US Capitol police officers stand guard on Saturday, January 9 2021. Picture: BLOOMBERG/GRAEME SLOAN
US Capitol police officers stand guard on Saturday, January 9 2021. Picture: BLOOMBERG/GRAEME SLOAN

The Senate impeachment trial that ended in Donald J Trump’s unjust acquittal established convincingly that the former president bore responsibility for the deadly attack on the Capitol by his supporters on January 6. But questions remain about the origins of the attack, the apparent failure of security officials to prepare adequately for it, and the response once the Capitol was breached.

For those reasons, House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi was right to call for an independent commission to investigate the attack, its origins and its aftermath. Various congressional committees have already launched investigations, but — like the impeachment process — it will be difficult to keep partisanship out of them.

A better instrument would be an independent commission created by Congress with distinguished members from across the political spectrum that would sift evidence about the origins and aftermath of the attack and the conduct of public officials, including but not limited to Trump and congressional leaders.

Among the questions to be answered: did the warnings about a looming attack on the Capitol go unnoticed or unheeded? Did the police guarding the Capitol make choices that aided the rioters, inadvertently or not? Were the rioters helped by members of Congress or their staff?

Plenty of fingers are already being pointed. Former Capitol police chief Steven Sund told the Washington Post he sought permission from House and Senate security officials on January 4 to ask the DC National Guard to stand by. Sund said he was turned down and the House sergeant-at-arms expressed discomfort about the “optics” of declaring an emergency before the demonstrations took place.

Fortunately, there are signs of bipartisan support for a bipartisan commission empanelled by Congress. Even Sen Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally and apologist, said Trump’s behaviour after the election was “over the top” and that the country needs a 9/11-style commission “to find out what happened and make sure it never happens again”. President Joe Biden also supports the creation of a commission. 

Mercifully, the siege of the Capitol by pro-Trump fanatics was not as deadly as the 9/11 attack, but in its own way it was just as shocking: an attempt by domestic terrorists to try to overturn the results of an election. It too demands a dispassionate and far-reaching investigation. /Los Angeles, February 17

Los Angeles Times

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