ANALYSIS: Cracks Emerge in Trump’s Hold on GOP As Former President Endures Difficult Week
Some Republicans are keen to move on, though Trump remains singular force in GOP politics
- Published In: Politics
- Last Updated: Dec 26, 2022
Former President Donald Trump capped off a particularly bad pre-Christmas week, as cracks in his GOP support begin to appear. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
By Jacob Gardenswartz
Special to the Wyoming Truth
WASHINGTON—The holiday season has brought few gifts to former President Donald Trump.
In the week leading up to Christmas, Trump endured blow after damning blow: an historic recommendation for prosecution on federal crimes by a Congressional panel, a vote to authorize the release of his long-obscured tax returns, the publication of investigators’ final report into his wrongdoing on Jan. 6 and the overhaul of a centuries-old law Trump sought to abuse in 2020.
“I think the former president’s political clout has diminished,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told NBC News. Intent on wrestling the reins from Trump’s influence in future election cycles, McConnell demurred that “the former president may have other things to do.”
Still, Trump remains broadly popular among the Republican base and retains several strong defenders in Congress, some of whom released their own investigation into Jan. 6 to counter the narrative that Trump was to blame. And though Trump’s rhetoric is seen as having contributed to Republicans’ recent struggles to win support from moderates and independents, his fervent supporters seem intent on remaking the party further in his image, as evidenced by ongoing leadership battles consuming GOP circles.
GOP report obscures Trump’s role on Jan. 6
The Republican-led report into security failures at the Capitol lays much of the blame for the violence on Democratic leaders and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), arguing U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) “succumbed to political pressures from the Office of Speaker Pelosi and House Democrat leadership leading up to January 6, 2021.”
The report mostly draws upon information already made public in government-sanctioned reviews of the events on that day, along with newly-released text messages from former House sergeant at arms Paul Irving. The lawmakers, led by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), point to “systemic issues” with police preparedness and concerns about the optics of a large security force on Jan. 6 as contributing to the lack of adequate response.
Missing from Republicans’ analysis, however, is any significant discussion of Trump’s own actions and rhetoric on the day of the attack. In their timeline on the events of Jan. 6, the GOP lawmakers make no mention of Trump’s speech that morning urging his supporters to “fight like hell” shortly before the Capitol was breached. Nor do they reference his later verbal attacks on then-Vice President Mike Pence, who was held up inside the Capitol as the siege was underway.
Though the report tries to insulate Trump from legal and political peril, the GOP lawmakers’ efforts were hindered by House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) own decision to refuse to seat any Republicans on the investigative committee. In doing so, Republicans effectively handed Democrats unilateral control of the investigation while also enabling them to claim bipartisanship in appointing two Trump-opposed Republicans to the panel.
“The unsung hero of the Jan 6 committee, is @GOPLeader Kevin McCarthy, who pulled his choices to obstruct the investigation allowing for a smooth bipartisan investigation and presentation to America,” tweeted Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), a committee member. “Thanks Kevin!”
Trump’s centrality to investigation questioned
Behind the scenes, lawmakers and staff on the Jan. 6 panel are said to have engaged in heated arguments over the degree to which Trump and Trump alone became the focus of the committee’s final report, with many suggesting Cheney was to blame for losing focus on other areas of investigative interest.
“We all came from prestigious jobs, dropping what we were doing because we were told this would be an important fact-finding investigation that would inform the public,” one former committee staffer told the Washington Post. “But when [the committee] became a Cheney 2024 campaign, many of us became discouraged.”
Spokespeople for Cheney and the Jan. 6 committee brushed off such concerns, insisting the report adequately addresses such questions.
In addition to the GOP effort, the formal inquiry investigation touched on security failures as well. Two appendices in the official report explored the preparation for and response to the violence by law enforcement agencies and national guard forces.
The evidence before Jan. 6 “should have been sufficient to warrant far more vigorous preparations for the security of the joint session,” the report argues. “The failure to sufficiently share and act upon that intelligence jeopardized the lives of the police officers defending the Capitol and everyone in it.”
Still, though lawmakers write that “there are additional steps that should have been taken to address the potential for violence” by law enforcement agencies, they nonetheless place the blame squarely on Trump.
“The central cause of Jan. 6 was one man, former President Donald Trump, whom many others followed,” the report states. “None of the events of Jan. 6 would have happened without him.”
And in interview transcripts released in tandem with the report, lawmakers disclosed possible abuses by Trump and his allies that could merit even further investigation.
Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified that Stefan Passantino, a former Trump lawyer who initially represented her, urged her to focus on “protecting the president” in her appearances before the committee.
“We all know you’re loyal,” Hutchinson said Passantino told her. “Let’s just get you in and out, and this day will be easy, I promise.”
“The less you remember, the better,” Hutchinson recalled Passantino telling her.