However the Mississippi Democrat is bound on one factor: He is not going to let the stress of an election reduce his investigation quick, even when that takes it effectively into subsequent yr.
“I’d say that we’ll do that work so long as it takes to finish it. Flexibility is vital, if we run into important resistance, then clearly it’s going to take longer,” Thompson mentioned in an interview with CNN. “I’d like to say we’d have the ability to end it inside an inexpensive time period. However for these of us who had a ringside seat on January 6, it was very damaging to the worldview of who we’re as People. And we’ve got to repair that worldview.”
Now, the 73-year-old Thompson is taking the helm of a choose committee to sort out the January 6 investigation within the Home at a time when the relationships on Capitol Hill are frayed, tensions are excessive, and as a few of his Republican colleagues have denied the grim realities that outlined the day altogether. Aides and fellow members are effectively conscious the potential for the choose committee to change into little greater than a discussion board for political jousting, however the identical individuals say Thompson is uniquely positioned to succeed, approaching his new position armed with a reserve of bipartisan relationships, expertise in investigating home terrorism and the temperament and persistence that attending to the underside of what unfolded on January 6 could require, even when it drags on for a yr or longer.
Thompson says he has no regrets about his vote.
“You recognize, I solid votes primarily based on what the problems are at the moment. However once more, I did not tear up the place as a result of I solid a vote,” he advised CNN.
For Thompson, the fraught months forward will likely be constructed on a profession spent on the Homeland Safety Committee and outlined by the fallout from devastating occasions like Hurricane Katrina and the September 11, 2001, terrorist assaults. This time, nevertheless, Thompson acknowledges his investigation could pressure him to query his personal colleagues and a former President who was the goal of Democratic investigations for years and nonetheless has a loyal following on Capitol Hill.
“Nobody is exempt from the evaluate of our committee. And with out saying, ‘We are going to do that to former President Trump,’ or another particular person, I’ll belief the skilled investigation that will likely be performed. I’ll belief the people who find themselves tasked with the accountability of a deep dive into the scope and circumstances that acquired us to January 6,” Thompson mentioned. “And if actually they convey to us that data, that claims ‘you’ll want to do that,’ there’s completely no reluctance on my half as chair to situation the subpoena.”
Challenges Thompson will face main the committee
Thompson must defend himself and his committee’s work in opposition to a barrage of members and pundits who will argue from the outset it’s doing little greater than attempting to assault former President Donald Trump and his followers.
“He’s not going to be deterred by any members appointed to the committee who suppose they are going to flip this right into a partisan meals combat,” Raskin mentioned.
For his half, Thompson mentioned he plans to take GOP assaults in stride even when they occur in his hearings.
“I’ve no downside working with my Republican colleagues. I’ve developed what I feel is an inexpensive temperament in attempting to get issues executed,” Thompson mentioned. “I have a tendency to not be a bomb thrower. I give individuals on my committee the chance to precise their opinion. In the event that they need to spend their 5 minutes being silly, that is to the detriment of the constituents they signify, however we go ahead.”
A profession tied to homeland safety
For greater than 25 years, Thompson served as a volunteer firefighter in Mississippi, a job he has mentioned has all the time formed the best way he appears to be like at responding to tragedies and explains one among his earliest choices because the chairman of the choose committee — to usher in rank-and-file law enforcement officials to testify, which is anticipated for the brand new panel’s first listening to later this month.
Up to now, a lot of the testimony on the Capitol Hill has centered on what management knew, however Thompson’s choice to listen to straight from officers ought to be seen as an early indication of how his committee goes to conduct its work, he mentioned.
“We have all the time talked to the brass or the individuals who would have been in cost on that day who’re now not with the Capitol Police, however we have not talked to the Capitol Police — the individuals who have been sprayed with bear spray, the individuals who have been known as the N-word, the individuals who have been known as traitors. They should inform our committee what they skilled,” Thompson mentioned, including he’d additionally like to listen to from congressional employees at one other listening to. “We expect it is instructive for the committee to listen to, but additionally it units the fitting tone for why it is so vital that we do that work.”
Thompson has served as the highest Democrat on the Homeland Safety Committee because it turned a full committee in 2005. The largest lesson he is discovered there, he says, is that in relation to risk in opposition to america, enemies hardly ever care about whether or not there’s an “R” or “D” earlier than your title.
“Our experiences say that when individuals need to hurt us, they do not ask social gathering affiliation, they do not ask what a part of the nation you are from, they do not ask your gender, or something like that — they only need to hurt People. So it has been our philosophy that since we’ve got to guard American from overseas and home terrorists so to talk then it’s in our greatest curiosity to be bipartisan,” Thompson mentioned.
His Republican colleagues have echoed that sentiment.
“Whereas we do not agree on every part, Bennie and I’ve developed a robust working relationship. He is a great man, a patriotic American, and collectively we have been capable of finding frequent floor on many vital points,” Prime Republican on the Homeland Safety Committee John Katko advised CNN in an announcement.
Members additionally level out that Thompson has been speaking about home terrorism, the threats it poses and the ability of these teams to inflict terror on the American public lengthy earlier than it was seen as a critical space of inquiry as it’s at this time.
“Once we’d discuss that in committee, Mr. Thompson would all the time flip it and say we have to look inward as a result of there are points on this county the place the risk is larger,’ mentioned Democratic Rep. Donald Payne of New Jersey, who serves on Homeland Safety with Thompson. “He made positive that was one of many main subjects of his dialogue because the chief of Homeland Safety” even when Payne mentioned Thompson’s efforts have been “falling on deaf ears.”
A tough fought slog to create a fee
The Mississippi Democrat labored tirelessly for months to get a bipartisan take care of Katko, his Republican counterpart, within the hopes that buy-in from each events would create legitimacy for no matter a bipartisan fee discovered.
Democrats say that Thompson’s relationship with Katko, each on the Homeland Safety Committee and in reaching the fee settlement, reveals how he is managed construct up bipartisan relationships on the Homeland Safety Committee even when it is tackled politically fraught points.
“The truth that he was capable of work with Rep. Katko to give you the framework that was agreed upon for the nonpartisan fee … I feel is an excellent signal for the best way they will deal with this going ahead,” mentioned Rep. Elaine Luria, a Virginia Democrat on the choose committee. “I feel he is actually going after the details, one thing he is executed for a really very long time in Homeland.”
When the fee deal fell by means of, largely as a consequence of final minute disapproval from Home Republican management and mass exodus of help within the Senate, Democrats say Home Speaker Nancy Pelosi was left with no selection however to reverse course and create a choose committee — and all of the political landmines that include an investigation run and managed by Democrats.
“Everyone knows that this can be a second-best possibility” mentioned Michigan Rep. Elissa Slotkin, who chairs one of many Homeland Safety subcommittees beneath Thompson.
‘He is very unflappable’
Thompson’s colleagues describe him as matter of truth, empowering and never taken with utilizing public hearings or tv interviews to advance his personal profession.
“I’ve all the time been impressed with him, simply how considerate he’s, how pragmatic, and what a straight shooter he’s,” mentioned Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the Home Intelligence Committee and a member of the choose committee. “He is very unflappable, and I’ve by no means seen him lose his mood or something, or be something however cheap, considerate, pragmatic, and good.”
Behind closed doorways, colleagues say Thompson does not provide detailed directions or expectations, however trusts in his colleagues personal talents and instincts to conduct themselves appropriately and pursue strains of questioning they’ve experience in.
“He’s what you’ll hope for in a committee chairman,” Slotkin advised CNN. “He’s critical and skilled, however he additionally permits individuals on his committee, like myself, to take leads on issues which can be vital to us. You recognize a variety of my friends, complain about their committee chairman or chairwoman, who do not allow them to do something.”
Payne views Thompson as a “main position mannequin,” describing his colleague and pal as a “critical, no nonsense” chief whose “integrity and character are second to none.”
“I respect him immensely” Payne, who additionally is part of the Congressional Black Caucus with Thompson, mentioned of Thompson. “He took me beneath his wing once I arrived to Congress and since he served with my father he appeared out for me.”
Rep. Val Demings, a Florida Democrat who serves with Thompson on the Homeland Safety Committee, described the Mississippi Democrat as a mentor, saying he’ll achieve success within the position as a result of he is not going to be consumed with the politics of the day.
“Bennie Thompson is all the time cool and picked up. He has this little humorousness that simply helps to carry me up whether or not we’re in committee conferences or on the Home flooring having a non-public casual dialog,” Demings mentioned. “He is on the world stage proper now, nevertheless it’s not a spot he sought. … The details do not change if in case you have 5 units of eyes or tens of millions on them, and if he simply does what he does greatest — and that is to get to the reality, do that investigation, give it every part he has — I do know he’ll.”