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"We will have an after-action review; there will be a commission," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said recently

By Virginia Chamlee
February 15, 2021 11:51 AM
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pro Trump protesters breach Capitol building
Rioters at the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6.
| Credit: Tasos Katopodis/Getty

After settling Donald Trump's second impeachment trial — which ended in the former president's acquittal over the weekend — lawmakers say they never want to repeat the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol last month.

Following the former president's acquittal, elected representatives continued pushing for a more thorough investigation into security failures that allowed pro-Trump supporters to storm the building, as well as one that would investigate what role Trump, 74, played in the deadly attack.

An elaborate review, some lawmakers said, would help prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.

The New York Times reports that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are leaning toward a commission rather than other options to hold the former president to account — such as a formal censure or using the 14th amendment to bar him from future office.

Republican Thomas Kean and Democrat Lee Hamilton, who chaired the independent, bipartisan commission created by former President George W. Bush in the wake of the Sep. 11, 2001 attacks, called for a similar commission to probe the Jan. 6 attack in a letter sent to President Joe Biden last Friday.

"Our country has been wounded," they wrote in the letter, according to NJ.com. "A full accounting of the events of January 6th and the identification of measures to strengthen the Congress can help our country heal."

In an interview with ABC News' This Week on Sunday, Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy, who voted in favor of Trump's impeachment, echoed those calls. "I think there should be a complete investigation about what happened on 1/6, both why was there not more law enforcement, National Guard already mobilized, what was known, who knew it and when they knew it, all that, because that builds the basis so this never happens again in future," Cassidy, 63, told anchor George Stephanopoulos.

Later during the program, House impeachment manager Rep. Madeleine Dean, a Democrat, also said the U.S. Capitol riot warranted a bipartisan commission.

"For the first time in however many years, we had an insurrection incited by the president of the United States where five people died, more have died since, hundreds were injured, people lost fingers, lost eyesight," Dean, 61, said. "The House was desecrated. The Capitol was desecrated. People were terrorized."

Dean said "there must be a full commission, an impartial commission — not guided by politics, but filled with people who would stand up to the courage of their conviction like Dr. Cassidy."

Trump Impeachment
Lawmakers gather for Donald Trump's second impeachment trial
| Credit: Uncredited/AP/Shutterstock

Even some who voted to acquit Trump, like longtime ally Sen. Lindsey Graham, have said recently they also support convening a commission.

"We need a 9/11 commission to find out what happened and make sure it never happens again, and I want to make sure that the Capitol footprint can be better defended next time," Graham, 65, told Fox News Sunday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — a longtime Trump critic — announced plans to launch a commission on Monday, citing national security concern and concern for the safety of Congress members.

Citing an initial security assessment on the security of the Capitol building, Pelosi's statement said the next step would be "an outside, independent 9/11-type Commission to investigate and report on the facts and causes relating to the January 6, 2021 domestic terrorist attack upon the United States Capitol Complex."

Pelosi first pushed for a commission in January, telling reporters: "We will have an after-action review; there will be a commission."

In a letter to her colleagues this month, obtained by Washington Post reporter Olivier Knox, Pelosi floated the idea again. "It is also clear that we will need to establish a 9/11-type commission to examine the facts, causes, and security relating to the terrorist mob attack on January 6," Pelosi, 80, wrote.

Trump was charged by the House of Representatives with "incitement of insurrection" last month after a mob of his supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol during a joint session of Congress to affirm Biden's 2020 victory.

Five people died during the attack, before lawmakers reconvened and approved Biden, 78, as the next president. The impeachment charge made Trump the only U.S. president to have been impeached twice, though he was acquitted by the Senate both times.

Hours after Trump's acquittal Saturday, Biden issued a statement emphasizing that while "the final vote did not lead to a conviction, the substance of the charge is not in dispute." 

In his statement, Biden noted that even some of the Republicans who voted to acquit Trump, such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, "believe Donald Trump was guilty of a 'disgraceful dereliction of duty' and 'practically and morally responsible for provoking' the violence unleashed on the Capitol." 

A 9/11-like commission would open a more elaborate investigation into the events of Jan. 6 and offer a definitive accounting of what transpired throughout the day, as well as what inspired to the attempted insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.