Two years after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, the criminal investigation into the riot — by some measures, the largest in U.S. history — isn’t slowing down.
“In chasing leads and making arrests, federal agents have already seized hundreds of cellphones, questioned thousands of witnesses and followed up on tens of thousands of tips in an exhaustive process that has resulted so far in more than 900 arrests from Maine to California,” The New York Times reported today. “But the inquiry, as vast as it has been, is still far from complete: Scores, if not hundreds, more people could face charges in the year — or years — to come.”
Among those facing possible prosecution is Donald Trump: The former president’s role in the crisis is being scrutinized by a special counsel whose team is assessing the Republican’s possible legal culpability.
But there’s one group that has faced few, if any, meaningful consequences: congressional Republicans. As a recent Washington Post analysis noted:
In the hours after a violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, hoping to block Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential win and retain Donald Trump as president, more than 130 Republican members of the House voted to do precisely that. The rioters tried to use intimidation and physical obstruction to achieve that goal. The Republican legislators used votes.
As the Post’s report noted, in the immediate aftermath of the violence, corporate donations were halted, and there was plenty of speculation about what was to come of the GOP lawmakers who defied their own country’s democracy. In the months that followed, the public learned unsettling details about the extent to which many of these same Republicans plotted with Team Trump to overturn the results of a free and fair American election.
But in the 2022 midterm election cycle, Republicans who did the right thing on Jan. 6 faced primary challenges, while Republicans who did the wrong thing went unpunished. The Post’s analysis concluded, “The only political accountability tool American voters have is ousting someone from office. Voters in these districts, themselves heavily Republican, rewarded the objectors with another term in office.”
Those hoping to see accountability for these GOP lawmakers were left wanting. It’s difficult to think of a single Republican member of Congress who faced any kind of adverse political consequences as a result of their anti-election efforts.
Yes, the bipartisan Jan. 6 select committee referred four House Republicans to the Ethics Committee for scrutiny, but in a GOP-led chamber, expectations are understandably low.
In fact, far from facing any punishment, many of the anti-election Republicans are now actively involved in an ugly fight over whether to make House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy — who was among those trying to help hand power to Donald Trump that he hadn’t earned — the next speaker. Mother Jones’ David Corn explained in his latest piece:
Of the 222 Republicans currently in the House GOP caucus, 119 had on January 6, 2021, after the Trump-incited riot, affirmed the false charge of a stolen election by voting to block certification of Joe Biden’s victory. This group included most of the anti-McCarthy bloc, among them Reps. Andy Biggs, Paul Gosar, Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz, and Ralph Norman, who in January 2021 texted then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows that Trump should consider “Marshall Law” to remain in office. And this group included McCarthy.
In the wake of Jan. 6, 2021, it was temping to think many of these members would be held accountable. Instead, here we are, watching them claim positions of power and influence.