Well, there’s a lot of that going around, and not just among Democrats. Kevin McCarthy didn’t miss the mark entirely in his statement yesterday about Nancy Pelosi’s attempts to override his authority to name members to the select committee on the January 6 riots. Pelosi wants a directed verdict, to be sure, and much of this is accurate:
“Speaker Pelosi’s rejection of the Republican nominees to serve on the committee and self-appointment of members who share her pre-conceived narrative will not yield a serious investigation,” McCarthy wrote in a statement.
McCarthy argued that Pelosi “has structured this select committee to satisfy her political objectives.”
“She had months to work with Republicans on a reasonable and fair approach to get answers on the events and security failures surrounding January 6,” he added.
However, here’s where it runs off the rails a bit:
“Lost in much of the news coverage is the fact that the Senate has already conducted bipartisan investigations that should serve as a roadmap for the House,” McCarthy added.
The minority leader claimed that Pelosi “destroyed” the committee’s credibility.
“Speaker Pelosi’s departure from this serious-minded approach has destroyed the select committee’s credibility. The U.S. Capitol and the men and women who protect it suffered a massive leadership failure. We must make sure that never happens again and that is what Republicans will be focused on,” he said.
It’s true that the Senate has proven more credible in setting up collaborations on important investigations. It’s also true that we know this because the House has been terrible at it, long before the January 6 riot and collapse of security at the Capitol. There has never been an expectation that the House could conduct a credible investigation, not from the moment that Pelosi first demanded a 7-4 majority on the committee, months before this contretemps arose over McCarthy’s appointment of Jim Jordan and Jim Banks.
The essential problem here is the model. The Senate’s model works for most investigations because the Senate does better on collaboration, but it also won’t work here for any credible investigation. The concept of this select committee won’t work because it’s entirely populated by material witnesses to the event. That would be as true in the Senate as it is in the House. It’s a fatal flaw at the very core of this proposal, especially given the highly partisan nature of the event and of Congress.
Leadership in both parties talked plenty about the idea of following the 9/11 Commission as a model for this investigation, but left out one important detail. Not one member of that commission held public office at the time of their service on the panel. Leaders of both parties nominated former officials in whom they had enough trust, and who could be seen as willing to collaborate on a credible investigation. And that was for an investigation of an incident that didn’t directly involve Congress.
In this case, it’s even more important to cut the material witnesses and their competing partisan objectives out of the loop. These are people who should be called to testify, not running the investigation. Even if every member started off with the best of nonpartisan intentions, how long would it take these day-to-day opponents to start sniping at each other and venting past grudges? Not long, and likely some of them would start off looking to settle scores.
This is why such investigations are rarely if ever conducted by insiders. Would we expect the Minneapolis police department to investigate itself in the wake of the George Floyd riots, for instance? Would anyone find the results of that investigation credible? Of course not. So why are Pelosi and McCarthy trying to convince us that this House has any credibility in running its own investigation, no matter the composition or membership of the panel?
Leadership of both parties — and not just in the House — should be calling for an independent panel of outsiders if they want a credible investigation of the January 6 riot and political violence in the 2020 cycle generally. Anything less is partisan elbow-throwing to little purpose.