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Why greenlighting the Jan. 6 commission still remains an uphill battle

Senate Democrats pushing to establish an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection had the help of powerful advocates Thursday — the family and former partners of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who died a day after responding to the rioters. But establishing that commission is still an uphill battle. Lisa Desjardins reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now we turn to Capitol Hill, where four powerful advocates joined the push for an independent commission to look at January the 6th.

    Lisa Desjardins reports.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    An unexpected and emotional appeal on Capitol Hill today, as senators considered a bill to establish a commission to investigate January 6.

  • Gladys Sicknick:

    Usually, I stay in the background, and I just couldn't. I couldn't stay quiet any more.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    The mother of Officer Brian Sicknick, who died after the attack on the Capitol, joined by his longtime partner and two Capitol Police officers injured that day, made the rounds to urge the commission's passing.

  • Sandra Garza:

    That day should never have happened. It was terrible. And so we just — we want members of Congress to ensure that it doesn't happen again.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    At least 15 Republican senators agreed to sit down with the group. Some, like Susan Collins, are trying to find a compromise version.

  • Sen. Susan Collins, R-ME:

    We owe it to the brave men and women who defended our lives that day, and, in some cases, did so at the cost of their lives.

  • Woman:

    H.R.3233, a bill to establish the national commission to investigate the January 6 attack.

  • Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.:

    The bill is passed.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    The House passed their version of a January 6 commission last week, with 35 Republicans joining Democrats in support. It's modeled directly after the commission to investigate the attacks on September 11, which passed in 2002 with overwhelming support from both parties.

    The proposed commission would have 10 seats total, equally split, Democrats and Republicans. The chair would be appointed by Democrats, the vice chair by Republicans. Subpoenas for witnesses or documents would require agreement from at least one member on each side.

    In the nearly six months since the insurrection, the Department of Justice has arrested over 400 people. Senate Republicans opposing the commission say Democrats want to score political points and that other investigations under way are sufficient.

  • Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind.:

    The agency that I have the most faith in and the other side of the aisle did on many other matters would be the FBI.

  • Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.:

    There's no new fact about that day we need the Democrats' extraneous commission to uncover.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Frustrated Democrats pushed back.

  • Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va.:

    And the Democrats have basically given everything they have asked for, any impediment that would have been there, and there's no reason not to now, unless you just don't want to hear the truth.

  • Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.:

    The truth of the matter seems to be that Senate Republicans oppose the commission because they fear that it might upset Donald Trump and their party's midterm messaging.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And Lisa joins me now.

    So, Lisa, as you reported, it was just a little over a week ago that the House passed legislation to create this commission. Tell us what is going on in the Senate now.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Judy, this appears to be the critical night for decision-making on the January 6 commission.

    We expect the U.S. Senate to vote tonight on this idea whether to move it forward or to block it. We don't know exactly when. But we do know it's got an uphill fight right now. It needs 10 Republicans in order to move forward, but only three so far — yes, you can look at three of them — Susan Collins of Maine, as well as two others, are in support of this bill right now.

    Now, I want to talk about the reasons why people say that this commission is needed. It's important to talk about that. Some say, point out there is no definitive account right now of what happened on January 6.

    That includes those who attacked the Capitol, their reasons for attacking the Capitol, how much political rhetoric played into that, as well as the failures of security at the Capitol and at the Defense Department.

    There are conflicting versions all around. And there's no definitive account of that.

    In addition, Capitol Police would like some leadership who were responsible for security to be held accountable. This report could do that. Other Capitol Police tell me they want their stories told.

    I spoke to one who was involved in the battle for the Rotunda, a harrowing account that has not been told, all of this happening as, of course, Capitol security itself is still unresolved. The National Guard has left, but little else has changed really since January 6 in major configuration.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, it is clear, Lisa, that many people are saying this has to happen, it's necessary.

    Why then so many Republicans opposing it?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    It's an important question.

    I have talked to dozens of Republicans who oppose this. Their number one reason, Judy, is, they say they think this is a political smear attempt. They don't trust Democrats. They believe Democrats will hijack this commission, no matter how bipartisan or even it is, in order to try and make them look bad in an election year.

    Another argument that they have is, they say that the timeline is just too short for this. In addition, they say they don't think it's likely that the events of January 6 can be repeated, because it was a unique circumstance, with a rally outside the Capitol, unprepared security forces.

    To that argument. I have to say, I have to point to what's happening across the country. Some 430 people so far have been arrested. And the FBI even today sent out an alert looking for photos and help in identifying people. And we know that judges ruling in these cases are saying they believe there is still a threat from this idea that the election was fraudulent.

    I want to read some words of Judge Amy Berman Jackson. She is a district court judge here in Washington, D.C. She wrote in one of her rulings denying a release for a suspect. She said: "Six months later, after January 6, the canard that the election was stolen is being repeated daily on major news outlets and from the corridors of power in state and federal government, not to mention in the near daily fulminations of the former president."

    This is part of the January 6 commission debate, the idea that you cannot move past it without addressing still a thought that's in this country that some see as very dangerous even at this moment.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, if, Lisa, as your reporting says, the votes are not there to pass it, what happens next?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Then it falls back to what Speaker Pelosi is planning to do in the House, which is a select committee to look into this.

    And that, of course, could get some answers, but that will be more partisan, more like the Benghazi investigation that Republicans led in years past than the 9/11 Commission. It could still not move past the feelings of January 6, just sort of bubble them up again — Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, it's an important story. So important to be following this.

    Lisa Desjardins, we thank you.

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