Conflict of interest? Senators probe Capitol riot they experienced as victims, witnesses

Former NYPD commissioner questions whether senators can appropriately investigate a situation they were intimately involved in.

Updated: March 3, 2021 - 10:57pm

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In the aftermath of the Jan. 6 breach on the U.S. Capitol, lawmakers spoke of feeling terrorized and afraid for their lives while inside the besieged building. Many, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, attended post-traumatic counseling. Now, lawmakers are investigating the same events in which they were directly involved as both victims and witnesses.

In a series of hearings on Capitol Hill, senators have sought timelines, documents, evidence, and testimony from the FBI, the U.S. Capitol Police, the Defense Department, and other agencies. The latest such hearing — an oversight session held jointly by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Committee on Rules and Administration to examine security and intelligence failures — spanned several hours on Wednesday.

While observers agree that the breach of the Capitol should be thoroughly examined, some question whether the senators can appropriately inqvestigate a situation they were intimately involved in.

"The people that were in that building, they were witnesses," said Bernard Kerik, former commissioner of the New York City Police Department. "They shouldn't be investigating it at all. It's a conflict of interest."

Witnesses and traumatized victims cannot distance themselves from events in order to investigate them, one Virginia police officer said.

"Victims play a key role in any investigation," the officer told Just the News. "But they can't be in charge of it. They're part of it, and they don't have a neutral perspective."

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who runs the Committee on Rules and Administration, was among the legislators who on Jan. 6 was whisked out of the overrun Capitol Building. Since then, the Minnesota Democrat has commented with emotion about events of the day.

On television, she discussed watching video of the riot. "The facts are offensive, the facts are horrific," Klobuchar said while appearing Feb. 11 on CBS This Morning. "They're hard to watch."

On Twitter, Klobuchar wrote about a specific event. "Capitol rioters searched for Nancy Pelosi in a way that should make every woman's skin crawl," the senator tweeted on Feb. 15. 

And, while Klobuchar has been an aggressive inquisitor during hearings, she and other senators should not conduct an inquiry into the Capitol breach, said the former police commissioner, Kerik. 

"If a U.S. attorney was the victim of a crime, would you have that U.S. attorney investigate the crime?" Kerik asked. "If a cop is a victim of a crime, would you have the cop investigate the crime? Of course not."

Two Republican lawmakers in January noted that as Congress itself might come under scrutiny for lapses surrounding the Capitol breach its members should not delve into issues surrounding the episode.

"Congress should not be allowed to investigate itself when it comes to the massive security failures of January 6," wrote Senators Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) in a Jan. 13 joint statement. An independent commission should investigate the tumultuous events of the day, they said. 

"Americans understand Congress is rife with partisan disputes and turf wars," the senators wrote in their statement. "We fear that without an outside set of eyes to review the issues that led to January 6, the investigations will fall into the familiar territory of partisan squabbles ultimately resolving nothing." 

The joint committee hearing on Wednesday ended as senators asked witnesses to provide them with followup information.

Offices for Klobuchar and for Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), who runs the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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