Jan. 6 Capitol riot probe ready to go public

They’ve interviewed more than 300 witnesses, collected tens of thousands of documents and traveled around the country to talk to election officials. Now, after six months of work, the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection is preparing to go public.

Members of the panel will start to reveal their findings against the backdrop of the former president and his allies’ persistent efforts to whitewash the riots and reject suggestions that he helped instigate them. The committee also faces the burden of trying to persuade the American public that their conclusions are fact-based and credible.

But the nine lawmakers — seven Democrats and two Republicans — plan televised hearings and reports to bring their findings out into the open.

Judges are hearing tearful expressions of remorse — and a litany of excuses — from rioters paying a price for joining the Jan. 6 insurrection, even as others try to play down the deadly attack on a seat of American democracy.

The Justice Department’s investigation of the riot has now entered the punishment phase. So far, 71 people have been sentenced for riot-related crimes. They include a company CEO, an architect, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, a gym owner, a former Houston police officer and a University of Kentucky student. Many rioters have said they lost jobs and friends after their mob of Donald Trump loyalists disrupted the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential victory.

Fifty-six of the 71 pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor. But rioters who assaulted police officers have gotten years behind bars.

Millions of Americans watched the events in Washington last Jan. 6 unfold on live television. Police officers testified to the violence and mayhem. Criminal proceedings in open court detailed what happened.

Yet the hoaxes, conspiracy theories and attempts to rewrite history persist, muddying the public’s understanding of what actually occurred during the most sustained attack on the seat of American democracy since the War of 1812.

By excusing former President Donald Trump of responsibility, minimizing the mob’s violence and casting the rioters as martyrs, falsehoods about the insurrection aim to deflect blame for Jan. 6 while sustaining Trump’s unfounded claims about the election in 2020 that he lost.

Still, in one northern Virginia community and others like it across the United States, neighborly ways and social ties persist, even in a country that seems to be at war with itself.

It’s a quieter force than all the yelling that is driving Americans apart. But the redemption of a nation and future of its democracy may depend on it as the anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol approaches.

The U.S. is split in nearly every way. Americans are conspicuously not “all in this together,” as the pandemic cliché claims. There’s no common set of facts.