WASHINGTON — A year after a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, breaking doors and windows, assaulting Capitol police and causing members of Congress to go into hiding, members of Siouxland’s tri-state Congressional delegation offered their thoughts on what happened and what followed.
U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson, a Republican representing South Dakota’s at-large Congressional district, said on Wednesday that the threat on Jan. 6 of a disruption to the peaceful transfer of power filled him with anger.
Johnson said he still feels that way, although he added that it feels good to know that the criminal justice process proved its ability to hold lawbreakers accountable. Numerous participants in the Capitol break-in have been brought up on federal charges in the last year, and in some cases prison sentences have been handed down.
“My predominant emotion was anger. I mean, I know there were a lot of people who were scared, and I think fear was entirely appropriate, but I was mostly angry,” Johnson said in a phone call Wednesday while visiting South Dakota’s west river region. “The American system is really founded on the idea that, we don’t use violence to advance political causes. I was angry when people tried to do that in the inner city the summer before, and I was angry when people were doing it at the United States Capitol.”
GOP Rep. Adrian Smith, who represents Nebraska’s sprawling Third Congressional District, suggested that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Select Committee investigating Jan. 6 should be focused on the security failures of that day, rather than on political causes of the riot.
During the certification of the electoral tallies on Jan. 6, Smith was the only member of Nebraska’s three-member congressional delegation who objected to the results.
In the months since the uprising, some Republicans have sought to reframe the events of Jan. 6 as the result of Pelosi’s allegedly poor oversight of Capitol security forces, rather than a result of President Donald Trump egging on his supporters, which has generally been the Democratic narrative.
“The riot at the Capitol last January was a tragic and unacceptable event. While our criminal justice system is prosecuting those who violently forced their way into the building, it is important we work together to prevent a similar event from happening again. Speaker Pelosi’s Select Committee needs to turn away from partisan opportunism and focus on why security failed and what steps need to be appropriately taken to improve security,” Smith said in a statement.
Rep. Randy Feenstra, a Republican who represents Iowa’s Fourth Congressional District, had arrived on Capitol Hill to begin his first term in Congress only a few days before the Jan. 6 attack. In a statement Wednesday, Feenstra, of Hull, did not dwell on the events of a year ago, nor the causes or the consequences, or the ongoing investigation.
“The strength of our Republic is found in the resolve of our people and the durability of our institutions. Today is not a day for partisan bickering or finger pointing. Rather, today should serve as a reminder that, like in communities all across Iowa, we are not defined by our political disagreements but by our common bonds of faith, family, community and country. My focus in Congress has, and will continue to be, on the issues that preserve and protect our great nation for future generations,” Feenstra said.
Johnson said he’d advocated for (and voted for) a nonpartisan commission to investigate the events of Jan. 6, rather than the committee that was eventually formed by majority Democrats to look into the matter. The committee, such as it is, is not something he was in favor of, and he echoed Smith’s focus on the security failures.
“One was an independent commission, which would have no politicians on it, and I voted for that. I voted against what we have now, which is the Nancy Pelosi-appointed Select Committee,” he said. “I do think that an independent commission would’ve been a far better way to get to the bottom of this. And we still haven’t answered a fundamental, important question, which is, why did we have a catastrophic security failure on Jan. 6? Who made the decisions that meant we were wholly unprepared that day, and have they been held accountable?”
The nine-member Select Committee, comprised of mostly Democratic representatives and two Republicans, is likely to release its report sometime this year.
Johnson said he’d been asked by a lot of reporters recently about his thoughts on Jan. 6. His constituents in South Dakota, he said, haven’t shown as much interest in the matter as the press has.
“It is not a topic that comes up very frequently. I mean I guess the hyper-partisans on Twitter like to post about Jan. 6 seemingly every day since then. But I mean, honestly, I get asked a lot more about the cattle markets, about inflation, about Afghanistan and the southern border, than I do about Jan. 6,” he said.