Politico reports: “Lawmakers on the Jan. 6 select committee describe their probe’s reach as still undefined.” For what it’s worth, I think it’s important to focus on whether–and if so how–the “Stop the Steal” organizers thought they were going to actually, from their perspective, stop the steal (meaning how they thought that disrupting the joint session of Congress to count the electoral votes would prevent Biden from becoming president on January 20 and how they thought they could give Trump a second term). Did the “Stop the Steal” organizers really believe they could accomplish this, given the Electoral Count Act? If so, why did they have those views? Did they also think that simply by delaying the counting of electoral votes they could somehow extend Trump’s stay in office, despite the Twentieth Amendment and the rules for determining who serves as Acting President in the event that the counting of electoral votes remains incomplete at noon on January 20? These kinds of questions, it seems to me, are important in preparing for a risk of a second “stop the steal” movement on January 6, 2025.
Despite Senators Hawley and Cruz joining Rep. Mo Brooks and other GOP House members in objecting to electoral votes in favor of Biden, the result of the joint session pursuant to the Electoral Count Act was never going to be other than Biden’s victory. And if somehow the counting of electoral votes had been delayed all the way to noon at January 20, Speaker Pelosi would have been entitled to step in as Acting President under the Twentieth Amendment and 3 U.S. Code § 19. If (God forbid) the insurrectionists had been successful in murdering Speaker Pelosi (and also Senator Grassley as president pro tempore of the Senate at the time), then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would have become Acting President at noon on January 20. Was that the “Stop the Steal” organizers’ objective? If so, to what end? Would Pompeo have attempted to assert power as Acting President indefinitely, or would he have felt obligated to restore order to permit completion of the counting of electoral votes, which would have resulted in Biden becoming president under the Twentieth Amendment for the remainder of his term (albeit in an Inauguration ceremony that had been inappropriately delayed by one ore more days)? Perhaps the Select Committee should call Pompeo as a witness to hear his understanding of the circumstances leading up to, and on, January 6.
But the real risk for January 6, 2025, it seems to me, is that there are more Senators and Representatives like Hawley, Cruz, Brooks, and all the others who were willing to embrace the “Stop the Steal” movement from inside the Capitol despite Attorney General Barr (among many others) having called it “b__sh__.” Is the Select Committee going to be able to tackle that problem? If so, how? And if not, then what?
(Note: this post has been corrected to reflect Senator Grassley’s place in the line of succession on January 6; thanks very much to a reader of the blog for pointing out the erroneous omission.)