Opinion Memo to Democrats: Hammer the GOP as complicit in Trump’s coup


HR King
May 29, 2001
Starting Thursday, the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection will hold televised hearings. The Republican plan is to attack the investigation itself, by claiming it’s illegitimate and even by countering the proceedings with an alternate version of the insurrection.
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Donald Trump is watching this coming GOP propaganda blitz closely. CNN reports that Trump’s allies have put out word to top House Republicans and conservatives that they will be expected to defend him “vigorously.”
And so House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is coordinating the effort among House Republicans. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), the No. 3 in the GOP leadership, is expected to play a central role as well.

This effort, ludicrously enough, is also expected to include an attempt by Republicans to roll out the results of their own “investigation” into the events of Jan. 6, 2021, Politico reports, as if there were anything remotely real about the “investigation” they’re running.

Democrats need a strategy to push back. Whatever they do should foreground a simple truth: Many Republicans were either complicit in Trump’s effort to destroy our constitutional order to remain in power illegitimately, have since worked hard to cover it up or both.
So Republicans have zero credibility on these matters, and they should be granted zero standing to address them. Democrats need to say this clearly and forcefully.

The news media will be possessed by a powerful urge to present all of this in the familiar “he said, she said” style that gives equal weight to both sides of an argument, regardless of what each side is saying.
We already know the media’s both-sidesing instincts are vulnerable to this kind of Republican manipulation, because we’ve seen it.
Recall that, early on, there was talk of creating a bipartisan commission to examine Jan. 6. Republicans balked at the very idea that the commission should primarily examine the violent insurrection attempt, demanding that it also look at leftist violence, an absurdly transparent effort to muddy the waters.

Then, after that commission died and Democrats set up the current select committee, McCarthy tried to appoint Trumpist arsonists such as Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Jim Banks (R-Ind.). That was nothing more than a transparent effort to sabotage the committee’s work from within.

A good deal of media coverage treated both these cases as conventional political disputes in which each side was equivalently maneuvering for partisan advantage. But they were nothing like this: One party was acting in good faith to seek a real reckoning for an effort to destroy our constitutional order. The other was acting in bottomless bad faith to scuttle any such reckoning.
The only way House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) could cut through the both-sides coverage of McCarthy’s bad-faith sabotage effort was to shut it down, by saying no. Which she did.

The fundamental truth about this moment, as has been the case all along, is that the defense of democracy will never truly be bipartisan. It must of necessity be a largely partisan exercise, pursued by Democrats. The Republican response should not be granted credibility on these matters that it simply doesn’t merit, let alone placed on a plane of equivalence with the committee’s investigation.

One of the key facts about the GOP pushback is that the Republicans who will be most visible in trying to discredit the committee’s findings are some of the very people who were allegedly among the most involved in the coup attempt. That includes Jordan, who had multiple phone conversations with Trump on the day of the insurrection.
What’s more, as many as a dozen House Republicans were reportedly involved in Trump’s effort to overturn the election in the weeks leading up to Jan. 6. And GOP leaders such as McCarthy are refusing to honor a lawful congressional subpoena in order to keep direct knowledge of Trump’s state of mind during the violent insurrection attempt shielded from the public.

These Republicans, of course, have the right to make their case. But they don’t have a right to have their inevitably fantastical, bad-faith-saturated claims passed on to readers and viewers uncritically.

Nor do they have the right to equal time. The committee will present the results of months of evidence-gathering, which will include extensive document examination and thousands of hours of interviews. Republicans rolling out bogus “investigations” that are expressly designed to muddy the waters around legitimate congressional fact-finding into an effort to destroy our democracy don’t deserve the same volume of attention.
As of now, it looks as if Democrats and their allies do intend to make clear the extent of Republican culpability in the insurrection itself.
“This is an investigation into their conspiracy to overturn the election they lost,” said Nicole Haley, the communications director for the Defend Democracy Project. Haley says a large coalition of liberal groups will amplify the committee’s findings in the face of Republican disinformation.

It isn’t just that Republicans labored relentlessly to justify and cover up the insurrection, though they have. It isn’t just that they’ve tried to excuse Trump’s repugnant and possibly criminal actions, though they’ve done that, too.
It’s that many of them are either complicit in the attack on democracy the committee is charged with investigating, complicit in Trump’s effort to cover it up or both. Democrats should make this truth absolutely central — and make Republicans own it.


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