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Tag: jan 6 commission

Defying Subpoena, McCarthy Rejects Select Panel's Oversight

The leader of House Republicans Kevin McCarthy has responded to his subpoena from the House Select Committee with a lengthy letter from his attorney, arguing, like others have tried and failed before him, that the panel lacks “valid legislative purpose.”

And as for his own discussions with former President Donald Trump—impeached for inciting the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol last year—those details, McCarthy argues, are not subject to oversight.

McCarthy’s response also came with a list of demands, much like his colleague in the House and fellow Trump-ally Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio. But unlike Jordan, who at the very least offered to provide an "adequate response” if his requests were met, McCarthy’s attorney, Elliot Berke, opted instead to present only McCarthy’s challenge to the committee’s authority—with the demand that members on the panel defend their “legal rationale” for issuing the subpoena.

“It is unclear how the Select Committee believes it is operating within the bounds of law or even within the confines of the authorizing resolution,” Berke wrote in the 11-page letter to committee chair Bennie Thompson.

As for the California Republican’s conversations with Trump on the day of the attack—the details of which the committee has sought for months and beyond what has potentially been publicly reported—McCarthy’s attorney says that information would effectively have no bearing on whatever legislative agenda the probe might have.

”Of course, the Select Committee has no valid legislative interest or oversight authority to question the Leader about public statements he has already made to the press or in the House Chamber,” Berke wrote.

McCarthy, through his attorney, also accused the committee of wishing to “interrogate him” politically and slammed the panel as unconstitutional and acting beyond the “power of inquiry as decreed by our Founding Fathers.”

Federal courts have already established that the committee has a valid legislative interest in investigating the events leading up to January 6. This decision was rendered in John Eastman’s fight to keep the committee away from documents it deemed pertinent to the probe’s fact-finding mission and again when the Republican National Committee tried to shield data from the committee about its fundraising materials.

Those documents, the committee has argued, were entrenched with the former president’s falsehoods and lies about the outcome of the 2020 election and this was used to effectively defraud the public.

McCarthy Letter to Bennie T... by Daily Kos

The response also contends at length that the committee itself was improperly formed because just nine members sit on it and the resolution states the speaker “shall appoint 13 members to the select committee, 5 of whom shall be appointed after consultation with the minority leader.”

But McCarthy had his chance to nominate picks to the committee. Some of his picks were accepted by Pelosi and others were denied. When Pelosi sent two of the nominees back—including Trump stalwart Jim Jordan—McCarthy, to borrow a phrase, took his ball and went home.

He ended negotiations cold and established clearly that he would not continue engaging with the committee.

The January 6 committee, as it stands today with nine members, includes seven Democrats and two Republicans.

An investigatory body was initially proposed and designed to be an independent, truly bipartisan commission. Democrats suggested splitting membership right down the middle, affording equal subpoena powers to both their party and the Republican Party.

But this proposal couldn’t muster enough support in the Senate and as such, the dreams of that commission were shut down.

Republicans continued to balk, largely, at holding any investigation at all. In the House, only two Republicans—the only two that now serve on the committee, Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger—voted in favor of forming the select committee.

The House passed the resolution.

Five members of the House including McCarthy and Jordan have been hit with subpoenas for their records and depositions. The committee also sent subpoenas to Reps. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Mo Brooks of Alabama, and Andy Biggs of Arizona. To a man, each have have refused to comply.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Trump Reportedly Approved Of ‘Hang Mike Pence’ Chants

The mob calling for former Vice President Mike Pence to be hanged during the attack on the U.S. Capitol reportedly prompted Donald Trump to remark that “maybe” Pence should be hanged, according to testimony provided to the House Select Committee.

According to a report from The New York Times published on Wednesday, at least one witness has told the panel investigating the attack that it was Mark Meadows, Trump’s then-chief of staff, who divulged Trump’s remark about Pence made to colleagues at the White House on January6.

Meadows reportedly left Trump sitting in the dining room of the Oval Office where the 45th president was watching the melee unfold on television.

He was irritated that Pence had been moved to safety, the witness said.

Once away from Trump, “Mr. Meadows… then told the colleagues that Mr. Trump had said something to the effect of, maybe Mr. Pence should be hung,” the Times reported.

The “tone” Trump used is unknown.

Trump’s alleged comment appears to have been corroborated, at least in part, by some of the testimony delivered to the committee by Cassidy Hutchinson, a onetime legislative aide to Trump.

“It was not immediately clear how much detailed information Ms. Hutchinson provided. She has cooperated with the committee in three separate interviews after receiving a subpoena,” the Times noted.

According to the Times, a lawyer for Meadows responded to the report and said he had “every reason to believe” that the claim was untrue. Separately, a spokesman for Trump, Taylor Budowich, only responded by railing about the Jan. 6 committee running a “smear campaign.”

Hutchinson was first subpoenaed in November. In March, when the committee pursued records from Meadows in court, it revealed a partial transcript of her deposition.

She told investigators that during one planning call before Congress met to certify the electoral votes on Jan. 6, lawmakers like Reps. Scott Perry, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Lauren Boebert (among others) were fervently calling for Congress to stop the count and suggested that Pence had the authority to do so.

He did not.

Hutchinson went on to say that Rep. Perry, a Pennsylvania Republican, supported the idea of “sending people to the Capitol” on January 6.

Perry was one of many Republican lawmakers hit with a request for cooperation over the course of the insurrection probe’s investigation. But after stonewalling the committee for weeks, a round of formal subpoenas were sent to him and others including Jim Jordan of Ohio, Andy Biggs of Arizona, Mo Brooks of Alabama, and Kevin McCarthy, leader of the House GOP.

The Jan. 6 committee begins its hearings on June 9 and according to a draft schedule first obtained by The Guardian, the first hearing will air during primetime at 8PM ET.

There will be six hearings—for now. Investigators like Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat, have indicated there could be more later.

After the first hearing on June 9, the next hearings will be held on June 15, June 16, June 21, and June 23. Like the first hearing, the last scheduled meeting on June 23 will air at 8PM. All of the other dates will feature testimony that starts at 10 AM.

The morning hearings are expected to last between two and three hours and for primetime slots, about an hour and-a-half to two hours is being allocated.

Raskin told Daily Kos recently that the committee hearings would offer unique, new, and chilling insights into the attack. He said he hopes the information they will present will arm the nation with “intellectual self-defense” against aspiring and existing authoritarians still in the midst.

The committee may also draw attention to another detail tacked onto the end of the Times report Wednesday: Meadows, witnesses have testified, used a fireplace in his office to burn documents.

Though the public hearings are fast approaching, the committee is still seeking cooperation from witnesses and conducting interviews. Just last week, the committee hit Rep. Barry Loudermilk with a request for his voluntary cooperation.

The panel asked the Georgia Republican last week to share information about a tour that he gave through the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 5.

Loudermilk balked, saying on May 19 that he gave a “constituent family with young children” the tour because they were meeting with him in House office buildings.

“The family never entered the Capitol building,” Loudermilk said. “No place that the family went on the 5th was breached on the 6th, the family did not enter the Capitol grounds on the 6th, and no one in that family has been investigated or charged in connection to January 6th.”

A day later on May 20, however, Loudermilk said that he “took a family with young children and their guests who were visiting Washington to lunch in a cafeteria in one of the House office buildings” and he noted that “some were actually wearing red baseball caps.”

There was “nothing unusual or nefarious about this family’s visit to see their congressman,” he said.

But in an interview that Loudermilk gave to WBHF radio on Jan. 6, he said he had roughly a dozen people “come by and visit.”

His account from that day doesn’t exactly line up with his remarks in the past week.

On Jan. 6, Loudermilk told WBHF:

“We had them in our office. They were definitely peaceful people. People that we’ve met at church. They were supporters of the president. They just wanted to be up here as if it were another rally.”

Loudermilk did not immediately return a request for comment Thursday.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

House Homeland Security Committee Reaches Bipartisan Deal On Jan. 6 Commission

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Members of Congress have reached a deal on a commission that will probe the violent and deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol 128 days after a mob of Donald Trump supporters carried out the attack. The deal, reached by House Homeland Security Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and ranking member John Katko (R-NY), was announced by Thompson.

The House is expected to vote on a bill that would establish the commission in the coming weeks, according to a report from CNBC.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Friday morning that he wanted the commission to look beyond the Capitol insurrection: "I know Nancy Pelosi played politics with this for a number of months, and you got to look at the buildup before, and what went on afterward, otherwise the commission is not worth it," he said, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Congress has held multiple hearings on the events of the January 6 insurrection, when Trump supporters broke into the Capitol to demand lawmakers block certification of Joe Biden's Electoral College victory in the 2020 presidential election. Five people died as a result, and roughly 140 law enforcement officers were injured with everything from head trauma to burns.

However, the so-called National Commission to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol Complex will not be made up of members of Congress or any currently serving government officials.

Instead, it will have ten members, five each appointed by Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress, who will be experts in key fields such as law enforcement, intelligence, counterterrorism, law, and civil rights.

The commission will have the power to subpoena documents and testimony related to the attack from relevant figures and government departments.

Thompson said in a statement announcing the deal on the commission:

Inaction — or just moving on — is simply not an option. The creation of this commission is our way of taking responsibility for protecting the U.S. Capitol. After all, the Capitol is not just a historic landmark; it is where our constituents come to see their democracy in action. As such, we owe it to the Capitol Police and all who enter our citadel of democracy to investigate the attack. The timing of this action is particularly poignant with this being National Police Week, when we honor those who gave their lives to protect us.

Democrats have been pushing for a commission for months.

However, Republican leaders were blocking a deal by demanding it also look into Black Lives Matter protests and antifa, which had nothing to do with the January 6 attack.

The GOP lost that battle: The deal reached by Thompson and Katko does not include BLM or antifa in the commission's charge.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) said Republicans were blocking the commission because some GOP lawmakers may be implicated in the findings of the review.

McCarthy did not commit to voting for it. He reportedly said Friday that he wants to see the details and that he wants the commission to focus on more than just the events of January 6.

The commission is mandated to submit a final report to the president and Congress by the end of 2021.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Fearful Senate Republicans Will Filibuster To Stop Capitol Riot Commission

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

The odds that the Senate will pass a bipartisan commission to study the origins of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol are growing increasingly slim, as Senate Republicans are coming out one by one to say they do not support the probe.

Even Republicans who voted to convict Donald Trump for inciting the violent insurrection say they do not support the commission, twisting themselves in pretzels to justify their decision.

And that makes it increasingly likely that the commission will be the first thing Republicans filibuster during President Joe Biden's tenure. Current filibuster rules say that legislation in the Senate must garner 60 votes in order to proceed. Given that the Senate is split 50-50 along partisan lines, that means Democrats need 10 GOP votes to pass bills.

"I don't think there will be 10 votes on our side for it," Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN), told Politico. "At this stage, I'd be surprised if you're gonna get even a handful."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he will bring the commission up for a vote, whether or not it has enough GOP support to avoid a filibuster — meaning that if 10 Republicans do not vote in favor of the commission, it will be officially blocked.

"Senate Republicans can show everyone if they want to pursue the truth about January 6th or just want to cover up for Donald Trump and insurrectionists," Schumer tweeted on Thursday. "I will bring the House-passed legislation for the January 6th Commission to the Senate floor for a vote."

Republicans who have come out against the commission have falsely claimed it's not bipartisan and will be used as a witch hunt by Democrats.

"The current commission proposed by Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats appears to be a platform to score partisan political points," Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) said in a statement about why he opposes the commission.

The framework of the commission, however, was brokered by the Democratic chair of the House Homeland Security Committee and the GOP ranking member on that same body.

The members of the commission would be equally appointed by Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress, according to the agreement. And any subpoenas would require a majority vote, meaning there would need to be buy-in from the GOP-appointed members.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who came out against the commission on Wednesday, said the arrests by federal law enforcement are sufficient, even though the arrests will not lead to a comprehensive report about what went wrong and how to prevent future attacks like the Jan. 6 insurrection again. That's something a commission would explicitly do.

Even Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), one of the seven Republicans who voted to convict Trump of inciting the insurrection, came out against the commission.

Burr told Politico that part of his opposition to the commission is that it would drag into the midterm elections.

Multiple GOP lawmakers have said that they believe the commission could hamper Republican chances of taking back the House and Senate in November 2022, with Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) saying that a probe could uncover that some Republican lawmakers played a role in the attack.

"I want our midterm message to be on the kinds of things that the American people are dealing with: That's jobs and wages and the economy and national security, safe streets and strong borders — not relitigating the 2020 elections," Sen. John Thune (R-SD) told CNN.

Republicans filibustering a bipartisan commission to probe a deadly attack on democracy gives progressive Democrats who have been railing against the arcane Senate procedure more fuel to their argument that the filibuster must go.

"Filibustering a bipartisan Commission regarding the January 6 insurrection is a three dimensional way to make the point that the filibuster is primarily a destructive force in American politics," Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) tweeted.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Five Shockingly Stupid (And Dangerous) Things Republicans Now Believe

Ever since a washed-up gameshow host and failed businessman turned nihilist and wannabe fascist infiltrated the Republican Party in 2016, it can be said that any principles and values the party once had were killed with every tweet and executive action. While some believed the authoritty of the Oval Office might lead to former "defeated" President Trump exhibiting some sort of humility and concern for the country, all it did was cause the malignant narcissist to unravel even more in his lust for hate, division and enriching himself. It will take historians years to make sense of all the damage this sociopath did to our Republic and how the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower, and, to a lesser extent, Reagan and Bush was turned into a tailgate party for white nationalism and destruction of all facets of government and society.

Trying to weave all of this chaos together into a neat package is quite the herculean task, so we're just going to name the five most insane things Republicans now believe in the era of Trumpism.

1. Screw Fair And Free Elections

From their non-stop gerrymandering and voter ID laws, Republicans appeared hell-bent on disenfranchising potential Democratic voters. But ever since the 2020 presidential election and Trump's anti-democratic crusade to undo our election system while invalidating it, Republicans are now at the point of delegitimizing elections. For example, defeated former President trump and his cronies are working tirelessly to remove all the Governors and statewide officials who did their job by certifying Preieint Biden's victory. They are doing this by running a slew of stooges who promote the big lie and appear willing to do the bidding of Trump and the GOP by ignoring the will of the people.

2. Violence Should Be Used When You Don't Get Your Way

Despite the fact that many of the party's top leaders initially decried Trump's insurrection, many of them now are embracing the violent events of January 6th. Trump's leading lap dog and favorite sycophantic Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for example, went so far as to attack President Joe Biden's brilliantly honest retelling of the events of January 6 and how Trump is to blame.

3. Worship Insane Conspiracy Theories

America finds itself in a strenuous tug-of-war with two sides: there's one America that accepts basic science and verifiable facts and then there's America that embraces loony, dangerous and widely debunked conspiracies. From anti-vaxxers and far-right media nutjobs promoting non-stop fake Covid cures and denials of well-established science to far-right white nationalists claiming that the violence of January 6th was committed by leftist group Antifa (spoiler alert: it wasn't), old-school and sensible Republicans like Liz Cheney and Mitt Romney find themselves in a party gone completely off the rails. Even though Trump was badly defeated and kicked to the curb of social media, Republicans don't appear ready to break his grip on the party. In other words, expect even more crazy conspiracies leading up to the 2022 midterm elections.

4. Embrace White Nationalism

Hillary Clinton ran a terrible presidential campaign and managed to ignore large swaths of middle-class voters, but let's face it, here: Donald Trump winning the presidency in 2016 was a culmination of years of angry white resentment after having an African-American president for eight years. Call it a whitelash or whatever you want, but the fact remains that Trump knew how to tap into this rancor and use it for his own gain. and boy did he ever make sure to coddle white nationalism and ensure that he never explicitly called out any act of white nationalist terrorism. Notably the violent events of Charlottesville 2017, involving the white nationalist tiki torch parade and Trump's refusal to heed his adviser's words by calling them out.

5. Super-Wealthy People Should Never Have To Pay Their Fair Share

Okay, so maybe this isn't exactly a new phenomenon. After all, Republicans have been quoting the failed gospel of Ronald Reagan and his unworkable trickle-down economics for more than 30 years, leaving the middle and working-class even poorer and at an even greater disadvantage than they were years ago. But ever since defeated former President Trump (never going to stop saying that) enacted his Tax Cuts And Joba Act in 2017, corporations have gotten even more power than ever before. Although it initially did some good for middle-class families, their taxes recently went up while tax cuts for corporations are permanent. President Biden hopes to level the playing field and restore power back to the middle-class with his Build Back Bette plan, but Republicans (and Joe Manchin) appear willing to fight tooth and nail for their corporate donors while throwing their working-class constituents under the bus.

H/T Alternet

Michael Hayne is a comedian, writer, voice artist, podcaster, and impressionist. Follow his work on Facebook and TikTok

WATCH Former Senator Offers Roadmap To Indicting Trump

As more information becomes available about the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, questions are surfacing beyond President Donald Trump's role, including what he was doing for hours while even his political allies were begging him to intervene.

Speaking to MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace on Monday, former Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who is also a former state prosecutor, explained what she would encourage Attorney General Merrick Garland to do in terms of persuading members of a grand jury to indict Trump criminally. She encouraged prosecutors to walk jurors through what it looked like in those moments when Trump was watching television coverage of the riots.

According to those who were there in the White House on Jan. 6, Trump was glued to the TV, excited over what his supporters were doing for him. What McCaskill explained is that the text messages, emails, phone calls and desperate requests for help he and his staff were getting are all evidence of Trump's malicious intent.

"We can go through and we can put the images at a specific time," she explained. "And we can then fill in the text messages, the phone calls that were flooding the White House saying, get him to call them off. Now, what was he watching on TV at those moments? He was watching windows being broken. He was watching police officers being stabbed with flag poles. He was watching people hang from the balcony in the Senate. He was watching people carry around government property proudly like trophies in the capital. And, frankly, he was watching a confrontation at the door of the House where someone was killed."

According to the accounts of those present, Trump loved it.

"Give me those facts. Give me those timelines, and give me a jury," McCaskill said. "I'm just telling you, any responsible leader would want to end the violence, not provoke it. That's what he did that day, and that's what this committee is going to layout. And that's where Merrick Garland is either going to rise to the occasion or go down in infamy as one of the worst attorney generals in this country's history."

Watch the entire interview below:

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Are We Ever Going To Hold Anyone Accountable In America?

Reprinted with permission from TomDispatch

America has an accountability problem. In fact, if the Covid-19 disaster, the January 6th Capitol attack, and the Trump years are any indication, the American lexicon has essentially dispensed with the term "accountability."

This should come as no surprise. After all, there's nothing particularly new about this. In the Bush years, those who created a system of indefinite offshore detention at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, those who implemented a CIA global torture program and the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance policy,not to mention those who purposely took us to war based on lies about nonexistentIraqi weapons of mass destruction, were neither dismissed, sanctioned, nor punished in any way for obvious violations of the law. Nor has Congress passed significant legislation of any kind to ensure that all-encompassing abuses like these will not happen again.

Now, early in the Biden era, any determination to hold American officials responsible for such past wrongdoing, even the president who helped launch an assault on the Capitol, seems little more than a fantasy. It may be something to discuss, rail against, or even make promises about, but not actually reckon with — not if you're either a deeply divided Congress or a Department of Justice that has compromised itself repeatedly in recent years. Under other circumstances, of course, those would be the two primary institutions with the power to pursue genuine accountability in any meaningful way for extreme and potentially illegal government acts.

Today, if thought about at all, accountability — whether in the form of punishment for misdeeds or meaningful reform — has been reduced to a talking point. With that in mind, let's take a moment to consider the Biden administration's approach to accountability so far.

How We Got Here

Even before Donald Trump entered the Oval Office, the country was already genuinely averse to accountability. When President Obama took office in January 2009, he faced the legacy of the George W. Bush administration's egregious disregard for laws and norms in its extralegal post-9/11 war on terror. From day one of his presidency, Obama made clear that he found his predecessor's policies unacceptable by both acknowledging and denouncing those crimes. But he insisted that they belonged to the past.

Fearing that the pursuit of punishment would involve potentially ugly encounters with former officials and would seem like political retribution in a country increasingly divided and on edge, he clearly decided that it wouldn't be worth the effort. Ultimately, as he said about "interrogations, detentions, and so forth," it was best for the nation to "look forward, as opposed to looking backward."

True to the president's word, the Obama administration refused to hold former officials responsible for violations of fundamental constitutional and legal issues. Among those who escaped retrospective accountability were Vice President Dick Cheney, who orchestrated the invasion of Saddam Hussein's Iraq based on lies; the lawyer in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, John Yoo, who, in his infamous "Torture Memos," justified the "enhanced interrogation" of war-on-terror prisoners; and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who created a Bermuda triangle of injustice at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. In terms of reform, Obama did ensure a degree of meaningful change, including decreeing an official end to the CIA torture of prisoners of war. But too much of what had happened remained unaddressed and lay in wait for abuse at the hands of some irresponsible future president.

As a result, many of the sins that were at the heart of the never-ending response to the 9/11 attacks have become largely forgotten history, leaving many potential crimes unaddressed. And even more sadly, the legacy of accountability's demise only continues. Biden and his team entered office facing a brand-new list of irregularities and abuses by high-ranking officials, including President Trump.

In this case, the main events demanding accountability had occurred on the domestic front. The January 6th insurrection, the egregious mishandling of the pandemic, the interference in the 2020 presidential election, and the use of the Department of Justice for political ends all awaited investigation after inauguration day. At the outset, the new government dutifully promised that some form of accountability would indeed be forthcoming. On January 15th, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that she planned to convene an independent commission to thoroughly investigate the Capitol riots, later pledging to look into the "facts and causes" of that assault on Congress.

As a nominee for Attorney General, Merrick Garland similarly promised, "If confirmed, I will supervise the prosecution of white supremacists and others who stormed the Capitol on January 6th." Meanwhile, signaling some appetite for holding his predecessor accountable, during the presidential campaign, Joe Biden had already ruled out the possibility of extending a pardon to Donald Trump. In that way, he ensured that, were he elected, numerous court cases against the president and his Trump Organization would be open to prosecution — even, as Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, recently suggested, reviving the obstruction of justice charges that had been central to the Mueller investigation of the 2016 presidential election.

Reluctance In The Halls Of Accountability

Six months after Joe Biden took office, there has been no firm movement toward accountability by his administration. On the question of making Donald Trump and his allies answer for their misdeeds, the appetite of this administration so far seems wanting, notably, for example, when it comes to the role the president may have played in instigating the Capitol attack. Sadly, Pelosi's call for an independent commission to investigate that insurrectionary moment passed the House, but fell victim last month to the threat of a filibuster and was blocked in the Senate. (Last week, largely along party lines, the House passed a select committee to investigate the insurrection.)

Trump's disastrous mishandling of the pandemic, potentially responsible for staggering numbers of American deaths, similarly seems to have fallen into the territory of unaccountability. The partisan divisions of Congress continue to stall a Covid-19 investigation. National security expert and journalist Peter Bergen, for instance, called for a commission to address the irresponsible way the highest levels of government dealt with the pandemic, but the idea failed to gain traction. Instead, the focus has turned to the question of whether or not there was malfeasance at a Chinese government lab in Wuhan.

It matters not at all that numerous journalists, including Lawrence Wright, Michael Lewis, and Nicholson Baker, have impressively documented the mishandling of the pandemic here. Such disastrous acts included early denials of the lethality of the disease, the disavowal of pandemic preparedness plans, the dismantling of the very government office meant to respond to pandemics, the presidential promotion of quack cures, a disregard for wearing masks early on, and so much else, all of which contributed to a generally chaotic governmental response, which ultimately cost tens of thousands of lives.

In truth, a congressional investigation into either the Capitol riots or the Trump administration's mishandling of the pandemic might never have led to actual punitive accountability. After all, the 9/11 Commission, touted as the gold standard for such investigations, did nothing of the sort. While offering a reputable history of the terrorist threat that resulted in the attacks of September 11, 2001, and a full-scale summary of government missteps and lapses that led up to that moment, the 9/11 report did not take on the mission of pointing fingers and demanding accountability.

In a recent interview with former New York Times reporter Philip Shenon, whose 2008 book The Commission punctured that group's otherwise stellar reputation, Just Security editor Ryan Goodman offered this observation: "[An] important lesson from your book is the conscious tradeoff that the 9/11 Commission members made in prioritizing having a unanimous final report which sacrificed their ability to promote the interests of accountability (such as identifying and naming senior government officials whose acts or omissions were responsible for lapses in U.S. national security before the attack)."

Shenon added that the tradeoff between accountability and unanimity was acknowledged by commission staff members frustrated by the absence of what they thought should have been the report's "most important and controversial" conclusions. In other words, when it came to accountability, the 9/11 Report proved an inadequate model at best. Still, even its version of truth-telling proved too much for congressional Republicans facing a similar commission on the events of January 6th.

Note, however, that the 9/11 Commission did lead to movement along another path of accountability: reform. In its wake came certain structural changes, including a bolstering of the interagency process for sharing information and the creation of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

No such luck today. And signs of the difficulty of facing any kind of accountability are now evident inside the Department of Justice (DOJ), too. Despite initial rhetoric to the contrary from Attorney General Merrick Garland, the department has shown little appetite for redress when it comes to those formerly in the highest posts. And that reality should bring to mind the similar reluctance of Barack Obama, the president who originally nominated Garland unsuccessfully to the Supreme Court.

For anyone keeping a scorecard of DOJ actions regarding Trump-era excesses, the record is slim indeed. While the department did, at least, abandon any possible prosecution of former National Security Advisor John Bolton for supposedly disclosing classified information in his memoir on his time in the Trump administration, Garland also announced that he would not pursue several matters that could have brought to light information about President Trump's abuse of power.

In May, for instance, the department appealed a court-ordered call for the release of the full version of a previously heavily redacted DOJ memo advising then-Attorney General Bill Barr that the evidence in the Mueller Report was "not sufficient to support a conclusion beyond a reasonable doubt that the President violated the obstruction-of-justice statutes." In fact, the Mueller Report did not exonerate Trump, as Mueller himself would later testify in Congress and as hundreds of federal prosecutors would argue in a letter written in the wake of the report's publication, saying, "Each of us believes that the conduct of President Trump described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report would… result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice."

Adding fuel to the fire of disappointment, Garland pulled back from directly assessing fault lines inside the Department of Justice when it came to its independence from partisan politics. Instead, he turned over to the DOJ inspector general any further investigation into Trump's politicization of the department.

The Path Forward — Or Not?

These are all discouraging signs, yet there's still time to strengthen our faltering democracy by reinstating the idea that abuses of power and violations of the law — from inside the White House, no less — are not to be tolerated. Even without an independent commission looking into January 6th or the DOJ prosecuting anyone, some accountability should still be possible. (After all, it was a New York State court that recently suspended Rudy Giuliani's license to practice law.)

On June 24, Nancy Pelosi announced at a news conference that a select Congressional committee, even if not an independent 9/11-style commission, would look into the Capitol attack. That committee, she added, will "establish the truth of that day and ensure that an attack of that kind cannot happen and that we root out the causes of it all." True, she didn't specify whether accountability and reform would be part of that committee's responsibilities, but neither goal is off the table.

And Pelosi's fallback plan to convene a House select committee could still have an impact. After all, remember the Watergate committee in the Nixon era. It, too, was a select committee and it launched an investigation into abuses of power in the Watergate affair that helped bring about President Nixon's resignation from office and helped spark or support court cases against many of his partners in crime. Similarly, the 1975 Church Commission investigation into the abuses of the intelligence community, among them the FBI's notorious counter-intelligence program, COINTELPRO, was also a select committee project. It led to significant barriers against future abuses — including a ban on assassinations and a host of "good government" bills.

Pelosi rightly insists that she's intent on pursuing an investigation into the Capitol attack. Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler are similarly determined to investigate the government seizure of Internet communications. Local court cases against Trump, Giuliani, and others will, it appears, continue apace.

Through such efforts, perhaps the potentially shocking facts could see the light of day. Continuing such quests may lead to anything but perfect accountability, particularly in a country growing ever more partisan. Above and beyond the immediate importance of giving the public — and history — a reliable narrative of recent events, it's important to let Americans know that accountability is still a crucial part of our democracy as are the laws and norms accountability aims to protect. Otherwise, this country will have to face a new reality: that we are now living in the age of impunity.

Karen J. Greenberg, a TomDispatch regular, is the director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law and author of the forthcoming Subtle Tools: The Dismantling of Democracy from the War on Terror to Donald Trump (Princeton University Press, August). Julia Tedesco helped with research for this piece.

Pelosi Announces Select Committee To Probe Jan. 6 Insurrection

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

You cannot say House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rushed this decision but now, almost a month after Senate Republicans filibustered a commission to investigate the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, Pelosi announced that she's launching a select committee to investigate.

"This morning with great solemnity and sadness I'm announcing that the House will be establishing a select committee on the January 6th insurrection," Pelosi said.

On Tuesday, similar reports emerged that Pelosi would form a select committee, only to have Pelosi call it a "false report," with a spokesperson saying: "Speaker Pelosi told Members she plans to announce WHETHER she will create a select committee THIS WEEK. Her preference continues to be a bipartisan commission which Senate Republicans are blocking."

Senate Republicans have forced Pelosi's hand: It's a select committee, investigation by standing committees, or nothing. Pelosi and other Democrats really held out, promoting the idea of another Senate vote even though there was no reason to believe the needed Republican votes would materialize.

Following the Republican filibuster in which 35 Republican senators opposed to the creation of an independent investigatory commission defeated 48 Democrats and six Republicans in favor of it (with 11 senators not voting), Pelosi declared, "Honoring our responsibility to the Congress in which we serve and the Country which we love, Democrats will proceed to find the truth."

It's time to proceed. Past time, really.

In the effort to win Republican votes for a commission, Democrats made major concessions as to the shape the commission would have taken. They don't have to make as many concessions this time. It's a given that Republicans will try to paint anything a select committee does as a partisan witch hunt, so it might as well be an aggressive effort to find the truth as a weak tea effort to look nonpartisan. The weak tea investigation would get the same Republican treatment without the same chance of uncovering important information.

We need a select committee to find out as much as possible about how the attack on the Capitol unfolded, from the earliest planning stages to the days immediately leading up to it to the attack itself to the aftermath and any cover-up attempts. That means getting to the bottom of failures to gather and respond to intelligence about what the crowd of Trump supporters was planning, how the Capitol Police were so unprepared, and why the National Guard was delayed. It includes what Donald Trump was doing during the attack. It includes what Trump told House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who has been so opposed to an investigatory commission. It includes which extremist groups were involved, and how, and how far-reaching their conspiracies were.

Federal prosecutors are at work on individual defendants and some conspiracies among the mob, but something this big can't be answered just through prosecution of the people on the scene. This was a violent effort to prevent Congress from doing its part in the peaceful transition of power, and it did not just happen organically.

Republicans have made clear that they don't want it investigated. They're engaged in an active campaign of downplaying and covering up, to the extent of 21 House Republicans voting not to award police responders the Congressional Gold Medal. Their participation in and response to a select committee to investigate has to be reported and assessed through that lens.