It is not a moment too soon. An alarming number of Republicans, even some who witnessed the Jan. 6 tragedy with their own eyes, are unabashedly lying about the invasion, trying to recast and minimize the violent attack on the Capitol and our democracy.
At a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on Wednesday, several Republicans defended the rioters and faulted law enforcement. “Watching the TV footage of those who entered the Capitol and walked through Statuary Hall showed people in an orderly fashion staying between the stanchions and ropes, taking videos, pictures,” Rep. Andrew S. Clyde (R-Ga.) said.“You know, if you didn’t know the TV footage was a video from January the 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.” Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) accused federal law enforcement of “harassing peaceful patriots across the country” and said that police “executed” a woman when they shot her as she attempted to breach the Speaker’s Lobby. Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) lamented that “it was Trump supporters who lost their lives that day, not Trump supporters who were taking the lives of others.”
This came the same day that Republicans removed Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) from GOP leadership because she refused to be silent on former president Donald Trump’s election lies and his role in Jan. 6. “The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” Ms. Cheney said in January.
What followed was “a medieval battle scene,” according to a D.C. police officer who suffered a heart attack and concussion after a mob swarmed him, dragged him down the Capitol steps, beat him and shocked him with a stun gun. Rioters used flagpoles, baseball bats and bear spray to attack police; 140 officers were injured, and one officer, Brian Sicknick, who was exposed to chemical irritants, died the next day of natural causes after suffering two strokes. Two other officers died by suicide in the wake of the insurrection.
Rioters crashed through barriers, shattered windows, invaded offices and defaced the halls of Congress. They erected gallows on the grounds and chanted “Hang Mike Pence” and “Where are you, Nancy?” as the vice president, House speaker and other members of Congress were rushed to secure locations. Federal authorities have arrested more than 400 people in what they say was an unprecedented attack on a branch of the U.S. government.
A commission may not stop some Republicans from denying facts, or many others from trying to avoid the subject entirely. But as it answers outstanding questions about how the riot occurred and who is responsible — in part, we hope, by taking the sworn testimony of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and other eyewitness lawmakers — the panel ought to make it harder for Republicans to twist the truth.