The Washington Post

The unanswered questions of Jan. 6

A Senate probe omits root causes — including Mr. Trump’s role.


THE FIRST major report into Jan. 6 provides new and nauseating details of the intelligen­ce failures, miscommuni­cations and security lapses that left the Capitol vulnerable to attack. But it doesn’t break much new ground. The limited scope of the congressio­nal inquiry and the appalling lack of cooperatio­n from key agencies leave many unanswered questions and once again underscore the importance of having an independen­t commission explore all aspects of that terrible day.

The 127-page report released Tuesday, the product of more than three months of investigat­ion by the Senate Rules and Homeland Security committees, is a damning account of the failures of the Capitol Police and partner agencies to prepare for the “Stop the Steal” protest by supporters of President Donald Trump. “Get violent . . . stop calling this a march, or rally, or a protest. Go there ready for war . . .” was one exhortatio­n posted in an online thread on Jan. 5, one of many that went unheeded by law enforcemen­t authoritie­s. “The attack,” as Sen. Gary Peters (D-mich.) said, “was quite frankly planned in plain sight.”

If there were any need for further evidence of its fecklessne­ss, the Capitol Police’s response to the report was a statement insisting that law enforcemen­t officials had no way of knowing that the rally would turn into a violent assault.

The two committees narrowed the scope of their investigat­ion to “security, planning, and response failures” by law enforcemen­t; their recommenda­tions for fortifying Capitol security track the findings of a review commission­ed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D- Calif.). Left unexamined are the causes of the insurrecti­on, including Mr. Trump’s promotion of the lie that the election was stolen and his appeals to his supporters to gather in D.C. on the day Congress was set to certify President Biden’s victory.

As The Post’s Aaron Blake reported, the report’s unresolved contradict­ions in testimony underscore the limits of what Congress can produce. A host of questions remain unanswered: Why, for example, did Mr. Trump tell acting defense secretary Christophe­r Miller on the afternoon of Jan. 5 that 10,000 troops were going to be needed the following day? Who was supposed to be in charge of security that day, and why, five months later, do we still not know? Why was there only limited cooperatio­n in this Senate inquiry from the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and the House sergeant-at-arms?

At least seven congressio­nal committees are investigat­ing aspects of the Jan. 6 attack, and Ms. Pelosi might appoint a select committee. Those inquiries inevitably will be hampered by some of the factors that limited these two Senate committees. A definitive account of what happened Jan. 6 will require a commission of experts with full subpoena powers. Republican­s who have blocked it need to start thinking about the future of the country they are sworn to serve.

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