18:44 GMT17 June 2021
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    On 20 May, former President Donald Trump lashed out at the 35 House Republicans who voted with their Democratic counterparts to create an independent commission to investigate the 6 January Capitol riots. Still, 175 GOP lawmakers opposed the initiative. What's behind their unwillingness to launch the new panel?

    "See, 35 wayward Republicans – they just can't help themselves", Donald Trump ranted in a 20 May statement. "We have much better policy and are much better for the country, but the Democrats stick together, the Republicans don't".

    Earlier, on Tuesday, the ex-president called upon GOP lawmakers "not [to] approve the Democrat trap of the January 6 Commission", and even bring an end to this debate "unless the murders, riots, and fire bombings in Portland, Minneapolis, Seattle, Chicago, and New York are also going to be studied".

    If passed by both chambers of the US Congress the bill would give the commission subpoena power to call witnesses. The 6 January panel is modelled on the 9/11 Commission that examined the circumstances surrounding the 11 September 2001 terror attacks.

    ​The House GOP leadership, including Kevin McCarthy, opposed the legislation arguing that a series of congressional and intergovernmental investigations into the riots are already underway. He suggested that the Democratic Party's initiative is far from being unbiased and "could interfere with and ultimately undermine… ongoing prosecutorial efforts".

    In addition, the Republican House minority leader expressed deep concerns that the bill overlooks last summer's violent political protests, the 2017 Congressional baseball shooting, and the deadly attack on Capitol Police on 2 April 2021.

    For their part, Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio) and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) who voted in favour of creating the 6 January panel stressed that they are looking for facts and that the American people deserve to know what happened and how the nation can fix these failures.

    ​Yet another commission proponent, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), suggested that Kevin McCarthy himself should be questioned by the 6 January panel.

    "I wouldn't be surprised if he were subpoenaed", Cheney told ABC News on 16 May. "I think he very clearly and said publicly that he's got information about the president's state of mind that day".

    On 12 May, Cheney was ousted from the House Republican leadership over harsh criticism towards Donald Trump as well as voting to impeach the former president. Leader McCarthy supported her removal.

    Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., arrives to the chamber ahead of President Joe Biden speaking to a joint session of Congress, Wednesday, April 28, 2021, in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.
    © AP Photo / Melina Mara
    Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., arrives to the chamber ahead of President Joe Biden speaking to a joint session of Congress, Wednesday, April 28, 2021, in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

    Commenting on the split within the GOP's ranks, CNN called it a "revolt" against the Republican House leadership and Donald Trump's "personal cult". The media admitted, however, that 35 Republican votes represent "a small fraction of the overall GOP caucus", with a total of 175 Republicans voting against the 6 January commission.

    ​The US Senate is due to vote on the House-passed bill next week. Democratic senators need at least 10 GOP votes to pass the legislation in the evenly split upper chamber. However, given Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's opposition to the initiative it appears it won't be an easy task. McConnell has already signalled that he considers the House's proposal "slanted and unbalanced".

    Echoing McCarthy, the Senate Republican leader argued that the ongoing investigations are sufficient to probe the Capitol riots. In January 2021, McConnell subjected protesters as well as then-President Donald Trump to tough criticism. Still, currently he deems that the 6 January commission would be duplicative to law enforcement and congressional efforts. To date, the Department of Justice has announced 445 arrests in conjunction with the Capitol protests, while 100 more arrests are expected to follow.

    U.S Senate Republicans face reporters following weekly policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington
    © REUTERS / Evelyn Hockstein
    U.S Senate Republicans face reporters following weekly policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington

    GOP Argues The Protests Were Not 'An Insurrection'

    While President Joe Biden called the 6 January DC riots the "worst attack on [American] democracy since the Civil War", conservative observers suggest the violence at the protests has been deliberately exaggerated by the Democrats.  

    Julie Kelly, a political commentator and senior contributor to American Greatness, argues in an op-ed for The Epoch Times that the media-pedaled description of the DC event as an "armed insurrection" is an overstatement. Having examined federal indictments against 400 people currently charged by the Justice Department, she highlighted that only 44 defendants "stand accused of either possessing or using a dangerous weapon". According to her, only two protesters were found to be in possession of a firearm, but neither was inside the building on 6 January.

    FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021 file photo, supporters of President Donald Trump, including Jacob Chansley, right with fur hat, are confronted by U.S. Capitol Police officers outside the Senate Chamber inside the Capitol in Washington. Congress is set to hear from former security officials about what went wrong at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. That's when when a violent mob laid siege to the Capitol and interrupted the counting of electoral votes. Three of the four testifying Tuesday resigned under pressure immediately after the attack, including the former head of the Capitol Police.
    © AP Photo / Manuel Balce Ceneta
    FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021 file photo, supporters of President Donald Trump, including Jacob Chansley, right with fur hat, are confronted by U.S. Capitol Police officers outside the Senate Chamber inside the Capitol in Washington. Congress is set to hear from former security officials about what went wrong at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. That's when when a violent mob laid siege to the Capitol and interrupted the counting of electoral votes. Three of the four testifying Tuesday resigned under pressure immediately after the attack, including the former head of the Capitol Police.

    On 16 May, American Greatness released a video of the protests showing Capitol Police officers speaking with several protesters, including Jacob Chansley, also known as the QAnon Shaman, inside the building on 6 January. One officer, identified by the media outlet as Officer Keith Robishaw, appears to tell Chansley's group that the police won't stop them from entering the building. "We're not against . . . you need to show us . . . no attacking, no assault, remain calm", Robishaw ostensibly said. After that Chansley instructed his group that "this has to be peaceful". 

    "The video directly contradicts what government prosecutors allege in a complaint filed January 8 against Chansley", the media outlet suggests.

    ​The media narrative calling the Capitol breach "an insurrection" is "false", according to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). "By and large, it was a peaceful protest, except for there were a number of people, basically agitators that whipped the crowd and breached the Capitol", he told Fox News on Wednesday, adding that he strongly condemned the breach and the violence.

    ​Conservative observers further argue that the 6 January commission will deepen partisan rift and may be used by the Democrats as a tool against their political opponents. Speaking on Fox News "Tucker Carlson Tonight" on 20 May, The Federalist co-founder Sean Davis said the proposed panel resembles nothing more than Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe 2.0.

    Davis presumed that the Democratic-initiated commission would use its powers to target the party's political enemies as well as to boost the Dems election odds in the upcoming 2022 midterms.

    ​For their part, Democrats insist that the GOP is trying to downplay the 6 January events and call upon Senate Republicans to approve the creation of the commission to get to the bottom of what happened that day.

    The protests erupted over suspected 2020 election irregularities as the joint session of the US Congress was preparing to certify Electoral College votes. During the riots, one protester, US Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt was shot dead by a law enforcement agent, three passed away from natural causes. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick suffered a deadly stroke a day after the breach. Two police officers, Howie Liebengood and Jeffrey Smith, reportedly committed suicide days after they responded to the Capitol protests. Another 140 police officers were injured during the riots which temporarily halted the congressional session.

    Related:

    House Lawmakers Propose Creating $200 Million Quick Reaction Force for US Capitol Security
    US National Guard Troops Deployed After Capitol Riot Will Return Home Sunday, Reports Say
    US Capitol Police Deny Letter From 'USCP Officers' on Creation of Capitol Riot Commission
    Tags:
    insurrection, Mitch McConnell, US Election 2020, Liz Cheney, Donald Trump, Capitol Hill, Capitol Building, US
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