After the much-hyped John Durham probe ends with a whimper and House Democrats ratchet up their public pursuit of Trump associates, the Republican base wants action, not more sternly worded letters.
Rather than targeting those at the top of the scheme, including former FBI Director James Comey and U.S. Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) to name a few, Durham has pursued minor offenses against low-level operatives resulting so far in one guilty plea and one acquittal.
If Joe Biden’s Justice Department doesn’t extend the inquiry—and there is no reason at this point to believe it will—the Durham investigation will go down as yet another massive failure in the face of provable and destructive Democratic Party corruption at the highest levels. Those same escape artists instead are now emboldened, brazenly using the Justice Department to prosecute Trump voters and advisors to build a long-desired criminal case against the former president for his alleged role in the “attack” on the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Americans are witnessing something unprecedented: a congressional committee handpicked by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi working seamlessly with a highly partisan Justice Department to criminalize political dissent. Contrary to the solemn insistence of known liars like Schiff and Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), none of it has anything to do with the four-hour disturbance on Capitol Hill more than 18 months ago but everything to do with dragging America into banana republic-style territory complete with political prisoners, kangaroo courts, secret police, forced confessions, and nonstop propaganda under the guise of “news.”
As this Democratic Party crusade has unfolded over the past year and a half, most Republican officials have been silent as the regime flagrantly flouts the Constitution and the boundaries of decency and tradition. Some leaders, most notably Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), have embraced the description of January 6 as an “insurrection” and blame Trump for what happened that day.
While congressional Republicans bury their heads in the Democrats’ latest pit of political quicksand, their voters are not as gullible. According to a report this week by Axios, a GOP-led House is planning to retaliate for the conduct of the January 6 selection committee by launching an investigation into the committee itself—not necessarily because top Republicans have the stomach for the fight but because they are getting an earful from their constituents. “The base is out for blood on subpoenas,” tied to investigations of January 6, Hunter Biden, the coronavirus response, and the Afghanistan withdrawal, a House Republican aide told Axios.
The only question, the aide said, is “how far [House Minority Leader Kevin] McCarthy wants to go” should he become speaker of the House in 2023.
That remains an open, and unsettling, question. McCarthy has been loath to punish Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) for accepting Pelosi’s appointment to the committee. Only after significant blowback did McCarthy replace Cheney as his hand-picked conference chairman in May 2021; she remains on the House Armed Services Committee. A few days after the Capitol protest, McCarthy urged Trump to “accept his share of the responsibility” and floated the idea of censuring the president as an alternative to impeachment.
As dozens of Capitol protesters have languished for months, some for more than a year, in a political prison in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol building where he works, McCarthy has said nothing in their defense. When confronted recently by Fox Business News host Maria Bartiromo about the plight of the political prisoners, McCarthy said “they shouldn’t be held for this long” then quickly pivoted to concerns over inflation and the open border.
One would be hard pressed to find McCarthy criticizing the FBI even after agents arrested Trump trade advisor Peter Navarro at Reagan National Airport and placed him leg shackles on a contempt of Congress charge: ditto for FBI harassment of former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark and Trump campaign lawyer John Eastman. Yet McCarthy was quick to call for Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) to resign after a California jury found him guilty of lying to federal investigators in a clear case of FBI entrapment. (Fortenberry is appealing the verdict.)
Some members of McCarthy’s caucus, thankfully, are taking a more aggressive approach. Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and a few others are demanding justice for the January 6 detainees and condemning D.C. correctional officials for harsh treatment of Trump supporters in custody. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), who lost his Republican primary last week, asked Capitol Police and Pelosi’s office to preserve all documents pertaining to January 6, accusing Pelosi of obstructing “Republican access to House records relating to the security preparedness of the Capitol complex.”
Rep. James Banks (R-Ind.) just asked the Secret Service to clarify questionable testimony last week by White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who claimed Trump engaged in a physical altercation with his security detail on January 6.
But sternly worded letters and empty promises won’t do the trick this time around; rank-and-file Republicans won’t be fooled again. After a much-hyped Durham probe ends with a whimper, House Democrats ratchet up their public pursuit of Trump associates, and the Justice Department continues to arrest Capitol trespassers and seek lengthy jail sentences for minor offenses, the base’s appetite for political blood will only increase. GOP leaders will need a cutthroat approach if they retake power next year.