Schoen: Pelosi’s Jan 6th commission doesn’t seek the truth, instead it’s intended to support her own narrative

David Schoen wrote this column as a special for Schoen is a civil rights and criminal defense lawyer, who has served as trial counsel in the past for the Democratic Party and successfully defended President Donald Trump in his impeachment trial.


On June 24, 2021, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced with “great solemnity and sadness” that she would be forming a select committee in the House to investigate the events at the Capitol on January 6, 2021 – what exactly happened, how it happened, and who was responsible, or, in her words, what  the “root causes” were.  

Speaker Pelosi said that the committee was necessary because, “it is imperative that we seek the truth of what happened.”  With all due respect to Speaker Pelosi, one would be hard-pressed to find a time in her exceedingly partisan tenure as Speaker when the primary goal has been ascertaining the truth around any set of events.  Rather, Speaker Pelosi’s method is to announce a “truth” that supports her political agenda and then call for an “investigation” designed fully and cynically to back up her “truth.”  That, of course, is exactly the situation here.  

Under the resolution passed to create this committee, Speaker Pelosi is to pick eight of the thirteen committee members and Republican minority leader Kevin McCarthy is to pick five members.  While the 8-5 mix in these sharply partisan times virtually assures certain Pelosi-favored conclusions before the “investigation” even begins…

David Schoen

On January 10th, just four days after the events at issue and well before any “investigation,” Speaker Pelosi announced her conclusion about the very facts she now claims to want the committee to “investigate.”  Pelosi went on 60 Minutes and announced to the world that the events of January 6th were all caused by President Trump, who she referred to as “deranged” and “unhinged.”  She said, “This president is guilty of inciting insurrection. He has to pay a price for that.” 

This approach would seem perfectly reasonable in Alice’s Wonderland; but it does not comport with what fair-minded Americans should expect of their political representatives. And it surely is at odds with Pelosi’s claim to care about the integrity or the appearance of integrity with respect to this committee’s “investigation.”

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Indeed, an “investigation” by definition, should be a quest to find the truth, conducted by fair, non-partisan, objective, skilled, open-minded truth-seekers.  In a matter as historically important as the “root causes” of the events of January 6, 2021, the American people deserve nothing less.  In keeping with her trademark  pattern of behavior, however, Speaker Pelosi has once again proven herself incapable of rising above partisan politics and she has made it crystal clear that she has no intention of creating a process that is fair or objective or that can in any way ever be a true “investigation” designed to ferret out the truth.

This tragically indisputable conclusion is not just crystal clear from Pelosi’s own inflammatory statements reflecting her prejudgment of the very facts she claims to want the select committee to “investigate.” Her admittedly “unprecedented” decision to violate the House’s long-standing institutional protocol regarding the composition of the membership of the select committee by refusing to seat members of the investigative committee selected by the Republican leader in the House, demonstrates, without any question, Speaker Pelosi’s wholly partisan agenda and her utter disregard for the integrity of the process and for the best interests of the American people and our country.

Under the resolution passed to create this committee, Speaker Pelosi is to pick eight of the thirteen committee members and Republican minority leader Kevin McCarthy is to pick five members.  While the 8-5 mix in these sharply partisan times virtually assures certain Pelosi-favored conclusions before the “investigation” even begins, providing five seats for the opposition party at least broadens the possibility of keeping the most blatant partisanship in check and increases the chances for some real investigative work.  But, of course, following the rules and working to achieve at the least the appearance of objectivity and fairness was, as always, just too much to expect from Speaker Pelosi.

Speaker Pelosi has announced that she refuses to permit two of Minority Leader McCarthy’s picks for the committee.  Pelosi has rejected spots on the committee for Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee and Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana, a man whose lifetime of public service, includes interrupting his career just a few years ago to voluntary deploy to Afghanistan to serve his country and who continues his service as a U.S. Naval reserve officer.  It is hard to believe Pelosi’s rejection of Congressman Jordan is unrelated to his repeated demands for full disclosure regarding what Pelosi knew in advance about the potential for violence at the Capitol on January 6th, what, if anything, she could have done about it and what she actually did or did not do.

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Pelosi and her spokesperson have worked the media long and hard to deflect any claim of malfeasance by her; but surely a full investigation must examine all avenues, just as Jordan, Banks, and others rightly have demanded.  

In rejecting these two Republican members of Congress from serving on the committee, Speaker Pelosi publicly claimed that her decision was based on the need to ensure “respect for the integrity of the investigation, with an insistence on the truth and with concern about statements made and actions taken by these members.”  If this were not such a serious affront to the American people, Pelosi’s sheer, unadulterated hypocrisy would be laughable.  Let’s take a look at how her words line up with the facts:

Speaker Pelosi claims to be concerned about the “integrity of the investigation” and about previous statements by committee members.  Pelosi has named as the committee’s chair, Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi.  It would be difficult to find someone less suited to serve on a committee purportedly tasked to “investigate” the truth surrounding the events of January 6 with anything even remotely approaching an open mind or a sense of objectivity, let alone as its chair.  That is, if the appearance of integrity truly is a goal.

Congressman Thompson was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit pending in federal court that is based entirely on his claim that the events of January 6, 2021 were directly caused by former President Donald Trump, that the events were the product of conspiratorial machinations of what he believes to be white supremacist groups, and that he personally suffered damages from the actions perpetrated by these defendants who he claims intentionally violated his civil rights on January 6th

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In short, Rep. Thompson not only has had a deeply personal stake in ensuring that this “investigative” committee comes to a conclusion consistent with the claims in his pending lawsuit, that outcome has been directly consistent with his financial interests at stake in his pending lawsuit.

Rep. Thompson announced this week that he is withdrawing as a plaintiff in the lawsuit, which remains pending, purportedly to avoid “even the appearance” of some personal interest or bias in his role as the chair of this investigative committee.  Really?  Consider his statements when he filed the case, just a short time ago and see whether you or anyone else would believe that Rep. Thompson is an open-minded, objective, nonpartisan truth-seeking investigator with respect to the facts and “root causes” of the events of January 6, 2021:  

“January 6th was one of the most shameful days in our country’s history, and it was instigated by the President himself. His gleeful support of violent white supremacists led to a breach of the Capitol that put my life, and that of my colleagues, in grave danger. It is by the slimmest of luck that the outcome was not deadlier. While the majority of Republicans in the Senate abdicated their responsibility to hold the President accountable, we must hold him accountable for the insurrection that he so blatantly planned. Failure to do so will only invite this type of authoritarianism for the anti-democratic forces on the far right that are so intent on destroying our country.”   

These statements somehow do not appear to cause Speaker Pelosi any concern or impact on her sense of integrity for the committee’s “investigation?”

Was it Speaker Pelosi’s sense of fairness, desire to seek the truth, and insistence on the complete appearance of integrity for this committee, that led her to appoint to the committee Rep. Adam Schiff who, according to the Wall Street Journal (and many others) “lied repeatedly about the evidence concerning the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia?”   

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Pelosi also named Rep. Jamie Raskin to serve on this investigative committee.  Raskin, of course, served as the lead partisan prosecutor in the second impeachment trial against former President Trump and in that role declared over and over again that President Trump was fully responsible for the events of January 6th and that the law required his conviction on the charges alleging the same.  Raskin’s passion for convicting former President Trump was so out of control that he appears to have been moved to misleadingly manipulate the facts without revealing his manipulation.  Notwithstanding the outrage expressed by Raskin and his colleagues now over the very idea that anyone would challenge the results of an election, Raskin has been publicly called out even by MSNBC for demanding Trump’s impeachment early on and for opposing the certification of the 2016 election.  Where is Speaker Pelosi’s concern about his statements vis a vis the integrity of this investigation?

And perhaps the most cynically absurd selection by Speaker Pelosi is Republican Rep. Liz Cheney, who Pelosi’s allies hold up as evidence of her bipartisanship, notwithstanding the fact that Rep. Cheney’s recent public fame centers entirely around her repeated claims about the very subject she was appointed to now investigate – the “root causes” of the events of January 6th, which she attributes directly and unequivocally to former President Trump.  For Rep. Cheney and others on this committee, it is hard to see what there is to investigate, given their repeated unequivocal conclusions on the subject.

It is the sheer outrageous, unabashed hypocrisy shown once again by Speaker Pelosi in refusing to sit these two public servants who are entrusted with leading roles on the congressional committees on which they serve and who have admirably served their country with devotion that completely undermines the integrity and the appearance of integrity of the House January 6th committee beyond repair.  

Minority Leader McCarthy should make a crisp and clear statement to the American people about the partisan politics and the hypocrisy plainly apparent in Pelosi’s conduct and agenda.  He should refuse in any way to endorse or participate in this kangaroo court process.  He must not even appear to dignify it and he must withdraw all of his selections and clearly explain why to the American people.

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One would have hoped that, if nothing else, one lesson learned from the travesty that was the Mueller “investigation” would have been that any true investigation of an important matter of public interest is devoid, ab initio, of any semblance of integrity when the investigators are, in advance of the investigation, on record with their conclusions about the subject of the investigation or are inextricably conflicted by other interests that render their objectivity impossible.  

Indeed, Mr. Mueller himself and other members of his team were employed by the law firm that represented Hilary Clinton when their investigation directly implicated matters involving Ms. Clinton’s actions.  One member of the Mueller team, Jeannie Rhee, was even Ms. Clinton’s personal lawyer with respect to her actions that were at issue.  Mueller selected as his right-hand assistant, who many believed actually ran the team, Andrew Weissmann, the single most ethically bankrupt prosecutor I have encountered.  No fair-minded American could have had confidence in an investigation conducted by a team intentionally comprised of conflicted, partisans, who had pre-judged the subject of their investigation.  The country suffered through that episode internally and externally and wasted tens of millions of dollars.  

To the extent gaining the confidence of the American people for its findings and presenting itself as a body for which integrity and the appearance of integrity are of even minimal importance, the House committee selected by Speaker Pelosi to investigate the events of January 6, 2021 is irretrievably disqualified from any such standing, almost as if by design.  There was nothing, other than raw partisan politics, that could possibly support the selections Speaker Pelosi made and her unprecedented rejection of the Minority Leader’s selections for the committee.  A committee born irresponsibly of raw partisan politics cannot be entrusted to investigate this matter of historic significance to our country and no responsible representative of the American people should give her or his imprimatur to it by participating or in any way endorsing it.  America deserves much better.   

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