House

Pelosi: Jan. 6 commission must focus only on insurrection

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that she’s yielded to certain GOP demands surrounding the creation of a 9/11-style commission to investigate the Jan. 6 rampage at the Capitol, but she’s sticking to at least one Democratic stipulation: the probe, she said, must focus on that singular event.

“The scope is what is important,” she said during a press briefing in the Capitol.

Since the Capitol attack, leaders of both parties, in both chambers, have endorsed the concept of creating an independent commission consisting of outside experts to investigate the episode. Yet they’ve been at odds over at least three aspects of the panel: its composition, its powers to subpoena witnesses and the breadth of its inquiry.   

Three months after the attack, there is still no agreement.

Pelosi this week conceded on the first two points. She scrapped her initial proposal to empower Democrats with choosing seven of the 11 commission members, trimming the number to eight panelists with each party choosing four. And she amended her initial proposal governing witnesses, requiring both the chair and the vice chair — or a simple majority of the evenly split panel — to endorse subpoenas before they’re issued.

On the third point, however, she’s digging in, dismissing the Republicans’ insistence that the commission should examine not only the attack of Jan. 6, but also other episodes of political violence over the last year, including those surrounding the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests that took place following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“If we can come to agreement on the first two, why would they object to the scope — which is to find the truth of what happened on Jan 6, when an insurrection descended upon the Capitol?” she asked. “Our purpose is to find the truth for that. It’s not about investigating one thing or another that they may want to draw into this.” 

The impasse highlights the highly political nature of the attack on Jan. 6. 

Unlike the terrorist attacks of 9/11, which were orchestrated by foreign adversaries and united Congress and the country, the Capitol rampage was conducted by supporters of then-President Trump, who had embraced his false claims that President Biden’s victory was a fraud and marched on the Capitol — at Trump’s request — to overturn his defeat. 

Republicans have downplayed Trump’s role in the violent attack, with some floating the idea that the rioters were not Trump supporters at all, but leftist activists disguised as Republicans.

Republicans are wary that Pelosi and the Democrats intend to use the independent investigative commission as a political tool to bash Trump and his GOP allies. They’re demanding that the probe also look into the BLM protests, which included sporadic episodes of looting and violence in cities around the country. 

“If you’re going to have a commission, you should look at the whole broad spectrum,” Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters in the Capitol, shortly after Pelosi spoke. “We just went through a whole summer of riots throughout this city. We should grasp that, as well.”

McCarthy said there’s another hurdle blocking the formation of the Jan. 6 commission: Pelosi, he said, hasn’t sent him her revised proposal outlining its formation.

“I have gotten nothing from her; Leader McConnell has received nothing from her,” McCarthy said. “She was even in my office yesterday. She could have dropped the letter off — nothing from her. 

“So I’m not quite sure who she’s talking to or what she’s talking about.”

McCarthy said any potential deal with Democrats is “still a long way away.”

“If anything’s gonna happen,” he said, “she’s gonna have to talk to us.”

Pelosi, asked about the Republicans’ claim that they’ve not heard from her recently, largely sidestepped the question.

“Some Republicans have. Don’t you worry about that. Don’t you worry about that,” she said. “One step at a time.”

Scott Wong contributed. 

Tags 9/11-style commission Capitol breach Capitol insurrection Donald Trump Jan. 6 commission Joe Biden Kevin McCarthy Nancy Pelosi
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