The J6 Committee Tries To Zing Zeldin

As the Republican Congressman closes a polling gap with Governor Hochul, the panel apparently attempts to intervene by leaking a text exchange with President Trump’s chief of staff.

AP/Bebeto Matthews, file
Congressman Lee Zeldin at CBS2 TV, on June 13, 2022, at New York. AP/Bebeto Matthews, file

Congressman Lee Zeldin’s jump in the polls in the New York Governor’s race looks to have spooked the Democrats — including the solons of the January 6 Committee. How else to explain the committee’s apparent attempt to intervene in a gubernatorial election by leaking Mr. Zeldin’s texts with President Trump’s chief of staff? The leak comes as the race has tightened to the degree that RealClear Politics reckons it to be a toss-up.

Far from a bombshell, the leaked exchange draws no blood. Yet what is the January 6 committee doing, issuing any leaks calculated to sway a state election contest for governor? We, for one, find it a shocking development. The Daily News says Mr. Zeldin’s exchange was “revealed in logs obtained by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection,” then “shared online” by reporter Hunter Walker. Albany’s Times-Union calls the text exchange “leaked.”

The January 6 Committee, and Mr. Walker, didn’t immediately respond to our inquiries as to how the text exchange came to light. In April, though, Mr. Meadows had accused the committee of waging a “sustained media campaign” against him by leaking to the press his text messages, which it had obtained via subpoena. Mr. Meadows decried what he called “a concerted and ongoing effort to vilify him publicly through the media.”

The leak of Mr. Zeldin’s conversation with Mr. Meadows adds a new mark to the January 6 committee’s target list. This attempt to influence the outcome of a state election, though, falls outside the scope of the panel’s enabling resolution. After all, the committee was asked “to investigate and report upon the facts, circumstances, and causes” — including “the influencing factors” — leading up to the January 6 attack.

Upon concluding its investigation, the committee is meant to produce a report of its “findings, conclusions, and recommendations for corrective measures” to avoid a repeat of the events of January 6. Nowhere in the resolution is there any call, or justification, for the committee to engage in the kind of political subterfuge we see in this leak of Mr. Zeldin’s communication with Mr. Meadows. 

Nor is it the first time that the Democrats have strayed from the committee’s resolution. The Republican National Committee, after getting a subpoena from the panel, challenged it in federal court because the committee’s members hadn’t been appointed in accordance with the terms of the resolution. Rather than risk defeat on that head before the riders of the District of Columbia Circuit, the Democrats dropped the subpoena.

The Republicans had also raised doubts whether the committee’s subpoena was constitutional because it wasn’t “in furtherance of a legitimate task of Congress” — i.e., lawmaking. The Circuit riders seemed almost reluctant to drop the case, noting that the January 6 panel had “deprived us of the ability to review” what they saw as “important and unsettled constitutional questions.” This lack of resolution casts a shadow over the panel’s legal validity.

Then again, too, the committee’s own behavior makes the best case against its own legitimacy. The choice to throw a life raft to the floundering Ms. Hochul in her race against Mr. Zeldin is only the latest example of the panel’s Democrats placing naked partisanship ahead of what could have been a fair-minded inquiry into January 6. Instead, Speaker Pelosi and her fellow Democrats want to smear Republicans in a “trial by legislature.”

As for the leaked exchange, it’s harmless. Ms. Hochul has no grounds to accuse Mr. Zeldin of “baseless conspiracy theories.” He was concerned over “vetted voting irregularities” after the 2020 election. With “unvetted” claims, he urged “reviewing those claims for vetting purposes.” He advised separating “facts” from “opinions.” That’s the kind of logical, and ethical, standard we expect from a Congressman and of which the January 6 panel seems incapable.

The New York Sun

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