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Rep. Guest Defends Vote to Investigate Jan. 6 Amid GOP Opponent’s Criticism

Headshot of Michael Guest speaking
U.S. House Rep. Michael Guest defended himself against criticisms for supporting an investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol insurrection, saying the failed bill he supported would have established a bipartisan commission that would have prevented political “witch hunts.” AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

U.S. Rep. Michael Guest is defending his May 2021 vote for an investigation into the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol after his Republican primary opponent, Michael Cassidy, forced him into a runoff in Mississippi’s 3rd Congressional District. Throughout his campaign, Cassidy has accused Guest of betraying the Trump movement with his vote.

Cassidy “has spent a personal fortune to mislead the people of Mississippi about Congressman Guest’s conservative, Christian character,” the incumbent’s campaign said in a statement over the weekend.

In May 2021, Guest joined 35 other Republicans and all Democrats in voting for a bipartisan investigation of the Capitol attack, saying at the time that the country “needs answers to questions surrounding the events of Jan. 6.” That bill, which Democratic U.S. House Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi negotiated with Rep. John Katko of New York, failed after Republicans filibustered it in the Senate.

The U.S. House then established its own select committee to investigate the Capitol insurrection, which did not require the Senate’s input but earned significantly less Republican support. Guest voted against establishing that commission, claiming it would lead to a partisan “witch hunt.” Thompson, who represents Mississippi’s 2nd Congressional District, chairs the committee alongside Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming.

‘He Shouldn’t Have Voted For That Bill’

“After Mr. Guest and a handful of other RINOs voted for Bennie Thompson’s January 6th Commission, Donald Trump said: ‘…there are consequences to being ineffective and weak. The voters understand,’” Cassidy wrote in a June 11 tweet. “To this day Mr. Guest refuses to acknowledge that he shouldn’t have voted for that bill, which 9 times called the events of January 6 a ‘domestic terror attack.’ “Let’s show Mr. Guest and the rest of the RINOs that there ARE consequences to their actions and vote him out of office on June 28th.”

In his statement, Guest’s campaign accused Cassidy of misleading voters about which investigation he supported.

a photo of Michael Cassidy in a plane
“To this day Mr. Guest refuses to acknowledge that he shouldn’t have voted for that bill, which nine times called the events of January 6 a ‘domestic terror attack,’” Rep. Guest’s GOP runoff opponent, Michael Cassidy (pictured), said on June 11, 2022. Photo courtesy Cassidy campaign

“Congressman Guest did not vote for Nancy Pelosi’s Select Committee on January 6th that’s currently in the news,” the Guest campaign said. “He voted against the Select Committee because he knew it would lead to the witch hunt we are seeing now.”

In a series of public hearings that began on June 9 and continue today, the Select Committee on January 6th presented evidence that former President Donald Trump knew his claims about election fraud that precipitated the insurrection were false. The hearings include testimony from ex-Trump White House officials like former Attorney General Bill Barr, who said he told Trump the fraud claims were “bullshit.”

“I’m from a part of the country where people justified the actions of slavery, the Ku Klux Klan, and lynching,” Thompson, who is Black and also chairs the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee, said during the June 9 hearing. “I’m reminded of that dark history as I hear voices today try to justify the actions of the insurrectionists on January 6, 2021.”

In his weekend statement, Guest said he voted for the earlier national commission to investigate the insurrection “based on his 25 years as a prosecutor, his commitment to the rule of law, and at the request of the U.S. Capitol Police.”

“This Commission would have been composed of law enforcement experts, not politicians, who would have investigated issues of concern such as: The planting of a bomb outside of the Republican National Committee, 25 yards from where (Guest’s) staffers were working in the Cannon House Office Building; The response of Capitol Police; The response of the National Guard; and outside groups involved in orchestrating the events of January 6th.”

Under the earlier commission Thompson and Katko negotiated, Guest said, “this group of law enforcement experts would have had equal representation, with 5 equal appointments from Republicans and Democrats with equal power.” That investigation would have also ended in December 2021, the incumbent pointed out, claiming it “would have prevent (U.S. House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi from using her Select Committee as a witch hunt in an election year.”

“Congressman Guest knew that Nancy Pelosi would create the partisan witch-hunt Select Committee if the nonpartisan National Commission did not pass,” Guest’s campaign said. “Congressman Guest made the courageous vote to ensure that Speaker Pelosi and Bennie Thompson would not be able to use January 6th to attack Republicans. If it had passed, the witch-hunt we are watching now would have been avoided.”

Separate investigations into the 2021 insurrection are ongoing in the U.S. Department of Justice, where officials have arrested more than 840 people in connection with the attacks in all 50 states. DOJ says 305 individuals have pleaded guilty to a variety of federal charges, and courts have found six individuals guilty at trial.

Guest Opposed Both Trump Impeachments

In his bid to unseat Guest, Cassidy, a former Navy fighter pilot from Maryland who lives in Lauderdale County, Miss., has hired consultant Matt Braynard, a former Trump 2016 campaign staffer who helped bolster claims that Trump was the victim of a conspiracy to steal the election from him in 2020. Mississippi Today’s Bobby Harrison reported that Brayard has earned at least $190,000 testifying as a consultant about alleged “irregularities” in the 2020 election.

“I’m reminded of that dark history as I hear voices today try to justify the actions of the insurrectionists on Jan. 6, 2021,” U.S. House Select Committee on January 6th Chairman Bennie Thompson (pictured) said on June 9, 2022. Photo by Grace Marion

Cassidy has also criticized Guest’s vote to send military aid to Ukraine to support its war against Russia. Most members of both parties in the U.S. House voted to send aid to Urkaine in May with the exception of 57 Republicans. During his first impeachment, Trump faced accusations that he attempted to extort Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelesnkyy by withholding $400 million in military aid unless the foreign leader agreed to stage a fake investigation into the Biden family to help Trump in his 2020 re-election. 

Despite Cassidy’s criticisms, Guest voted against impeaching Trump during his first impeachment over Ukrainian aid in 2020 and again voted against impeaching him for inciting the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection during his second impeachment in 2021.

“I will vote no against the Articles of Impeachment and the Democrats’ attempt to silence over 700,000 Mississippians who voted for our president,” Guest said in December 2019 ahead of the vote for Trump’s first impeachment.

Impeachment, Guest said ahead of Trump’s second one in January 2021, would “serve to further the divisions felt across our nation.” On Jan. 6, hours before the mob stormed the Capitol, Guest and Rep. Trent Kelly of Mississippi’s 1st Congressional District met with a group of Mississippi Trump supporters who said they traveled there to protest the election’s certification.

Vote on June 28

The Republican victor in Mississippi’s 3rd Congressional District runoff will go up against Democratic nominee Shuwaski Young in the Nov. 8 general election. You can read a questionnaire listing Young’s policies here. Neither Guest nor Cassidy have responded to a request to complete MFP’s questionnaire.

All Mississippi primary runoffs are on June 28, 2022. Voters in the 3rd Congressional District are eligible to cast a ballot if they registered by May 31. There is no party registration in Mississippi and voters are eligible to vote in the GOP primary runoff even if they did not vote in the June 7 primary.

a photo of Shuwaski Young
Shuwaski Young is the Democratic candidate for Mississippi’s 3rd Congressional District. Photo courtesy Shuwaski Young campaign

In other districts, voters who cast ballots in the Democratic primaries cannot vote in Republican primary runoffs in their district, but the 3rd Congressional District did not have a Democratic primary this year because Young was the party’s only candidate.

When they arrive at the polls on June 28, voters must bring an acceptable form of photo identification, such as a driver’s license, state-issued photo ID, U.S. passport, government employee ID card, student ID from a state university or college, firearms license, tribal ID or a Mississippi Voter Identification Card. Information on how residents can obtain a free voter identification card from their local circuit clerk’s office is available here.

Secretary of State Michael Watson has urged voters to verify their vote registration is active by checking online at this link. More information on voting is available on the Secretary of State’s FAQ section and Voter Information Guide.

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