The absence of a game plan isn’t causing stress, at least overtly. The hope is that Republicans on the Hill, particularly Trump loyalists like Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Elise Stefanik (RN.Y.), will play the role of Trump’s public defenders. But while the House GOP will be engaged in responding to the hearings, the Senate side is likely to lay low,
Among Trump allies, there is also a sense that the public’s opinions on Jan. 6 are already baked in place and that even expertly produced hearings won’t materially change that. Underscoring that nonchalance, a person familiar with coordination between Trump and Hill Republicans said that the Republican National Committee hadn’t been very involved until recently.
“They saw this as people don’t care about it and aren’t paying attention and there are bigger problems,” the person said. “If nothing else in an election year this [Jan. 6] committee has united every Republican faction with an illegitimate committee and bureaucratic and government overreach at a time when many member areas are suffering.”
As a tactical matter, Trump and his allies are prepared to dismiss any new finding as a political distraction — not tied to the real concerns of voters. Steven Cheung, a former Trump campaign official and Republican campaign strategist, said Republicans have aligned on that messaging already.
“It’s important to highlight that it’s been a year-and-a-half since Jan 6 happened and look where we’re at. High inflation rates. High gas prices. A lot of crime happening,” said Cheung. “These are things people are focused on, and we’re going to spend the entire month in primetime television on Jan 6. What’s the purpose of it?”
Those downplaying the significance of the hearings have interests in doing so. The RNC, for starters, is currently in a legal battle with the committee over records held by Salesforce, a company that handles the RNC’s data and digital operations. The committee is trying to glean information about how RNC messaging and fundraising emails may have pushed falsehoods about the election.
“The RNC plans on aggressively responding to the partisan attacks and the political theater the Democrats are engaging in with Nancy Pelosi’s illegitimate January 6 Committee,” RNC spokesperson Emma Vaughn said in a statement.
Elsewhere, other Trump-allied institutions are not taking a casual approach. While Fox News has decided not to air the hearings in their entirety, the network was expected to bring on Trump-defending guests to rebut the news. Several of the network’s evening broadcasters, like hosts Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, have had their personal texts to Trump officials revealed as part of the committee’s investigative work.
Chris Ruddy, CEO of the conservative leaning Newsmax, said the network plans to air the first hour in full and then will decide how much of the rest of the hearings to broadcast.
Steve Bannon, Trump’s former adviser, plans to have Stefanik and Harriet Hageman, the Wyoming primary challenger to Cheney, among others on his “War Room” show Thursday. While they will focus on the hearings, among other things, he insisted there was a general lack of excitement.
“There’s no electricity, no buzz, no real anticipation,” said Bannon, who was criminally charged with contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from the select committee and is expected to go to trial next month. “It’s not even the A or B blocks [today] on MSNBC.”
And the Conservative Political Action Coalition, led by Trump-ally Matt Schlapp, will launch a website to publish documents and their own arguments. Schalpp said “dozens” of people will be working in a war room to respond to the hearings.
“We’re in a position of having to see what propaganda is out first, then us having to respond to it,” Schlapp said of the committee. “We’re aware of the seriousness of these charges and no one is taking this lightly in terms of the historic importance and of the American people understanding how outrageous and unconstitutional it is in an effort to mitigate [Democratic] losses in November.”
The committee, through carefully produced hearings, plans to present the initial summary of its findings about “the coordinated, multi-step effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and prevent the transfer of power.” So far, little information about witnesses and potential bombshells has been released or leaked to the press.
On Thursday night, the committee is expected to focus on how the far right neo-Fascist group Proud Boys helped coordinate violence on Jan. 6. The committee will hear from Nick Quested — a British documentarian who followed the Proud Boys around Jan. 6 — and Capitol Police officer Caroline Edwards, one of the first officers injured in the attack. They will be the first in-person witnesses to appear before the committee as part of six Watergate-style hearings. In addition, the committee plans to air footage and recorded interviews with people including Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. Gregory Jacob, a top adviser to former Vice President Mike Penceis also expected to appear in person under subpoena next week.
One reason that Trump allies aren’t fretting about the absence of a detailed game plan for Thursday is that they and Republicans have grown accustomed to these types of scenarios. The former president and his inner circle went through two impeachment trials and three high-profile Supreme Court hearings, along with testimony from former special counsel Robert Mueller before the House Judiciary and House Intelligence committees.
Those trials and hearings required weeks of preparation inside the Trump White House and created a general frenzy among GOP communications staffers on Capitol Hill. But there is a been-there-done-that mentality now in Trump land. The day before the Jan. 6 hearing committees, the RNC had yet to circulate talking points to surrogates.