Crucial Questions Left Unanswered By Jan. 6 Committee After Last Hearing

After its tentative last hearing, the House Jan. 6 Committee has left many crucial questions about the events of that day unanswered, despite its professed goal of getting to the bottom of the Jan. 6 Capitol protest.

Though Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) intimated that more hearings may be forthcoming, the committee’s ninth hearing on Oct. 13 is—for the time being—the last meeting of the controversial panel. That hearing, which culminated in a 9-0 vote to subpoena former President Donald Trump, left many crucial questions unaddressed.

The committee, which is dominated by Democrats, has long insisted that it is not a partisan panel.

But only two Republicans sit on the panel—Ranking Member Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), both of whom are virulent Trump critics. The two were appointed over the expressed wishes of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who picked Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) to serve as ranking member.

But Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), citing concerns over the integrity of the investigation, refused McCarthy’s picks—an unprecedented violation of a tradition stretching back to the earliest days of party politics in the Republic wherein the minority leader chose the members of their caucus that would sit on congressional committees.

Opponents of the panel have argued that this lack of adversarial voices has led to a one-sided investigation that tends to demonize Trump and the supporters of his “America First” policies, while downplaying the failings of Democrats, their appointees, and other events that go beyond the panel’s narrative.

Ed Martin, an attorney who represents Jan. 6 defendants pro bono, told the Epoch Times that the litany of lingering questions is unsurprising in view of the composition of the committee.

“As an observer of Congress and politics and policy, the select committee was so one sided that you almost don’t know what questions were missed,” Martin said. “Because with a process that has an adversarial tone to it, you would have questions generated—that’s the reason you have an adversarial process is to generate tension in the fact finding area to see what comes up and what doesn’t. When you have zero, as they did in this case, you don’t really know what you’re missing. This is one of the one of the many reasons the Jan. 6 Committee is such an affront.”

Questions about the circumstances surrounding the deaths of several Trump supporters that day, the role played by the FBI and other federal law enforcement agents, and the lack of preparation—among other questions—still linger.

Committee Ignores Trump Supporters’ Deaths

One of the most notable absences from the committee investigation were the circumstances surrounding the deaths of several Trump supporters at the Capitol that day.

Of the four in the crowd who died that day—Ashli Babbitt, Kevin Green, Rosanne Boyland, and Benjamin Philips—Babbitt’s case has been the most discussed.

Babbitt, an Air Force veteran, was the only member of the crowd who died directly as a result of actions by an officer. Babbitt was shot outside the House chamber.

Babbitt’s killer, Capitol Police Lt. Michael Byrd, is known; however, the exact circumstances surrounding Babbitt’s death are more ambiguous. Though it is known that Byrd was the officer directly responsible for Babbitt’s death, there has been no public investigation into why he felt compelled to shoot the unarmed Babbitt.

“I know that day I saved countless lives,” Byrd told NBC News after the fact. “I know members of Congress, as well as my fellow officers and staff, were in jeopardy and in serious danger. And that’s my job.”

However, it remains unclear why Babbitt in particular was singled out as a lethal threat, despite being in close proximity to many other protestors.

Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Texas) told the Epoch Times that the treatment of Babbitt’s case was unacceptable, and mused that Byrd ought to have been brought before a grand jury.

“Lieutenant Byrd shot and killed Ashley Babbitt,” Nehls said. “He even said in his testimony [that] he couldn’t even see her hands. He didn’t know she had a weapon. Matter of fact, he couldn’t even tell if it was a man or a woman jumping through there [into the House chamber].

“That shooting—that was a bad shoot my friend,” Nehls said. “It was a bad shoot.”

He continued: “That shooting should have gone to a grand jury. Why did that shooting not go to a grand jury? I tell you why—because they swept it under the rug.”

Moments before being fatally shot, Ashli Babbitt confronts three police offers for not stopping the vandalism outside the U.S. House. (Video Still/Tayler Hansen)

Nehls opined that any shooting anywhere in the nation ought to go before a grand jury, but accused Democrats of double standards in their treatment of Babbitt’s killer.

“Every law enforcement officer in shooting in the country should go to a grand jury because … a lot of people question when there’s officers that have to take the life of or shoot somebody else,” Nehls said. “You should take every one of those shooting to a grand jury to dispel any doubt that there could be any type of cover up where blue is protecting blue, all that other stuff.”

Nehls added, “If that would have happened during the summer riots of 2020, where a law enforcement officer shot a protester—a rioter, whether it would have been in D.C., in Seattle, in Baltimore, Chicago, wherever that would have been, there would have been an indictment and [Black Lives Matter], everybody calling for that officer to be indicted and thrown in jail.”

But rather than going to a grand jury, Nehls said that the Capitol Police hardly looked into the shooting at all.

“The officers that I have spoken to … have said that was one of the quickest investigations they’d ever seen here,” Nehls reported. “And these are from guys that have been there 15, 20 years. So no, I believe—looking at the evidence, looking at the video—Lieutenant Byrd shot and killed Ashli Babbitt and it was not justified. That was at a minimum manslaughter if not murder.”

But Babbitt, though her case is the most well-known, was not the only protestor who died that day.

Another member of the crowd, Kevin Greeson, collapsed of a heart attack on the left side of the Capitol; Rosanne Boyland was apparently trampled by a crowd of protestors fleeing from tear gas thrown in a narrow tunnel underneath the Capitol; Benjamin Philips, who founded the pro-Trump site “Trumparoo,” died of a stroke.

Epoch Times Photo
The beating of Rosanne M. Boyland by a DC Metro police officer on Jan. 6, 2021, should be prosecuted as a felony assault, use-of-force expert Stan Kephart said. (Boyland family, Metropolitan Police Department/Screenshots via The Epoch Times)

Though Babbitt’s and Boyland’s deaths were the clear result of actions by police, the Jan. 6 Committee—when it discussed deaths during the rally and in its aftermath at all—instead focused on correlating deaths of officers after the fact with the events of that day.

For instance, the panel pointed to the death of Officer Brian Sitnick on Jan. 7. Though a medical examiner ruled that Sitnick, who passed away after a stroke, died of natural causes, the committee tried to paint Sitnick’s death as a casualty of Jan. 6.

Two other officers, Jeffrey Smith and Howard Liebengood, died by suicide within a few days of each other in the aftermath of the Capitol breach.

Though the link between these deaths and Jan. 6 is correlational and not causational, the committee narrative counts these as casualties of that day while ignoring the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Babbitt, Boyland, Greeson, and Philips, leaving Americans still uncertain about what exactly happened to these protestors.

Ray Epps and Potential FBI Involvement

Questions also linger about the potential involvement of the FBI in the events of Jan. 6, particularly in regards to the role played by a man named Ray Epps.

In videos captured on Jan. 5, Epps was seen encouraging protestors to enter the Capitol the next day.

“Tomorrow, we need to get to into the Capitol,” Epps was caught saying. “Into the Capitol,” he reiterated.

The calls raised eyebrows among the gathered crowd, who promptly shot down Epps’ calls with cries of “Fed! Fed! Fed!”

The next day, additional video caught Epps whispering into the ear of a protestor, who proceeded to begin tearing down one of the first barricades around the Capitol.

Initially, Epps was identified as the FBI’s number 16 most wanted person for their involvement in the events of Jan. 6, with the agency offering a cash reward for information that led to his arrest. But Epps was later mysteriously removed from the list—a fact that further attracted suspicion amid the largest manhunt in the history of Department of Justice (DOJ), which saw dozens of nonviolent offenders who entered the Capitol rounded up.

Suspicion that the FBI was involved in the events of that day only ramped up after Jill Sanborn, the executive assistant director for the National Security Branch of the FBI, refused to disavow agency involvement at the rally.

During a Jan. 11, 2022, Senate hearing, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) questioned Sanborn about potential FBI involvement. These questions were met with deflection by Sanborn, who avoided giving a definitive answer to the yes or no questions posed by Cruz.

“How many FBI agents or confidential informants actively participated in the events of January 6?” Cruz asked.

“So I’m sure you can appreciate that I can’t go into the specifics of sources and methods,” Sanborn replied.

“Did any FBI agents or confidential informants actively participate in the events of January 6, yes or no?” Cruz asked.

“Sir, I can’t—I can’t answer that,” Sanborn said.

“Did any FBI agents or confidential informants commit crimes of violence on January 6?” Cruz asked.

“I can’t answer that, sir,” Sanborn replied.

“Did any FBI agents or FBI informants actively encourage and incite crimes of violence on January 6?”

“Sir, I can’t answer that.”

Following these deflections, Cruz turned focus to Ray Epps, who many suspect of having been an FBI informant or asset in view of the FBI’s unexplained decision to remove him from the Jan. 6 wanted list.

“Ms. Sanborn, who is Ray Epps?” Cruz asked.

“I’m aware of the individual sir,” Sanborn said. “I don’t have the specific background on him.”

“Well, there are a lot of people who are understandably concerned about this,” Cruz said before describing the videos captured showing Epps attempting to incite violence.

Epoch Times Photo
Ray Epps encourages protesters to go into the Capitol the night before the siege of January 6, 2021. (Villain Report/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

“On the night of January 5, 2021, Epps wandered around the crowd that had gathered and there’s video out there of him chanting ‘Tomorrow, we need to get into the Capitol, into the Capitol.’

“This was strange behavior so strange that the crowd began chanting, ‘Fed, fed, fed, fed, fed, fed.’

“Ms. Sanborn was Ray Epps a fed?”

“Sir, I cannot answer that question,” Sanborn replied obliquely.

Cruz then cited the other incident caught on tape involving Epps.

“The next day, on January 6, Mr. Epps was seen whispering to a person and five seconds later—five seconds after he’s whispering to a person—that same person begins to forcibly tear down the barricades,” Cruz said. “Did Mr. Epps urge them to tear down the barricades?”

“Sir, similar to the other answers, I cannot answer that,” Sanborn repeated.

Cruz noted that for a brief period, Epps was given a relatively high spot on the FBI’s wanted list before being “magically” removed.

The wanted ad “was posted and then sometime later, magically, Mr. Epps disappeared from the public posting,” Cruz said.

Ray Epps is shown at lower left on an early FBI ‘wanted’ poster, but his photo has since been scrubbed from the FBI web site. (FBI.gov/Wayback Machine)

“According to public records, Mr. Epps has not been charged with anything, and no one’s exchange explained why a person [caught on] video urging people to go to the Capitol—a person whose conduct was so suspect the crowd believed he was a fed—would magically disappear from the list of people the FBI was looking at.

“Ms. Sanborn, a lot of Americans are concerned that the federal government deliberately encouraged illegal and violent conduct on January 6,” Cruz continued. “My question to you—and this is not an ordinary law enforcement question, this is a question of a public accountability—did federal agents or those in service of federal agent actively encourage violent and criminal conduct on January 6?”

Finally, Sanborn answered ambiguously, “Not to my knowledge sir.”

Martin said this exchange effectively constituted a confession that the FBI was involved.

“There’s admission. They’ve admitted to the American people, that Ray Epps was playing some kind of role,” Martin said. “What they should have said was, ‘We were aware of Ray Epps,  he was someone we work with or something and try to defend it. But by saying nothing, we just have to assume that he was playing some role.”

Nehls told The Epoch Times that, if he had unilateral authority over the questions explored by a GOP Congress, Epps and the FBI’s role in the events of Jan. 6 would be near the top of the list.

“It’s a question that they, the FBI—they don’t want to be asked, that question about Ray Epps or potential FBI involvement,” Nehls said. “You don’t hear much from the FBI as it relates to Ray Epps.”

If Epps’ role was given more attention, Nehls mused, he would be charged with incitement of a riot.

“If you look at the federal codes, the federal statutes, if you incite a riot and there are serious bodily injury or death involved—which there was—you will be charged with a felony up to 10 years in prison, but he’s not being held accountable,” Nehls said.

For Epps to be free while other Jan. 6 defendants continue to be held in the “D.C. gulag”—a term that several Republicans have applied to the D.C. Metropolitan Jail where many Jan. 6 defendants are being held—is an “injustice,” Nehls said.

Nehls fit the issue into larger GOP concerns over the weaponization of the DOJ and FBI against critics of Biden’s Democratic administration.

Republican concerns with the DOJ have grown over the past two years amid concerns over several controversial decisions made by Attorney General Merrick Garland.

One such issue that Republicans have raised alarm bells over is the DOJ’s school board memo, in which Garland offered federal resources and support to law enforcement seeking to bring charges against parents expressing their opposition to far-left and progressive ideas being taught to their children, like critical race theory and transgender ideology.

These concerns then ballooned after Garland approved an FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Florida home. Such a raid on a former president is unprecedented, and Republicans have promised to look into the raid if they retake the majority in November.

“When you look at the Department of Justice under Garland, and you look at Christopher Wray, the left will say, ‘Well, Christopher Wray was a Trump appointee,’” Nehls said. “That doesn’t mean anything—he’s a turncoat.”

“It is a sad day, a very dangerous time in America when you have these federal agencies like the DOJ and the FBI being used as weapons,” he continued. “And now, we have said they’ve weaponized the DOJ and the FBI, but I think there is enough evidence out there to show that the far-left and this administration will do anything to go after the opposition; to go after people, individuals, and organizations that have a dissenting point of view.”

Doors Opened for Protestors

An Oath Keepers member gets in between a protester and a Capitol Police officer during a tense exchange in the Small House Rotunda on Jan. 6, 2021. (Stephen Horn/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

Also left unaddressed by the Jan. 6 Committee during its investigation was video evidence showing protesters being beckoned into the Capitol by Capitol Police.

Over the course of the committee hearings, members made their appraisal of what happened that day clear.

According to the narrative they’ve put forward, the breach of the Capitol was the culmination of a secret conspiracy by Trump and his supporters to overthrow the United States government. But videos circulating around the Internet reveal a less clear-cut image.

Specifically, video captured on Jan. 6 shows Capitol Police officers opening the doors to allow protestors to enter the building.

In the video, Capitol Police can be seen at the head of a crowd of protestors opening doors and being followed by the crowd into the building.

The video shows some members expressing concern about entering the Capitol, with some fearing a trap.

“They’re gonna lock us in,” on protestor can be heard saying.

As protestors entered, Capitol Police stood to the side of the corridor to let them pass.

“You can disagree with it [the election certification], but respect the building,” one masked officer told protestors as they entered.

Far from the scenes of insurrectionary street violence claimed by the committee, the videos show a general attitude of confusion among protestors. Several stood to the side, or turned around, but most simply followed the crowd further into the building.

Though the video seems to contradict the narrative pushed by the panel during its hearings, the committee left this and other footage showing protestors being welcomed into the Capitol out of its public hearings.

Why Was Pelosi’s Daughter There?

In its last hearing, the Jan. 6 Committee raised more questions when it showed footage of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) during the Capitol breach.

The video was recorded by Pelosi’s daughter.

Because a permit is required to record the interior of the Capitol, and because these permits must be obtained in advance, some felt it suspicious that Pelosi’s daughter had had the forethought to get such a permit.

Cynthia Hughes, founder of the Jan. 6 advocacy group the Patriot Freedom Project, told The Epoch Times that the presence of Pelosi’s daughter at the Capitol was an insult to voters’ intelligence.

“I mean, come on. The American people are not stupid,” Hughes said. “You know that there were film permits.”

Available information on the permits is limited. Because the Capitol Police is immune to the guidelines of the Freedom of Information Act—which gives Americans access to many documents, emails, and communications by public officials and agencies—Hughes said her organization had been unsuccessful in their efforts tried to gather information about the film permit.

Asked about the timely presence of Pelosi’s daughter in the Capitol, Nehls sighed, “Give me a break.”

Aside from any questions about why Pelosi’s daughter had chosen that day to get a permit, Nehls accused the Jan. 6 Committee of political motivations in releasing the video.

“The release of the video is interesting,” Nehls opined. “It’s a few days before early voting in the midterms. Gives me a break. Why are we just hearing about this video now?”

Why Was the Capitol So Unprepared?

Other questions linger about why the Capitol was so unprepared in the lead-up to the breach.

For Republicans, the culprit is clear: Nancy Pelosi and her appointees. Specifically, Republicans have pointed to decisions by Pelosi’s appointees not to oblige then-Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund’s request for National Guard troops.

Kevin McCarthy, the most likely pick for speaker of the House if Republicans retake the majority, has promised that the issue will be investigated by his party.

“This partisan sham committee is not focused on answering the most important questions of why the Capitol was left unprepared that day and how we can ensure this never happens again,” argued Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) during a conference call on Jan. 6, 2022. “The American people deserve to know what the mainstream media refuses to cover: The fact that the only office that is off-limits to this partisan sham investigation is Speaker Pelosi’s office.”

Stefanik’s comments are not hyperbole—Jan. 6 Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) gave explicit direction that Pelosi was off limits to the committee’s investigations.

Nehls indicated in comments to The Epoch Times that he places the blame squarely on Pelosi, who he said refused to prepare the Capitol in order to harm Trump’s political prospects.

“I think Nancy Pelosi could have prevented all this,” Nehls said. “They could have prevented it but they chose not to. And now what they’re doing with this January 6 committee, they’re using it to try to keep Donald Trump off the ballot in 2024.”

Nehls then reported his conversations with Capitol Police officers since that day. These conversations, Nehls said, have made clear to him that the officers had no clue what to expect that day.

“I’ve talked to the Capitol Police,” Nehls said. “There’s a lot of great men and women that make up that organization—1,840 strong.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Cali.) speaks with U.S. Capitol Police Officers after arriving on bicycle to an event at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial as part of the “Back The Blue” bike ride in Washington, on May 12, 2022. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

“A lot of men and women have a lot of concerns about the leadership of the Capitol police,” Nehls continued. “These 1,840 personnel—they had really no clue what was going to happen that day. None of the intelligence was shared with the men and women working that day—they were taken by surprise.

One officer, Nehls noted, “even testified that he thought that day was going to be like any other day. The leadership of the Capitol Police, the intelligence section, did not share the intelligence with the men and women [of the Capitol Police force].”

Pipe Bombs

One of the most significant lingering questions involves two pipe bombs that were discovered in D.C. the day of the rally.

The bombs were planted in front of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Republican National Committee (RNC) buildings. Then-Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris was even in the DNC building at the time. But curiously, this fact was left out of the Jan. 6 panel’s narrative, though the bombs were planted within a few dozen yards of the Capitol building.

Martin opined that this is one of the most baffling oversights from the committee.

“The panel says things like, ‘Oh, it was an armed insurrection,’ and you’re not looking at the pipe bombs that were within a few 100 yards of the Capitol complex,” Martin said. “What are you doing? Because again, if someone had a bazooka in their car three blocks away, I would think you’d be saying, ‘Hey, let’s talk about it.’

A suspect in the placement of two devices that the FBI said were pipe bombs is seen in Washington on Jan. 5, 2021. On right is a closeup photograph of one of the devices. (FBI)

“If your theory of the case—which the select committee said it was—is that something bad was going on on the 6th, you would want to get to the bottom of all of it,” Martin continued. “The other thing is there’s video. They have released some video of a guy—I think the DNC one—where you see a person. So we’re still having raids on January 6 defendants now and we haven’t had any kind of national manhunt for whoever puts a pipe bomb.”

Martin noted that the objects discovered in front of the buildings were not facsimiles of pipe bombs, but were actual armed explosives.

“I mean, again, no one has said it only looked like a pipe bomb,” Martin said. “It was a pipe bomb. According to the published accounts of the FBI, it was an actual explosive. So it wasn’t a toy and it wasn’t a joke.”

What’s Next For Jan. 6 Investigations

In view of how many questions remain unanswered, a corollary question is the role that these events will have in a potentially GOP Congress.

Currently, most observers expect a GOP victory in the House, with the Senate still considered a toss-up.

Because a Democrat will still hold the Oval Office no matter what happens in November, Republicans will be substantially limited in their legislative potential. Rather, Republicans’ most substantial power would be investigative.

Since the beginning of the 117th Congress, McCarthy has thrown his support behind looking into the role that Pelosi and her appointees played in leaving the Capitol unprepared for Jan. 6. But clearly, many questions beyond this one linger.

Nehls told The Epoch Times that, if he were asked by McCarthy what the Republican party should look into in regards to Jan. 6, his first priority would be to speak with the intelligence section of the Capitol Police to learn why officers were left so in the dark on that day.

Nehls also argued that Republicans should look further into the role played by the FBI and other federal law enforcement in the events of the day.

Finally, Nehls said he would push for the party to investigate ways to bolster Capitol security so such an incident could not happen again.

Ultimately, investigations made by Republicans would need the support of McCarthy in a GOP-controlled House. As the most likely pick for speaker, McCarthy would have almost total discretion over which issues are investigated and which are ignored.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 13, 2022. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Ed Martin admitted that he wished more members of the party had brought attention to these issues during the 117th Congress, but said he holds nothing against Republican lawmakers for being tight-lipped about the events of Jan. 6 up to this point.

“In my mind, whatever the past has been, I don’t sit in judgment of it,” Martin said. “But as we go forward with leadership for the Republican Party—and I expect both houses to go Republican at federal level—there needs to be more leaders that step forward and say, ‘Let’s get to the bottom of this, let’s do what the select committee didn’t do,’ and find out what really happened and then hold people accountable.”

Still, Martin told The Epoch Times that he is optimistic about the prospects moving forward.

“I’m pretty optimistic because I think you’re gonna see a big wave, a tsunami,” Martin said. “You’re gonna see a whole bunch of Republicans that are new and don’t care what the past was, and they’re gonna match up with guys like [Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona] and Troy Nehls, and some others and they’re going to have enough clout to say, ‘Hey, we want to do things differently.’

“So I just, I start out optimistic,” Martin said.

Follow

Joseph Lord is a congressional reporter for The Epoch Times.

Related Articles

Back to top button