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Politics chat: 3 down, 3 to go, on Jan. 6 hearings


It's halftime for the January 6 committee. The House panel has held three public meetings, with three more to go. NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson is covering the committee's work and joins us now. Hi, Mara.


RASCOE: So the next meeting is Tuesday at 1 p.m. Eastern. What are we expecting to learn from this one?

LIASSON: In the next hearing, the committee is going to listen to testimony from two Republican state officials, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his top deputy, Gabe Sterling. They're going to tell the committee how they were pressured by Donald Trump to reverse his defeat in Georgia by, quote, "finding him" the 11,780 votes he needed to overtake President Biden's lead in the state. And Trump is actually under investigation in Georgia by a grand jury to determine if he violated any state laws.

RASCOE: So former President Trump - on Friday, he once again was out there criticizing Mike Pence for not overturning the 2020 election. He even said that the attack on the Capitol was, quote, "a simple protest that got out of hand." That is false. That's not true. Criminal cases have found and the committee has already shown that this was not just a simple protest. But I guess my question is, like, is the committee's argument that Trump was just derelict, that he was, you know, negligent, or is it that he had an active role in the events of January 6?

LIASSON: It's both. The committee's argument is that he was derelict in not making any attempts for many hours to call off his supporters who were violently sacking the Capitol, but also that he did have an active role, that it was his lies about the election, his calls for his supporters to go to the Capitol to stop Congress from certifying the election results that set the events of January 6 in motion. You know, Michael Luttig testified in front of the committee. He said Donald Trump and his supporters are a clear and present danger to democracy. And as if right on cue, as if in confirmation of that, at that rally that you just mentioned on Friday, where Trump was again attacking Mike Pence, he also suggested that he would try to overturn the 2024 election if he or the Republican candidate didn't win and that he might pardon the January 6 defendants if he is president again.

RASCOE: So this is ongoing. And as you mentioned, J. Michael Luttig, the retired federal judge who testified on Thursday - he was on All Things Considered last night, and he said this.


J MICHAEL LUTTIG: We cannot have in America either political party behaving itself like the Republican Party has since the 2020 election.

RASCOE: Luttig is a mentor to Ted Cruz, or at least he once was. He was on George W. Bush's shortlist for the Supreme Court. But this is a very different Republican Party, right?

LIASSON: This is a different Republican Party. Look, Luttig is the o'er (ph) conservative jurist. He's the model for a Federalist Society judge. But he's unbending when it comes to the Constitution and the sanctity of the vote and the importance of both political parties in a democracy accepting the results of free and fair elections, even if they lose. And he was pretty clear that right now we only have one party in America that's willing to do that. Part of it is that 70% of Republicans believe Trump's lie that he somehow won the 2020 election. Big majorities of Republicans in the House voted to overturn the election on January 6 after the insurrection was put down. Republicans also rejected an independent, bipartisan commission to look into January 6. And now that we're in the middle of primary season, dozens of Republican election deniers, candidates who ran on Trump's lie, have won their primaries. And that's why Luttig said, quote, "Only the party that instigated this war on democracy can end the war." So he's saying the Republican Party has to go first. I think right now that looks pretty unlikely. Just this weekend, the Texas Republican Party approved a platform plank that rejected, quote, "the certified results of the 2020 presidential election." And they declared that President Biden was not legitimately elected. So I think the Republicans don't seem to want to do what Michael Luttig thinks they should.

RASCOE: That's NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Mara, thank you very much.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.