ANALYSIS: What’s Changed — and What Hasn’t — Two Years After Jan. 6 Insurrection

Efforts continue to hold perpetrators accountable, while the work of the Congress has again been halted

  • Published In: Politics
  • Last Updated: Jan 06, 2023

Two years after the Jan. 6 insurrection, the work of the U.S. Congress has again ground to a halt as the Republicans have failed to elect a Speaker for three straight days. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

By Jacob Gardenswartz

Special to the Wyoming Truth

WASHINGTON — Exactly two years ago, on Jan. 6, 2021, the work of the U.S. Congress was ground to a halt by a violent mob seeking to stop the certification of President Joe Biden’s electoral victory. After blowing past police barricades, rioters forced their way into the Senate chamber chanting “hang Mike Pence” and sending lawmakers scrambling for safety underground.

Today, the work of the U.S. House has again ground to a halt, though this time lawmakers are not barricaded underground but tethered to their seats. For three straight days, Republicans have tried and failed to elect a Speaker of the House as a coalition of far-right lawmakers refused to back Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). The 20 holdouts — most of whom belong to the so-called “Freedom Caucus” — have effectively held the body hostage, preventing the swearing in of new members or any legislation from being considered.

Rep.-elect Harriet Hageman, R-Wyo., arrives to meet with fellow Republicans behind closed doors as Republicans hold their leadership candidate forum, where everyone running for a post must make their case to the membership, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Nov. 14, 2022. Hageman was endorsed by former President Donald Trump to unseat Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., during the primary race in August. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Throughout Washington, the symbolism of the day is apparent. Biden is set to hold a ceremony at the White House to commemorate the anniversary, where he’ll award the Presidential Citizens Medal to individuals who worked against Trump’s attempts to overturn the election. Elsewhere, protests and marches are planned, calling for the former president to be held accountable for the violence many believe he directed that day.

On Capitol Hill, however, the impact of the 6th has played out differently. Most of the members holding up the work of the Congress are among those who voted to overturn the 2020 election, while over half continue to deny Biden’s victory. Many still were supported during their campaigns by McCarthy himself, who despite initially stating that Trump “bears responsibility” for the violence came around to support him again.

The Jan. 6 select committee — established a year-and-a-half ago to investigate the insurrection — has concluded its work, making history by suggesting the prosecution of a former president while leaving some dismayed by a lack of conclusive analysis into law enforcement failures that enabled the violence on to take hold.

And for Wyoming, the 6th had a drastic impact, resulting in the ousting of a legislator once seen as a rising star and her replacement with a Trump-aligned figure who’s echoed his unproven claims of a stolen election.  

Jan 6 hearings probe

In 11 televised hearings over the course of seven months, the select committee investigating the Capitol attack worked to make the case to the public that Trump was singularly responsible for the violence on Jan. 6. “The central cause of Jan. 6 was one man, former President Donald Trump, whom many others followed,” the panel’s final report states. “None of the events of Jan. 6 would have happened without him.”

Through the scrutiny of tens of thousands of pages of records and interviews with hundreds of witnesses — the vast majority of whom were Republican aides and allies to the former president — the select committee revealed that Trump was aware his allegations of mass fraud in 2020 were unfounded and yet pushed them anyway. Witnesses said Trump ignored warnings of possible violence in the lead up to the 6th, and sought to bend arms of the government to his will to bolster his claims.

Moreover, as the extent of the danger to lawmakers and Pence became clear the day of the attack, Trump did nothing for hours, reveling in the chaos as he watched on TV from the White House residence.

The Justice Department has charged nearly 1,000 individuals in connection with the violence that day, with many cases still ongoing. And last month the Congress passed legislation which would amend the centuries-old law Trump utilized in his attempts to overturn the election results, clarifying that the vice president has no power to overturn the will of the voters, as Trump suggested.

Yet Trump has thus far evaded any real consequences, waiting out a Congressional subpoena as he’s become embroiled in numerous investigations into other matters. Though the panel made the historic decision to suggest prosecution of Trump, the decision of whether to do so ultimately falls on Attorney General Merrick Garland, who has said only that he promises to follow the facts wherever they lead.

Committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., speaks as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds its final meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, Dec. 19, 2022. Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., left. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Cheney out, Hageman in

Former Congresswoman Liz Cheney’s transformation from conservative stalwart to anti-Trump crusader brought about her swift demise in Wyoming, which broke for Trump by a higher margin than any other in the nation.

Cheney’s vote to impeach Trump for his conduct on the 6th earned her censure from the Wyoming GOP, while her continued anti-Trump rhetoric got her booted from GOP leadership in Congress.

But it was her decision to serve as vice chair of the Jan. 6 committee, one of only two Republicans who were seated against the wishes of the Republican minority leader, that brought about the biggest change to her public profile. Through her direct and repeated condemnations of the former president, Cheney became a martyr to some, who despite opposing her conservative beliefs found value in her willingness to stand up for principles of democracy.

While Cheney’s Jan. 6 panel work raised her national profile significantly, it only served to diminish her standing in Wyoming. She was easily ousted by Harriet Hageman in the GOP primary, and now lives in limbo, with many speculating she could seek presidential office next year.

And it’s not just Cheney who paid for her anti-Trump moves. Of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump after Jan. 6, only two remain in Congress. Meanwhile, 179 so-called “election deniers,” individuals who refused to acknowledge Biden’s legitimate victory, were elected to Congress. They’ve promised to continue backing Trump’s goals — once Republicans select a speaker and they’re able to be sworn in.

Among them is Hageman, today entering her fourth day in procedural limbo as Congresswoman-elect.

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