The House Committee on Jan. 6 will launch its dramatic summer hearings tonight in a prime time show trial produced by a former ABC News executive as desperate Democrats aim to shift the narrative ahead of the midterms.
The nine members of the Select Committee appointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will introduce the panel’s findings and question a pair of witnesses while presenting graphic footage of the riot to a nationwide audience. Every cable network, except Fox News, will broadcast the proceedings in an arrangement sought by the partisan probe to elevate the evening’s drama shining light on a three-hour riot that happened more than 18 months ago.
Absent from the panel asking questions, however, will be any Republicans appointed by GOP Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy after Pelosi took the self-proclaimed “unprecedented” step of barring Reps. Jim Banks, R-Ind., and Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, from the probe. Instead, Pelosi hand-picked the most vocal pair of NeverTrump House members to serve in their place, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., and Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., who serves as vice chair and was disowned by her own party.
House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik told reporters on a press call Tuesday the prohibition on minority-appointed members for the first time in congressional history renders the Select Committee illegitimate, as it was established in violation of House rules.
“This Committee is not about seeking the truth,” Stefanik said. Meanwhile, the committee established to probe the Capitol riot declares Pelosi’s own culpability off-limits in pursuit of prosecution against political dissidents. Former Donald Trump Trade Advisor Peter Navarro was the first to be indicted by the Justice Department last week based on committee conduct.
But before the Select Committee continues with a national soap opera for the cameras, here are five questions that must be answered.
1. Why Did Nancy Pelosi Delay Deploying the National Guard?
Not only was the National Guard not present to reinforce Capitol barriers with Capitol Police, it took three hours for the Guard that was standing idly by to receive the final green light for deployment as the complex was being ransacked.
Four days after the riot, former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, who resigned his post in the aftermath, told The Washington Post his request for pre-emptive reinforcement from the National Guard ahead of Jan. 6 was rejected by Pelosi. Sund said House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving, overseen by Pelosi, thought the guard’s deployment was bad “optics” two days before the raid. Pelosi and House Democrats had previously condemned the presence of federal troops in the nation’s capital to quell the violent mobs overrunning the city in the name of social justice.
The Daily Caller later cited three sources familiar with Irvin’s conversations with the House Administration Committee after the riot. The sergeant of arms said discussions with the speaker’s staff were factors in his “blender of decision making.” The Caller’s sources remained anonymous, “citing the fear of putting a chill on further witnesses to how the security situation unfolded Jan. 6.”
Questions remain, then, about what conversations Pelosi had about the deployment of the National Guard before and during the riot, and why Sund’s requests were rejected not once, but six times, as the former police chief told the Washington Post.
In what was portrayed as a blockbuster revelation from the committee in December, texts from former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows made clear the National Guard would, at minimum, be on standby.
2. Why Did the Sergeant at Arms Refuse to Cooperate With the Senate?
In the Senate’s 128-page bipartisan report published in June last year, lawmakers in the upper chamber outlined “notable exceptions” among those who cooperated with committees. Among them was Irving’s office, which “did not comply with the Committees’ information requests.”
As Pelosi’s chief security advisor in the House who engaged in discussions about the National Guard with the speaker, what did Irving hide from senators that representatives now have no interest in uncovering? Pelosi’s deputies in the lower chamber have already been ordered by the speaker to conceal any information from members of the minority.
3. Why Were The Capitol Police Half-Staffed?
Capitol Police were made aware of the potential for mass unrest unfolding at their doorstep on Jan. 6. They had been warned by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the FBI, according to a report from the Capitol Police inspector general.
Beyond internal intelligence assessments, however, the risk of turmoil capping off an election cycle with repeated outbreaks of widespread violence was enough to lead the parking attendants to restrict access.
“Due to the possibility of large-scale public protests, access to the Capitol plaza will be restricted,” read an email from the House Parking Team on the eve of the riot. “For the safety and security of personnel on the House campus, we ask that staff strongly consider parking in the Cannon and Longworth House Underground Garages.”
According to a DOJ memo revealed in a separate lawsuit with Judicial Watch, “normal staffing for a joint session was less than half” of what is “usually assigned” to the lower chamber on Jan. 6. Was Pelosi made aware of the staffing shortage?
4. Why Were the Few Capitol Police Who Were On Duty So Unprepared?
In their report last summer, complete within six months as opposed to Pelosi’s Committee taking 18 to coincide with the upcoming midterms, the Senate revealed Capitol Police weren’t just understaffed the day of the riot. They were ill-trained and ill-equipped.
“[U.S. Capitol Police’] Civil Disturbance Unit operates on an ‘ad hoc’ basis, without sufficient
training or equipment,” lawmakers found. They continued, emphasis added:
Of USCP’s 1,840 sworn officers, only approximately 160 are trained in advanced civil disturbance tactics and use of ‘hard’ protective equipment. Fewer than ten are trained to use USCP’s full suite of less-than-lethal munitions. On January 6, some of the ‘hard’ protective equipment was defective or not staged in close proximity to the officers.
Rank-and-file officers were also not given periodic training in civil disturbance, even after the year of unrest that plagued the nation’s capital. Short on equipment and training to quell a mass demonstration, the Capitol Police were overpowered at their barriers as the National Guard took three hours for approval of assistance.
5. Were FBI Informants Present On Jan. 6? If So, How Many, and What Did They Do?
In January, Newsweek revealed the Justice Department deployed “national” forces from the FBI installation at Quantico operating with “shoot-to-kill authority” as a precautionary measure ahead of the riot. At a committee hearing days later, Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz demanded an agency executive answer about the FBI’s potential provocative involvement.
“How many FBI agents or confidential informants actively participated in the events of Jan. 6?” Cruz asked the Executive Assistant Director for the FBI’s National Security Branch Jill Sanborn.
Sanborn repeatedly refused to answer, even as evidence mounts of the FBI’s presence at the Capitol, including a confirming report in The New York Times.
Don’t Expect Answers From the J6 Committee
Select Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., made clear the panel had no interest in probing Pelosi’s culpability, even as the speaker’s failures remain at the center of the security breach.
“If you look at the charge that we have in the resolution, it says the facts and circumstances around January 6,” Thompson said. “I don’t see the speaker being part and parcel to that.”
“There is culpability here because the speaker is responsible for the security of the Capitol,” Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Scott Perry said on Tuesday’s call with reporters.