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Republican political strategist on the final Jan. 6 committee hearing

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The House Select Committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol has delivered its final report to Congress and voted to issue criminal referrals against former President Trump - four recommended charges of obstruction or conspiracy or participating in an insurrection, which adds to the pile of legal and political troubles facing Trump, who has already announced his bid to become president again.

Let's welcome back Republican strategist Ron Bonjean. Hey there.

RON BONJEAN: Hey. It's great to be here.

KELLY: Great to have you with us. So come on a walk with me through what impact you can see this having. And I want to start with Donald Trump himself. Personally, politically, how damaging is this?

BONJEAN: Well, there's no doubt that the January 6 committee was going to throw the kitchen sink in with their final report now that Republicans are going to be taking over the House. Politically, this is just another piece of information that's damaging to the president when it comes to swing voters. Most Republicans, you know, who are really not paying attention to this think that this is probably just another political exercise in Washington. But what it really matters is what those independent voters are thinking. And it's not helpful to the president for 2024.

KELLY: So not unexpected - you're not surprised by where this has landed today. Does it impact Donald Trump's status as frontrunner for the 2024 nomination, do you think? - because you're talking about the importance, perhaps, to swing voters.

BONJEAN: At this point, it probably does not impact his status because he's the only one in the field running at this point. You have Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida, and former Vice President Mike Pence in the wings, but they have not stepped forward. It's going to take a Republican - another Republican to really step in and give Republican voters, base voters, a chance to make a choice. But right now, he's the only one that Republicans have.

KELLY: Speak to those men in the wings who you just mentioned - Ron DeSantis, Mike Pence. If you were advising them - perhaps you are advising them. You can tell me.

BONJEAN: No, no.

KELLY: What advice would you have for them today?

BONJEAN: Well, I would be thinking about when you're going to throw your hat into the ring. And that's probably going to be sometime early next year if they were to do it. Right now, a lot of voters are paying attention to buying Christmas presents or holiday gifts and getting ready for the holidays. And they heard something about President Trump that's controversial. That leaves a negative impression. But if I were them, I'd be waiting until the next year so they could unveil a positive agenda to look forward to helping solve people's problems.

KELLY: What about the impact on your party, on the GOP more broadly? I hear you saying, look; this isn't unexpected. They were going to throw the kitchen sink at him while they had the chance. However, to have the former president of the United States and the words seditious conspiracy in the same sentence, it's not a great look.

BONJEAN: No, it's not helpful to the Republican Party to have a report like this in general. I think, unfortunately, that many people are getting used to these type of phrases. And there are some - you know, I think that it's not helpful to have out there for Republicans. And we need to move beyond that. And we need to have a nominee that looks to the future and that has a positive outlook instead of a legal albatross around his neck, along with so many other things that have gone wrong for former President Trump. We need somebody new, somebody fresh that can lead America forward and help the Republican Party dig its way out of this bad reputation that it's getting by associating with the president.

KELLY: Are those conversations taking place on Capitol Hill as you and I speak tonight?

BONJEAN: They're taking place all over the Republican Party right now. But it really takes another nominee to step forward before anyone is going to start really affiliating themselves and separating. You have, you know, some members of Congress going on the record talking about how bad some of these things that he has said and done over the past - you know, recently...

KELLY: Yeah.

BONJEAN: ...That he has done. But we need to have a lot more volume there.

KELLY: Ron Bonjean. He has advised Republicans in the House and the Senate. Thank you for coming back on the program. Good speak with you.

BONJEAN: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kai McNamee
Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.