Rep. Jim Banks identified himself as the “ranking member” of the Jan. 6 committee he got booted from months ago.
There’s a scene in director Robert Rodriguez’s Once Upon a Time in Mexico in which a former FBI agent, played by Rubén Blades, is enticed back into the field to eliminate a notorious drug kingpin who got away years earlier. Having since retired, the agent is forced to recycle his now-expired ID badge with some carefully applied Wite-Out and clever sleight of hand, in order to pass himself off to prospective leads as a current, officially licensed law enforcement official.
I mention this because that’s more or less what Indiana Republican Rep. Jim Banks has been doing since he was ignominiously booted this summer from the bipartisan House Special Committee to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection. Only, unlike Blades’s sympathetic fed, Banks’s real-life subterfuge is not so much a case of a tragic hero compelled once more to stand for justice as it is a pathetic attempt to lie his way into accessing information beyond his authority — all to presumably disrupt, or at least counterprogram, the work being done by the committee he no longer is a part of.
Republican Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), who is a member of the committee, called out Banks’s gambit during a Thursday House vote. At the time, the members were voting to recommend Steve Bannon, a former top adviser to former President Donald Trump, to the Department of Justice for criminal charges over Bannon’s failure to comply with a congressional subpoena. Cheney revealed that Banks has evidently been reaching out to various federal agencies and social media platforms requesting information as the “ranking member” of the Jan. 6 committee, which — again, we can’t stress this enough — he no longer serves.
“[Banks] noted that [House Speaker Nancy Pelosi] had determined that he wouldn’t be on the committee,” Cheney said. “So I would like to introduce for the record a number of letters the gentleman of Indiana has been sending to federal agencies.”
The letter submitted, from Banks to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, claims that Pelosi “refused to allow [Banks] to fulfill [his] duties as ranking member” without actually noting that Banks was ejected from the committee entirely. It’s signed “Jim Banks, Ranking Member.” According to The Daily Beast, Banks sent similar letters to a number of federal agencies, including the Department of Justice and the Defense Department, as well as to Facebook and other social media platforms — most of which had already been approached by the actual Jan. 6 committee.
Despite the overwhelming implication that Banks has been running a shadow investigation of his own under the guise of tricking or intimidating potential sources into thinking he possesses any authority, a Banks spokesperson insisted to CNN that the real malfeasance here belonged to the actual, empaneled, legitimate committee itself.
“This is a bizarre Democrat narrative meant to distract from the actual contents of Rep. Banks’s letter and to avoid talking about the actual activities of the Select Committee, which are partisan, authoritarian, and indefensible,” the Banks spokesman said in a statement responding the allegation against the congressman.
Banks’s unauthorized, parallel investigatory efforts call to mind those of former House Intelligence Committee chair and litigious bovine-hater Rep. Devin Nunes, who acted as a de facto emissary for the Trump administration during his time leading the powerful congressional panel. In both cases, legitimate and ostensibly independent House bodies were being undermined by partisan gamesmanship designed to provide Republicans with enough material to craft a counternarrative outside the actual committee’s findings.
Despite the Banks camp’s insistence that everything is perfectly hunky-dory and by the book, actual Jan. 6 committee member Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) suggested there may be consequences for his one-time panel colleague’s behavior.
“That’s not only delusional and fantastical, but it might be some kind of violation of the rules of the House,” Raskin told CNN.
Given that it took three House votes just to recommend Bannon to the DOJ for criminal charges, though, I don’t think the prospect of being in “some kind of violation of the rules” is the sort of thing someone with the naked hubris Banks has displayed would be all that worried about.