Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-11), who has pressed for a probe of the Jan. 6 attack of the U.S. Capitol, said she was pleased to see momentum toward establishing a bipartisan commission.
Sherrill’s comments came after House Republicans filed an ethics complaint against her related to the Navy veteran’s assertion that GOP lawmakers led “reconnaissance tours” the day before the failed insurrection attempt.
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS) and Ranking Member John Katko (R-NY) introduced legislation (H.R. 3233) on May 14 to form a bipartisan, independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack and to implement steps to protect the U.S. Capitol. Thompson expected the legislation to be considered on the House floor during the week of May 17.
Full Accounting Needed
Sherrill said news of the bipartisan agreement to move forward with a commission was “welcome and long overdue” and hoped the House and Senate would pass Thompson and Katko’s bill quickly.
“We need a full accounting of what occurred on Jan. 6 and what led up to the insurrection,” Sherrill said in a May 14 statement. “Without accountability and a meaningful reckoning with the domestic extremism that fueled the Jan. 6 attack, we won’t be able to move forward together as a nation. This commission will help achieve that and I look forward to working to ensure this quickly becomes law.”
The agreement for a commission comes at the same time an ethic complaint was filed that alleges Sherrill and other House Democrats falsely claimed GOP lawmakers led Jan. 5 “reconnaissance tours” of the U.S. Capitol for supporters of President Donald Trump who then attacked the U.S. Capitol the next day to stop Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s win against Trump in the 2020 election.
Three top Republicans on the House Administration Committee announced May 12 that they had filed a complaint with the House Committee on Ethics, urging an investigation into the conduct of Sherrill and 33 other House Democrats. They said in the complaint their Democratic colleagues alleged in a Jan. 13 letter “without evidence” that Republican members led Capitol reconnaissance tours, thereby aiding Trump’s supporters in their attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Of the 33 Democrats who joined Sherrill in signing the letter, six were from New Jersey—Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-5), Frank Pallone Jr., (D-6), Tom Malinowski (D-7), Albio Sires (D-8), Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-9), and Donald Payne Jr. (D-10). They wrote to the U.S. Capitol Police and both the House and Senate Sergeant at Arms seeking “an immediate investigation into the suspicious behavior and access given to visitors to the Capitol complex” on Jan. 5.
The lawmakers stated they and their staff members witnessed “an extremely high number of outside groups in the complex” that day, which was out of the ordinary given that the coronavirus pandemic had resulted in restrictions on visits. Their letter asked questions about a variety of security procedures and protocols.
“A Member of Congress accusing another Member of committing a crime, without evidence, is morally reprehensible and a stain on this institution,” Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) who signed the complaint said in a press release. “No Republican Member of Congress led any kind of ‘reconnaissance’ tours through the Capitol, proven by security footage captured by the U.S. Capitol Police.”
Sherrill Statement on Ethics Charge
“These thirty-four Members of Congress who willfully and gleefully levied these unsubstantiated accusations on television, radio, social media, and in the letter to Senate Sergeant at Arms, House Sergeant at Arms, and the United States Capitol Police, need to be investigated and be subject to the requisite consequences,” he added. Reps. Rodney Davis (R-IL), the ranking Republican on the House Administration Committee, and Bryan Steil (R-WI) signed the complaint with Loudermilk.
Sherrill in a statement to North-JerseyNews.com dismissed the compliant as “a cynical attempt to distract from the real issue at hand: the need for a 9/11-style commission that would examine what led to the attacks on our Capitol on January 6th and ensure that it never occurs again.”
“Unfortunately, despite bipartisan support for that commission, some of my colleagues continue to show an unwillingness to honestly confront what happened and continue to attempt to rewrite the history of that day. This further demonstrates why we need an independent, bipartisan commission. As a Member of Congress, veteran, and former federal prosecutor, I’m determined to continue working with my colleagues towards its formation.”
Sherrill said in a January video posted to Facebook that she would seek accountability for members of Congress who aided rioters by providing “reconnaissance” tours on Jan. 5.
To that end, Sherrill is pleased that Thompson and Katko’s legislation that “so closely mirrors the core elements of bipartisan legislation” (H.R. 1178) she introduced with Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) in February to combat domestic terrorism by creating a commission along the lines of the 9/11 Commission. When they introduced that bill, they said it would create a commission to further investigate the events of Jan. 6 and, more broadly, “the federal government’s failure to more broadly respond to the threat of domestic terrorism over the past two decades.”
Under Thompson and Katko’s legislation, both House and Senate Democratic and Republican leaders would choose members of the 10-person commission charged with probing the events of Jan. 6. Thompson’s press release said the panel “will be charged with studying the facts and circumstances of the January 6 attack on the Capitol as well as the influencing factors that may have provoked the attack on our democracy.”
Real Accounting Needed
Members “must have significant expertise in the areas of law enforcement, civil rights, civil liberties, privacy, intelligence, and cybersecurity. Current government officers or employees are prohibited from appointment.”
Thompson said the panel would have subpoena powers, like the 9/11 Commission “to carry out its investigation” but the bill requires agreement between the chair and the vice chair or a vote by a majority of commission members. The legislation would mandate a report by Dec. 31, 2021, from the panel with findings regarding the facts and causes of the attack and “recommendations to prevent future attacks on our democratic institutions.”
“There has been a growing consensus that the Jan. 6 attack is of a complexity and national significance that what we need an independent commission to investigate,” Thompson said.
“Our Capitol was attacked and lives were lost. The American people deserve a real accounting of what happened,” said Sherrill. “In the end, this commission is about pursuing the truth and ensuring we protect our democracy, which is our most sacred duty as public servants. That’s not something that anyone who loves this country should shy away from.”