Tamara Keith and Amy Walter on Jan. 6 investigation, abortion

NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report with Amy Walter join Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest political news, including the latest subpoenas and revelations from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, and recent judicial action on reproductive rights.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The committee in the House of Representatives investigating January 6 is opening this week discussing whether to recommend contempt charges against another associate of former President Trump for not fully complying with its subpoenas. This time, the subject is Mark Meadows, who was White House chief of staff.

    Here to dissect tonight's key committee meeting and other political news are Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report With Amy Walter and Tamara Keith of NPR.

    And hello to both of you on this Monday night. Very good to see you.

    So, let's talk about this January 6 committee, Tam. They are meeting tonight. It is an evening session they are having. This committee has already gone through the procession of finding Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress. They are working on Jeffrey Clark, Justice Department officials. Now comes Mark Meadows.

    How significantly different or alike is this case?

  • Tamara Keith, National Public Radio:

    Well, this is different in some ways, because Meadows, before he wasn't cooperating, actually was cooperating and turned over 6,000 — more than 6,000 cases of documents, 2,000 text messages.

    And in the documents that the committee released ahead of this hearing, they laid out some of what was in those documents. But it is fragmented. It is — there are little bits. There is a message where he says that the National Guard will protect pro-Trump people. But what you are missing is the context, the kind of context that could come from testimony.

    But is he no longer cooperating. He is invoking executive privilege or invoking President Trump's — former President Trump's executive privilege, which President Biden has said is not a matter that he is concerning himself with. He thinks that privilege should be waved because this is so important.

    But this is different because Meadows was actually a close adviser to the president at the time, as opposed to Steve Bannon, who was a podcast host.

  • Amy Walter, The Cook Political Report:

    Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And so — and, Amy, there are obviously the — the legal course, we will watch, but there is also the political course here.

  • Amy Walter:

    There is the legal course, which could drag all the way to the end of next year. And, of course, that means they basically run out the clock on this hearing.

    And the political course is one that we — obviously, we spend a lot of times thinking about. But with this issue, like so many, Judy, the battle lines have already been drawn, where voters have made their decisions of how they feel about what happened on January 6, the lead-up to January 6.

    And it's hard to believe that these hearings are going to change many minds or opinions regardless of who subpoenaed or who comes and talks.

    The other thing that is pretty clear that's going to happen is, if Republicans take control of one or both bodies of Congress in the 2022 midterms, this issue, of course, will soon find a way to go away. And we're going to have other hearings on the Biden administration.

    And so you can understand the cynicism for so many voters. We all listen to these voters who think, you know what, they are just kind of playing games up there, one side does it to the other, the other side comes back, it is a more of a battle of retribution than anything else.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, as the committee members are saying, this is deadly serious.

  • Amy Walter:

    That's right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We need to pursue this for all the reasons they have laid out. You are right. The public — many in the public look at this and ask, what is really…

  • Amy Walter:

    What is going to — what is really behind it?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What is really behind it?

    Another thing I want to bring up, because of what we have seen from the Supreme Court, Tam, in the last few days, and that is the abortion issue, always a sensitive issue in American political life, and not to mention the issue it itself, difficult choices that women make.

    But we're talking about this. You had the Supreme Court arguments on December the 1st. Got a lot of attention because the conservative justices seemed to make it clear what their thinking is. We will see.

    But then, on Friday you have the court upholding, for now, the Texas restrictive abortion law, on top of what we have already seen with regard to Mississippi. What does this do to the discussion, the debate around abortion rights now in this country?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Well, with the Texas law, this is now going to continue to work its way back to the lower court working its way through the courts, the community is going to be in the conversation, especially as that law continues to be in place, the potential for lawsuits, with basically private citizens going after people who assist in abortions being performed, if they are performed in that state.

    There has already been a huge chilling effect on the procedures taking place. I think the other thing to note is that this Mississippi decision is likely to come May, June, somewhere next year, well into what will be full-on election season. This is going to be something that gets discussed, that is going to be very much front of mind when you come into the midterms, because of that decision, whatever it ends up being.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And that is on the part of both parties.

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

    We're really — it's really unclear what the saliency of this issue is going to be. And even some Democrats are warning that, while it looks on paper like something like a complete overturning of Roe v. Wade would benefit Democrats, in that majorities of Americans say don't overturn Roe v. Wade, that it might energize a Democratic base, that it may not be as sort of front and center and people are assuming.

    And I look at a place like Texas, where we have been talking about this issue. They have been hearing about this issue in the state of Texas for quite some time. A new poll came out, I think it was last week. The top issue in state is the border; 33 percent of voters say, that is our top concern. Only 9 percent picked abortion.

    And even among Democrats, just 15 percent picked abortion as their most important issue that they think should be addressed in Texas. For Republicans, almost two-thirds said the border. So, even on an issue where, again, it hasn't been decided, as Tam said, and still making its way through the courts, but it has been discussed a lot, I think that the bigger question is, does it get completely overturned, where it is pretty clear, black and white, here's what happened?

    Or is it like, this Texas case, where there are sort of caveats and it is much more nuanced? And that is also where the question on how does this cut politically becomes more complicated, because, while very — I think it is like 19 percent or so of Americans believe in banning abortion totally, the majority of folks are somewhere kind of in the middle, not keep it — not have no restrictions on abortion, but also don't restrict it completely.

    So that is a very challenging ground to try to figure out.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And just quickly, Tam, the other aspect of the Texas law is this element that involves citizens, having them report on anyone they know who is aiding, abetting, if you will, an abortion.

    This is something that we are seeing action, reaction to across the country.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Right, because this is attempting to do an end-run around judicial review.

    And in the dissent in the Texas decision, you had Supreme Court justices saying, beware what you ask for, because if you take a constitutional right and move it outside of judicial review or decide the it can't be subject to judicial review, then why wouldn't that happen with other constitutional rights, which is what Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, is now saying he might try to do with gun rights.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And didn't waste very long after that Texas decision to announce it.

  • Tamara Keith:

    No. No.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Tamara Keith, Amy Walter, thank you both.

  • Amy Walter:

    You're welcome.

  • Tamara Keith:

    You're welcome.

Listen to this Segment