Will Jan. 6 anniversary hit differently in the wake of House probe?
The second anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack has arrived just days after the House committee tasked with reviewing the Capitol riot capped its historic investigation, dropping its 800-plus-page report and releasing thousands of exhibits of raw evidence about the deadly event.
But even as the public understanding of what transpired that day has grown — with the panel highlighting the central role played by then-President Trump — observers differ on whether the committee’s work casts the anniversary in a different light.
“There’s definitely a reality of the fact that we do not have a consensus in this building, in the Capitol, of what happened that day and how meaningful that was to this country. That’s just such a shame that we can’t have a sense of shared truth,” said Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.), who made headlines after he stayed behind on Jan. 6, 2021, to help clean up the destruction left in the wake of the attack.
The report attempted to offer that sense of truth both to the public and to members of Congress. Its conclusion detailed a multipronged effort to keep Trump in power, one that spanned from the Justice Department to the halls of Congress to a pressure campaign on election officials across the country.
“Given the work that the committee did and we’ve now laid out to the American public, it’s very clear what happened. It wasn’t just the events of the day, which was obviously significant, but the plotting and the planning that went on extensively prior to that day to essentially overturn the U.S. government,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), who served on the committee.
“It’s pretty profound.”
Any reflections leading up to the anniversary, already sharply divided, have been tainted by the ongoing chaos in the House, with many of the figures central in objecting to the certification of votes in 2021 — including some subpoenaed by the select committee — now emerging as key players in the Republican battle over whether Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) should serve as the next Speaker.
“What goes round comes round. The right-wing habits of chaos and betrayal the GOP unleashed against the American Republic on Jan. 6 are now destroying Lincoln’s party. The sedition you feed is the sedition that feeds on you,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the Jan. 6 committee, wrote on Twitter this week.
Even for a day many watched unfold live on television, the committee unspooled new details about Trump’s plot to remain in power, including numerous indications he knew he lost the 2020 election.
“On Jan. 6 last year, the committee hadn’t yet shared any of its findings publicly. And then, in just the span of a year, the American public has learned a tremendous amount of information about the day itself, the lead-up to it — if you compare this anniversary to the last anniversary, it’s day and night,” said Sandeep Prasanna, an attorney in private practice who previously served as an investigative counsel to the select committee.
“That makes this anniversary hit in a way that’s more serious and somber. … We’re going into this anniversary with our eyes wide open about all of the challenges that we face because of the committee’s work.”
Democrats plan to gather at the White House Friday as President Biden awards medals to various individuals who resisted efforts to contest the election results both leading up to and on Jan. 6, a group that includes election officials and law enforcement officers.
And House Democrats plan to gather in front of the Capitol in remembrance of the officers who lost their lives in the wake of the insurrection, as well as to honor those injured during the attack.
McCarthy’s office did not respond to a request for comment about any plans for the anniversary.
Still, some in the GOP also emphasized the significance of the date.
“I think we ought to be pausing on that day and not letting it just become another date on the calendar, but a date that changed America forever,” said Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.).
House Republicans have also released their own rebuttal report, focusing on what they see primarily as a major security failure to protect the Capitol.
“My views haven’t really changed. I didn’t object. I don’t think Congress can overturn the will of the states,” said Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), who on Jan. 6 posted a video asking Trump to call the riot off.
“I still think there are unanswered questions about why security was so lax around the Capitol.”
But remembrance plans and any reflection on the weight of evidence brought forward by the Jan. 6 committee have been largely overshadowed by the repeated votes held to determine the next Speaker.
“What’s really striking to me is how anticlimactic it feels,” said Quinta Jurecic, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and a senior editor at Lawfare who has been closely following the committee’s work.
“I do think that the committee was really extraordinarily effective in uncovering evidence that Trump really did know that he lost and was central in organizing the events that led up to Jan. 6, that he intended to walk to the Capitol himself — there’s a lot of new evidence in the report on that front. And so that, I think, is really notable insofar as how we’re thinking about Trump’s accountability,” Jurecic said.
“But certainly from the point of view of being in the Capitol … we’ve come a long way and yet in a certain sense, we’re back where we started.”
The committee’s work, of course, was never squarely directed at Congress, its prime-time kickoff a clear sign it hoped to reach a broad swath of the American public. The panel would later decide to hold subsequent hearings during the day, an effort to reach Fox News viewers after the network opted not to suspend its own evening programming to cover the hearings.
Still, its subpoenas to five GOP members of Congress asking about numerous meetings with Trump White House staff to coordinate plans to reject the certification of votes made clear that legislation would need to address problems within the body itself in order to prevent future insurrections.
“What we’re seeing with the continuing chaos on the House Republican side is that thank goodness we don’t have to certify the Electoral College results right now, because we couldn’t do that because we’re not even sworn in,” said Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.).
“The American people have to ask themselves two years from now, would they really want a Republican majority in control with all this chaos that they’re showing? And so, I want people to think about that as well on Jan. 6.”
Some Republicans are also lamenting the hectic start to the new Congress.
“My first term started off with January 6. Now we’re starting off with this,” said Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.).
“Nothing has changed. I mean, it’s still the status quo up here.”
Kim said while the report is an important public record, he’s frustrated that some colleagues appear ultimately unaffected by a day they experienced themselves.
“Frankly, every single one of us, we were here that day. Like, we all know what happened. We didn’t need a report for our own purposes to understand where culpability was and challenges there. So, it’s sad in that way that we’re at a point now where people’s understanding about Jan. 6 here on the Capitol is for many people removed from the reality and truth of what happened,” he said.
“But it’s important for the American people to have that deeper understanding. And I hope that they are not afflicted by the same kind of partisan veil that so many people here in this building are.”
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