However the Mississippi Democrat is bound on one factor: He is not going to let the stress of an election lower his investigation brief, even when that takes it effectively into subsequent yr.
“I might say that we’ll do that work so long as it takes to finish it. Flexibility is necessary, if we run into vital resistance, then clearly it is going to take longer,” Thompson mentioned in an interview with CNN. “I might like to say we’d be capable of end it inside an affordable 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 Individuals. And we’ve got to repair that worldview.”
Now, the 73-year-old Thompson is taking the helm of a choose committee to deal with 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 grow to be little greater than a discussion board for political jousting, however the identical individuals say Thompson is uniquely positioned to succeed, approaching his new function 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 understand, I forged votes based mostly on what the problems are at the moment. However once more, I did not tear up the place as a result of I forged a vote,” he advised CNN.
For Thompson, the fraught months forward shall 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, nonetheless, 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 assessment 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 shall be carried out. I’ll belief the people who find themselves tasked with the duty of a deep dive into the scope and circumstances that received us to January 6,” Thompson mentioned. “And if in truth they bring about to us that data, that claims ‘you must do that,’ there may be completely no reluctance on my half as chair to problem the subpoena.”
Challenges Thompson will face main the committee
Thompson should 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 making an attempt 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 will flip this right into a partisan meals battle,” 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 affordable temperament in making an attempt to get issues carried out,” 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 task he has mentioned has at all times formed the best way he appears at responding to tragedies and explains one in every of his earliest selections because the chairman of the choose committee — to herald rank-and-file law enforcement officials to testify, which is predicted for the brand new panel’s first listening to later this month.
To date, a lot of the testimony on the Capitol Hill has centered on what management knew, however Thompson’s determination to listen to instantly from officers must be seen as an early indication of how his committee goes to conduct its work, he mentioned.
“We have at all times 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 had been sprayed with bear spray, the individuals who had been referred to as the N-word, the individuals who had been referred to 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 predict it is instructive for the committee to listen to, but additionally it units the fitting tone for why it is so necessary 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 most important lesson he is discovered there, he says, is that relating to risk in opposition to america, enemies not often care about whether or not there may be an “R” or “D” earlier than your identify.
“Our experiences say that when individuals need to hurt us, they do not ask celebration 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 Individuals. So it has been our philosophy that since we’ve got to guard American from international 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 the whole lot, Bennie and I’ve developed a powerful working relationship. He is an excellent man, a patriotic American, and collectively we have been capable of finding frequent floor on many necessary points,” High Republican on the Homeland Safety Committee John Katko advised CNN in a press release.
Members additionally level out that Thompson has been speaking about home terrorism, the threats it poses and the facility 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 speak about that in committee, Mr. Thompson would at all times flip it and say we have to look inward as a result of there are points on this county the place the risk is bigger,’ mentioned Democratic Rep. Donald Payne of New Jersey, who serves on Homeland Safety with Thompson. “He made certain that was one of many main subjects of his dialogue because the chief of Homeland Safety” even when Payne mentioned Thompson’s efforts had 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 provide you with the framework that was agreed upon for the nonpartisan fee … I feel is an excellent signal for the best way they’re going to 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 carried out for a really very long time in Homeland.”
When the fee deal fell via, largely as a consequence of final minute disapproval from Home Republican management and mass exodus of assist 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 underneath 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 at all times 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 would not supply detailed directions or expectations, however trusts in his colleagues personal skills and instincts to conduct themselves appropriately and pursue strains of questioning they’ve experience in.
“He’s what you’d 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 might be necessary to us. You understand numerous my friends, complain about their committee chairman or chairwoman, who do not allow them to do something.”
Payne views Thompson as a “main function mannequin,” describing his colleague and buddy 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 underneath his wing after I arrived to Congress and since he served with my father he seemed 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 function as a result of he isn’t going to be consumed with the politics of the day.
“Bennie Thompson is at all times cool and picked up. He has this little humorousness that simply helps to elevate me up whether or not we’re in committee conferences or on the Home ground 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 in case you have 5 units of eyes or tens of millions on them, and if he simply does what he does finest — and that is to get to the reality, do that investigation, give it the whole lot he has — I do know he’ll.”