Democrats better bring receipts
Hints, allegations, and things left unsaid.
Democrats allege, without evidence, that House Republicans conspired with the insurrectionists who attacked the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, going so far as to accuse GOP lawmakers of offering the attackers firsthand reconnaissance of the People’s House the day before the riot.
That’s a huge allegation and one that certain newsrooms, including the New York Times and USA Today, have been all too happy to repeat.
Unfortunately, the people leveling this accusation have provided zero evidence that Republicans actively, willfully engaged in seditious behavior. They’ve merely tossed the allegation out in the open and have left it at that. Either these Democrats know something they’re not telling us, or we’re witnessing a particularly despicable political smear.
"I … intend to see that those members of Congress who abetted [President Trump],” Democratic Rep. Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey said in a video posted to Facebook, “those members of Congress who had groups coming through the Capitol that I saw on Jan. 5 for reconnaissance for the next day, those members of Congress who incited the violent crowd, those members of Congress that attempted to help our president undermine our democracy, I'm going to see that they're held accountable.”
Later, in a letter asking for an investigation of their Republican colleagues, more than 30 House Democrats repeated the charge, albeit in far less certain tones, demanding that the acting House and Senate sergeants-at-arms look into “suspicious” visitor activity at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 5, the day before the deadly riot inspired by the president.
"Many of the Members who signed this letter ... witnessed an extremely high number of outside groups in the complex on Tuesday, January 5,” reads the letter, which was spearheaded by Sherrill.
It continues, noting that the tour groups seen on Jan. 5 seemed odd at the time, considering Capitol visits had been banned since last March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"The visitors encountered by some of the Members of Congress on this letter appeared to be associated with the rally at the White House the following day," the letter reads. "Members of the group that attacked the Capitol seemed to have an unusually detailed knowledge of the layout of the Capitol Complex. The presence of these groups within the Capitol Complex was indeed suspicious."
Pushed by Politico for evidence to back her claim, or how she knew the touring groups were being given “reconnaissance” or that the visits were even connected to the riot that happened the next day, Sherrill responded simply, "We're requesting an investigation right now with certain agencies.”
Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York said elsewhere that she did not feel safe when she and other lawmakers were taken to an “extraction point” during the riot because “there were QAnon and white supremacist sympathizers and, frankly, white supremacist members of Congress ... who I know and who I have felt would disclose my location and would create opportunities to allow me to be hurt, kidnapped, etc.”
“So I didn’t even feel safe around other members of Congress,” she added.
Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio also said that "a couple" of his congressional colleagues are being looked at now for giving tours to individuals possibly connected to the deadly Capitol attack.
"I'm going to wait to make sure we get verification," the congressman told reporters this week, adding that he has enough information to know that the visitors weren't "one-on-one" tours or "a small family."
"You look back on certain things, and you look at it differently," Ryan said.
However, like Sherrill, neither Ryan nor Ocasio-Cortez has provided names or evidence to back their allegations.
We’re going to need something. You can’t just level an accusation of this magnitude and leave it at hints, allegations, and things left unsaid.
So, for the purpose of figuring out where things stand, there are some publicly known details about the attack, and what led up to it, that are worth mentioning, including elements that favor the narrative pushed by Democrats.
For starters, the acting House and Senate sergeants-at-arms are not the only entities that have been asked to investigate potential Republican complicity in the attack. The U.S. Government Accountability Office may also investigate “the roles that members of Congress may have played in inciting the mob seeking to overturn the results of the election.” The inspector general of the U.S. Capitol Police, meanwhile, has already launched a wide-reaching investigation into the security failures that allowed rioters to breach the Capitol building.
Then, there is the legitimately confusing fact that tours were given despite the existing COVID-19 ban on groups of visitors in the Capitol.
Another troubling detail is that a top Stop the Steal organizer, convicted felon Ali Alexander, claims he was getting inside help from GOP Reps. Mo Brooks of Alabama and Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs of Arizona.
Lastly, there’s the fact that members of Congress received numerous intelligence briefings prior to the attack warning about possible violence connected to the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. For lawmakers to then take people through the Capitol building ahead of events for which they were specifically warned seems — not great.
But does any of this amount to proof that Republicans aided and conspired with the Capitol rioters? No, it does not.
The GAO sounds like it intends to investigate rhetoric rather than something as concrete, or serious, as Republican lawmakers actively offering assistance to would-be rioters. The visiting groups in the Capitol may also be no more insidious than freshman lawmakers, who were just seated, taking the opportunity to show off the Capitol building to constituents who were in town for the president’s rally, not thinking all the while that what the visitors saw could or would be used later for an attack. Being a dupe is not the same thing as being a criminal.
Also, remember, we still have no idea who granted and led the tours or whether any of the people who visited the Capitol were even involved in the riot.
This isn’t to say that Democrats are clearly lying. There may be something to the allegation. But as of now, we simply don’t have any proof.
There had better be something to it all. Because if it turns out Democrats are wrong, or even making it up, they and the news media are playing a very dangerous game at a time when we need badly for the temperature to come down.