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On Jan. 6 probe, GOP leaders have left themselves in the dark

When Kevin McCarthy launched a Jan. 6 committee boycott, he thought he was punishing Democrats. Instead, he left his own party in the dark.

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In the aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, the original plan was for an independent investigatory panel along the lines of the 9/11 Commission. Before it could be created, congressional Republicans made a series of demands, which appeared intended to derail the process. Democrats nevertheless accepted the GOP’s terms, at which point Republicans killed the idea anyway.

At that point, as regular readers may recall, Congress moved to Plan B: The House created a bipartisan, special select committee to investigate the insurrectionist attack. As part of the process, GOP leaders were invited to recommend a slate of House Republicans to serve on the panel, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had the final call on whether or not they qualified.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy picked five members, two of whom were rejected for being anti-election radicals. GOP leaders quickly announced a boycott of the committee, though two House Republicans — Wyoming’s Liz Cheney and Illinois’ Adam Kinzinger — agreed to serve on the bipartisan panel anyway.

Whether he realized this or not, McCarthy’s decision was risky. Not only did the partisan boycott create uncomfortable questions about patriotism, there were also strategic considerations.

For example, House GOP leaders haven’t the foggiest idea what’s going on with the investigation. The Washington Post reported over the weekend:

One by one, Republicans eviscerated the work of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, each one bemoaning the fact that the chief congressional security officials had not been subpoenaed to examine that day’s security lapses. Not interviewing these key officials was proof, they suggested, that the committee was just out to score political points against Republicans.

The Republicans’ “proof” unraveled soon after. Rep. Jamie Raskin explained that the panel has already interviewed those chief congressional security officials. “We have in fact interviewed precisely the people they set up as a test for the validity of our investigation,” the Maryland Democrat said.

GOP leaders didn’t know that. They simply assumed that because the congressional security officials hadn’t been subpoenaed, it meant the committee hadn’t interviewed them. In reality, the security officials voluntarily agreed to answer questions.

In other words, Republican leaders went on the attack without getting their facts straight — and they didn’t have their facts straight because they deliberately left themselves clueless as the investigation has progressed.

The Post’s report added, “Without knowing precisely what the committee is doing and who it is talking to, Republicans have struggled to prepare lines of defense for former president Donald Trump. Even more important to their own personal interests, dozens of GOP lawmakers are left in the dark about what evidence the committee has collected involving their own contacts with Trump and his senior advisers in the run up to, and during, the attack on the Capitol.”

As the select committee prepares to hold public hearings, the problem for the GOP is likely to intensify: Democratic and Republican members on the panel will be pushing in the same direction.

A senior House GOP aide told NBC News, in reference to McCarthy’s boycott, “I would say it’s absolutely a strategic mistake.” The NBC News report added:

Other than public reporting, Republicans aren’t aware of leads the committee is chasing, what witnesses are saying in the 750 depositions it has conducted in private and what’s in the nearly 90,000 documents it has received. “That’s an error,” the GOP aide said. “If Republicans were on a committee and were able to participate in any of this right now, they could be leaking things, they could be setting their own narratives.”

McCarthy seemed to believe he was punishing House Democrats last year when he refused to participate in the process he previously supported. If he’d only thought ahead a bit more, the would-be House Speaker would’ve realized he was doing far more harm to his own interests.