Monday, August 15, 2022
Aug. 15, 2022

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In Our View: Panel’s work investigating insurrection vital

The Columbian

The news of the week has focused on Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter and Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Locally, the headlines have zeroed in on light rail for an eventual Interstate 5 Bridge and racism in high school sports.

All are important and interesting stories. Meanwhile, the work of a congressional panel investigating the insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021, continues largely in the shadows, proving that Americans are easily distracted from matters that speak to the very future of our democracy.

This week, Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Democrat from Maryland and member of the investigative panel, rekindled speculation about one of the events from a day that threatened the peaceful transfer of power.

As previously reported, then-Vice President Mike Pence told a Secret Service agent who wanted to put him into an armored limousine as the U.S. Capitol was under attack, “I’m not getting in the car.” Ruminating on that event, Raskin called it “the six most chilling words of this entire thing I’ve seen so far.”

Raskin added: “He knew exactly what this inside coup they had planned for was going to do. It was a coup directed by the president against the vice president and against the Congress.”

Then-President Donald Trump had urged Pence to violate the U.S. Constitution by preventing the counting of Electoral College votes. This much is indisputable; Trump did so publicly. Various reports have indicated that Pence correctly told Trump that such an action was not in his power.

Raskin’s statement has revived reports from the day prior to the insurrection. On Jan. 5, 2021, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, implied that he and not Pence would oversee the counting of the ballots. “We don’t expect him to be there,” Grassley said.

Knowledge about the depth of the conspiracy against the United States by Trump and his acolytes continues to grow. And it continues to demonstrate the importance of the committee investigating the events of Jan. 6. Nearly 16 months later, the public remains largely in the dark about the details, leaving misinformation and rhetoric to drive the narrative about what happened, often bereft of facts.

As Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, one of only two Republicans who agreed to serve on the committee, said: “It’s actually clear that what President Trump was dealing with — what a number of people around him were doing — that they knew it was awful, that they did it anyway. … I think what we have seen is a massive and well-organized and well-planned effort that used multiple tools to try to overturn an election.”

In late March, a federal judge ordered Trump lawyer John Eastman to relinquish hundreds of emails to the committee, stating that the former president appeared to have committed multiple felonies in his push to retain the presidency.

If the designers of an attempted coup are not held accountable, both by the Department of Justice and in the court of public opinion, future insurrectionists will be emboldened. The events of January 2021 marked an unprecedented attempt to overthrow the American system of government, but they can be repeated.

In other words, the work of the congressional committee to illuminate a dark moment in our nation’s history is vitally important. So, too, is public awareness of that work and involvement from the Justice Department.

Public hearings and indictments for those who broke the law are necessary to help preserve our republic.

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