Amid partisan acrimony, the first hearing of the Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol will convene Tuesday.
The panel investigating the Capitol riot has seven Democrats and two Republicans—all appointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
The original plan was that Pelosi would name eight members and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., would name five. However, when Pelosi rejected two Republican appointees in a highly unusual move, McCarthy pulled the others as well.
Law enforcement officials are scheduled to provide testimony on the opening day about what they saw Jan. 6 as pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol.
Set to testify are Harry Dunn and Aquilino Gonell, officers with the U.S. Capitol Police, as well as Michael Fanone and Daniel Hodges, officers with the Metropolitan Police Department.
Over the weekend, Pelosi appointed Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois to join Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming as the only two Republicans on the panel.
Both lawmakers were among 10 House GOP members who voted to impeach outgoing President Donald Trump in January, accusing him of inciting the crowd to insurrection during his speech Jan. 6.
Democrats reportedly will allow Cheney to deliver opening remarks Tuesday, along with committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., as a way of making the committee appear more bipartisan.
Thompson is also chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. Though not known for bucking the party line, Thompson was the only House Democrat to vote against a sweeping federal takeover of elections that would ban most state voter ID laws and expand ballot harvesting, among other things. The legislation is considered the top priority of House Democrats.
Pelosi rejected McCarthy’s appointment of Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Jim Banks of Indiana to the select committee, which likely will undermine any possibility of the public accepting its eventual report as credible, said Fred Fleitz, president of the Washington-based nonprofit Center for Security Policy.
“Select committees are the proper way to investigate issues, not outsourcing to ‘blue ribbon commissions,’ because the members of Congress can be held accountable,” Fleitz told The Daily Signal in a phone interview.
“But the idea that the House speaker would veto minority members sets a precedent that future speakers could follow,” added Fleitz, whose career included national security roles at the White House, the CIA, and the Defense Intelligence Agency. “This will not be bipartisan. The committee will not have legitimacy in the eyes of the public.”
The panel will examine a mob’s breach of the Capitol as lawmakers went through the process of certifying the electoral votes that would cement Joe Biden’s victory over Trump for the presidency.
“One year into the devastation of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln sent a message to Congress, imploring members to join as one to save the union,” Pelosi wrote.
“Six months since the Jan. 6 insurrection, we, too, have such a responsibility, as the Congress and country face a time of challenge that is no less daunting for the fate of our democracy,” Pelosi added. “We have the duty, to the Constitution and the country, to find the truth of the January 6th insurrection and to ensure that such an assault on our democracy cannot again happen.”
McCarthy countered that Pelosi had named lawmakers who share her preconceived narrative of what happened that day while Trump was finishing a speech on the Ellipse not far from the Capitol.
“The speaker has structured this select committee to satisfy her political objectives,” McCarthy said in a public statement. “She had months to work with Republicans on a reasonable and fair approach to get answers on the events and security failures surrounding Jan. 6.”
Two other members of the select committee are widely known for their roles in Trump’s two impeachments by Pelosi’s House.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. He also led the team of House impeachment managers in the 2020 Senate impeachment trial of Trump. In that case, the Senate acquitted the 45th president on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Another select committee member, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., led the team of impeachment managers in Trump’s second Senate trial early this year, when the Senate acquitted him on the charge of inciting an insurrection.
The other Democrats on the select committee are Reps. Zoe Lofgren and Pete Aguilar, both of California; Stephanie Murphy of Florida; and Elaine Luria of Virginia.
“Let me be clear, I’m a Republican dedicated to conservative values, but I swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution—and while this is not the position I expected to be in or sought out, when duty calls, I will always answer,” Kinzinger, one of the two Republicans, said in a public statement.
In June, the Senate Rules and Administration Committee and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee issued a joint bipartisan report that found the FBI and Department of Homeland Security didn’t warn of potential threats Jan. 6; that Capitol Police were not prepared to respond to those threats; and that a lack of emergency authority delayed the response of the National Guard.
Beyond a security and intelligence failure, there may be little else for the select committee to probe regarding a protest that got out of control, said Curt Levey, president of the Committee for Justice, a Washington-based conservative legal group.
“To call this a plot that threatened democracy defies credulity. There was no scenario where 800 people could swarm the Capitol and prevent Biden from becoming president,” Levey told The Daily Signal in a phone interview.
Levey cited the violent riots across the United States last summer, many of them instigated by the extremist groups Black Lives Matter and Antifa.
“Too many people ask whether the Jan. 6 insurrection or the BLM protests is worse,” Levey said. “It’s not about better or worse. We have a long [history] in this country of political protests becoming violent.”
He referenced anarchists bombings as an example.
“When it crosses the line from peaceful to violent, law enforcement has dealt with it. That’s the answer,” Levey said. “The answer is not a circus committee to make a point about Trump.”
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