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Mitch McConnell changes his tune about the Jan. 6 investigation

In May, Mitch McConnell went out of his way to derail an independent Jan. 6 investigation. Now, his perspective is dramatically different.

Shortly before members of Congress left Capitol Hill for their holiday break, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was asked what he hoped to learn from the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. I assumed he'd dismiss the bipartisan panel and its relevance.

But he didn't. "I read the reports every day," the Kentucky Republican told reporters, "and it'll be interesting to see what [investigators] conclude."

As NBC News noted, McConnell went a little further later in the week.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Thursday that he looks forward to seeing what the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol finds in its probe. "It was a horrendous event and I think what they are seeking to find out is something the public needs to know," McConnell said in an interview with Spectrum News.

In the same interview, he added, "I think the fact-finding is interesting; we're all going to be watching it."

At face value, this may not have seemed especially notable. The Senate GOP leader has never been one to echo crackpot nonsense about the pro-Trump assault on the Capitol, so it stood to reason he'd be comfortable with public answers to questions about what transpired on Jan. 6.

But given McConnell's efforts in May, this was not at all predictable.

Let's not forget that the original plan was for an independent, 9/11-style commission that would be responsible for investigating the attack. Democratic and Republican leaders negotiated the terms of how such a commission would be structured, and the expectation was that Congress would move forward in a bipartisan way after Democrats effectively endorsed all of the GOP's requests.

McConnell balked anyway. On May 19, the minority leader denounced the bipartisan plan, suggesting an independent investigation wouldn't produce any "new facts."

A week later, McConnell told his members a Jan. 6 probe was likely to undermine the party's midterm election message. By May 28, the top Senate Republican was reportedly telling his members he'd consider it "a personal favor" if they opposed the legislation to create an independent Jan. 6 commission.

An unnamed GOP senator told CNN, "No one can understand why Mitch is going to this extreme of asking for a 'personal favor' to kill the commission."

Conservative Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin told reporters the bipartisan plan was still likely to pass, adding that he hoped there were at least "10 good, solid patriots" among Senate Republicans. There weren't: McConnell convinced the GOP minority to kill the bill and block the creation of a commission.

And yet, here we are, seven months later, watching McConnell sing a very different tune. The minority leader who went out of his way to block an independent investigation is now publicly endorsing the House select committee's probe, telling Americans that what investigators "are seeking to find out is something the public needs to know."

What's far from clear is why in the world the Kentuckian's perspective has changed. Did McConnell learn important new intelligence as a member of the gang of eight? Is this a rhetorical shot across the bow at Donald Trump, who's working desperately to replace McConnell as the top Senate Republican?

I won't pretend to know what the senator is thinking, but as a recent Washington Post analysis concluded, "[What McConnell is] saying is a departure from his party that significantly hamstrings efforts to undermine the committee. And it's certainly worth keeping an eye on."