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Is democracy threatened when lawmakers support insurrectionists?

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) talks to the media along with Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL), Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) and Rep. Mike Collins (R-GA) as the Congressional Integrity Project video truck showing 12 minutes of footage from the January 6th Insurrection drives around the DC Department of Corrections on March 24, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for Congressional Integrity Project)
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) talks to the media along with Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL), Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) and Rep. Mike Collins (R-GA) as the Congressional Integrity Project video truck showing 12 minutes of footage from the January 6th Insurrection drives around the DC Department of Corrections on March 24, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for Congressional Integrity Project)

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Sitting members of Congress are aiding January 6th defendants — some are even visiting them in jail.

"January 6th defendants are being treated unfairly by our federal government and yet they are willing to stand and say the national anthem every night at 9 o’clock," Marjorie Taylor Greene says.

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene calls the cells where the defendants are incarcerated the "patriot's wing."

On Jan. 6th, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy begged Donald Trump to call off the rioters. But this year, McCarthy gave Fox News unfettered access to Capitol footage.

"Our producers were given use of capitol computers with advanced mapping software - that made it easy to find what we were looking for."

What they were looking for is a narrative to show millions of Fox viewers. Footage that makes the insurrection look more like a peaceful protest.

Today, On Point: Why are members of Congress throwing their support behind the people who tried to tear Congress down?


Tim Heaphy, former U.S. Attorney who served as Chief Investigative Counsel for the House January 6th Committee. (@HeaphyTimothy)

Ryan Reilly, justice reporter for NBC News. He covers January 6th and its aftermath. His forthcoming book is called “Sedition Hunters: How January 6th Broke the Justice System.” (@ryanjreilly)

Noah Bookbinder, president for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). He’s also a former federal corruption prosecutor. (@NoahBookbinder)

Jack BeattyOn Point news analyst. Author of the Age of Betrayal: The Triumph of Money in America and editor of Colossus: How the Corporation Changed America. (@JackBeattyNPR)

Interview Highlights

On Speaker McCarthy giving hours of footage to Tucker Carlson

Tim Heaphy: "My first reaction was surprise at his access. When the committee worked with the Capitol Police to get access to that footage, it was under very strict controls. This is really sensitive information. You know, the Capitol complex has cameras throughout, inside and out. And the specific locations of those cameras is something that the Capitol Police holds very close. They don't want the public knowing exactly the vantage points from which they observe events. And they certainly don't want the public to know about routes of evacuation and safe spaces within the complex that were utilized on January 6th.

"So before we could use any of that footage publicly, we had a very careful process with the Capitol Police consulting with them before we disclosed any of those locations through the use of footage in our hearings. I don't know if Tucker Carlson had any such agreement, if the speaker put any restrictions on the access to footage or subsequent use of it. So my first reaction was alarm that this really sensitive law enforcement information was provided to an outside source without those protections."

On the work of the Jan. 6th committee

Tim Heaphy: "It was important to us that we put everything that we found forth to the public. So we didn't just write a report, an 845-page report. We released the entirety of the body of work, all of the transcripts of all of the interviews, all of the documents that are cited in the report. It was important for us not to make sure that we could not be accused of sort of cherry-picking findings, presenting some and not others.

"And that's why, in addition to the sort of some of the equation at the end, this was a multipart plan by the president and his allies to subvert the transfer of power. We wanted the raw material, the worksheet of sorts to be released as well, so that people could make their own judgment. They could read all that material, review it, and determine for themselves if our conclusions or misleading are accurate. And I'm proud of them and stand behind them. I think they're exactly accurate."

On the jail conditions for the Jan. 6th detainees 

Tim Heaphy: "I was a prosecutor in Washington, D.C., so I know exactly the facility in which these folks are held. First of all, this isn't the D.C. jail. This is the correctional treatment facility, which is right next to the jail. Right. So it's already a step above in terms of the accommodations for prisoners. It's actually meant to be a medical facility. They're also segregated in a wing together. They're not in general population. I think that's for their own protection. They're given access to news coverage, to iPads, actually.

"Look, jail is hard. Their liberty is restrained. But the conditions under which these Jan six pretrial detainees are being held is frankly better than the average prisoner who's held pending trial in D.C. And of course, we heard nothing about that for years and years for Marjorie Taylor Greene or anyone else. The conditions under which black and brown people who are charged with other offenses in Washington, D.C., are held pending trial. So it is an attempt for her and others like her to use some sort of political narrative into a situation without justification."

Do you have ethical concerns about actions of certain members of Congress?

Noah Bookbinder: "You can see that on a couple of different levels. First of all, just in terms of kind of the sense of ethics that all of us have, you know, members of Congress are expected to represent the American people. They're expected to look out for our system of our democratic system of government. And after January 6th, 2021, that really was this opportunity for members of Congress across the political spectrum to come together and condemn what was truly an attack on our democracy because they were there. They saw how horrific it was. They were worried for their own lives.

"And instead, what you've seen is members of Congress like Marjorie Taylor Greene but also Speaker McCarthy concluding that it was in their political interest to essentially downplay what happened on January 6th and make excuses for the people who attacked them. And, you know, that is members of Congress themselves undercutting, undermining the democracy that they are supposed to be representing. And there are real ethical problems with that. But more specifically, looking at, you know, the rules that apply to members of Congress and, you know, there aren't kind of specific rules that say you can't go to DC jail and associate with charged insurrectionists.

"But the rules do say that members of Congress are expected to behave in a way that reflects creditably on the House of Representatives. And, you know, when you have them going in and kind of throwing in their lot with the people who attacked the Capitol, attacked law enforcement, sought to overturn a free and fair election. Surely, if anything, does not reflect creditably on the institution of Congress, it would be that."

On takeaways from the aftermath of Jan. 6th

Noah Bookbinder: "Donald Trump has always gotten where he's gotten with the politics of grievance, the sense that he and his supporters have been, you know, treated unfairly. And he has also again and again sought to, you know, when he loses to not recognize the defeat, when he is looking at prosecution to undermine the legitimacy of that and, you know, and to encourage a kind of vilification of those who seek to bring about any kind of accountability for him.

"And what you have here is, rather than the rest of his party, of the Republican Party, kind of cutting ties and saying, we've seen where this can lead. Instead, they are realizing that, or they are making the calculation that their political fortune lies with taking Donald Trump side and, you know, kind of twisting reality to kind of go along with the way he's portraying things. So you have, you know, Kevin McCarthy in the House creating this committee that is that is called a called the subcommittee to examine weaponization. And, you know, Donald Trump, of course, for four years really did weaponize government. He really used the Justice Department to try to protect himself and his allies and, in some cases, go after perceived enemies.

"But you've got this committee being formed not to go after that, not to look into that, but rather to investigate those who have investigated January 6th, those who have investigated Donald Trump. And, you know, that's you know, my organization crew sent a letter to Jim Jordan, who's in Congress, who is running that committee and saying, hey, if you're going have a weaponization committee, you should be studying the actual weaponization of government.

"But instead, we have this altering of reality and this kind of complicity at the highest levels of Congress that is really laying the groundwork, sort of adding a sense of approval for this growing violent rhetoric and the possibility that, you know, we could see events like January 6th or like the kind of targeted violence that, you know, that we're just talking about coming in the future. And that's really, really distressing."

Related Reading

NBC News: "Tucker Carlson's Capitol videos are giving Jan. 6 defendants false hope" — " It took a jury only a few hours to convict Jan. 6 defendant Yvonne St Cyr of six criminal counts Friday. That wasn't terribly surprising: She admitted she was on the Capitol grounds, on the inauguration stage, in the tunnel."

This program aired on March 28, 2023.


Paige Sutherland Producer, On Point
Paige Sutherland is a producer for On Point.


Meghna Chakrabarti Host, On Point
Meghna Chakrabarti is the host of On Point.



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