In fact, members of the former 9/11 Commission – some of whom have consulted Pelosi – cited that even the partisan split was what made them successful when they advised Pelosi on this year’s Insurgency Commission. Their willingness to take bipartisan responsibility for the direction of the investigation without any benefit to either party helped ensure the commission’s credibility in the eyes of the public, they said. Similarly, for a review of the January 6 insurrection to be credible, say the former commissioners, it must be viewed as independent and impartial, rather than an instrument of either party.
“There is really strong support in the country for us to seek the truth, to find the truth, but also to understand how to protect the American people from what might be out there in terms of domestic terrorism and the rest of the world.” Pelosi told reporters late last week.
Pelosi said the investigative body would closely mirror the 9/11 commission, but what the Democrats’ opening offer suggests is that they would have preferred a vastly different balance of power.
A senior Democratic adviser warned that the two parties are still exchanging offers and nothing is final. In the draft of the democratic discussion, each of the so-called “Big Four” congress leaders would appoint two members to the commission. President Joe Biden would be able to choose three additional members, including the chairman, who would have subpoena powers.
Under the Pelosi proposal, the Commission would have to submit a report by the end of this year, the resolution of which will be determined 60 days after the report is finalized.
The 9/11 Commission was a 10-person body made up of five Democrats and five Republicans. The chairman, former New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean, was appointed by then President George W. Bush. The vice chairman, former Congressman Lee Hamilton, was appointed by Democratic leaders in Congress. Both told POLITICO last week that they viewed their mandate as excluding any extreme bias from the ranks of the commission, particularly towards the staff who ultimately carried out the investigation.
She and other former members of the 9/11 commission said the subpoena was an essential stick that they only used once – but one that proved effective in harnessing testimony from other reluctant witnesses. The former 9/11 commissioners also said the commission should not have any artificial deadlines.
“It must first of all be created so that it can be successful and not doomed,” said Tim Roemer, one of the Democratic candidates on the 9/11 panel, who has also spoken to Pelosi and other House Democrats.
One challenge for a commission on January 6th is the conflict with the ongoing criminal investigation into the uprising. Prosecutors have charged more than 200 participants in the January 6 attack and their cases are at an early stage which could make access to key witnesses difficult, especially if the commission is expected to produce a report by the end of the year.
Biden’s candidate for attorney general, Merrick Garland, announced Monday that he intended to make the Capitol riot investigation a top priority in his early tenure, a signal that the investigation is likely to intensify in the coming weeks.