GOP testimony at January 6 panel reveals party torn between truth and Trump

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As the House committee investigating the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack established its public record that Donald J. Trump was at the center of an attempted coup, the panel relied heavily on a seemingly unlikely stream of witnesses: Mr. Trump’s own advisers, fellow Republicans and even his own family.

Those closest to Mr Trump have been deposed, portrayed or shown dismissing 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, over four very close hearings, revealed in stark and consequential detail how the party has become divided between the faction that accepts the reality of the 2020 election and the many others who still cling to Mr. Trump. anti-democratic lies about a stolen election.

“If Republicans were looking at it, there’s really no way for them to defend a position that President Trump has won the election based on the evidence presented so far,” said former leader Mick Mulvaney. White House acting cabinet minister to Mr. Trump.

There were brief video clips of the former president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, and the ruthless testimony of a White House lawyer, Eric Herschmann, who said he had reprimanded another pro-Trump lawyer. as “out of your mind” to continue pursuing plots to stop President Biden’s inauguration even the day after the Capitol riot.

“We have a lot of theories,” Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of Mr. Trump’s top lawyers, told a group of state lawmakers as he sought to thwart the results, Rusty testified Tuesday. Bowers, the Republican Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives. “We just don’t have the evidence.”

The president’s former attorney general, William P. Barr, had only one word to describe the swirling fact-free 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 deposition of alleged voting machine fraud, “and they were wasting their time on it, and it made a very bad service to the country.”

Democrats fully control the inquiry, though its members include two anti-Trump Republicans, including Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the vice president.

“The fact that there are Republican witnesses is very compelling,” Mulvaney said. “I don’t think Bill Barr is lying. I also know that I don’t see all of his testimony. I’m going to see the excerpts 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 heartbreaking terms the pressure campaign they endured for standing up to the president and the toll it took on them personally. On Thursday, more testimony came from inside the upper ranks of Mr. Trump’s Justice Department.

“The committee was brilliant in this tactic of using high-ranking officials, family members, senior campaign officials and Republicans who supported it,” said Stephanie Grisham, the former press secretary for the White House, which served under Mr. Trump for most of his entire term but has since emerged as a critic. “That’s what gives me hope that he will break through.”

A new poll from Quinnipiac University on Wednesday suggested that such a breakthrough with a large number of Republicans could still be a long way off.

While nearly six in 10 Americans think Mr. Trump bears a great deal or some responsibility for the events of Jan. 6, the poll found the opposite to be true only among Republicans: 25% said he doesn’t. had “not much” responsibility, and 44% percent said he doesn’t bear any at all.

“My level of hope that there is room for a healthy wing of the Republican Party to rise again — the odds of that are extremely low,” said Sarah Longwell, founder of the anti-Trump Republican Accountability Project.

Yet in two 2020 Trump voter focus groups Ms. Longwell has held since the hearings began, she said she noticed an unusual change: None of the attendees wanted Mr. Trump to run in 2024.

“What I was interested in: They loved Trump, but they want to move on,” Ms. Longwell said. “That’s exactly how they talked about January 6 in general.”

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Ms. Cheney, Mr. Trump’s most prominent Republican critic in Congress, has been blunt about her goal of trying to drive a wedge between Mr. Trump and the party’s base, if not between him and the party’s elected leaders at Washington.

“I say this to my fellow Republicans 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 faces a primary challenger backed by Trump this summer, has positioned herself as a potential presidential candidate against Mr Trump should he run. Next week, she is expected to deliver a speech on the party’s future at the Reagan Library in California, the same venue where a number of ambitious and potential Republican candidates in 2024 have appeared in recent months.

Several Republican strategists have predicted the Jan. 6 committee hearings would have less impact on the 2022 midterm elections — when Mr. Trump himself isn’t on the ballot — than on the presidential field. Republican of 2024.

On Capitol Hill, few people have been as forthright about the threat posed by Mr. Trump as J. Michael Luttig, a former federal appeals court judge, who is not a household name but enjoys a a great stature in the conservative legal world.

“Donald Trump and his allies and supporters are a clear and present danger to American democracy,” Mr. Luttig said in testimony last week.

Mr. Luttig then made the same leap forward toward the next presidential election that many Democrats hope voters will make by casting their midterm ballot this fall: If elected, Trump’s allies “would try to cancel this 2024 election the same way they tried to cancel the 2020 election,” he warned.

At times, the committee’s indictment has been so focused on Mr. Trump, and so full of praise for the few Republicans who have stood up to him, that some Democrats privately fear the strategy will backfire. him – distinguishing Mr. Trump from a Republican party. who, in fact, remains deeply faithful to him.

“It’s absolutely infuriating,” said Jessica Post, the executive director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which is involved in the Statehouse races. “There is a much larger story than the one told by the January 6 committee about anti-democracy forces in the states.”

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She was particularly frustrated with the lionization of Mr. Bowers simply for upholding the law, noting that Arizona had passed more restrictive ballot bills under his watch. “I just don’t think you get a gold star for doing the minimum,” Ms. Post said.

Sitting next to Mr Bowers on Tuesday was Republican Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who was hailed by the committee as a “public servant”. That same day, Georgia Democrats nominated state Rep. Bee Nguyen to run against him, and on Wednesday, Ms. Nguyen attacked Mr. Raffensperger’s past support for greater restrictions on voting.

The rift within the GOP can easily be overstated: some of those whose words have been used as a stick against Mr. Trump still say they would vote for him in 2024, if he were the nominee, including Mr. Barr and Mr. Bowers, who told The The Singapore Time this week: “If he was against Biden, I would vote for him again.”

Another Republican whose bravery was hailed by the committee is former Vice President Mike Pence for standing up to intense pressure from Mr. Trump to void the election.

Greg Jacob, Mr. Pence’s lawyer, said one of Mr. Trump’s advisers, John Eastman, asked Mr. Pence not to certify the Electoral College results, even immediately after the riot in Capitol.

“It’s rubber chamber stuff,” Mr. Pence told him, as Mr. Jacob recalled. In other words, Mr. Jacob said, “certificate crazy.”

Thursday’s committee hearing will focus on Mr. Trump’s “attempt to bribe the nation’s top law enforcement agency, the Justice Department, to support his attempt to void the election,” as the announced Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, chairman of the Democratic committee. .

Three former top Trump administration officials are lined up as star witnesses: Jeffrey A. Rosen, the former acting attorney general; Richard Donoghue, former acting deputy attorney general; and Steven Engel, the former Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Legal Counsel.

The lawmaker leading the questioning will be another Republican: Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.

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