Brooks and Capehart on the Jan. 6 subpoena of Trump and what’s at stake in the midterms

New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post associate editor Jonathan Capehart join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including the Jan. 6 Committee's decision to subpoena former President Trump and what's at stake in the upcoming midterm elections.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    We are in the final weeks before the midterm elections, and nearly 1.8 million Americans have already cast a ballot. Meanwhile, in Washington, the January 6 Committee has voted to subpoena former President Trump as part of its investigation into the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

    That brings us to the analysis of Brooks and Capehart. That is New York Times columnist David Brooks and Jonathan Capehart, columnist for The Washington Post.

    Hello to both of you.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It is very good to see you smiling, both of your smiling faces.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I think you're smiling.

    So, the January 6 Committee, David, ninth public hearing, and they did vote, as we just said, to subpoena the former president. We don't know whether he's going to come. If he did — first of all, do you think you will? And if he did, do you think it would make a difference?

  • David Brooks:

    If he did, I think cows would fly.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • David Brooks:

    Yes, I don't think he's going to do it.

    Well, first, would it make a difference? In the polling, nothing has made a difference. The public opinion is exactly where it was when this commission first — committee first started going, so nothing has changed.

    I — the reason I don't think he's going to do it is, even though he has said he wants to do it, and he believes he's his best advocate, he's being investigated by the Justice Department for the same thing. No lawyer lets their client go under oath and confess something he's being investigated over here.

    And so he's already shown he can take — he's willing to take the Fifth, as he did in the New York state — New York investigations. And so I just think that spectacle is one we will have to just dream about.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Cows flying? What do you see, Jonathan?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    I mean, I would love to see cows fly.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    But I know I will be disappointed.

  • David Brooks:

    Until you're standing under one.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Well, that's true.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right, we just started here.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Right. Right.

    So, he's not going to testify. And I don't think the January 6 Committee had any expectation that he would. However, I do think that the January 6 Committee felt it was important, given all the evidence that they had, given all the evidence that they had presented to the American people over nine hearings, that it was the logical thing to do.

    And I think it was the right thing to do, whether he shows up or not, because what they are doing is investigating an attack on the United States instigated by the president of the United States. And the report — these hearings and the report that will be released later in the fall is as much for the American people right now as it is for the American people and the world decades down the road. There needs to be an accounting. And what the committee has done is part of that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    About history.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    About history, yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Is one — I know you — and you were saying that earlier today.

    But, David, I mean, we don't know what's going to happen in the midterm elections, clearly, but if — if this committee wraps it up in a few weeks, and Democrats lose the majority in the House, what, in sum, will this committee have accomplished, do you think?

  • David Brooks:

    Yes, I don't think it will have much political effect on the midterms. I think people are pretty locked in and they're voting on their own lives, not so much on January 6.

    But it surprised me. I — it — there was a lot more to investigate and a lot more to reveal than I knew about and I think a lot of us knew about. Like, we all saw January 6 on January 6, but there was a lot of behind-the-scenes things. There was a lot more planning and plotting than we knew about.

    And then just the — to get the members of the Trump administration, some of his allies, some of the Proud Boys, some of the — to get the testimony from those sorts of people, very incriminating testimony. So it will, A, be part of the historical record and, B, potentially be a groundwork for — if the Justice Department does decide to do something.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What do you think the accumulated contribution or not will be when this committee wraps up, if it does get — if — because there is some speculation that Republicans will completely disband it.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Oh, they're totally going to disband it, and they're going to shift their focus. If they continue anything related to January 6, it won't be what the Select Committee is doing now.

    They will turn their attention to Speaker Pelosi, as has been telegraphed for months now, which is why I thought in the hearing yesterday it was really interesting the behind-the-scenes video that we saw of Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer pleading, all the phone calls that they were making behind the scenes to do something at the Capitol, in — sort of contrasting that with what the president of the United States was not doing.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And — but, David, and so, as you look at the sum total of all this, I mean, that was a pretty dramatic thing. There they are on the phone begging the parts of government that can do something to do something.

  • David Brooks:

    Yes.

    I mean, I think the video that the committee has thrown before us is the highlight of what they have done. It brings you back. And even this, I was sort of, A, impressed by their calm under pressure, Pelosi, Schumer. McConnell was in there. Steny Hoyer was in there.

    I was also a little depressed that they're just freelancing. Like, they're calling — let's call a governor. Let's call the governor of Maryland. Let's call the governor of Virginia. It's like there's no plan for what to do in the case of this — and this kind of emergency or any kind of emergency.

    So they were — there was not as a set of procedures they were following. They were just freelancing. I thought they did impressively. But, in the future, we should have, like, OK, this will happen, and this will happen, and this will happen if there's not even an incursion like this, but some sort of crisis at the Capitol.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    But the key thing here is, they were freelancing because the unimaginable happened. The president of the United States was not stepping in and doing what is his constitutional duty, which is to protect or preserve the Constitution, and a branch of government was under attack.

    So, yes, they were freelancing. They're trying to figure out, what can — where can we step in to save the situation?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And they clearly didn't see it coming.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    OK, today is October the 14th. David, I looked at the calendar.

    We are about three-and-a-half weeks away from the midterm election. People are voting now. But that's the day. Congress hangs in the balance. I will say, I was in Wisconsin last weekend. Republicans are very much pushing crime and public safety and: Democrats will take us down a dark road.

  • Democrats are pushing:

    Well, they're too far to the right and abortion.

    What does this campaign, this season look like to you right now?

  • David Brooks:

    Well, if you're a Democrat, the happy thing is, a lot of these races are close. In a lot of the states, like Wisconsin, Joe Biden has an approval rating like low 40s, even 39, 42.

    In a normal year, that would be disaster for a lot of these Democratic candidacies. But they're — it's not been a disaster. The polls are close. So, if you're a Democrat, you're thinking, somehow, we're defying history a little here, if the polls are right.

    If you're a Republican, I think there are two things that would cheer you. The first is, the Democrats had a swing in their direction about two, three months ago. It seems like, in the last month, the Republicans have had a bit of a swing in their direction.

    And, second, if you look at where the campaigns are spending their money and where they're pulling out because they have sort of given up, the Democrats are spending a lot of money in places that they should not have to defend, districts where Biden won by seven, where Biden won by 13. And Republicans are pouring money into those districts.

    And that suggests that both parties have these internal polls that suggests there's places Republicans are threatening that would seemingly be lean or safe Democratic districts. And that may be that there's a sign of some sort of Republican surge we're not seeing in the public polls.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What do you see?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Well, I see — I agree with David that, in the summer, it looked like the wind was at Democrats' backs. They were almost euphoric about their political prospects.

    But, as with everything in politics, the pendulum always swings back. And this is where we are. And I — what I foresee is what my colleague Jennifer Rubin said this morning, is that we could be looking at two waves, not a tsunami, but two waves, a red wave, where you have races that are determined by crime, inflation, fears of a recession, or you could have the blue wave, where the issue of abortion, threats to democracy reign supreme,

    I think where Democrats are able to make the economic link between bodily autonomy, reproductive rights for women and economics, maybe they can eat into some of that advantage Republicans have on the economy and inflation and recession.

    But, again, look, we have never been — this is someplace where we have never been, where even the pollsters are saying, we don't know what's going to happen.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But you're saying with two waves — who benefits if it's two waves? We don't know.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Well, it — we don't know. That's…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    There could be a wave in each direction, is what you're saying.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Right. Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And they crash against each other.

    (CROSSTALK)

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we don't know.

  • David Brooks:

    It's advanced physics.

    I did see a poll of, what issue are you voting on most? And, in this poll, the number one issue that is motivating people to go to the polls is making sure the other team loses. So, it's not even the economy, or it's not — or abortion. It's like, I just don't like those guys.

    And so that's there. And I think that's why the two parties are so locked dead even, and not a lot has changed, even as the presidential approval goes up and down.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So that means these two neighbors we interviewed near Madison, Wisconsin, Columbia County, Wisconsin, who are trying really hard — and they are still friends, but they disagree completely on everything, including who to vote for, but they're still friends.

  • David Brooks:

    Good fences make good neighbors.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Good fences make good neighbors.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, David, you had a column today about what's going on with — in Los Angeles with the City Council. But it was about more than that. It was about the — there have been — now there have been resignations.

    But, before that, it got really messy. And you talked about how this could be the racial future of this country. What did you mean?

  • David Brooks:

    Yes.

    Well, managing diversity is hard. Diversity is fabulous. But, politically, managing diversity and staying together as a country, when we get increased diversity, when there's no majority group, which is where we're headed, that's a political challenge.

    And so what disturbed me about the comments by the Los Angeles City Council members was not only the raw racism, which was disturbing, but, listening to their taped conversation, was their assumption first that we're all on ethnic teams. There's like the Black team, the Latino team, the white team, the Armenian team, the Korean team, and that these teams are permanently at war.

    And so there's always been ethnic politics, but, as some Los Angeles analyst said, there's always been negotiations, but this was "Game of Thrones." And so, if we enter a world where we have all this great diversity, but politics is really ginned up by politicians using ethnic and racial appeals to fight political battles, then you really get a very ugly atmosphere.

    And it's already obviously happening to some degree. What is Donald Trump? But it's just how hard it is to manage diversity going forward.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Where are you coming down on this?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Well, I read your column, David. I should have written down the headline.

    But this idea that — because there was something about, this is what happens when everything is viewed by race.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    There it is.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Right. This is what happens when race is everything.

    And I got your — I got your argument. It's very utopian. And I am one of those people who wishes we could live in that place.

    But we can't, and we won't. The best we can do is strive to get there. I listened to the recordings of the — the recordings of the comments. And what struck me was that they sounded like old-school politicians doing — having a backroom conversation.

    And when politicians get behind closed doors, the conversations can be pretty rough. But when you're talking about the spoils of power, and, in this case, it was redistricting, it gets ugly. And what these tapes do is bring us on the inside. I don't think those conversations are new, those types of conversations are new. It's just that we're hearing them now with our own ears.

    But we have to remember something. And this is where I take issue with the headline, which some — I write my own headlines. I don't know if you do. But the idea that Black people or people of color are the ones who are foisting race on the country as something that needs to be dealt with is — it's problematic, because it ignores the history of this country.

    I have here a picture that I took at the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama. And in the old location, there was a huge wall with all of these horrific signs. One says "No Negroes Allowed After Sundown." Another sign, "Whites Only Within City Limits After Dark." Another one, "No N-words, Puerto Rican, Mexicans Allowed." Another one, "We Want White Tenants in Our White Community."

    It's not that Black and brown people are so focused on race because that's all they care about. They focus — they focus and are paying attention to race because they have to because of signs like that. And that's just one example.

    And one last thing. We also have to remember that we are 57 years after the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. That means we are only 57 years of truly being a democracy, and that's within the living lifetimes of people.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • David Brooks:

    Yes, I mean, I said exactly that. I mean, I said, white supremacy created these categories.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yes.

  • David Brooks:

    And the question is, should — are we content with the categories? Are we going to militarize the categories?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We may continue this conversation.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    David Brooks, Jonathan Capehart, thank you both.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Thanks, Judy.

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