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Sept. 21, 2021

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No. 2 Republican won’t say if GOP will support Jan. 6 probe

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks during a media availability at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 24, 2021. Pelosi announced on Thursday that she's creating a special committee to investigate the Jan.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks during a media availability at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 24, 2021. Pelosi announced on Thursday that she's creating a special committee to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, saying it is "imperative that we seek the truth." (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) Photo Gallery

WASHINGTON — The No. 2 House Republican won’t say whether members of his caucus will support — or even participate in — a proposed select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise demurred Tuesday when asked if Republicans would sit on the panel, telling reporters at a news conference that “I can’t answer that question.” Asked whether any Republicans will vote for the resolution to create the committee, he said “we’ll see how the vote goes.” That vote is expected Wednesday.

Scalise’s reticence comes as House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy is facing pressure to take the investigation seriously from police officers who responded to the attack, Democrats and even some of his fellow Republicans. The resolution introduced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday would have eight members on the committee appointed by Pelosi and five appointed “after consultation” with McCarthy.

Republican participation in the investigation, and the appointments to the panel, could help determine whether the committee becomes a bipartisan effort or instead a hotbed of division. Two Senate committees issued a bipartisan report with security recommendations earlier this month, but it did not examine the origins of the siege, leaving many unanswered questions about the events of the day.

Hundreds of former President Donald Trump’s supporters broke into the building on Jan. 6, hunted for lawmakers and interrupted the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory after brutally beating police officers and pushing past them. Two of the officers who responded, Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone and Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, met with McCarthy on Friday and asked him to take the House investigation seriously.

Fanone, who has described being dragged down the Capitol steps by rioters who shocked him with a stun gun and beat him, said he asked McCarthy for a commitment not to put “the wrong people” on the panel, a reference to those in the GOP who have downplayed the violence and defended the insurrectionists. Fanone said McCarthy told him he would take his request seriously.

McCarthy’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, has also publicly pressured McCarthy. “I hope he appoints people who are seen as being credible,” he said Sunday on CNN.

Pelosi is moving to form the committee after Senate Republicans blocked an independent, bipartisan panel that would have been modeled after the commission that investigated the 9/11 terrorist attacks. She said it was her preference to have an independent panel lead the inquiry, but that Congress could not wait any longer to begin a deeper look at the insurrection. She has not yet said who will lead it.

A Pelosi aide said the speaker is considering including a Republican among her appointments, which would bring the likely partisan split to 7-6. The aide was granted anonymity to discuss her thinking.

Many Republicans have expressed concerns about a partisan probe, since majority Democrats are likely to investigate Trump’s role in the siege and the right-wing groups that participated in it. Almost three dozen House Republicans voted last month for the legislation to create an independent commission, which would have had an even partisan split among members. Seven Republicans in the Senate have also supported moving forward on that bill, but that was short of the 10 Senate Republicans who would be necessary to pass it.

Trump is not explicitly referenced in the resolution creating the new House panel, though it directs the select committee to investigate “facts, circumstances and causes relating to the January 6, 2021, domestic terrorist attack upon the United States Capitol Complex and relating to the interference with the peaceful transfer of power.” The panel would also study “influencing factors that fomented such an attack on American representative democracy while engaged in a constitutional process.”

Pelosi said the select committee could be complementary to an independent panel, should one ever be formed, and that she is still “hopeful there could be a commission at some point.” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has said he might hold a second vote, but there’s no indication that any GOP votes have changed.

Many Republicans have made clear that they want to move on from the Jan. 6 attack, brushing aside the many unanswered questions about the insurrection, including how the government and law enforcement missed intelligence leading up to the rioting and the role of Trump before and during the insurrection.

And some Republicans have gone further, with Rep. Andrew Clyde of Georgia suggesting video of the rioters looked like a “tourist visit” and Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona insisting that a Trump supporter named Ashli Babbitt, who was shot and killed that day while trying to break into the House chamber, was “executed.” Others have defended the rioters as they have been charged with federal crimes.

In their meeting with McCarthy, Fanone and Dunn asked the GOP leader to publicly denounce the comments downplaying the violence and also 21 Republicans who recently voted against giving medals of honor to the U.S. Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police to thank them for their service. Dozens of the officers who responded suffered injuries, including chemical burns, brain injuries and broken bones.

McCarthy, who voted for the measure, told them he would deal with those members privately. Fanone, who called Clyde’s comments about tourists “disgusting,” said he wasn’t satisfied with that response.

Seven people died during and after the rioting, including Babbitt and three other Trump supporters who suffered medical emergencies. Two police officers died by suicide in the days that followed, and a third officer, Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, collapsed and later died after engaging with the protesters. A medical examiner later determined he died of natural causes.

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