In a rare moment of focus on the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot, the House Select Committee recently took a break from prosecuting political dissidents to claim the violent protest was premeditated. Yet House Democrats impeached Donald Trump on Jan. 13, 2021 on the basis of claiming that riot was spontaneously triggered by the president’s speech at the White House that day despite the first violent action occurring before Trump finished speaking.
“The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” GOP Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney said in a statement announcing her intent to impeach. “Everything that followed was his doing.”
The committee Cheney now serves on as vice chair, however, has embraced a new theory with claims the Capitol assault was a pre-planned attack by far-right extremists.
“The House select committee investigating January 6 appears to believe the Capitol attack included a coordinated assault perpetrated by the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys militia groups that sought to physically stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory,” The Guardian reported Friday. “The panel’s working theory – which has not been previously reported though the Justice Department has indicted some militia group leaders – crystallized this week after obtaining evidence of the coordination in testimony and non-public video, according to two sources familiar with the matter.”
In August, the FBI threw cold water on the idea of an “organized plot” staged by far-right groups to storm the Capitol when it briefed the nine-member panel on the agency’s findings. What evidence the Jan. 6 Committee may use conclude otherwise, however, remains under seal as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s deputies have blocked shared access with minority lawmakers. The FBI has simultaneously stonewalled GOP requests to circumvent the speaker’s embargo on relevant information to Republicans. Both of these actions may make the committee legally suspect.
Last summer, Pelosi took the self-described “unprecedented” step of barring Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s appointments on the Select Committee for the first time in congressional history. Indiana Rep. Jim Banks, who was appointed to serve as ranking member, has spearheaded Republicans’ separate investigation into the Capitol security failures instead, centered on Pelosi’s culpable negligence in the run up to Jan. 6. The Jan. 6 Select Committee has explicitly pledged to avoid probing Pelosi’s conduct despite testimony from former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund that the speaker rejected National Guard requests to help six times.
The notion of a coordinated assault on the Capitol undermines Democrats’ claim that Trump and White House staff were solely responsible for the outburst that ensued on congressional grounds.
Then-President Trump, the story went, corralled his supporters in Washington, inflamed that mob, and ordered them to overthrow Congress in an attempted coup. Except the attack started two miles away before Trump’s address was finished, and in his speech the president was explicit in his request that attendees protest “peacefully.”
Meanwhile the FBI is still reportedly investigating a pair of pipe bombs planted at both the Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committe headquarters and found the morning of Jan. 6, lending credence to the committee’s claims of coordinated violence in contradiction to the agency’s findings leaked to the press last summer. Many who showed up to Washington D.C. that day came armed, no matter what Trump said from the White House ellipse.
The Jan. 6 Committee’s narrative switching ahead of show trial hearings in prime time comes after its conspiracy of a Trump-concocted plan to disband Congress has failed to garner traction among an electorate more worried about gas prices and inflation than a two-hour riot more than a year ago. Democrats on the Jan. 6 Committee admitted last month the probe is all about the midterms, and they are openly executing a “digital Watergate” with demands for private records to harass and demean their political opponents.