Who’s the biggest loser: McConnell or McCarthy?

For years, Capitol Hill reporters have assured Americans that privately, Republicans disparage Donald Trump and can't wait to get rid of him.

Now we are finally getting some real audio to back that up, and what it exposes is exactly what a bunch of losers GOP lawmakers are—GOP leadership in particular.

The recordings, made in the aftermath of the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection, were unearthed by two New York Times reporters, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, whose book This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America’s Future will be released next month.

The reporters released one piece of audio Thursday between House GOP Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and then-House GOP Communications Chief Liz Cheney. Friday, on CNN, they released two more pieces of McCarthy audio, one from a Jan. 10 phone call with an inner circle of House GOP leaders and another from a Jan. 11 call with the entire Republican caucus.

The phone calls reveal a man who is absolutely desperate to rid himself of Trump in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

"I've had it with this guy," McCarthy tells the GOP leadership team on Jan. 10. "What he did is unacceptable. Nobody can defend it, and nobody should defend it.”

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No one, that is, until he ran down to Mar-a-Lago three weeks later to beg Trump's forgiveness.

On Jan. 11, McCarthy was a little less pointed in his conversation with the wider caucus, but still talking tough.

"Let me be very clear to all of you, and I've been very clear to the president: He bears responsibility for his words and actions. No ifs, ands, or buts," McCarthy said.

No ifs, ands, or buts—until he ran his hiney down to Mar-a-Lago three weeks later to beg Trump's forgiveness.

McCarthy then told the caucus that he asked Trump directly if he bore responsibility for what happened on Jan. 6 and if he feels badly about it.

"He told me he does have some responsibility for what happened. And he need [sic] to acknowledge that," McCarthy reported back to the caucus.

That will probably be news to Trump, the notion that he took responsibility for something—anything, really—let alone the violent Jan. 6 coup attempt.

Senate GOP Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also had some choice words on Jan. 11, telling two advisers of the impending House impeachment, “The Democrats are going to take care of the son of a bitch for us."

According to the Times' Martin and Burns, McConnell told the aides he expected the Senate would convict Trump, with a strong contingent of Republicans voting accordingly. At least 17 Republicans would be needed to seal Trump's fate if all 50 Democrats voted in favor, and McConnell clearly thought he had the votes.

But once McConnell took the temperature of the caucus, he didn't. And ol' masterful Mitch also didn't have the leadership skills to deliver the votes. As McConnell recently admitted publicly, "moral red lines" aren't exactly his thing.

"He didn’t ascend to power by siding with the minority, he explained to a friend," write Martin and Burns.

As for McCarthy's leadership, just two days after that Jan. 11 call with the entire GOP caucus, he pretended it never happened at his weekly press conference.

“Did you tell House Republicans on their January 11 phone call that President Trump told you he agreed that he bore some responsibility for January 6?" a reporter asked.

“I'm not sure what call you're talking about," replied McCarthy.

Now there's a guy with some unshakable moral fortitude.

And so here we sit in the spring of 2022 with Trump still the 2024 GOP favorite even as he complicates the path for congressional Republicans to retake the majority. In fact, it's not exactly clear why he would want either McCarthy or McConnell to regain control of their chambers.

The biggest guessing game on Capitol Hill Friday morning was how hard Trump would come down on McCarthy. That seems doubtful. McCarthy is a useful idiot who will do absolutely anything Trump says in his desperate bid to become speaker of the House one day.

On Friday morning, McCarthy wasn't running around trying to rehabilitate his public image, he was madly ringing up all his colleagues to assure them that Trump isn't angry with him, according to Punchbowl News' Jake Sherman.

So who's the biggest loser? Broadly speaking, both Mitch and Kev are epic losers in the leadership department. They both wanted to rid themselves of the Trump plague with every fiber of their being, and yet capitulated to him at a time when Trump was at his lowest, most vulnerable political moment since he had announced his 2016 candidacy for president.

Dooming Trump was completely within reach, and neither of them had the grit or determination to follow through. Thus, Trump is still ruling their world.

More specifically, who will be the biggest loser of Trump's wrath? Likely McConnell, precisely because he's not the exquisite bootlicker that McCarthy is.

McCarthy gladly and immediately laying himself belly up at Trump's feet while McConnell doesn't will simply remind Trump how deeply he loathes McConnell.

He’ll be coming for McConnell. Trump can throw McCarthy under the bus later.

Florida man revels in vexing his GOP colleagues. His name isn’t Donald Trump

Leadership abhors a vacuum and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is Exhibit A. First, McConnell had the chance to finish off Donald Trump’s political future during his second impeachment but failed to seal the deal.

Next, McConnell had a chance to give Americans a Republican vision they could vote for in November, but he demurred—choosing instead to offer nothing for which Republicans could be held to account as a cynical campaign strategy.

Now, McConnell’s getting burned on both fronts—by Scott and Trump alike. Trump is getting his jollies by carpet bombing the 2022 landscape with endorsements at will. At the same time, Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, who's running the Senate GOP's bid to retake the upper chamber, has pounced on McConnell's unsteady grip on the caucus.

After Scott dropped his disastrous 11-point plan to "Rescue America" last month on "an unsuspecting party,” he relished the upheaval he created, according to a delightful Washington Post account.

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Scott used a Wall Street Journal op-ed to malign his critics as "careerists in Washington" and jeered, "Bring it on." He also restructured the National Republican Senatorial Committee's fundraising efforts to line his own campaign coffers and then punched back at his detractors.

“We don’t spend much time worrying about criticisms from anonymous Republican consultants who lost the Senate last cycle and who have gotten rich off maintaining the status quo,” Chris Hartline, NRSC communications director and Scott campaign spokesperson, told the Post.

But the pugnacity of Scott and his allies doesn't reverse the fact that he's adding significant deadweight to GOP efforts in November.

For one, he sucking up a lot of money for himself. Donors at some of his events (including in Florida) have been asked to divide their first $10,800 between Scott's campaign account and his own leadership PAC before gifting more to the NRSC account.

The Senate GOP committee is pretty flush at $33 million—$13 million more than at the same point in 2020 and more than twice as much in 2018.

But Scott isn't up for reelection and, as one GOP strategist noted, “He is doing it in a state where there is an incumbent senator who is in-cycle." That would be Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.

But that's just one example plaguing what colleagues joke has become the "National Rick Scott Committee." Another change includes Scott whittling down the cut for candidates who let the NRSC fundraise off their images in digital ads. Candidates used to split the haul 50-50 with the committee along with getting donors' names but, under Scott, they get just 10% of donations plus donor names.

Overall, the takeaway among many of the colleagues Scott is supposed to be helping is that "Rick Scott seems to care a lot more about his political future than the Senate incumbents he is supposed to be working for,” according to one anonymous source.

But one group that is extremely pleased with Scott's efforts is Senate Democrats.

“We’ve got three words for him: Keep it up,” said David Bergstein, the communications director at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which has been readily highlighting Scott's plan to raise taxes on more than 100 million American households as well as sunset Medicare and Social Security.

"No NRSC chair has done more for Senate Democrats than Rick Scott,” Bergstein added.

Someone else who applauds Scott's self-serving actions is a fellow Florida man who loves anyone and anything that becomes a thorn in McConnell's side.

“I don’t agree with everything in the plan, but Rick is a good man,” Donald Trump said.

Trump’s statement, however, surely says more about his hatred for McConnell than it does Scott's stewardship of the NRSC.

“I’d take Romney over McConnell,” Trump recently said of Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, who became the lone GOP senator to vote in favor of Trump's first impeachment. “I think he’d do a better job, and I think Romney is a lowlife.”

For his part, McConnell would be in a much better position to put Scott's GOP agenda to rest if he would bother to pound out a plan of his own. But the fact is, Scott dared to tell Americans what Republicans stand for and McConnell hasn't. And there's really no telling who will be running the Senate GOP caucus if Trump runs again in 2024 and wins.

McConnell can thank himself for that too.

McConnell, master of red-line drawing, draws the line at morality

Whenever someone starts asking Minority Leader Mitch McConnell about morality, it's bound to get uncomfortable. Over the years, McConnell has made it perfectly clear that his world is singularly ordered around the pursuit of power—a scheme in which morality has found no audience.

Luckily for McConnell, nearly every Capitol Hill reporter has given up on trying to figure out where the longtime GOP leader might draw the line on the path to his Holy Grail—what might be a bridge too far. Instead, D.C. reporters uniquely obsess over the strategic considerations of the supposed mastermind—who incidentally whiffed on his golden opportunity to sideline Donald Trump forever electorally during his second impeachment.

McConnell is, in fact, an avid purveyor of red lines. Increasing taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations is a red line for him, as was supporting a pandemic relief package that didn't include liability protections for companies that put their workers lives at risk. Indeed, McConnell's pronouncements over the years have been riddled with so-called red lines.

That's what made a line of questioning this week by Axios' Jonathan Swan about McConnell's "moral red line" so entertaining.

Initially, McConnell thought he could slide right past the query without too much scrutiny. In response to Swan’s description of him as politically “ruthless,” McConnell joked that his wife thinks he's nice, his kids like him, and then further ribbed that he was "shocked to hear such a comment."

But Swan wasn't playing McConnell's game. "So moral red lines, where do you draw them?" Swan repeated.

McConnell, treading water, actually asked Swan to repeat the term, as if the concept was so foreign, it didn't quite compute.

Finally, McConnell offered, “I’m very comfortable with my moral red line."

After Swan asked the question, lingered on it, and then dug a little deeper, McConnell finally said, “You want to spend some more time on this?”

"I actually do," replied Swan.

Of course, he did. It was a sit-down interview in front of a live audience. McConnell was captive, without the ability to simply walk away from the mic the way he routinely does at press conferences. The whole exchange was so cringey, it was delightful.

Then Swan invoked Liz Cheney, noting that she had the same view as McConnell about Trump being culpable for Jan. 6. But while McConnell has said he would vote for Trump if he were the 2024 nominee, Cheney has made perfectly clear that Trump must be destroyed.

“I’m just actually trying to understand," Swan offered, "Is there any threshold for you—”

“You know, I say many things I’m sure people don’t understand.”

In short, no.

Watch it:

.@jonathanvswan asks Mitch McConnell where he draws his moral redlines pic.twitter.com/is7WZqSuhx

— Axios (@axios) April 7, 2022

Hawley injects QAnon conspiracy theory into Jackson SCOTUS nomination. Democrats should shut it down

Noted insurrectionist and treason-curious Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) has decided to bring some QAnon seasoning to the disgustingly and blatantly racist appeals for opposition to Judge Ketanji Brown Jackon’s Supreme Court nomination. In a long and slimy Twitter screed that does not merit linking to, Hawley suggests that Jackson isn’t just “soft on crime”—the dog whistle Republican narrative—but has coddled sex offenders and in particular pedophiles.

Hawley went so far as to say that “her record endangers children,” a charge that has probably already been picked up on by the worst of the worst QAnon conspiracy theorists who feed the right-wing media. Expect it to show up on Fox News any minute now.

That makes Sen. Dick Durbin’s attitude a little too dismissive. The Judiciary Committee chair told Politico: “I don’t believe in it being taken seriously … I’m troubled by it because it’s so outrageous. It really tests the committee as to whether we’re going to be respectful in the way we treat this nominee.”

Yes, yes it does. Particularly when Minority Leader Mitch McConnell—after that screed from Hawley was posted—lied through his teeth, telling conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that “I think Judge Jackson will be treated respectfully. I think the questions will be appropriate.” No. The questions will not be appropriate. Hawley just proved that, and McConnell needs to be pressured into holding him to account for that.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates responded appropriately. “This is toxic and weakly-presented misinformation that relies on taking cherry-picked elements of her record out of context—and it buckles under the lightest scrutiny.” The full statement:

Judge Jackson’s is a proud mother of two whose nomination has been endorsed by leading law enforcement organizations, conservative judges, and survivors of crime. This is toxic and weakly-presented misinformation that relies on taking cherry-picked elements of her record out of context—and it buckles under the lightest scrutiny. It’s based on a report unanimously agreed to by all of the Republicans on the US Sentencing Commission, on selectively presenting a short transcript excerpt in which Judge Jackson was quoting a witness’s testimony back to them to ask a question, and on omitting that her rulings are in line with sentencing practices across the entire federal judiciary regarding these crimes. In the overwhelming majority of her cases involving child sex crimes, the sentences Judge Jackson imposed were consistent with or above what the government or U.S. Probation recommended.

There is the problem that when you are explaining, you are losing. But what Bates says is all true, and it’s what Democrats need to bring to next week’s hearing for Jackson: the facts. But they have to bring those facts with anger and fire and ferocity. They have to be prepared to humiliate the worm Hawley (and Ted Cruz, and Tom Cotton, and Marsha Blackburn—the very worst of the Republicans are on this committee) to the utmost.

That means some discipline and some coordination among Democrats, which is far too often missing in these hearings. They’re generally too enamored with the sound of their own voices and the rare opportunity to carry on in front of national television cameras to actually be effective.

They can take some inspiration from Twitter. For example, using this:

Clarence Thomas wanted to strike down a law allowing federal courts to order civil commitment for sex offenders. I look forward to Hawley's forthcoming articles of impeachment against this soft-on-crime, child predator-coddling justice. https://t.co/yV8QB1lYUQ https://t.co/aW7ZOB9yqE

— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) March 17, 2022

This shit has to be called out for what it is. Forget the “comity” of the Senate hearing room. Forget the pomp and circumstance of the hearing room. When the likes of Hawley tries to advance this kind of malevolent bile, Democrats need to be united in attacking back and exposing it.

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Two years ago, they voted against impeachment. Now suddenly they’re deeply concerned for Ukraine

Following Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s emotional appeal to Congress and President Joe Biden to help his country defend itself against Russia, top Republican leaders did the only thing they could think to do: use their cheering of Zelenskyy as cover to attack Biden.

Despite dressing their attacks on Biden in the language of support for Zelenskyy and Ukraine, Republicans didn’t exactly hide the real point. “The longer President Biden waits, trying to figure out excuses to not offend Putin, it's costing lives in Ukraine,” said House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, the day after Russia announced sanctions on Biden and a slate of other Democrats, but no Republicans, and just over two years after he and every other Republican, with the exception of Sen. Mitt Romney, voted against impeaching Donald Trump for withholding military aid from Ukraine to extort political favors.

RELATED: Trump's Ukraine extortion campaign didn't begin or end with 'I would like you to do us a favor'

When you're going straight to “excuses not to offend Putin,” you’re making it clear where your interests lie, and it’s not sincerely with the Ukrainian people. 

Scalise’s fellow House Republican leader Elise Stefanik led her statement on Zelenskyy’s address with an attack on Biden’s “weakness and delay.” This is a return to form for Stefanik, who started the month with a message to Ukraine that managed not to blame Biden for Putin’s invasion, after her initial response had been aimed at Biden. Stefanik didn’t just vote against impeaching Trump: She was a key part of his impeachment defense, rising in the ranks of Republicans on the basis of that performance. For Stefanik, the inquiry into Trump having withheld military aid as part of an effort to get Ukraine to tarnish his domestic political opponent was a prime opportunity to try to tarnish Trump’s domestic political opponent—Joe Biden, the same person she is now holding responsible for Vladimir Putin’s actions.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also went straight to Biden. McConnell had on Tuesday said Biden was guilty of “hesitancy and weakness,” and on Wednesday said, “the message to President Biden is that he needs to step up his game.” McConnell voted to acquit Trump of withholding military aid to extort Ukraine.

Republican attacks on Biden implied that the distance between their preferred policies and his were bigger than they really are. Most Republicans agree that a U.S.-imposed no-fly zone would be a bad idea. “It remains my view that putting — if that means putting U.S. troops or pilots in Ukraine, I think the answer is no,” McConnell said. He, like many other Republicans, is drawing the line for attacking Biden between the drones and other equipment Biden is sending and the airplanes McConnell claims to support. (McConnell would still find a way to attack Biden if Biden sent dozens of planes tomorrow.)

Biden is out here trying to walk the line between aiding Ukraine and avoiding World War III, and Republicans are simply looking for any excuse they can manufacture to attack him.

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Anniversary of Capitol attack brings a dilemma for teachers in Republican areas

On Jan. 6, 2021, we saw history being made as the U.S. Capitol came under attack by insurrectionists intent on overturning a presidential election. On Jan. 6, 2022, after a year in which many Republicans have decided that those events were just fine, actually, teachers across the country will have to decide whether or how to engage with that recent history.

For teachers in heavily Republican areas where the political pressure is to deny the reality of what happened, it could be a tricky day.

Liz Wagner, an eighth- and ninth-grade social studies teacher in Iowa, told the Associated Press that last year, administrators warned teachers to be careful in discussing the attack, and students pushed back against her use of the (accurate) term “insurrection.” At the time, she turned to the dictionary definition of the word—but this year, she’ll be more cautious, instead having students watch video of the attack and write about what they saw.

“This is kind of what I have to do to ensure that I’m not upsetting anybody,” she said. “Last year I was on the front line of the COVID war, trying to dodge COVID, and now I’m on the front line of the culture war, and I don’t want to be there.”

Anton Schulzki, the president of the National Council for the Social Studies and a teacher in Colorado, will be teaching about Jan. 6, secure in a contract with academic freedom protections despite the recent election of right-wing school board members in his district. 

“I do feel,” he told the AP, “that there may be some teachers who are going to feel the best thing for me to do is to ignore this because I don’t want to put myself in jeopardy, because I have my own bills to pay, my own house to take care of, my own kids to take back and forth to school.”

And no wonder, with Republican-controlled states passing law after law targeting the teaching of race in schools, but often throwing in broad language prohibiting the teaching of basically anything any (white) parent decides to complain about. “On the face of it, if you read the laws, they’re quite vague and, you know, hard to know actually what’s permissible and what isn’t,” Abby Weiss, who develops teaching tools for the nonprofit Facing History and Ourselves, said.

One thing teachers could bring to their classrooms to frame discussion of the insurrection might be the words of some prominent Republicans. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, say.

“Jan. 6th was a disgrace. American citizens attacked their own government. They used terrorism to try to stop a specific piece of democratic business they did not like. Fellow Americans beat and bloodied our own police. They stormed the Senate floor. They tried to hunt down the Speaker of the House. They built a gallows and chanted about murdering the Vice President,” McConnell said on Feb. 13, 2021. “They did this because they had been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on Earth—because he was angry he’d lost an election.”

Or House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who on Jan. 13, 2021, said, “Some say the riots were caused by antifa. There’s absolutely no evidence of that, and conservatives should be the first to say it. ... Most Americans want neither inaction nor retribution. They want durable, bipartisan justice. That path is still available, but it is not the path we are on today. That doesn’t mean the president is free from fault. The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.”

McCarthy, has, of course, changed his tune since in response to pressure from his conference and from Donald Trump. But he said that.

The Republican effort to sweep U.S. history under the rug has been most focused on the long ugly history of racism in this country. Unfortunately, though, the tools they’ve developed to keep teachers from teaching that set of truths will work just as well to keep teachers from teaching the truth about what Donald Trump supporters did just a year ago. Teachers in districts with right-wing school board members or in states with laws targeting critical race theory are right to be nervous—that’s the whole point. 

McConnell breaks out the pompoms as Jan. 6 Committee takes aim at Trump and his cronies

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, deemed by some to be a master tactician, has missed every chance he had this year to help secure the downfall of Donald Trump and his increasingly ascendant wing of the party. Until now.

After failing to lead his caucus in January to a Trump conviction and then in May killing off a carefully negotiated independent commission on Jan. 6, McConnell is clearly relishing the fruits of the House select committee cobbled together by Speaker Nancy Pelosi in spite of his dismal efforts.

“Interesting” has become McConnell’s word of choice for the Jan. 6 committee whenever he is asked about its work and latest revelations. It was a word he repeatedly deployed the week of Dec. 13 as he ginned up interest in the committee’s eventual findings.

On Tuesday, Dec. 14, McConnell was asked whether he was one of the GOP lawmakers who had personally texted White House chief of staff Mark Meadows as the Jan. 6 assault unfolded. He wasn’t, McConnell told Capitol Hill reporters, adding, “It will be interesting to reveal all the participants who were involved.”

But that was just the beginning of McConnell’s week-long campaign plugging the committee’s probe.

“I read the reports every day,” McConnell offered a couple of days later at a different press conference. “And it’ll be interesting to see what they conclude.”

But the capper to McConnell’s sales pitch came later that evening in an interview with Julia Benbrook of Spectrum News. Asked to comment further about his curiosity in “all the participants,” McConnell responded, “The fact-finding is interesting. We’re all going to be watching it. It was a horrendous event, and I think what they are seeking to find out is something the public needs to know.”

So not just interesting, but an actual necessity in terms of public knowledge.

But why the sudden burst of cheerleading from a man who once panned an independent commission on the Capitol siege as a useless exercise unlikely to unearth any “new facts”? Quite simply, the Jan. 6 probe is giving McConnell a do-over on what he was incapable of accomplishing himself—neutralizing the Trump wing of the party. He had chances in 2021, and he either didn’t take them or fumbled the ball at the 1-yard line, particularly in the case of impeachment.  

The prospect that the House probe might implicate and ensnare Trump and pro-Trump members of his own party is both enticing and existential for McConnell. Just imagine what a criminal prosecution of Trump could do for McConnell, not to mention someone like Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas being found complicit in the crime. That’s an entirely possible scenario, especially with a new book out from Trump aide Peter Nevarro claiming that Cruz played a key role in an election-stealing scheme Nevarro concocted with Trump henchman Steve Bannon.

“We spent a lot of time lining up over 100 congressmen, including some senators. It started out perfectly. At 1 p.m., [Rep. Paul] Gosar and Cruz did exactly what was expected of them,” Navarro told The Daily Beast of the GOP lawmakers’ initial blockade of certification. Gosar, of Arizona, lodged the first objection to certifying his state’s vote, and Cruz officially signed off on it, sending the two chambers of Congress into recess to weigh the objection in their respective chambers. That was before Trumpers breached the police barricades and stormed the Capitol, brutalizing and killing people along the way. 

What has become perfectly clear throughout 2021 is that McConnell entirely misjudged the hold Trump had on the party’s base, even going so far as to call him “a fading brand” at one point.  

But by the end of the year, McConnell had lost so much control that he was reduced to endorsing candidates like alleged wife beater and former football star Herschel Walker for a Georgia Senate seat that offers the GOP one of its best pick up chances in 2022. In other words, Trump is now towering over the supposedly masterful McConnell, who is bending like a wet reed to Trump’s every wish.

The Jan. 6 panel is now giving McConnell a glimmer of hope. And after fumbling away all his opportunities to dispense with Trump earlier this year, the least he can do is stoke a little interest and intrigue in what promises to be a fascinating year of revelations.  

McConnell didn’t text Meadows on Jan. 6. But he’s damn sure excited about finding out who did

Capitol Hill reporters have been atwitter ever since Monday evening, when Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, vice chair of the Jan. 6 committee, read aloud a series of Mayday texts sent to then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows by Fox News hosts and Don Jr. as Trump supporters swarmed the Capitol.

But their excitement reached fever pitch on Tuesday when Cheney gave a follow-up performance, this time reading off Jan. 6 texts to Meadows from unnamed GOP lawmakers.

"It is really bad up here on the Hill," one GOP lawmaker texted Meadows.

"Fix this now," urged another.

The select committee investigating Jan. 6 plans to release those Republicans' names at some mystery date in the near future, but one reporter immediately queried Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell Tuesday on whether he was one of the unnamed lawmakers appealing to Trump to intervene.

"I was not," McConnell offered, "but I do think we're all watching, as you are, what is unfolding on the House side, and it will be interesting to reveal all the participants who were involved."

McConnell, with his ritual glum affect, revealed no investment in the outcome of that information. But inside, he was likely doing a happy dance as he teased the big reveal of "all the participants who were involved." Participants, eh?

This is undoubtedly where McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy part ways. To some extent, the McConnell wing of the GOP, which is at loggerheads with the Trump wing, wants—and maybe even needs—the Jan. 6 panel to succeed. The bigger the chunk the panel can take out of the crazy Trumpers currently running roughshod over the House GOP caucus, the better for McConnell. Who knows—McConnell might not even mind if some Trump-aligned GOP senators took a hit. Seriously, who except Ted Cruz isn't rooting for Ted Cruz to get tangled up in legal trouble?

Unfortunately, it appears none of those texts came from GOP senators, according to Jan. 6 Committee Chair Bennie Thompson of Mississippi.

That doesn't mean, however, that the investigative committee still couldn't unearth some interesting information about Trump's Senate allies. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina seemed pretty eager to unburden himself of the fact that he spoke with Ivanka Trump on Jan. 6, urging her to tell her father to call off the dogs.

But the bottom line here is that McConnell—who has no use for Trump—likely didn't have any contact with him or his cadre around their Jan. 6 coup effort. So personally, McConnell likely has little to lose as the sweeping probe reveals who was in on Trump's coup attempt and who wasn't.

McConnell, for some unfathomable reason, missed his opportunity to put a final nail in Trump's political coffin during Trump’s second impeachment earlier this year. The Jan. 6 panel might just offer McConnell another opportunity to take a bite out of the Trump wing, which is currently overrunning McConnell and his allies.

So keep your on eye on McConnell to potentially turn the knife a little here or there as the Jan. 6 probe continues to bear anti-Trump fruit.

House votes to create Jan. 6 commission, but McConnell is doing what he always does—blocking justice

On Wednesday evening, the House authorized the creation of an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the the January 6 assault on the Capitol. In the process, 35 Republican representatives bucked GOP leadership to vote in favor of the commission that will investigate not just events of that day, but just how the nation came to face a violent insurgency and an attack on democracy. 

The overwhelming 252-175 vote in the House came after Republican leaders at first expressed support for the idea of such a commission in the immediate wake of the attack. The actual design for the commission came from a bipartisan agreement of the Homeland Security Committee, and gave Republicans equal representation in the investigation, as well as what amounts to  veto power over any subpoenas. That such a Republican-friendly agreement was reached seemed to surprise Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who initially refused to say whether he would support the deal. Then McCarthy let it be known that he would not whip other Republicans to vote against it. Then he did exactly that.

Now the proposed commission moves to the Senate, where—despite Mitch McConnell’s speech calling January 6 “a disgrace” that happened because Americans were “fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on Earth”—McConnell has already announced that he will oppose it. At the moment, not a single Republican in the Senate has spoken up to support the bill.

Because, when all is said and done, they are all still following the orders of the same man, who is still spreading the same wild falsehoods.”

The commission designed by the House Homeland Security Committee could not be more straightforward or more generous in the power it gives to the minority party. Modeled after the similar body created to investigate 9/11, the commission is “charged with studying the facts and circumstances surrounding the January 6th attack on the Capitol as well as the influencing factors that may have provoked the attack on our democracy.”

The 10-person panel is to be composed, not of political figures, but of individuals with “significant expertise in the areas of law enforcement, civil rights, civil liberties, privacy, intelligence, and cybersecurity.” Anyone currently serving in government is not eligible, and the selections are to be split evenly between majority and minority leadership in the House and Senate. The commission can issue subpoenas, but they must be approved by both the Democratic chair and Republican vice-chair.

In terms of the structure and purpose, the commission created by the House bill is in no way slanted toward a Democratic position. The fact that Democrats have agreed to this structure, despite holding a majority in the House and Senate, is testament to the idea that they simply want to know the truth.

 Which is, of course, the problem. 

Because a lot of Republicans stand to be put in a very, very bad light if the full truth comes out. Not least of all, that man who was the ultimate source of “wild falsehoods.” That’s why Donald Trump used his new web page this week to insist that the strikingly bipartisan commission was a “Democrat trap” and “partisan unfairness.” And Trump provided the talking points by saying that any commission should also investigate every act of violence that Republicans blame on Democrats, even if exactly none of those events threatened to overturn the outcome of the election and destroy our system of government.

Both Republicans and right-wing media immediately picked up on Trump’s theme, with McCarthy issuing a statement saying that he could not support the commission because it would not investigated “political violence” on the left. Which makes all the sense of refusing to vote for a 9/11 commission unless it also covered Vietnam protests. Or the Civil Rights movement. 

There is no connection, nor comparison, between what happened on January 6 and what happened during Black Lives Matter protests following the police murder of George Floyd. No connection except how men like Trump and McCarthy used lies about about the BLM protests to help stir anger among many of the same groups behind the violence on January 6.

When McConnell spoke on February 13, he agreed that “Former President Trump’s actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty” and that “There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day.” McConnell also pushed back against Republicans who had voted in the House or Senate against certifying the election. In fact, as of Tuesday, McConnell had said he was open to voting for the commission.

But, as The New York Times reports, McConnell “reversed” his position and declared his opposition to the commission. McConnell has made it clear that not only will he vote no, he will also insist that other Republicans vote against the commission.

That reversal came “amid pressure from Mr. Trump.” And now McConnell is absolutely toeing the Trump line, voicing the same nonsensical claims that the studiously bipartisan commission would somehow be unfair because it’s not also looking at events totally unrelated to the assault on the Capitol. Previous Trump’s statement, getting the commission passed by the Senate seemed like a given. Now it seems impossible. That change in tone came after both McConnell and McCarthy “joined … Mr. Trump in panning the proposal.”

The man who McConnell explicitly said is “practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day” is being allowed to quash an investigation of those events.  Even in exile, even in defeat, Trump rules the Republicans. And the reason is simple. As Politico notes, Trump is their “cash cow.” 

In a party literally without a platform, and with absolutely no vision for the future, the only means of engaging their voters—and donors—is through fear and anger. No one generates that fear and anger more than Trump. Republicans aren’t just giving in to Trump, they’re selling out. 

Republicans won’t whip against Jan. 6 commission vote, but McCarthy has ensured its failure

The House is scheduled to vote this week—as soon as Wednesday—on the deal struck by Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson and ranking committee member John Katko for a Jan. 6 commission. Structured much like the 9/11 Commission, the bipartisan committee would investigate the insurrectionist attack on the Capitol.

Thus far, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy hasn't said whether he'll endorse the deal, but leadership seems spooked enough over backlash against the idiot Republicans who insist that it wasn't a violent insurrection but just another "normal tourist visit." Republican leaders will not whip against the bill, meaning it will be a vote of conscience for their members.

That's after a handful of their members—including Rep. Liz Cheney, who secured a very large megaphone thanks to the House GOP deciding to kick her off the leadership team—spent the last several days blasting the revisionist history coming from their colleagues.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021 · 3:33:26 PM +00:00 · Joan McCarter

Speaker Pelosi reacts to McCarthy: "I am very pleased that we have a bipartisan bill to come to the floor and [it's] disappointing, but not surprising that [there's] cowardice on the part of some on the Republican side, [to] not to want to find the truth."https://t.co/9ppvhaEeuH

— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) May 18, 2021

On Friday, Cheney told ABC's Jon Karl that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy—who's done nothing but promote Trump's Big Lie in recent months—should testify before the commission. If he doesn't agree to that, Cheney said, he should be subpoenaed. "I think that he very clearly, and said publicly, that he's got information about the president’s state of mind that day," Cheney said. "I would anticipate that, you know—I would hope he doesn't require a subpoena, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he were subpoenaed."

Michigan Republican Rep. Fred Upton called out his colleagues on Sunday, calling their claims that the insurrection was just a patriots' play-date "bogus," and that those claims prove the need for the commission. "It's absolutely bogus. You know, I was there. I watched a number of the folks walk down to the White House and then back. I have a balcony on my office. So I saw them go down. I heard the noise—the flash bangs, I smelled some of the gas as it moved my way," Upton told CNN's Dana Bash on State of the Union. "Get the facts out, try to assure the American public this is what happened, and let the facts lead us to the conclusion," Upton said.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski blasted House Republicans who downplayed the attack on Friday. "I'm offended by that," Murkowski told CNN. "This was not a peaceful protest. When somebody breaks and enters, and then just because you know they don't completely trash your house once you're inside does not mean that it has been peaceful. This was not a peaceful protest." She continued. "We got to get beyond that rhetoric and acknowledge that what happened were acts of aggression and destruction towards an institution, and there were some people intent on (harming) the people that were part of that institution."

She's going to be supporting the commission when the bill gets to the Senate. It is likely to pass there, too, but that's in part because there's a lot that Republicans, including Sen. Mitch McConnell, can do to weaken it.

The legislation creates a commission made up of 10 members, an equal number of members chosen by Democratic and Republican leadership. None of the members can be currently serving government officials and all must have a depth of experience in a combination government, law enforcement, civil rights, and national security service. Democrats would appoint the chair, Republicans the vice chair. The committee would have the power to subpoena McCarthy or anyone else, but if the vice chair wanted to veto that subpoena decision, they could.

The chair—appointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer—has the sole power to secure information from the federal agencies and has control over appointing staff. That gives them significant power. But there are still pitfalls for the commission.

One of the key faults of the commission as negotiated is that it has a deadline of the end of this year. Republicans have already dragged it out for five months, and have the chance to do so again, even after the bill passes. Even if McConnell decided against filibustering the bill, he and McCarthy can simple draw out the process of naming their five members.   It's going to hinge a lot on how much McConnell wants to distance the Senate and the party from Trump, how much he wants to try to salvage any measure of dignity for his party. There's certainly no love lost between McConnell and Trump, who he blamed point blank for the Jan. 6 attack. That blame, however, didn't happen until after he voted to acquit Trump in his second impeachment trial.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021 · 1:22:31 PM +00:00 · Joan McCarter

House GOP Leader McCarthy makes it official Tuesday morning: he’s officially opposing the legislation and the commission, saying that Pelosi “refused to negotiate in good faith on basic parameters.” Which is categorically untrue since she handed over the negotiations and had Thompson and Katko figure it out.

“Given the Speaker’s shortsighted scope that does not examine interrelated forms of political violence in America, I cannot support this legislation,” he said. Meaning BLM and Antifa are not explicitly included in the scope of the legislation, though as the commission is structured, the GOP members of it could do McCarthy’s and McConnell’s bidding and yammer on about it all the time. McCarthy’s express opposition makes it much less likely 10 Senate Republicans will support the commission. It will pass the House, but is pretty unlikely to pass in the Senate.