In a hyper-partisan political environment, the faint glimmers of bipartisanship on display have been one of the hearings’ biggest revelations of all.
There was plenty of powerful evidence presented during Day 4 of the House select committee hearings on Jan. 6, showing how President Trump and his allies coerced, bullied and schemed at the state level to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Using the same formula that has made much of the previous hearings must-see TV, the committee on Tuesday again wove a narrative culled from its 10-month investigation.
But between all the bombshells, something else remarkable emerged from the smoke: the sight of Republicans and Democrats treating one another with civility and respect on a public stage, no matter the radioactive material that brought them together.
Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) questioned Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, a Republican, about the pressure he was under from Trump and lawyer Rudy Giuliani to help them put a thumb on the scale for the former president. Schiff and Bowers addressed one another respectfully. They allowed one another to finish their thoughts. And above all, they were working toward the same goal: debunking dangerous lies and schemes to protect the future of American democracy.
Bowers testified for about 40 minutes, recounting how he was pressured to challenge the election results: “I will not break my oath of office,” he told Giuliani. He came off as a reliable and genuine witness whose potent testimony included straightforward statements about the seriousness of his position in the face of corruption and the emotional hardship his family faced after Trump and his allies applied public pressure. He said followers of the president camped outside his home and drove by in video-paneled trucks, with bullhorns, declaring him to be a pedophile. He spoke of an armed man who argued with his neighbor and the distress experienced by his gravely ill daughter due to the harassment.
Like Bowers, nearly every witness who has given testimony about Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 insurrection has been a Republican or avowed conservative. And they have regularly been questioned by Democrats, who have a 7-2 majority on the committee. In a hyper-partisan political environment, the faint glimmers of bipartisanship on display — with Democrats and Republicans managing to work together, under duress, without bringing the building down — are one of the hearings’ biggest revelations of all.
When was the last time you can remember the two parties sitting anywhere in Washington, D.C., together, and engaging in calm, controlled, professional discourse? As viewers grow accustomed to the rhythm of the proceedings, this courteousness and mutual respect between red- and blue-state officials remains refreshing to see, even if the snippets from depositions of Bill Barr, Ivanka Trump and others tell a tale of putting party, and power, over country..
It appears the livestreams, news coverage and memes coming out of the hearings are having an impact, too: An ABC News/Ipos survey published on Sunday found that 58% of respondents believe that Trump should be charged with a crime for his role in the Jan. 6 attack, up from 52% in an earlier ABC/Washington Post poll this year.
One reason the hearings haven’t devolved into a prime opportunity to humiliate the opponent may be the fact that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) already withdrew all of his appointees to the committee after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) rejected Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who had spread disinformation, and Jim Banks (R-Ind.), who was directly involved in the push to change the outcome. So there are no Trump apologists on the panel, just two Republicans of conviction and courage: Vice Chair Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), both victims of the very sort of harassment that witness after witness attested to Tuesday.
“What was it like to compete with a president who had the biggest bully pulpit in the world?” Schiff asked Georgia election official Gabe Sterling, who is known for his late 2020 press conference pleading with Trump to “Stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence. Someone is going to get hurt, someone’s going to get shot, someone’s going to get killed. …” Trying to counter the misinformation “was like a shovel trying to empty the ocean” he said. Testimony also came from Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who Trump famously asked to “find” enough votes to overturn Biden’s victory in a recorded phone call.
Fulton County election worker Shaye Moss and her mother Ruby Freeman were publicly accused by Trump and his cohorts of participating in a ballot fraud operation. Except the nefarious USB stick that Giuliani claimed was passed between mother and daughter was in fact a ginger mint. They too were harassed by Trump apologists. Moss teared up on the stand when she testified that her life has been “affected in major ways, every way, all because of lies.”
“There is nowhere I feel safe. Nowhere,” said Freeman, who described herself as “a small business owner, a mother, a proud American citizen.” “Do you know how it feels to have the president of the United States target you?”
Schiff gave Freeman the last word before apologizing to her and Moss for their ordeal. In his closing remarks about the importance of defending democracy, he quoted George Washington and only one modern-day president: a Republican. He said Ronald Reagan was right when he described America’s peaceful transfer of power “as a kind of miracle in the eyes of the world.”
The bipartisanship of the Jan. 6 hearings has felt like a miracle in its own right.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.