A Modest Proposal

Paul Rosenzweig, Benjamin Wittes
Thursday, September 29, 2022, 3:26 PM

The first thing Nancy Pelosi should do if she retains her position as speaker of the house.

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As the country heads toward the midterm elections, the fate of the Jan. 6 committee stands in the balance. Republicans make no secret of the fact that if their party regains control of the House of Representatives, the committee—at least in its current form—will cease to exist. Republican investigative priorities lie elsewhere, after all: with Hunter Biden’s laptop, with supposed FBI and Justice Department targeting of conservatives, and with finding a basis to impeach President Biden. 

Right now, election forecasters suggest that a transition is more probable than not, but the results are far from certain and the polls, right now anyway, gently lean the other way.

The question of whether the next speaker of the House will be Nancy Pelosi or Kevin McCarthy makes a difference in so many ways—most of them beyond the purview of Lawfare. The question of the reauthorization of the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, however, is solidly within this site’s scope. And the facts are stark. Under a Pelosi speakership, the committee will likely continue on its current trajectory, gathering evidence relating to the Trumpist coup attempt. Under McCarthy, the committee may be terminated, or if it continues, it will become an exercise in blame-shifting as the inquiry turns to the Capitol Police, the National Guard, and everyone else with experience that day—except, of course, the president who incited the rebellion.

We have a modest suggestion for Speaker Pelosi in the event the Democrats retain control of the House and the committee’s work is reauthorized. If this comes to pass, the committee will need a reinvigoration of its inquiry, new staff, and new personnel. At least two major figures on the committee, the two Republican members, will no longer be in the House. How to continue the committee’s work, therefore, with the kind of bipartisan structure that it managed under the current Congress is going to be a real challenge, given that few other Republicans are likely to step up to fill their shoes. 

We know someone perfect for the job of chief investigative counsel for the committee who, come Jan. 3, 2023, will be out of work: Liz Cheney.

Cheney’s credentials are hard to beat. She knows the field, and she has shown over the past two years that she would be dedicated to the job. Indeed, nobody in American politics has proved more clearly that she has the good of the country at heart. She has an intimacy with the subject matter and a trusted relationship with the members of a committee she has helped lead.

Appointing Cheney to a high-profile role on the committee would also send a message, one that the committee itself has done so much to propagate already. That message is that democracy protection is emphatically not a partisan issue but one to be approached as a coalition based on shared pre-political commitments.

Paul Rosenzweig is the founder of Red Branch Consulting PLLC, a homeland security consulting company and a Senior Advisor to The Chertoff Group. Mr. Rosenzweig formerly served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy in the Department of Homeland Security. He is a Professorial Lecturer in Law at George Washington University, a Senior Fellow in the Tech, Law & Security program at American University, and a Board Member of the Journal of National Security Law and Policy.
Benjamin Wittes is editor in chief of Lawfare and a Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution. He is the author of several books.

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