In the same week when more and more Republican lawmakers were making light of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol — one Georgia representative even saying it looked to him like "a normal tourist visit" — top Democratic and Republican members of the House Homeland Security Committee reached agreement on legislation to form a 9/11-style bipartisan Jan. 6 commission to investigate the riot and insurrection.
The agreement breaks a months-long stalemate. Can you imagine that the original 9/11 commission would ever have been stalled for months by one political party or another?
But since the Trump-incited Jan. 6 attack when he called on hundreds of his supporters to "fight like Hell" as Congress certified the Electoral College's vote cementing Joe Biden's election, Republicans have slowly inched themselves away from the statements they made at the end of that day.
Then those Republicans were still shocked after the violent rioters stormed the Capitol, broke windows and doors, and injured 140 police officers — including one who later died from a stroke after being sprayed by rioters with bear spray — and sent lawmakers and then-Vice President Mike Pence fleeing for their lives. All told, the riot resulted in five deaths and more than 400 eventual arrests.
Under the terms of the agreement announced Friday, the commission would have an equal number of Democrats and Republicans, five from each party. It would have subpoena power and be charged with issuing a final report by Dec. 31, along with recommendations to prevent future attacks. It would be chaired by a Democrat and vice-chaired by a Republican.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who first called for the commission in February, said the legislation could be considered by the House "as soon as next week," along with a spending bill to pay for security improvements to the Capitol. The commission bill also needs Senate approval.
It may yet be a hard slog.
During a House oversight committee hearing on Wednesday discussing what went wrong in police preparation for the Jan. 6 riot, and what the Trump administration did or did not do to quell the violence, Republican lawmakers, eager to rewrite history, tried to paint the rioters as victims.
"There was no insurrection," Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Georgia, falsely claimed during Wednesday's hearing. "And to call it an insurrection, in my opinion, is a bold-faced lie."
Clyde went on to defend the Capitol stormers. He said video of the day's violence looked to him like "a normal tourist visit."
Since when do normal Capitol tourists dress like commandos, carry zip-tie handcuffs and climb over chairs as other rioters yell "where's Nancy [Pelosi]?" Since when do normal Capitol tourists throng the chamber halls and chant "hang Mike Pence?" Since when do normal tourists build a hangman's gallows on the Capitol lawn?
The guy carrying the handful of flex cuffs, 30-year-old Eric Munchel of Blue Ridge, Georgia, and Nashville, Tennessee, was one of the 400-plus arrests in the days and weeks after the attack. He and his companion — his mother — were indicted by a federal grand jury on Feb. 12 on charges of obstruction of an official proceeding, knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, violent entry and disorderly conduct on the U.S. Capitol grounds. Were they normal tourists?
Another Republican Georgia lawmaker, Rep. Jody Hice, piped up in that same Wednesday House oversight committee meeting, bringing up the death of Trump supporter Ashley Babbitt who was shot by a U.S. Capitol Police officer as she tried to climb through a broken glass door into the House chamber while some House members were still inside and crouching behind furniture.
"It was Trump supporters who lost their lives that day, not Trump supporters who were taking the lives of others," Hice whined.
Don't expect D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone, a 19-year veteran left brain-injured by the rioters, to accept that bunkum and balderdash. Fanone has even tried to set Republicans like Clyde and Hice straight, but he's been rebuffed.
Fanone was dragged down stairs, beaten with pipes and and repeatedly shocked with stun guns during the pro-Trump insurrection. Last week, when he tried to contact House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, to share his experience, McCarthy's office hung up on him.
Clearly McCarthy, like others in the GOP, doesn't want to meet a real hero and ruin a false narrative of a "peaceful protest."
A Jan. 6 commission — while it could be a step forward toward accountability and enhanced security — won't stop Republicans like McCarthy, Hice and Clyde from twisting the truth.
But it may help other Georgians, Tennesseans and Americans to sort through their trash talk.