Democrats owe America the facts and nothing but the facts about the Capitol attack

A noose on makeshift gallows during the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2020, in Washington, D.C. (Photo: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS, AFP via Getty Images)

It makes no sense to expect congressional Republicans to be willing partners in any effort to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol attack that the FBI has labeled domestic terrorism. Their former president’s partisans stormed the building, and they themselves are trying to erase history.

Exhibit A: Rep. Andrew Clyde of Georgia, who during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing last week characterized the violence of Jan. 6 as a “normal tourist visit.” Never mind that there’s a photograph of Clyde barricading a door to the House floor. 

Exhibit B: Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona, who at that same hearing accused the FBI of “harassing  peaceful patriots across the country” in its effort to bring to justice the rioters who took part in the Capitol siege. This is the kind of thing a terrorist leader says to justify acts of violence. After all, Osama bin Laden released a statement saying, “We want to regain the freedom of our nation,” as justification for the 9/11 attacks.

Exhibit C: Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina, who nonsensically said the attack was premeditated and so could not have been incited by then-President Donald Trump: “I don’t know who did they poll to say that they were Trump supporters.” Someone may want to show him the litany of tweets Trump posted in December, including one from Dec. 12 where he said, “Thousands of people forming in Washington (D.C.) for Stop the Steal. Didn’t know about this, but I’ll be seeing them! #MAGA”

Republicans are whitewashing attack

The only definitive action congressional Republicans have been willing to take related to Jan. 6 is to purge a member of their own leadership for having the audacity to tell the truth about what really went on that day.

This is why the idea of a bipartisan, 9/11-style commission is a bit of a fool’s errand, albeit a necessary one. Democrats gave Republicans everything they could possibly want – including an equal number of members, meaning if a subpoena were to be issued, it would require at least some bipartisan support. Democrats were willing to give Republicans more than they deserved, and more than Republicans ever gave them in recent history. And yet Republicans, led by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, showed their true colors by announcing they oppose the panel.

Protesters on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Jose Luis Magana/AP)

In a blistering statement, McCarthy called it “counterproductive” and “shortsighted.” As I read it, all I could think of was one word: Benghazi. I don’t remember McCarthy or congressional Republicans expressing any concern or hesitancy during the nearly five years they spent investigating what happened at a U.S. compound in Libya in 2012.

The House Select Committee on Benghazi was formed in May 2014, almost two years after the attack on Sept. 11, 2012, that claimed four American lives. What most people don’t remember is that Republicans began aggressively investigating the terrorist attack as soon as it happened. The first public hearing came on Oct. 10, 2012, almost a month to the day after the attack. Republicans were tripping over themselves conducting multiple, overlapping investigations as every committee of jurisdiction wanted a piece of the Benghazi pie.

We need the whole truth about Jan. 6

Why? Because, as McCarthy famously said to Sean Hannity on Fox News, it was part of a “strategy to fight and win” and damage the presidential prospects of Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of State at the time of the attack. 

Say what you want about their motivations, it worked. The Benghazi investigation was the vehicle that paved the way for the “Hillary’s emails” saga.

The shoe is on the other foot now.

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Voters have entrusted Democrats with the tools of the majority. They should not hesitate to use them to root out the full and complete truth behind Jan. 6. Republicans will attack their efforts as partisan and politically motivated. Guess what? Nothing Democrats can do will ever stop Republicans from making those charges, so who cares.

The House on Wednesday approved the bipartisan commission, but it may be doomed in the Senate. My advice: Create a commission or select committee, stack it with Democrats, give the chair unilateral subpoena authority, get documents, conduct depositions, hold public hearings (reminder: Hillary Clinton testified for 11 hours) and get the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

We wouldn’t have accepted anything less after 9/11. Why would we accept anything less right now?

Kurt Bardella, a former Republican and a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors, is an adviser to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and a former spokesperson for Reps. Darrell Issa and Brian Bilbray, Sen. Olympia Snowe and House Oversight Committee Republicans. Follow him on Twitter: @KurtBardella

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