This has caused some hand-wringing about whether a “bipartisan” accounting into the attack is possible, one similar to that produced by the 9/11 Commission, the model for this one.
But it’s hard to see how a bipartisan accounting on the insurrection is possible, especially if it is going to include a full reckoning with Donald Trump’s role in it.
I’ve got new detail on what’s at issue in the argument over the commission, and it appears to involve the scope of what will be examined.
Republicans object to the commission
According to a senior Democratic aide, Republicans are objecting to a key demand by Democrats: that the commission have a very broad purpose.
Democrats sent Republicans some draft language that would define the commission’s purpose very broadly, to include an examination of everything that led to the attack and to the effort to interrupt the peaceful transfer of power, the aide says.
“It should be very broad, looking at all factors leading to what happened,” the aide told me.
But in response, McCarthy sent Pelosi a letter suggesting the language defining the purpose must have “no inclusion of findings or other predetermined conclusions,” the aide says.
This is frustrating Democrats, because their language did not suggest anything about predetermined conclusions, only that it should look at all factors leading to the attack, the aide tells me.
Democrats asked GOP leaders to provide their own suggested language defining the commission’s purpose, and have not received anything thus far, the aide continues. “You have to have a clear purpose,” the aide tells me. “Otherwise there’s no point to having the commission.”
A spokesperson for McCarthy noted that some of the Democrats’ proposed language in the commission legislation quotes findings recently reached by the FBI director and an intelligence threat assessment.
Those findings, among other things, are that domestic violence extremism is partly motivated by racism and that more future attacks may be partly inspired by “false narratives,” i.e., the lie that the election’s outcome was illegitimate. I was unable to determine why Republicans object to this. But all this points to where the real sticking point will likely lie.
Republicans can’t allow a full accounting
It’s hard to see Republicans permitting a full accounting that includes a look at the role that Trump’s weeks of incitement played in the attack, or at the role that the lies about the election’s illegitimacy played. After all, Republicans themselves spent weeks feeding those lies themselves.
This may be coloring another aspect of the dispute — over who will sit on the commission. Democrats have proposed an arrangement in which the four congressional leaders appoint two members each, with the White House choosing three more. That would mean seven Democrats and four Republicans.
But Republicans are insisting on equal representation. And this aspect of the dispute is drawing disapproval from the leaders of the 9/11 Commission, who say that an imbalance inevitably will taint the findings.
As one told Kyle Cheney, the only hope is to keep partisanship out of the new commission, which will be challenging, due to the “depth of the division and the poisonous toxicity that exists today.”
But “division” is not the problem. Republican radicalization is.
Take the demand for equal representation on the commission. That seems reasonable on the surface, but in this environment, after what just happened, the notion that we can have a commission of bipartisan wise men, all equally committed to a full reckoning for the public good, is just crazy.
The 9/11 Commission’s wise men say the new commission should reach outside Washington to find governors and others to serve. But who will Republicans pick? Can they choose anyone who wants a full accounting into Trump’s role — or into the role of the lie about the election — both of which have been cited as their inspiration by numerous people who stormed the Capitol?
Won’t picking people who want such an accounting be an immediate nonstarter among GOP leaders, most House Republicans and many conservative media figures?
Republicans are just too tied up in what happened themselves. They sustained Trump’s falsehoods about the election’s outcome for weeks, backing the Texas lawsuit to invalidate millions of votes in four other states and then voting to overturn President Biden’s electors in Congress.
On Monday, Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin declared that the rioters included “agents provocateurs” and “fake Trump protesters.” He was until recently the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, yet he’s offering utter nonsense in a serious congressional hearing about the attack.
Meanwhile, numerous state-level Republicans are censuring those diehard Republicans who dared to hold Trump to account for trying to incite the violent overthrow of U.S. democracy.
There may not be a good answer to how to proceed at this point. But no one should pretend the magical level of “bipartisanship” will get Republicans to ever willingly participate in a real accounting. The fact that Republicans are objecting to a broad definition of the commission’s purpose only underscores the point.