RNC censures Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for persecuting people engaged in “legitimate political discourse”

“It’s not a vote to censure Cheney and Kinzinger as much as it is a vote to pardon the rioters,” Amanda Carpenter wrote.

That’s true but it obscures the deeper motive of the committee members. If Trump favored punishing the rioters, it’s unthinkable that the RNC would cross him by sanctioning Cheney and Kinzinger as it did. It’s because Trump himself wants to pardon the rioters that the RNC felt obliged to act, signaling solidarity with him against two members of the party who’ve committed the partisan sin of holding him accountable for trying to overthrow the incoming government.

Here’s the closest they came in the resolution to telling the truth:

They couldn’t leave it there, though. Censure is an act of moral reproach; if you’re going to engage in it, you need to articulate a moral objection with clarity. “We’re an authoritarian cult that blindly obeys our pro-riot leader” doesn’t sing with moral authority. So they contrived a theory for why Cheney and Kinzinger are the real bad guys in all this.

On Friday, the party went further in a resolution slamming Ms. Cheney and Mr. Kinzinger for taking part in the House investigation of the assault, saying they were participating in “persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.”

It was an extraordinary statement about the deadliest attack on the Capitol in 200 years, in which a mob of Mr. Trump’s supporters stormed the complex, brutalizing police officers and sending lawmakers into hiding. Nine people died in connection with the attack and more than 150 officers were injured. The party passed the resolution without discussion and almost without dissent.

The censure marked the latest and most forceful effort by the Republican Party to minimize what happened and the broader attempt by Mr. Trump and his allies to invalidate the results of the 2020 election. In approving it and opting to punish two of its own, Republicans seemed to embrace a position that many of them have only hinted at: that the assault and the actions that preceded it were acceptable.

There are headlines all over the wires this afternoon insisting that the RNC now views the insurrection as “legitimate political discourse.” The committee deserves that after what they did here, but I don’t think “ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse” was a reference to the riot. Here’s the full passage from the resolution:

The part about “ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse” presumably refers to the protesters who gathered for the rally that preceded the riot, not the riot itself. Critics looking to delegitimize the January 6 committee have objected to hauling in characters like rally organizer Ali Alexander for testimony because the rally was protected speech, something for which no citizen should be made to account to the government. But without questioning the organizers, it’s impossible to know whether the rally was part of a larger scheme to incite the crowd into trying to forcibly prevent Congress from certifying the election. For instance, does an ordinary citizen engaged in legitimate political discourse normally talk like this days after the crowd at his rally attacked the Capitol?

The committee isn’t HUAC 2.0 for wanting to know whether Alexander or any of the congressmen he was in touch with organized the event in hopes that it might produce a mob that would physically prevent Mike Pence from ratifying Biden’s win. Especially since it wasn’t even a week ago that Trump suggested a new round of “protests” aimed at protecting his interests with plainly obvious potential to spill over into violence again.

But like I say, the RNC can’t reveal its true reasoning, that it must side with Trump against his inquisitors despite the fact that Cheney and Kinzinger are obviously morally right. It had to contrive a moral objection and the best it could do was claim that it’s improper to investigate a political rally attended by the president that, er, led directly and immediately to a violent attack on the government in hopes of keeping the president in power.

Here’s the moment that the resolution passed:

Another “tell” that the RNC knows how foul it is to reprimand Cheney and Kinzinger is that the original version of the resolution called for expelling them from the House Republican caucus. That would have been as clear a statement as one could make that the litmus test for being a Republican in 2022 is being pro-Trump and that being pro-Trump means being neutral about the insurrection *at worst*. “Citing concerns that the original draft went too far in its public rebuke of the two Republican lawmakers, sources told CNN that the language had been changed to ensure its passage out of the resolutions committee,” CNN reported, explaining how the RNC settled on censure instead. Translation: The committee needed to do something to placate Trump but even they couldn’t stomach the degree of moral bankruptcy that kicking Cheney and Kinzinger out of the party would have required.

The two will wear this as a badge of honor, as they should:

Interestingly, a few members of the party spoke up in their defense, including the RNC chairwoman’s uncle:

Six days ago, Trump told a crowd in Texas that some (or all?) of the insurrectionists deserve pardons, a proposal so morally perverted and so likely to induce further violence and lawbreaking that even some of his cronies called it “inappropriate.” Six days later, the RNC sprang into action with a censure — not of Trump but of two of the very few people in the party who insist on consequences for a failed coup attempt.

This episode will be cited in histories of this era in American politics as a milestone in the loathsome Trumpist corruption of the GOP. Disband the RNC and start over.

Update: Here’s Ronna McDaniel, attempting to clean up the resolution in exactly the way I described. If only Cheney and Kinzinger had stuck to investigating the rioters — whom, again, Trump wants to pardon — instead of the rallygoers, everything would be cool:

And here’s Cheney’s reply. McDaniel should have her face rubbed in that resolution until the end of time:

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