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U.S. deserves a full accounting of Capitol riot

Supporters of former President Donald Trump use bats,

Supporters of former President Donald Trump use bats, batons, and other items during a riot as they fight police defending an entrance to the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6. Credit: TNS/JESSICA GRIFFIN

The second impeachment of Donald Trump did not yield answers to troubling questions about the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

That’s why a 9/11-style commission must be launched as quickly as possible to get the full story about what happened that day.

After the terrorist attacks nearly two decades ago, a devastated nation needed more information about how the attack was planned, who missed the warning signs and who should have done better. Beyond that, we needed and need again a "full and complete accounting of the circumstances surrounding the attacks," as mandated in the law creating the earlier commission in 2002.

New Yorkers know tragically well the human toll of that lack of preparation. In the years since 9/11, we also have seen the despicable spread of conspiracy theories about that day, a slander to the memory of those who died and served. The commission put together an exhaustive, nearly-600-page account that answered the key questions, at least for honest brokers — even still, wild tales continue to circulate in some quarters.

Imagine what conspiracies will flourish two decades from Jan. 6 without a full accounting. The insinuation that left-leaning antifa forces were a big part of the riot is already a lie believed by many and perpetuated by some leading Republicans.

The only way to combat lies and probe the murk is to empower an independent body that can use evidence to deliver conclusions that are credible and dispositive. A select committee in the House or the Senate cannot deliver such a report. Instead, the nation deserves a commission created by statute, signed by the president, with sufficient funding to do its work independently.

There is at least the indications of support for a similar kind of body already, from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s plan to a Republican measure — co-sponsored by GOP freshman Rep. Andrew Garbarino of Bayport — that would create a bipartisan commission. Key to its success would be the identity of the people leading the commission. The 9/11 version is a good model here as well. Its authorizing legislation stipulated "the sense of Congress that individuals appointed to the Commission should be prominent United States citizens, with national recognition and significant depth of experience" in professions like governmental service, law enforcement, law and the military.

The individuals must be unimpeachably committed to the truth, with each bringing a diverse expertise, supported by a staff that is scrupulously bipartisan.

They should be empowered to subpoena witnesses and records — and there are extensive cellphone and social media ones — to present a full picture of that day, including a clearer understanding of former President Donald Trump’s actions, the influence of the QAnon conspiracy, how the rioters were able to take over the Capitol and why there was such a delay in getting reinforcements for local police.

These are among the answers needed to put conspiracies to rest, and prevent this from happening again.

— The editorial board