January 7, 2022

‘We are working to keep Jan. 6 isolated to the history books’

Russ Feingold President

Russ Feingold
ACS President Russ Feingold

Happy New Year. I hope everyone had a chance to relax over the holidays and is safe and healthy.

Last year was an alarming year for democracy. We will never forget the images from January 6th when our Capitol was overrun by white supremacist anarchists, or the emotions that day when the fate of our democracy hung in the balance. This week, we have seen those same images flash across our TVs and social media feeds as we remember the devastation and those whose lives were tragically lost, and we reaffirm our commitment to the legitimacy of our democracy.

Reliving that day is not easy. For those who were at the Capitol or were in D.C. last January wondering what would happen next, this week has been incredibly difficult to endure. My thoughts are particularly with those members of the ACS community who work on Capitol Hill and spent terrifying hours in lockdown.

There is much to discuss about what went wrong and led to January 6th, but I want to encourage us to use this week to think forward and ask whether we have done enough during the past twelve months to prevent January 6th from serving as a blueprint for future insurrections. Are we confident that January 6th will be remembered as a one-time event and not as a spark?

As Mary McCord, Executive Director of the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection, discussed with Debra Perlin on our Broken Law Podcast this week, much has been done to hold individual participants of the January 6th Insurrection accountable. And yet, in comparison, it may seem that little has been done to hold accountable those responsible for organizing this assault on our democracy. On this, I am encouraged by the relentless work of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack, work that has continued despite baseless criticism and misinformation being lobbed at the Committee and its members from those who deny what happened that day.

The Select Committee has interviewed more than 300 witnesses (most of them voluntarily), reviewed more than 30,000 documents, and followed-up on more than 250 substantive tips on their tip-line. The Committee has also issued more than 52 subpoenas for records and testimony, including to high-ranking officials in former President Trump’s inner circle. Although some of these subpoenas are mired in litigation, the pace of the Committee’s work has been backbreaking and, frankly, astounding.

Federal judges appointed by both parties have rejected claims from January 6th defendants that they are being treated unfairly because of their conservative politics and a panel of the D.C. Circuit recently ruled in Trump v. Thompson that former President Trump cannot hide behind his assertion of executive privilege to prevent the National Archives from turning over records to the Select Committee. How the Supreme Court chooses to – or not to – engage in the Trump v. Thompson litigation will tell us a lot both about the nature of our current Supreme Court and the ability of the Select Committee to continue its critically important truth-seeking work.

It is imperative that those responsible for organizing January 6th be held accountable. If January 6th had happened in any other country, we would have called it an attempted coup and condemned the participants and those who organized it. Holding not just the individual participants who ransacked the Capitol accountable, but also holding the people who organized and incited the events accountable is imperative to ensuring January 6th never happens again.

The work to ensure January 6th never repeats is also our work. Every day that we work to affirm the guardrails of our democracy and the integrity of our elections, to protect voting rights and voting access, to achieve racial equity and laws and legal systems that protect the lives of all people - we are working to keep January 6th isolated to the history books.

This week has been difficult, and what has kept me inspired is knowing what the progressive legal community is doing to strengthen our multi-racial democracy. I look forward to working with all of you this year and hope to see many of you in person as pandemic conditions permit. Until then, be safe and stay well.

Democracy and Elections, January 6th