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Week in politics: New information from Jan. 6 committee; Build Back Better stalled

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This week in Congress...

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LIZ CHENEY: We cannot be satisfied with incomplete answers or half-truths, and we cannot surrender to President Trump's efforts to hide what happened.

SIMON: Representative Liz Cheney, a Republican urging the House to fold - to hold former chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt of Congress. And that came after revealing some of his text messages before and during the January 6 insurrection. NPR's Ron Elving joins us. Good morning, Ron.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: Some of the news coming out of that committee investigation this week is simply startling. Tell us what stood out to you.

ELVING: This week, some of the key figures from January 6 have appeared and invoked the Fifth Amendment. Now, that's a protection against self-incrimination. Lawyers will tell you that it's not an admission of guilt - not in the courtroom or anywhere else. But it typically makes a lot of innocent people wonder why someone would need that protection. So this week, the Fifth takers included Roger Stone - he's a rather shadowy Trump associate for several decades. He was once a campaign operative for Richard Nixon. Also taking the Fifth were two lawyers who got Trump's attention a year ago with exotic theories about the vice president stopping the process, preventing the Electoral College vote from being formally conveyed to Congress. Meanwhile, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows did not take the Fifth because he simply refused to show up in response to the subpoena. That triggered a vote of the full House to hold him in contempt of Congress and refer him to the Justice Department for possible indictment.

SIMON: Those messages that Mark Meadows already turned over to the committee included those texting with Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan.

ELVING: Yes, among Meadows messages were some from a member of Congress who seemed to be part of the effort to block or overturn the results, sharing those theories about Mike Pence. And so this week we learned that was Jim Jordan of Ohio. Jordan and Meadows years ago co-founded a group called the House Freedom Caucus. They were hard-line conservatives then. And today, they're Trump's shock troops in the House. And we are just now learning how far some of them were willing to go back in January. Now, we've been blessed in this country to have our political leaders accept the results of our elections and leave office when they were voted out. That's why our elections have been the envy of the world. And we've taken it all for granted. We can't do that anymore.

SIMON: Some of the news you just detailed for us include, of course, the most recognizable names. But this committee is hearing from a lot of people, isn't it?

ELVING: The headlines have all been about a handful of big names who are stonewalling. But the committee has already heard from roughly 300 other people who are not stonewalling - people whose names are not well-known. Some have been allies of Trump in the past. Now, we don't know what they've said so far, but it appears to have unified this committee and deepened its commitment to getting all the facts.

SIMON: Onto the Senate now, there seems to be an admission this week from Democratic leadership and from Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and President Biden that Build Back Better might be turning in to Build Back Someday Soon, Maybe Next Year.

ELVING: Yeah, it seems the troops will not be coming home for Christmas after all. The pandemic will not be over, and the big social and climate agenda bill will not be law. And it turns out, I guess, that a nominal majority in the Senate - 50-50 - is not an actual majority unless they all vote together. And that's why the world knows the name Joe Manchin almost as well as it knows the name Joe Biden. But the White House still thinks it can make Joe-to-Joe diplomacy work. So maybe a month or two into the new year, maybe in time for Biden's first State of the Union address? Maybe the State of the Union will be the new Christmas.

SIMON: To bring up a practical political question, though, Ron, it must - let's say this - focus the mind of the president and Democratic leadership that after the first of the year is an election year, isn't it?

ELVING: After the first of the year, they have - well, it's an election year. And that always occupies the mind of the incumbents, particularly those who are going to be on the ballot and those who can see how vulnerable the Democratic majorities are - House and Senate. So yes, the minds will be centered, but the cross-pressures are probably going to be greater than ever.

SIMON: NPR's Ron Elving, thanks so much.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.