No, they won’t. Even Newt doesn’t really think so. But when you’re booked on Fox, on a show hosted by one of Trump’s most loyal media cronies, knowing that Trump himself is probably watching, the impulse to grandstand for the audience must be almost irresistible. Especially on a subject like January 6.
Newt Gingrich said this morning that people serving on the J6 Committee are going to go to jail if Republicans take over Congress after the next election. pic.twitter.com/OFhWdbEPdq
— Ron Filipkowski (@RonFilipkowski) January 23, 2022
As others have noted, Gingrich didn’t bother naming any federal laws that committee members may have broken because there aren’t any. Even if there were, the Constitution forbids prosecuting members of Congress for carrying out their official duties involving speech and debate. A former Speaker obviously knows that. In fact, when he grumbled about the January 6 committee in an op-ed recently, he didn’t name any crimes he thought its members had committed or even propose prosecuting them in the abstract. His comment on Fox was essentially a rhetorical flourish.
“People who would hold my side to account for trying to overturn an election should be jailed” is little more than MAGA boilerplate at this point as the culture of the GOP tilts further towards authoritarianism.
Committee members recognized Gingrich’s plea for what it was:
A former Speaker of the House is threatening jail time for members of Congress who are investigating the violent January 6 attack on our Capitol and our Constitution.
This is what it looks like when the rule of law unravels. https://t.co/vpQZjTg9em
— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) January 23, 2022
Responding to Gingrich comments about jailing members of 1/6 cmte, @RepZoeLofgren – "That's just bizarre. I think Newt has really lost it. You know, it leaves me speechless. I mean, unless he is assuming that the government does get overthrown and there's no system of justice."
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) January 23, 2022
Democratic committee member Elaine Luria added: “It’s really unconscionable that … the politicization has sunk to this level that a former speaker of the House could be threatening current members of congress for carrying out their duty and performing under the law. That there would be some threat of jail, I mean, that’s just not something that happens in the United States, and that is why the work we’re doing is absolutely so important on the committee, is to make sure that we uphold the foundations of our democracy.”
Contra Lofgren, I don’t think Gingrich has “lost it.” He was following the standard DARVO strategy for January 6 apologists, with a heavy emphasis on the “RVO” part. In the MAGA narrative that Newt is pandering to, the mob that stormed the Capitol and the leaders who egged them on are victims and the congressional committee investigating it is the offender. As I write this, one year and 18 days removed from the insurrection, not a single person involved in the “stop the steal” effort that preceded the attack has paid any legal price. The sitting president ring-led a propaganda effort based on outlandish conspiracy theories about cheating in hopes of clinging to power, and Gingrich is mortified — not at Trump but at the January 6 panel that thinks it’s a serious matter and wants to expose those who were involved in it.
Here’s the depths of civic decay to which Newt has sunk in his post-Trump bid for continuing relevance, egging on Kevin McCarthy to threaten people with congressional consequences if they don’t abandon the investigation. From his op-ed:
First, House Leader Kevin McCarthy and his leadership team should send a letter to every member of the Select Committee, the staff of that committee, the staff of House administration and the staff of Speaker Nancy Pelosi. This letter should warn them that they must keep all emails, notes, records of all meetings and communications, so that on January 4, 2023, they can all be reviewed by the new Select Committee on Congressional Dishonesty and Abuse of Power.
Second, Leader McCarthy and his leadership team should send a letter to the U.S. attorney general, select U.S. attorneys, the head of the FBI and such other executive branch officials engaged in persecuting Americans for their political views. This letter, too, should lay down the same marker of keeping all records and being prepared to answer for their behavior on January 4, 2023.
Third, Republicans should take note of Speaker Pelosi’s extraordinary, tradition-breaking assumption of control over Republican committee membership. In the same tradition, Republicans should prepare a “Wolves-to-Sheep Committee” as a holding pen for vicious, dishonest smear artists such as Rep. Adam Schiff, whose willingness to lie and deceive the American people extends from the Steele Dossier to the present. After years of lying to everyone while serving as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee (and thereby having the presumption of secret knowledge to back up his lies), Schiff should not be allowed to serve on any committee with legislative jurisdiction. He and a handful of other destructive, dishonest members should be bundled into a new committee with no staff, no legislative jurisdiction and no honor. It would be the equivalent of the ancient Greek punishment of ostracism.
All of that would be legal, I assume, under the same Speech or Debate Clause that protects the January 6 committee members from being prosecuted for their work. But the idea of a legislator sending a letter to the DOJ warning them that there’ll be unspecified repercussions if they proceed with an investigation that’s politically unhelpful to his party smells a lot like obstruction of justice: “Whoever … corruptly or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication, influences, obstructs, or impedes, or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede, the due administration of justice, shall be punished as provided in subsection (b).”
Gingrich doesn’t care. The whole point of “stop the steal” and the insurrection, in fact, is that you should be prepared to obstruct the government to protect your own side’s power.
I’m looking forward to Newt’s position becoming MAGA orthodoxy. Looks like it’s already on its way.
Here’s a MAGA candidate pledging to follow through on Newt Gingrich’s threat to jail lawmakers for probing the 1/6 insurrection. pic.twitter.com/zUTgUuEe5x
— Christian Vanderbrouk (@UrbanAchievr) January 24, 2022