Editorial: Pelosi’s right. A commission should investigate the attack on the Capitol
The Senate impeachment trial that ended in Donald J. Trump’s unjust acquittal established convincingly that the former president bore responsibility for the deadly attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6 by his supporters. But questions remain about the origins of the attack, the apparent failure of security officials to prepare adequately for it and the response once the Capitol was breached.
For those reasons, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was right on Monday to call for an independent commission to investigate the attack, its origins and its aftermath. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) is supporting the idea as well.
Various congressional committees have already launched investigations into the events of Jan. 6, but — like the impeachment process — it will be difficult to keep partisanship out of those inquiries. A better instrument would be an independent commission created by Congress with distinguished members from across the political spectrum that would sift evidence about the origins and aftermath of the attack and the conduct of public officials, including but not limited to Trump and congressional leaders.
Among the questions to be answered: Did the warnings about a looming attack on the Capitol go unnoticed or unheeded? Did the police guarding the Capitol make choices that aided the rioters, inadvertently or not? Were the rioters helped by members of Congress or their staffs?
Plenty of fingers are already being pointed. Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund told the Washington Post that he had sought permission from House and Senate security officials on Jan. 4 to ask the D.C. National Guard to stand by. Sund said he was turned down and that the House sergeant-at-arms expressed discomfort about the “optics” of declaring an emergency before the demonstrations took place.
On Monday four House Republicans, including Trump favorites Jim Jordan of Ohio and Devin Nunes of Tulare, wrote to Pelosi saying that “many important questions about your responsibility for the security of the Capitol remain unanswered.” Another Republican, Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, made the idiotic observation in an interview that the attack on the Capitol “didn’t seem like an armed insurrection to me.”
Fortunately, there are signs of bipartisan support for a bipartisan commission empaneled by Congress. Even Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally and apologist, said Trump’s behavior after the election was “over the top” and that the country needs a 9/11-style commission “to find out what happened and make sure it never happens again.” President Biden also supports creation of a commission, his press secretary said on Tuesday.
Mercifully, the siege of the Capitol by pro-Trump fanatics was not as deadly as the 9/11 attack, but in its own way it was just as shocking: an attempt by domestic terrorists to try to overturn the results of an election. It too demands a dispassionate and far-reaching investigation.
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