The House Select Committee hearings to investigate the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol began yesterday. I watched testimony from four police officers who defended the Capitol on January 6, and I will watch future hearings even though I am weary of reading and hearing about why an angry army of Trump supporters marched to Capitol Hill to disrupt the House of Representatives and possibly kill Speaker of the House Pelosi and Vice President Pence.
Although parts of the hearings could be tedious, watching them is a civic duty. All of us have an obligation to understand what happened on January 6, why it happened, and to support actions to prevent anything like the insurrection from happening again.
Tuesday’s testimony from Capitol police officers was riveting. The officers described how the rioters threw things at them, sprayed them with bear repellent, and kicked them. We already know that but hearing directly from the officers provided new perspectives on the terror at the Capitol during the insurrection. Any thought that the rioters were “loving people” was blown-away. Many of the rioters were ready to kill for their cause. The officers saw this first hand.
Future hearings will get to the questions that are not definitively resolved for a substantial part of the American public. These questions include: Who came up with the idea of storming the Capitol? Was it Trump? Was it one of the militia groups?
All of us should want to know the answers to these questions. Even staunch supporters of President Trump should be interested in the answers, especially if they believe that leftist groups were involved. Wouldn’t you want hard proof of that to surface?
I also am interested in learning who financially supported transportation and housing for rioters, many of whom travelled long distances for the opportunity to participate. Did these donors know that they were supporting an armed insurrection against the government? Or were they simply responding to yet another Trump fundraising campaign?
Knowing the details of why and how the insurrection happened is important to the future of America. It is not healthy for some of us to dismiss the evidence that I consider clear as “fake.” It is dangerous for some groups to believe that the rioters were right, that the election was “stolen” and that later this summer the facts will emerge resulting in Trump being reinstated in the White House.
All those thoughts bring us to the question of whether the Select Committee is up to the task. The answer to that isn’t clear. Republicans, in my view, tried to blow up the Committee by appointing two of Trump’s fiercest defenders to the panel: Representatives Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Jim Banks (R-IN). Both are on record to agreeing with Trump that the 2020 election was stolen, leading one to wonder whether they might also agree with Trump that the rioters were “beautiful, loving people” and that attacking police and smashing windows on January 6 was a patriotic act.
Speaker Pelosi was right to exclude these two members from the panel. With good reason, she believed that they would not approach the committee’s work in good faith. She expected them to attempt to disrupt the hearings by insisting that its scope be broadened to include last year’s Black Lives Matter protests, relitigate allegations of election fraud, and continually interrupt sessions. Jim Jordan’s skills as a disruptive, no-holds-barred partisan are well documented.
Much to the frustration of Trump Republicans, Pelosi appointed two GOP members to the panel: Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-PA). Both voted to impeach Donald Trump in January (his second impeachment) and have been vocal critics of President Trump. Both also proved themselves to be good choices to serve on the Select Committee during its first hearing yesterday.
As has been widely reported, after Speaker Pelosi’s rejections of Jordan and Banks, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced that Republicans would not participate on the Committee. Unfortunately for him, given that Cheney and Kinzinger are on the committee, that is not true.
Thanks to McCarthy’s decision, which I will call wrong-headed, the committee may now produce a bipartisan, unanimous report. It will be a good thing if it does.
McCarthy squandered his opportunity to appoint calmer, more rational members to the committee who could have asked many questions that Americans with open minds want answered. I expect Cheney and Kinzinger to ask some of these questions, but their well-known belief that Trump was at least partially responsible for January 6 will undermine their credibility. That’s unfortunate.
There are several interesting possibilities for the hearings. First, it has been reported that Representative Jordan spoke to President Trump during the riots. As a result, he may be subpoenaed to testify. What might Trump and Jordan have talked about? Golf? I wonder if Jordan expressed support for the riot or even encouraged Trump to “let it play out.” Hopefully, Jordan did nothing of the sort. It would be nice to think that he was as horrified by the events taking place around him as the rest of us.
I’m also interested in hearing from Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO). He was captured pumping a fist to acknowledge rioters as he walked in front of the Capitol. What was going on there? Was Hawley somehow confused or did he have advanced knowledge of the attack?
Finally, I’m wondering if subpoenas might be issued to Trump himself, to his sinister aide, Stephen Miller, and to various White House and military officials who were aware that an insurrection was going on at the Capitol and are said to have been unable to get the President to do anything to stop it.
As an American, I need to know the answers to these and many other questions. It’s not because I need more information to conclude that Trump was a bad president. It’s because I never want to see our system of constitutional government come as close to collapse again as it did on January 6.
J.E. Dean of Oxford is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant writing on politics, government, birds, and occasionally goldendoodles