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Editorial

Andy Harris, unrepentant Jan. 6 co-conspirator | COMMENTARY

As a House select committee continues its deep dive into the events of Jan. 6, 2021, there has been some consolation for Marylanders that the major figures in the assault on democracy were not from around these parts. Not Donald Trump, who has never won an election in this state; not his closest associates; and not his nuttiest advisors, whether inside or outside the White House. Indeed, there’s been some consolation that one of the committee’s leading figures in ferreting out the truth behind the madness has been none other than U.S. Rep. Jamie B. Raskin, the Democrat and constitutional law professor who has represented Maryland’s 8th Congressional District since 2017.

All that changed on Tuesday, however, when it was revealed that President Trump and his team had summoned a select group of GOP House members to the White House on Dec. 21, 2020, in an apparent attempt to garner their support for a scheme to overturn the election. Included in the usual suspects of Trump diehards, right-wing extremists and conspiracy theorists — like Arizona’s Paul Gosar and Florida’s Matt Gaetz — was none other than Maryland 1st District U.S. Rep. Andy Harris. The goal of the meeting was obviously to encourage the attendees to keep repeating the lie that the election was stolen and to reinforce the plan that, we now know, was hatched by the more-deeply-disgraced-by-the-day Trump attorney, John Eastman, to get Vice President Mike Pence to reject the electoral results on Jan. 6.

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The revelation was by itself not especially shocking. Mr. Harris has traded in election lies before. But what was especially disappointing was his immediate response to this disclosure. Did he apologize? No. Did he admit anything connected with this coup attempt was wrong? Again, no. Did he at least express some regret about events that culminated with the armed attack on the U.S. Capitol? Absolutely not. Here is a summary of the congressman’s written response: He was too busy to watch the hearing. He’s trying to lower the price of groceries and gasoline, and fighting crime instead.

Now, setting aside the fact that Mr. Harris has been a thoroughly ineffective member of Congress who wouldn’t know how to put together a coalition to pass legislation that might address inflation or crime in some meaningful way if he was provided all 435 votes in his chamber on a silver platter, his inability to appreciate the seriousness of the events of Jan. 6 ought to be regarded as disqualifying for his job. A functioning democracy requires people in positions of power to respect the rules and the results of a legal election. As the House panel is finding over and over again, this was not how President Trump or his circle of co-conspirators operated. Perhaps the congressman could at least brag he wasn’t present for the infamous “unhinged” meeting three days earlier, where bogus conspiracy theory after bogus conspiracy theory was shot down by the president’s rational advisors, which still did nothing to dissuade Mr. Trump from his attempted coup.

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Alas, Mr. Harris, 65, who has represented his district since 2011, faces no challenger in the GOP primary on July 19. But Tuesday’s revelation certainly provided plenty of campaign fodder for others on the ballot including Democrats Heather Mizeur and David Harden who quickly attacked the incumbent as a “traitor” to his country. “We learned today that Andy Harris’ depravity and unfitness to serve go even deeper than we knew,” Ms. Mizeur, 49, a former state delegate, announced in a campaign press release. Mr. Harden, 59, a retired Foreign Service officer pronounced on Twitter that Mr. Harris “dishonored his office, broke his oath, and chose the pursuit of power over the rule of law. He has disgraced us.”

Whether this will make a difference in November to voters in the 1st District, which centers on the Eastern Shore and is easily the most politically conservative and GOP-leaning in the state, remains to be seen. The congressman’s cavalier attitude toward the events of Jan. 6, 2021, may not prove so discomforting to people who refuse to believe their own eyes and ears regarding the day’s events.

And that, of course, makes the revelation all the worse — a disgraced co-conspirator who laughs away serious claims is unlikely to be held accountable by those he has cynically used, and he knows it. And doesn’t that just typify the state of U.S. politics in 2022? Marylanders may simply have to consider themselves fortunate if this proves to be their only scoundrel in high office.

Baltimore Sun editorial writers offer opinions and analysis on news and issues relevant to readers. They operate separately from the newsroom.

Editor’s note: This editorial has been updated to reflect the correct date for the meeting between GOP leaders and then President Donald Trump’s team.


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