House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced plans to convene a select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump.
“The gleeful desecration of the Capitol resulted in multiple deaths, physical harm of over 140 members of law enforcement, and terror and trauma among staff, workers and members,” Pelosi told reporters at a press conference Thursday. “Today, nearly six months later ... many questions regarding the circumstances of this assault on our democracy and the response to it remain. It is imperative that we seek the truth as to what happened.”
Pelosi said she was announcing the decision to form a select committee “with great solemnity and sadness,” as she believes a bipartisan commission, similar to the one formed in the aftermath of the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, would be better positioned to investigate the events of Jan. 6 and all the circumstances surrounding it.
Last month, the Democratic-led House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill to create a Jan. 6 commission, but Senate Republicans blocked the proposal from moving forward, reportedly at the behest of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — a move Pelosi called “cowardly.”
“Republican senators did [McConnell] a personal favor rather than honor their patriotic duty to protect and defend,” she said.
Ahead of the Senate vote, former 9/11 commissioners from both sides of the aisle spoke out in favor of an independent panel to investigate Jan. 6, as did former homeland security secretaries who served in both Democratic and Republican administrations. A number of police officers who were injured in the riot, along with families of Capitol Police officers who died in its wake, also urged Republican senators to support the independent probe.
Pelosi noted that such efforts by outside groups to persuade senators to pass the Jan. 6 commission bill have continued over the last four weeks, but to no avail.
“I asked, leading up to today, is there a chance for it to pass?” she said, adding that the response was “Not soon, not likely.”
Nonetheless, Pelosi said she views the select committee as “as complementary, not instead of” a Jan. 6 commission, which she is hopeful “could still happen at some point.”
After all, she pointed out, President George W. Bush did not sign the bill to create the 9/11 Commission until November 2002, more than 14 months after the deadly terror attacks. In the meantime, Congress convened select committees in both the House and Senate to conduct a joint inquiry into the attacks, which, Pelosi said, “provided great information that was useful to the 9/11 Commission once it came to be.”
Pelosi said the select committee’s investigation will focus on two primary concerns: the root causes of the Jan. 6 attack and “the security of the Capitol.” The committee will also be expected to offer “recommendations for the prevention of any future attack.”
She did not give a specific deadline for when the committee would be expected to release its findings and recommendations, saying that “the timeline will be as long as it takes for them ... to investigate actual causes of this.”
Pelosi also declined to elaborate on how the committee will be composed, or who will be tapped to lead it, indicating she would announce those details at a later date. She said she hoped House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who has resisted her efforts to launch an independent probe of Jan. 6, “will appoint responsible people to the committee.”
McCarthy declared his opposition to the Jan. 6 commission bill one day before the House was set to vote on it. Ahead of Thursday’s announcement, he similarly dismissed Pelosi’s proposal to form a select committee as politically driven and unnecessary, in light of several other ongoing congressional investigations into the attack.
“When it comes to what happened on Jan. 6, we want to get to the bottom of that; it’s disgusting what transpired that day,” McCarthy said Wednesday. “Unfortunately, the speaker has always played politics with this. Time and again. She’s never once talked to me about it.”
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