Why labeling domestic extremists 'terrorists' could backfire
Conspiracies? Let's investigate this one
In this age of the American conspiracy theory, there is one that should be fully investigated before the final impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump begins: Was there any coordination between the leaders of the attempted coup and anyone in the administration or with anyone - members or staff - in Congress before the attack on Jan. 6 to overturn a national election?
Was the attempted coup a conspiracy or a spontaneous event? Only a thorough investigation by independent investigators can determine the truth.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) should delay the impeachment trial until these fundamental questions are answered.
The nation needs a competent government in place now that can deal with Trump's mismanagement of the pandemic, among other critical national issues. Suspending Trump's second trial until more facts are known about the Jan. 6 disaster would give the Biden team time to establish a capable government to tackle the enormous problems before them.
Biden should focus on governance and let independent legal authorities and investigators do their jobs.
Thanks to the efforts of the small band of law enforcement officers and later reinforcements, the terrorists failed. It must never happen again.
Those responsible for Capitol security failed in their most basic job and have been removed from their position. Congress must be protected as a fundamental element of this country's democracy. A new security team with adequate resources and layers of protection for the Capitol must be put in place.
The American terrorists who attacked the U.S. Congress on Trump's behalf while Congress was performing its constitutional responsibility were no doubt propelled by the false conspiracy theory spread by President Trump that the election was "stolen."
Trump's big lie that he was cheated in the 2020 national election was investigated, votes were recounted, and judges around the nation - including Trump appointees - rejected the president's argument. But Trump never accepted the result - and called his supporters to action to block the results of the vote that would oust him from power.
The circumstances surrounding the coup attempt deserve an exhaustive criminal investigation to determine if the attack on American Democracy was much more planned - and whether that planning involved anyone who's taken an oath of office.
The potential advance reconnaissance of the Congress on Jan. 5 is an indicator that there may have been extensive pre-planning - possibly with the help of someone inside the Capitol.
Several important questions need to be answered:
- Who were the leaders of the attempted coup?
- Did members of Congress or their employees knowingly enable advanced reconnaissance or otherwise assist those involved in the attack before it happened?
- Was anyone in the White House involved in coordination with members of Congress on the attack before the event?
- Did any member of the White House staff or others in the administration talk to leaders of the attack before or during the coup attempt?
- Was there any political influence on the security arrangement for the Capitol by members of Congress or the administration before or during the events on Jan. 6?
- Was there coordination between groups leading and promoting attacks on the capital?
- What were the specific objectives of the coup leaders?
President Biden should stay away from this investigation to focus on the issues before him. Separately, the incoming Justice Department should launch an intensive special investigation into the details of how the Jan. 6 assault on American Democracy happened and specifically who was involved.
The bulk of the demonstrators on Jan. 6 were almost certainly misguided Trump supporters who swallowed the president's big lie of election fraud, mixing it in with previous consumption of QAnon garbage and internet hate.
But images of the attack suggest that it was not entirely spontaneous, that it included a hard core of attackers hell-bent on stopping the election of Joe Biden as president - and possibly on assassinating the Vice President Pence, Speaker Pelosi, and others.
Video images, phone and internet records and interviews should be able to determine the facts quickly.
Rather than let the theorists of conspiracies occupy the debate, the coup attempt on Jan. 6 deserves an urgent detailed, professional investigation into how this happened and who was involved in leading and directing it. Let's get facts not theories on how this happened and precisely who was involved.
James W. Pardew is a former U.S. ambassador to Bulgaria and career Army intelligence officer. He has served as deputy assistant secretary-general of NATO and is the author of "Peacemakers: American Leadership and the End of Genocide in the Balkans."