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Jan. 6 Insurrection: The GOP's Benghazi

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell whipped votes against the bipartisan January 6th Insurrection Commission.

Senate Republicans, dutifully following orders from Donald Trump, have killed efforts to establish a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6th insurrection, an action that could be the equivalent of what the Benghazi diplomatic mission attack was to Democrats in 2016.

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Now that Republicans, led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have scuttled plans for an independent commission that was designed to conduct an in-depth bipartisan investigation into the attack on the Capitol, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi may well create a Select Committee that would hold hearings and keep the sordid, tragic story of Trump's effort to overturn the election in the headlines well into the 2022 election campaign season.

That committee would be stacked with Democrats, and while Republicans would no doubt appoint their most rabid Trump supporters as members, the headlines and ultimate reports after months and months of investigations and hearings would be bad, bad news for Trump and his supporters on Capitol Hill.

That is exactly what Republicans did with the House Select Committee on Benghazi, which conducted a two-year investigation on the 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi that resulted in the death of four Americans.

That highly political probe encompassed 33 hearings held in congressional investigations and four public hearings at a cost of more than $7 million. The headlines kept rolling, putting Hillary Clinton, who was Secretary of State when the attack occurred, on the defensive. In fact, Clinton testified before the Benghazi Committee twice, the second, on October 22, 2015, for eight hours.

What if such a committee was established by Pelosi and Trump was subpoenaed to testify, just as Clinton was forced to do during the Benghazi probe, which, by the way, cleared her and other administration officials of any wrongdoing? Wouldn't that be fun to watch?

Political Blunder?

McConnell may have made a major political blunder in opposing the bipartisan commission, telling his caucus that having such an investigation would be devastating politically to Republican candidates during the 2022 campaign. Republicans hope to retake control of both houses of Congress, and an investigation that would lay bare Trump's role in inciting the riot that took the lives of eight people -- and the supporting role of his Congressional enablers could prove devastating to the GOP.

Meeting with reporters, McConnell acknowledged that the last thing Republicans need is a hearing that will uncover the truth about what caused the Jan. 6 uprising that was intended to overturn certification of Joe Biden's election.

Democrats “would like to continue to debate things that occurred in the past," he said. "They'd like to continue to litigate the former president into the future. We think the American people, going forward, and in the fall of '22, ought to focus on what this administration is doing to the country and what the clear choice is that we have made, to oppose most of these initiatives.”

In other words, let's not worry about what led to that devastating uprising. After all, Trump wants the investigation killed, and so it will be.

Prior to the Senate vote, family and friends of Capitol Police officer Brian D. Sicknick, who died from the Jan. 6 attack, appealed to GOP senators, hoping to turn enough votes to win approval of the commission. Sicknick suffered two strokes and died of natural causes a day after he confronted rioters at the insurrection, the District of Columbia's chief medical examiner ruled last month. But after meeting with 15 senators, Sandra Garza, the late officer’s partner, emerged deflated.

“Why would they not want to get to the bottom of such horrific violence?” she told reporters. “It just boggles my mind.”

The answer is that those Republicans simply are protecting themselves politically. So, the Sicknick family's appeal fell on deaf ears. Ultimately, the 54-to-35 outcome was six votes shy of the 60 needed to circumvent a procedural filibuster, and so the commission proposal died.

The commission legislation was a result of bipartisan negotiations among leaders of the House Homeland Security Committee, and last week 35 GOP House members joined all voting House Democrats in support of a Jan. 6 commission that would be modeled after a similar independent panel following 9/11 and charged with producing an objective account of what fueled the day’s violence.

Power of Trump

After those GOP members joined Democrats in the House last week to approve the proposed commission, Trump issued a statement blasting those “35 wayward Republicans” and warning of “consequences to being ineffective and weak.”

Said Trump, "See, 35 wayward Republicans — they just can’t help themselves. Sometimes there are consequences to being ineffective and weak. The voters understand!"

Republicans in the Senate, fearful of crossing Trump or his supporters, also understood, and the commission legislation was dead. That's really all it took -- that and McConnell's whipping of votes against the proposal.

Select Committee?

But Republicans will not escape the voters' wrath, especially if the traitorous January 6th insurrection attempt is not allowed to die. And a select committee formed by Pelosi, which many Democrats are seeking, could make sure that does not happen.

In fact, GOP proponents of the commission warned in advance of the House vote on the commission, that the real political weapon would be such a committee led by Democrats and conducted by sitting lawmakers.

"Honoring our responsibility to the Congress in which we serve and the Country which we love, Democrats will proceed to find the truth," Pelosi said, signaling that the issue will not be dropped.

You'd think Republicans would have learned their lesson from Benghazi, an investigation that they ended five weeks after Trump's election in 2016. They used the power of a select committee to raise hell with Clinton and the Democrats and it contributed to Trump's election.

Now, the tables may well be turned, and the January 6th insurrection will end up being their Benghazi.

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