The big winner from the January 6 hearings: Ron DeSantis?

So says Matt Lewis, but I assume his opinion is universally shared. If DeSantis isn’t the big winner, who is?

Trump isn’t the winner. He’s being damaged by the hearings even if the MAGA cheering squad refuses to admit it. As proof, look no further than his own unhappiness at the fact that there are no Republicans on the committee, a choice Kevin McCarthy made after Pelosi rejected two of his picks. “The Republicans don’t have a voice. They don’t even have anything to say,” Trump told Punchbowl last week. “[W]e should’ve picked other people. We have a lot of good people in the Republican Party.” If you believe the NYT, though, he’s scapegoating McCarthy for his own poor strategic instincts: “A person familiar with the discussions at the time between Mr. Trump and Mr. McCarthy said that the former president supported walking away from the committee after the House leader’s choices were blocked.” Whatever the truth about that might be, Trump grasps that the hearings aren’t great for him.

Democrats aren’t the winners either, though. Inflation is a super-massive black hole from which no political light can escape. The January 6 hearing, overturning Roe, the war in Ukraine — it’s all going to get sucked in and crushed in November, along with Dems’ hopes of controlling the House for the next decade. The January 6 hearings are relevant to Trump’s fortunes in 2024 but they’re not relevant to the governing party’s chances this fall.

Liz Cheney? Also not a winner. She’s acquitted herself well and will leave Congress with a legacy of honor and courage unmatched by few members in modern American history. But she is leaving. She’s going to get annihilated in her primary in Wyoming in August.

Logically the only winners from the hearings are Republican 2024 hopefuls who need the base to move off of Trump cultism so that challengers are viable in the next primary. Brit Hume intuited that a few weeks ago when he marveled that the committee was actually helping the GOP by incentivizing them to nominate someone with less baggage in 2024. Neither the committee nor anyone else will convince MAGA voters to feel moral disgust at Trump’s coup plot; if the video of goons in red caps beating cops at the Capitol wasn’t enough to shake their loyalty, nothing will. Yet the ongoing testimony could become an excuse for many who are quietly tired of Trump to move on without feeling “disloyal.” Of course he did nothing wrong by trying to overturn the election, they might say, but … the hearings have unfairly hurt him with swing voters, which means he can’t win in 2024, which means we must regrettably nominate someone else.

And we all know who “someone else” is likely to be.

According to Politico, there are people close to DeSantis himself who share the belief that he’s the chief beneficiary of all this.

While Eberhart suspected that the hearings were hardening Trump’s core supporters, he also noted that one of the former president’s more formidable, potential opponents was benefiting too.

“Ron DeSantis,” he said of the Florida governor, “is lying in wait, sharpening his knives.”

In some pockets of DeSantis land, these sentiments are shared. The governor’s advisers do not see the Jan. 6 hearings as a “nail in the coffin” for Trump, but rather another in a line of distractions that are exhausting the sort of top-line Republican money that could be influential to a potential 2024 Trump-DeSantis primary clash.

“I think the January 6 hearings are continuation of the exhausting circus that surrounds Trump,” said a close DeSantis adviser granted anonymity to speak freely. “There are of course the lunchbox Republicans who think this is a ‘mass conspiracy,’ but among the donor class many are just tired of this.”

“Some donors are getting sick of the sh*tshow,” said the DeSantis advisor, which is a fine “neutral” reason for opposing Trump. You can’t side with the committee in believing that he did anything wrong. You can’t even comfortably say that Joe Biden won fair and square. But you can reframe Trump’s problems as potential electoral problems for the GOP, knowing that the supreme ambition of the Republican base — even above electing Trump — is owning the libs at the polls. If an argument can plausibly be made that a different nominee would give them a better chance of doing that, that’s a potential winner.

And it explains why Team DeSantis is keen to run up the score in his gubernatorial race this fall. The bigger his margin of victory, the stronger the belief that he rather than Trump maximizes the party’s ability to own the libs. That’s the only way the Trump cult disbands. And I think Trump knows it: He put out a pissier-than-usual statement about Peggy Noonan yesterday after she dared to suggest in her Friday column that the hearings were hurting him, making him seem like old news. “This is one of the great stories. Mr. Trump won’t recover from it,” she said.

DeSantis and his fans are crossing their fingers. Speaking of which:

There weren’t supposed to be any more hearings in June. The fact that the committee just set a new one and is promising “recently obtained evidence” and new testimony is a surprise that caused a stir in political media this afternoon. In all probability the new evidence is the documentary footage that was shot by filmmaker Alex Holder before and after January 6, which includes interviews with Trump, Pence, and family members. Few people seem to have known that the footage existed until recently; even some of Trump’s advisors sounded shocked in interviews that there was someone behind the scenes recording the chaos in the White House in his final months. The House is in recess this week for July 4, so the committee scrambling to hold an extra hearing anyway suggests they have something interesting.

Presumably it’s Holder who’s set to testify but the panel has been after Trump’s White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, for weeks to show up and speak. He’s the closest thing out there to a potential bombshell witness, as he saw everything that happened during “stop the steal” fiasco up close and reportedly steered Trump away from the cliff several times, including by convincing him not to make Jeffrey Clark the acting attorney general. If he testifies, it really could be newsy. Here’s Times reporter Maggie Haberman suggesting a bit of anxiety within the Trump family about what they might have said on camera to Holder.

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