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Politics Chat: More details about the insurrection emerge


When you think crisis, you think quick. Quick, the flood water's rising, we need to climb; or the fire's raging and we've got to get out. Quick, get this man to the hospital. But now it's been two months since Russia's invasion, which was expected to topple Kyiv within days, prompted a crisis in Ukraine. It's been two years of a pandemic that then-President Trump said would be behind us by Easter 2020. And while January 6, 2021, may feel like a long time ago, that crisis is also ongoing as we learn more details about the events leading up to and stemming from the attack on the Capitol. Scott Detrow joins us now for an update. He's an NPR White House correspondent and a host of the NPR Politics Podcast. Good morning, Scott.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Hey, Ayesha. Good morning.

RASCOE: So let's start with Kevin McCarthy and Mark Meadows. McCarthy is the House GOP leader, a position he held on January 6. And Meadows, at that time, was White House chief of staff, right?

DETROW: And they were both in the news this week because details emerged, yet again, that really undercut the public line they have taken, which is the line that we've heard from so many Republican leaders - that what happened on January 6 has been overblown, that it wasn't that serious. So in McCarthy's case, The New York Times reported that in the immediate aftermath of the attack on the Capitol, he was talking about urging then-President Trump to resign because he viewed Trump as responsible for the violence. And we also had, in recent days, the House committee investigating all of this providing evidence in a court filing that Meadows - and, by extension, the Trump White House - was warned that the day could turn violent ahead of time and yet continued to embrace the rallies being organized for January 6.

RASCOE: So McCarthy said no one could defend Donald Trump's actions on January 6, and no one should. Later, he denied saying what he said, but we got it on tape. So why is there - why was there a change in heart?

DETROW: Well, the same reason - the same change of heart that has motivated so many Republican officeholders since 2016 - the fact that so many Republican voters are devoted to Trump and will support him no matter what. And he has continued to test the no matter what. You know, the details this week were glaring, but they're really not that much different than what we saw in real time in public in January 2021 - that widespread Republican outrage in the immediate aftermath, then only 10 House Republicans vote for impeachment a week later and then most Republican senators vote to acquit in the trial.

And Trump summed this all up well in an interview with The Wall Street Journal this week. He was talking about McCarthy's fast shift from suggesting Trump resign to flying down to Mar-a-Lago and posing for pictures with him. Trump said, quote, "I think it's all a big compliment, frankly. They realized they were wrong and they supported me."

RASCOE: So Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene's been in court because of January 6. What's that case, and how did she defend herself?

DETROW: Yeah, this is an interesting legal argument to bar Greene from holding office because of support for being, quote, "engaged in insurrection," which is language from the 14th Amendment written in the wake of the Civil War. Some legal groups are trying to apply it to lawmakers who have voiced support for January 6. And so far, they have not been successful. But the argument here - and it made it to court - is that Greene encouraged the attack with social media posts. She testified about this on Friday in Georgia. She repeatedly said she's never encouraged violence. When she was confronted with past social media posts where she did really seem to encourage violence, she said she didn't recall them. Worth noting - Georgia's primary is just about a month away, so we'll likely see a ruling pretty soon.

RASCOE: I mean, we can talk about all of this, but is there any sense about how much this actually matters to voters?

DETROW: Yeah, a lot of polls and focus groups increasingly show just not that much. And it's similar to the Mueller investigation, kind of - something closely followed by D.C. reporters like you and me, that partisan Democrats care very deeply about and that just is not registering as a top concern for voters. Not to minimize how serious or even existential January 6 was, but right now, it shows that any lawmakers who are paying a price for what they said or did about January 6 are the handful of Republicans who spoke out against it. And just one example of this - Utah Senator Mike Lee was yet another lawmaker whose text messages supporting attempts to overturn the election made public in recent days. He's gotten a lot of scrutiny about this. But in - this weekend, Utah Republicans overwhelmingly backed him for another term at their party convention.

RASCOE: And just quickly, longtime Utah Senator Orrin Hatch died yesterday at 88. What about his legacy?

DETROW: You know, in this context, I'm thinking about the fact that you just don't see careers like that anymore - decades long, dozens and dozens - probably hundreds - of serious pieces of major legislation, helped shape the tax code, the Supreme Court. And he did it all working with Democrats, even though he was incredibly conservative.

RASCOE: That's NPR White House correspondent Scott Detrow. Scott, thank you so much.

DETROW: Always good to talk to you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.