“The fact that we are now even more polarized, toxic and partisan than we were when the 9/11 Commission was founded is true,” said Tim Roemer, who served as one of the panel’s five Democratic members.
The idea that “we can get people to work together, achieve the goals, and make recommendations to heal the land and make the land stronger is even more important in many ways,” added Roemer, “given the depth of the division and that that goes with it associated toxic toxicity exists today. “
Roemer is one of several 9/11 Commission veterans who are in touch with the spokeswoman as she adjusts the framework for last month’s uprising. They are also advised by former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean, a Republican appointed chairman of the commission by George W. Bush, and co-chair Lee Hamilton, a former Democratic congressman.
Pelosi has described the impending proposal as a way to “learn the truth” of what happened on Jan. 6 and is in consultation with senior Democrats on the proposal before asking for GOP contributions, according to several Democratic advisors. While leading the Democrats to a lightning-fast second impeachment of Trump last month and calling a vote a week after the riot, Pelosi insisted that the proposed commission “has nothing to do with President Trump.”
“It’s about safety. How did that happen? Where do we go from here?” she told reporters Friday. Issues the commission would look into, Pelosi added, include “white supremacy”, anti-Semitism and other factors believed to be the driving force behind domestic extremism of the kind seen in the insurgency.
The Commission’s final legislation is expected to accurately reflect the structure of the 9/11 Commission – a non-partisan 10-member body that has wide latitude and independence to continue its investigation. But even when Democrats insist that the legislation has strong bipartisan support, several Republicans have privately complained that they weren’t even included in the drafting process.
Some members of the GOP have already endorsed the idea of a 9/11 style commission to independently investigate the violent uprising that broke out during Congress to confirm President Joe Biden’s victory in November. The MP Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Along with the representatives John Katko (R-N.Y.) And James Comer (R-Ky.) Proposed own legislation on this subject. A Davis spokesman said he hadn’t seen what Pelosi wanted to introduce.
Democrats say that’s because they want to reach a final agreement among themselves before forwarding the proposal to Republican leaders. Pelosi is still working with her committee chairs and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to work out the final details.
Schumer “100 percent” supports an independent commission investigating the events of the January 6th uprising “and looks forward to being approved by both chambers with overwhelming support from both parties,” spokesman Justin Goodman confirmed in a statement on Tuesday.
Members of the 9/11 commission asked Democrats to carefully define the scope of their proposed January 6th panel. The legislation defining their mission should rule out irrelevant issues, but focus on painting the fullest possible picture of who and what fueled the insurgency, including funding its participants, and who botched security measures.
“During the [the 9/11] Investigations, we asked the staff again and again to give us the mandate, “said Hamilton.” The mandate regulates the process and must be worked out very carefully. “
The Commission must also have subpoena powers and adequate resources, it said. Kean told POLITICO that the 9/11 commission had become some sort of clearinghouse to debunk conspiracy theories about the event – suggesting that any 1/6 commission could serve a similar purpose.
“This is a time when rumors spread and falsehoods abound,” he said. “It is difficult for people to understand what is true and what is not.”
The most important decision of all, however, cannot be included in the legislative text: the appointment of commissioners, whose selection will likely be split between the White House and the Congress leadership. White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Tuesday announced her support for the establishment of a commission and vowed that if successful, the Biden administration would support the effort.
The agents and staff of a commission on the insurrection must be credible on both sides of the aisle, commissioners said on Sept. 11, warning that anything that risks less will doom the commission to failure. The candidates for the 9/11 body elected by then-President Bush and the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate, then hired someone to do the daily work.
“Anyone who has been active in recent political campaigns,” Kean said of the personnel process. “I think we got 10 referrals for lawyers and when we tracked them down they were all very biased. So we picked the eleventh one. “
The commissioners faced skeptics at the time, and they quickly recalled a fairly intense partisanship in those days too, despite rosy memories of an earlier era. The controversial Bush Gore elections of 2000 were fresh, conspiracy theories about the 9/11 attacks had increased, and partisan suspicions – perhaps a quainter version of it – increased on Capitol Hill.
“The rattling class in Washington condemned the 9/11 commission to some failure and predicted that we would get into a partisan food fight,” said attorney Richard Ben-Veniste, another 9/11 commission Democrat. “The reality was that … the people who were selected could put aside their partisan impulses for the common good.”
This is one of the reasons former commissioners have said it is important that any new effort includes voices from outside Washington with a track record of working with – whether they are former governors, attorneys general, or mayors – as well as former legislators.
Kean, who had spent his teens in and out of the Capitol as the son and grandson of members of Congress, said it was still impossible to compare the bloodshed and shock of September 11 with January 6. But he added that it was “staggering” to see the symbol of American democracy tainted by the violent unrest in a different way.
“You go into this building with awe and awe,” Kean said of the Capitol. “This was a psychological shock to the country.”
Former members of the 9/11 commission also recalled that outside activism from the families of the 9/11 victims was an important force, both in shaping the commission itself and in making sure it was on the right track stayed. Roemer said they helped muscle legislation create the commission – a proposal made by him and the late Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) At the time – through Congress, despite some initial concerns from the Bush administration, what a probe could appear.
A similar external pressure to create an insurgency commission from ideologically different groups will also be decisive this time in order to create “moral persuasion”, said Roemer.
Trump’s presence is just one of many challenges that could hamper efforts to reach a bipartisan agreement on a commission. Another reason is the ongoing distrust of lawmakers themselves: Democrats have accused some of their GOP colleagues of leading suspicious tours of the Capitol on Jan. 5, adding to the specter of domestic aid for the rioters. Pelosi set up magnetometers to respond to concerns that some members were armed on the floor of the house.
Meanwhile, Republicans have begun to suggest that Pelosi himself have questions about decisions about the security of the Capitol on the eve of the riot. Davis and Comer, along with representatives Devin Nunes from California and Jim Jordan from Ohio, have stated that Pelosi should keep their own office records on the matter.
But overlaying everything is Trump’s uncertain political future. The former president basked in his acquittal of impeachment – even though the 57 senators who voted for his conviction represented the most bipartisan impeachment in US history – and promised a political comeback. And Trump has shown himself to be determined to stop investigations into his behavior.
Trump aides did not respond to a request for comment on the panel.
Heather Caygle, Marianne Levine, and Meridith McGraw contributed to this report.