By Robert Reich
Two years ago the United States Capitol was attacked by a mob determined to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden as President. They were armed and dangerous. Five people died. It’s a miracle that more did not — including members of Congress and the Vice President whom the mob had targeted.
January 6 is a day that should live in infamy.
But Trump has not been held accountable for his central role in the attack. In fact, he is now again running for President — as yet unopposed for the Republican nomination. He remains the most formidable force in the Republican Party.
Nor have the members of Congress who were likely involved in the insurrection been held accountable. In fact, they’ve never had more power over the US government than they are exercising now in the battle over selecting the next Speaker of the House.
To review where America stands on accountability two years out from the day democracy almost died:
1. Those directly involved in the attack are being held accountable.
At least 978 people have been arrested and charged with federal crimes so far. Of them, 465 have entered guilty pleas. Three men who prepared for violence in advance of the Jan. 6, 2021 riot, fought or confronted police protecting the U.S. Capitol and then celebrated by smoking inside the building, have been sentenced to years in prison and ordered to forfeit money they had raised off their prosecution.
Kudos to the Justice Department, the FBI, and the federal courts.
2. Donald Trump has not been held accountable.
The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States investigated the causes of the attack. The 9-person panel included Republican Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. The committee and its staff interviewed hundreds of people, issued dozens of subpoenas, sorted through thousands of documents relating to the attack, and held 10 public hearings between June 9, 2022 and December 19, 2022 to share its findings with the public.
Kudos to the January 6 committee for presenting to the American people a clear and forceful presentation of what occurred and a compelling case against Donald Trump.
The committee formally recommended that the Justice Department bring four charges against Trump: (1) conspiracy to defraud the US, (2) conspiracy to make false statements, (3) obstruction of an official proceeding, and (4) inciting an insurrection.
The referral carries no legal weight, and the Justice Department is not required to bring charges because of it.
To date, the Justice Department has brought no charges against Trump, despite overwhelming evidence of his direct involvement in the conspiracy to attack the Capitol. Instead, Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed a Special Council, Jack Smith, to gather evidence and determine whether to move forward.
3. Members of Congress involved in the attack have not been held accountable.
In fact, many are now exercising disproportionate influence over the selection and agenda of the next Speaker of the House.
The committee issued subpoenas to House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and four other Republican representatives to testify to the committee about their involvement: Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Andy Biggs of Arizona and Mo Brooks of Alabama.
All five ignored the subpoenas. To date, none have been held legally accountable for doing so.
There is evidence that several other Republican members of Congress also conspired with the seditionists — including Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Paul Gosar of Arizona, Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, and Louie Gohmert of Texas.
All these members of Congress — those who were subpoenaed to appear before the January 6 committee and refused, along with others who have been linked to the January 6 insurrection — belong to the so-called “Freedom Caucus.” They are now refusing to vote for Kevin McCarthy as Speaker — holding out for more concessions from him to their radical right agenda or for another candidate who will more closely adhere to it.
4. No major lawmaker has been barred from holding office because of involvement in the January 6 attack.
Despite specific language in Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution barring anyone from holding office who has previously sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution but has engaged in an “insurrection” against the United States, to date no one except a county commissioner in Arizona has been barred from holding office because of activities in connection with the attack on the Capitol.
Two years have passed, yet the top lawmakers in the US government who were most directly involved in the insurrection — including Trump and his co-conspirators in Congress — have not been held accountable. To the contrary, Trump is so far unopposed in seeking the Republican nomination for President, and his co-conspirators are wielding enormous influence over the selection of the next Speaker of the House.
This is not the way to mark the second anniversary of the day American democracy almost died.