The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Every new piece of information about the Capitol insurrection shows why we can’t just move on

Richard Barnett, a supporter of former president Donald Trump, sits inside the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) during the assault on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
Richard Barnett, a supporter of former president Donald Trump, sits inside the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) during the assault on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

A MAN who had been photographed with his foot on a desk in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) office during the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol appeared last week before Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell. Charged with entering the Capitol violently with a dangerous weapon and stealing government property, the man sought to be released pending trial. He called himself a “good man” and claimed that “people love me.” The judge would have none of it and ordered that the man remain jailed for showing “a total disregard for the law.”

Judge Howell’s fury was palpable — and understandable. “We’re still living here in D.C. with the consequences of the violence in which this defendant is alleged to have participated,” she said. What is not understandable is the seeming willingness of Republicans to minimize the events and argue that it is time to move on. “Not great” is all that former Trump ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley could muster in describing what happened Jan. 6 as she criticized Democrats for wanting to hold former president Donald Trump accountable for inciting the mob assault.

Each day since Jan. 6, more information has become available about the events that Wednesday, and it becomes all the more horrifying. Feces spread on walls; calls to hunt down and shoot Ms. Pelosi and hang then-Vice President Mike Pence; police blinded with bear spray and attacked with metal poles, fire extinguishers, crutches and wooden boards. At least 81 Capitol Police officers and about 65 D.C. police officers suffered injuries that included cracked ribs, head injuries and smashed spinal discs. One officer is likely to lose an eye. A graphic video obtained by the New York Times showed rioters trampling a woman as they attacked police. The 34-year-old woman died, as did three other rioters and Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick. Two police officers died by suicide days after the attack.

Federal officials have estimated that roughly 800 people stormed into the Capitol, and so far, more than 135 individuals have been charged. Prosecutors, The Post’s Devlin Barrett and Spencer S. Hsu reported, are privately debating whether they should decline to charge those who are known only to have committed unlawful entry and were not engaged in violent or destructive behavior. Maybe, but there must be thorough investigation and forceful prosecution that send the message that such vile political violence will not be tolerated.

The FBI investigation, the most extensive since the probe of the 9/11 attack, has found evidence detailing coordination of an assault by members of extremist groups, but how extensive is still unknown. Also to be determined is whether any member of Congress helped to directly facilitate the assault, other than by fomenting it with false and irresponsible statements about election fraud.

Judge Howell had it right when she described the charges against the man who desecrated Ms. Pelosi’s office as “in some ways too benign-sounding to fairly describe what happened.” Reading from a vulgar letter the man had left on the desk, she said “Wow. Brazen, entitled, dangerous.”

Read more:

Michael Gerson: Many Republicans are choosing collective amnesia of Jan. 6. That would be disastrous.

Eugene Robinson: We just saw an attempted coup d’etat. Blame Trump. Blame his Republican enablers.

Max Boot: It’s not just Trump on trial. It’s the whole Republican Party.

Marc A. Thiessen: The Republican leader who deserves removal in the wake of the Capitol riot is ... Liz Cheney?

Kate Woodsome: This is what it looks like when the mob turns on you