Yesterday morning, Rolling Stone published an explosive report claims that two of the people who helped plan the January 6th “Stop the Steal” protests had extensive planning meetings with members of Congress or their staff. These two organizers seem to agree with the January 6th Selection Committee, the Congressional task force investigating the Capitol attack, which is more than I can say of most of the Trump cronies who actually served in the government.
According to the report, organizers said they met directly with Reps Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gossar, as well as staff from Reps Mo Brooks, Lauren Boebert, Andy Biggs, Louie Gohmert and Madison Cawthorne. Witnesses say Gossar went so far as to offer them a “blanket pardon” on an unrelated matter to encourage them to continue the protest.
Finding out what these representatives knew, and when they knew about plans to storm the Capitol on January 6, is important information. It is important to “establish”[ing] the truth of this day, ”as Nancy Pelosi said when she announced the formation of the select committee as early as June. But Congress should not be the only authority dealing with these claims. A report by Congress is not an appropriate response to a violent attack on the government, no matter how damning the report may be.
The Justice Department is to lead the criminal investigation into the attack on the Capitol. This is the entity that can not only catalog the insurgents, but actually punish them.
The role of Congress is oversight and legislation. It is therefore perfectly appropriate for its members to summon documents and testimony through the select committee in order to try to understand what happened. This helps them to fulfill their function, to propose and pass new laws so that something like this cannot happen again.
But responsibility for all the crimes that happened that day is a different matter. The same goes for any investigation into the larger criminal conspiracy that emerged that day. Both are said to come through the judiciary and its subsidiary investigative department, the FBI.
The problem is, Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray don’t have the guts to do it. Oh sure they’ll go after the little people. They are going to prosecute the guy with the horns and charge the guy with the drover. But when the time comes to persecute those in power – members of Congress and the financiers who supported and facilitated the insurrection – Garland and Wray have shown no desire to rise to the challenge.
We know the Justice Department is shirking its responsibility and leaving all the heavy lifting to Congress because we have a good idea of who its investigators haven’t interviewed. There’s no credible way of investigating the January 6 events unless investigators speak to key players like Steve Bannon, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, and others in Trump orbit (like Don Jr. ) who may have played a role in planning the event. Any investigation seriously committed to the truth would have interviewed staff from key Congressmen, Mike Pence, and officials who spoke on the phone with Trump on the day of the coup attempt.