Rep. Elaine Luria prepares to lead Jan. 6 hearing blaming Trump for violence

The Virginia Democrat has her defining second on the committee as she faces her hardest election but

Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va), departs after speaking at a Nuclear Fuel Supply Forum on July 19 in Washington.
Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va), departs after talking at a Nuclear Fuel Supply Forum on July 19 in Washington. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

She couldn’t overlook the time: 1:46 p.m.

It was the second Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) evacuated her workplace on Jan. 6, 2021, after police discovered pipe bombs on Capitol Hill. A 12 months later, on Jan. 6, 2022, it was the very same time Luria introduced her reelection marketing campaign — unmistakably linking her bid for a 3rd time period representing a swing district on the Virginia coast to her service on the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol.

Now, Luria is making ready for her most defining second on the committee but: At the committee’s finale of this summer time’s collection of hearings, she and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) will element what former president Donald Trump did and didn’t do over 187 minutes because the U.S. Capitol was beneath assault, and as Luria and a whole bunch of colleagues took cowl.

Their presentation is expected to squarely place the blame for the violence on Trump after his months of false claims of voter fraud and can look at his reluctance to condemn the assault — culminating in what the panel plans to describe as a dereliction of responsibility and violation of his oath. It’s an project that individuals concerned with the committee’s work say Luria particularly sought — at the same time as she gears up for her hardest reelection marketing campaign but in a district that bought redder after redistricting.

Trump’s choices escalated tensions and set U.S. on path to Jan. 6, panel finds

But with an air of defiance, the previous Navy commander has stated she is unconcerned about any potential political penalties that her function in unspooling the previous president’s inaction on Jan. 6 might have in her personal political future — a message that, moderately than whispered to confidants, she has put entrance and heart in her marketing campaign.

“Getting this right, getting the facts out there and making some change in the future so that this doesn’t happen again, it’s so much bigger than whether you’re reelected or not,” Luria stated in an interview. “I don’t want to make my bid for reelection seem petty, but that’s inconsequential. Does that make sense? And if I win, it will be a very strong statement about the work of the committee.”

In a way, Luria has positioned her marketing campaign as a referendum on the committee’s work, nearly daring Republicans to assault her over it — though it’s unclear it’s a motivating situation for many citizens in her district. This 12 months’s midterm elections are extra typically considered as a referendum on Democrats and President Biden, a political surroundings that bodes effectively for Luria’s Republican challenger, state Sen. Jen Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach) — who has sought to paint Luria as “out of touch” with voters for specializing in the Jan. 6 investigation.

Those dynamics make Luria considerably of the Democratic model of fellow committee member Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) — a minimum of with out the abuse from her personal get together or the nationwide star energy.

Rep. Liz Cheney tells Americans why Jan. 6 should terrify them

With the exception of her looming prime-time function, Luria in contrast has largely achieved the grinding work of the committee from behind the scenes. Luria, who spent 20 years within the Navy, is extra identified in Congress for her powerful questioning of Defense Department leaders on the House Armed Services Committee and her huge — at instances head-spinning — information of naval shipbuilding and capabilities, typically becoming a member of Republicans to name for extra top-line navy spending. She was one of many first ladies within the Navy’s nuclear energy program, a navy profession that Luria leveraged to win a race towards former Republican congressman and Navy SEAL Scott Taylor to flip the seat blue in 2018.

Since then, Luria has largely stayed out of high-profile political spats, often called a lawmaker who eschews the sort of firebrand partisanship that has turned different lawmakers into viral sensations. In truth, her former two-time political rival, Taylor, described her persona as “bland” — and stated that’s partly what made her a more durable competitor. “You’re like, what do you attack her for?” he stated, recalling his first race towards her in 2018; he misplaced a rematch in 2020.

“Elaine — how do I say it? — she’s not going to get on TV and say crazy stuff. She’s not like that. She’s quiet. She doesn’t get in trouble,” he stated, noting the exception when she referred to as a proposed stock-trading ban pushed by bipartisan lawmakers “bull—-” earlier this 12 months. But often, “she’s fine. So I think that can be a strength for her.”

It was that very same restrained demeanor that Luria’s colleagues, buddies and others stated they thought made Luria a really perfect member of the committee investigating Jan. 6.

“She is the soul of reasonableness and moderation in all things, and I think she’s someone that the committee looks to as a voice for how what we’re doing will be experienced outside of the big metropolitan areas,” stated Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.), a fellow member of the committee. “She of course has this distinguished military background, and just a very quiet but fierce sense of patriotism and duty about what she does.”

Even a day after Jan. 6, Trump balked at condemning the violence

Luria’s curiosity in serving on the committee is rooted in her service within the Navy, and he or she continuously connects her function to the oath she took within the navy and as a member of Congress. It’s one thing she and her co-pilot within the hearing, Kinzinger, an Air Force veteran, share in widespread.

After the assault, as she considered seeking a spot on the committee, Luria stated, “I thought to myself, you know, I was in the Navy for 20 years and you think about the oath, and it’s against all enemies foreign and domestic. And you think to yourself, you never really think that the domestic part — you never really think that you would have something like that in our own borders within our country.”

On the committee, Luria has change into identified for staking out probably the most aggressive postures towards Trump. And she has repeatedly famous the committee has a accountability to refer felony exercise to the Justice Department if the proof helps costs. Raskin stated he was reticent at first to broach the potential for felony exercise, noting the committee will not be a prosecuting company, which Luria has echoed. But he began to “feel persuaded by Elaine’s view that we should not be shy about stating the obvious when crimes are being revealed in our investigation — by whomever.”

“She was one of the first ones, really, to be so outspoken about it — as the weight of the evidence has become overwhelming, I think more and more of us have been speaking out,” he stated.

Rosalin Mandelberg, Luria’s rabbi at Ohef Sholom Temple, stated Luria’s choice to pursue a spot on the Jan. 6 committee reminded her of the stand Luria took in help of Trump’s first impeachment in 2019 regardless of potential political penalties — one thing Luria(*6*)

Luria had joined a bunch national-security-minded Democratic ladies to pen an op-ed calling for Trump’s impeachment. At the time, few Democrats — not to mention Democrats in aggressive districts — had been going that far. Soon after, Luria appeared at a city corridor in Virginia Beach and faced scrutiny over her decision, particularly from Republicans in her district.

“People may say, ‘Why would you do that? You might not get reelected,’ ” Luria informed the viewers. “I don’t care. Because I did the right thing.”

Luria’s comparable strategy to becoming a member of the Jan. 6 committee “didn’t surprise me at all,” Mandelberg stated. “She’s a true leader, but she’s also very, very much informed by her Jewish values. Her motto was something like, work hard, do the right thing — her whole being is that way.”

Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.), who attended the Naval Academy with Luria and joined the 2019 op-ed, stated her colleague “feels strongly that they’re doing good work that’s going to keep this nation strong and make our democracy more resilient, and it’s really her duty, really, under the Constitution to do exactly what she’s doing.”

But Republicans in her district aren’t all seemingly to see it that means — if they’re even watching the hearings.

Despite her prime-time function, Luria has but to entice Trump’s wrath, one thing that political strategists say wouldn’t essentially assist the GOP within the military-heavy district that’s filled with independents and swing voters.

The Virginia Beach-anchored district now tilts two factors within the GOP’s favor after its boundaries had been redrawn on the finish of final 12 months, in accordance to evaluation from the Cook Political Report. Biden simply barely eked out a win in 2020, whereas Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) received it by double-digits final 12 months.

Like Youngkin, Kiggans, Luria’s opponent, has appeared to tow a line between appeasing Trump’s base — she was amongst only a handful of Republicans within the state Senate to support an unsuccessful $70 million audit of the 2020 election, for instance — however not beating the “stolen election” drum like extra boisterous Trump allies, together with the GOP main opponent she trounced. Still, Kiggans avoids acknowledging Biden as a reliable president, one thing Luria has seized on to assault Kiggans as an “election denier.”

When The Post first requested Kiggans in July 2021 if she thought Biden was legitimately elected, a spokesman referred to as the query “insulting” and stated Kiggans had acknowledged he was legitimately elected. More not too long ago Kiggans has taken to saying that Biden “lives in the White House and I wish that he didn’t” — a press release she reiterated when requested in an interview to make clear if she believed Biden was legitimately elected. When requested in an interview late final month for a sure or no reply, she wouldn’t give one.

Trump’s influence casts shadows in Virginia’s 2nd district GOP race

She portrayed Luria’s work on the committee as a distraction, noting that inflation and fuel costs have dominated her conversations with voters, not the Jan. 6 investigation. Indeed, on the polls on main day final month, quite a few Republican voters informed The Post they didn’t notice Luria was on the committee or weren’t watching the hearings.

“I have said and will always say that those who broke the law on Jan. 6 should be held accountable, but I feel like this committee is really one-sided and is not focused on the economic crisis, which is what we have at hand,” Kiggans stated. “The Democrats are trying to use shiny objects that are distractions from what every American — Democrats, Republicans, independents — are feeling in their pocketbooks.”

Dave Wasserman, an elections analyst on the Cook Political Report, doubted voters could be predicating their choices to vote for or towards Luria primarily based on her service on the committee. If something, he stated, the affect on the race would seemingly be oblique.

“The reality is her service on the January 6 committee is unlikely to determine the outcome of the race,” Wasserman stated. “Fundamentally, there is one base of voters watching the proceedings, and that is base Democrats. But her service raises her profile a little bit nationally in a way that could allow her to raise more money, and in turn that money can be used to beat Jen Kiggans on the airwaves.”

Luria has highlighted her service on the committee in fundraising emails — one thing nationwide Republicans have attacked her for — and has raised almost $6 million. In her first major ad of the general election, her service on the Jan. 6 committee was entrance and heart.

The advert begins with clips of Luria taking the oath, for the primary time as a 17-year-old coming into the Navy, and closes with a scene from that 2019 city corridor over Trump’s impeachment — recasting her defiant assertion that she didn’t care about political penalties for her new function on the committee.

“Do you put our democracy before politics?” a closing message on the display screen requested viewers.

The day earlier than the hearing, Luria settled into her workplace and ready for a rehearsal. She tried to take away herself, studying her ready remarks as if for the primary time, as any individual who would possibly query why she was revisiting in such element an occasion now a 12 months and 7 months up to now.

“The bottom line is the threat is still there, and I think of the committee as forward looking,” she stated, including that its objective “is to prevent this from happening in the future.”

When she makes that case on Thursday night time, she stated, her 12-year-old daughter shall be watching.

Jim Morrison contributed to this report.

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