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Opinion A cop’s anger at GOP lies about Jan. 6 should put Republicans on the defensive

Michael Fanone, an officer with the D.C. police who helped fend off rioters. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

As the despicable GOP whitewashing of the Jan. 6 insurrection continues apace, House Democrats are set to force a vote on the creation of a commission to examine the assault.

If you want to see why this should throw Republicans on the defensive, watch two videos. The first video shows D.C. police officer Michael Fanone angrily telling CNN that this GOP whitewashing is made up of “lies” and “bulls--t,” and that it’s “disgraceful.”

The second video shows Rep. Andrew S. Clyde (R-Ga.) smugly refusing to back down from his widely circulated suggestion that Jan. 6 was akin to a “normal tourist visit.”

In a surprising bit of good news, House Democrats just announced a bipartisan deal on the makeup of the commission to scrutinize the attack. It was negotiated between the Democratic and Republican leaders of the Homeland Security Committee.

Predictably, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) immediately said he hadn’t agreed to the deal. What’s still unclear is how many Republicans will support it. The bill will pass in the Democratic-controlled House, but it will also need GOP support in the Senate, since it could theoretically be filibustered.

What’s in the deal over the commission

Perhaps the most important thing is that it focuses the scope of the commission on “the facts and causes” related to the Jan. 6 attack and to “the interference with the peaceful transfer of power.” It will also look at the “influencing factors” that “fomented” this attack.

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Importantly, it describes Jan. 6 as a “domestic terrorist attack” waged against “American representative democracy.” That counters the GOP whitewash effort by framing the mission around the need to explore the deep radicalization that led to an effort to overthrow U.S. democracy itself.

Republicans wanted to obscure this. They wanted the commission to also look at allegedly widespread leftist violence, including protests against police brutality. Their aim was to bury the role of right-wing radicalization in driving us into crisis, and the active efforts by President Donald Trump and Republicans to feed and exploit that radicalization.

They appear to have lost that battle for now. But there are still questions about the makeup. It will have five members appointed by Democratic congressional leaders — including the chair — and five by GOP leaders. No current elected officials are allowed, which keeps away House Republicans who’d sabotage the inquiry.

Still, it’s unclear who Republicans would appoint. Subpoenas require a majority of the commission, or an agreement between the chair and vice chair (picked by Republicans), so Republicans might be able to block uncomfortable subpoenas.

But the chair alone has the power to secure relevant information from federal agencies, and to appoint senior staff, which should give Democrats some real control.

“Thanks to powers invested in the Chairperson alone, the Democratically-appointed members would have significant control over the direction of the investigation,” New York University law professor Ryan Goodman told me, adding that this would help prevent GOP-appointed members from “engaging in mischief.”

“The Chairperson would be able to move ahead quickly with getting information from the government without needing a vote,” Goodman continued, noting that the chair can “appoint staff” who would help “shape how the investigation and hearings unfold.”

Time to put Republicans on defense

The next step is for House Democrats to hold a vote on this right away. This could put Republicans on the defensive.

That’s because, as a senior House GOP lawmaker told Punchbowl News, as many as 20 Republicans might be willing to support it. And if the proposal did pass the House with bipartisan support, Punchbowl reports, a bloc of GOP senators might also support it, scuttling any effort to block it. It’s also possible Senate and House GOP leaders will accept the deal. We’ll see.

The bottom line is this: Broadly speaking, Republicans want to bury some fundamental truths. Many of them actually did go all in with Trump’s effort to overturn the election. They actually did sustain his lies about our political system’s ability to render legitimate democratic outcomes.

That deception campaign actually did help inspire the deadly mob violence. Trump actually did incite that violence for the express purpose of disrupting the peaceful transfer of power.

This is why Republicans such as Clyde are likening Jan. 6 to a “tourist visit.” It’s why other Republicans have said the rioters were “peaceful patriots,” that there’s no proof they were Trump supporters, that the real problem is leftist violence and that Trump didn’t incite them.

When Clyde was pressed by reporters on this Thursday, he smirked and dissembled and regarded his questioners with utter contempt, as if he’s entirely untouchable in his ability to rewrite the history of what we all saw with our own eyes.

‘It’s disgraceful'

Which brings us to Fanone. CNN obtained extraordinary footage from Fanone’s body cam that shows him under assault, screaming in pain and pleading for help. At one point he yelled: “I got kids!”

When Fanone was interviewed by CNN on Thursday night, he was scalding about the GOP efforts to rewrite the history of Jan. 6.

“I don’t expect anybody to give two s--ts about my opinions,” Fanone said. “But I will say this: Those are lies. And peddling that bulls--t is an assault on every officer that fought to defend the Capitol. It’s disgraceful.”

This hints at how a real inquiry could look to the American people. Perhaps Republicans will oppose such an inquiry; perhaps they will not. But right now, the truth is overwhelming the lies. And that’s only going to continue, no matter what Republicans do.

Read more:

Greg Sargent: The great Trump whitewash is underway. Kevin McCarthy’s big lie confirms it.

Colbert I. King: How do Trump’s perpetrators and bystanders stay silent?

Jennifer Rubin: Republicans don’t just lie to voters. They lie to themselves.

Kathleen Parker: For the GOP, the only acceptable truth is a lie

Charlie Dent, Mary Peters, Denver Riggleman, Michael Steele and Christine Todd Whitman: The GOP has lost its way. Fellow Americans, join our new alliance.