5 p.m.: Biden will speak at the opening plenary of the Summit of the Americas.
6:30 p.m.: Biden will meet with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
10:45 p.m.: The Bidens will host a head-of-state dinner at the Getty Villa.
→ “Lina Khan, a Big Tech Critic, Tries Answering Her Own Detractors,” by Cecilia Kang
→ “At Summit of Americas, Biden Pledges U.S. Help on Latin American Problems,” by Michael Shear in Los Angeles
→ “As Survivors Demand Action, House Passes Gun Bill Doomed in the Senate,” by Annie Karni and Catie Edmondson
→ “Biden turns to his old friend Chris Dodd for a sensitive job,” by Karen DeYoung
→ “Abbott Received Former Employee’s Warnings on Baby-Formula Plant Earlier Than Previously Known,” by Jesse Newman and Peter Loftus in Sturgis, Mich.
→ “Biden seeks consensus at fractured Americas summit,” by Chris Megerian and Josh Boak
→ “Bernie to Dems: Change course before you nosedive in November,” by Burgess Everett
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