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OPINION | BRENDA BLAGG: Anatomy of a mob

Committee explores insurrectionist assault on Capitol by Brenda Blagg | July 28, 2021 at 1:00 a.m.

A huge test of congressional credibility began this week with the convening of the select committee on the Jan. 6 insurrection.

The panel was established within the committee structure of the House of Representatives after the U.S. Senate rejected giving the critical investigatory task to an independent commission, such as the one that examined the 9-11 terrorist attacks on this country in 2001.

Investigating what happened and what led to the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol this year is an equally sober task, a truth-seeking mission for history's sake.

The nation needs to know what caused that mob to storm the Capitol so it can guard against future attacks on what we've all come to realize is a fragile democracy.

Yet, this challenging task is in the hands of politicians, who were themselves the targets of the insurrection that interrupted the peaceful transfer of presidential power.

The Congress did resume its work that night, officially certifying the votes of the Electoral College that made Joe Biden president of these United States. But not until rioters had breached the Capitol. Thousands marched in protest that day but many violently clashed with security as hundreds of rioters forced their way into the building.

Some chanted "hang Mike Pence," targeting the Republican vice president who was duty-bound to oversee the final step in the electoral process.

Pence and the nation's lawmakers escaped harm but others were injured and died, apparently because former President Donald Trump and his followers couldn't accept that he lost the 2020 election.

No one should want to know the truth of that day more than these lawmakers whose lives, along with the lives of their staff members and everyone else in the Capitol that day, were threatened in those hallowed halls.

Clearly, some do. Others, most notably Republicans who rejected the independent commission and are trying now to discredit the select committee, apparently don't.

It is in that environment that the select committee of House members -- seven Democrats and now two Republicans, all named by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- began its work on Tuesday.

Before the day was out the panel was to have heard from four officers, two from Capitol police and two from D.C. police, who were among the out-manned law enforcement officers who tried to protect the Capitol.

Their gripping accounts of what they endured were but the first testimony in what may be a months-long inquiry, following the facts wherever they lead.

The work surely should have been in the hands of a bipartisan commission of outside experts. It is instead assigned to this select committee of House members, who must somehow shed their partisanship to establish credibility as investigators.

They necessarily began their work amid controversy but must rise above it to succeed.

Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who delayed naming any Republicans to the panel, pulled all five of his appointees from the panel when Pelosi rejected two controversial candidates, Reps. Jim Jordan and Jim Banks.

Jordan and Banks both voted against certifying Biden's election on Jan. 6 and, according to Pelosi, might have jeopardized the integrity of the investigation.

McCarthy has since labeled the two Republicans Pelosi herself named to the panel -- Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger -- as "Pelosi Republicans." He's also suggested other Republicans who cooperate will be punished.

Outside the committee room, the political war clearly continues.

Inside that chamber, the select committee appears to be making a different choice.

On Tuesday, only Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Democrat who chairs the committee, and Republican Cheney offered opening remarks. They obviously started on the same page.

"There's no place for politics and partisanship in this investigation," said Thompson.

Cheney echoed the sentiment, asserting that the inquiry must be "nonpartisan."

As simple as it is, that's the key to the committee's credibility and its successful pursuit of the truth about the assault on the Capitol.

Print Headline: Anatomy of a mob

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