Five unanswered questions about January 6, two years after deadly riots

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It’s been two years since an angry mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, ransacked offices and wreaked havoc at the heart of American democracy.

While the government survived what many called a failed coup and some hardliners defended it as a legitimate protest, five people died as a direct result of the riot and 140 officers were injured.

A lot has happened since that fateful day in January 2021: former President Donald Trump was impeached, banned from Twitter on charges of incitement to violence, and later investigated by the House Jan. 6 committee, which recently called for criminal charges against Trump in connection with the riot.

Hundreds of rioters who entered the Capitol on January 6, 2021 have been arrested and charged with the uprising, while being hailed as “patriots” by some ultra-conservatives.

But there is much more that remains unanswered two years after the uprising in the Capitol.

Above, protesters supporting then-President Donald Trump storm the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. Friday marks the two-year anniversary of the attack.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Who is responsible for the attack on the Capitol?

In the aftermath of Jan. 6, authorities’ focus was on identifying and punishing those responsible for the riot—the masterminds behind storming the Capitol, rather than just those who physically entered and destroyed the building.

On June 30, 2021, the creation of a House committee to investigate the January 6 riot was narrowly approved by Congress. For more than a year, the commission has interviewed hundreds of people involved in the January 6 events, issued dozens of subpoenas, searched thousands of documents, and held ten high-profile public hearings.

Last month, the commission concluded its investigation by calling on the Justice Department to prosecute Trump on four charges: conspiracy to defraud the US; conspiracy to make false statements; obstruction of official proceedings; and incitement to rebellion.

The House committee’s recommendation does not legally compel the Justice Department to prosecute Trump, who has not yet been held legally responsible for the uprising.

“So who was involved? It’s a rag doll, and you can quote me on that,” Michael Tappin, a US expert and honorary fellow at Keele University, told me. News Week.

“There was a group of people called the Oath Keepers, a second group called The Proud Boys, and a third group called the Three Percenters. And about 2,000 of them met in Washington, not far from the Capitol. And they were addressed by Donald Trump , in effect to pressure Congress not to validate Joe Biden’s victory.”

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Tappin said Trump had “no legitimate reason” to encourage his supporters to protest the election result.

“If anything, the election was a landslide victory for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris,” he said.

To this day, Trump insists that he is the true winner of the 2020 presidential election and that Biden’s victory is a “lie,” a claim that has been repeatedly refuted.

What will come after the committee’s investigation of January 6?

The committee’s recommendations of January 6 are not legally binding on the Ministry of Justice.

“It is now up to the Attorney General (Merrick Garland) to decide how to proceed with this,” Tappin said. “Now you know that the Attorney General is a Democratic nominee, and he will probably listen to what President Joe Biden has to say, as to whether or not he will bring this case forward. And this is what it really comes down to. the moment.”

But a lot may also depend on who will be the next House speaker in the Republican-controlled House, Tappin said. Congress failed to elect a new House leader in six consecutive ballots between Tuesday and Wednesday this week.

Has the attack on the Capitol forever changed what it means to be a Republican?

All but two of the 20 Republican hardliners who voted against Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s bid to become Speaker of the House of Representatives are election deniers, political figures who are a direct product of the 2020 presidential election and who support the Trump-led conspiracy theory. have embraced that the elections were stolen or rigged.

This is another way the January 6 riots still linger in American politics two years later.

The uprising led to harsh condemnation from some Republicans who failed to acknowledge their side in the violence that unfolded at the Capitol, with some local officials even deciding to leave the GOP in the days following Jan. 6.

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On the other hand, many others embraced the false claims that led to the attack on the Capitol on January 6 — something that marked a strong dividing line in the GOP.

“The Republican Party is divided internally,” Tappin said. “You have these 54 Freedom Caucus members who don’t like the way the United States government is run. They’re conservative in terms of economic policies. They’re conservative in terms of social policies. And many of them are libertarians. “

Though often shunned by the mainstream media, election deniers and the GOP’s MAGA wing hold considerable power in the party, as evidenced by the current paralysis within Congress.

McCarthy himself, who has won Trump’s endorsement in his bid to become House leader, supported the former president’s false allegations of voter fraud. And yet the party’s hardliners openly defied Trump’s calls to rally around McCarthy.

Can the Secret Service repair its reputation?

The Secret Service’s reputation took a hit after Jan. 6, when the agency was questioned about what it knew about the uprising at the Capitol before it happened and why it failed to act to prevent the violent uprising.

Last summer, it was discovered that messages exchanged by Secret Service members leading up to the riots had been accidentally deleted in an update from employees’ phones.

More importantly, documents submitted to the January 6 commission last year showed that Secret Service agents had been warned of the violence that would take place at the Capitol that day.

Despite this, Tappin believes the Secret Service can still restore his reputation.

“When I teach, sometimes I have to give students an ‘attitude adjustment talk’, which means I have to tell them in a very polite way. And I think what the senior military staff have done [with the Secret Service]and certainly, the president and the president’s advisers will make sure that in the Secret Service they learn from their mistakes,” he said.

“And if they don’t, I think heads will roll. There will be layoffs. And I think this is something that Biden will look very closely at.”

Could a similar attack happen again?

President Biden celebrated the two-year anniversary of January 6 with an impassioned speech calling for such an uprising to never happen again, and holding Trump responsible for the 2021 attack on the Capitol.

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“For the first time in our history, a president had not just lost an election. He was trying to prevent the peaceful transfer of power when a violent mob reached the Capitol,” Biden said. “But they failed. They failed. And on this anniversary, we must ensure that such an attack never happens again.”

While he never addressed Trump by name and always referred to him as “the former president,” Biden identified him as a threat to democracy.

“A former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election. He has done this because he values ​​power over principle, because he values ​​his own interest over the interest of his country and America’s interest. said Biden.

“His bruised ego is more important to him than our democracy or our constitution, he cannot accept that he has lost,” he added.

But is the threat of a similar attack in the future real?

On Monday, Capitol police said they were prepared for possible future attacks on Congress leading up to the anniversary.

“The current threat climate, particularly against elected officials, requires continued and heightened vigilance,” USCP Police Chief Tom Manger said in a statement. “With our nation’s polarized state, an attack like the one our department endured on January 6, 2021 could be attempted again. Should the unthinkable happen, we will be ready.”

Tappin thinks the changes the Capitol police have made since the riot in 2021 have greatly reduced the likelihood of a similar attack.

“If an attempt is made today to have a march, it will be very, very heavily controlled,” Tappin said. “And Biden, as chief executive, has learned not to let this happen again… I think what Biden is doing is what any sensible chief executive would do. He is preparing for the worst,” he added.

“So if there’s a march, he’ll make sure it’s peaceful. First Amendment freedoms, freedom of speech and all that stuff. I imagine the National Guard will be there to make sure it’s Capitol didn’t storm again. And I don’t think that’s going to happen today.”

News Week contacted Trump’s office for comment.