The Washington Post Sunday
The GOP and its lies about Jan. 6
We need a credible 1/6 commission.
THERE IS still much the country does not know about the Jan. 6 Capitol invasion, a national humiliation unmatched in modern times. Congress should impanel a commission to evenhandedly examine the lead-up, execution and response to the insurrection. This should be obvious. In today’s Washington, it is not.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) last week criticized a plan for a Jan. 6 commission offered by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), saying that any panel should have equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats, and that, if it takes any broader look at violent extremists, it should also consider political violence unrelated to the Capitol invasion — that is, unrest on the fringes of last summer’s racial justice protests. In normal circumstances, this situation would result in a deal: More Republicans would be added to the panel, and both sides would agree to exclude matters extraneous to the lead-up to, execution of and reaction to the Jan. 6 riot.
But there is an underlying problem: Huge swaths of the Republican Party remain devoted to lies about the 2020 election and its aftermath — the same sorts of fictions that inspired the Jan. 6 invaders. Dozens of GOP lawmakers are attending the Conservative Political Action Conference, a gathering devoted to questioning the 2020 election results. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) argued last week at a hearing on the insurrection that “fake Trump protesters” were responsible for Jan. 6. While other Republicans are less actively spreading disinformation, they are still failing to call out former president Donald Trump’s lies and put the blame for Jan. 6 where it belongs.
Many Republicans might think that antifa deserves just as much scrutiny, but this is not the proper forum. The Jan. 6 insurrection was a unique danger, an attack on the nation’s democratic system that breached the country’s seat of government, incited by those who sought to overturn a free and fair election.
Not all of those with R’s next to their names indulge Mr. Trump’s toxic lies. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) leads the charge to persuade Republicans to accept reality. Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) refuses to apologize for her insistence that the election was not rigged and for her vote to impeach Mr. Trump, saying last week that the former president should not again be the leader of the party.
But Mr. Kinzinger has already drawn a pro-Trump primary challenger. So has Ms. Cheney, and House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) threw her under the bus on Fox News on Thursday, accusing her of embracing “cancel culture” for repudiating Mr. Trump. It is not comforting to imagine a McCarthy pick on a Jan. 6 panel, wielding subpoena power.
In fact, it may be hard to find Republicans who have credibility with the base but could also serve on a fact-finding commission that would dispassionately consider the origins of Jan. 6, rooted as they are in Mr. Trump’s big election lie. This is Republicans’ fault, because they legitimized Mr. Trump’s lying in the weeks following the 2020 election.
It would be better to have no commission than to offer another forum for Republicans to cover for Mr. Trump, promote wild conspiracy theories, deny President Biden’s legitimacy, or draw false equivalences between Jan. 6 and other episodes of political violence.