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US House Democrats seek approval of commission probing Capitol riot

Published: Updated:

Legislation creating a 9/11-style commission to investigate the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol by former President Donald Trump’s supporters will take center stage in the House of Representatives this week as Democrats seek quick passage.

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Lawmakers have squabbled for months over the makeup and operation of the panel, with many Republicans downplaying the worst violence at the Capitol in modern history.

Trump supporters stormed the building following a fiery speech in which the then-president repeated his false claims that his November 2020 election defeat was the result of widespread voter fraud. Five people including a Capitol Police officer died from the violence.

Trump, who was impeached afterward by the Democratic-led House on a charge of inciting insurrection, continues to claim the election was marred by fraud, and House Republicans last week ousted Representative Liz Cheney from their leadership for rejecting Trump’s falsehoods.

The bill to be considered on Tuesday by the House Rules Committee establishes a bipartisan commission of 10 prominent citizens to investigate the causes of the attack, security shortcomings and intelligence information leading up to Jan. 6.

Members of the US National Guard arrive at the US Capitol on January 12, 2021 in Washington, DC. (AFP)
Members of the US National Guard arrive at the US Capitol on January 12, 2021 in Washington, DC. (AFP)

The panel would have to release a final report by Dec. 31, before Congress’ next election season kicks up in earnest.

Trump’s activities are likely to become a focal point, as the legislation explicitly charges the commission with looking into “the influencing factors that fomented such attack.”

A vote on the bill by the full House is expected later this week. The probe is likely to focus on intelligence failures ahead of the attack and why it took hours for National Guard troops to reinforce the overwhelmed Capitol Police.

During a House hearing last week, Republican Representative Andrew Clyde said it would be “a bold-faced lie” to label the events of Jan. 6 an “insurrection.” Instead, he likened the events of that day to “a normal tourist visit.”

More than 400 people have been arrested for taking part in the violence, which also injured dozens of law enforcement officers.

Under the bill, Democrats and Republicans would have equal say over selecting commissioners and both sides would have to approve witness subpoenas.

Many Republicans in Congress have demanded the commission also investigate last summer’s largely peaceful protests against racism and police violence that were sparked by George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis, an event unrelated to the insurrection at the Capitol.

While House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy has not signed off on the bill, a spokeswoman for House Republican Whip Steve Scalise said his team would not pressure rank-and-file Republicans to vote against it.

Read more:

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‘Clear the Capitol,’ Mike Pence pleaded, timeline of riot shows