Four months ago, terrorists invaded the United States Capitol, disrupted the normal Constitutional functions of the United States Senate and United States House of Representatives, assaulted public property and police, and threatened to kill lawmakers in a coordinated plot to install an unelected dictator as President.
Yesterday, South Dakota Congressman Dusty Johnson agreed with the majority of his House colleagues that the terrorist attack that imperiled his life and our democracy deserved the same sort of independent investigation that Congress authorized to investigate the 2001 terrorist attack that targeted the Capitol.
He voted for a commission that would carry out the following functions:
The functions of the Commission are to—
- conduct an investigation of the relevant facts and circumstances relating to the domestic terrorist attack on the Capitol, including relevant facts and circumstances relating to—
- activities of intelligence agencies, law enforcement agencies, and the Armed Forces, including with respect to intelligence collection, analysis, and dissemination and information sharing among relevant instrumentality of government;
- influencing factors that contributed to the domestic terrorist attack on the Capitol and how technology, including online platforms, financing, and malign foreign influence operations and campaigns may have factored into the motivation, organization, and execution of the domestic terrorist attack on the Capitol and targeted violence and domestic terrorism relevant to such attack; and
- other entities of the public and private sector as determined relevant by the Commission for such investigation;
- identify, review, and evaluate the causes of and the lessons learned from the domestic terrorist attack on the Capitol and targeted violence and domestic terrorism relevant to such attack regarding—
- the command, control, and communications of the United States Capitol Police, the National Guard, the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia, and other Federal, State, and local law enforcement in the National Capitol Region on or before January 6, 2021;
- the structure, coordination, operational plans, policies, and procedures of the Federal Government, including as such relate to State and local governments and nongovernmental entities, and particularly with respect to detecting, preventing, preparing for, and responding to targeted violence and domestic terrorism;
- the structure, authorities, training, manpower utilization, operational planning, and use of force policies of the United States Capitol Police;
- the policies, protocols, processes, procedures, and systems for sharing of intelligence and other information by Federal, State, and local agencies with the United States Capitol Police, the Sergeants at Arms of the House of Representatives and the Senate, the Government of the District of Columbia, including the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia, the National Guard, and other Federal, State, and local law enforcement in the National Capitol Region on or before January 6, 2021, and the related the policies, protocols, processes, procedures, and systems for monitoring, assessing, disseminating, and acting on intelligence and other information, including elevating the security posture of the United States Capitol Complex, derived from instrumentality of government, open sources, and online platforms; and
- the policies, protocols, processes, procedures, and systems for interoperability between the United States Capitol Police and the National Guard, the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia, and other Federal, State, and local law enforcement in the National Capitol Region on or before January 6, 2021; and
- submit to the President and Congress reports required pursuant to section 10 containing such findings, conclusions, and recommendations, which may include changes in law, policy, procedures, rules, or regulations, to improve the detection, prevention, preparedness for, and response to targeted violence and domestic terrorism and improve the security posture of the United States Capitol Complex and ensure the security of Members of Congress and staff [H.R. 3233, text as passed by the U.S. House, 2021.05.19].
The bipartisan authors of H.R. 3233 have designed this commission much like the 9.11 Commission:
The House Homeland Security Committee agreement appears to be self-consciously modeled on the 9/11 Commission. In their announcement of the commission, Homeland Security Committee Chair Bennie Thompson and Ranking Member John Katko twice compared their effort to the 9/11 Commission. Reading the draft bill alongside the legislation establishing the 9/11 Commission, the parallels are obvious. The bills use similar language and structure and, in many places, the Thompson-Katko legislation seems to have taken phrases right out of the 9/11 Commission bill.
In another echo of the 9/11 Commission, the new body is charged with issuing a report containing recommendations for “corrective measures” to prevent future acts of “terrorism.” The legislation specifies that the new commission must also include recommendations on how to “improve the security posture of the United States Capitol Complex while preserving accessibility of the Capitol Complex for all Americans, and strengthen the security and resilience of the nation and American democratic institutions against domestic terrorism.” As part of that work, the committee will examine a broad range of questions, including the work of intelligence and law enforcement authorities and “how technology, including online platforms, financing, and malign foreign influence operations and campaigns” might have contributed to the Capitol attack. The scope and range of the commission’s jurisdiction seems appropriate.
The structure of the commission is almost an exact replica of the 9/11 Commission. Both bodies consist of 10 members, five selected by Democrats and five by Republicans. Interestingly, the president appointed the 9/11 Commission’s chair. The speaker of the House and the Senate majority leader are to jointly pick the Jan. 6 Commission chair—but there’s no role for President Biden here.
The requirements for subpoenas track those of the 9/11 Commission, too. The new commission allows subpoenas to issue either on the agreement of the chair and vice chair, or on a majority vote of commissioners. As some commentators have pointed out, this could potentially give Republican members the ability to block any subpoena if they vote together—but it also means that only one Republican-appointed commissioner would be required to make a subpoena go through [Quinta Jurecic, Molly E. Reynolds, and Benjamin Wittes, “What’s in the Jan. 6 Commission Bill?” Lawfare, 2021.05.18].
But yesterday, 175 Republican Representatives voted against this sensible investigation of the January 6 Capitol insurrection, out of loyalty to or fear of the primary instigator and intended beneficiary of that insurrection and his dangerously destructive supporters. The Republicans who are now trying to sweep under the rug the insurrection staged by their last President have not yet killed the prospect of a national commission to investigate the January 6 insurrection, but they have demonstrated their commitment to fascism over facts and democracy.
Fortunately, Representative Johnson has not surrendered his last shreds of patriotism and good sense to his morally crumbling party.