WASHINGTON –In its final hearing on Thursday, the special panel investigating the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 of last year voted unanimously to subpoena testimony and documents from former President Donald Trump.
“He is required to answer for his actions,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., the chairman of the Jan. 6 committee.
Trump is expected to resist complying with the subpoena. If the subpoena is ignored, the full House must vote on whether to make a referral to the Justice Department, which has the authority to decide whether to bring charges.
Held while the House and Senate was in recess, the committee’s latest hearing included testimony that showed Trump was repeatedly alerted to brewing violence and did nothing to try to stop the mob attack on the Capitol.
In fact, the records indicated Trump sought to stoke the conflict.
Taped testimony played at the hearing – there were no witnesses – revealed that Trump had conceded to several people that he knew he lost the election. The committee presented evidence that Trump, just a few days after being declared the loser of the election, signed orders to immediately withdraw troops from Afghanistan and Somalia — evidence that he knew his term was going to end.
And during a video interview, former Vice President Mike Pence’s counsel, Greg Jacob, said some people in Trump’s White House were planning to declare victory on election night “prior to the election results being known.”
Thursday’s hearing is expected to be the last one held in public by the special committee, which for more than a year has been investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol that led to several deaths (including being cited as reason for death by suicide) and left more than 140 police officers injured.
We’re well into the political debate season
Debating one’s political opponent is a time-honored tradition that can sometimes even change the course of history. Abraham Lincoln narrowly lost his bid for a Senate seat after debating Steven Douglass several times over the issue of slavery, but Douglas’ stature as a national leader of the Democratic Party was gravely diminished after the high-profile debates. And Lincoln, although he lost the election, won acclaim as an eloquent spokesman for the Republican cause.
In retrospect, Douglass, an incumbent, wished he hadn’t debated Lincoln. Many modern-day incumbents also try to minimize the opportunities to go head-to-head with a political rival, leaving challengers to complain that their opponents are afraid to engage, when they simply don’t want to give their challengers a platform.
There was only one debate in the hottest congressional race in Minnesota, the neck-and neck contest between Rep. Angie Craig, D-2nd, and Republican Tyler Kistner.
On Thursday, Craig and Kistner faced off at Dakota County Technical College. Kistner kept to the GOP game plan of accusing his Democratic opponent of close ties to President Joe Biden and blaming her for high inflation and crime.
More than once, Kistner took out his mobile phone to show debate attendees a graphic of the stock market indices. Those were plunging based on the release of a report Thursday of September’s consumer inflation report, which showed a larger-than-expected increase.
Wall Street, however, shook off the report and the Dow Jones index at one point during the day soared more than 800 points. No matter, few understand the reasons for the market’s volatility.
Craig, meanwhile, defended her party’s accomplishments, including approval of an infrastructure bill and the Inflation Reduction Act – a massive climate and health bill –while trying to distance herself from some of the policies of her party and the president. That was a delicate balancing act.
Among the issue Craig said that she split with Biden on was the president’s use of his executive authority to forgive some of the amount of money owed in college loans, a move panned by Kistner and many Americans from both parties.
“I’m not so sure about Joe Biden’s plan, either,” Craig said.
Meanwhile, Kistner was all in on the GOP’s midterm agenda. He often referred to a recently unveiled “Commitment to America,” a plan Republican leaders have crafted to help their candidates on the campaign trail. At least once, he waved a small pamphlet that he said described the plan.
The “Commitment to America” is not a detailed agenda, but more a series of short descriptions and talking points like “curb wasteful government spending,” “fight inflation and lower the cost of living, and “defend fairness by ensuring that only women can compete in women’s sports.”
Its No. 1 priority is to repeal the 87,000 new Internal Revenue Service agents that will be hired through the Inflation Reduction Act.
“The last thing people need is 87,000 IRS agents frivolously auditing your taxes,” Kistner said at the debate.
That may be a false characterization. The IRS has been badly underfunded, with the biggest beneficiaries being high-income tax cheats, who take a lot of manpower to audit. And a lot of the funding in the Inflation Reduction Act will go to replacing agents who are expected to retire in the next five years. Other funding would be used to beef up taxpayer services and modernize the IRS – as well as to the enforcement of the tax code.
At times the debate was derailed by insults lobbed by both candidates.
Kistner called himself an average middle-class guy and told Craig: “I don’t live in a mansion like you do.”
Meanwhile, Craig called Kistner an “election denier” because the Republican filed a lawsuit challenging the results of his narrow loss when he first ran against Craig in 2020. Craig also accused Kistner of waffling and running away from an earlier hardline stance on abortion.
“You get up here and pretend to the boy next door, but you are too extreme for Minnesota’s 2nd District,” Craig said.
Kistner says he’s “pro-life” except in cases of rape or when the life of a mother is at stake and has never changed his stance.
“Oh it’s getting fun now,” Kistner responded as the auditorium reacted noisily to Craig’s attack.
“Congresswoman Craig, I have not seen someone run a more dishonest campaign than you have in this campaign cycle, and I think that is unbecoming of a congressional member of the 2nd Congressional District trying to represent the people and just shows how you are willing to lie to people just to keep your political power,” Kistner said.
Immediately after the debate concluded, Kistner’s campaign released a statement saying Kistner won the debate.
“This election is about a very simple question, are you better off than you were two years ago? In today’s debate, Kistner effectively made the case for fresh eyes on the old problems in Washington, and decisively won the debate,” campaign spokesman Tyler Dunn said.
Don’t know who won the debate. But I can safely say the tenor of this very competitive race isn’t likely to get any better between now and Nov. 8.
And in another congressional race …
Jeff Ettinger, a Democrat and the former CEO of Hormel who is running against Rep. Brad Finstad, R-1st, released his first campaign ad this week. Like most Democratic candidates, Ettinger hit his GOP opponent on the issue of abortion.
In the 30-second spot, Ettinger says Finstad’s position on abortion is “too extreme” for Minnesota. In a May debate with Ettinger, Finstad said he was “pro-life” and believes abortion law should be decided by states, not the federal government.
In his ad, Ettinger also says Finstad, a former member of the state legislature, “voted over 60 times to restrict access to abortion and contraceptives.”
“I believe the choice to get an abortion is a private decision that should remain between a woman and her doctor, and absolutely not one that women should be criminalized for,” Ettinger says in the ad.
The Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade in a decision about a Mississippi abortion clinic called Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization energized Democratic voters, but some Democrats fear the “Dobbs effect” might be fading.
Longtime campaign strategist James Carville criticized fellow Democratic consultants this week for placing too much confidence in running on abortion as voter concerns about the economy are intensifying.
“A lot of these consultants think if all we do is run abortion spots that will win for us. I don’t think so,” said Carville. “It’s a good issue. But if you just sit there and they’re pummeling you on crime and pummeling you on the cost of living, you’ve got to be more aggressive than just yelling abortion every other word.”
Well, Carville did tell those working for Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign that they should focus on “the economy, stupid.”
GOP candidates across the nation are following Carville’s advice, blaming Democrats for inflation and either saying the U.S. economy is in a recession (which it is not) or warning of an impending recession.