Pelosi courts controversy with Taiwan trip that’s personal to Speaker

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan has stirred a storm of controversy, heightening tensions with China and captivating the world’s attention.

For the California Democrat, however, the trip is something much more personal.

Pelosi has a long track record of confronting Chinese leaders head-on, particularly on issues of human rights, stretching back decades to include the massacre of pro-democracy activists on Tiananmen Square.

Her decision to visit Taiwan — a self-governing democracy that Beijing claims as its own — ranks among the most conspicuous exhibitions of that advocacy campaign; Pelosi on Tuesday became the highest-ranking U.S. official to set foot in Taiwan in 25 years.

Through that lens, Pelosi's trek — taken in the twilight of her long career against the wishes of the Biden administration — is not only a diplomatic endeavor to demonstrate U.S. support for Taiwanese autonomy, but a legacy-building crusade for a figure who likes to boast she takes “second place to no one” in her condemnation of Beijing's human rights atrocities.

It’s a historic trip for a historic Speaker — and it may prove to be the crowning global performance of a long political run that’s widely expected to reach an end with the close of this Congress.

“Pelosi has a long history of challenging Beijing — including her visit to Tiananmen Square in 1991 – unfurling an American flag no less,” Sarah Binder, political science professor at George Washington University and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said in an email Tuesday, just hours after the Speaker landed in Taipei.

“If she does indeed retire after this Congress, I suspect the trip will be viewed as the capstone of her legacy on the issue (well, if all goes well, that is),” Binder said.

That “if” has also been on the minds of top Biden administration officials, particularly those in the Pentagon who had cautioned against Pelosi’s visit over concerns that it would trigger a retaliatory response from Beijing. President Biden had vocalized the Defense Department’s apprehensions late last month, telling reporters that “the military thinks it’s not a good idea right now.”

Yet Biden never attempted to dissuade the trip himself, Pelosi said, and White House officials more recently have come around to bless the visit — at least publicly — while warning China against any sort of bellicose response.

“We shouldn’t be — as a country — we shouldn’t be intimidated by that rhetoric or those potential actions,” White House national security spokesman John Kirby said Monday in an interview with CNN. “This is an important trip for the Speaker to be on and we’re going to do whatever we can to support her.”

Chinese leaders have ignored those warnings, following up their initial admonitions with new threats after Pelosi arrived in Taipei. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs quickly issued a statement saying Pelosi’s visit not only represents “a serious violation of the one-China principle,” but will have “a severe impact on the political foundation of China-U.S. relations.”

“It gravely undermines peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and sends a seriously wrong signal to the separatist forces for ‘Taiwan independence,’ ” the ministry charged.

Shortly afterward, Beijing announced that it would launch “targeted military operations” around Taiwan.

Pelosi on Tuesday explained her reasoning behind the trip with some unveiled shots of her own, accusing Beijing’s leaders of doing everything they can — economically, diplomatically, militarily and even through cyberattacks — to punish Taiwan for its enduring resistance to Chinese rule.

“In the face of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) accelerating aggression, our congressional delegation’s visit should be seen as an unequivocal statement that America stands with Taiwan, our democratic partner, as it defends itself and its freedom,” Pelosi wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post.

That message of democratic solidarity, she added, is even more urgent in the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of a peaceful Ukraine earlier in the year.

“As Russia wages its premeditated, illegal war against Ukraine, killing thousands of innocents — even children — it is essential that America and our allies make clear that we never give in to autocrats,” she wrote.

Pelosi’s place in history is already assured. She was the first woman to lead any party in Congress, and in ascending to the Speakership in 2007 became the highest-ranking woman in U.S. history — a distinction surpassed only last year when Kamala Harris was sworn in as vice president.

Over that span, Pelosi shepherded the passage of historic legislation, including ObamaCare, an economic stimulus package in response to the Great Recession and the Wall Street reforms that followed that financial collapse. More recently, she oversaw both impeachments of President Trump, and launched the select committee that’s now investigating Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Her shift this week to take on China promises to extend that legacy well beyond domestic policy and into the realm of foreign diplomacy. Binder, of Brookings, said it has highlighted the fact that congressional legislators can play a crucial role in areas typically reserved for the executive branch.

“In a word, their actions can be consequential for public affairs far beyond the halls of Congress,” she said.

Pelosi’s outspoken campaign against China’s despots, launched with her 1991 visit to Tiananmen Square, hardly ended there. In the years since, the Speaker has also condemned Chinese abuses against pro-democracy activists across Hong Kong and Tibet; she’s pressed Chinese leaders directly to release political prisoners; she’s met a number of times with the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet; and most recently, she fiercely denounced Beijing’s treatment of the Uyghurs, a Muslim minority group in China’s western-most province, labeling it a genocide.

Pelosi’s show of solidarity with Taiwan this week has been met with overwhelming support on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers in both parties have cheered her defiance of Beijing, even as it ruffles feathers at the White House.

“I can see how it could create some tension in the region,” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.). “But I was telling some people the other night: Don't get concerned about it. I don't think anybody's trying to create an international incident.

“If I had anything to say to the Chinese leadership it would just be: Be cool."

Republicans are also on board. Led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), 26 GOP senators issued a statement Tuesday praising her decision.

“She has every right to go,” McConnell later told reporters.

Trump slams McConnell as ‘disloyal’ amid Jan. 6 hearings

Former President Trump on Thursday vented his anger with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) during the House select Jan. 6 committee’s hearing, slamming him as a “disloyal sleazebag” despite the recent victories McConnell helped secure for Trump’s legacy.

Trump appeared to lose his temper after the Jan. 6 committee played a clip of McConnell's speech on the Senate floor during Trump’s second impeachment trial in which he blamed the former president for inciting the attack on the U.S. Capitol. 

“Is this the same Mitch McConnell who was losing big in Kentucky, and came to the White House to BEG me for an Endorsement and help? Without me he would have lost in a landslide. A disloyal sleaze bag!” Trump posted on Truth Social, his social media platform.  

Trump appeared to be referring to the 2020 election, but McConnell never faced any serious danger from his Democratic challenger Amy McGrath. He wound up winning a seventh Senate term by a margin of nearly 20 points.

Trump’s vitriolic attack on the GOP leader came only a week after Democrats formally abandoned their plans to reverse the 2017 tax cuts, one of Trump’s biggest domestic accomplishments.  

McConnell mentioned the importance of preserving Trump’s tax cuts at a press conference on Tuesday.  

“One day we think they’re going to leave taxes alone, which of course would preserve the 2017 tax bill, the next day they’re not so sure,” McConnell said of Democrats’ plans to move a budget reconciliation package.  

McConnell also played a key role in helping Trump add three conservative justices to the Supreme Court — Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — who joined a 6-3 conservative majority in overturning Roe v. Wade last month. 

Yet, Trump remains fixated on McConnell’s refusal to acknowledge his unfounded claims that the 2020 election was stolen as well as on the GOP leader’s fiery denunciation of Trump’s actions leading to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.  

McConnell excoriated Trump at the end of his second impeachment trial for what he called a “disgraceful dereliction of duty.”  

The Jan. 6 committee on Thursday played a clip of McConnell speaking on the Senate floor in which he said “there’s no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day.” 

“The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of the president,” he said. “Having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories and reckless hyperbole which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth.”  

McConnell has since declined to speak about Trump or even mention him by name in public. 

On Tuesday when asked whether he would oppose Trump's candidacy for president in 2024 if he runs again, McConnell only predicted that the former president would face a lot of competition for the nomination. 

“I think we’re going to have a crowded field for president. I assume most of that will unfold later and people will be picking their candidates in a crowded primary field,” he told reporters.

Liz Cheney doesn’t care what the pro-Trump GOP thinks of her

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) didn't make any new friends in the GOP with her star turn bashing former President Trump in prime time on Thursday night. It doesn't bother her a bit.

Cheney, a dynastic figure who sits in the House seat once held by her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, used her high perch on the Jan. 6 select committee to accuse Trump of abusing the powers of the presidency to orchestrate nothing short of an attempted coup — explosive charges that have reinforced her status as Public Enemy No. 1 in the eyes of the MAGA faithful. 

The much-watched hearing has further complicated Cheney’s path to reelection in deep-red Wyoming, a Trump stronghold where her primary opponent has the energetic backing of the 45th president, who is actively stumping against the mutinous incumbent. 

But as Cheney's attacks on Trump have grown only louder, it's increasingly clear that she's motivated by something other than securing her future in the lower chamber. Whether that thing is a self-sacrificing desire to save the country's democratic traditions from the former president or an egomaniacal effort to advance her own fame and political powers largely depends on the perspective of her fans and critics.

What is not in question is that Cheney has staked her legacy on her relentless anti-Trump activism — a reputation that will become only more deeply entrenched as the select committee airs its investigative findings in a long series of public hearings that will dominate discussion in Washington through the rest of the month.

“President Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack,” Cheney, the vice chairwoman of the select committee, said during the panel’s prime-time hearing Thursday night. 

For the like-minded Trump critics, Cheney is an enormous asset to the investigation, offering the committee not only a good dose of bipartisan legitimacy, but also a seasoned legal mind who knows the ins and outs of the GOP conference and its complicated dealings with the former president. 

“She’s an awesome lawyer, … [and] she was the chair of the House Republican Conference,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a former professor of constitutional law who also sits on the investigative panel. “So she obviously knows the terrain better than anyone else on the committee.”

To Trump’s allies on and off of Capitol Hill, however, Cheney is simply a traitor to the party — a “Pelosi Republican” who’s been all but disowned as GOP leaders try to tap Trump’s popularity in their effort to flip control of the House in November’s midterm elections.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who wants to take the speakership next year, said this week that the responsibility for the Jan. 6 falls on “everybody in the country.”

In one sense, Cheney is an unlikely figure to assume the role of Republican iconoclast. Her family ranks among the most powerful GOP dynasties of the last half century, and her father's unique brand of conservatism — combined with his no-apologies approach to power-policymaking — made him a favorite with the Republican base. 

In a similar vein, Liz Cheney’s staunch conservative positions — including strong attacks on gay marriage during an early campaign — made her a villain in the eyes of Democrats nationwide, but helped propel her quickly into the leadership ranks once she arrived on Capitol Hill in 2017. 

In another sense, however, Cheney is the natural fit to play Trump's foil. 

Trump had devoted much of his successful 2016 campaign bashing the overseas entanglements of the Bush-Cheney administration, most notably the 2003 decision to launch the Iraq War, which was championed by the elder Cheney. After taking the White House, Trump continued those attacks on the old Republican guard that had pushed an aggressively interventionist foreign policy, a group that included both of the Cheneys. 

Although Cheney had opposed Trump’s first impeachment, she was furious with his actions surrounding the attack on the Capitol, where a violent mob of Trump supporters tried to overturn his election defeat. More than 150 police officers were injured in the rampage. 

Cheney was one of just 10 Republicans to support Trump’s impeachment following the riot, and she’s jumped headfirst into her role investigating the tragedy. On Thursday, she used the platform of the televised hearing to warn those Republicans still backing Trump that history won’t treat them kindly. 

“Tonight, I say this to my Republican colleagues who are defending the indefensible: There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain,” she said.

Supporters of the far-reaching investigation note the significance of having a Republican of Cheney’s stature joining the probe.  

“It's important, because like she said, this is not about political parties, or your political views. It's about finding out the truth,” U.S. Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell said following the hearing. “And from what the committee laid out today, it seems like there's a lot more that needs to be done.” 

But Cheney’s recalcitrance has come with political costs. 

Last year, after Cheney refused to stop criticizing Trump for his role in the Capitol riot, the GOP conference voted overwhelmingly to boot her out of leadership, replacing her with a Trump loyalist, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), who has embraced the former president's lies about a stolen election. 

More recently, the Republican National Committee voted to condemn Cheney — along with the only other Republican on the select committee, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) — for their willingness to join Democrats in the Jan. 6 investigation. That decision, the Republican National Committee charged, “has been destructive to the institution of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Republican Party and our republic.”

In the wake of Thursday’s select committee hearing, the attacks on Cheney from Trump’s allies have grown only more pronounced. During the hearing, Tucker Carlson, the wildly popular Fox News pundit, characterized Cheney as “the Iraq War lady” who’s now “lecturing us about honor and truth.”

Carlson’s guest was Joe Kent, a Trump supporter from Washington state who’s launched a primary challenge against Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), who also supported Trump’s second impeachment. He, too, had some sharp words for the Wyoming Republican. 

“It's absolutely absurd and insulting,” Kent said of Cheney’s attacks on Trump’s defenders. “She thinks that we can't go back and look at her record that she has been lying to the American people basically for her entire career and profiting off of it, but also she has to bring up this whole, ‘Oh it must be a big Trump thing.’”

Kent said the Capitol rioters were in Washington on Jan. 6 not because of anything Trump did or said, but because “a vast majority” of Americans “did not feel like their voices were heard at the election box, and therefore things started to get a little bit dicey.” 

In the face of such attacks, Cheney has found a new group of allies: Democrats, who have always opposed her conservative policy prescriptions, but are now cheering her on as she takes on a shared adversary in Trump.

“Liz Cheney and I do not agree on almost probably 80 percent of the contentious issues that come up, give or take 10 points,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters this week. “But what she is standing up for is the truth.”

“That's why she was removed as the leader of the Republican Party,” he continued. “Because the Republican Party didn't want to hear the truth."

Why Mike Pence will be a key figure at Thursday’s Jan. 6 panel hearing

Former Vice President Mike Pence will not be present when the House Jan. 6 committee holds a prime-time hearing on Thursday, but he will be a central figure as the panel makes its first presentation to the public of what unfolded before and during the riot at the Capitol. 

Pence has not directly cooperated with the committee, but some of his former aides have. In recent months, a steady stream of new details has come out about Pence’s actions on Jan. 6, 2021, and he has publicly rebuked former President Trump for saying the election was stolen. 

“I anticipate that we will hear about Mike Pence on Thursday night. You can’t tell the story without him,” said Norm Eisen, who served as special counsel to Democrats during Trump’s first impeachment. 

Pence’s role in certifying the Electoral College results on Jan. 6, 2021, hours after hundreds of pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol, has only become more of a flashpoint in the investigation of the day’s events and in Republican politics more broadly. 

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the House panel investigating Jan. 6, has emphasized the significance of Pence refusing to leave the Capitol as rioters were inside the building, suggesting to do so would have given an opening for Trump’s allies to follow through on their plan in Pence’s absence. 

The New York Times reported late last month that at least one witness indicated to the committee that Trump reacted approvingly to chants calling for Pence to be hanged. 

And the Times also reported in recent days that Pence’s former chief of staff Marc Short alerted Secret Service the day before the insurrection to warn of the potential security risks to Pence should Trump publicly turn on his vice president. 

The committee is likely to make the threat to Pence a central part of its presentation to the public as it seeks to capture public attention and lay out the gravity of the situation. 

The Washington Post reported that Michael Luttig, a conservative lawyer who advised Pence on handling his duties on Jan. 6, as well as former Pence aides Marc Short and Greg Jacob are among those expected to appear as witnesses during Thursday’s prime-time hearings. 

Eisen said showing how Pence rejected some of the legal arguments concocted by Trump’s advisers would help rebuff GOP attempts to brush off the committee’s findings as partisan. 

“So, the other way that Pence comes in is as a dose of reality in response to these lunatic legal theories that were circulating. So that’s an important part of the narrative,” Eisen said. 

Pence himself has grown increasingly willing to break with Trump over the events of Jan. 6 in particular as he charts his own post-White House path.  

The former vice president repeatedly referred to Jan. 6 as a “dark day” in history and spoke about upholding his constitutional duty in remarks to various conservative groups after leaving office. 

As Trump continued to make debunked claims that the 2020 election was rigged, Pence went a step further. In February, Pence explicitly said Trump was wrong to suggest he could overturn the result of the presidential election. 

“Under the Constitution, I had no right to change the outcome of our election. And Kamala Harris will have no right to overturn the election when we beat them in 2024,” Pence said at the time. 

Still, Pence has personally kept the Jan. 6 committee at arm’s length in public.  

In October, Pence suggested the media was focusing on the riot so extensively to distract from the Biden administration’s difficulties with the Afghanistan withdrawal and other domestic issues. 

And while former aides like Short and Keith Kellogg have testified before the panel behind closed doors, Pence himself has yet to come before the committee. 

A Pence spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment, including on whether there had been any communication between Pence and the committee. 

“We have wanted to make sure that we get as much information as possible from as many material witnesses as possible,” Raskin said Monday during a Washington Post Live event when asked about the prospect of Pence testifying.  

“We want to figure out exactly what happened. And Vice President Pence was obviously the object of this political onslaught on Jan. 6, so we need to fill in the details as much as possible about what happened there.” 

Asked if Pence’s life was in danger on Jan. 6, Raskin urged the public to tune in on Thursday night. 

“Watch the hearings,” Raskin said. “The hearings will tell a story about what took place on that day.”

Five questions that hang over the Jan. 6 committee’s public hearings

The biggest moment of the Jan. 6 House Select Committee’s existence is about to arrive. 

On Thursday evening, the panel will hold the first of its televised hearings. The event will take place in prime time and be broadcast by almost every major network and news channel. 

For some, it will be the most dramatic congressional investigation since the Watergate hearings a half-century ago. 

Others — committed supporters of former President Trump, in particular — will likely tune out the hearings. 

Here are five big questions that have yet to be answered. 

What will we learn that’s new about Trump? 

Democrats are promising explosive revelations about the former president’s role in fomenting the attack on the Capitol. 

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) on Tuesday promised in a CNN interview, “We’re going to see how much Trump was involved. Trump ran this show. He ran it from the time he lost the election in November, and he did it with his son, or sons, and all of his henchmen up there.” 

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the committee, told The Washington Post in a Monday interview that the panel had “found evidence about a lot more than incitement here.”  

Raskin added, “I think that Donald Trump and the White House were at the center of these events. That’s the only way of really making sense of them all.” 

Ironically, the main difficulty Democrats may face in making the case against Trump is the vast amount that is already known. 

Trump was, after all, impeached by the House only one week after the insurrection, becoming the only president in history to be impeached on two separate occasions.  

At a rally at the Ellipse near the White House, immediately before the assault on the Capitol, he told supporters, “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” And he also told them that President Biden, if certified as the election’s winner, would be an illegitimate president. 

There have also been subsequent media leaks about other things the panel may have uncovered — including, recently, the suggestion that Trump was sympathetic to the demands of some of his supporters to “hang Mike Pence,” then the sitting vice president. 

There could be more shocking evidence to come. But the knowledge already in existence sets a high bar. 

Can the panel incriminate the Republican Party more broadly? 

The committee famously features just two Republicans — Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), who serves as vice chair, and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) — both of whom are vigorous Trump critics. 

That leaves the wider GOP in the panel’s crosshairs, especially if it can pin culpability for specific misdeeds on other members of the party. 

No fewer than 147 Republican members of Congress voted to invalidate the election results in some shape or form on the evening of the insurrection, with debris still littering the Capitol’s hallways.

Yet, at that time, senior members of the GOP were willing to acknowledge Trump’s culpability. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in February 2021 said on the Senate floor that Trump was “practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day.” In a recorded call with colleagues later obtained by two reporters for The New York Times, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called Trump’s actions “atrocious and totally wrong.” 

But McConnell voted to acquit Trump on the impeachment charge in the Senate and McCarthy made his peace much more publicly, traveling to Mar-a-Lago to meet Trump. Last week, Trump endorsed McCarthy for reelection to the House. 

The GOP would far rather talk about the issues bedeviling Biden than Jan. 6.  

But if the committee can make a compelling case with fresh and additional evidence, Republicans may have little choice. 

Can the Democrats put on a show? 

For good or for bad, the theater of politics matters. 

So, one question will be how compelling Democrats can make the hearings. 

The first hearing is likely to be the most important of all, much as the first presidential debate in a series tends also to be the most vital.  

All three major broadcast networks, ABC, CBS and NBC, have said they will shelve their regular programming and replace it with live coverage of the Thursday hearing. So too have CNN and MSNBC. Controversially, Fox News will not air the hearing live, instead confining such coverage to Fox Business. 

Conservatives have taken umbrage at the decision by the committee to turn to a former president of ABC News, James Goldston, to help make Thursday’s presentation as compelling as possible.  

Axios, which first reported Goldston’s involvement, wrote that he was “busily producing” the hearing “as if it were a blockbuster investigative special.” 

We’re about to see the results. 

Do the hearings change the political agenda? 

There is little doubt that Thursday’s hearing will eclipse almost all the political news out of Washington. For that night at least, it will be the only show in town. 

But how long will that effect last? 

Trump allies have promised “counterprogramming” to push back on the narrative being advanced by the committee. 

House Republican Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) is kicking off that effort Wednesday, at a morning news conference with House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and ardent Trump allies Reps. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).  

Stefanik told Fox News that she and her colleagues were “pushing back against lame-duck Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi’s sham political witch hunt.” 

More broadly, the White House has spent months on the defensive, embattled by a host of problems including inflation, high gas prices, an infant formula shortage and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The hearings will give Democrats a chance to put the GOP on the back foot — but for how long? 

Can the panel shift public opinion? 

Politically, this is the biggest question of all. 

Many independent experts, and even some liberals, aren’t at all sure the answer is yes. 

For all kinds of reasons, opinions around Jan. 6 have calcified.  

While Democrats see Trump’s culpability as self-evident, many Republicans seem willing to dismiss anything the panel uncovers. 

Meanwhile, a politically segmented media environment combines with the bias-reinforcing dynamics of social media to deepen those divisions. 

That doesn’t mean the committee is wasting its time. New evidence regarding Jan. 6 is important by its nature. 

But it may not be enough to change many minds. 

Jan. 6 panel seeks to break through with prime-time programming

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol is preparing for a crucial week as it prepares to finally share with the public the fruits of its months-long investigation into the riot in prime time on Thursday. 

The 8 p.m. hearing kicking off a series of meetings shows the committee is eager to reach a broad segment of Americans and relay the extent to which democracy itself was at stake that day. 

“The goal here is to construct this narrative,” said Molly Reynolds, a senior fellow in governance studies with Brookings.  

“What they want to do is go through the countless depositions that they've taken and other evidence that they gathered and figure out a way to try and convey a story to the public.” 

The challenge is making a captivating case for a wide audience, particularly those who feel they already know what happened that day or who are ready to move on from the attack. 

According to polling from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the country is nearly evenly divided on how much it wants to reflect on the day. 

While 52 percent said it’s important to learn more about what happened, 48 percent said it was “time to move on.” The divide is almost entirely partisan. 

“I do think that the committee will have difficulties in communicating messages because of the kind of segregated information environment in which a lot of the American public exists,” Ryan Goodman, co-director of the Reiss Center on Law and Security at New York University School of Law, told The Hill. 

“That said, I do think the visual of a solemn public hearing and live testimony plus, in all likelihood video material, could focus attention in a way [for] the members of the American public are otherwise not thinking about these issues.” 

Putting the hearing in prime-time shows the committee doesn’t want to just reach those who already view the attack as a grievous assault on democracy. It wants to reach independents and even conservatives who have heard GOP leaders brand the panel as a partisan witch hunt. 

Jesse Rhodes, a political science professor who helped craft the UMass poll, said even with the sharp partisan divide, there are those who don’t have strong feelings about the attack. 

“We're finding in the poll that about 19 percent of people are purely independent. And then there's another 9 percent who lean Democratic and another 8 percent lean Republican. So there is a little bit of mushiness in the middle. And those people potentially can be shifted,” he said, noting that just one-third of Americans strongly identify as conservative. 

“If there really is damning evidence of long-term planning, involvement in collusion by the president or his top advisers … that does have the potential to move some people.” 

Rhodes and others have warned the committee must be careful in how it frames such messaging. 

“I think the most important [thing] might be this is not perceived as a Trump versus Biden frame, which the first impeachment hearing pretty much was, but rather it imparts a Trump versus Pence framework. I think that there are many people that are concerned about the direct threat to Mike Pence that occurred on Jan. 6,” Goodman said.  

“I think that captures attention in a very different way. It’s not as political or partisan.” 

There are signs the committee could be leaning in that direction. Multiple outlets reported the panel has been in discussions about inviting Pence’s legal advisers and chief of staff to testify. 

“As soon as this is perceived as or appears to be a strictly partisan affair and an attack on the Republican Party as an institution, then you're going to get a lot of resistance or skepticism,” Rhodes said. 

“To the degree that the messages can be about upholding and maintaining institutions and values that benefit people, regardless of party, the more you will get at least a willingness to hear some of these concerns.” 

The panel’s makeup could help it.  

Republicans in the House objected during the two committee impeachment proceedings on Trump, but the two Republicans on the Jan. 6 panel agree with its objectives.

“Each hearing is going to be different than I think a lot of what we're used to seeing because everyone is rowing in the same direction. So you have the Democrats and you have [Rep. Liz] Cheney [R-Wyo.] and [Rep. Adam] Kinzinger [R-Ill.], so the committee is bipartisan, but they are all in pursuit of a shared goal in a way that just is not true of other recent high profile investigations, whether it be the Trump impeachment or Benghazi,” Reynolds said. 

“That’s going to make for a serious exposition of the facts that's just going to feel different than what we’ve gotten used to.”    

Goodman said the absence of Republicans opposed to the committee’s mission will not just change the tone but even the way in which information is presented. 

“I do not think that the hearings are going to be anything like the circus that has existed in hearings — and the impeachment hearings — in that past in which some members of Congress were simply playing to kind of a right-wing media. And so this will be a more solemn hearing which is going to be truth seeking, [that’s] the way in which I see it. And I don't think that hearings are going to be a source of disinformation. I think they're going to be a source of information,” he said. 

The committee has not yet announced who will testify at the first hearing, but it has pledged to release never before seen footage from Jan. 6. 

“The committee will present previously unseen material documenting January 6th, receive witness testimony, preview additional hearings, and provide the American people a summary of its findings about the coordinated, multi-step effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and prevent the transfer of power,” it said in a Thursday statement. 

It’s not clear what type of footage the committee plans to present at the hearing. 

While in the past it’s relied on visceral imagery — including an officer being smashed by rioters in a doorway and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) barely escaping as the mob closed in on the Senate chamber — even new footage of the attack may seem repetitive to those who watched it unfold live on television. 

But Goodman said video recordings from some of the committee’s more than 1,000 depositions could be captivating for the public. 

Rhodes also said new information will be key, especially to break through in an unusually busy summer news cycle. 

“It can be a challenge to get people to refocus on events that occurred in the past, especially when there's going to be a lot of elite disagreement between Democrats and Republicans about what happened and who was involved in with what culpability,” he said. “I think that's a real challenge even though it sounds like the committee is going to have a lot of really juicy and damning information to share.”  

“They may be able to bring attention especially if they come out with some really shocking new revelations but it is going to be a challenge to break through everything that's going on right now.” 

The Memo: Navarro drama ramps up stakes for Jan. 6 hearings

The drama surrounding the work of the Jan. 6 committee ramped up Friday with the news that former Trump adviser Peter Navarro had been indicted on two charges of contempt of Congress. 

The charges, each of which carries a maximum penalty of a $100,000 fine and one year of jail time, stem from Navarro’s refusal to cooperate with the House panel’s inquiries.

The new twist comes as the panel moves to the cusp of beginning public hearings. The first such event is due for Thursday.

Navarro, who on Friday initially announced his intention to defend himself, blasted the committee’s work and the manner in which he was arrested.

During his court appearance, he complained, “Who are these people? … This is not America. I mean, I was a distinguished public servant for four years, and nobody ever questioned my ethics. And they’re treating me in this fashion.”

Shortly afterward, speaking to reporters, he said he had been “intercepted” en route to Tennessee and placed in handcuffs and “leg irons.” He also sought to suggest his plight was simply an outgrowth of his support for former President Trump.

“They are not coming for me and Trump. They are coming for you,” he said, going on to detail the approximately 74 million people who voted for Trump at the 2020 election.

In fact, Navarro has been at the fore of propagating false theories of election fraud. He was also the leading proponent of a strategy known as the “Green Bay Sweep,” which was intended to reverse the election’s result.

Navarro’s next court appearance is scheduled for June 17, by which time the public hearings of the Jan. 6 panel will be well underway.

The effectiveness of those hearings will be judged according to two quite different criteria — the substantive information that is uncovered and the likely political effect.

On one hand, the importance of an investigation to look at such a serious assault on American democracy seems self-evident. 

Back in April, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the committee, promised that the public hearings would “really blow the roof off the House.”

“This was not a coup directed at the president,” Raskin added in his remarks at a Georgetown University event. “It was a coup directed by the president against the vice president and against the Congress.”

On the other, there is deep skepticism, even among those who are supportive of the committee’s work, that the hearings will move the political needle.

That skepticism is rooted in the reality that there is plenty already known about the insurrection. 

Trump was impeached 17 months ago for his role in inciting the riot. Given that a significant minority of the overall population — and a large majority of Republicans — continues to hold a favorable view of the former president, there is no obvious reason to believe the hearings will change their mind.

“Nothing they come up with is going to shift Trump or Trump’s base,” said Allan Lichtman, a professor of history at American University who authored a 2017 book making the case for the then-president’s impeachment. 

“Look at all the things that have come out, and, if anything, Trump’s approval has ticked upward, not downward.”

Lichtman argued that critics of the former president are being overly optimistic in believing that the impact of the forthcoming hearings could be analogous to the Watergate hearings in 1973 and 1974 that transfixed the public and culminated in former President Nixon’s resignation. 

In today’s hyperpolarized media and political environment, he added, Trump and his supporters will simply “say it’s a witch hunt” — and largely escape political consequence.

Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, took a similar view. 

“The hearings will give a lot more depth and sense of intentionality in terms of what the public knows,” he said. “Having that on the record and having more knowledge is a good thing. Whether it affects anything politically is pretty dubious. So much of it happened in front of everyone’s eyes.”

Democrats can at least hope that the hearings will focus public attention on Trump, the insurrection and the complicity of other Republicans in it. Such subjects are more favorable terrain for President Biden’s party than current troubles such as inflation, soaring gas prices and a baby formula shortage.

But Republicans will go all-out to blast the committee, just as Navarro did on Friday. 

The only other person indicted for refusing to comply with a subpoena in similar circumstances — former Trump chief strategist Stephen Bannon — used his initial court appearances in a similar way, promising that his charge would end up being “the misdemeanor from hell for Merrick Garland, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden.”

With Navarro and Bannon indicted and the public hearings looming, another act in the insurrection drama is about to begin.

But most of the public has already made up its mind as to who are the heroes and the villains.

The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage.

Carl Paladino to jump into NY House race with Stefanik’s backing

Businessman and former GOP New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino is set to jump into the race to represent New York’s 23rd District with the backing of House Republican Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.).

Paladino confirmed to The Hill Friday evening that he is running for the seat, saying that he heard that there were a few people thinking of running that he did not respect, but he did not name names.

“​​Representing the people of Western New York would be a great honor, and I think I could be most effective at doing that,” Paladino said.

The dust had barely settled after Rep. Chris Jacobs (R-N.Y.) abruptly ended his reelection bid on Friday over backlash to his support for an assault weapons ban when Stefanik came out with the endorsement.

According to The Buffalo News, Paladino said earlier Friday that if Jacobs dropped out that he would throw his hat in the ring for the seat.

“Carl is a job creator and conservative outsider who will be a tireless fighter for the people of New York in our fight to put America First to save the country,” Stefanik said in a tweet posted on Friday evening.

Paladino said that Stefanik asked if he would mind if she endorsed him as soon as she heard he was running. 

“She's a great girl,” Paladino said. “She’s got she got her head right where it belongs when it comes to leading for her people,”

Paladino, a real estate developer and ally of former President Trump, made national headlines in December 2016 when he sent racist remarks about former President Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama to local Buffalo, N.Y., outlet Artvoice.

He claimed at the time that he sent the comments in error.

He said that he would like to see Michelle Obama “return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla.” Paladino added that he hoped President Obama would die of mad cow disease. Paladino apologized to “the minority community” for his comments.

At the time, Paladino sat on the Buffalo city school board. In August 2017, he was removed from that position after he was accused of improperly disclosing information about teacher contract negotiations.

Before that, Paladino was the Republican nominee for New York Governor in 2010.

During that campaign, he alleged without evidence that Democrat Andrew Cuomo, who would win that gubernatorial race, was unfaithful to his ex-wife when they were still married.

Stefanik and Paladino did not always appear to be so close. In a March 2016 email to supporters, he called Stefanik a “fraud” for not supporting Trump.

Stefanik has since come to publicly and forcefully support Trump, including by being part of his impeachment defense team during the first impeachment proceedings against him in 2019.

Updated 7:54 p.m.

Paul Ryan to campaign for Tom Rice, who voted for Trump impeachment

Former House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will campaign for Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.), one of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach former President Trump in the aftermath of the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack.

“Tom Rice is a man of principle, a man of conviction, and a leader who always puts South Carolina’s interests first. He is a legislative workhorse with a long track-record of supporting policies that grow the economy, rein in out-of-control spending, and expand opportunities for families and businesses,” Ryan said in a statement.

“Tom is a tireless and effective advocate for South Carolina. He will make a big impact when Republicans retake the House majority in 2022 and I’m looking forward to traveling around the 7th district with him.”

Ryan will appear at a luncheon for Rice in Florence, S.C., on Wednesday.

Rice, an accountant who has spent a decade in Congress, took Ryan’s spot on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee after Ryan became Speaker in 2015. He is now ranking member on the committee’s Oversight Subcommittee.

His vote to impeach Trump came as a surprise to most political observers.

"I have backed this President through thick and thin for four years. I campaigned for him and voted for him twice. But, this utter failure is inexcusable," Rice said in a statement following the impeachment vote.

Trump endorsed South Carolina state Rep. Russell Fry in the primary against Rice, touting him as a “leading fighter on Election Integrity.”

Rice, Trump said while endorsing Fry, “abandoned his constituents by caving to Nancy Pelosi and the Radical Left” and “actually voted against me on Impeachment Hoax #2.”

Five other GOP candidates are running in Rice’s primary. 

Rice has led the field of candidates in fundraising, closing the first quarter of the year in March with nearly $2 million in cash on hand. All other candidates had less than a half million dollars at that time.

But an internal poll from Fry’s campaign from early May found Fry leading Rice 39 percent to 23 percent among likely GOP primary voters.

South Carolina’s primaries are scheduled for June 14.

Cheney officially launches reelection bid: ‘This is a fight we must win’

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) formally launched her reelection bid on Thursday, seeking the Republican nomination for her seat for the fourth time amid rebukes from her own party.

"Some things have to matter," Cheney said in her announcement video. "American freedom, the rule of law, our founding principles, the foundations of our republic matter. What we do in this election in Wyoming matters."

"I'm asking for your vote because this is a fight we must win," she said.

Cheney has drawn the ire of former President Trump and his allies for voting for Trump’s second impeachment and serving as the vice chairwoman of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. The committee is seen as illegitimate by a number of her Republican colleagues in the lower chamber.

First elected to the House in 2016, Cheney has faced primary challengers in each of her reelections but has won each previous time with large margins. In this year’s Aug. 16 primary, she will face a challenger, attorney Harriet Hageman, backed by Trump and his allies, who have viewed removing Cheney as a top priority.

Trump is slated to stump for Hageman at a Saturday rally, which will also include video addresses by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), who became chairwoman of the House Republican Conference after Cheney was ousted from the role last year. Saturday’s rally will also feature speeches from Hageman, Wyoming Republican Party Chairman Frank Eathorne and two more of Cheney’s House Republican colleagues, Rep. Matt Gaetz (Fla.) and Rep. Lauren Boebert (Colo.).

Cheney made no direct mention of Hageman or her backers in the video posted Thursday, but she called for voters to “reject the lies” and “toxic politics.”

“When I know something is wrong, I will say so,” Cheney said in the announcement. 

“I won't waver or back down. I won't surrender to pressure or intimidation. I know where to draw the line and I know that some things aren't for sale,” she continued.

Cheney has deep ties in Wyoming — her father served as Wyoming’s sole congressman for ten years before becoming the secretary of Defense and later vice president. Cheney highlighted those ties in her announcement video, which included images of her dad and mentions of her family history in Wyoming, which she said dated back to 1852.

“In Wyoming, we know what it means to ride for the brand,” she said. “We live in the greatest nation God has ever created, and our brand is the United States Constitution.”

The Wyoming Republican Party has repeatedly admonished Cheney in recent months.

The state party censured her last February after Cheney voted to impeach Trump over Jan. 6. and later voted in November to no longer recognize her as a member of the GOP.

On a national level, House Republicans last May decided to oust Cheney from her role as conference chair in a closed-door meeting by voice vote. 

Among the intense criticism from her own party, Cheney has continued to criticize her fellow GOP lawmakers. Earlier this month, she accused House Republican leadership of enabling “white nationalism, white supremacy and anti-semitism” after a mass shooting in Buffalo that killed 10 people in a racist attack.

Cheney has boasted strong fundraising throughout her campaign, hauling in $2.94 million in the first quarter of 2022. But her influence will come to the test as she faces primary voters in a state Trump won by more than 40 points in 2020.