Pelosi Calls for Probe of Riot as Partisan Bitterness Simmers

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s call for an independent commission to investigate last month’s Capitol insurrection has some bipartisan support, yet the effort risks getting tangled in the bitter aftermath of former President Donald Trump’s impeachment over the deadly assault.

Pelosi said the commission would be modeled on the widely praised panel that probed the origins of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S. and the security failings that preceded it.

In a letter Monday to House Democrats, Pelosi said retired Army Lieutenant General Russel Honore has already been reviewing security needs and will continue to make proposals to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

“It is clear from his findings and from the impeachment trial that we must get to the truth of how this happened,” Pelosi wrote, without offering specifics on what Honore has reported so far. She said the next step will be to establish an outside panel to “investigate and report on the facts and causes relating to the January 6, 2021 domestic terrorist attack upon the United States Capitol Complex.”

Calls for a full investigation have gained urgency with the end of proceedings against Trump, who was accused of inciting the mob of his supports that stormed the Capitol as Congress prepared to certify the presidential election results. But such an inquiry also could track some of the same ground as the impeachment trial, in which Trump was acquitted after the Senate fell 10 votes short of the two-thirds majority required for a conviction. That is sure to spark a major conflict with Trump’s allies in Congress, who are seeking to put the spotlight on Pelosi’s role in Capitol security.

Political Fallout

Pelosi previously called for such an outside commission, and Republicans on the House Administration Committee introduced legislation to establish a bipartisan commission to investigate what they called a “domestic terrorist attack.”

At the same time, some of Trump supporters want focus on Pelosi’s actions before the riot, alleging that she bears some responsibility for failing to secure the Capitol.

Four House Republicans including Jim Jordan, the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, said Monday in a letter to Pelosi that she must answer questions about her responsibility for the outcome. They asked what security guidance her office gave the sergeant at arms before the riot and about delays getting Capitol Police reinforcements after they were overrun.

The letter also was signed by GOP Representatives Devin Nunes of California, Rodney Davis of Illinois and James Comer of Kentucky, who last month introduced the bill to establish a 10-member panel of experts outside of government selected by the House and Senate leadership of both parties.

The political fallout from the attack continues to reverberate, especially with Republicans divided between those who blame Trump and those who remain loyal to the former president. Some of the GOP senators who voted to find Trump guilty of the House’s impeachment charge, including Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Richard Burr of North Carolina, were censured by local party officials.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell voted to acquit Trump, a decision he detailed in a Wall Street Journal op-ed explaining that he holds the former president responsible for the Jan. 6 riot but believes the Constitution doesn’t allow for the impeachment of people who have left office.

Even some of Trump’s closest allies support calls for a bipartisan commission. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told Fox News Sunday that “we need a 9/11 commission to find out what happened and make sure it never happens again.” But he also paired Pelosi with Trump as the two major figures of such an investigation.

“Did Nancy Pelosi know on Jan. 5th that there was a threat to the Capitol? What did President Trump do after the attack?” Graham asked.

‘Trying to Deflect’

Pelosi’s spokesman, Drew Hammill, said the Republicans raising these questions “are trying to deflect responsibility for the Capitol attack from Donald Trump” and should ask similar questions of McConnell.

“As the target of an assassination attempt, the speaker knows all too well the importance of security at the Capitol and is focused on getting to the bottom of all issues facing the Capitol Complex and the events that led up to the insurrection,” he said.

Hammill said as commission details are being prepared, there is still no exact timing yet on advancing a spending bill to provide added security for lawmakers at the Capitol.

The Sept. 11 commission was created by Congress in 2002 “to prepare a full and complete account of the circumstances” of the terrorist attack carried out by al-Qaeda.

On Friday, the original leaders of the Sept. 11 Commission sent a letter to President Joe Biden and congressional leaders calling for an independent bipartisan investigation of the deadly assault on the Capitol.

“A full accounting of the events of January 6th and the identification of measures to strengthen the Congress can help our country heal,” Thomas Kean, the commission chair, and Lee Hamilton, the panel’s vice chair, wrote. They called for the investigation to have professional staff and the power to subpoena witnesses and documents.

“An investigation should establish a single narrative and set of facts to identify how the Capitol was left vulnerable, as well as corrective actions to make the institution safe again,” wrote Kean, a former Republican governor of New Jersey, and Hamilton, a former Democratic congressman from Indiana.

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