Still Seeking Jan. 6 Facts

Terry H. Schwadron

April 21, 2021

We’ve been given a lot more clues about how the Jan. 6 mob of Donald Trump supporters swarmed the U.S. Capitol, but three months later, it remains pretty clear that because of partisan concerns, we won’t get the independent Sept. 11-style investigation that all had promised early on.

Indeed, it seems once again, to be going in the opposite direction, apparently under the thinking by some that it is better not to know.

— Prosecutors have gotten the first felony guilty pleas from an insurrectionist — Jon Ryan Schaffer, a heavy-metal guitarist and paramilitary Oath Keeper member — amid promises to finger others. But a broader conspiracy case against groups of rioters, including the Oath Keepers group and the far-right Proud Boys organization, are still out of reach.

— It turns out that the Capitol Police absolutely did know that there were threats of violence and that “Congress itself is the target,” a new inspector general’s report confirmed this week. But the report did not name names about who told the Capitol Police to hold back on the use of force against a mob that grew even beyond those expectations. Meanwhile, all parties continue to bicker about removing protective fencing around the Capitol, and that the Capitol Police’s equipment and procedures were all but rusty in any case.

— Republicans continue their public case that it was not Trump supporters we all watched on television breaking into the Capitol and seeking out lawmakers while erecting nooses and carrying zip ties or that the attack “was a good-natured protest spoiled by a few troublemakers” or that even if it was problematic, so were street protests by Black Lives Matter last summer, and expected again should a guilty verdict in Minneapolis fails.

— Despite public acknowledgments from the Justice Department that they lack specific evidence that the Capitol attacks were planned formally, NBCNews is reporting just that kind of detail in hundreds of posts on now-defunct, a web gathering site for Trump supporters, that include mapping and techniques to stampede past Capitol Police. Meanwhile the DC coroner has identified the cause of death for Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick as natural, the result of two strokes in a 42-year-old, not as the result of homicide at the hands of mob or the two men arrested in his assault.

— Those Republicans who continued to yell Stop the Steal and support continuing calls for
“election integrity” actually are gaining substantial small-donor financial campaign support, according to new campaign filings.

Taken together, “the bipartisan resolve to hold the perpetrators and instigators accountable erodes, and Republicans face sustained pressure to disavow that it was supporters of former president Donald Trump who attacked the U.S. Capitol.Despite renewed attempts by Speaker Nancy Pelosi to pull together a bipartisan commission to study what actually happened, Republican opposition is making it all fritter away.

Pelosi apparently has yet to even share her rewritten proposals for such a commission with Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

Sticking Heads in Sand

In the end, two things seem true here. First, the messy truths aside, the combined rallies, exhortations and maybe actual planning to upend democracy by declaring Donald Trump’s loss a win live on through constant denial of responsibility even in a criminal attack on the Capitol.

And second, apparently we don’t want to know.

Instead, as in so many other spheres of public life now, Americans are accepting that any of their split versions of Truth is sufficient. They only want to hear news from affirming outlets, they restate questions about Jan. 6 to include other events involving the perceived Other Side, and an astonishing number of Republicans — almost two-thirds in a recent Monmouth Poll — still say Biden is not the legitimate president.

That desire not to know more is what continues to draw my attention. It’s what we are seeing in the questions about policing and race, about economic inequities, about the best ways to resist coronavirus, how to get mental health care to more Americans. The list of what we don’t want to know is long.

For political reasons, it is obvious that Congressional Republicans do not want to explore the ideology behind Jan. 6. But, as columnist Jennifer Rubin notes, “Just because it makes them uncomfortable to crack down on people often self-identifying as MAGA followers, it does not mean the rest of the country can afford to ignore a rising threat.”

In the last week, we had more testimony about the periodic formal assessments of threats facing the country. Apart from the analysis of threats from China, Russia, Iran and North Korea, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, found that “domestic terrorism incidents have soared to new highs in the United States, driven chiefly by white-supremacist, anti-Muslim and anti-government extremists on the far right. . . Since 2015, right-wing extremists have been involved in 267 plots or attacks and 91 fatalities, the data shows. At the same time, attacks and plots ascribed to far-left views accounted for 66 incidents leading to 19 deaths.” A good chunk of those plots involved groups espousing white supremacy.

Long List of Questions

The report by Inspector General Michael Bolton on the Capitol Police said that that agency’s leadership not only failed to act known threats, it did the reverse, not allowing the Civil Disturbance Unit to use its most serious crowd-control equipment and techniques. Received threats even included Capitol maps in circulation among would-be insurrectionists.

In February, Steven Sund, the former chief of the Capitol Police, testified to the Senate, saying “None of the intelligence we received predicted what actually occurred.” He added, “These criminals came prepared for war.”

The inspector general’s report and his testimony to a House committee last week talked of the how of Capitol security failure, but not the why. Who told the leadership of Capitol Police to go relatively easy — until the reality on the ground made that position moot.

It joins the long list of questions that remain from that day, from the delays in deploying the National Guard to quell the out-of-control mob, to who did the planning, to the degree to which race, politics and “optics” played important roles

So far, Republicans are succeeding in trying to prevent a serious assessment of what happened. The question is what the rest of us are going to do about it.


Journalist, musician, community volunteer