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Sprinkles from the Left

The Left supports the commission, which they say is needed to create a record of facts and help develop reforms to prevent such an occurrence from ever happening again.

  • They argue that if the people responsible for provoking the January 6 riot – which, in their eyes, includes former President Trump – aren’t held accountable for their actions, there is no incentive for them not to do it again in the future.

The commission will “relitigate the past” — but not to persuade the unpersuadable. It will aim to present and share a thorough, factual account, and ideally help develop reforms to prevent something like this from happening again.

If some current and former governmental leaders continue pushing to portray Jan. 6 as anything but the unprecedented attack on Congress that it was, the government itself should try to set the record straight. The second impeachment of Donald Trump was one such effort, but a bipartisan committee has greater promise in restoring the public and future Americans’ confidence in their government and in the veracity of facts. It will be a much-needed reminder of the fact that Trump and his supporters remain entitled to their own opinions, but not to their own facts.

Michael Gerhardt; Burton Craige distinguished professor of jurisprudence at the University of North Carolina

At a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on Wednesday, several Republicans defended the rioters and faulted law enforcement. “Watching the TV footage of those who entered the Capitol and walked through Statuary Hall showed people in an orderly fashion staying between the stanchions and ropes, taking videos, pictures,” Rep. Andrew S. Clyde (R-Ga.) said.“You know, if you didn’t know the TV footage was a video from January the 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.” Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) accused federal law enforcement of “harassing peaceful patriots across the country” and said that police “executed” a woman when they shot her as she attempted to breach the Speaker’s Lobby. Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) lamented that “it was Trump supporters who lost their lives that day, not Trump supporters who were taking the lives of others”…

A commission may not stop some Republicans from denying facts, or many others from trying to avoid the subject entirely. But as it answers outstanding questions about how the riot occurred and who is responsible — in part, we hope, by taking the sworn testimony of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and other eyewitness lawmakers — the panel ought to make it harder for Republicans to twist the truth.

Editorial Board, Washington Post

[An] independent commission is essential. A commission’s report has the opportunity to establish the authoritative, fact-based narrative of what happened and why. Such a narrative won’t magically convince millions of people who are not interested in hearing the truth. But it could at least “narrow the range of permissible lies,” as the writer and politician Michael Ignatieff once said about truth commissions. It could provide concrete recommendations for Congress to adopt now, as a way to prevent the next Jan. 6…

This isn’t to say Congress has no role to play. Two Senate committees are already conducting bipartisan hearings on some of the security and intelligence failings surrounding the Capitol riot. Last week, a new report by the Capitol Police inspector general found that officers were told not to use more aggressive tactics to fend off the mob, even though there were warnings that violence was likely. The dozens of prosecutions of those who breached the Capitol or committed violence will also bring to light crucial information.

These are all-important details to get into the record, but by themselves they are far from sufficient. As the national security officials’ letter made clear, any thorough investigation into the events of Jan. 6 must dig much deeper, to address the complex interplay of threats that led into and out of that day: coordinated disinformation campaigns on Facebook and other social media; the money being funneled to extremist networks; the ongoing specter of white supremacist violence, which the Department of Homeland Security has identified as a top threat.

A commission addressing all of these issues could include a wider range of perspectives, too — not just former elected officials but also political scientists who study the rise and fall of democracies, as well as experts in cybersecurity, disinformation and counterterrorism…

It is critical to the future of the Republic that the truth of Jan. 6 be told, and that the bigger picture be understood. The worst possible outcome would be widespread public amnesia, which would guarantee that history would repeat — and next time, American democracy might not survive it.

Jesse Wegman, New York Times

Sprinkles from the Right

The Right generally opposes the commission, contending it will be used by Democrats to gain a partisan advantage by driving the narrative that the riots were a planned attempted coup.

  • Many argue that, while the commission would have equal representation from both parties, the way in which it is structured would give an outsized advantage to Democrats.

An independent commission could be useful if it answered outstanding questions and agreed on a common set of facts about events. The Capitol police and law enforcement haven’t been forthcoming with key details—such as the role the police played in letting rioters enter the building, or the circumstances of the killing of protester Ashli Babbitt, or what they know about who planned what…

But hidden in the fine print are tools empowering Democrats. The bill gives the chairman unilateral authority to demand information from federal agencies and appoint senior staff. “Thanks to powers invested in the Chairperson alone, the Democratically-appointed members would have significant control over the direction of the investigation” and the ability to stop GOP members from “engaging in mischief,” New York University law professor Ryan Goodman reassured a Washington Post writer.

Mr. McCarthy also wants the commission to address the political violence beyond Jan. 6—including the 2017 attack at a Republican baseball practice that almost killed Rep. Steve Scalise ; this year’s Good Friday murder of Capitol officer William Evans ; and attacks on a federal courthouse in Portland, Ore. But Democrats are opposed, and the broader the mandate the greater likelihood of discord.

Multiple investigations of the Jan. 6 events are already underway. The Justice Department has announced 445 arrests, and the Office of the Architect of the Capitol has been allocated $10 million to conduct a security review. Congressional committees, led by Democrats, have been holding hearings and will no doubt issue reports. Unless a commission could work together, its effort would be redundant.

It’s a shame to say it, but there isn’t enough shared trust in Washington these days to pull off a bipartisan inquiry on so polarized a subject. Mrs. Pelosi views the commission as a path to retain her majority, and Donald Trump will be cat-calling from the sidelines…

A commission will add more partisan heat than light, so better to let Congress and law enforcement do their job in regular order, and be held accountable for it.

Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

Another day, another federal warning about a looming threat to the republic. The wheel of fear has spun, once again, to “domestic terrorism,” that much-favored concern of politicians and national-security bureaucrats who want to keep us frightened and desperate to be saved. This isn’t to say there are no dangers in the world around us, but those risks pale in comparison to government officials seeking excuses to expand their power and who risk worsening the situation…

We live in a fragmented country whose residents are increasingly at odds—sometimes violently. But the people issuing warnings about “domestic terrorism” helped to create this situation. Rather than settle tensions, our would-be protectors are more likely to make them worse.

J.D. Tuccille, Reason

Some argue that “Everyone knows what happened on January 6, 2021: The United States Capitol was breached by Trump supporters who hoped to block Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s 2020 victory. Explaining why it happened is much harder, which is why America needs a January 6 Commission…

[None of the current criminal or congressional investigations] has universal jurisdiction to comprehensively evaluate the attack from a 360-degree perspective. And this full and complete picture is exactly the information that must be collected and made publicly available if future attacks on our elections—both in terms of disinformation and physical force—are to be prevented…

A bipartisan commission, with support from Republicans and Democrats both inside and outside Washington, might be our last best hope in terms of establishing any kind of baseline of truth about the 2020 presidential election before the next contests get underway.

Amanda Carpenter, The Bulwark