Republicans block independent probe of US Capitol riot

Political fallout fears for Republican congressional candidates aligned with former President Trump.

Some Trump supporters had threatened to hang Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence when they stormed the US Capitol on January 6 [File: Shay Horse/NurPhoto via Getty Images]

Republicans in the United States Senate blocked a proposal to establish an independent commission to probe the January 6 attack by Trump supporters on the US Capitol.

A proposed bill, which seeks to create a commission modelled on the one that investigated the 2001 al-Qaeda attacks, failed a key procedural vote on Friday.

“We all know what’s going on here. Senate Republicans chose to defend the ‘Big Lie’ because they feared that anything that might upset Donald Trump could hurt them politically,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said after Friday’s vote.

On Thursday, Schumer pinned the riot directly on Trump saying, “Rather than accept the results of the election and support the peaceful transfer of power … former President Trump unabashedly lied, repeatedly, about the results of the election and fomented an armed rebellion, an armed rebellion at the United States Capitol.”

Republicans said they feared the commission was aimed at discrediting former President Trump and would be politically damaging for their party leading into the 2022 congressional elections.

“I’ve been clear and unflinching in my statements about January the 6th,” said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.

“There’s no new fact about that day we need the Democrats’ extraneous commission to uncover,” said McConnell who characterised the proposed commission as a partisan effort to tarnish former President Donald Trump.

The proposed commission would investigate the events of January 6, when hundreds of Trump supporters rampaged through the US Capitol as members of Congress met to formally ratify President Joe Biden’s 2020 election win.

It would be tasked with looking into the security and intelligence failures that led to the breach as well as influencing factors, including Trump’s role. The panel would be directed to release a final report by December 31.

Legislation establishing the commission passed the Democratic-led House of Representatives with support from 35 rank-and-file Republicans last week. The bill needed 60 votes in the Senate but only gained 54 with 35 Republicans opposed.

The bill would provide equal standing for Republicans and Democrats on a 10-member commission. But it failed to win support from Republican leaders and Trump loyalists.

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Trump supporter and adherent to the former president’s conspiracy claims, warned fellow Republicans last week against supporting the commission.

“What’s going to happen with the January 6th commission is the media is going to use this to smear Trump supporters and President Trump for the next few years,” she said in remarks to the House.

Democrats have blamed Trump for inciting insurrection in the attack. The former president had promoted a rally of his supporters to occur on the same day Congress was set to ratify Biden’s election as president.

In a fiery speech to the assembled crowd, Trump claimed the election had been stolen through fraud and urged rally-goers to march on the Capitol.

The bill was supported by four moderate Republicans Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, Rob Portman and Mitt Romney. Democrats expressed frustration at the opposition to a bipartisan public inquiry.

“The brave law enforcement officers who stopped this attack and every American who watched in real time as our free and fair democratic process was attacked, they deserve answers and accountability,” said Senator Gary Peters, a Democrat.

Gladys Sicknick, the mother of deceased Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who died after battling rioters, had implored Republican senators in the days leading up to the vote to support the commission.

She called the Senate’s failure to establish an independent commission “a slap in the faces of all the officers who did their jobs that day”, according to a report in the Politico news outlet.

Some 440 people have been arrested in connection January 6 breach of the Capitol, according to the FBI which is continuing to seek others identified in videos of the mob.

In addition to the Justice Department probes, several committees of Congress are investigating and with Senate defeat of an independent commission there will be calls for a select congressional committee.

The co-chairs of the 9/11 Commission, former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean and Representative Lee Hamilton, who led the investigation into the September 11 attacks, last week offered their support for the proposed commission.

“Americans deserve an objective and an accurate account of what happened,” Kean and Hamilton had said.

Source: Al Jazeera