During the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Officer Michael Fanone was attacked, beaten, Tased, and suffered a resulting heart attack at the hands of the violent pro-Trump mob. He was one of the hundred officers injured during the mob’s attempt to find and capture Trump’s vice president and insufficiently loyal lawmakers, part of a Trump-announced, Trump-endorsed scheme to “march” to the Capitol and block the counting of electoral votes confirming Trump’s loss. It was a genuine—if incredibly stupid—attempt at overthrowing government. During the attack on Fanone, Fanone reported members of the crowd urged each other to shoot Fanone with his own gun.
In an interview with CNN, Fanone seems to have little patience for Republican figures now trying to “whitewash” the insurrection that nearly killed him. It’s “very difficult being elected officials, and other individuals, kind of whitewash the events of that day, or downplay what happened,” says Fanone. As for Donald Trump’s claims that the violent mob was “zero threat” to officers, he is more direct. “I think it’s dangerous,” he says.
It’s got to be a hell of an experience for Fanone and the other officers attacked by the mob to now see Republican lawmakers near-unanimous in their demands that if Congress dares to mount an investigation into an act of violent, organized sedition, it must be watered down into nothingness by equally considering Republican-claimed threats posed by an invisible “antifa” and by Black Lives Matter protesters.
As for that planned probe into the causes and details of insurrection violence: It continues to go nowhere. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi offered up more concessions to House Republicans last week, now proposing that the commission to investigate the violence be evenly split by party and requiring majority commission support to issue proposed subpoenas. Even those concessions fell flat as House Republicans, the majority of whom still voted to nullify election results after the violence, continue to insist that an investigation of the violence is unnecessary.
The only battle being waged right now is in fact inside the Republican Party, as Rep. Liz Cheney all but mocks Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s demands that the insurrection commission be watered down. She wants the proposed commission to be “focused” on Jan. 6 and its causes, and (correctly!) notes that if “we minimize” or “appease” the attempt at sedition, it could repeat itself after any future election as well.
McCarthy, as one of the Republicans who glibly promoted the Trump team’s fraudulent propaganda claiming the election was “stolen” from him through a broad array of bizarre and implausible conspiracies, most certainly does not want a full accounting of how that Republican-fueled violence came to be. McCarthy has already signaled that he intends to remain at Trump’s side no matter how egregiously Trump may have betrayed his oath and country, rather than anger Trump’s fascist base; a true investigation of the violence would require McCarthy himself to testify about his own conversation with Trump during the violence—a conversation that offers further evidence Trump both intended the violence and sought to use it to further threaten lawmakers.
At some point, there is going to need to be a commission or other mechanism for dragging the full details of the insurrection plot into the public eye. There does not appear to be any plausible way for Pelosi and Democratic leadership to get House Republican cooperation on any of it, and for much the same reason Osama bin Laden was never invited to weigh in SEAL Team Six deployments after 9/11. The plain truth is that Republican-backed hoaxes riling the base into a paranoid froth with provably false claims of rigged elections were intended from the outset as an attack on American democracy, and it was all but a given that it would rile violence-seeking militants into believing that the party was now inviting them to topple that democracy, institute hard-right rule, and bring in a new era of nationalistic retaliation against conservative enemies. When you claim that a United States election was “stolen” out from under voters, you are specifically wrapping attempts to overturn that election in a mantle of patriotism. It is a given that it will be acted on.
The questions that still need to be answered revolve around the extent to which individual propagandists spreading hoaxes about “stolen” elections intended for their lies to stoke seditious acts. It appears that Trump, for his part, both intended for the crowd he had rallied on Jan. 6 to interfere with the counting of electoral votes and used the resulting violence, as it was happening, to further intimidate lawmakers who were unwilling to overturn the election. It is quite likely that figures such as Rudy Giuliani also acted with full intent to stoke, if not violence, a toppling of the newly elected government.
Of House Republicans, there were at least a few whose comments suggest they, too, fully intended to topple government one way or another. There were others who sought to promote the same hoaxes not as an attempt to topple a Biden administration, but to wound it as severely as possible—despite the near certainty of resulting violence from those that believed the hoaxes. Others, including Republican senators, supported the Trump hoax or remained silent while it was being promoted out of cowardice.
There are a hundred Republican lawmakers whose post-election rhetoric directly led to a violent attack on government itself. Not a one of them is keen on having their statements probed by fact-finders.
There’s no compromise that those hundred Republicans can possibly accept. If there is to be any consequence for fomenting an act of violent insurrection, it will have to come from elsewhere. Pelosi should presume that no compromise is coming, those who opposed the insurrection should form their own commission without seditionist input, and we must simply accept that the nation’s many fascist voices will bleat in outrage over the resulting examination of the violence. Let them.
It should be the job of the commission to identify these authoritarian voices, publish the extent of their hoaxes and plots, and ensure anyone among the plotters who can be removed from government is removed from government. There is no room for Kevin McCarthy or fascism’s other allies in that process. If there are still Republicans more committed to American democracy than Republican power, they are free to help defend it.