WASHINGTON — The four hearings held in recent weeks by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, with their clear and uninterrupted accounts of President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to undermine the peaceful transfer of the power, have left some pro-Trump Republicans wringing their hands in regret over a decision made nearly a year ago.
Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader, chose last summer to withdraw all of his nominees to the committee – amid a dispute with Chairwoman Nancy Pelosi over her rejection of her top two choices – a turning point that left the nine-member investigative committee without a single Trump ally.
Mostly privately, Republicans loyal to Mr. Trump have complained for months that they have no insight into the inner workings of the committee as he has issued dozens of subpoenas and conducted closed-door interviews with hundreds of witnesses.
But the public display this month of what the panel learned — including damning evidence against Mr. Trump and his allies — has left some Republicans wishing more vocally that Mr. Trump had strong defenders on the panel for trying to counter the evidence his investigators unearth. .
“Would that have created a totally different debate? Absolutely,” said Representative Brian Mast, Republican of Florida. “I would have defended the hell out of him.”
Of those who guessed, Mr. McCarthy’s pick was Mr. Trump.
“Unfortunately, a bad decision was made,” Trump told conservative radio host Wayne Allyn Root this week. He added: “It was a bad decision not to be represented on this committee. It was a very, very stupid decision.
The committee employed more than a dozen former federal prosecutors to investigate the actions of Mr. Trump and his allies in the build-up to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.
With former television producers on staff, the committee has constructed a chapter-told narrative of the former president’s attempts to cling to power.
As it did, the committee did not have to deal with speeches from the podium about Mr. Trump’s conservative political achievements. There was no cross-examination of panel witnesses. No derailment of hearings with criticisms of President Biden. No question of diverting the investigation of the former president. In the end, there was no defense of Mr. Trump.
The committee this month presented considerable evidence of Mr Trump’s role, detailing how the former president pressured Vice President Mike Pence to agree to a plan to unilaterally reverse his election defeat even after being told it was illegal.
The themes of the January 6 House committee hearings
On Tuesday, the panel directly linked Mr. Trump to a scheme to present fake pro-Trump voter lists and presented new details about how the former president sought to intimidate, cajole and bluff to invalidate his defeat of 2020 in states around the country.
The effectiveness of the hearings in placing Mr. Trump at the heart of efforts to overturn the election results has caught the attention of, among others, Mr. Trump. He made it clear this week that he wants more Republicans to defend him and is unhappy as hearings roll out on national television with no pro-Trump voices.
The only Republicans on the committee are two who lined up squarely against Mr. Trump: Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. They were nominated by Ms. Pelosi, not Mr. McCarthy.
Mr McCarthy felt in July that it was better politically to denigrate the committee than to appoint members of his party acceptable to Ms Pelosi. He said he had to take a stand after she rejected two of his top picks for the panel: Representatives Jim Banks of Indiana and Jim Jordan of Ohio.
Ms Pelosi said she could not allow the couple to participate, due to their actions around the riot and comments they made to undermine the investigation. (Mr. Jordan later received a subpoena from the committee because of his close relationship with Mr. Trump.) The president’s decision led directly to Mr. McCarthy’s announcement that Republicans would boycott the panel.
“When Pelosi wrongly didn’t allow them, we should have chosen other people,” Mr. Trump said in an interview with Punchbowl News. “We have a lot of good people in the Republican Party.”
Mr Trump openly complained about the composition of the panel, according to a person familiar with his remarks. Some members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus have also privately complained about the lack of pro-Trump Republicans on the panel, the person said.
Those close to Mr. McCarthy argue that the Democrats who control the committee likely would not have given his nominees much power or influence over the panel’s work.
Hearings will resume on Thursday with a session devoted to Mr. Trump’s efforts to install a loyalist at the top of the Justice Department to carry out his demands for further investigations into baseless allegations of voter fraud.
The panel is planning at least two more hearings for July, according to its chair, Rep. Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi. Those hearings are expected to detail how a mob of violent extremists attacked the Capitol and how Mr. Trump did nothing to quash the violence for more than three hours.
Asked Tuesday about the comments of the former president on the commission of January 6, Mr. McCarthy rather evoked inflation and the prices of gasoline.
“They focused on an issue that the public isn’t focused on,” he said of the committee. Mr. McCarthy added that he had spoken with Mr. Trump this week.
One of the Republicans whose candidacy was removed from the committee by Mr. McCarthy, Rep. Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota, was a defense attorney before being elected to Congress.
Ms. Pelosi had approved Mr. Armstrong to be on the panel, alongside Rep. Rodney Davis of Illinois and Rep. Troy Nehls of Texas.
Mr Armstrong said he watched the hearings as the committee presented the evidence in a “choreographed and well-scripted manner”.
If he had been allowed to sit on the committee, he would have tried to lead the investigation and his questions in public hearings into Capitol security breaches, he said, echoing a line of criticism that many Republicans have attempted to address Ms. Pelosi. .
“It would be a lot less scripted. We were asking questions,” Mr. Armstrong said. “There are real questions that need to be answered. My thoughts are with law enforcement officials. They needed more people there.
Still, he said, he stands by the decision made by Mr McCarthy, who is seen as the leading candidate to become president if Republicans win control of the House in the midterm elections in november.
“I was in the room when we made that decision, and I still think it was the right decision,” he said, saying House Republicans needed to take a stand after Ms Pelosi fired Mr. Jordan and Mr. Banks. “I think that was the only option.”
Mr. Trump’s comments sparked much discussion among House Republicans about whether it was the right move.
“Everyone has a different opinion on this,” said Rep. Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma. “Personally, I think the leader made the right choice. As soon as the president decides who the Republican members are, it backfires on his legitimacy.
Rep. Daniel Crenshaw, Republican of Texas, said he would have preferred to see an exchange of opposing views on the panel. “Let the public see how this debate unfolds,” he said. “It would have been better, of course.”
But Representative Fred Upton, a Republican from Michigan who voted to impeach Mr Trump for inciting the attack on the Capitol and is retiring from Congress, said he saw nothing but hypocrisy and folly in Mr. Trump’s complaints. He noted that Mr. Trump made the strategic mistake of opposing a bipartisan commission, with no current lawmakers involved, to investigate the attack on the Capitol.
This commission should have completed its work last year. Instead, Mr. Trump’s miscalculation led to the creation of the House committee on Jan. 6, which continues to investigate him, Mr. Upton said.
“Trump opposed the bipartisan commission,” Mr. Upton said. “Once again he is rewriting history.”
Stephanie Lai contributed report.