The fallout over the Republican National Committee's statement censuring Representatives Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) for "participating in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse" continues to rain down on the Republican Party.
Today, more than 140 former Republican officials and leaders issued a statement saying that the RNC has "betrayed the GOP's founding principles and ceded control of a once-great movement to grifters and extremists." They condemned the description of "the January 6th insurrection" as legitimate political discourse," calling that description "an affront to the rule of law, peaceful self-government, and the constitutional order."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) tried to distance himself from the party's stance, saying the events of January 6 were "a violent insurrection for the purpose of trying to prevent the peaceful transfer of power after a legitimately certified election, from one administration to the next. That's what it was."
"First Pence, now McConnell," NBC's legal commenter Katie S. Phang noted. "A big hammer is about to drop and they don't want to be in the path."
Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) strode speedily away from ABC News congressional correspondent Rachel Scott when she asked about the resolution describing the rioting on January 6 as "legitimate political discourse," telling her it was "not good" to answer questions in hallways. (Comedian Noel Casler tweeted that McCarthy "ran down that hall like he was being chased by a bunch of white dudes looking for some 'legitimate political discourse.'")
Other representatives seemed eager to shore up their arguments that the election was fraudulent and that investigators are illegitimate. New York representative Elise Stefanik, a Trump loyalist who replaced Cheney as the number three Republican in House leadership when House Republicans removed Cheney by a secret vote in May, defended the RNC, saying it had "every right to take any action." She suggested that voters would ultimately decide whether to justify Cheney's position or that of the RNC.
Last night, Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) was on the Fox News Channel sounding more frantic than usual, accusing the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol of attacking him and insisting that "this is ridiculous and the American people are so fed up with this…." Jordan, such a key Trump loyalist that the former president awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in a private ceremony at the White House on January 11, 2021, five days after the insurrection, has been eager to deflect attention from what we now know was a ten-minute call between him and Trump on the morning of January 6.
Representative Paul Gosar (R-AZ) tweeted today that 740,000 Maricopa County ballots cannot be verified. (These were the ballots taken over by the Cyber Ninjas and have been examined and verified several times over.)
More odd, though, was Representative Troy Nehls's (R-TX) claim on Twitter that the Capitol Police Intelligence Division on November 20, 2021, "investigated my office illegally" and that Capitol Police leadership was "maliciously investigating me in an attempt to destroy me and my character." He claimed such an attack was due to his criticism of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), the January 6 Committee, the Capitol Police, and the shooting of Ashli Babbitt as she tried to break into the House chamber. The president of the right-wing organization Judicial Watch promptly accused Pelosi of targeting Nehls with "secret police."
The Capitol Police responded that an officer found the office unlocked, entered it, and "saw a white board with text about body armor and an accompanying map of the Capitol campus." In an article in the Federalist, Nehls said the map was intended to help an intern find an ice machine and the body armor part of a discussion of legislation to stop purchases of body armor from China. "If Capitol Police leadership had spent as much time preparing for January 6 as they spent investigating my white board, the January 6 riot never would have happened," Nehls wrote.
It was a bizarre story that sounded like Nehls was trying to get out in front of something. Then Representative Louie Gohmert (R-TX) claimed that the Department of Justice is reading his mail. Taken with the spying on Nehls, Gohmert wrote, "the Democrat's [sic] spying on political opponents appears to know no end." And then he added a threat: "The people behind this should be hoping and praying that they will not be treated in the same manner in which they are running roughshod over Republicans when and if Republicans retake the majority."
Jordan, Gosar, Nehls, and Gohmert all voted not to accept the certified ballots from certain states on January 6.
They might be reacting to the reality that the law is not as slapdash as they might have thought. Today, officers arrested the Mesa County, Colorado, clerk, Republican Tina Peters, after she resisted the seizure of an iPad on which she was illegally filming a court proceeding involving her deputy, Belinda Knisley, who is facing criminal charges of cybercrimes. Peters has been suspected of leaking data from county election machines to conspiracy theorists last year; it turned up in a presentation at MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell's symposium about the election last August. Trump loyalist Steve Bannon showed the arrest on his webcast.
Also today, prosecutors revealed their evidence for the trial of a January 6 defendant, Guy Wesley Reffitt, allegedly a member of the Texas Three Percenter militia group, mobilized against the U.S. government. The trial is set to begin on February 28. Their list of evidence is 11 pages long and extraordinarily thorough. It includes videos, phone records, texts, hotel receipts, pictures, and interviews, including ones with the defendant's children, who will testify that Reffitt threatened them to keep them quiet. His daughter will testify that "she heard her father tell them that if they turned him in to law enforcement, they would be traitors, and that traitors get shot." Also testifying will be one of the defendant's colleagues in the Texas Three Percenter militia who traveled with him to D.C.
The government has done its homework.
Today, Reuters reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into a meeting between then-leaders of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers alt-right extremist groups and other right-wing figures in a parking garage in Washington, D.C., on January 5, 2021. The attendees contacted by Reuters said "they did not discuss matters related to January 6."