Congressional Republicans have done everything in their power to stop the Jan. 6 commission from happening, succeeding thus far in covering up their own culpability and accountability for what happened on the attack on the Capitol. In response, 140 former senior national security, military and elected officials are using their clout to urge Congress to get on the ball.
In a letter to every member of Congress, they write "We are former senior national security, military, and elected officials who have represented or served Democrats, Republicans, or administrations of both parties. We write to encourage this Congress to establish an independent and bipartisan national commission to investigate the January 6th assault of the U.S. Capitol Complex and its direct causes, and to make recommendations to prevent future assaults and strengthen the resilience of our democratic institutions."
They're doing this now, they write "with great urgency in light of what we collectively see as an exigent and growing threat," because what happened on Jan. 6 "exposed severe vulnerabilities in the nation’s preparedness for preventing and responding to domestic terrorist attacks." They detail the "complex national security threats" exposed by the attack: "coordinated disinformation campaigns, nontransparent financing of extremist networks, potential foreign influences, and white supremacist violent extremism, which the Department of Homeland Security identified in an October 2020 report as among 'the most persistent and lethal threat[s] in the Homeland.'"
Unfortunately, that's the part of the rationale behind the commission that Republicans in Congress are most intent on blocking. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi proposed a commission consisting of 11 members, seven of them picked by Democrats—three members chosen by President Biden, two by herself and two by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. The remaining four would be chosen by Republicans, two by House leader Kevin McCarthy and two by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. Of course Republicans balked at that, demanding equal representation. Pelosi has indicated she'd be flexible on the commission make-up, but there's a bigger problem behind the Republicans blockade: the scope of the investigation, the "complex national security threats" the former national security officials are warning about.
Republicans, led by McConnell and McCarthy, are insisting that antifa and Black Lives Matter will be dragged into any investigation examining the domestic terrorism of Jan. 6 if Pelosi insists on a commission with an investigative scope beyond the limits of the failure of Capitol security on that day. If she wants to look at anything leading up to Jan. 6, McConnell says that it should also examine "the full scope of the political violence problem in this country."
"Rioting and political violence are abhorrent and unacceptable no matter what cause the mob is advancing. These are not forms of political speech," he said. "We cannot have artificial cherry-picking of which terrible behavior does and does not deserve scrutiny." McCarthy echoed that threat: "What are the other things that happened as well? With Antifa, and others, I think there should be a lot of investigations."
That's what any Republican either McConnell or McCarthy put on the panel would be there to do—to force the scope of the "investigation" away from the white supremacist Trump supporters who attacked the Capitol, away from the dark money forces that helped them, away from the far-right networks that egged them on. Trying to find agreement with McConnell—his commission proposal would give him the ability to pick the majority of its members—is probably futile for Pelosi. McConnell can filibuster any legislation to create the commission if he doesn't agree with it. Until and unless Senate Democrats get rid of the filibuster, this is one more thing that's not going to move through the Senate.
In the meantime, Pelosi is moving forward with House committee investigations. Before the House left for Easter recess, chairs of seven committees sent letters to 16 agencies overseen by the White House and Congress demanding "all communications sent between agency officials regarding Congress' Jan. 6 session, when lawmakers certified Joe Biden's Electoral College victory," as well as "all relevant documents and messages from Dec. 1, 2020, to Jan. 20, 2021."
"We understand that the Department continues to investigate and prosecute individuals involved in the events on January 6, 2021," they wrote to the Justice Department. "We are happy to work with you to ensure that the document requests in this letter do not interfere with ongoing investigations and prosecutions." The Biden Justice Department is quite likely to be happy to work with Congress, too, in determining what happened that day, and what led up to it. Republicans are going to bet on their ability to paint any information that comes from these committee investigations as "partisan," and also on the hope that as the day recedes in time, the horror of it will as well.
Republicans will not listen to the urgency of 140 Democratic and Republican national security professionals and their former colleagues. They won't listen to the widow of a Capitol Police officer who died by suicide in the days after the insurrection.