“I prayed for the best outcome: that God’s will be done, not mine or anyone else’s,” said Ivy, a pastor and Democratic voter in suburban Atlanta. “I prayed that they would tune in and watch, so they could see for themselves. Don’t just go by what someone says, you have to research and search to see for yourself.”

Conversations with Democrats in Atlanta and Republicans in the surrounding suburbs this week provide a reality check of the high profile the House committee faces to break through at a time of extreme polarization.

Many Americans seem to have simply tuned out, with Republicans citing disdain for the committee’s overwhelmingly Democratic composition, lack of interest in another divisive act from Washington, or simply being busy with the summer and exhausted with politics.

“I really think they’re only after Trump,” said Bill Kumle, a retired Republican who was out for an afternoon walk here earlier this week. They do not seek the truth.

Half a century after Watergate captivated the country and ultimately led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon, the House select committee’s remarkable revelations compete with other distractions in a deeply divided nation.

A new Quinnipiac University poll found that nearly 6 in 10 Americans are following news about the committee’s work at least somewhat closely, though only about a quarter say they are following it very closely. So far, according to the poll, audiences don’t seem to be changing their minds about whether Trump committed a crime, with 46% of adults saying he did and 47% saying he didn’t.

Early measures of the impact of the hearings and comparisons to Watergate may be tense, given the vast differences in the way Americans consume news and information today, with much of the January 6 committee testimony designed to be shared. on social networks. More than 20 million viewers watched the first prime-time audience on June 9, according to estimates, while the television audience dropped to about half of the daytime audiences afterward.

The findings, at least so far, are largely viewed through a familiar partisan lens that has dominated the Trump era.

“The committee as a whole leans more liberal than conservative and it’s not something that interests me,” said George Nozick, who has been collecting excerpts from the hearing via the news. “With inflation, gas, the border and everything else, I choose to take it easy.”

The January 6 committee plans to push the hearing schedule back to July after Thursday's meeting.
Nozick is among Georgia Republicans who have never believed Trump’s false claims that he won the state, which is again emerging as a crucial battleground in November’s midterm elections. And Nozick believes the former president crossed the line when he called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger seeking to “find 11,780 votes” to usurp the will of the voters. Republican voters in the Peach State rebuked Trump’s efforts to oust Raffensperger, along with Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who also rejected Trump’s pleas to nullify the 2020 election, in the primary earlier this year.

“Our former president is only focused on his own wants and needs,” Nozick said. “To me, that’s not good. You have to go ahead and accept what it is and go from there.”

Still, Nozick said he didn’t see the value of the committee’s investigation. He said that he would read his final conclusions but that he would prefer the country and his party to move on.

Bipartisan admiration for Pence

Interviews with people from both parties found widespread support for former Vice President Mike Pence and admiration for his conduct in overseeing the certification of the Electoral College vote for Joe Biden while the Capitol was under siege.

“I’m not a huge fan of Mike Pence, but I really respect what Mike Pence did,” said Frank Richards, a retired Democrat who was eating lunch as the hearings were telecast at Manuel’s, an Atlanta tavern. “I really think he was extremely brave to come back to the Capitol with people who wanted to lynch him and fulfill their responsibilities.”

Ruth Atkinson, a Republican who believes the hearings are a waste of government time and money, echoed those praises for the former vice president.

“I think Pence had to do what he did,” Atkinson said. “I think he saw what was going on and I think he was telling the truth.”

Despite new details of the lengths Trump and his allies went to try to overturn election results, even after Attorney General William Barr and others inside the White House and the campaign advised against such schemes, Atkinson and many other Republicans criticized the committee as partisan.
Amid High-Profile Hearings, Some Jan. 6 Committee Members Tighten Security

“I’m not a fan of Liz Cheney. I don’t know why she’s doing this,” Atkinson said. “She has gone over to the Democratic side.”

Criticism of Cheney, the Wyoming Republican who is vice chairman of the committee, resonated in virtually every interview with a Republican voter. Cheney, along with Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, has been a relentless target of Trump and his loyalists.

Richard Bianco, a Republican here who said he had voted for Trump in 2016 but not in his re-election bid, said he wanted the Justice Department to run the hearings and investigate, rather than Congress. The department is conducting its own investigation, but not through public hearings.

“As it goes through Congress, nothing will be done quickly,” Bianco said. “I’m a Republican and a lot of people need to be held accountable, but we’re not getting anywhere.”

Harvey and Patricia Newman of Atlanta said they have watched nearly every moment of the hearings in Washington, even taping the sessions if they are not home.

“I’d like to hope that people of all political stripes understand the threat this poses and what we need to do as a nation to prevent this from happening again,” said Harvey Newman, a retired college professor, who praised the committee’s thoroughness. .

“This is an attack on our democracy,” said Patricia Newman, a retired financial adviser, as she finished her lunch before the hearing began Tuesday. “I don’t think Watergate hearings have gone up to that level or even close.”

The Newmans, both Democrats, said finding the truth for the story is important, but even more so to protect the integrity of future elections.

“I hope it’s more than just for the story,” said Patricia Newman, who believes the hearings should result in criminal charges for some top officials. “If they go down, I can’t tell you how worried I am about 2024.”


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