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Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

Despite all the lamentations over the Republican Party –- the respectable party that supposedly existed before you-know-who ruined everything – it would be more honest to admit that the grand old party wasn't so grand even back when.

To take one timely example, Republicans have always resisted investigation of their leadership failures, even when the security of the nation was at stake.

At this moment, the constitutional imperative is to investigate, reveal, and respond to the forces behind the violent seizure of the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Dealing with the threat that horrendous incident now symbolizes ought to be a vital interest of both major political parties -- whose legislators were nearly lynched by a ravening mob -- as well as anyone who hopes to bequeath a democratic republic to our heirs. That is why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has proposed a bipartisan national commission modeled on the panel that investigated the 9/11 attacks.

But after the 9/11 attack occurred on George W. Bush's watch, despite many warnings that aroused no action by him and his appointees, both Bush and Congressional Republicans felt an overwhelming urge to cover up. They tried to shut down the 9/11 Commission before Congress even passed the enabling legislation. They tried to rig the investigation by putting that old reprobate Henry Kissinger in charge. (He stepped aside because he didn't want to disclose his unsavory business affairs.) They tried to withhold information and then they tried to suppress the report's contents. Ultimately none of those manipulations succeeded, and a semblance of the truth emerged.

Fortunately, the president responsible for the January 6 disaster is no longer in office and cannot control the multiple probes that will embarrass and perhaps ruin him. But Republicans still wield power in Congress, especially the Senate, and they again appear determined to obstruct an independent investigation, with subpoena power and all other necessary resources, that must be mounted to protect us from another attack from within.

It's bad enough that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell -- who has publicly articulated his clear understanding of what happened – is undermining Pelosi's effort with his usual partisan shenanigans. If McConnell wants to do his duty, he can raise any objections in private discussion with the Speaker and work out a deal. His public posturing is unhelpful.

Worse than McConnell are the House and Senate Republicans who insist on pretending that the attack didn't really happen, or that some mythical entity was responsible – or, in the most insulting version, that Pelosi is to blame for lax security at the Capitol. Never mind that she was almost assassinated by Trumpist thugs, and that McConnell was equally responsible for overseeing the Capitol Police and Sergeants at Arms.

Such absurd assertions, uttered by the likes of Jim Jordan and Ron Johnson, only show that these Republicans, just like their Bush administration forebears, are mostly interested in concealing the culpability of the Dear Leader. Although Donald Trump is gone from the White House, he resides in the cowardly hearts of almost all the Republicans on Capitol Hill – and they know the last thing he wants is an honest bipartisan investigation. As Harold Meyerson noted in The American Prospect, it is hard to imagine that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is keen to testify about the angry conversation between him and Trump on January 6 – when the president gloated over the assault on the Capitol after McCarthy begged him for help.

There lies the real difference between Republicans then and now. Back in 2001, and on earlier occasions when Republican presidents were implicated in national security scandals, there was a plausible assumption that most Republican representatives and senators would do what was necessary, however reluctantly and unhappily, to uphold their constitutional oath. They would, at long last, put country over party.

For these Republicans, however, party comes first -- and party means nothing more than Trump, who can humiliate them and betray the country as he wishes. ("America First" is just another big lie, perhaps the biggest.)

If Democrats want a real investigation of January 6, they cannot rely on Republican good faith.

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