Former President Donald Trump’s staunchest Republican loyalists in the House have spent months downplaying the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. But we now also know many of them were scared of the Trump-supporting mob and desperately appealed to the president for help.
I’d say many of them are still scared. They’re scared that betraying their once and future king will draw the eyes of the mob back on them. They’re scared of what will happen to their jobs and power if that happens. And that fear has blinded them to the actual danger their inaction and silence are enabling.
They’re scared that betraying their once and future king will draw the eyes of the mob back on them. They’re scared of what will happen to their jobs and power if that happens.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, reluctantly confirmed to Fox News in late July that he’d spoken with Trump on Jan. 6 but declined to give details. He followed up two days later with a stumbling interview in which Spectrum News asked him whether he’d spoken with Trump “before, during, or after” the Capitol attack.
“Uh, I’d have to go, I’d, I, I, I spoke with him that day after, I think after. I don’t know if I spoke with him in the morning or not,” Jordan responded, according to a transcript from Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall.
Sunday, we learned not only that Jordan spoke with Trump multiple times on Jan. 6, but also that at least one call took place while the mob was in the middle of its attack. Jordan told Politico Playbook’s Olivia Beavers that he was “sure” he was in the safe room where members of Congress were shepherded after the police lines broke during a call with the president.
A source also told Politico that Jordan placed at least one call imploring “Trump to tell his supporters to stand down” while alongside Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., another of Trump’s arch-loyalists. Jordan wouldn’t confirm specifics of his call(s) but “said that like everyone, he wanted the National Guard to get involved.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., was busy trying to do the same on Jan. 6. When McCarthy phoned for help against the rioters, he was clear that it was Trump supporters who were attacking. The then-president responded, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are," according to Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash.
So when the pro-Trump horde was literally beating down their doors, McCarthy, Jordan and Gaetz all asked Trump for help and protection — which he never sent. The message from Trump was likely to have been received loud and clear: If my people come for you, I won’t stop them.
With that warning ringing in their heads, these same Republican have gone all in on placating the plebeians who still provide the tyrant with his base of power.
Gaetz has tried to cast the people who’ve been indicted so far as “political prisoners” who are being mistreated in federal custody. McCarthy has backpedaled so hard from his criticism of Trump that he must have the calves of a Peloton instructor. And the overachieving Jordan has actually found a way to blame the attack on the Democrats for “sort of normalizing rioting, normalizing looting, normalizing anarchy, in the summer of 2020.”
The message from Trump was likely to have been received loud and clear: If my people come for you, I won’t stop them.
All three know winning control of the House next year — not to mention protecting their phony-baloney jobs — is impossible if Trump supporters don’t turn out to the polls in the midterms. In defense of that goal, they’ve led the charge in ostracizing Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., and her removal from House GOP leadership for daring to blame Trump for the riot. They know that if they were to do the same, the party’s other diehards would come for them next.
And yet the truth is bound to come out one way or another, no matter how much they try to obscure the terror they felt in January. The House’s Jan. 6 investigation committee is likely to subpoena Jordan and McCarthy as witnesses to describe their interactions with Trump in the lead-up to and during the insurrection.
Tech and telecom companies are already being asked to preserve records related to the attack, which could involve the calls made to and from Congress that day. We don’t need transcripts of those calls for the information gleaned from them to be damning. Even the timestamps for the calls to and from the White House that day should be fascinating — how many GOP lawmakers did Trump ignore while their lives were at risk? No wonder McCarthy is blatantly threatening tech companies that aid the Democrat-led investigation with retribution should the GOP regain the majority.
I don’t want to shame lawmakers for feeling fear in the face of danger — that’s human. But letting that same fear rule them now, when the threat is to their careers rather than their lives, is more cowardly. It remains to be seen how these men respond when directly confronted with their cowardice — but I get the feeling we already know the answer to that.