USA: Republican Opposition to A Jan. 6 Commission Could Be A Blessing in Disguise ? – Opinion

The House of Representatives on May 19 voted to establish a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. (U.S. House of Representatives)

  Max Boot | The Washington Post

ANOTHER WEEK, another milestone in the GOP’s transformation into an authoritarian party — an American version of Poland’s Law and Justice, Hungary’s Fidesz, or Turkey’s Justice and Development.

LAST WEEK, it was the ouster of Liz Cheney (Wyo.) from the No. 3 spot in Republican House leadership because she refused to go along with the “big lie” that the election was stolen from former president Donald Trump.   

THIS WEEK, it’s the decisions of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to oppose the formation of a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. 

The stated reasons for the GOP opposition to a 1/6 Commission are incoherent and implausible. BOTH Republican leaders denounced the commission as a partisan Democratic plot. McCarthy accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) of not negotiating “in good faith” and wasting “time playing political games”. McConnell chimed in to accuse House Democrats of having “handled this proposal in partisan bad faith going back to the beginning.”

This will play well on Fox “News” but, like much of what the right says these days, it simply is not so. The bill to establish a January 6 commission was negotiated in good faith between Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, and the ranking Republican member, Rep. John Katko (N.Y.).

The proposed version of the 1/6 Commission is scrupulously bipartisan with five members, including the chair, appointed by Democratic leaders, and five members, including the vice chair, appointed by Republican leaders.

While the chairman would be allowed to appoint senior staff members and demand information from the federal government, the panel could only issue subpoenas if both the chair and vice chair agreed, or if a majority of the members voted to do so. The bill also set Dec. 31 as a deadline to issue a report — far too little time to litigate subpoenas if potential witnesses – such as Trump and McCarthy – refuse to voluntarily testify.

Even if this bill were passed — which now appears unlikely — it would have still allowed considerable room for Republican obstructionism if all of the GOP-appointed commissioners voted in lockstep. There would have been nothing to stop McCarthy and McConnell from appointing rabid Trumpkins for precisely this purpose. Imagine if, say, former Trump White House aide Stephen Miller were the vice chair.

That McConnell and McCarthy are opposing even this balanced approach suggests they are intent on simply covering up what was arguably the worst attack on American democracy since the Civil War. BOTH Republicans, while voting not to impeach Trump, also strongly indicted him.

Just days after the assault, McCarthy said: “The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters.” McConnell later called Trump’s conduct “a disgraceful dereliction of duty.” 

BUT NOW, THE REPUBLICAN LEADERS HAVE BECOME TRUMP’S COLLABORATORS IN A COVERUP. Without a thorough investigation, we will never learn exactly what Trump did prior to, and during, the riot. There was a gap of three hours and 19 minutes between the time Capitol Police requested military assistance and the time when the military was finally ordered to respond. Was Trump responsible for the delay? What did the president know and when did he know it? 

And what about the role of Republican members of Congress in fomenting this insurrection? We know the disgraceful things they have said in public. For example, Rep. Paul A. Gosar (Ariz.) accused Democrats of staging a “coup d’état” and told his followers: “Be ready to defend the Constitution and the White House.” But what links did GOP members of Congress have behind-the-scenes with the insurrectionists? 

These are only a few of the many questions that remain unanswered despite ongoing congressional hearings and law enforcement investigations. McConnell and McCarthy must be concerned that the answers would prove embarrassing to their party. But Democrats can get the truth out by following the example that Republicans themselves set. 

In 2014, the Republican House majority voted to create a select committee to investigate the Benghazi attack — a terrorist assault that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans. Republicans treated this as a scandal akin to Iran-contra or Watergate — largely, as McCarthy later boasted, because they wanted to hurt the presidential prospects of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The committee was heavily stacked for the majority party: It had seven Republican members and only five Democrats. Republicans were able to do what they wanted — and they did. The Benghazi Committee spent 2½ years and $7.8 million in its investigation — AND STILL DID NOT FIND ANY WRONGDOING BY CLINTON. 

THE REPUBLICAN REFUSAL TO AGREE TO THE BIPARTISAN 1/6 COMMISSION BILL COULD ACTUALLY BE A BLESSING IN DISGUISE.

It will free Pelosi to set up a January 6 Select Committee in which Democrats will be more firmly in charge — as Republicans were on the Benghazi committee.

The Benghazi investigation was a political stunt, but this investigation is deadly serious. We must get a full accounting of the events of Jan. 6 despite Republican attempts to bury the truth. If we do, Republicans may come to regret their opposition to the bipartisan 1/6 Commission.

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