‘We have to get it right,’ panel leader vows as Jan. 6 probe begins

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WASHINGTON — The president of the House Homeland Security Committee, Bennie Thompson, didn’t recognize the severity of the Jan. 6 insurrection until his woman called him.

He was wrong the Capitol, sitting successful the precocious assemblage of the House, hoping for what helium called a “birds-eye presumption of the process” and to beryllium capable to archer his grandchildren that helium was determination erstwhile Congress certified Democrat Joe Biden’s statesmanlike victory.

People are breaking into the building, London Thompson told him, and it was connected television. “I’m watching radical climbing implicit the partition close now,” she said.

“It doesn’t register,” the Mississippi Democrat recalled successful an interrogation with The Associated Press. “I said, ‘You can’t interruption in. There’s constabulary and barricades and a batch of things retired there.’”

But it was not agelong earlier the House enclosure was nether siege. Police rushed Thompson and respective twelve different members of Congress to different broadside of the assemblage and told them to duck nether their seats arsenic supporters of then-President Donald Trump tried to interruption down the doors to the enclosure below.

“It was a horrible day,” said Thompson, “still astir surreal that it adjacent occurred.”

Like Thompson, galore who service and enactment successful the Capitol are trying to marque consciousness of the chaos that unfolded connected Jan. 6. And helium present has a guiding relation successful the process, appointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., arsenic the president of a prime committee that volition analyse the attack. The sheet volition clasp its archetypal proceeding Tuesday with constabulary officers who battled the rioters.

As the longtime president of the Homeland Security Committee, Thompson is accustomed to dealing with sedate matters of nationalist security. But his stewardship of the Jan. 6 sheet volition beryllium a trial dissimilar immoderate other, arsenic helium tries to untangle the events of a convulsive insurrection that galore House Republicans progressively play down and deny.

“We person to get it right,” Thompson said. If the committee tin find ways to forestall thing similar it from happening again, “then I would person made what I deliberation is the astir invaluable publication to this large democracy.”

Liberal fixture

Thompson, 73, is simply a wide fixture successful Congress and longtime champion of civilian rights, the lone Democrat successful the Mississippi delegation, hailing from a majority-black territory successful the state’s occidental half. He has avoided the limelight during his much than 15 years connected the Homeland Security Committee, notching achievements with cautious bipartisan outreach.

Several Democrats and Republicans said Thompson was the close prime to pb an probe that is definite to beryllium partisan and fraught.

“I’ve dealt with Bennie for 15 years, and we disagreed connected a lot, but I don’t deliberation determination was ever a harsh connection betwixt us,” says erstwhile Republican Rep. Pete King of New York, who was the president and apical Republican connected the Homeland Security Committee for years other Thompson. “Bennie is debased key, helium manages his broadside well. He was a bully feline to enactment with. He was beardown and knew what helium wanted, but determination was precise small drama.”

New York Rep. John Katko, who is present the apical Republican connected the Homeland Security Committee, gave a akin assessment. Thompson is “a bully man, a patriotic American” and a “productive partner,” Katko said successful statement.

Pelosi chose Thompson arsenic president aft helium crafted authorities with Katko that would person created an independent, bipartisan committee to analyse the Jan. 6 attack. That measure won astir 3 twelve Republican votes successful the House lone to occurrence retired successful the Senate, wherever the absorption of Senate GOP person Mitch McConnell was decisive.

Far less House Republicans supported creating the House prime committee, dismissing the effort arsenic partisan. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy said the GOP won’t enactment aft Pelosi rejected 2 of his appointments, Republican Reps. Jim Banks of Indiana and Jim Jordan of Ohio.

Only 2 Republicans voted to make the sheet — Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney and Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger. Pelosi archetypal appointed Cheney to the committee and past added Kinzinger arsenic good connected Sunday aft McCarthy withdrew his picks.

“I’m looking forward. successful the agelong run, to effort to person arsenic galore of the 13 members that I can,” Thompson said past week.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who was appointed to the Jan. 6 committee, said Thompson’s past of moving with Republicans and his popularity among members volition marque it harder to malign the panel’s work. Reaching the bipartisan woody with Katko was not an casual task, helium said.

“I deliberation helium has a precise adjacent keel that volition assistance him get done this,” Schiff said.

Not a brawler

Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, different Democrat appointed to the prime committee, says some parties person “partisan brawlers” — and Thompson is not 1 of them.

“He’s a workhorse, truthful helium likes getting worldly done,” Raskin said. “And I deliberation that’s the close tone for this.”

Still, Thompson has taken sharply partisan stances. He joined with astir 30 Democrats successful a 2005 ballot to invalidate President George W. Bush’s triumph — not dissimilar the dozens of Republicans who voted to invalidate Biden’s successful January. In that challenge, the dissenting Democrats claimed irregularities if not fraud successful Ohio’s vote.

The effort did not extremity successful unit and John Kerry, the defeated Democratic statesmanlike candidate, did not pb oregon articulation the effort to contradict Bush his victory.

Lawsuit inactive active

A predominant professional of Trump, Thompson joined different Democrats successful filing a suit against the erstwhile president aft the insurrection, charging that helium incited the onslaught and conspired to forestall Congress from certifying Biden’s victory.

Last week, Thompson withdrew his information successful that lawsuit, which helium joined soon aft the Senate acquitted Trump, astatine his 2nd impeachment trial, of inciting the insurrection. Thompson’s withdrawal petition said helium “wishes to debar adjacent the quality of a struggle of involvement betwixt his relation connected the Select Committee and his relation arsenic a Plaintiff successful this litigation.”

The lawsuit, which is inactive active, names arsenic defendants Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s idiosyncratic lawyer, and the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers. The Justice Department has filed charges against members of those groups successful transportation to the attack, and the sheet is expected to analyse them arsenic portion of its probe.

Domestic extremism and its links to achromatic supremacy are a acquainted taxable for Thompson not lone from his clip connected the Homeland Security Committee but besides from his aboriginal engagement successful the civilian rights question successful Mississippi. He was progressive with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee successful assemblage and organized elector registration drives earlier helium was elected politician of his tiny hometown of Bolton.

The FBI’s assessments astir the increasing dangers of home extremism, helium said, amusement that “the value of this committee’s enactment is arsenic important arsenic it tin ever get.”

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