February 18, 2021
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Speaker Pelosi,
We, the undersigned organizations, are writing to express support for your announcement that Congress will work to establish an outside, independent Commission to “investigate and report on the facts and causes relating to the January 6, 2021 domestic terrorist attack upon the United States Capitol Complex” as well as “the interference with the peaceful transfer of power.”
The attacks of January 6th were attacks on democracy itself. As the executive branch muscularly and expeditiously pursues prosecutions of crimes committed in relation to the attacks, Congress must also muscularly and expeditiously address these events, and it must be empowered to do so with sufficient staff, funding, and authority, including subpoena power. A January 6th Commission will allow the Congress—and the American people—to assemble a comprehensive account of these attacks, what caused them, and how to prevent them from happening again.
As organizations and individuals committed to sustaining and strengthening a functioning democracy, we write to emphasize that not only was the security of the Capitol breached on January 6th, but so was the security of our democracy. To understand the causes of the January 6th attacks, it is critical that the scope of the Commission’s work include a comprehensive examination of the conditions that gave rise to the attacks —a scope enjoyed by the 9/11 Commission and an important component of its success. This examination could include, for example, the spread of disinformation and the mainstreaming of conspiracy theories, including efforts to discredit the peaceful transfer of power; the growth of white supremacist organizations that mobilized the attacks; the financial backing of the organizers and events leading to the attacks; and the turn to political violence as a means of resolving political differences.
Most important, Congress should charge the Commission with identifying corrective measures to prevent future attacks on our democracy—measures that not only secure the Capitol and preserve its accessibility, but also preserve our capacity to engage in the peaceful transfer of power. For example, Congress should direct the Commission to recommend measures to strengthen our democratic institutions, including Congress itself. The January 6th attacks were a reminder that in addition to fortifying the physical infrastructure of our legislative branch, we must also fortify the infrastructure of our representative democracy.
On January 5th, we already knew that the peaceful transition of power was under extreme stress. To understand what happened on the 6th, the new Commission must work to understand what came before.
American Constitution Society
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington
Constitutional Accountability Center
Digital Democracy Project
Government Accountability Project
People For The American Way
Project On Government Oversight (POGO)
Stand Up America