News Update

Opinion: The obvious question that remains unanswered in the US Capitol attack

Frida GhitisFrida Ghitis
With every revelation about the events of that infamous day, the need to piece together the entire story becomes more urgent.
During a House Administration Committee hearing on Thursday, Rep. Zoe Lofgren described the orders, which were relayed in a radio call the morning of January 6 and uncovered during an ongoing review of officer conduct. According to Lofgren, who chairs the committee, the officer said, “Attention all units on the field, we’re not looking for any pro-Trump in the crowd. We’re only looking for any anti pro-Trump who want to start a fight.”
But the Capitol Police issued a statement Thursday saying the call “has been misquoted and is lacking … necessary context.” Neither Capitol Police nor Congress released the audio of the broadcast, but the police department provided what it says is a transcript, which reads, “With regards to pedestrian traffic on — on the grounds today, we anticipate a — a large presence for pro-Trump participants. What we’re looking for is any anti-Trump counter protestors.”
Either way, the obvious question remains: Were the Capitol Police infiltrated by the right-wing extremists who sought to deny Americans their choice of president? If they were, how much did they help?
Trump's dominance spells trouble for the GOPTrump's dominance spells trouble for the GOP
Most officers fought courageously to protect the former vice president and the members of Congress who were certifying the results of the 2020 election inside the US Capitol. Not all did. Rep. Tim Ryan says he saw a Capitol police officer who was wearing a MAGA hat direct people around the building. Another appeared to pose for a selfie with a member of the mob. More than a dozen Capitol officers were still under investigation as of last month.
In fact, the country needs a thorough investigation that looks at more than just the actions of the Capitol Police.
Last month, Lofgren released a 2,000-page report cataloguing the social media posts of members of Congress, many of whom promoted Trump’s big lie that the 2020 election was “stolen” and rallied people to “fight for Trump” on January 6. The report, a dizzying compendium of lies and incitement, has not received enough attention. As I wrote at the time, the words of Reps. Jim Jordan, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Pete Sessions, and others raise the question of whether they should be removed from their posts, considering the 14th Amendment states “No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress” if they swear an oath to support the Constitution and have engaged in “insurrection or rebellion…or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”
Also deserving of a closer examination are a number of extraordinary events that unfolded a few miles away from the US Capitol on January 6.
Most remarkable was the behavior of then-President Donald Trump. As CNN and others have documented, Trump initially resisted calls to send the National Guard, even as protesters swarmed the rotunda and Capitol lobbies chanting, “Hang Mike Pence.” Pence was rushed to safety, and it was he who coordinated with the Pentagon to deploy the guard and urged them to move faster.
Right wing's long history of deflecting on extremismRight wing's long history of deflecting on extremism
What exactly was the endgame in this assault? What did the fervently pro-Trump mob plan? How much did Trump — who promoted the day’s event on Twitter, where he wrote, “Big protest in DC on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” — know about those plans? Who else was involved?
These are not idle questions.
Consider the role of Trump appointees in the delayed deployment of the DC National Guard to support the beleaguered Capitol Police in protecting members of Congress from the rampaging mob. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund called for the support of the National Guard at around 1:49 p.m. in what Guard commander Maj. Gen. William Walker described as a “frantic” call. Walker said Sund’s voice was “cracking with emotion” as he requested assistance over what was clearly a “dire emergency.”
But the National Guard didn’t arrive until more than three hours after Sund’s first desperate plea; after the Capitol had been ransacked, dozens of officers injured, a protester killed, and the constitutionally mandated joint session of Congress certifying the election results had been suspended for hours.
According to Walker, he did not need authorization from the Pentagon when he deployed the National Guard at the nation’s Capitol last summer. But a memo issued on January 5, which he called “unusual,” marked a change in guidance. Walker, who said the memo required him to seek authorization from the Pentagon, told a joint Senate panel, “So, no civil disturbance equipment could be authorized unless it came from the secretary of defense … the secretary of defense told me I needed his permission to escalate to have that kind of protection.”
It's not enough to cancel Marjorie Taylor Greene's 'America First' caucusIt's not enough to cancel Marjorie Taylor Greene's 'America First' caucus
Like countless top officials in the Trump administration, acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller had not been confirmed by the Senate in the role. Instead, he was installed by Trump in that powerful position on November 9 — just two days after Joe Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 election.
Also curious is the role of Lt. Gen. Charles Flynn, deputy chief of staff of the Army — and brother of the disgraced former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI before he was pardoned by Trump. The Pentagon initially denied for days that Charles Flynn was involved in a key meeting on January 6 before confirming his participation. While Capitol Police and DC officials pleaded with the Pentagon to dispatch the National Guard, Flynn said he entered the room after the call began and departed before it was over, anticipating that the Army secretary would soon deploy more Guard members. It remains unclear how long Flynn was present and to what extent he participated in the call.
His brother Michael, who embraced the QAnon conspiracy theory, had suggested that Trump use the military as part of the effort to overturn the election. And just one day before the riot, he attended a rally in D.C., pushing the big lie and issuing a call to action. Charles Flynn denies that his relationship with his brother played a role in his actions as the US military decided how to respond to the insurrection.
The events of January 6 demand an exhaustive, impartial investigation. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has proposed one in the mold of the 9/11 Commission. The Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, however, says any commission should also look into “violent disturbances around the country last year” — a mandate that would dilute the commission’s work.
McConnell, like most Republicans, appears beholden to Trump, despite the former president’s shocking invective against him earlier this month. It’s hard to imagine that members of the GOP would be genuinely interested in finding the truth about January 6. Their behavior in the past months suggests they would be much more committed to protecting Trump and his allies. The subservience most congressional Republicans have shown Trump is astounding, particularly given that he lost the 2020 presidential election and led his party to lose control of both the House and Senate. Trump is the opposite of a winning politician, but Republicans still seem terrified of him and his backers.
So, instead of trying to find out exactly what the plan was, who was involved, and what went wrong in the most serious assault on the US system of government in living memory, many remain content to promote the Big Lie. The majority of Republicans — 60% in fact — incorrectly believe that the election was stolen from Trump, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found. The success of the Big Lie, which fueled the rebellion, undercuts the legitimacy of the Biden presidency, and with it the country and its democracy.
The revelations about the Capitol Police on January 6 deserve more scrutiny, but much larger questions still loom: Who knew it was going to happen, who helped — and what price should they pay?
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