A Republican attorney working as an investigator for the Congressional committee probing the Jan. 6 insurrection is reportedly leaving his position early in order to explore a run for Missouri’s open U.S. Senate seat.
John Wood, who is a former federal prosecutor who clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, is being encouraged to run as an independent to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt. A committee was formed this week to persuade him to join the campaign.
Wood could not be immediately reached for comment, but CNN and the Washington Post have both reported his decision to leave his job on the committee this week.
As a candidate not affiliated with a party, Wood would need to collect signatures to get on the November ballot.
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Among those hoping Wood will run is former U.S. Sen. John Danforth, who earlier this year enlisted a polling firm and a PAC called the Serve America Movement to gauge whether Missouri is ready for a centrist Republican to run as an independent.
In an interview Wednesday afternoon with The Independent, Danforth said he hasn’t spoken to Wood in at least a month and learned of his decision to leave the congressional investigation through the media.
He said he was hopeful the departure meant Wood was seriously considering a run for Senate.
“John is a very serious person who would be a uniter and would be very good at working across the aisle,” Danforth said, “and trying to be a serious legislator instead of just somebody putting out press releases about how angry he is, which is the current style in politics.”
Danforth, who left the Senate in 1994 after three terms, was an early supporter of Missouri’s other U.S. Senator, Josh Hawley, encouraging him to run in 2018 and helping him raise money for the campaign.
After the Jan. 6 insurrection last year, Danforth said Hawley deserved a share of the blame and expressed remorse for ever having supported his political career.
He said he would understand if people didn’t trust his endorsement after helping get Hawley elected, laughingly saying: “The law of averages, I can’t be wrong always.”
He’s known Wood much longer than he knew Hawley, Danforth says, and is much more certain about the endorsement.
“We need we need to start focusing on pulling ourselves together,” he said. “And John, by his nature, his character and his demeanor, is that uniter.”
Wood, 52, is a close associate of U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, one of the two Republican members of the Jan. 6 committee. In addition to clerking for Clarence Thomas, he held several roles within the Bush administration, including chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security.
Wood most recently worked as general counsel for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
In his role on the Jan. 6 committee, Wood appeared alongside lawmakers last week to question witnesses during the hearing focused on the pressure campaign targeting then-Vice President Mike Pence.
“This campaign has implications that are nationwide,” Danforth said. “It’s very important in our state, of course, but I believe we can send a message by the people of Missouri that we’ve got to change politics.”
Jason Hancock has been writing about Missouri since 2011, most recently as lead political reporter for The Kansas City Star. He has spent nearly two decades covering politics and policy for news organizations across the Midwest, and has a track record of exposing government wrongdoing and holding elected officials accountable.