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How the shadow of the Jan. 6 riot still looms large over Congress

The U.S. House on Wednesday moved to form a commission to examine the January 6 attack on the Capitol. The violent pro-Trump riot resulted in widespread injury, deaths, and damage to the building itself. Congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins was in the building that day, and has been reporting on how its shadow looms large over the Capitol. She joins Amna Nawaz to discuss the latest.

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  • Amna Nawaz:

    Today, the U.S. House moved to form a commission to examine the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

    The violent riot resulted in widespread injury, deaths and damage to the building itself.

    Our Lisa Desjardins has been reporting on the debate over a commission and how the shadow of January 6 still looms very large over the Capitol. She joins me now.

    Lisa, good to see you.

    And let's just start right here with the latest. You have been covering this all day. Bring us up to speed. What's the latest on the commission and some of the political battles behind the scenes?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    We have a lot of layers to the story, but the first one is, what this commission is that the House is now voting to pass on to the Senate.

    Let's take a look at how it would work. There would be five members appointed by each party. There you see five red, five blue for the Democrats and the Republicans. The chairman would be appointed by Democrats, chair — vice chair by Republicans.

    Now, in order to have subpoena power, to call witnesses, at least one member of each party would have to agree, and likely a majority. So, in that way, it's crafted to be a bipartisan effort. But there have been some questions about it from Republicans today, some senators worried that perhaps staff would be appointed by Democrats.

    No, this commission exactly mirrors how the 9/11 Commission handled staff. There would be input from both parties. But, nonetheless, there has been very sharp opposition from key Republican leaders in Congress, starting with Kevin McCarthy.

    He came out with a letter a couple of days ago saying that he thinks the process has been too political, that he thinks this duplicates what the Department of Justice is doing with its arrests, and that he also just believes that this should also be expanded to include other political violence, namely, violence surrounding protests last summer from the left.

    Now, today, Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell also expressed his opposition. That is significant. In order for this commission to happen, 10 Republicans must sign off.

    I have to tell you, Amna, I spent a lot of time talking to people today. And I do think that there are 10 votes possible in the Senate. The bill may change just a little bit, but it is going to be touch and go for a minute. It is possible for this to pass the Senate.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Lisa, you and I remember that day so well. I was outside the Capitol Building while the assault was under way. You were inside, of course.

    What about with the lawmakers you talk to? Is there a sense that they are still very much dealing with the fallout of that day?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    I can't convey strongly enough how raw this still is. It's the word I always use. And I think it's the right one.

    I want to remind people of what lawmakers saw that day. When they were talking, when they're thinking about January 6, they're thinking about moments like this, when they were having to evacuate from the House floor, also thinking about their staffers, who had to some — in some cases, there you see, barricade themselves inside offices, as the mob was right behind them, the mob assaulting some of those office doors.

    That's Speaker Pelosi's wing right there.

    In all, seven deaths are related to this violence, including two police officers who died by suicide, hundreds injured. One officer lost his eye. And there's one image that I want to point out in particular, the image of the House chamber door. That's to the speaker's lobby.

    That is the area where Ashli Babbitt was shot as the police were trying to hold off the rioters from getting into the chamber. Amna, that is the place where many members of the House still enter. They now have to go through metal detectors because of January 6. They line up behind each other.

    In that spot, I have seen Democrats who used to work with Republicans avoid those Republicans, because they know they voted to decertify the election.

    What I'm trying to say is that January 6 isn't just hovering over the Capitol. It is right at eye level.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    What about for how these lawmakers do their jobs, Lisa?

    You're describing a really disturbing atmosphere inside. How does all of this affect their ability to actually govern?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    I want to give an important example. It is affecting governing.

    Let's look at these two members of Congress, Pennsylvania Democrat Madeleine Dean. And then you also see Georgia Republican Buddy Carter. For a couple of years, these two have worked to co-author a bill that aims to help opioid addiction crisis.

    But, this year, Madeleine Dean decided she could not co-sponsor with Carter because he voted to decertify after the January 6 — he voted against the election certification. Once she made that decision known, Carter then had his own reaction, and organized Republicans to block the very bill that he was sponsoring, hoped to sponsor, and that would help opioid addiction crisis.

    It is — it was delayed a week because of this. We talked to both these members to give you a sense of what's going on here, first Buddy Carter.

  • Rep. Buddy Carter:

    Representative Dean wanted me to apologize.

    And, as I said earlier, it'll be a cold day in hell before I apologize for standing up for my values. Among some people, I don't think there's any question that the Democrats are trying to keep the January 6 events alive and trying to stretch it out as long as they can.

    We need to move forward. We need to get past that. I condemn what happened on January 6. And, again, I continue to condemn it. But we have got to get past that.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    And, quickly, here's Madeleine Dean on what she's feeling right now.

  • Rep. Madeleine Dean:

    It's a struggle, personally and professionally. You can see the toxic spillover of those who promoted the big lie, who allowed the former president to just early on promote disinformation, sow the seeds of doubt among our electorate that maybe their votes were going to be mishandled, or somehow they were going to be cheated.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Amna, there is so much mistrust at the Capitol, on both sides of the Capitol, between both parties, and it certainly is affecting almost every issue.

    Can a commission on January 6 get done? It's possible. Can the members of the commission trust each other and try and keep it on track to be something useful? It's something we will certainly be watching.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Lisa, very quickly, before I let you go, a commission, if it's formed, what's the hope of what it can do?

  • Lisa Desjardins:


    This will be more focused on January 6, is the idea. But it will be up to commissioners to decide what they do. There is hope that it will have a definitive account of what happened on January 6.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Lisa Desjardins, always good to see you. Thanks.

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