Proposed bipartisan probe of deadly U.S. Capitol attack wins support

FILE PHOTO: Security fences, erected following the January 6th attack, are seen surrounding the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S.
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By Susan Heavey and Makini Brice

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A key Democrat and Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives reached a deal to form a bipartisan commission to investigate the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by Donald Trump's supporters, the lawmakers said on Friday.

Democratic Representative Bennie Thompson, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and Republican ranking member John Katko said they would introduce legislation as soon as next week to set up the investigative panel modeled after the one used to probe the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"There has been a growing consensus that the January 6th attack is of a complexity and national significance that ... we need an independent commission to investigate," Thompson said in a statement. "Inaction – or just moving on – is simply not an option."

Katko said the Capitol remained a target for extremists. "This is about facts, not partisan politics," he said.

Hundreds of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 as Congress was meeting to certify Joe Biden's presidential election victory. The violence left five dead, including a Capitol Police officer.

Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, said he had not signed off on the lawmakers' deal and said the commission should look at events that came before and after Jan. 6, including an unrelated incident in April when a motorist rammed a car into a pair of Capitol Police officers, killing one.

For months, negotiations over the size and scope of the commission stalled amid disagreement between Democrats and Republicans over the number of commissioners each party would name and whether minority Republicans would have subpoena power.

Republicans also had been arguing for the commission to investigate last summer's protests in the wake of George Floyd's murder in Minneapolis.

The Jan. 6 riot followed a fiery speech in which then-President Trump falsely alleged that his election defeat was the result of widespread voter fraud, a claim that has been dismissed by multiple courts, state election officials and his own administration's review.

Following the riot, multiple Republicans condemned Trump's words. But out of office, he has doubled down on his false claims of fraud, which multiple Republican-controlled state legislatures have cited as a justification for passing new voting restrictions.

The House Republican caucus this week stripped Representative Liz Cheney of her party leadership role because she loudly rejected Trump's "big lie."

Some congressional Republicans have downplayed the violence that led to Trump's second impeachment trial on a charge of inciting insurrection.

Andrew Clyde, a lawmaker from Georgia, said on Wednesday that calling the incident an insurrection was a "bold-faced lie."

More than 400 people have been arrested for taking part in the riot.

Like the Sept. 11 panel, the proposed 10-member panel would have five commissioners appointed by each party as well as subpoena authority. Its report and recommendations to prevent future attacks would be due by Dec. 31.

Both the House and the Senate would have to approve the bill that sets up the commission, which would then go to Biden to sign into law.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick Leahy said he was committed to moving a bill that addressed Capitol security vulnerabilities and other needs.

Separately, House Democrats introduced a bill that would allocate $1.9 billion to respond to the insurrection.

The funding would reimburse law enforcement agencies for their response and presence at the U.S. Capitol, provide support for Capitol Police and improve security there, among other measures, according to a statement by Democrats Rosa DeLauro and Tim Ryan.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey, Makini Brice, Susan Cornwell and Richard Cowan; Editing by Scott Malone, Franklin Paul and Alistair Bell)