Tamara Keith and Amy Walter on January 6 Committee hearing and the midterms

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 upcoming January 6 Committee hearing, its impact on the midterms and how both parties are trying to lure voters.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    On Wednesday, the House select committee investigating the attack on January 6 returns for another televised hearing, this time as early voting has already begun in some midterm elections.

    For insight on the politics of the hearings and more, I'm joined by Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report With Amy Walter and Tamara Keith of NPR.

    And hello to both of you on this Monday. So much to talk about.

    Let's start, Amy, with those January 6 hearings.

    What are you learning about how these hearings are affecting the way voters think about all this, if they have any effect, and the fact that, this Wednesday, we're getting, what, six weeks…

  • Amy Walter, The Cook Political Report:

    Right, six weeks before the election.

    As you pointed out, people are starting to vote. Early voting has started and a lot of these dates. And we don't know yet if, before the election, the committee is going to come out with its recommendations, and, if so, what are those going to be and how much attention will those get?

    I think there's still a lot of questions swirling about whether something will come before the election. But what's really interesting, Judy, is, if you look at, what are opinions about the president, have they changed, have those — about the former president — have they changed over the course of the last year-and-a-half since the January 6?

    And we have had a lot of things happen. We have had hearings, of course. We have had new information come to light. And then, of course, we have what happened in Mar-a-Lago, the FBI finding what looks like to be classified document.

    And The Washington Post has been asking a question about whether the former president should be, as they say, charged with a crime.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • Amy Walter:

    The — it's maybe not surprising, but it is quite noteworthy that opinions about whether he should be charged with a crime since the very first time they asked this question, which was right after January 6, like a week later, until now, have not budged.

    About 52 percent of Americans think back in early 2021 to today that he should be charged with a crime. About 40 percent do not. What this is telling me is that opinions have not been altered. They have been probably cemented, which is pretty much where we are as a country right now. And the reality of where we are just as a country in terms of the way we see the world is, when we get new information, it's not necessarily changing our opinions of something.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yes.

  • Amy Walter:

    We are molding ourselves and our brain in a way to say, well, how does this new information fit into the prior way that I have been looking at this? How do I make it fit into what I already believe to be true?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I'm trying to get this mental picture.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes, of fitting it in.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Mental image of all this.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Tam, what's your sense of whether these hearings have had an effect one way or another?

  • Tamara Keith, National Public Radio:

    Yes, the remarkable thing about this moment, as they are returning for what they are saying will be their final investigative hearing, not their final results, but their final investigative hearing, is that Donald Trump is more present in the American collective psyche right this moment than he was when the hearings were ongoing over the summer.

    So much has happened to put him front of mind in the news. He's holding rallies essentially every week now for congressional candidates. The investigations seem to have metastasized and have also ramped up.

    At the same time also, the convictions and trials and sentencing of January 6 defendants, the rioters, those have also really ramped up in the last few weeks or a month or so. So, it's a different landscape that this hearing is going to happen in than before.

    But, as Amy says, the opinions that people have are pretty calcified. If, though, this — these hearings serve — this hearing serves as a reminder, well, there are a lot of reminders out there that Donald Trump was president and would like to be president again.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we will see what we — we don't know yet exactly what we're going to hear back. In fact, we don't know very much about what we're getting here on Wednesday, but we will see. This is another opportunity for the committee to make its case.

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I do want to ask you both about the messaging that we're hearing.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Again, six weeks out from the midterms, people are already voting.

    Amy, just at the end of last week, the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, put something forward called the Commitment to America. And it echoed what we saw decades ago from Newt Gingrich, the Contract With America. But what he was saying, in very brief form, was where the party stands on policing, and on abortion, and a couple of other things.

  • Amy Walter:

    And economy, yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What do you take away from this?

  • Amy Walter:

    So, every midterm election, the party that's out of power puts one of these documents together. It's more of a messaging document than anything else, right?

    And what it — what they're trying to say is a couple of things. One, to the naysayers or the other critics who say, well, you're just running against something, why don't you be for something, they say, well, look, here's this piece of paper in very broad-brush strokes of what we're for.

    But it also helps to keep members sort of focused on what the leadership believes are the top issues that are going to move, not just the base, engage the base, but also really connect with swing voters. The bigger challenge for Kevin McCarthy, though, is if Republicans do win the House, and by a very narrow margin, his ability to put any sort of agenda forward is going to be challenged.

    One, they still don't have the White House. Legislatively, that's a challenge. But the second is, the smaller the majority, the harder it is for the leadership, which we know, for those last two Republican House speakers, the harder it is for them to keep the party in line and keep them focused.

    I think what we're going to really see if Republicans win is an unrelenting focus on President Biden.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Investigations.

  • Amy Walter:

    Investigations on him and his administration, especially on immigration and, of course, Hunter Biden, his son.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And The Cook Political Report has been saying very recently that these House races — that the Republicans may not do as well in the House races as it looked as if they would.

  • Amy Walter:

    Earlier in the year.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Earlier in the year.

    Tam, what do you take away from the Kevin McCarthy message and also looking at the Democrats and the kind of legislation they're trying to get passed in these final weeks?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Right.

    Kevin McCarthy can't put out a document that is called the Commitment to America that says realistically what a Republican majority in the House would be able to accomplish, which is, without a president to sign their legislation, if he is in the majority, they will be able to pass message bills, potentially, if he can really, truly wrangle his conference, and they will be able to investigate.

    And the one lever that they will have is shutting the government down or threatening to shut the government down, which is what we lived through in 2010 and 2011. So that is more likely to be what it actually looks like, is investigations and brinksmanship over the budget and funding the government.

    In terms of Democrats and what they're trying to accomplish, they have been trying to work on a couple of areas, funding police and police reform, and also this Electoral Count Act reform. This would be the one real piece of legislation to come out of the January 6 hearings…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yes.

  • Tamara Keith:

    … the one effort that they would make at a reform.

    And this is bipartisan legislation, but, in classic Congress, it may be bipartisan, but it's not bicameral at the moment. And there's some disagreement between the legislative vehicles that, certainly, they will be under pressure to figure out before potentially Democrats lose control of either the House or the Senate or the few Republicans that support these reforms are forced to retire or already retiring.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Where do you see this, as the Democrats…

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes, I think the bigger challenge for Democrats right now isn't what they pass in Congress, but what's happening in the broader environment, right, things over which they have no control.

    What is the price of gas? How concerned are people about the rising interest rates? We're seeing mortgage rates continue to go up, up and up. And those are the things that are really going to drive the conversation among voters more than really anything else that Congress could pass.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Of course, Democrats keep talking about the Dobbs decision as well.

  • Amy Walter:

    Of course. Of course.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The economy very much in the picture.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right, six weeks to go.

    Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, thank you both.

  • Tamara Keith:

    You're welcome.

  • Amy Walter:

    You're welcome.

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