Rep. Mo Brooks may be finished with Jan. 6, but clearly, it isn’t finished with him.
The Alabama lawmaker, who is best known for speaking at the Jan. 6 protest that preceded the Capitol takeover, did not attend the first hearing of the House select committee investigating the invasion on Tuesday.
“I was in the House Armed Services Committee, Science, Space, Technology Committee, and had at least one Zoom meeting, and all sorts of other things,” he told reporters outside the House chamber. “Busy day.” A clear schedule would have made a difference as he likely wouldn’t have attended at all.
“The purpose of that committee is not to discern the truth,” he said. “The purpose is to create political propaganda that may be used in the elections in 2022 and perhaps 2024.”
But it’s unclear whether he’ll be able to continue avoiding the committee entirely.
Brooks was the first House Republican to indicate ahead of the congressional Electoral College certification in December that he would object to the electors in certain states. He subsequently gave a fiery speech at President Donald Trump’s rally at the Ellipse on the day of the certification, telling the packed audience that “this is the day American patriots start taking down names and beating ass!”
He still claims that Trump would have won the election if only “lawful ballots” were counted months later.
Brooks received Trump’s endorsement in the 2022 Alabama Senate race as a result of his support for Trump’s efforts to overturn the election.
But it’s also gotten him into legal trouble. California Brooks and others were sued by Rep. Eric Swalwell earlier this year for inciting the incident on Jan. 6. Brooks’ plea to be shielded from the case was denied by the Justice Department this week, in part because he admitted he was focused on winning elections rather than doing his job when he started his rally chant.
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Even if Brooks dismisses the select committee meetings as a political farce, the committee may attempt to summon him for questioning about what he knew or didn’t know about the Capitol riot.
When he was asked if he could be subpoenaed, he replied, “I have no clue.”
Brooks believes that a true probe would look at why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office wasn’t “doing a better job with respect to the Capitol Police and their degree of preparation,” as did Republican leaders who attempted to counterprogram the hearing with a press conference yesterday.
Then, to underscore his argument about preparation, he provided a fresh detail to me: he’d been wearing body armor during the same Ellipse speech in which he exhorted rally-goers to “start jotting down names and beating ass” due to a tip he’d received about probable violence.
“I was warned on Monday that there might be risks associated with the next few days,” he said. “And as a consequence of those warnings, I did not go to my condo. Instead, I slept on the floor of my office. And when I gave my speech at the Ellipse, I was wearing body armor.”
“That’s why I was wearing that nice little windbreaker,” he told me with a grin. “To cover up the body armor.”
He didn’t identify who warned him or what the “danger” was about which he had been warned. There were most likely “a half-dozen different incentives that affected people in differing degrees” when it came to the insurgency. For example, he mentioned “financial damages incurred as a result of the government’s response to COVID-19,” “the belief that serious voting fraud and election theft activity occurred,” and “a deep affection and admiration for President Trump.”
“It might be,” too, he added, “that some of them were just militant anarchists and saw this as an opportunity to infiltrate an otherwise peaceful protest and turn it into a riot.”
Brooks’ lawyers emphasize the parts of his speech where he supported peaceful protest rather than physical violence in their declaration asking the Justice Department to release him from accountability. A typical footnote says, “Once again, Brooks makes no call for a violent attack on the Capitol.”
“On the contrary, Brooks instructs Ellipse Speech attendees to do only one thing: utter words!” According to the affidavit, Trump’s remark about “taking down names and kicking ass!” was truly about “taking down names and kicking ass!” and punishing Republicans who didn’t back Trump’s Electoral College concerns in future elections.
But why did he need the Kevlar if he was so convinced the crowd would comprehend the harmless intent of his words?