Jul 22, 2021 - Podcasts

What's left of the Jan. 6 committee

Back in June, the House of Representatives passed a resolution launching a special committee to investigate the Jan. 6th insurrection at the Capitol. Republican leader Kevin McCarthy could choose five committee members, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi would have veto power and the final say.

On Wednesday, Pelosi rejected two of McCarthy’s pro-Trump appointees, saying they could have “an impact on the integrity of the investigation.”

  • Plus, an eerie first Olympic dispatch from Tokyo.
  • And, why some rural Democrats are running against their own national party’s image.

Guests: Axios' Alayna Treene, Ina Fried, and Alexi McCammond.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Dan Bobkoff, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Sabeena Singhani, Amy Pedulla, Naomi Shavin, and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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MARGARET TALEV: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Thursday, July 22nd. I’m Margaret Talev, filling in for Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what we’re following today: an eerie first Olympic dispatch from Tokyo. Plus, why some rural Democrats are running against their own national party’s image.

But first, what’s left of the January 6 committee is today’s One Big Thing.

Back in June, the House of Representatives passed a resolution launching a special committee to investigate the January 6th insurrection on the Capitol. Minority leader Kevin McCarthy could choose five committee members, but Speaker Pelosi would have veto power and the final say. Well, in a statement on Wednesday, Pelosi rejected two of McCarthy's appointees, saying they could have “an impact on the integrity of the investigation.” Alayna Treene, Axios’ congressional reporter, has been with McCarthy this week. Hey Alayna!

ALAYNA TREENE: Hi Margaret! Thanks for having me on.

MARGARET: Well, what a day. Let's start here. Why did Speaker Pelosi pull out these two lawmakers, Representatives Jim Jordan and Jim Banks?

ALAYNA: Essentially she thought that having Congressmen Jordan and Banks on the committee was just a sign that McCarthy wasn't taking the committee seriously, that it was going to be a political circus. Because that's kind of what they're known for. Jordan and Banks are both very conservative members. They're attack dogs. We've seen Jordan know how to politicize things in the past very clearly with impeachment when he was on the judiciary committee, defending the former president Trump for this.

And so, essentially she said, "No, hey, I'm going to use my power as House Speaker to reject these two people." She kept the other three of his picks, but McCarthy said, "Hey, no, no dice. If you're not going to give me all five of my picks, then you're not going to have any Republicans." And we'll see if he sticks to that. A big thing that was very much talked about on the Hill when they initially rejected the January 6th nonpartisan committee, was that people like Kevin McCarthy could potentially be subpoenaed and called to testify in this. And that's something that I think a lot of Republicans are really worried about and their potential role in what happened that day.

MARGARET: Speaker Pelosi did ask Congresswoman Liz Cheney, Republican Wyoming, to join this committee and Cheney agreed. What did she say?

ALAYNA: She basically said that she agrees with Speaker Pelosi. Liz Cheney, just remember, I think a lot of Republicans, you know, aren't really accepting her as a Republican right now. Particularly for her role on the committee, but she is the daughter of a vice president of the United States, a Republican vice president of the United States, Dick Cheney. And she is still very, very conservative. And so I spoke with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer today and he was like, it's going to be really tough for Republicans to complain that this isn't bipartisan because someone like Liz Cheney is going to be on it. So that's kind of Democrats’ argument.

MARGARET: The committee is scheduled to go ahead with its first hearing, July 27th. What else should we be looking for next? Could speaker Pelosi ask other Republicans to take those five spaces that Kevin McCarthy has now said no thanks to?

ALAYNA: That is one of her options. It's something that I'm furiously trying to figure out. I've been texting with all of my sources. I spoke with Jamie Raskin, he's a Democratic member on the committee. He said he certainly thinks that it could be a good idea and it could be a great option to have other Republicans take that space and he thinks it would be a number of them who'd be willing to do it. So that is one option that she has at her disposal.

MARGARET: Axios congressional reporter, Alayna Treene. Thank you, Alayna.

ALAYNA: Thank you, Margaret.

MARGARET: We’ll be back in 15 seconds with Ina Fried’s first Olympic dispatch.

MARGARET: Welcome back to Axios Today! I'm Margaret Talev, in for Niala Boodhoo.

The lead-up to the Olympics has been chaotic to say the least - but the games are finally upon us, with the opening ceremony tomorrow. Axios' Ina Fried is on the ground in Tokyo and sent us this thought bubble.

INA FRIED: Everything about this Olympics experience has been bizarre and I think that's going to continue. It was certainly the case when I attended my first event on Wednesday, the women's soccer game versus Sweden. Of course, the result itself was unusual in that the U.S. team usually dominates and they were dominated in this case by Sweden.

But really being in a giant stadium meant to hold tens of thousands of people and there were only, you know, a few dozen of us in the stands in two rows of press and then a handful of photographers on the field, just very unusual. When you watch the game, you could hear the players talking to each other and that was the main sound. There was a little bit of piped in crowd noise, but even that was more a dull white noise than it was what it sounds like when they're really fast.

Similarly, Tokyo isn't really experiencing any of these games. There's basically a divide between the people of Tokyo and these games. So as reporters, we're not allowed to go anywhere, but prescribed and agreed-upon set of locations. We're not allowed to see Tokyo, the people of Tokyo aren't allowed to see the games. It's basically an island into itself.

MARGARET: And we'll hear lots more about that island in the weeks to come from our own Ina Fried who is on the ground covering the Olympics for Axios in Tokyo.

Earlier this week, we talked about the push by elected Republicans in blue cities to hold on to conservative values. But now the opposite is happening with Democratic candidates in rural areas who are distancing themselves from their own national party in their campaigns.

Alexi McCammond is covering the 2022 midterms for Axios and she joins me now. Good morning, Alexi.


MARGARET: We're seeing this in races already in Ohio, Montana, Kentucky. What's the strategy here?

ALEXI: They're looking at rural districts and states and thinking of their strategy there - as the progressive wing of the party is sort of helping to define, or they hope helping to define the national Brand as this sort of liberal, progressive party. So Democrats are deciding to run in rural districts and states sort of running against that idea that there are these liberal elites. Strategists I talked to said that they should just talk to voters like normal people, and really talk about the policies in terms of the context of those policies, not winnowing them down to slogans.

MARGARET: In that sense, this is really just about messaging because a lot of the Biden agenda is actually popular in rural areas. As long as you don't use the word Biden or use the word progressive right? Ideas like, broadband, expansion or investments in roads and bridges, the child tax credit, even. How much of this is rhetoric versus the actual policy?

ALEXI: Well, I think that's spot on, Margaret. I mean, in many ways, these Democrats running in these rural areas aren't necessarily running against or away from President Biden or that brand of Democrat, but they are really holding his policies front and center and have a lot of things they can point to, as you just mentioned. But it's really selling it as a Democratic party policy that would help middle class folks, that would help rural voters who otherwise might think that they and Democrats aren't necessarily aligned anymore because what they see on national television or in these oppo ads really usually relies on the kind of lightning rod Democrats, the AOCs of the world, not the Joe Bidens.

MARGARET: I'm struck by the juxtaposition of two trends and one is that Republicans want to take over the mantle of the party of the working class from the Democrats who held that mantle for decades. And at the same time, Democrats are trying to redefine what the Democratic party means in rural areas because they think they have the potential to gain support among rural voters. Maybe just the floor is so low at this point?

ALEXI: Yes and Democrats after the 2016 election when Trump won, were doing so much hand wringing, as you'll remember, about whether and how they could've connected better with folks in rural areas who increasingly feel like the Democratic party doesn't align with them or their values.

But with President Biden atop, I've heard from a lot of Democratic operatives and strategists and candidates too that he gives them a lot of cover to be able to run as a more moderate Dem in these areas and really connect with these rural voters who they thought he did an okay job with before.

MARGARET: Alexi McCammond is a politics reporter covering the midterms for Axios. Thanks, Alexi.

ALEXI: Thanks so much.

MARGARET: That’s all we’ve got for you today! You can reach our team at [email protected] or reach out to me on twitter.

I’m Margaret Talev in for Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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