McCarthy's picks for the January 6 select committee are a blend of MAGA and Trump-wary

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

“Trump-wary” isn’t quite accurate but I can’t think of a more efficient term for “not anti-Trump but not pro-insurrection either.”

It’s going to be barrels of fun having Liz Cheney on the committee with Jordan. The new book by two WaPo reporters about Trump and the “stop the steal” campaign claims that she said this to Gen. Mark Milley about the moments after the mob entered the Capitol on January 6: “That f***ing guy Jim Jordan. That son of a b*tch… While these maniacs are going through the place, I’m standing in the aisle and he said, ‘We need to get the ladies away from the aisle. Let me help you.’ I smacked his hand away and told him, ‘Get away from me. You f***ing did this.’”

I wonder if she’ll state her belief during any of the hearings that her distinguished colleague on the panel “f***ing did this.”

McCarthy had a hard task in making his appointments, bearing in mind that Pelosi enjoys veto power over any or all of them. If he went full MAGA, stocking the committee with Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene, etc, Pelosi would have had political cover to say no. If he went too squishy, appointing any of the 10 Republicans who voted for impeachment, Trump and his fans would have freaked out. (McCarthy claims he hasn’t discussed his appointments with Trump but coincidentally he visited the former president in New Jersey a few days ago.) Further complicating matters was the fact that hardly any House Republicans wanted to be on the committee apart from the Gaetzes and Greenes who wanted to make fart noises or whatever throughout the hearings to try to disrupt them. An appointment was a no-win position for most GOP reps, as they were destined to piss off either centrists or MAGA fans depending upon how pro- or anti-insurrection they were in their questioning.

McCarthy decided to compromise by appointing a mix of hardcore Trumpers and … “Trump-wary” reps, some of them with relevant background to the committee’s tasks. Banks and Jordan represent the whitewash faction, whose job will be to make excuses for the rioters and try to change the subject. Banks, the head of the Republican Study Committee, made no bones about how he sees his role in a statement last night:

Jordan, the ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, understands his role as well:

Nehls is an interesting pick in that he’s a freshman and was a sheriff before entering politics. He’ll bring police expertise to the panel. Like Banks and Jordan, he voted to object to the certification of Biden’s victory on January 6. But earlier that day, he joined the cops in trying to barricade the House chamber from insurrectionists and called the riot a “disgrace”:

One of the Democrats on the committee praised his selection, saying she’s had a good working relationship with him on the Veteran Affairs committee. It’ll be interesting to see how he balances his duties to spin for Trump with his sympathies for the cops as a former officer himself. The committee’s first hearing, scheduled for a week from today, will feature Michael Fanone and other police testifying about the violence used against them at the Capitol.

Rodney Davis and Kelly Armstrong are the two most “Trump-wary” members of the committee insofar as neither objected to certifying Biden’s victory on January 6, placing them in the minority of the GOP caucus. (All five Republican appointees voted against impeaching Trump twice and voted against establishing the select committee.) CNN reported last week that “Some Republicans think McCarthy should choose Republicans who sit on the House Administration Committee, which oversees the Capitol’s day-to-day operations,” as they’d be better informed about oversight failures in preparing for January 6. That explains Davis’s appointment; he’s the ranking member on the Administration Committee. Tim Miller has more on him:

Rodney Davis has gone even further. The congressman has future political ambitions and has been floated as a candidate for governor of Illinois. His southern Illinois district spreads from Champaign, home to the University of Illinois, through rural areas toward very exurban St. Louis. One of just 35 House Republicans who voted in favor of a bipartisan commission, Davis has said that Jan. 6 was “one of the worst days this great country has ever seen.”

In voting against the second impeachment of Trump, Davis said, “There must be accountability for leaders who deliberately misled the public but I fear that without thoughtful and clear-eyed leadership from both sides of the aisle, we are in danger of further violence and political unrest. There must be a full accounting of what happened leading up to and on the day of January 6th.”

If Davis really does have designs on running for governor in Illinois(?!) he’ll have to walk the tightrope at the hearings between being MAGA enough to get through a GOP primary but not so MAGA that he’s DOA in a general election in a blue stronghold. As for Armstrong, he hails from the deeply red state of North Dakota so he’ll have to be mostly MAGA in his committee work. But Miller notes that Armstrong has at least taken the daring step of congratulating Biden and Harris on their inauguration, which qualifies as “Trump-wary” in today’s cultish GOP:

He tweeted this on January 6 as well:

“Every one of these people should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” he said afterward. Frankly, I wonder if Armstrong got the nod partly because he was a rare Republican willing to accept the appointment from McCarthy and all of the political grief it might entail. Maybe he sees it as an opportunity to launch his career: He’s just 44 and in his second term in Congress, so if he ends up joining the Banks/Jordan whitewash effort it might shoot him to stardom back home.

Pelosi was asked last night whether she’s planning to veto any of McCarthy’s picks. “Stay tuned,” her office replied. I doubt she will, partly because Davis and Armstrong (and maybe Nehls) provide a degree of “balance” to Banks and Jordan and partly because if she vetoes anyone then McCarthy might rescind all of his appointments and turn the committee into a purely Pelosi operation. Which wouldn’t be good for perception of its legitimacy among the broader public.