Calls grow for commission to investigate US Capitol riot

Protesters clash with police at the US Capitol in Washington on Jan 6, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - Lawmakers fresh off the impeachment acquittal of former President Donald Trump are issuing growing calls for a bipartisan commission to investigate the administrative and law enforcement failures that led to the mob attack on the Capitol on Jan 6 and recommend changes to prevent another siege.

Such a commission appears to be the primary remaining option for Congress to try to hold Trump to account for his role in the assault. Top lawmakers have quashed the idea of a post-impeachment censure of the former president, and the possibility of barring him from future office under the 14th Amendment, which prohibits any official involved in "insurrection or rebellion" from holding office, seems remote.

Lawmakers in both parties have called for a commission modeled on the bipartisan panel established after the terrorist attacks on Sept 11, 2001. Democratic Representative Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania and an impeachment manager, described it on ABC's This Week on Sunday (Feb 14) as "an impartial commission, not guided by politics, filled with people who would stand up to the courage of their conviction."

President George W. Bush signed a law establishing the 9/11 Commission in 2002, mandated to investigate what caused the attack and what might have stopped it, and to outline how to prevent a similar attack.

After a 20-month investigation, the commission offered three dozen recommendations for how to reshape intelligence coordination and congressional oversight.

"We need a 9/11 Commission to find out what happened and make sure it never happens again, and I want to make sure that the Capitol footprint can be better defended next time," Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said on Fox News Sunday.

In the House, rank-and-file lawmakers in both parties have introduced legislation that would establish a commission, with some Democrats proposing a broader examination of the federal government's response to domestic terrorism and violent extremism.

"We will have an after-action review," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California told reporters late last month. "There will be a commission."

She has since been briefed repeatedly by retired General Russel L. Honoré, who has been tapped to examine security on Capitol Hill, which remains surrounded by fences lined with razor wire and under the watch of National Guard troops.

"In the near future, Congress needs to smartly transition to a more sustainable security presence," Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate minority leader, said in late January.

"Keeping the Capitol safe cannot and will not require huge numbers of uniformed troops and vast systems of emergency fencing to remain in place forever."

Democrats, who abruptly dropped what had been a successful demand for witnesses during the final day of the trial Saturday, framed a possible commission Sunday as a way to not only understand the failures that had led to the breach of the Capitol but also to underscore Trump's role in the events.

"There's still more evidence that the American people need and deserve to hear," Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, said on This Week, adding that a commission would "make sure that we secure the Capitol going forward and lay bare the record of just how responsible" Trump was for the attack.

Before the impeachment proceedings, there had been discussion of a bipartisan censure resolution in lieu of a trial. But lawmakers quickly abandoned the idea as the trial moved forward, in part because Democrats had demanded stronger language than what Republicans were comfortable with.

Asked about the chances for a resolution intended to keep Trump from running for office again, Senator John Thune of South Dakota, the No 2 Republican, said, "I don't think that'll go anywhere." "Every senator has had the opportunity to express his or her views," said Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who had been involved in the discussions.

Pelosi, speaking at a news conference Saturday, declared such a resolution to be "a slap in the face of the Constitution."

"We censure people for using stationery for the wrong purpose," she said. "We don't censure people for inciting insurrection that kills people in the Capitol."

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