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Jan. 6 Committee Seizes Final Chance to Grandstand

The House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack met for the final time on Monday. Its ending was much the same as its beginning and middle: an excuse for political point scoring.

Earlier this week, on December 19, 2022, the United States House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack held its final public meeting and released a document billed as “introductory material” to its final report, which is scheduled to be made public tomorrow, Wednesday, December 21. The committee has made little secret of its agenda throughout its year and a half of operations, and the trend continued in its final hours. As the New York Times remarks, “The committee’s… hourlong presentation focused almost exclusively on [former President] Trump, essentially ignoring findings about intelligence and security failures at the Capitol before and during the attack.”

The committee’s “introductory materials” seem entirely unaware of the irony as they cite House Resolution 503, which established the committee with the express purpose of investigating the state of Capitol security and the preparedness of “other Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies in the National Capital Region” to respond to the sort of break-in that occurred on January 6 of last year, only to pivot immediately to transparent efforts to score political points by lambasting Donald Trump. The committee had a concrete task before it, one that could and should have been given serious attention. It was, after all, rather shocking to see how easily a crowd, most of whom were completely unarmed, could simply walk into the Capitol Building and disrupt Congressional business. But the committee members, by and large, chose instead to grind a political ax at length, stubbornly insisting on treating the spontaneous occupation of the seat of the legislature as a mere sideshow to the real issue of a disputed election.

As I have written elsewhere, the legal grounds for President Trump’s plan to contest the last election’s electoral count are a matter of dispute, but the fact remains that the former president was seeking to mount a legal challenge in a legal venue to resolve precisely that dispute. The committee, however, has insisted on treating the legal issues raised as a direct command to the individuals who illegally entered the Capitol. It is difficult to avoid the implication that any candidate in the future who has the temerity to raise questions about election tampering will be similarly hauled across the coals and threatened with criminal prosecution.

But, of course, the committee has no prosecutorial powers. Their much-ballyhooed referral of Mr. Trump and several of his close advisers to the Department of Justice—breathlessly reported on both sides of the Atlantic—has as much legal weight as any anonymous tip given to law enforcement. Which is to say, none at all. The DOJ can and will make its own determination on whether or how to prosecute. Time will tell whether Attorney General Merrick Garland will choose to act on any of the committee’s recommendations. What has become apparently already, though, is that its members were more eager for a soapbox on which to stand than to carry out their assigned task.

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