WASHINGTON — The Republican plan to parry the House committee on Jan. 6 was meant to be simple. GOP officials reportedly focus narrowly on raising prices and treat the hearings as a sideshow that voters deem irrelevant.
And, once again, former President Donald Trump is shaking up the scenario.
Trump posted a flurry of ratings on the audience Friday morning on his social media site, even as the party sought to capitalize on shocking bad economic news that misrepresents President Joe Biden: May inflation hit a 40-year high.
Thursday’s hearing drew an audience of about 20 million, including a few from Trump-world. In the hours after the committee ended, Trump allies went on a tweeting and texting frenzy in hopes of blunting specific claims.
Trump mentioned the rate of inflation on his platform, Truth Social, but devoted far more space to an audience that GOP operatives hoped to ignore. (Trump launched Truth Social after he was kicked off Twitter, giving him a vehicle to reach his unfiltered followers.)
“I think it’s good to fix the record so that it’s not just an unfettered stream of talking points,” a former Trump White House aide said, “but I think the vast majority of energy should be devoted to economic problems”.
The 45th president took aim at his former attorney general, Bill Barr. The committee released video testimony of Barr saying he specifically told Trump that there was no widespread voter fraud in 2020.
Barr was “a weak and scared attorney general,” worried about clashing with Democrats, Trump wrote in an article. He reiterated the unsubstantiated claim that the election was stolen and appeared to disparage his eldest daughter, who was a senior councilor in the West Wing. The committee released an excerpt from Ivanka Trump’s testimony in which she said she respected Barr and was swayed by his conclusion that Trump had rightfully lost.
“Ivanka Trump,” her father wrote, hadn’t studied the election results and had “long been checking and, in my opinion, only trying to be respectful of Bill Barr and his job as Attorney General (he sucked !). ”
Trump’s claim that his daughter had “checked out” does not match his earlier portrayal of her as a dynamo. At a White House event in 2019, he credited Ivanka with finding jobs for 14 million people. She campaigned in a December 2020 Senate election runoff in Georgia, telling voters that she had spoken to her father earlier that day and that he had wanted her to deliver the message that he “will never stop fighting for you”. And she was with her father at the White House on January 6.
Discrediting individual witnesses contradicts the strategy developed by Republicans before the hearings.
The party had largely decided to try to mock Democrats for spending all the time on Jan. 6 when parents crave formula and motorists face $5 a gallon of gas.
An announcement released Thursday by the Republican National Committee captured the GOP’s approach. The ad blamed Biden for inflation, crime and the chaotic troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. At the end, an on-screen message reads: “But what are the Democrats focused on?” followed by a referral to committee on January 6.
But getting Trump to disregard ratings may be too much to expect: he’s never been good at staying on message. People close to him said he remained obsessed with the idea that he had been robbed of a victory and that it was impossible to get him to drop the subject. In the days following the Capitol riot, according to the committee, one of Trump’s confidants, Fox News host Sean Hannity, texted the White House press secretary: ” No more stolen election speeches.” Hannity’s advice didn’t take.
A national Republican campaign strategist said the committee would struggle to maintain public interest in additional hearings scheduled for this month when there are so many competing storylines that polls show are of more interest to the public. Americans. From this perspective, Republicans don’t need Trump to draw more attention to their audiences; they will fade on their own.
“Numerous polls show that this [the Jan. 6 committee] is not a priority for voters right now,” the strategist said. “With everything going on in the world, I don’t see how they keep breaking through this. There are so many other issues that concern us. »
Another GOP strategist, when asked about the fallout from the hearings, said, “Like most Americans, I didn’t watch.”
Missouri Rep. Jason Smith, a Trump ally and former GOP executive, said he fell asleep watching Thursday’s hearing and suggested Democrats take inspiration from a book by tired game amid horrible economic news.
“Talking about Donald Trump is the only unifying thing for Democrats right now, so I’m not surprised they made it into a made-for-TV movie production,” Smith told NBC News. “Unfortunately for them, I haven’t found anyone outside of Washington, DC watching.”
Yet many did. New Jersey Republican National Committee member Bill Palatucci said he listened to the hearing on Thursday and watched “with a heavy heart.” He challenged the idea that hearings aren’t worth people’s time.
“This was clearly a seditious insurrection against our representative democracy,” Palatucci said. “Voters may have two different thoughts in their minds. They are unhappy with the way the Democrats have handled the fight against inflation, and at the same time they may be completely disturbed and angry at the former president for his conduct.