The January 6, 2021, pro-Trump protest on Capitol Hill is still the subject of multiple debates, legal actions, criminal charges, and conspiracy theories. It is often hard to separate fact from fiction when political partisanship drives the narrative, but the allegations of attempted insurrection seem embarrassingly overhyped in the face of the video evidence recently made public, over the objections of most of the members of the now-defunct January 6 Committee. Some Republicans want accountability from the committee for its investigation into the events of that day – carefully tailored to prove only that former President Donald Trump incited an insurrection and that his supporters are violent and dangerous. There’s a strong argument to be made that this investigation proved neither.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) wants to know how much evidence the January 6 Committee ignored or concealed. Referring to the 90 hours of video footage now available to view – with an additional 44,000 hours to come over the next few weeks – Lee asked in a social media post:
“Why didn’t Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger ever refer to any of these tapes? Maybe they never looked for them. Maybe they never even questioned their own narrative. Maybe they were just too busy selectively leaking the text messages of Republicans they wanted to defeat.”
Cheney and Kinzinger are the two former Republican US representatives selected by Democrats to sit on the January 6 Committee to give it a veneer of bipartisanship. Their appointments – after then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) rejected the original Republican nominees – was undeniably partisan. Both Kinzinger and Cheney despise Trump and were all too willing to cooperate with Democrat attempts to condemn him for what happened at the Capitol. For their troubles, the two of them lost their seats in the House.
What the January 6 Committee Didn’t Want You to Know
As for the tapes, they mostly show Trump supporters strolling peacefully through the halls of the Capitol building as police officers stand casually by, making no attempt to stop or confront them. The very fact that the Capitol Police were clearly unconcerned by their presence shows that no one at the time seriously believed an insurrection was taking place.
What are the facts, though, about this protest?
The vast majority of the estimated 120,000 protesters did not engage in any acts of violence or vandalism. Only a few people were charged with carrying firearms at the protest. Just one person died that day as the result of violence. Trump supporter Ashli Babbitt, who was unarmed, died after being shot by Capitol Police Lt. Michael Byrd. Not a single law enforcement officer was killed, despite media claims at the time.
For sure, a relatively small number of people among the protesters did engage in scuffles with the police, tore down security barriers, and damaged doors and windows as they forced their way into the Capitol building. It is entirely possible that some of these individuals were Trump supporters, even though others present at the time berated them for their actions and implored them to stop. It is also likely that many agitators were left-wing activists. In fact, a Utah man who filmed Babbitt’s shooting turned out to be an Antifa-connected rabble-rouser. John Earle Sullivan was convicted November 16 on multiple felony charges, including disorderly or disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds with a dangerous weapon, obstructing an official proceeding, and obstructing officers during a civil disorder.
The jury in Sullivan’s trial was shown video evidence of him kicking barriers and encouraging others to break through doors and windows. He was yelling, “We gotta get this s— burned” and various other expletive-laden calls to violence and destruction. It is entirely reasonable to assume that Sullivan was not the only left-wing agitator present.
What about the rumors of undercover federal agents inciting the crowd? Of that, there is no proof, and it is very difficult to imagine that covert FBI agents were themselves busting their way into the building. However, FBI Director Christopher Wray has refused to give any direct answers about whether some of his men were among the crowd and, if so, how many. We likely will never know the answers to those questions, and therefore any claims either way are speculative.
There is an even greater mystery from that day. The FBI, which has managed to track down and arrest more than 700 people who attended the protest, apparently still doesn’t have the faintest idea who planted pipe bombs outside the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee. It even has the suspect on camera, though he or she was hooded and masked. Staggeringly, the January 6 Committee put no effort into pressing the FBI or Justice Department on the matter. A few dozen protesters sightseeing inside the Capitol – albeit without permission – represented an existential threat to democracy, but someone targeting the leadership of the two main political parties with explosives was of little consequence.
Equally odd is that no one has identified the people who erected a gallows at the site of the protest. Even though it was built in the early hours of the morning on January 6, no law enforcement agency removed it. One can draw one’s own conclusions about who put it up or why neither the Metropolitan Police, the Park Police, or the Capitol Police thought there was any reason to take it down.
Where’s the Accountability?
January 6 defendant Victoria White, who pleaded guilty to a single felony, claimed to have been physically beaten by Capitol Police officers. Video footage seems to support that claim. In another video, an individual is pleading for the officers to stop assaulting her. White is now suing the Capitol Police.
Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA) minced no words on the X social media platform. “Prepare to be shocked. This release will reveal the insidious truth that the left and the corrupt officials at FBI/DOJ do NOT want Americans to see,” he wrote. “No less than 5-10 key Democrats will announce they’re retiring from Congress. Don’t doubt me.” Another Republican, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, is calling on Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) to create a new version of the January 6 Committee, only this time, it would investigate the previous committee. “There needs to be investigations and ACCOUNTABILITY for ALL of the lies, deceit, and lives ruined,” Greene wrote on X. “Every member of the Jan 6th committee, Nancy Pelosi, FBI, DOJ, DC Police, Cap Police, Jan 6 witnesses who lied, all need to be subpoenaed. Criminal referrals must be written and prosecutions MUST happen under a Trump DOJ.”
There is no shortage of people on both sides of the political divide who agree that things got out of hand on January 6, 2021. There are also plenty of people – on the political right, if not the left – who think the federal government’s response to what happened on that day was also out of hand. Hundreds of people remain incarcerated, and excessively long prison sentences have been handed down. As for the January 6 Committee, it demonstrated no interest whatsoever in presenting the American people with a full picture of events. It released a very small fraction of all the video footage available, wanting people to see only clips of agitators smashing windows and wrestling police officers over security barricades. The committee certainly didn’t want the public to watch Trump supporters being given free passage within the Capitol by police officers. The left’s entire narrative around January 6 was gradually cracking. Now, it seems to have completely collapsed – ahead of 2024, Republicans will likely move heaven and earth to demonstrate that the January 6 Committee was weaponized against Trump and his supporters.