A bitter war of words has erupted in the United States Congress over a looming investigation into the Capitol riot, with one side labelling the whole thing a “sham”.
Fair warning: you need some background here, and it involves a brief stroll through the weeds of congressional procedure. Apologies.
Democrats in Congress, and a handful of Republicans, have spent recent months trying to set up an investigation into the events of January 6, when a mob of Donald Trump’s supporters attacked the Capitol in an effort to stop the certification of his defeat to Joe Biden.
They started by pushing for an independent, bipartisan commission, modelled after the one that investigated the 9/11 terror attacks. The commission would have been manned by five Democrats and five Republicans, and would not have been able to issue subpoenas without approval from each party’s top representative.
The House of Representatives voted 252-175 in favour of establishing it, with 35 Republicans defying their party’s leadership and joining the Democrats. But it was blocked in the Senate, where just six Republicans crossed the floor.
Her plan for an independent commission foiled, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi resorted to a more partisan option, creating a select committee to investigate the January 6 riot and the events surrounding it.
As this is a House committee, it does not need to pass through the Senate. The House approved its creation by a margin of 222-190.
The committee is supposed have 13 members, eight appointed by Ms Pelosi and five nominated by her Republican counterpart, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
Still with me? Great.
Mr McCarthy eventually chose his five nominees, three of whom – Jim Jordan, Jim Banks and Troy Nehls – voted against certifying Mr Biden’s victory, even after the attack.
Which brings us to today.
Ms Pelosi has announced she is rejecting two of Mr McCarthy’s picks: Mr Banks and Mr Jordan. In a statement, she said she would accept the other three, and asked Mr McCarthy to choose two more members to replace the pair.
“The future of our democracy is on the line. This assault was an attempt to overthrow the government,” Ms Pelosi said of the attack on January 6.
“We need a comprehensive investigation as to who organised this attack, who paid for it, how they nearly succeeded in overthrowing a presidential election, why they did it, and how we must organise ourselves to prevent anything like it from ever happening again.
“It had been our hope to establish a bipartisan, independent national commission, but there is no prospect for that commission at this time because of insufficient support from Republican senators. Therefore, the House established the select committee
“Monday evening, the Minority Leader recommended five members to serve on the select committee. I have spoken with him this morning about the objections raised about Jim Banks and Jim Jordan and the impact their appointments may have on the integrity of the investigation.
“I also informed him that I was prepared to appoint Rodney Davis, Kelly Armstrong and Troy Nehls, and requested that he recommend two other members.
“With respect for the integrity of the investigation, with an insistence on the truth and with concern about statements made and actions taken by these members, I must reject the recommendations of Mr Banks and Mr Jordan.
“The unprecedented nature of January 6th demands this unprecedented decision.”
Ms Pelosi’s statement did not elaborate any further on her reasoning.
Mr McCarthy fired back with a statement of his own, saying he would now revoke all five of his nominations and the Republicans would not take part at all.
“Nancy Pelosi has taken the unprecedented step of denying the minority party’s picks for the select committee on January 6,” he said.
“This represents an egregious abuse of power and will irreparably damage this institution. Denying the voices of members who have served in the military and law enforcement, as well as the leaders of standing committees, has made it undeniable that this panel has lost all legitimacy and credibility.”
He said the decision proved Ms Pelosi was “more interested in playing politics than seeking the truth”.
“Unless Speaker Pelosi reverses course and seats all five Republican nominees, Republicans will not be party to their sham process and will instead pursue our own investigation of the facts.”
Mr McCarthy then held a media conference, where repeated that Ms Pelosi’s move was “unprecedented” and again called it an “egregious breach of power”.
“Speaker Pelosi has broken this institution,” he told reporters.
The Minority Leader claimed it was Ms Pelosi’s fault the National Guard wasn’t pre-emptively protecting the Capitol on January 6.
Mr Jordan is among the Republicans who have previously claimed that Ms Pelosi denied a request for National Guard troops two days before the insurrection.
There isn’t any evidence for that at the moment, though it is something the investigation into January 6 would presumably look at.
Mr Jordan and Mr Banks were also at the press conference. The former said the select committee was “nothing more than a partisan political charade” and an “attack against President Trump”. Mr Banks said Ms Pelosi was “afraid of the facts”.
The slanging match still wasn’t finished.
Mr McCarthy was subsequently slammed by Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney, who was ousted from her role as chair of the party’s House conference in May for speaking out against Mr Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election.
Ms Cheney, the daughter of former vice president Dick Cheney, was one of 10 House Republicans to vote in favour of impeaching Mr Trump after the riot. She was the only Republican nominated by Ms Pelosi to serve on the January 6 committee.
Speaking on the steps of the Capitol, Ms Cheney called Mr McCarthy’s handling of the commission “despicable and disgraceful”, and criticised him for opposing the initial push for a bipartisan panel.
“We supported what would have been the very best option, which was a bipartisan, independent commission. The Minority Leader opposed that. He lobbied against it in the Senate and the Senate blocked it,” said Ms Cheney.
“The American people deserve to know what happened. The people who did this must be held accountable. There must be an investigation that is nonpartisan, that is sober, that is serious, that gets to the facts wherever they may lead.
“At every opportunity, the Minority Leader has attempted to prevent the American people from understanding what happened. To block this investigation.”
Ms Cheney defended Ms Pelosi’s rejection of Mr Jordan and Mr Banks, saying one was potentially a “material witness” in the investigation (Mr Jordan spoke to Mr Trump on January 6) and the other had “disqualified himself” by demonstrating “he’s not taking this seriously”.
Asked if she believed Mr McCarthy deserved to be speaker (which will happen if Republicans take control of the House in next year’s midterm elections), she pointed out that the position is second in the line of succession for the presidency.
“I think that any person who would be third in line to the presidency must demonstrate a commitment to the Constitution and a commitment to the rule of law, and Minority Leader McCarthy has not done that,” she said.
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Meanwhile, the woman who replaced Ms Cheney as conference chair released a statement calling Ms Pelosi a “radical authoritarian” speaker.
“The American people have always known the truth: that the Pelosi partisan January 6th commission was never about investigating the facts, it was only ever about Pelosi’s radical politics and the left’s endless obsession with crushing any discussion or debate,” said New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik.
“This commission is an absolute sham and has been a disgrace from the beginning; no amount of drooling excuses from the mainstream media will change that.”
Apologies, dear reader, for my drool.
“What is Nancy Pelosi so afraid of? She is afraid of the American people finding out the truth that her failed leadership and gross mismanagement of the US Capitol led to the tragic events that day,” Ms Stefanik continued.
“She is afraid of millions of peaceful and patriotic Americans across the country who are fighting for election integrity. She is afraid of her Republican colleagues, who will work every day to hold her accountable for destroying this country and the US Congress.”
She went on to say that Ms Pelosi would be remembered as the “most despised” speaker of the House in history.
And there you have it. Even by Washington D.C.’s standards, it has been a rather bad tempered day.