A year after 2022 elections, former House Jan. 6 panel members warn of Trump and 2024 danger

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Nearly a year after the Jan. 6 House select committee issued its final report, the panel’s former members, many of whom were ousted in last year’s midterm elections, argue that a second Trump presidency risks upending the norms of American democracy and triggering the same kinds of destabilizing events that occurred in the weeks after the 2020 election.

“I think he ends up mass pardoning the January 6th defendants,” predicted former Rep. Adam Kinzinger, Republican of Illinois. “And if his cases are still pending, he could end up pardoning himself.”

US-POLITICS-CAPITOL-UNREST
File: Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria listens during the third hearing of House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the US Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on June 16, 2022.

MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images


“Another Trump presidency will test the republic to its limits,” said former Rep. Elaine Luria, Democrat of Virginia.

“He’s going to have a less honest vice president,” said former Rep. Stephanie Murphy, Democrat of Florida.

House January 6 Committee Holds Public Hearing
File: Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Democrat from Florida, during a hearing of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the US Capitol in Washington, DC, US, on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022. 

Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images


These former lawmakers have lost the platform of their unique congressional panel, but they are ramping up their arguments as Donald Trump appears poised to storm through the 2024 Republican presidential primaries.

The committee conducted an unparalleled 18-month probe in the U.S. Capitol riot and efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Staging a series of nationally televised, choreographed — and, at times, scripted — public hearings, the panel revealed the breadth of the efforts to overturn the election loss of former President Trump.    

The panel would eventually recommend criminal charges against Trump. It produced a voluminous final report featuring the testimony of longtime Trump insiders and local election officials. The committee also withstood scathing criticism from Republicans, who accused the committee of executing a partisan, politically motivated attempt to take down Trump.

House January 6th Select Committee Holds Its Second Hearing
File: Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), Vice Chairwoman of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) listen during a hearing on the January 6th investigation on June 13, 2022 in Washington, DC. 

/ Getty Images


Four of the nine members of the Jan. 6 committee left Congress in early 2023.  Two of them, Murphy and Kinzinger, retired from the House. Two others, Luria and former Rep. Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming, lost in their reelection campaigns. In separate interviews with CBS News, all of them warn about the risk of an unraveling of American democracy as Trump seeks the Republican nomination and a return to the White House.

Cheney and Kinzinger have continued their advocacy against Trump — and in favor of vigilance against threats to democracy — in newly-released books. 

Cheney’s book, “Oath and Honor,” will be published next month. In recent speeches and forums, she has leaned into warnings about the fragility of democracy. In a speech last month in Minnesota, Cheney said, “We have a threat domestically.  We have a former president trying to unravel democracy.” She also said, “The problem is not just Donald Trump. The problem is people who deny election outcomes.”

In his new book “Renegade: Defending Democracy and Liberty in our Divided Country,” Kinzinger wrote, “The militant, intolerant ideologies, the militias, the alienation and the disaffection, the weird fantasies and disinformation, they’re all still out there ready to go. That’s the elephant in the room.”

In an extended interview about the book with CBS News, Kinzinger spoke about the prospects of another Trump victory. He said, “It’s really dangerous. January 6th was like a guardrail on an interstate. The car hit the guardrail, and we survived. The guardrails of democracy held up. The problem is the weaknesses are there now, and people know where they are.”

Murphy, who served three terms representing the Orlando area of Florida before retiring in January 2023, spoke by phone with CBS News and shared a warning similar to Kinzinger’s.  

“I used to work at the Department of Defense,” she said. “When we looked at our adversaries, we would identify what we call probing strikes. These are strikes that aren’t intended, necessarily to win the day. I think Jan. 6 was a probing strike. It revealed all of the weaknesses that exist in our system. And what precedes a successful strike is a probing strike. So, I worry deeply about … a second Trump term because he already has a proving strike under his belt.”

Murphy is a fellow at the University of Chicago and has given public remarks, including for Georgetown University’s law school, about national security.

Speaking with CBS News, Murphy said she has “deep worry” about the 2024 election. She said, “There is a chance that (Trump) wins just outright. But there’s also the possibility that he cheats to win and is more successful this time than he was the previous time.”

Luria lost her reelection bid in 2022 in a closely fought district in the Tidewater area of Virginia. In a series of written exchanges with CBS News, Luria wrote about the stakes of next year’s presidential election.  

“This isn’t about politics or policy differences,” she said. “2024 is a battle for the Constitution and the future of the United States of America.”

She now sits on the board of directors for BAE Systems, a defense company, and has created a political action committee to help local and state candidates in Virginia.  

The former committee members have also made broader arguments about the future of democracy, beyond Trump and his supporters. Cheney, in public remarks last month, encouraged students to expand their study of history. And she encouraged more women to consider running for public office.

Speaking with “Face the Nation” in October, Cheney expressed alarm about violent political threats, including those experienced by Republican lawmakers during the multi-round House Speaker election last month.  Cheney said, “That is the kind of encouragement and acceptance of violence that is absolutely has no place in this party, should have no place in our country.”

Many congressional Republicans, and Trump himself, have blistered the work and the composition of the House select committee. Then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected two of the Republican appointees to the panel, Rep. Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, and Rep. Jim Banks, Republican of Indiana. House Republicans opted to boycott the panel after Pelosi’s decision, leaving only two House Republicans on the 9-person panel.  Both of those Republicans, Cheney and Kinzinger, were appointed by Pelosi.   

At a September hearing of the Committee on U.S. House Administration, Republicans argued the Jan. 6 select panel failed in its mission to determine and prevent the security failures that occurred during the Capitol siege. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, Republican of Georgia, said, “Former Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats spent millions of dollars … yet the committee failed to review with real security failures.” 

“Throughout their nearly two years of work, the committee clearly operated on hearsay and cherry-picked so-called evidence,” Loudermilk said, “Their multi-million dollar committee effort was a political weapon focused on attacking President Trump and his supporters.”

Other Republicans have labeled the select committee as “political” or executors of a “witch hunt.”

In his interview with CBS News, Kinzinger pushed back against the criticism about the committee’s work and the heat he’s taken from Republicans. He said, “There’s so much cowardice in politics today. I think because that is the ultimate fear politicians have of being kicked out of that tribe even more than I think they fear giving their own life.”

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