- Did the president or anyone in the White House communicate with the organizers of the rally that took place before violence broke out?
- Who were the organizers? Who paid for buses to get insurrectionists to the event?
- Which social media platforms were used to organize the event?
- Did those social media messages violate the terms of usage for the applicable platform?
- What traditional media was enlisted to gin up the insurrection?
- How many members of the military, law enforcement or state or local officials were involved in the insurgence? What is the extent of white supremacist radicalization of the organizations in which they worked?
- Who were the violent insurgents? Where did they come from, what characteristics do they share and what motivates them?
- Did any members of Congress have communications with the insurrectionists? Who were they, and what role — if any — did they play?
- What was the president doing after the riot began?
- Who contacted the president during the time of the attack? What requests or demands were made for him to call off his supporters? What did he say? Who witnessed these communications? Did he prevent any law enforcement entity from responding in a timely fashion?
- What is the definitive timeline for Jan. 6?
- What did Vice President Mike Pence know about the Jan. 6 event? What did he know about efforts to target him for refusing to steal the election? Was he requested to commit election fraud/overthrow the election results?
- What errors did the FBI make? The Capitol Police? The D.C. police?
- What was the volume and effectiveness of messages perpetrating the “big lie” that the election was stolen?
- What is a complete list of people killed or injured?
- What was the extent of the trauma inflicted on those who experienced the Capitol invasion? What resources were available to them?
Likewise, we are badly in need of recommendations to avoid future incidents:
- How do we defend the Capitol without compromising public access to their seat of government?
- How do we track, understand and stop violent insurrectionists?
- Do we need new laws or resources to root out domestic terrorism? What are the privacy and First Amendment considerations?
- How do we ensure that the presidential transition process goes forward despite fanciful claims of a “stolen election”? Do we need changes to the Presidential Transition Act?
- What mental health and other services should be made available after an incident such as this?
- How do we shore up trust in the electoral system?
- What tools to fight disinformation do we need?
- What changes should social media platforms consider?
It is useful to list these items both to understand the ludicrous nature of Republicans’ opposition and to explain why they are so deathly afraid of an independent inquiry. For starters, a fair inquest would undercut some central beliefs of the current GOP — that the election was stolen, that the former president is not responsible for anything bad.
It would also compel testimony not only from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), but also the former president and vice president, former Trump administration figures, members of Congress and their staffs, Capitol Police officers and other law enforcement officials, many of whom will provide damning evidence. Should McCarthy or others refuse to appear or refuse to answer questions, they could be held in contempt, which in the Biden administration would actually be enforced in federal court.
Republicans’ fallacy is that they can prevent all of this from coming to pass. Even if they filibuster the creation of a commission in the Senate — exposing the GOP conference to accusations of disloyalty and dereliction of duty — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will likely approve a select committee in which Democrats will run the show. That committee will corral witnesses, hold open hearings and cite recalcitrant members for contempt.
In other words, Republicans can either get grief for attempting a coverup and face an inquest, or they can drop the coverup and face the music. What they cannot escape is a full inquest into a violent uprising designed to overthrow our democracy and install the authoritarian instigator of the riot. And they cannot avoid a full accounting of their role in undermining democracy and the resulting deaths and injuries from the Jan. 6 insurrection.