June 6, 2022

This week, 17 months after one of the darkest days in the history of our nation, the House select committee will conduct hearings regarding the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection. Led by Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Vice Chairwoman Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the hearings will be televised in prime time and include witnesses, pretaped interviews and video, including some that haven’t previously been seen by the public. They will start Thursday.

The Washington Post’s Jacqueline Alemany, Josh Dawsey and Amy Gardner wrote, “The hearings mark the culmination of an inquiry that has involved more than 1,000 interviews and reviews of more than 125,000 records. Taken together, the work represents the most comprehensive record yet of the deadly assault, and which panel members have come to believe stands out as only the most visible evidence of a broader plot to undermine American democracy — one that emanated from the White House.”

While the role of then-President Donald Trump and many who worked alongside him will be closely scrutinized, the Post accurately notes, “… the committee can refer cases for prosecution, it is the Justice Department that will ultimately decide whether to file any charges.”

On that note, CBS “Face the Nation” moderator Margaret Brennan asked California Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff if he was surprised that two people who refused to cooperate with the Jan. 6 committee — former chief of staff Mark Meadows and social media director Dan Scavino — will not be prosecuted by the Justice Department.

“Is it your understanding that these men are immune from all prosecution?” Brennan asked.

Schiff said, “No, they’re not. And it is very puzzling why these two witnesses would be treated differently than the two that the Justice Department is prosecuting. There is no absolute immunity. These witnesses have very relevant testimony to offer in terms of what went into the violence of Jan. 6, the propagation of the Big Lie, and the idea that witnesses could simply fail to show up. And when the statute requires the Justice Department to present those cases to the grand jury, they don’t, is deeply troubling. We hope to get more insight from the Justice Department, but it’s a, I think, a grave disappointment and could impede our work if other witnesses think they can likewise refuse to show up with impunity.”

Back to the hearings. Aside from the new video, most observers will be curious to see some of the pretaped interviews. On Sunday’s “Face the Nation,” Congressional correspondent Scott MacFarlane told Brennan, “And it’s worth reminding people of the range of interviews. Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Rudy Giuliani, and some of the rank-and-file rioters. Watch out for this.”

Speaking on “CBS Sunday Morning,” Cheney called the insurrection an “ongoing threat.”

“You know, we are not in a situation where former President Trump has expressed any sense of remorse about what happened,” Cheney said. “We are in fact in a situation where he continues to use even more extreme language, frankly, than the language that caused the attack. And so, people must pay attention. People must watch, and they must understand how easily our democratic system can unravel if we don’t defend it.”

Already, however, we can predict how this will go. Most of us will look on in further horror — as if that is possible — at how followers of the former president tried to stop a fairly-held election, but many on the right — supporters of Trump and many of those who regularly watch certain cable news channels — will either ignore it, downplay it or try to twist it for their own political gain.

Biden’s plan?

So what is President Joe Biden’s plan for the Jan. 6 hearings? He’s going to watch part of it on TV just like the rest of us, according to Politico’s Laura Barrón-López.

Barrón-López wrote, “Don’t expect insta-commentary from the White House briefing room when hearings start on June 9. Don’t hold your breath waiting for Biden to convey his shock and disappointments. Instead, a White House official said the plan is to add the president’s voice only when appropriate, and that usually means in emphasizing the importance of protecting democracy and holding accountable those who would seek to undermine or destroy it.”

Barrón-López added, “Biden’s arms-length approach is driven by concern that injecting political messaging into an ongoing, bipartisan investigation could complicate possible law enforcement actions or additional criminal investigations that might stem from the committee’s work, according to a person familiar with the White House’s thinking. The fear inside the White House is that if Biden appears to be influencing the committee or the Justice Department, it would unnecessarily give Trump and his allies more fodder as they try to delegitimize the findings.”

Interview with legends

Bob Woodward, left, and Carl Bernstein in 2019. (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Legendary Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were guests on Sunday’s “Reliable Sources” on CNN. This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Watergate break-in and, of course, Woodward and Bernstein made names for themselves with their dogged reporting later chronicled in the greatest movie ever made about journalism. (“All the President’s Men” topped my list in 2019.)

Even the names — Woodward and Bernstein, in that order — are synonymous with great reporting. As “Reliable Source” host Brian Stelter so accurately described, many became journalists because they were inspired by “All the President’s Men” and the work of Woodward and Bernstein.

Bernstein credited the movie with showing how he and Woodward worked sources, including knocking on doors, looking for answers.

“Sources don’t materialize out of nowhere,” Bernstein said.

On Sunday, Woodward recalled a letter he and Bernstein received from then-Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham after their reporting, which read, “Don’t start thinking too highly of yourselves. You did some of the stories fine. But I want to give you some advice. And the advice is beware the demon pomposity.”

Woodward and Bernstein had a new piece in The Washington Post over the weekend: “Woodward and Bernstein thought Nixon defined corruption. Then came Trump.” It’s a part of the new foreword to the anniversary edition of their book “All the President’s Men.”

In it, they compare Donald Trump to Richard Nixon, writing, “Unlike Nixon, Trump accomplished his subversion largely in public.”

They add, “Both Nixon and Trump created a conspiratorial world in which the U.S. Constitution, laws and fragile democratic traditions were to be manipulated or ignored, political opponents and the media were ‘enemies,’ and there were few or no restraints on the powers entrusted to presidents. Both Nixon and Trump had been outsiders, given to paranoia, relentless in their ambition, carrying chips on their shoulders. Trump from the outer boroughs of New York City, not Manhattan. Nixon from Yorba Linda, Calif., not San Francisco or Los Angeles. Even after achieving the most powerful office in the world, these two men harbored deep insecurities.”

On “Reliable Sources,” Bernstein said, “If you want a description of what brought Nixon and the Nixon presidency down, it is this hate and poison that was in his administration. And we now see (it) in our politics.”

On a lighter note …

I loved that Stelter asked Woodward and Bernstein what kind of relationship the two have today.

While Bernstein laughed, Woodward said the two talk “all the time” and sometimes argue, as they have for 50 years. But Woodward said “there is a bond.”

Post problems

Washington Post executive editor Sally Buzbee sent a note out to staff on Sunday saying staffers should treat each other with “respect and kindness” after there was some public squabbling on Twitter between staffers. The Daily Beast’s Corbin Bolies and Zachary Petrizzo have the details.

No names were mentioned in Buzbee’s memo, but it appeared this all stemmed from when Post reporter Dave Weigel retweeted a tweet (from a non-Post employee) that said, “Every girl is bi. You just have to figure out if it’s polar or sexual.”

Post reporter Felicia Sonmez tweeted a screenshot of Weigel’s retweet and wrote, “Fantastic to work at a news outlet where retweets like this are allowed!”

That set off a barrage of tweets from those commenting on it and Sonmez responding to some of those comments. Then the controversy really heated up when Post reporter Jose A. Del Real accused Sonmez of “repeated and targeted public harassment of a colleague” and suggested she was “rallying the internet to attack (Weigel) for a mistake.”

Sonmez and Del Real had a back and forth with Del Real writing, “Entirely separately, I hope you reconsider the cruelty you regularly unleash against colleagues.” Del Real, for a short time, deactivated his account. He then returned with a lengthy Twitter thread that started with him saying, “Last night I came under an unrelenting series of attacks intended to tarnish my professional and personal reputation. The cause? Some tweets I sent calling for compassion within our workplace. Those attacks continued this morning.”

After writing several more tweets about what had happened and his take on all this, he concluded with, “I’ll end where I began: Let’s be kinder to each other. I really believe empathy is a necessary tool in this effort to improve our workplaces and our culture. We can all be better. I certainly will continue trying to be.”

Then, Sunday evening, Sonmez tweeted that Del Real had blocked her. She tweeted, “So far I’ve received no apology from my colleague for baselessly accusing me of engaging in ‘bullying,’ ‘harassment’ and ‘cruelty’ — just for objecting to a sexist tweet. I did, however, receive an email from him accusing me of fostering a ‘toxic workplace.’ And now this!”

Sonmez continued tweeting about it Sunday night. Before that, Buzbee told staff in the memo obtained by The Daily Beast: “We expect the staff to treat each other with respect and kindness both in the newsroom and online. We are a collegial and creative newsroom doing an astonishing amount of important and groundbreaking journalism. One of the great strengths of our newsroom is our collaborative spirit. The Washington Post is committed to an inclusive and respectful environment free of harassment, discrimination or bias of any sort. When issues arise, please raise them with leadership or human resources and we will address them promptly and firmly.”

Without being at the Post and knowing all there is to know about this entire incident, the work culture there, and everyone involved, it’s impossible to say what Buzbee should or should not do. But I’m guessing this is going to take more than just a memo.

Check out The Daily Beast story for all the details.

Pulitzer Board announcement

Neil Brown, president of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, and Tommie Shelby — Caldwell Titcomb Professor of African and African American Studies and Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University — have been elected as co-chairs of the Pulitzer Prize Board.

The two succeed New Yorker contributing editor Katherine Boo, New York

Times opinion columnist Gail Collins and Associated Press vice president and editor-at-large for standards John Daniszewski.

Brown was the long-time executive editor at the Tampa Bay Times before becoming Poynter’s president in 2017. During his tenure as editor, the Times won six Pulitzer Prizes and launched the Pulitzer Prize-winning PolitiFact, which is now part of Poynter.

Brown said in a statement, “It is a great honor to serve as co-chair of the Pulitzer Prize Board, a distinguished and dedicated group of creative leaders who aim to uphold standards for excellence in journalism, arts and letters. Together we will carry on the work of ensuring the Pulitzer Prizes remain trusted and relevant.”

Shelby has been at Harvard since 2000 and has written several books, often focusing on racial justice, economic justice, and criminal justice and on the history of Black political thought. His writing also has appeared in numerous newspapers, magazines and journals.

“I’m deeply honored and enormously proud to serve as co-chair of the Pulitzer Prize Board,” Shelby said. “Recognizing and rewarding excellent work in journalism and arts and letters brings me tremendous pleasure, as does working with such an outstanding and conscientious group of Board members.”

Brown and Shelby joined the Pulitzer Board in 2015.

In other Pulitzer news, Ginger Thompson, chief of correspondents and deputy managing editor of ProPublica, was elected to the Pulitzer Prize Board last week. Here’s more information.

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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