Politics Pelosi’s 9/11-Style Commission Doesn’t Go Far Enough

12:20  18 february  2021
12:20  18 february  2021 Source:   politico.com

9/11 probe leaders lend weight to calls for an independent commission to investigate Capitol attack

  9/11 probe leaders lend weight to calls for an independent commission to investigate Capitol attack What happened on Jan. 6 requires thorough investigation so Americans learn the truth, said Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton. As the impeachment trial was proceeding Friday, Tom Kean, the former Republican governor of New Jersey, and Lee Hamilton, the former Democratic House member from Indiana, sent a letter to President Biden and to the bipartisan leaders in the House and Senate urging the establishment of a commission that would be both independent and bipartisan. That alone points to the challenges such a commission would face.

After the Senate acquitted Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial last Saturday, Democratic and Republican leaders began coalescing around a new way to bring to justice those responsible for the Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol: a Congressional inquiry modeled on the 9/11 Commission. Assistant House Speaker Katherine Clark called it “the next step to getting to truth and accountability,” and Nancy Pelosi is already conferring with veterans of the 9/11 Commission as House Democrats prepare to adapt that framework for the current moment.

a close up of a curtain: AP21012761684008.jpg © Sarah Silbiger/Pool via AP AP21012761684008.jpg

But while such a fact-finding mission might help to get to the bottom of just how the Capitol was so vulnerable to attack, it is far from clear that it will provide the kind of accountability that is needed for the leaders, including Trump and others in his orbit, who share responsibility. In fact, it could even get in the way.

Pelosi Pushes for Finding 'Truth' Behind Capitol Riot as House GOP Demands Answers From Her

  Pelosi Pushes for Finding 'Truth' Behind Capitol Riot as House GOP Demands Answers From Her To answer questions as to how a riot was able to transpire in the heart of the nation's government, House Republicans are looking to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is looking to an independent commission. © Samuel Corum/Getty House Republicans sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday that implied she bore some blame for security lapses during the Capitol riot. Pelosi speaks during her weekly press conference at the US Capitol on February 11 in Washington, D.C.

If the Washington establishment is serious about holding the former president accountable, it will need to pursue a criminal investigation—which means the Department of Justice will need to get involved.

Needless to say, a criminal investigation of a former president—to say nothing of an actual prosecution—would be as unprecedented as the impeachment proceeding that just ended. But the Senate has already rendered its judgment on the issue: A bipartisan majority of the Senate—short of the necessary supermajority to convict, but 57 votes all the same—appears to have concluded that Trump is guilty of “incitement of insurrection,” a federal crime. The criminal process has already been recognized by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who in voting to acquit claimed that the appropriate mechanism for holding former federal officeholders accountable is the judicial system—through criminal prosecution and civil litigation—not congressional inquiry.

Pelosi pushes for 9/11-type commission on Capitol riots as GOP presses her for answers

  Pelosi pushes for 9/11-type commission on Capitol riots as GOP presses her for answers Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi renewed her push for a “9/11-type commission” to investigate the Capitol siege following former President Donald Trump being acquitted on Saturday as some Republicans try to turn the security failure spotlight on her. © Provided by Washington Examiner The House impeached Trump last month on a charge of inciting an insurrection in connection to the Capitol riot, with 10 Republicans joining Democrats. He was acquitted by the Senate, with 57 senators voting in favor of conviction and 43 voting against. Pelosi said on Monday that retired Lt. Gen.

That makes it critical for the sake of setting a precedent that the Justice Department conduct a serious and thorough criminal investigation of Trump and those around him for any unlawful behavior in the final months of his administration.

There were already significant questions about whether Trump had violated federal criminal laws long before the 2020 election—as a result of his financial dealings prior to taking office, his obstruction of the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, his attempt to extort the Ukrainian president (the subject of his first impeachment), or his role in Michael Cohen’s payment of hush money to the adult film actress Stormy Daniels. The merits of those respective investigations varied, but regardless, there was at least a plausible case to be made that the final referendum on all of them should be at the ballot box or dealt with solely via impeachment.

The Daily 202: Biden builds back boring in town hall. That’s not a bad thing

  The Daily 202: Biden builds back boring in town hall. That’s not a bad thing Let’s come out and say it: An absence of incendiary tweets doesn’t make a young presidency boring when the administration is facing a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, the resulting economic devastation, the climate crisis and a host of other problems. A running seven-day average of deaths from the virus stood at 2,455. Whatever the assessment of whether Biden is meeting those challenges, these are not boring times. On the substance, the Delaware Democrat probably disappointed progressives on several fronts.

That argument was dubious on its face—particularly because it seemed to prejudge what fuller investigations into any of those areas might actually reveal—but it is clearly irrelevant now, when we are talking about acts Trump committed in the lame-duck period between the election and Joe Biden’s inauguration. There was one obvious political check for misconduct during this transition period—post-presidential impeachment and disqualification from holding future office—but Senate Republicans just closed off that option.

Meanwhile, the House managers made a strong case that Trump’s words and actions leading up to—and during—the insurrection encouraged the deadly violence, even without calling any witnesses or conducting a full investigation. The Justice Department might ultimately determine that it could not overcome the challenge that a potential defense under the First Amendment would pose in a criminal trial of Trump. But there remains strikingly little we know about Trump’s actual behavior in the White House during the siege, and what we do know is more than sufficient to justify further inquiry. This is the sort of thing that criminal investigators excel at—reconstructing what happened in a discrete period of time through witness interviews; documents, notes and other government records, not to mention the considerable leverage afforded by the ability to use immunity and cooperation agreements to secure testimony.

FBI and intel agencies hand over first documents to lawmakers ahead of Capitol attack hearings next week

  FBI and intel agencies hand over first documents to lawmakers ahead of Capitol attack hearings next week House investigators have received the first batch of documents they requested from the FBI and intelligence agencies as part of their ongoing probe into security failures around the January 6 US Capitol attack, according to an official from one of the committees investigating the matter. © Brent Stirton/Getty Images Pro-Trump protesters gather in front of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC.

A criminal investigation could also look into and hold Trump accountable for a broader range of illegal behavior than the narrowly focused impeachment charge. Rather amazingly, Trump’s conduct around the Capitol siege has largely overshadowed the recorded call that he had just days earlier with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which Trump implored Raffensperger to find a way to swing the vote total in Trump’s favor. That call came on the heels of other reports of contacts between Trump and state officials—including two top Michigan Republicans who traveled to the White House to meet with Trump—a meeting about whose contents we know little to nothing about. These interactions may have violated multiple criminal statutes that prohibit efforts to falsify federal election results.

As many have pointed out, it is possible that Trump honestly believed the various conspiracy theories and lies that he invoked with Raffensperger and others—a potentially strong defense to criminal liability if true—but this generous speculation about his mental state is not justified. A month ago, Trump controlled the country’s nuclear stockpile with the near-total support of the Republican Party. Our starting presumption should be that he is relatively in touch with reality, not that he is deluded. Then-Vice President Mike Pence and Trump’s Cabinet tacitly confirmed as much when they declined to invoke the 25th Amendment, despite calls that they do so.

Opinion: What Biden and Pelosi can learn from a 1941-1942 presidential commission

  Opinion: What Biden and Pelosi can learn from a 1941-1942 presidential commission Thomas Balcerski writes that as congressional Democrats pursue a commission into the Capitol riots, they should adopt the best practices of the 1941-1942 Roberts Commission, while taking steps to avoid its pitfalls.Formal congressional hearings into the deadly January 6 attack on the Capitol start this week. However, the federal criminal investigation is already underway and more than 200 people have now been charged by the Justice Department for their alleged roles in the attack.

The Biden administration has signaled that it is reluctant to oversee a prosecution of the former president, and Biden himself said during the campaign that it would be very unusual and probably not very “good for democracy—to be talking about prosecuting former presidents.” This is an eminently reasonable view, but it ignores the potential benefits of an orderly prosecution, assuming one is warranted: It would signal to Americans that no one in this country is truly above the law—not even former presidents with vocal defenders on Capitol Hill and on talk shows—and it would provide a powerful deterrent to elite misconduct.

Other advanced democracies have shown that serious, publicly accepted prosecutions of leaders are legitimate and viable, including the prosecutions of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Italy and the ongoing prosecution of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—while still in office—in Israel. A report published in December by Protect Democracy, a group of former government officials and scholars dedicated to preventing the U.S. from sliding into authoritarianism, concluded that there is “increasingly firm evidence from other countries’ experiences that prosecutions after periods of grave government misconduct deter similar behavior by future political leaders; and they possibly weaken incentives for those with nefarious objectives to run for office.”

Trump is reportedly already under investigation at the state level, and the Biden Justice Department might be tempted to leave matters to prosecutors in Georgia or New York. But for reasons both principled and practical, if a president committed conduct that violated federal law, he should incur consequences under federal law—particularly when that conduct involves something as serious as corrupting our most basic democratic processes. Local prosecutors are also less well-resourced and may find it difficult to pursue leads that do not directly pertain to Trump’s conduct in their jurisdiction.

McConnell knocks Pelosi Jan. 6 commission proposal: 'Partisan by design'

  McConnell knocks Pelosi Jan. 6 commission proposal: 'Partisan by design' Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) on Wednesday knocked Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) proposal for a 9/11-style commission to investigate the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol, saying she is setting the panel up to be partisan.McConnell poured cold water on key aspects of the draft bill including its design and its mandate, underscoring the challenges Democrats face in their bid to recreate a broad commission to probe last month'sMcConnell poured cold water on key aspects of the draft bill including its design and its mandate, underscoring the challenges Democrats face in their bid to recreate a broad commission to probe last month's attack.

None of this means that a commission is the wrong move. But the analogy between the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Capitol siege isn’t as close as the commission’s supporters might think, and it suggests some cautions. There was no question about who was responsible for 9/11, and it was already clear that the U.S. government would make maximal effort to bring the perpetrators to justice. That is not as obvious today. In addition to gathering information on systemic and organizational problems that impeded the preparation and response by federal law enforcement, it is imperative that the government ensure justice is served and everyone is held fully accountable for their roles under the law.

So in moving forward, it is critical for congressional leaders to carefully circumscribe the commission’s mandate—perhaps one limited to failures in preparation and planning within law enforcement agencies—and to coordinate with incoming leaders at the Justice Department to ensure that it doesn’t supplant or unduly interfere with any criminal investigation.

Next Monday, Merrick Garland will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee for his confirmation hearing to be Biden’s attorney general. He will likely be circumspect about the prospect of any future investigation concerning Trump, but he put the relevant principle well himself when he accepted Biden’s nomination for the job: “The essence of the rule of law is that like cases are treated alike. That there not be one rule for Democrats, and another for Republicans, one rule for friends, another for foes, one rule for the powerful, another for the powerless.”

Whether a prosecution is ultimately warranted or not, an orderly criminal investigation now remains the most appropriate avenue for accountability for Trump’s outrageous conduct during the transition. Perhaps even more importantly, it is the best deterrent to more serious misconduct on the part of a future lame-duck president—particularly one who, like Trump, seems intent on staying in power no matter what it takes, and no matter what sorts of death and destruction it might entail.

Proposal for 9/11-style commission to probe Capitol attack mired in partisanship .
Republicans object to the makeup of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's proposed commission, while Democrats say they are open to changes.Republican leaders object to the makeup and the scope of Pelosi's proposed commission, which would comprise seven Democrats and four Republicans, with only the Democratic members having subpoena power.

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This is interesting!