Saturday, March 6, 2021

Assistant House speaker: Capitol riot commission needed for ‘truth and accountability’

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called for a commission similar to the one that probed the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, which left five people dead. The 9/11 Commission took two years to complete and yielded a 561-page report on the 2001 attacks, their origin and recommendations for the future.

The assistant speaker said a commission could take the conversation around the riot, which occurred after Trump delivered an incendiary speech to supporters who later marched to the Capitol, out of the political realm and into the hands of fact-finding experts who would formulate guidance to avoid future attacks.

“This is far more than about a former president,” Clark said, adding that she believed American democracy was in danger. “It was a message to future presidents about what we consider conduct that is worthy of the office of the president of the United States.”

Asked if Democrats might turn to the Constitution’s 14th Amendment — which contains language barring individuals who have “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against” the United States from holding certain offices — to bar Trump from holding office again, Clark said “we haven’t taken any of our tools off the table” but that it was too early to know which processes would be used to pursue accountability.

Whether the 14th Amendment could be used against Trump remains an open constitutional debate. The amendment, adopted in 1868 after the emancipation of enslaved Americans, granted citizenship and equal protection to everyone born or naturalized in the U.S., though such rights would take a century or more to be fully realized. But the amendment also contains language — aimed at the time at former Confederate officials — barring individuals who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against” the United States specifically from serving as a senator, House member or member of the Electoral College.

The amendment makes no specific mention of the office of the presidency but does bar individuals who engaged in insurrection from holding “any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state.”

As assistant house speaker, Clark said she has worked with freshman lawmakers to work through the insurrection and its aftermath, including helping them find therapists or set up security systems for their houses.

“Three days into their congressional careers, their very lives were threatened,” she said, adding that people of color in that cohort emphasized the themes of racism that were linked to the insurrection.

Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), Clark said, was told to take off her pin identifying her as a representative while being evacuated from the Capitol. Rochester was hesitant to take it off, fearing that without that identification, she might not be seen by law enforcement as a person needing protection.

“These are the real issues members of Congress are dealing with and processing,” Clark said.

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