Democrats call for a bipartisan commission to investigate Michigan’s role in the Jan. 6 insurrection


Smoke rises after police used pepper spray against Pro-Trump supporters on Jan. 6, 2021. - LEV RADIN / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • lev radin /
  • Smoke rises after police used pepper spray against Pro-Trump supporters on Jan. 6, 2021.

Michigan Democrats are urging the GOP-led Legislature to create a bipartisan, independent committee to investigate the role Michigan played in the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

House Democratic Leader Donna Lasinski and Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich introduced resolutions this week to call for the creation of a 12-member committee with subpoena power. Each party would appoint three members from the House and three members from the Senate.

At the end of the investigation, the commission would issue a report on its findings. The goal is to provide a full accounting of Michigan’s role in the insurrection.

“Michigan played a unique role in setting the stage for that attack and attempted insurrection — from serving as a dress rehearsal when an armed mob entered our state Capitol to state officials bringing false electors to Lansing in an attempt to undermine the results of a fair and free election,” Lasinski, of Scio Township, said in a statement. “The people of Michigan deserve answers and accountability for those involved.”

Convincing Republicans to go along with the plan may be a long shot. On the federal level, Republicans in the U.S. Senate rejected a bill to create a similar commission to investigate the insurrection.

Whatever the case, Michigan residents and politicians played a role in the riot, either directly or indirectly. So far, nine Trump supporters from Michigan have been charged with participating in the riot.

Other participants who have not been charged are running for public office. They include Allendale Township Planning Commissioner Ryan Kelley, a Republican gubernatorial candidate who was in the throng that stormed the Capitol and climbed on scaffolding outside the building.

Jason Howland, a Republican running for Michigan 31st House District, was spotted in a mob that pushed past police on the Capitol steps. He’s the co-founder of the American Patriot Council, a right-wing group whose rallies were attended by some of the militia members charged in the plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Howland also co-organized the American Patriot Rally in April 2020, when heavily armed protesters entered the Michigan Capitol Building and intimidated lawmakers.

Ananich called the rally a “dress rehearsal” for the Jan. 6 riot.

“It's important that we determine or help determine if April of last year really was a dress rehearsal for what happened in January,” Ananich said in a statement. “And if we could have those conversations in a meaningful, productive way, in a bipartisan way, we can get answers that I think others will not be able to get.”

Also at the Jan. 6 protests were two congressional candidates – Audra Johnson and Jon Rocha – and state House candidate Angela Rigas.

Republican Party Co-Chair Meshawn Maddock helped promote and organize busloads of Michiganders to travel to Washington, D.C., where she delivered a speech a day before the insurrection, calling Trump "the greatest presidents this nation will ever know." Standing next to her was her husband, state Rep. Matt Maddock.

A day before the riot, U.S. Rep. Lisa McClain, a first-term Republican from Michigan, invited at least two Trump supporters who attended the riot into her Capitol office. On the same day, one of the men, Sherman Rogers, wrote on Facebook, "We made it do DC! Fight for Trump!"

Video footage of the riot shows the pair were among a mob that pushed past Capitol Police into a restricted area. Rogers later admitted on Facebook that he was "on the front line." He called the insurrection "a staged event" by Black Lives Matter supporters.

In the state Legislature, many Republicans spread lies about voter fraud and even tried to overturn the election, contributing to the anger that led up to the insurrection. A day before the insurrection, 11 Republican lawmakers in Michigan urged Vice President Mike Pence in a last-minute letter to delay certifying the electoral votes to give them more time to build a case for Trump.

Less than a month after the insurrection, Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey falsely suggested the riot was a “hoax” perpetrated by Trump opponents.

“That wasn’t Trump’s people,” Shirkey told leaders of the Hillsdale County Republican Party. “That’s been a hoax from day one. That was all prearranged,” Shirkey, a Clarklake Republican, said of the riot. “It was arranged by somebody who was funding it. … It was all staged.”

Michigan Democratic Party Chairwoman Lavora Barnes said the committee to investigate the insurrection is important “to hold insurrection sympathizers accountable.”

“Now that the resolution is in committee awaiting a hearing, it will take pressure from all of us to urge Republicans to do the right thing and work with their colleagues across the aisle to uncover Michigan’s connection to the atrocities we witnessed as a nation on January 6th,” Barnes said.

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