Capitol Riot Probe: Will Dems Use 'Benghazi Playbook' Against Trump & GOP Ahead of Midterms?
15:00 GMT 26.07.2021 (Updated: 13:21 GMT 06.08.2022)
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's attempts to present the 1/6 Select Committee as a non-partisan endeavour are doomed, say US political commentators, adding that the Dems' effort bears a strong resemblance to the GOP's Benghazi probe against Hillary Clinton.
On 25 July, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi named a Republican Trump critic, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), to a special panel investigating the Capitol riot, in a what she described as a push to make the initiative "non-partisan".
Before tapping Kinzinger, Pelosi blocked Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Jim Banks of Indiana, known for their sympathy with the former president, claiming that their actions could disrupt the committee's work.
Minority Leader McCarthy slammed the move, saying "Republicans will not be party to [Pelosi's] sham process and will instead pursue our own investigation of the facts," unless she seats all his picks.
The House speaker has so far brought on the committee's board Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo, who was stripped of her role as the third-ranking Republican in the House over her criticism of Trump.
Why Pelosi's Committee Will Never be 'Non-Partisan'
"It seems pretty clear that putting Kinzinger and Cheney on the committee but keeping Jordan and Banks off, means that the goal isn't to approach the probe in a bipartisan way," says Timothy Hagle, a political science professor from University of Iowa, adding that Democrats and Republicans obviously have different views as to the value of a probe into the events of 6 January.
Nancy Pelosi has turned the 1/6 Committee into President Trump’s 3rd Impeachment.— Lauren Boebert (@laurenboebert) July 25, 2021
While many Democrats still insist on referring to the events as an attempted insurrection, most Republicans are willing to describe what happened as "a riot or a protest that got out of hand", according to the political scientist.
Pelosi only wants members on the Jan 6 committee who will read her talking points.— Jim Banks (@RepJimBanks) July 25, 2021
Both Kinzinger and Cheney described the 6 January events in DC as an "insurrection". Earlier this month, Kinzinger lambasted the Capitol breach and his Republican party fellows for "nurturing" it.
The committee's upcoming report will never be perceived as "nonpartisan", no matter what Pelosi says, believes Professor David Woodard, Clemson University political scientist and former political consultant for Republican congressmen.
"The investigation is a way for the Democrats in the House to paint Trump as an extreme radical," he says. "This is another instalment of a by-now familiar story that Donald Trump was an unfit president."
© REUTERS / OCTAVIO JONESFormer President Donald Trump speaks to his supporters during the Save America Rally at the Sarasota Fairgrounds in Sarasota, Florida, U.S. July 3, 2021. REUTERS/Octavio Jones
Former President Donald Trump speaks to his supporters during the Save America Rally at the Sarasota Fairgrounds in Sarasota, Florida, U.S. July 3, 2021. REUTERS/Octavio Jones
What's Behind the 1/6 House Select Committee's Timing?
The 6 January Committee also appears to be a formidable tool in the forthcoming 2022 midterm elections, the observers believe. Previously, scholars from both sides of the US political aisle presumed that the Dems could face defeat in 2022, citing the trend that the president's party traditionally loses in the midterms. They further suggested that the GOP may gain up to eight seats in the House of Representatives solely due to decennial redistricting, which would be enough to take over the lower chamber.
"We can probably expect a report of some sort to come out by late summer or early fall of 2022 in time to be an issue in the midterm elections," says Timothy Hagle. "Given that the Democrats' majority in each chamber is very small, it's possible that they could lose control of one or both chambers unless they have something to energise their own voters and either get some middle voters to vote for them or to at least not vote for Republicans."
The Dems' strategy resembles nothing so much as the Benghazi case which was brought forward by the GOP against former Democratic Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, according to Dr. Djene R. Bajalan, political analyst and professor of history at Missouri State University.
The select committee on events surrounding the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi was kicked off by then GOP House Speaker John Boehner on 2 May 2014, ahead of the 2014 midterms. Furthermore, the longstanding case could have affected Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential bid as well, according to Bajalan. In May 2016, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, labelled the GOP's Benghazi probe a "partisan charade".
While the outcome of the upcoming partisan battle seems unclear, the Republicans still have a chance to defeat their political opponents if they focus on issues where Democrats seem weaker, i.e. the economy, inflation, border crisis, and crime, according to Hagle. In this case, "anything the committee does may be seen as a distraction or too partisan to be of any value", he concludes.