The Serious Questions Left Unanswered by the January 6 Committee

The January 6 committee was doomed from the start. Comprised of anti-Trump partisans picked by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), one of the most anti-Trump partisans of them all, the committee appeared destined to do a political hatchet job on the former president rather than expose the real derelictions of duty that gave rise to the absence of adequate protection for the Capitol that day.

 Despite conjecture to the contrary, there remains no actual proof sufficient to tie President Donald Trump to any crimes committed at the Capitol on January 6. He gave no order, and he took no action, to cause any single person to break into the Capitol or otherwise commit a crime. Shrill statements to the contrary from utterly discredited Democratic leaders such as Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) ring hollow. The charge of Trump-induced insurrection is legally incompetent. The legally relevant facts simply are not there. 

Serious questions unaddressed by the January 6 committee concern why Pelosi, to whom the House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving reported, gave no order to have the National Guard defend the Capitol building before breach of the Capitol barricades (despite Capitol Police intelligence indicating a possible riot weeks before January 6). Serious questions, not adequately explored by the January 6 committee, concern whether Lt. Michael Byrd violated the Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights of the unarmed Ashli Babbitt when he shot and killed her outside the glass doors leading to the lobby of Pelosi’s office. Other serious questions remain concerning the extent to which FBI plants infiltrated protest groups and aided or incited criminal activity ahead of January 6.

We do know that Irving resisted calls to bring the National Guard to the Capitol because of what he called “optics.” We know that Irving reported to Pelosi and testified to awaiting authorization from “congressional leaders” before contacting the National Guard. 

We know that at 1:09 p.m. on January 6, after protestors had already broken through the barricades and used scrap steel to assault officers, Capitol Police Chief Steve Sund asked Irving for help from the National Guard. Irving did not return Sund’s call for one hour, whereupon he told Sund that congressional leaders had approved the request. It would then take another hour for the acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller to give approval for the National Guard to go to the Capitol. The National Guard did not arrive at the Capitol until 5:40 p.m., after most of the rioting had subsided.

The critical four-hour, 20 minute delay between the breach of the barricades and the arrival of the National Guard has been left largely unexplained. Why did it take congressional leaders over an hour after the barricades were breached to authorize Irving and Sund to seek National Guard support? What did Pelosi and then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) know, and when did they know it? Why was an unarmed citizen shot and killed? A wrongful death suit is pending against Michael Byrd by Ashli Babbitt’s family. Why has there been no serious criminal investigation into that shooting? Why did the Capitol Police and the Department of Justice both conclude the shooting was reasonable when the evidence for reasonableness is so obviously lacking?

Rather than constitute a serious, unbiased inquiry into the causes of the failed law enforcement response to the January 6 riot at the Capitol, the January 6 committee is comprised of partisans who appear more interested in assigning blame for the riot to President Trump than in discovering the true causes of the failed law enforcement response. Political theater that is (and a made-for-TV spectacle to boot), but it should not be mistaken for a serious forensic investigation to uncover why it is that on January 6 the Capitol was left so woefully unprotected by those in charge of Capitol security.

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About Jonathan W. Emord

Jonathan W. Emord is a constitutional law attorney and author of The Authoritarians: Their Assault on Individual Liberty, the Constitution, and Free Enterprise from the 19th Century to the Present (2021).

Photo: Brent Stirton/Getty Images