U.S. Senator Ben Cardin

Letters From Ben

June 18, 2022

Not Pretty, But Important

Dear Fellow Marylanders:

For about the last 10 days, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol (January 6th Committee), has been holding public hearings to share the results of their many months of investigations and interviews. I hope that you have had a chance to watch some or all of the hearings.

My schedule can be hectic, so I haven’t been able to watch every one, but I admit that I was glued to my seat watching U.S. Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards testify during the June 9 prime-time hearing. The videos, pulled from cameras located throughout the Capitol Complex, cell phone footage and even a documentary crew that was there interviewing members of the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and others, were compelling and shocking.

During the attack, other senators and I were shuffled quickly off the Senate floor and to a more secure location after rioters breached the Capitol. As the hours passed, we had access to televisions, so I had a sense of the numbers of rioters and how law enforcement was overwhelmed. But to see these firsthand images of how the mob viciously targeted and attacked police was sickening. This was not a peaceful, loving crowd.

As graphic as the images were – and hard to watch at times – I do think it is important that Americans make an effort to watch and learn the truth about what happened on that fateful day.

For some, a key question may be “why are we still talking about this?” As we grapple with high prices at the pump and interest rate increases to stave off a recession, shouldn’t January 6th be in the rear-view mirror?

In the words of writer and philosopher George Santayana, immortalized by Winston Churchill, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

The January 6th Committee has a clear but complex mission: determine what happened, why it happened, why were law enforcement agencies not prepared for such an event and what made possible an attack on our government?

America is not a perfect nation, but since our founding, we have been a beacon of democracy and up until January 6th, 2021 a worldwide model for the peaceful transition of one government to the next – even when that transition is between opposing political parties.

Up until January 6th, 2021.

Men and women died on that day and shortly after because of what happened at the U.S. Capitol. Police officers were brutally attacked. A mob went hunting through the hallways for Vice President Mike Pence, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others. If we do not understand what happened leading up to and on that day, and why it happened, it will happen again.

We can no longer naively say that such an insurrection would never happen here. It could and it did.

We are a nation based on the rule of law. Our president and elected leaders swear an oath of office as proscribed in our Constitution that reads: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the [office of which I am about to hold] and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Americans do not swear an oath to preserve, protect and defend any one person or political party. 

For those who wonder why there are so many more Democrats on the January 6th Committee than Republicans, the answer is that the Republican leadership, the same ones who now call the January 6th committee too partisan, blocked such efforts. In May 2021, I voted in favor of creating a bipartisan, independent commission to examine the events of January 6th. This had been the precedent after major national traumas, including the Kennedy assassination, the Challenger disaster, Watergate, the 9/11 terrorist attacks and others. There should have been no hesitation by any member of Congress of any political party that a bipartisan commission was warranted. I am proud that Chairman Bennie Thompson has been working closely with Republican members, such as Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, who have put country over party in order to serve on this historic committee.

As for the hearings themselves, the committee has made sure that the American people have heard directly from plenty of Republicans. Attorney General Bill Barr, President Trump’s daughter Ivanka, former federal appeals court judge Michael Luttig and many others provided taped or live testimony.

As I wrote you a few days after this horrible attack occurred, “Democracy is fragile. It needs care and attention and a willingness to communicate and empathize with fellow citizens … Together, we must address the divisiveness that led us to this volatile point in history and resolve to find a peaceful way forward that upholds our values without tearing others down. Authoritarianism is not the American way, neither is mob rule.”

Our nation depends on lawmakers who can set partisanship aside and put the future of our democracy at the forefront of their actions. The January 6th Committee, despite all obstacles set before it, has been working to present to the American people a clear and unbiased view of events leading up to and on January 6th, 2021.

The facts are not pretty, but they are important. I encourage you to watch as much of the previous and future hearings as possible and judge for yourself.

Thank you for your time. Stay safe.


Ben Cardin