Independent commission to examine Capitol riot, House Speaker Pelosi says

15 February 2021, 23:38

Tear gas is fired at supporters of President Trump who stormed the United States Capitol building
Tear gas is fired at supporters of President Trump who stormed the United States Capitol building. Picture: Getty

By Megan White

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says Congress will establish an independent commission to look into the deadly insurrection that took place at the US Capitol.

Ms Pelosi said the commission will "investigate and report on the facts and causes relating to the January 6, 2021, domestic terrorist attack upon the United States Capitol Complex ... and relating to the interference with the peaceful transfer of power".

The speaker said, in a letter to Democratic colleagues, that the House will also put forth supplemental spending to boost security at the Capitol.

Read more: Donald Trump acquitted by Senate in second impeachment trial

After former president Donald Trump's acquittal at his second Senate impeachment trial, bipartisan support appeared to be growing for an independent commission to examine the riot.

Investigations into the incident were already planned, with Senate hearings scheduled later this month in the Senate Rules Committee.

Ms Pelosi asked retired Army Lt Gen Russel Honore to lead an immediate review of the Capitol's security process.

In her letter, Ms Pelosi said, "It is clear from his findings and from the impeachment trial that we must get to the truth of how this happened."

She added: "As we prepare for the Commission, it is also clear from General Honore's interim reporting that we must put forth a supplemental appropriation to provide for the safety of Members and the security of the Capitol."

Mr Trump was acquitted on Saturday of inciting the horrific attack on the Capitol, concluding a historic impeachment trial that spared him the first-ever conviction of a current or former US president.

Barely a month since the deadly riot, the Senate convened for a rare weekend session to deliver its verdict, voting while armed National Guard troops continued to stand their posts outside the iconic building.

The quick trial, the nation's first of a former president, showed in raw detail how close the invaders had come to destroying the nation's deep tradition of a peaceful transfer of presidential power after Mr Trump had refused to concede the election.

Rallying outside the White House, he unleashed a mob of supporters to "fight like hell" for him at the Capitol just as Congress was certifying Democrat Joe Biden's victory.

As hundreds stormed the building, some in tactical gear engaging in bloody combat with police, lawmakers fled for their lives. Five people died.

The verdict, on a vote of 57-43, is all but certain to influence not only the former president's political future but that of the senators sworn to deliver impartial justice as jurors. Seven Republicans joined all Democrats to convict, but it was far from the two-third threshold required.

The outcome after the uprising leaves unresolved the nation's wrenching divisions over Mr Trump's brand of politics that led to the most violent domestic attack on one of America's three branches of government.

Mr Trump, unrepentant, welcomed his second impeachment acquittal and said his movement "has only just begun". He slammed the trial as "yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our Country".

Though he was acquitted of the sole charge of incitement of insurrection, it was easily the largest number of senators to ever vote to find a president of their own party guilty of an impeachment count of high crimes and misdemeanours.

Voting to find Mr Trump guilty were GOP senators Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania.

Even after voting to acquit, the Republican leader Mitch McConnell condemned the former president as "practically and morally responsible" for the insurrection. Mr McConnell contended Mr Trump could not be convicted because he was gone from the White House.

In a statement issued several hours after the verdict, Mr Biden highlighted the bipartisan nature of the vote to convict as well as Mr McConnell's strong criticism of Mr Trump.

In keeping with his stated desire to see the country overcome its divisions, Mr Biden said everyone, especially the nation's leaders, had a duty "to defend the truth and to defeat the lies".

"That is how we end this uncivil war and heal the very soul of our nation. That is the task ahead. And it's a task we must undertake together," said Mr Biden, who had hardly weighed in on the proceedings during the week.

The nearly week-long trial delivered a grim and graphic narrative of the riot and its consequences in ways that senators, most of whom fled for their own safety that day, acknowledge they are still coming to grips with.