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As Jan. 6 hearings begin, GOP still can't quit Trump

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Former President Donald Trump points to supporters after speaking in Phoenix on July 24, 2021.
Former President Donald Trump points to supporters after speaking in Phoenix on July 24, 2021.Ross D. Franklin / AP

WASHINGTON — Political parties traditionally kick their defeated presidential nominees to the curb as they look ahead to the next election cycle.

Especially a defeated one-term president.

Think about it: George H.W. Bush, John Kerry, Mitt Romney, Hillary Clinton — they all became afterthoughts after their election loss.

But what stands out about this current moment in our politics is that so much of the Republican Party continues to embrace, defend and idolize Donald Trump.

Even after he won less than 47 percent of the popular vote, after he helped cost the GOP control of the U.S. Senate, and particularly after the events of Jan. 6.

So you have House GOP leaders, including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, holding a press conference protesting today’s House committee hearing investigating what happened on Jan. 6.

You have Reps. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., and Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., holding another presser to demand answers about “the status of January 6 prisoners.” (You read that right — “prisoners.”)

You have George P. Bush losing out for Trump’s endorsement, possibly derailing the chances of winning his bid to Texas attorney general. (More on that below.)

And you have today’s congressional runoff in Texas' 6th Congressional District, which features another GOP candidate Trump has endorsed (Susan Wright) versus one he didn’t endorse (Jake Ellzey).

Usually, the party out of power jettisons its failed presidential candidates so it can retool, reinvent and rebrand itself for voters.

But what remains remarkable — if not unprecedented in modern times for a one-term president — is that the GOP can’t quit Trump (and vice versa).

Which means that, going into 2022 and 2024, we continue refighting the last election and the events around it.

What to expect at today’s Jan. 6 committee hearing

“Democrats are launching their investigation into the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection Tuesday with a focus on the law enforcement officers who were attacked and beaten as the rioters broke into the building — an effort to put a human face on the violence of the day,” per the AP.

“Testifying will be Capitol Police officers Harry Dunn and Aquilino Gonell and Metropolitan Police officers Michael Fanone and Daniel Hodges.”

“In previous interviews, Dunn has said that attackers yelled racial slurs and fought him in what resembled hand to hand combat as he held them back. Gonell, an Iraq veteran, detailed surgery on his foot and injuries from which he struggled to recover. Fanone has described being dragged down the Capitol steps by rioters who shocked him with a stun gun and beat him. Hodges was beaten and crushed between two doors, and his bloody face and anguished screams were caught on video.”

Also: “Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, one of two Republicans on the panel, will give opening remarks after [Dem Chair Bennie] Thompson.”

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

2,848: The number of new, daily Covid infections on Tuesday in Tokyo, a record for the city.

0.35 percent: The estimated U.S. total population growth for the year ending July 1, 2020, the lowest-ever, per the Wall Street Journal.

47 percent: The portion of likely California voters who support recalling Gov. Gavin Newson, per a new poll, which also found 50 percent saying they don’t support the recall.

34,652,416: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 82,662 more since yesterday morning.)

614,186: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 590 more since yesterday morning.)

342,212,051: The number of vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC. (That’s 393,083 since yesterday morning.)

49.1 percent: The share of all Americans who are fully vaccinated, per the CDC.

60 percent: The share of all American adults at least 18 years of age who are fully vaccinated, per CDC.

Tweet of the day

The Texas House special and the power of Trump’s endorsement

But is getting Trump’s endorsement still an automatic guarantee for victory in a GOP race? Or close to it?

That once again will be put to the test in today’s special runoff in Texas between Republicans Susan Wright (whom Trump has endorsed) and state Rep. Jake Ellzey (a former fighter pilot who’s endorsed by Rick Perry and Rep. Dan Crenshaw). No Democrat made it to the Top 2 runoff after the free-for all jungle primary on May 1.

Wright is the widow of the late Rep. Ron Wright, who passed away from Covid complications, creating this vacancy.

“A Wright victory — especially a decisive one — could be a poor omen for conservative (but not Trump-endorsed) candidates in upcoming special elections and 2022 primaries,” the Cook Political Report writes.

“On the other hand, an Ellzey upset would suggest some GOP voters are still open to decoupling their admiration for Trump and his stated preferences in order to support someone with an appealing biography and resume.”

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Former Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi has died after suffering injuries in a bike accident.

Follow the latest from today’s Jan. 6 committee hearing with the NBC News Live Blog.

The Veterans Administration is mandating Covid vaccinations for employees, as is New York City and California (or those city and state employees have to be tested regularly).

The debate over mask mandates in schools is raging ahead of the fall, creating serious tension between parents and schools.

The bipartisan infrastructure negotiations are stalling as transportation spending emerges as the latest hurdle.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi may extend proxy voting in the House through the end of the year, Axios reports.