Feb 6, 2022 - Politics & Policy

GOP’s shadow Jan. 6 committee targets Capitol Police “negligence”

Photo illustration of the Capitol Dome surrounded by Representatives Jim Banks (R-Ind.), Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.) and Troy Nehls (R-Texas)
Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Kevin Dietsch, Anna Moneymaker, Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Eric Thayer/Bloomberg, Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

House Republicans, conducting their own investigation of the Jan. 6 insurrection, plan to accuse the Capitol security apparatus of "negligence at the highest levels," Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) tells Axios.

Why it matters: By placing blame on the building's top security officials, this shadow investigation gives the GOP an alternative frame for discussing the 2021 Capitol assault.

Banks told us the GOP investigators — who consist of exiles denied seats on the formal Jan. 6 committee, controlled by Democratic leaders — have "absolutely" uncovered new information.

  • The group plans to issue a report, including legislative recommendations, before this fall's midterms.

Reality check: The strength of security surrounding the Capitol building had been enough to protect it from assault since the British burned it in 1814.

  • That period encompassed the Civil War, the civil rights and Vietnam protests, as well as the disputed 2000 presidential election.
  • The only time it was breached, and the Confederate flag carried through its corridors, was after President Trump encouraged a crowd on the Ellipse to march on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

State of play: The information the group has gathered will determine what aspects of the Capitol assault warrant further scrutiny from a potential Republican majority, a source familiar with the probe told Axios.

  • They lack a key investigatory tool right now as the minority party in Congress: subpoena power.

Be smart: Trump isn't waiting for the report.

  • "If Nancy Pelosi does her job on security, there is no 'January 6,'" he said in a Feb. 4 statement.
  • He called the bipartisan select committee "nothing but a cover-up for Pelosi’s failure to act and Biden’s failed administration."

The big picture: The Jan. 6 committee has been seeking information about contacts with and around Trump leading up to and on the day of the riot.

  • It's sifting through troves of National Archives records, text messages and testimony from Trump associates and staff, as well as more than a dozen people who led groups of "alternate electors" for him.
  • The select committee is led by Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.).
  • It includes two Republican members of the House, Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.).
  • Their participation has so infuriated Trump that members of the Republican National Committee voted on Friday to censure them.

How we got here: Last July, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy sought to place Banks and Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.) and Troy Nehls (R-Texas) on the select committee.

  • McCarthy withdrew those appointments after Pelosi refused to seat Banks and Jordan, saying: "We will run our own investigation."
  • And so they have, devoid of the funding, permanent staff and other resources afforded the select committee.

Members have met between committee work and other official business, they said.

  • Without subpoena power, their interviews have been voluntary. Many have been limited to Capitol Police officers and officials, a source said.
  • They’ve been focused on what members say are failures by Capitol Police leadership, as well as the ongoing need for security improvements.

Context: A bipartisan Senate report last year concluded federal agencies and the Capitol Police failed to properly act upon intelligence pointing to violence on Jan. 6.

  • That, they said, left law enforcement unprepared for the deadly assault.

It remains to be seen what the GOP group's report will add to those findings.

  • Nehls told Axios he expects the report to include information not previously made public.
  • Davis told Axios the group has sought to determine "if decisions were made in a political sense, rather than a security sense."
  • Among the lingering criticism is that Pelosi and other Democrats didn't want a heavy law enforcement presence outside the Capitol after the scenes outside the White House following George Floyd's murder the prior May.

Editor's note: Updates to add that committee interviews have also included police officials, as well as officers.

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