I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, ad-free, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum — then “my take.” You can read Tangle for free or subscribe for Friday editions, and you can reach me anytime by replying to this email. If someone sent you this email, they’re asking you to sign up. You can do that by clicking here.
Today’s read: 12 minutes.
We’re taking a look at the January 6 commission and Nancy Pelosi’s decision to reject two Republican committee members. Plus, a question about anonymous questions in Tangle.
- White House officials are debating whether to push Americans to wear masks again as Covid-19 infections are spiking in several states across the country. (The Washington Post)
- U.S. life expectancy plunged in 2020, falling by a year and half, the largest decline since World War II. (The New York Times, subscription)
- A key procedural vote to open debate on the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan failed to pass the Senate on Wednesday, with Republicans uniting against a push to move forward with the unfinished bill. (CNBC)
- U.S. jobless claims rose to 419,000 last week, increasing by 51,000 and hitting the highest weekly level since early June. (The Wall Street Journal, subscription)
- House Republicans are pushing an impeachment resolution against David Chipman, President Biden's nominee to run the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), before he's been confirmed by the Senate. (Fox News)
What D.C. is talking about.
The January 6th select committee. Yesterday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) rejected two of Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s picks for the committee investigating the January 6 attacks at the Capitol. Pelosi formed the House committee after Senate Republicans blocked the formation of a bipartisan investigatory commission modeled after the 9/11 commission. The House group was designed to be made up of 13 members, five of whom Pelosi said would be appointed after consultation with McCarthy.
Earlier this week, McCarthy announced his Republican picks: Reps. Jim Jordan (OH), Jim Banks (IN), Rodney Davis (IL), Kelly Armstrong (ND) and Troy E. Nehls (TX). Immediately, Rep. Banks and Jordan, who both voted against certifying the results of the 2020 election, drew criticism from the left. Yesterday, Pelosi rejected each of them, saying they would jeopardize “the integrity of the investigation.” Rep. Nehls also voted against certifying the results, but Pelosi defended her acceptance of his nomination, saying “that was not my criteria” for seating members.
Rep. McCarthy responded by threatening to withdraw all five Republicans from the panel — which would leave Rep. Liz Cheney from Wyoming (who was picked by Pelosi) as the only Republican on the panel.
“Denying the voices of members who have served in the military and law enforcement, as well as leaders of standing committees, has made it undeniable that this panel has lost all legitimacy and credibility,” McCarthy said. “Unless Speaker Pelosi reverses course and seats all five Republican nominees, Republicans will not be party to their sham process and will instead pursue our own investigation of the facts.”
At least 800 people forced their way into the Capitol, and some 535 are facing charges of some kind. While the vast majority of rioters appeared to be acting spontaneously, around 80 had prior connections to organized extremist groups, and the FBI and Department of Homeland Security both received tips about detailed plans to storm federal buildings before the riots occurred. At least 56 rioters were current or former members of the military. At least 57 state or local Republican officials have also been identified among the attendees at the rally that preceded the riots, and two — a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates and a secretary of the California Republican Assembly — have been arrested for participating in the riot.
The committee plans to hold its first hearing next week by taking testimony from four police officers who responded to the riots. It will be looking at why it took so long for the National Guard to arrive, why Capitol Police were so unprepared, what role militias played in the attack, as well as what former President Trump did as the events unfolded, and whether any members of Congress were aiding the rioters.
Below, we’ll take a look at reactions from the left and right, then my take.
What the right is saying.
The right says the committee is out for partisan victories, and that Pelosi’s rejection of Republicans to sit on the committee proves it.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board said Nancy Pelosi just “blew up” her own committee.
“Messrs. Banks and Jordan are fierce partisans, but that can’t be the Speaker’s objection,” they wrote. “Her Select Committee choices include Rep. Adam Schiff, who lied repeatedly about the evidence concerning the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia. The two Republicans don’t share the Speaker’s view that Jan. 6 was an ‘insurrection,’ or attempted coup. But if Mrs. Pelosi thinks the evidence for her conclusion is persuasive, why would she not want to have it tested against the most aggressive critics? Mr. Banks says he wants to focus on why the Capitol was so unprotected that day, which is certainly relevant and might reflect poorly on the Speaker.
“Mr. McCarthy responded by saying he won’t appoint replacements and the GOP now won’t participate in the Select Committee. It’s hard to blame him,” they added. “The rioters who broke the law are being punished, and the Select Committee’s partisan purpose has been clear from the start. The Speaker views the committee as a hammer to use against Republicans in 2022, and her veto of the two GOP members proves it.”
On Fox News, Tucker Carlson argued that Banks and Jordan were banned because they were going to ask questions Pelosi didn’t want asked.
“It turns out there is still an awful lot of things we don't know about January 6th despite all the talking about it,” Carlson said. “For example, why is the Justice Department still tonight hiding thousands of hours of surveillance footage from the Capitol that day? What could possibly be on that tape that we're not allowed to see? Who killed Ashli Babbitt? And what was the justification for killing her? Government agents get to shoot unarmed political protesters in the neck for trespassing and we're not allowed to know who did it or why? Is that really the new standard?
”And most critically of all, what role did the F.B.I. play that day?” Carlson asked. “We know for certain that there were F.B.I. informants in the crowd at the Capitol. How many of them made it inside the Capitol and then encouraged others to break the law? Don't pretend the F.B.I. doesn't stage crimes, we know for a fact they do it regularly... So, what exactly was the F.B.I.'s role in January 6th? And why can't we know? With some prodding, Republicans might have asked about some of this. None of these are trick questions, they're not even partisan questions. They are entirely fair questions and they are important. Every American has a right to hear the answers and hear them immediately.”
In PowerlineBlog, Paul Mirengoff suggested McCarthy is making the right move by withdrawing all the Republicans he appointed.
“This was the only sensible move available to McCarthy,” he wrote. “It’s always been clear to me that Pelosi plans to use the select committee for partisan purposes, rather than legitimately to investigate all aspects of what happened back in early January. Thus, there was always some question as to whether Republicans should participate in the spectacle at all. Now, Pelosi has answered that question. Vetoing Jordan demonstrates to the satisfaction of any impartial observer that Pelosi wants a kangaroo court, not a good faith, balanced investigation conducted in accordance with normal House procedure.
“Pulling the GOP out will, for many, undermine the perception that Pelosi’s tribunal is legitimate,” Mirengoff added. “The notion that Liz Cheney provides objectivity or balance is laughable to most Republicans. It will also spare several of the Republicans McCarthy had selected from having to put their political future at risk by participating in an exercise that many in the Republican base despise. (I have nothing against investigating the events in question, but despise the way it will be done.)”
What the left is saying.
The left says Pelosi is making the right call, and the committee needs to be focused on getting straight answers.
Before Pelosi rejected Reps. Jordan and Banks, The Washington Post editorial board called for her to do just that.
“Having successfully blocked creation of an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump, Republicans are now intent on sabotaging any kind of serious investigation,” the board said. “On Jan. 6, Mr. Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying the 2020 presidential election results. This was not a peaceful expression of political beliefs; it was a violent and criminal attempt to interfere with the democratic process…
“Because of how the committee was created, Ms. Pelosi will have final say on its membership,” the board said. “Her appointments — including Republican Rep. Liz Cheney (WY) and Democratic Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (MS), the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee who will lead the panel — reflected a real seriousness of purpose. In contrast, Mr. McCarthy’s choices seem solely designed to make a circus of the proceedings. Ringleader, of course, would be Mr. Jordan, a persistent if not terribly skillful disrupter and provocateur. Mr. Jordan, Mr. Banks and Mr. Nehls all voted against certifying the results of the election despite the absence of voter fraud or major irregularities. Their complicity in feeding Mr. Trump’s lie about a stolen election is not compatible with any dispassionate investigation of the day’s events.”
E.J. Dionne Jr. said Pelosi “called Republicans’ bluff.”
“It’s past time to recognize the disqualifying extremism of the Trump-era Republican Party,” he said. “Politics as usual just isn’t possible anymore. Pretending that today’s GOP is the same Grand Old Party of even a decade ago is dysfunctional and misleading… Indeed, Banks and Jordan should be seen as having disqualified themselves. From the start, Banks rejected the idea that the Jan. 6 attack aimed at overturning the results of a free election was worth investigating as a discretely dangerous act… As for Jordan, he, like Banks, supported Donald Trump’s false claims of election fraud.
“He is a famous political bomb-thrower and derided the committee to which he was appointed as ‘Impeachment Round 3,’ an effort to ‘go after President Trump,’” Dionne wrote. “You can’t say that Pelosi and the Democrats didn’t try to have a fair investigation. But their plan to create a bipartisan, independent commission was shot down by Republicans, many of whom are plainly uneasy with a balanced inquiry. God forbid that it delve into Trump’s role in the violent insurrection and possibly also into the behavior of Republican members of Congress themselves.”
In a CNN opinion piece, Nicole Hemmer said Pelosi was “right to reject Jordan and Banks, who, as blood was still drying on the floor of the Capitol, voted to give the insurrectionists what so many of them wanted.”
“At a deeper level, Pelosi's actions here also constitute a crucial development: the rejection of bipartisanship as a positive force in US politics,” Hemmer said. “The select committee will still be bipartisan -- GOP Rep. Liz Cheney, who voted to impeach Trump for fomenting the insurrection, will still serve on it -- but the notion that Democratic leaders must work with Republican leaders in order to have political legitimacy is well and truly dead. As it should be. The fetish for bipartisanship has dominated Washington for at least 80 years. In that time, bipartisanship acquired a rosy glow: to label a policy bipartisan was to deem it both representative and virtuous, the byproduct of opposing sides compromising their way to the best possible solution. But on its own, bipartisanship has never been a virtue.
“It has been, at best, virtue-signaling — a legislative both-sidesism that has infected US politics for far too long.”
This isn’t Pelosi’s fault.
What should have happened — in a sane world — is that Republicans in the Senate should have allowed a bipartisan commission to move forward and investigate the events of January 6. This was not 9/11, and any comparisons to that attack on our country deserve to be scoffed at and ridiculed, but it was an event worthy of Congressional investigation. Our Congress, and the Capitol Building which houses hundreds of the most important people in American politics, should not be so easily overrun by protesters drunk on internet memes and looking to lynch the House Speaker and Vice President. But it was.
Instead of looking for answers, though, Republicans in the Senate — the upper chamber, where deliberation, bipartisanship and cooler heads allegedly prevail — were whipped out of their initial embrace of the commission by Mitch McConnell. The result was predictable. The commission moved to the House, where partisan warfare on even the most mundane issues is normal, and everyone played their roles accordingly.
Look: Rep. Jim Jordan is an unabashed partisan hack. So is Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who is sitting on the Democratic side of the panel. Welcome to Congress. But as it relates to this event, Jordan is the one who aided President Trump in strategizing about how to overturn the election. He’s also been attacking the potential committee for months as a political witch hunt. For Pelosi to allow him to sit on the committee, after everything he’s said and done, would be asinine. He gave her no choice. Nobody in their right mind would do that. She was elected to have the power she’s exercising now, and she’s using it wisely.
Jim Banks is, perhaps, even worse. He’s spent the last few days accusing Pelosi of failing to secure the Capitol building from rioters, despite the fact the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms in control of that security were both appointed by Republicans. And, of course, despite the fact that rioters who got into the building literally ransacked Pelosi’s office and expressed a desire to murder her.
So, sorry, but no — Pelosi doesn’t take the blame when a bunch of people who fiercely loathe her break into her office in an attempt to hunt her down. That’s not how this works.
And it’s not as if Pelosi is being particularly picky. She allowed three staunch Trump supporters picked by McCarthy to sit on the committee, including Rep. Troy Nehls, who also voted to overturn the election with zero evidence to justify that vote. His record as a “law enforcement” officer is tainted, too— he was charged with destroying evidence in his first job, then lied about it, and then picked up more than a dozen other embarrassing marks on his record in the years after. Nehls, at least, stood side by side with Capitol Police during the riots and expressed dismay at the violence immediately after. But a few months later he picked up the political cues from Trump and adopted an entirely new posture toward the event. Still, Pelosi allowed him to stay on the committee.
There is plenty to criticize about Democrats’ response to the January 6 riots. President Biden’s war on “domestic terrorism” looks a lot like the “war on terrorism,” except the security state will be using it as a pretext to spy on more American citizens this time. The latest evidence of this frightening development is the absurd expansion of the D.C. Capitol Police into a multi-state police agency (as if we need another far-reaching federal police force). Everyone should be on high alert as this unfolds, with their eyes squarely on Biden and his Democratic enablers who are squeezing all the juice out of this event they can.
But investigating that day, and the role some Republican politicians may have played — or how much of the event was planned — is pertinent. So is figuring out how to bolster the actual security of the Capitol Building, which is a clear necessity. So is, as Tucker Carlson himself noted, the FBI’s role in the event, especially in light of recent news reports about the agency’s infiltration of and participation in the plot to kidnap Michigan’s Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Neither Jordan nor Banks made any indication they’d participate in that process honestly, instead using the entire event as a chance to profess their love for Trump and blame Pelosi for something she deserves no blame for. Indeed, both Jordan and Banks could themselves end up as witnesses put under the microscope for their role on January 6, which is enough reason to disqualify them on its own.
Your questions, answered.
Q: Why would you post AND answer a question from someone who is not willing to give their name? It seems to me that the "anonymous" person doesn't have the conviction in what they're saying or asking and that is a waste of everyone's time.
—Bruce, Great Barrington, MA
Tangle: Because I don’t blame them. Firstly, 62% of Americans say they have political views they’re afraid to share. That includes a majority of Democrats (52%), independents (59%), and Republicans (77%). The reality is that a lot of people ask questions in Tangle that include professions of certain political beliefs, and in our current political climate — one I’m trying to break down — people on the right and left are scared to have honest conversations with each other.
Second is that Tangle spreads through word of mouth (don’t forget to share!). Many of the people reading this newsletter heard about it through colleagues at work, family members, friends, etc. That means if they ask a question with their first name and location, it may be obvious to some of those friends, colleagues and family members who they are. And I respect the fact that some people are worried about that.
I agree, in principle, that there are downsides to anonymity online. That’s why I only allow paying subscribers (with email and logins) to comment on Tangle articles. The last thing I need are anonymous trolls. It’s also why I largely ignore anonymous accounts on Twitter or other social media platforms when they tweet at me. But when it comes to Tangle, I want this to be an inviting space for debate, disagreement and questions. If people are asking something in good faith, even if it’s anonymous, it’s okay by me.
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A story that matters.
Smoke from wildfires out west has triggered air quality alerts in the Upper Midwest and in East Coast cities including New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. Here in Brooklyn, the last two days in the city were literally hazy, and the diminished air quality was noticeable if you tried to go for a run. The coast to coast smoke was visible from space and is being caused by more than 300 wildfires burning in British Columbia and 80 burning in the U.S. Multiple days with poor air quality indexes skyrocketing has made the conversation around forest management, drought, climate change and wildfires a national issue — and not one just contained to where the fires are burning. (Axios)
- 72%. The percentage of Americans who say there is still more to learn about the Jan. 6 attacks on the Capitol.
- 51%. In January, the percentage of Republicans who said they disapproved strongly of the actions of those who forced their way into the Capitol.
- 39%. The percentage of Republicans who said they disapproved strongly of the actions of those who forced their way into the Capitol in the same poll last week.
- 55%. The percentage of Trump voters who describe what happened at the Capitol as “defending freedom.”
- 74%. The percentage of all Americans who said they would describe what happened as “a protest that went too far.”
Have a nice day.
A bull in Long Island, New York, successfully escaped slaughter and has managed to evade captors while running through the suburbs of East New York. The 1,500 pound bull was going to be slaughtered as part of the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha when it got loose among 50 attendees. It then shutdown a portion of Sunrise Highway before wandering through suburban neighborhoods as horseback policemen with lassos were on its heels. But two days later, he still can’t be found. He didn’t even fall for it when his would-be captors tried to lure him with a seductive lady cow. Now, Strong Island Animal Rescue has been called in, and say they will take the bull to an animal sanctuary in New Jersey whenever they track him down. (People)