Trump's biggest supporters now want to join the Jan. 6 commission — and Democrats are worried

Could Trump allies undermine the investigation?

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published June 30, 2021 11:09AM (EDT)

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) speaks at a news conference after visiting the Holocaust Museum, outside the U.S. Capitol on June 14, 2021. Greene repeatedly apologized for comparing coronavirus pandemic precautions to the oppression of Jewish people by Nazi Germany. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) speaks at a news conference after visiting the Holocaust Museum, outside the U.S. Capitol on June 14, 2021. Greene repeatedly apologized for comparing coronavirus pandemic precautions to the oppression of Jewish people by Nazi Germany. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., is calling to be placed on the select committee investigating the January 6 Capitol riot while simultaneously decrying it as a "witch hunt" against supporters of former President Donald Trump.

The House of Representatives voted to greenlight the committee largely along party lines Wednesday, with only two Republicans voting in favor of the measure.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., introduced the resolution Monday to "investigate and report upon the facts and causes of the attack and report recommendations for preventing any future assault."

The panel, which will have subpoena power, will include eight members chosen by Pelosi and five members chosen in consultation with Republican leaders, though Pelosi's office teased that one of her picks may be a Republican.

Taylor Greene, who pushed false claims about Trump's election loss and the riot and was kicked off her own committee assignments earlier this year for calling for Democratic leaders to be executed and spreading conspiracy theories, volunteered her services earlier this week.

"I have time on my hands, right?" Greene told the pro-Trump outlet Newsmax on Monday. "I don't have any committee assignments, so I think it's the perfect thing to happen."

Greene called the committee "nothing but another witch hunt" and said she would use the position to protect Trump fans.

"I'm very upset about Jan. 6," she said. "I didn't like what happened at the Capitol, but I would like to be on that new committee to make sure it's not a witch hunt against Trump supporters and that we can actually find out real answers like releasing over 14,000 hours of video."

Greene said she also wants to find out the name of the Capitol Police officer who shot Ashli Babbitt, the rioter who was killed while trying to breach the House chamber. The unidentified officer was cleared of wrongdoing by federal prosecutors.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., a close Trump ally who has claimed that antifa or even "federal undercover agents" were behind the riot, and Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., who voted against awarding medals to Capitol police and denied allegations that she gave Capitol tours to rioters before the attack, are also lobbying for spots on the committee, according to Politico.

It's unclear whether House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., will appoint anyone to the committee as Republicans criticize the committee after voting down legislation that would have established an independent bipartisan commission to investigate the riot. But Republican lawmakers predict that McCarthy would "gravitate towards controllable Trump acolytes who can work to snarl the select committee's progress" if he does, according to Politico.

Democratic leaders expect this as well.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., the No. 3 Democrat in the House, said he expects McCarthy to "bend the knee" to Trump. "It wouldn't shock me if he chose Jim Jordan, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert. He's got a collection of characters to choose from," he told MSNBC, predicting that Trump will "issue recommendations as to who he thinks should be on this committee, and Kevin McCarthy will follow those recommendations hook, line and sinker."

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told Politico, "The issue is that … there are indications that some of these folks were in on it. And we can't have folks who were in on it in the investigation." 

Jordan, another staunch Trump ally and former member of the Select Committee on Benghazi, has dismissed the committee as "impeachment 3.0" and "one more vehicle to attack President Trump." Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., a member of House GOP leadership, told Politico that the committee "sounds like the perfect job for Jim Jordan."

Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., who voted to impeach Trump and negotiated the terms of the bipartisan commission before all but 35 members of his own party rejected it, has also criticized the decision to form a committee instead.

"It would be a turbo-charged partisan exercise, not an honest fact-finding body that the American people and Capitol Police deserve," he said in a statement. "For those reasons, I will not support its creation when voted upon. Recognizing the deeply disappointing departure this represents from a truly bipartisan solution, I have a hard time envisioning a scenario where I would participate, if asked."

It's unclear who will serve on the committee, though several Democrats told Politico that they expect House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., to head the panel. And Reps. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., and Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., the two most outspoken Trump critics in the party, are among potential Republican choices Pelosi could tap for the commission.

Any Republicans who serve on the panel will have to deal with their own party's role in the riot. According to Politico, one House Republican circulated a list of "about half a dozen fellow Republicans" who should be punished for their role in cheering on the Trump supporters ahead of the riot, including Reps. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., and Paul Gosar, R-Ariz. Both men unsuccessfully sought pardons from Trump in his final days in office, according to CNN, and were implicated by "Stop the Steal" rally organizer Ali Alexander with helping to plan the event, which Biggs has denied.

Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J., a former federal prosecutor, has also alleged that Republican members gave "reconnaissance" tours of the Capitol ahead of the riot. Sherrill, who has not presented any evidence of her claim, told Politico that she turned over information about what she was to federal investigators.

"We're seeing information come out about the planning that went into that," she said. "I don't really want to comment on what I've seen. Some of it is still under investigation, so it hasn't been publicly released right now."

McCarthy, who called Trump to plead for him to call off his supporters as they overran the Capitol, may also be called as a witness. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., said in a statement earlier this year that Trump dismissed the concerns on the call and falsely claimed that "it was antifa that had breached the Capitol."

When McCarthy refuted Trump's claim and told the president it was Trump supporters, she said, Trump told McCarthy, "Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are."

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

MORE FROM Igor Derysh