Giving Jan. 6 Tapes to Carlson, McCarthy Keeps a Promise to the Hard Right

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In a letter to fellow Democrats on Wednesday, Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, said the speaker was “needlessly exposing the Capitol complex to one of the worst security risks since 9/11.”

“By handpicking Tucker Carlson, Speaker McCarthy laid bare that this sham is simply about pandering to MAGA election deniers, not the truth,” Mr. Schumer wrote. “Tucker Carlson has no fidelity to the truth or facts and has used his platform to promote the Big Lie, distort reality and espouse bogus conspiracy theories about Jan. 6.”

Some Republicans, too, said Mr. McCarthy was taking a political risk with his decision. Should Mr. Carlson use the video — through selective editing — to further false narratives, it could supercharge the appetite in the right-wing base for the continued re-litigation of Jan. 6. That could force the issue onto the agenda of more House Republicans, a move that is likely to turn off swing voters.

“It helps McCarthy solidify his speakership among the right, especially those who held their vote out,” said Ron Bonjean, a veteran Republican strategist. “It shows to conservatives that he’s providing complete transparency, and that’s what Republicans have wanted for a long time. That said, if the footage is misused in some way, this could end up generating another black hole for Republicans on Jan. 6. It could cause Republicans to be wrapped around that issue, and to look backward, not forward, toward getting things done.”

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, has portrayed the treatment of Jan. 6 prisoners as a civil rights atrocity and demanded the release of security footage that could exonerate them. But Mr. McCarthy has not shown the same passion as his right flank for re-examining Jan. 6 — an issue that some of his advisers view as a political loser — and, thus far, he has had little interest in dedicating limited staff resources to doing so.

He set up no select committee to investigate the events surrounding the Capitol breach, though he warned the House Jan. 6 panel last year to preserve its files. He has signaled interest in exploring one avenue, saying that the House select committee that investigated the attack during the last Congress ignored the security failures that allowed the Capitol to be breached. He appointed Representative Barry Loudermilk of Georgia, a Republican he views as being unfairly maligned by the Jan. 6 panel, as the chairman of a House Administration subcommittee tasked with investigating the matter.

Mr. McCarthy has risen to power during a tumultuous time on Capitol Hill. Republicans have a slim governing majority, and he had to repeatedly bend to a demanding hard-right flank in his quest for power.

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