Nearly one year after domestic terrorists attempted to halt the peaceful transfer of presidential power, misinformation continues to undermine our democracy.
Thursday marks the anniversary of an insurrection that saw supporters of then-President Donald Trump invade the U.S. Capitol, seeking to interrupt the counting of electoral votes. Motivated by Trump’s falsehoods that Joe Biden fraudulently won the presidential election the previous November, the terrorists sent members of Congress scurrying for shelter.
As Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler explained on Jan. 6: “I was on the House floor as the protesters overran police and pounded on the doors. The Capitol Police barricaded us in. We were told to get down and to get our gas masks. Eventually, we were ushered out. … We are locked down because the Capitol is not secure. The reports you are hearing about the chaos, panic and dangerous actions by protesters are not exaggerations. I witnessed them.”
Yet since that day, Trump supporters and conservative media have attempted to downplay the events of Jan. 6. Their subterfuge has ranged from an insistence that it wasn’t Trump supporters who overran the Capitol, to claims that videos of violence are fabricated, to suggestions that the riot wasn’t all that bad.
To be clear: Before Jan. 6, the U.S. Capitol had not come under a sustained attack since 1814. Five people died during or shortly after the event, and four Capitol Police officers died by suicide in the next seven months. Unlike most attacks on the citadel of democracy, this one was motivated by a desire to destroy that democracy rather than a specific policy issue.
Because of that, the work of a congressional committee examining the events of that day is vitally important. Officially known as the “U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol,” the committee has faced opposition from Republicans since the outset.
Only two Republican members of the House of Representatives supported formation of the committee — Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. Sixteen Republicans did not participate in the vote. Cheney and Kinzinger are the only Republicans on the nine-person committee, with others declining to serve.
The goal of Republican leaders, apparently, is to deny or ignore the reality of the situation. It is a goal that poorly serves Americans, and one that violates the very foundations of our nation. Democracy is fragile; it must be protected by the American people and by elected officials. To downplay the events of Jan. 6 is to embrace partisan lies at the expense of our nation. Ignoring the truth or allowing it to be cocooned poses an existential threat.
Some 60 lawsuits were filed to challenge the authenticity of the election; only a small portion of one of those suits was deemed to have any merit, even though dozens were heard by judges appointed by Trump. Vote audits in Arizona, Texas and elsewhere have found minimal fraud during the election — with no indication that fraudulent votes benefited Biden. Preliminary results from an audit of four Texas counties found 17 deceased voters and 60 possible duplicate votes — out of more than 3.8 million.
Yet the lies continue from the losing candidate, and they continue to find an audience. The culmination of those lies was an attack on our capitol with armed terrorists threatening to hang Vice President Mike Pence. The committee investigating that attack must provide a truthful and complete record of one of the darkest days in our nation’s history.