The Danger of Ignoring the 1/6 Capitol Attack – Updated
“President George Washington, in his celebrated 1796 Farewell Address, cautioned that American democracy was fragile. ‘Cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government,’ he warned.” -Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, 6/5/2022
“We live in the greatest constitutional Republic in history. No citizen in our Republic can be a bystander. If we do not stand for our freedom and for our Constitution, we will lose them.” –Rep. Liz Cheney
Rep. Adam Kinzinger nailed it when he said, “Anybody that is out there pretending like January 6th didn’t happen, or it was tourists or whatever, in 5 or 10 years, they’re going to be very embarrassed about their role in history.”
January 6, 2021, was the most violent attack on the U.S. Capitol in 200 years, yet the GOP wants to ignore it. Why?
In a nutshell, the danger of ignoring January 6 is the possibility of such an event occurring again and, if successful, the unraveling of democracy that would follow. Regardless of all the naysayers, it is a big friggin’ deal – enough of a big deal that Liz Cheney has done what Republican electeds won’t these days: put her political career on the line for her country, and she has not backed down. History will remember her kinder than the majority of GOP leaders who have hidden behind her steel backbone.
In a recent op-ed, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein wrote of 1/6, “On that day, driven by Trump’s rhetoric and his obvious approval, a mob descended on the Capitol and, in a stunning act of collective violence, broke through doors and windows and ransacked the House chamber, where the electoral votes were to be counted. The mob then went in search of Pence — all to prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s victory. Trump did nothing to restrain them.”
The single most important political issue at this time in my life is to learn what happened that day because there were members of my political party who appeared to have led a coup and I want to know why electeds went along with it when they knew it was a lie. Hours after the attacks were brought under control, over 100 Republican members of Congress still carried out their plan to protest the certification.
When Donald Trump came on the scene in 2015, the GOP began a metamorphosis that led the party to where it is today, leaving behind pragmatic statesmanship and bringing shadow players who had been on the fringe for years to the mainstream. That year, as is normal during primary season, the party was divided behind numerous candidates.
With so many qualified Republicans to choose from (as in, they had a working knowledge of how government operated and had actually been involved), it was painful to watch political folks I had volunteered with for years swing behind the unprincipled, crass, brash, fickle candidate whose party affiliation flip-flopped six times during the years – from Republican to Independent to Democrat to Republican to Independent to Republican. Even with all the baggage he carried and his lack of political or military experience, Trump went on to win the GOP nomination and general election for president in 2016.
Side Note: The Mueller Report concluded there was Russian interference during the 2016 American presidential election. Why do I mention that? Because in March 2022 Donald Trump called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to release unsubstantiated “dirt” on President Joe Biden’s son.
Keep in mind the United States is on the side of and providing military help to Ukraine, an independent country that is currently under unprovoked attack from Russia resulting in unprovoked shelling attacks and genocide on Ukrainian civilians. (The brutality has been documented in an investigative report published at the New York Times and others.) What Trump did could be considered the same as calling on Hitler during World War II to have him release “dirt” against President Roosevelt’s family members.
Meanwhile, Trump continues to dangle a re-do in 2024 when in reality, as background 1/6 evidence mounts, he should never again be allowed to hold political office, in my opinion.
And this is what drives me nuts about the GOP. I know most electeds know much of the past six years and certainly the past two years isn’t right. Indeed, this April 21, 2022, New York Times article notes, “In the days after the attack, Representative Kevin McCarthy planned to tell Mr. Trump to resign. Senator Mitch McConnell told allies impeachment was warranted. But their fury faded fast.” As a result, they began to rewrite and downplay the events of 1/6.
Elected Republicans remain silent even at the expense of our democracy and those of us who cannot buy into their willingness to publicly sweep it under the rug. We know it’s not true, and they know we know it’s not true, and we know they know it’s not true. And yet they remain mute. If our country goes down in flames, if a second January 6 insurrection occurs, if there is a widespread uprising, it will sit squarely on the shoulders of each and every one of them with the exception of the handful who stood up – publicly – for the constitution.
Don’t let Trump’s usual finger-pointing at shiny baubles draw your eye off the ball. Stay focused on the January 6 committee, the seven hours of missing White House phone records on 1/6 (remember when Nixon had 18 minutes of missing tape during Watergate and the commotion that caused?), a federal judge’s assessment that Trump probably committed crimes, Putin’s evil war and terror in Ukraine, Kevin McCarthy’s revealed phone tapes with GOP House leadership, and more as each day passes. So to me Trump’s “request” of Putin and Russia to work against our current President’s son adds even more weight to the Mueller report.
During the four years of Trump’s administration, many grassroots Republicans who had been involved in Republican politics for years went along with the influx of hard-core Trump supporters who swelled GOP ranks. Who could blame them? They were doing what the party always does – swing behind the elected leader.
But the overwhelming numbers of overt Trump loyalists rattled Republican elected officials who toed the line and stuck with the Trump “philosophy” – either in verbal support or submissive silence – even when Trump went off the rails such as his bizarre suggestion that injecting bleach was a cure for Covid. In the past, every elected I knew would have been loudly warning his or her constituents of the danger of such nonsense: “Danger, Will Robinson … don’t try this at home!”
Trump loyalty welds the lock-step mentality to the extreme in the GOP. Those who disagree or speak out or try to seek truth or debate the infinite controversies that abound around him have had their heads handed to them and are shown the door. That goes for electeds as well as grassroots, clearing the ranks for only the loudest Trump-supporting “yes” voices. I had never seen anything quite like it before Trump came on the political scene. Let’s just say the GOP, including the religious right, could give the Amish a run for their money in the shunning department.
Side note: Recent GOP primaries have thankfully shown a weakening of Trump’s grip on the GOP, most notably the races in Georgia after three candidates who refused to help him overturn the 2020 election results won against Trump-endorsed opponents: Gov. Brian Kemp (who won by 52 points over the Trump-endorsed opponent), and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (who won by 18 points over the Trump-endorsed opponent), and Attorney General Chris Carr (who won by 47 points over the Trump-endorsed opponent). To say Trump was trounced in his Georgia meddling is an understatement.
Taking a look at 2020, information has shown Trump and his team appear to have begun laying the groundwork early to sow doubt about the upcoming election. Just in case, you know … insurance. Sure enough, when he lost, Trump loyalists spread out with what appeared to be prearranged conspiracies about fraud and a stolen election, another first in a gallery of firsts with Trump. Grassroots supporters picked up on it and began repeating the conspiracies that spread faster than a grassfire in 75-mph winds on a parched Oklahoma prairie. I mean, if your elected officials didn’t say it was wrong, then it must be right was, sadly, the prevailing thought.
As a result, all the election fraud lies led to January 6, 2021. On that day, stirred to action by prominent GOP voices, angry Trump supporters violently attacked the U.S. Capitol, crashed through barricades while battling police, broke into and vandalized the historic building, and roamed the hallways looking for members of Congress. A gallows was erected on the Capitol lawn as rioters chanted, “Hang Mike Pence.” The vice president’s life surely was in danger and he was secreted out by security. Terrified staffers and Congressional members feared for their safety and hid behind locked doors or escaped down back stairways. Indeed, if the insurrectionists had found them, I shudder to think what could have happened.
Side Note: Definition of insurrectionist (for those who insist these were just your everyday out-of-town friendly tourists stopping by the Capitol for a visit):
-“A violent uprising against an authority or government” (Oxford).
-“An act or instance of revolting against civil authority or an established government” (Merriam-Webster).
-“An organized and usually violent act of revolt or rebellion against an established government or governing authority of a nation-state or other political entity by a group of its citizens or subjects (Britannica).
-“An organized attempt by a group of people to defeat their government and take control of their country, usually by violence” (Cambridge).
Those all define what occurred on January 6 – the goal to prevent the election certification – especially as the Select Committee uncovers volumes of evidence that, incidentally, most likely would have remained buried if the GOP was in the majority. An alarming thought is that if the GOP takes control of the House in November 2022, the search for answers to January 6, 2021, could very likely evaporate.
Look, the GOP is my party. It does not make me happy to be at odds with the party I’ve belonged to my entire life but they have chosen to ignore a black day in U.S. history, a day I watched unfold on live TV and never thought I’d ever see happen in America. Never. I was stunned. Trump’s recorded message that afternoon told the rioters, “We love you.” We love you. Republicans didn’t find that odd on a day when the Capitol was trashed by their team?
If they don’t get to the bottom of it, a precedent will be set for the future.
The violent “Unite the Right” rally 2.5 years earlier in Charlottesville that brought hundreds of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and other far right extremists to the University of Virginia and the surrounding streets had been shocking and, quite frankly, eye-opening. Was it a clarion call for the GOP, a party that, in my opinion, continues marching backward toward the past?
The memory of January 6 isn’t going anywhere; it’s already in the history books. But we have those on the political right side of the aisle who want to sweep it under the rug versus the handful of Republicans who want to protect the Constitution and discover the root of this attack that was meant to stop the certification of Joe Biden as winner of the 2020 Presidential election.
If Republicans were honest with themselves, they would admit that if Democrats had attacked the Capitol, the GOP would have been all over it in righteous indignation. One needs look no further than their obsession with Hillary’s emails and Benghazi – both were investigated ad nauseum – and, yet, a violent attack on the United States Capitol is of no concern to them?
The hypocrisy has grown deep the past six years.
This is why it’s been a slog for some in the GOP to write because it’s difficult -impossible? – to be truthful without stepping all over GOP toes. But January 6 is the line in the sand, something I myself cannot let go, and I support Republican Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, the two Republicans willing to serve on the bipartisan committee, on the need to root out all that was behind that travesty.
What is even sadder is the way the party has turned on that handful of Republicans who have tried to defend the Constitution.
For being willing to swim against the overwhelming red tide by joining the 1/6 Select Committee, Cheney and Kinzinger were censured by the Republican National Committee. (Kevin McCarthy and GOP leadership decided to abdicate their responsibilities to defend the Constitution but appear to be livid that Cheney and Kinzinger accepted the invitation of Democratic committee Chair Bennie Thompson to be part of the proceedings.)
Which begs the question: What are Republicans afraid of? They appear far too willing to remain silent to protect the guilty and outlandish members of their caucus while punishing the ones who speak the truth.
Because of her dedication to America and the Constitution, the very conservative Ms. Cheney was also punished by fellow Republicans in other ways. After she was stripped of her number three leadership position in the caucus, Trump endorsed a candidate running against her in her reelection campaign this November. Over 100 House Republicans signed on to co-host a fundraiser for her opponent (how’s that for gratitude?), and caucus leader Kevin McCarthy, he who was against 1/6 before he flipped, also endorsed Ms. Cheney’s opponent.
With the newly released phone tapes published by NY Times reporters Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns that expose McCarthy talking about lowering the hammer on Trump after 1/6, one has to wonder if McCarthy is drowning in hypocrisy while betraying Rep. Cheney (who was on the recorded phone calls as one of the leadership team), or acting as a double-agent between the GOP factions.
Throughout it all, Ms. Cheney’s national profile has grown. She is considered a hero by pragmatic Republicans, and she has raised millions in reelection funds, shattering her previous fundraising record. Even former President George W. Bush countered Trump early on by heading up a fundraiser for Liz, and she has received a dollar or two from my family. Her courage, tenacity, and respect for democracy is admired.
Sen. Mitt Romney, who tweeted in May 2021, “Every person of conscience draws a line beyond which they will not go: Liz Cheney refuses to lie,” held a fundraiser for her that raised substantial funds, and she has the support of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and former GOP Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.
There was a time in the GOP when people of principle and honor like Cheney and Kinzinger were hailed as heroes of freedom and pillars of the party. But you know the old saying: No good deed goes unpunished. And the other saying: Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely. As the GOP works to tear down two of its most conservative members, we have to wonder where the so-called conservatives and constitutionalists are – shouldn’t they be out front on this issue, working with them? Again, the hypocrisy has grown deep the past six years.
Side Note: While working and researching for this post, a news report came through from CBS News and Scott MacFarlane, the reporter who has been a stalwart watchdog of the January 6 court cases, keeping his eye on the legal proceedings as they unfolded.
In the wake of January 6, four Metropolitan police officers committed suicide. There had always been a question about the connection between the violence of the Capitol riots and the suicides. Capitol Police Officer Aquilino Gonell battled rioters and later said the hand-to-hand combat with the mob that day was worse than anything he had encountered while serving in Iraq.
Metropolitan police officer Jeff Smith was on the front lines the day of the January 6 riots. His body cam showed attacks on him including blows to the head both inside and outside the Capitol, and his wife wanted authorities to recognize that his suicide nine days after the riots was directly connected to that violence. D.C. didn’t consider suicides as a death caused in the line of duty.
The CBS report reveals: “Earlier this month, Erin Smith received an email from Washington, D.C., with the result she had spent more than a year fighting for. The city had ruled that her husband’s suicide — nine days after Jan. 6, 2021 — was caused by injuries sustained in battling the rioters, and as such, his death was.” The designation was important because when her husband died, she lost health insurance and income.
So for Republicans who claim people no longer care about 1/6 and have moved on – no, not everyone has moved on. People inside and outside that building were traumatized by the weapon-wielding mob hunting them down in the hallways. Capitol police officers are still dealing with it as well as everyday Americans who watched in disbelief as the events unfolded.
Others are disappointed by the GOP’s lack of concern with the Constitution and an attack on the Capitol. I’m quite frankly shocked that Republicans are so la-dee-da about it. We all know it’s done for political motives. But the question remains, why are so few willing to speak out against it?
Which begs the question: How much longer will Trump hold sway over the GOP or, more accurately, how much longer will the GOP allow Trump to hold sway over them? As more in the party express opinions about the undisciplined politician, perhaps the facade is beginning to crack, perhaps just a bit. The 2022 Georgia primary noted above also comes to mind – Trump was trounced. Perhaps there will be more losses for Trump as Republicans, especially those in leadership, find a backbone to stand up to him.
The bottom line, and the urgency of investigating the who, what, when, where, why, and how of January 6th, is to prevent such an event ever happening again. There has to be accountability for such a violent attack and the continued insistence from the 45th president that he won a lost election. If this is not resolved, how would we move beyond the possibility of every candidate questioning all campaign results? It has to be resolved and those responsible have to be held accountable.
As I worked on this piece, it was announced that The Washington Post had won the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for their coverage of the January 6 attack on the Capitol.
The staff of The Washington Post has won the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for its coverage of the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The Post’s coverage of the causes, costs and aftermath of the attack showed how the forces behind the siege are shaking the underpinnings of democracy. See The Post’s complete coverage.
Finally, kudos to the January 6 Select bipartisan committee as they continue their work with cases going to court while hearing from more than 1,000 witnesses as the avalanche of information builds with more than 100,000 documents.
All of Liz Cheney’s colleagues saw the same events on January 6 and yet they have been unwilling to act. Cheney recognized the importance of concentrating on the head of this insurrection – the plot to overthrow the U.S. government – the one who enabled and encouraged the supporters who attacked the Capitol that day.
This week, the committee will begin with the first hearing that will, in the words of the committee, “present previously unseen material documenting January 6th, receive witness testimony, preview additional hearings, and provide the American people a summary of its findings about the coordinated, multi-step effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and prevent the transfer of power.”
Here is the schedule up to this date:
-Thursday, June 9 – opening hearing, at 8pm ET (7pm CT / 6pm MT / 5pm PT)
-Monday, June 13, at 10am
-Thursday, June 16, at 1pm
-Tuesday, June 21, at 1am
-Thursday, June 23, at 3pm
-Tuesday, June 28, at 1pm – unexpectedly added by 1/6 Committee stating new evidence had come to light with a witness (Congress is on July 4 break; additional hearings were not expected to resume until mid-July)
All major TV and cable news outlets have aired the hearings – NBC, CBS, ABC, MSNBC, CNN, CNBC – with the exception of Fox News. (Fox skipped the first hearing; after 20 million tuned in, they have carried the rest.)
Bearing Drift colleague Kristina Nohe wrote (see Must See TV), “Every generation has its moment when it must come to terms with its own immediate state of affairs: the McCarthy hearings, the Warren Commission, the Watergate hearings, the Starr Report, and now the January 6th hearings. What people watch on Thursday night will tell the country a lot about itself.”
As a reminder, take a look at these GOP leaders who were for getting to the bottom of 1/6 before they were against it: McCarthy, Haley, Graham, Cruz.
Are you watching the hearings?
“The lesson of our history is that the task of merely maintaining strong and sturdy the structures of a constitutional order is unending, the continuing and ceaseless work of every generation.” -Charles Krauthammer
-Washington Post: Finally, the Jan. 6 hearings: Two audiences, five objectives
-New York Times: Opinion | My Fellow Republicans, Stop Fearing Donald Trump by former Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock
-The Bulwark: Liz Cheney’s Star Turn
-New York Times: Before Jan. 6, Aide Warned Secret Service of Security Risk to Pence
-New York Times: Trump and Ukraine: Former Advisers Revisit What Happened
-Washington Post: Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein thought Richard Nixon defined corruption. Then came Donald Trump. By Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein
-Washington Post: Thomas Webster, retired NYPD officer, guilty of Jan. 6 assault on police
-Washington Examiner: House Republicans are angry with Liz Cheney because she tells the truth
-The Oregon Way: A year after 1/6/21: Ignoring a warning flare for democracy
-Washington Post (Jennifer Rubin): The Jan. 6 hearings should follow 5 basic rules
-New York Times: Trump and Ukraine: Former Advisers Revisit What Happened
-The New York Times Magazine: ‘This Was Trump Pulling a Putin’
-The Atlantic: Will Hurd 2024: Revenge of the Normal Republicans?
-New York Times: The Capitol Police and the Scars of the January 6th Riot
-Pew Research Center: How America Changed During Trump’s Presidency
-New York Times: The American Abyss
January 6 videos:
Originally published June 9, 2022 – updated June 28, 2022