Jun 9, 2022 - Politics & Policy

4 things to watch in the GOP's defense against the Jan. 6 hearing

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

House Republicans, eager to get ahead of the barrage of revelations the Jan. 6 committee has planned for its prime-time hearing tomorrow night, launched their counter-programming blitz in earnest this morning.

Driving the news: House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), one of former President Trump's top Jan. 6 surrogates, accused Democrats of "scrambling to change the headlines, praying that the nation will focus on their partisan witch hunt instead of our pocketbooks."

  • Stefanik called the investigation "a smear campaign" against Trump and criticized the committee's hiring of former ABC President James Goldston to produce the made-for-TV hearings.
  • Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) also went after the panel in a new op-ed for The Federalist titled: "The True Goal Of The J6 Committee Is To Slander And Shame Conservatives Out Of The Public Sphere."

Why it matters: This is just a taste of what Republicans have prepared for the coming messaging war — a counteroffensive crafted during private deliberations in which key Trump surrogates reviewed old documents, settled on talking points and plotted their media strategy.

Between the lines: One major stumbling block is the Jan. 6 committee has held many of its cards close to the vest. As much preparation as Republicans have done, they have little way of knowing what bombshells they'll be forced to rebut.

What we're watching

1. The stakes of subpoena defiance.

  • House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and four other House Republicans have signaled they do not plan to comply with subpoenas issued by the committee last month.
  • This is uncharted territory: the Republicans' refusal to cooperate with the unprecedented subpoenas will force the panel to decide whether to pursue criminal contempt charges, dragging the Justice Department into the political spotlight.

2. Trump's involvement.

  • Axios reported last week the former president has not ruled out a public appearance as part of an effort by him and his allies to flood the airwaves with their own messaging.
  • During the opening arguments of his first impeachment trial in 2019 — before he was banned from Twitter — Trump was so animated he broke his record for most tweets sent in a day.

3. Loyalty test.

  • While it's clear top House Republicans — namely McCarthy, Stefanik, Jordan and Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) — plan to launch a full-throated defense of the former president, some GOP members want nothing more than to move on from Jan. 6 altogether.
  • Choosing not to defend the former president could trigger a backlash and potential retribution.
  • Pay extra attention to the eight other Republicans — in addition to Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), who serve on the committee — who voted to impeach Trump after the attack.
  • Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.) — one of the 10 Republicans who voted so — said Sunday he's still "livid" Trump did nothing to stop the riot.

4. Groundwork for retaliation.

  • House Republicans are eager to sink their teeth into the Biden administration and congressional Democrats if they take back the majority next year, including with their own Watergate-style hearings covering a catalog of alleged wrongdoing.
  • Jordan, who spoke at today's press conference, would be chairman of the powerful House Judiciary Committee next year if Republicans are in power, and he's promised to unleash a flood of investigations as retribution.
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