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Shock of January 6 insurrection devolves into political fight

Shock of January 6 insurrection devolves into political fight

In one of the most chilling scenes from the Jan 6 insurrection, a violent mob surged through the halls of the US Capitol chanting “hang Mike Pence.” But when the House moved this week to create an independent commission to investigate the tragedy, the former vice president’s brother voted no.

Pressed to explain his decision, Rep Greg Pence of Indiana praised his brother as a “hero” and turned his ire on Democrats, calling the commission a “coverup about the failed Biden administration.”

He was even more aggressive in a baseless statement labeling House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a “hanging judge” who “is hellbent on pushing her version of partisan justice complete with a hand-picked jury that will carry out her predetermined political execution of Donald Trump.”

Pence’s swift pivot to attacking Democrats and defending the former president about a riot that threatened his brother’s life is a stark measure of how the horror of Jan. 6 has been reduced from a violent assault on American democracy to a purely political fight.

Rather than uniting behind a bipartisan investigation like the ones that followed the 9/11 terror attacks, the assassination of President John F Kennedy or Pearl Harbor, Republicans are calculating they can regain at least partial control of Congress if they put the issue behind them as quickly as possible without antagonizing Trump or his supporters.

“There’s no reason to be doing this,” said Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, who is leading the GOP’s efforts to win a Senate majority next year.

The Republican resistance to an independent commission comes as many in the GOP attempt to rewrite the history of Jan 6, minimising the haunting events of the day when a mob of Trump supporters used flagpoles as weapons and brutally beat police officers.

The issue could come to a head next week if the legislation creating the commission, which passed the House, gets a vote in the Senate. Democrats will need at least 10 Republicans to join them in backing the measure, a dim prospect after Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell expressed opposition this week.

The partisan fight over the new panel is alarming to historians who say an independent record of that dark day is needed to understand what happened and hold those involved accountable.

“If you don’t have follow-up, it reaffirms that folks are right in their wrongness,” said Carol Anderson, a professor of African American studies at Emory University.

The debate is unfolding as lawmakers prepare to spend much of the summer at home in their districts and attention gradually shifts to next year’s campaign. On the cusp of majorities in both chambers of Congress, Republicans are eager to make sure the races become a referendum on President Joe Biden – not their response to the insurrection.

“I want our midterm message to be about the kinds of issues that the American people are dealing with,” said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota. “It’s jobs and wages and the economy, national security, safe streets, strong borders and those types of issues, and not relitigating the 2020 election.”

That’s why even some of Trump’s most fervent critics in the GOP want to make sure that if a commission is formed, its work is done by the end of 2021 to avoid overlap with an election year, a provision included in the House legislation.

Without a firm deadline, the commission would be “a political event as opposed to a legitimate endeavor to determine how we can avoid attacks of this nature in the future,” said GOP Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, who voted to convict Trump in both of his impeachment trials.

The 9/11 commission published its report in July 2004, just months before a presidential election, and included some criticisms of George W. Bush’s administration as the then-president was seeking reelection. But Romney said that was different because the 2001 terror attacks were not so directly linked to domestic politics, unlike the insurrection, which was led by Trump supporters seeking to block certification of Biden’s election victory.

“Clearly the people who attacked the Capitol were arguing for President Trump and therefore Republican,” Romney said. That leaves “the potential to have very significant political overtones in an election year.”

Lee Hamilton, the former Indiana Democratic congressman who co-chaired the 9/11 commission with Republican Tom Kean, the former governor of New Jersey, acknowledged that such investigations are inherently political because they are created by elected members of Congress. But he rejected firm deadlines, especially those created with upcoming elections in mind. (AP) NSA

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