MINOT, N.D. — When news broke yesterday that Congressman Kelly Armstrong had been chosen to serve on a select committee that will investigate the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot, there were many in political circles familiar with Armstrong's track record of leadership both in the state Legislature and as chairman of the North Dakota Republican Party, who were nodding in satisfaction.
Armstrong is honest. Blunt. Endearingly kinetic. While serving in the state Senate, Armstrong could often be observed fighting to free himself from his microphone cord, having become entangled in his eagerness to join in even the most banal discussions of policy.
If this Jan. 6 committee amounts to anything more than an exercise in partisan recrimination, a showdown between Democratic hyperbole and Republican denialism, I suspect it will be attributable in no small degree to Armstrong's participation.
To be clear, Armstrong opposed the creation of this select committee, arguing that it would be a political circus that would obscure, rather than reveal, truth. We shouldn't hold that against Armstrong.
He's not wrong.
I have zero confidence that any inquiry like this, born from Speaker Nancy Pelosi's machinations, is going to be a sober and fact-based review of why the Jan. 6 riot happened. I'm not sure Congress is capable of such a thing.
But that's also not an excuse to stop trying. There has been too little accountability for the riot, up to and including the former president.
Armstrong has characteristically forthcoming in condemning the rioters.
"It's sad. It's the first time since 1812 that the Capitol has been breached," he said at the time, being careful to dispute what were, at the time, already burgeoning conspiracy theories that the riot was some put-on. "I seriously think it's important for people to know that it wasn't. I was in the room," he said. "I had some really good friends in the Capitol police force that were injured today trying to protect members of Congress, staff, and the building."
Remember, too, that Armstrong was among the first Republicans in Congress to announce that he would vote to certify the 2020 election results, a position that enraged the hard-core supporters of Donald Trump whose ardent belief that the election had been stolen, an idea promoted endlessly by Trump himself to this day, was at the heart of the Jan. 6 riot.
Not only did Armstrong, and a handful of his House colleagues, make a coherent legal argument against that quixotic attempt to undermine the election outcome - Congress had no constitutional authority to dispute the results - but they pointed out the political stupidity of Republicans, specifically, walking that path.
"From a purely partisan perspective, Republican presidential candidates have won the national popular vote only once in the last 32 years. They have therefore depended on the electoral college for nearly all presidential victories in the last generation," Armstrong and his colleagues wrote in their statement. "If we perpetuate the notion that Congress may disregard certified electoral votes — based solely on its own assessment that one or more states mishandled the presidential election — we will be delegitimizing the very system that led Donald Trump to victory in 2016, and that could provide the only path to victory in 2024."
I wish Armstrong were more amenable to the necessity of this select committee to review the Jan. 6 riot. I wish he were more outspoken in his pushback against the conspiracy theories about the election and the riot. I wish he were more willing to hold disgraced former President Donald Trump responsible for both.
But I do trust that his service on this committee will make North Dakota and the nation proud.
He's the right person to sit at the fulcrum of this pivot point in history.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.