Trump mobilizes MAGA allies to defend him ahead of January 6 hearings

Trump’s team has let some of his most loyal aides on Capitol Hill know that the former president wants people to vigorously defend him and push back from the select committee while public hearings unfold, according to GOP sources familiar. with the request.

Trump’s insistence that his allies defend his honor has mobilized Republicans both on and off the Hill, with a wide array of plans to protect him. This despite the belief of some Republicans that they should deflect attention away from Jan. 6 and continue beating the drum from current economic and cultural issues that have resonated with voters.

In Congress, the targeted response to the hearings will be overseen by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, who coordinated the response effort with GOP members.

The California Republican faces added pressure to show his support for Trump after he was filmed earlier this year criticizing the former president and some of his GOP colleagues in the aftermath of the Capitol attack.

The main player to keep Republicans on top of the message will be House GOP conference chairwoman Elise Stefanik of New York, who emerged as one of Trump’s most vocal defenders during his first impeachment and replaced the Rep. from Wyoming Liz Cheney to the Republican leadership. Sources say Stefanik will be tasked with coordinating the party’s messaging response and ensuring key allies and surrogates have talking points.

“Similar to impeachment, at the request of President Trump and his team, Stefanik will play an outsized role in defending President Trump and House Republicans on the issue of election integrity,” a source said. GOP.

Two members whom House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declined to serve on the select committee will also play key roles on the messaging front: Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana, who chairs the conservative Republican study committee; and Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, who participated in efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.

“We’re going to push back,” Banks told CNN. “There were serious failures that occurred on January 6 that need to be corrected. This fictitious committee has done nothing to address them.”

Banks and other Republicans, including Rep. Rodney Davis of Illinois, the top Republican on the House Administration Committee, have also been working on their own Jan. 6 counter-investigation that focuses directly on the security breaches of that day. The banks said they were putting the “finishing touches” on a report outlining their findings and expect it to be released in “a few weeks”, which could coincide with the end of the select committee hearings.

Part of the challenge for Republicans — especially after deciding to boycott the select committee — is that they have little information about what the investigation uncovered and what might come to light in public hearings, which makes it more difficult for them to agree on a specific strategy. .

Another is the prospect that the committee will rely heavily on testimony from former aides to Vice President Mike Pence to help make their case — a scenario that could force Republicans to choose sides more publicly than ever. they haven’t done it before.

Trump allies and some Republican operatives already expect testimony from former Pence aides to feature prominently in the hearings — only adding to the already simmering animosity between the two camps.

While the Republican House Conference has its plans, there is a more specific challenge for the five members who have been subpoenaed by the committee as part of their investigation. McCarthy, Jordan, Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, and Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona all resisted committee attempts to sit for depositions and provide documents as part of their investigation.

All five run the risk that the commission will have information about their role in attempts to undermine the election results or the riot itself that could come to light during the hearing.

Jordan and other lawmakers have attempted to anticipate this risk, attempting to frame the committee and its work as nothing more than a partisan political witch hunt. Jordan made that argument on calls with conservative donors organized by Republican fundraising groups, including CPAC.

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But those lawmakers and Republicans more broadly wonder if they’ll get a full answer — especially since they’ve been given the opportunity to testify behind closed doors and have all declined to date.

From off the hill, the Republican National Committee and Matt Schlapp, the chairman of the Conservative Political Action Conference, are expected to be major players in the GOP’s counterattack, sources said. It’s unclear, however, whether Trump himself will make an appearance or intervene publicly as the hearings unfold.

While the party’s plans are still being worked out, Republican pushback will likely take the form of press conferences, editorials, TV news appearances and social media posts, sources familiar with said. discussions. There has also been talk of a “war room” to better enable the GOP to trigger rapid, real-time responses to hearings.

Trump is due to meet with many players next week where his personal strategy and demands could become clearer. He will host a fundraiser for Stefanik on Monday, then the next day will meet with members of the House Freedom Caucus, home to some of his most staunch allies.

Postpone or change the subject

But while Republicans are ready to do Trump’s bidding, there’s a real concern that pushing back too far will distract from the areas they think will help them the most in the fall election.

“We just need to reinforce the narrative that Democrats are obsessed with Trump and the past and not interested in dealing with the issues of the present,” said a senior Republican official working on Senate races across the country. “It’s Biden, it’s inflation, it’s the border, it’s gas prices. Most Americans don’t talk about January 6.”

Instead, some agents offer their clients talking points to prepare them for the inevitable questions that will arise around the hearing, but with the aim of bringing the conversation back to domestic issues.

“We have to deal with things as they come up, but the goal is to stay on message,” the agent said. “If we do our job well, we will show that we are focused on the issues that most Americans face every day.”

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This sentiment is shared by grassroots Republican members eager to regain the majority.

“Most Americans don’t like what happened on Jan. 6, but rank it pretty low on their list of importance relative to inflation, the cost of gas, the border, and the crime,” Rep. Don Bacon, a Republican from Nebraska who represents a Biden-won district, told CNN. “Once Pelosi kicks two members on the GOP side, which has never been done before this Congress in the history of the House, the perceived legitimacy of the select committee on our side is zero.”

Others within the party, including lawmakers and agents, have suggested the best course of action may be to do nothing because they believe most Republican voters are paying very little attention to upcoming hearings and that the presentations are considered unlikely to change public opinion among the GOP base.

“A lot of people think we shouldn’t even push back,” a source said, adding that the idea is just to let the committee continue to do what it’s doing, as it hurts members politically and has a very big impact. limited on Republicans.

“There may be no competition, no formal pushback in any way and no organizing cost because our power base isn’t watching,” they added.

But as with everything in Republican politics, the best-laid plans could easily be shattered by Trump who could insist that his supporters show their support vocally and wholeheartedly.

This story and title have been updated.

CNN’s Gabby Orr contributed to this report.

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