Democratic and Republican lawmakers have issued fresh calls for a bipartisan 9/11-style commission to investigate why government officials and law enforcement failed to stop the attack on the US Capitol in January, following Donald Trump’s acquittal in his impeachment on charges that he incited the insurrection.
The commission would be modeled after a panel created in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks, which reviewed what caused the atrocity and laid out recommendations on how to foresee and prevent any future incursions.
“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,” said Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator of South Carolina and close Trump ally who voted to acquit the former president on Saturday. “His behavior after the election was over the top,” Graham said of the former president on Fox News Sunday.
Democrat Chris Coons of Delaware agreed. Speaking on ABC’s This Week, he said that a bipartisan commission would “make sure we secure the Capitol going forward and that we lay bare the record of just how responsible and how abjectly violating of his constitutional oath Trump really was”.
Using harrowing video footage from the day, Democratic House prosecutors laid out their case that the former president stoked the attack with violent rhetoric and dangerous insistence on the debunked conspiracy theories suggesting he had won the 2020 presidential election, against all evidence that he had, in fact, lost.
Seven Republicans joined 50 Democrats in the Senate to hold Trump responsible for inciting the deadly insurrection, led by armed supporters who announced intentions to kill or harm lawmakers including Mike Pence, the former-vice president, and Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker.
Though the result of the trial was the most bipartisan in history, House managers ultimately did not secure the 67 votes required to convict Trump.
But an independent commission could be another way for both Republicans and Democrats to hold Trump accountable. Other investigations have already been planned, with two Senate committees set to investigate security failures during the riots. In the House, Pelosi has also asked for a review of the Capitol’s security process.
“There should be a complete investigation about what happened,” said Bill Cassidy, a Republican senator of Louisiana who has been censured by fellow Republicans in his home state for voting in favor of conviction.
A commission would reveal “what was known, who knew it and when they knew, all that, because that builds the basis so this never happens again”, Cassidy told ABC, adding that he was “attempting to hold President Trump accountable” with his vote in the trial.
Even Republicans who found Trump “not guilty” with their vote have tried to distance themselves from the former president. Most notably, the senate’s Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, said: “The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president.”
McConnell, who insisted that he voted against impeachment because Trump was no longer in office, after refusing to hold the trial while Trump was still in office, statements on Saturday seemed to punt the responsibility of holding Trump responsible to civil courts: “We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation. And former presidents are not immune from being held accountable by either one.”
Prior to the impeachment vote, Pelosi wrote a letter to her Democratic colleagues saying it is “clear that we will need to establish a 9/11-type commission to examine and report upon the facts, causes and security relating to the terrorist mob attack on January 6”. She renewed her support for the commission after Trump’s acquittal.
A commission on the Capitol riot would need to be approved via legislation like the 9/11 commission was, and lawmakers may ultimately disagree on who should sit on it. Still, the idea has been gaining steam.
“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,” said Madeleine Dean, one of the House impeachment managers, said on ABC.
“Of course there must be a full commission, an impartial commission, not guided by politics, filled with people who would stand up to the courage of their conviction,” she said.