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Thursday, January 27, 2022

Pelosi’s efforts to launch independent probe of the Jan. 6 siege run into giant GOP unreality bubble

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But the reality is, Pelosi simply may not be able to achieve bipartisan agreement on the direction and makeup of such a commission. Other options for investigating the attack could include appointing a select committee of House members to conduct an inquiry or simply allowing the congressional committees already conducting probes to do their work in hopes that it could help inform the work of a future commission. Although Pelosi has indicated she certainly prefers naming an external commission to take on the task.

But whatever course Democrats take, they are certain to meet with opposition from Republicans, many of whom baselessly continue to believe or at least claim Trump was the rightful winner of 2020 and most of whom have no interest in tying the insurrection to his supporters or even other members of their own caucus. Republicans, for instance, have advocated for any commission to also examine whether adherents of antifa and other left-wing groups were also involved in the deadly riot. Of course, to date, there’s also no indication whatsoever that is true, so it’s nothing more than another baseless claim by Republicans. Perhaps we should also examine whether Mercury was in retrograde, thereby hindering communications among law enforcement officials and making them vulnerable to attack. 

“We have a real dilemma on our hands,” said Norm Ornstein, an emeritus scholar with the American Enterprise Institute told the Post. “The political imperative at this point is to discredit any investigation, to deny any ties either to Donald Trump or to the members of Congress ... who either helped to plan the [riot] or helped to incite it.”

The work of the investigating committees has already been hampered as Republicans accuse Democrats of refusing to scrutinize the left as potential instigators of the attack. Only a handful of House Republicans have shown any interest in trying to document the origins or the event and determine what led to the breach of the Capitol. Most of the House committees have failed to hear testimony from any law enforcement or military officials who were charged with securing the Capitol that day. And as the Post points out, the dismal progress in the House is being entirely outpaced by those of the Justice Department. Not only have federal prosecutors charged more than 400 people, but last week federal investigators secured their first guilty plea related to the insurrection from a member of the right-wing group Oath Keepers. That person is now cooperating with the federal investigation. 

The Senate investigations have also proceeded apace with final reports from the Senate Rules and Homeland Security committees expected to be released next month. 

The House has traditionally been a chamber where simmering tensions serve as a road block to bipartisan cooperation, and partisan bickering has hindered congressional probes from proceeding before. Even after the jarring attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, more than a year passed before Congress formed an independent commission to investigate the assault. Congressional leaders struck a bipartisan, bicameral compromise in which the commission included an equal number of Republicans and Democrats, but Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Richard Shelby of Alabama—strong advocates for an investigation of the attack—had to approve at least one of the GOP picks. The theory being that they would approve someone independent enough that GOP appointees wouldn’t bog down the probe by repeatedly blocking the committee’s subpoena power. Given the present state of domestic politics, it seems difficult to imagine any such compromise—particularly since Republicans appear to have zero interest in uncovering the truth behind the Jan. 6 attack.

In fact, the post-Trump era appears as if it will make previous partisan disagreements look like sandbox play. The problem now is about as simple as it is impossible to overcome. By helping Donald Trump perpetuate the completely unfounded myth that the election was stolen from him, Republicans in Congress helped create an entirely different unreality bubble their base now inhabits. Democrats are living in a fact-based reality while many/most Republicans live in a conspiracy-fueled state of unreality, making it nearly impossible to find overlapping areas of agreement, particularly on anything related to Trump, the 2020 election, and its aftermath. The several-day window following the deadly Jan. 6 riot in which congressional Republicans flirted with a return from Mars to ditch Trump closed quickly and unceremoniously. So until Senate and House Republicans are no longer being led around by a tail of “legislative terrorists,” as former GOP Speaker John Boehner put it, finding areas of bipartisan compromise that align with any recognizable version of reality seems to be off the table for the foreseeable future.


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