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Pelosi just made an unprecedented move. Here’s why

By Melanie Zanona, CNN

Indiana Republican Rep. Jim Banks was just about to send a letter to Democrats requesting a GOP witness for the January 6 select committee’s first hearing when he had the rug pulled out from under him.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Wednesday afternoon that she was rejecting both Banks and Rep. Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican, from serving on the investigation because of their roles in pushing to overturn the presidential election results — an unprecedented decision that injected fresh fuel into the partisan brawl.

The five GOP members whom House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tapped to sit on the panel had already been plotting their counterattack, with Banks, the newly named ranking member, planning to call the head of the Capitol Police Union — who has been critical of the security failures that day — to testify, sources tell CNN.

Banks even had a phone call early Tuesday evening with the select committee’s Democratic chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, to start laying the groundwork for how the two sides were going to navigate what was shaping up to be a protracted probe. Banks asked whether the GOP would be able to call their own witnesses, if they could have more time for the first hearing and what kind of resources they’d have for staff.

“There was no indication at that point that we wouldn’t be working together,” Banks told CNN of his phone call with Thompson, which came less than 24 hours before Pelosi’s decision.

“But what’s become obviously clear to me is that, because we immediately started asking questions about the vulnerabilities in the Capitol on January 6, they’re not comfortable with that … They were spooked.”

While many Republicans were caught off guard by Pelosi’s stunning decision, which prompted McCarthy to yank all his members from the committee, the GOP ultimately believes this outcome is a political gift for them, with some sources describing it as a “big mistake” for Democrats. Now, they feel like they have even more ammo to back up their claims that Pelosi is just playing politics with the probe and are framing Pelosi’s veto as an example of Democratic overreach.

And while some Republicans thought it was important to have GOP representation on the panel so they could play defense and shape the counter narrative, others never wanted their party to participate in the committee anyway, knowing that they’d have to face uncomfortable questions about former President Donald Trump and his role inciting violence that day. McCarthy is now vowing to pursue his own investigation focused on the Capitol’s security failures on January 6.

“Nancy Pelosi is a radical authoritarian Speaker of the House,” said House GOP Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik of New York. “The American people have always known the truth — that the Pelosi partisan January 6th commission was never about investigating the facts, it was only ever about Pelosi’s radical politics and the Left’s endless obsession with crushing any discussion or debate.”

Democrats, however, vehemently dismissed the idea that rejecting Banks and Jordan would fuel the GOP narrative that the committee is just a partisan exercise, noting that Rep. Liz Cheney, a Wyoming Republican, agreed to serve on the panel at Pelosi’s request.

And Cheney herself said she is “absolutely confident that we will have a nonpartisan investigation,” despite being the only Republican left on the committee.

Behind the scenes, Cheney is also pushing to have a Republican hired as an outside adviser or staffer for the panel, sources tell CNN. That decision is ultimately up to Pelosi, and staffing selections are still in the process of being made.

But even as Republicans tried to use Wednesday’s developments to chip away at the committee’s credibility, lawmakers from across the Democratic caucus praised Pelosi’s decision, arguing the investigation must be taken seriously and not devolve into a circus. And they argued that Banks and Jordan’s presence on the panel would have done just that.

“The two of them were clearly selected just to be disruptive, and that’s not acceptable,” said Rep. Adam Schiff of California, a Democrat on the select committee who went toe-to-toe with Jordan during Trump’s first impeachment.

Cheney, too, expressed support for Pelosi’s decision, noting Jordan could be a “material witness” in the lead up to the insurrection and saying Banks had “disqualified himself by his comments, in particular over the last 24 hours, demonstrating that he is not taking this seriously.”

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CNN’s Manu Raju contributed to this report.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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