Democratic Congressman Bennie Thompson—His Select Committee Aims to Set the Record Straight Over Demagogue Donald’s Assault on Our Democracy January 9, 2022
January 6, 2021, a date that will “live in infamy,” along with Pearl Harbor and 9/11. I was about to go grocery shopping when one of my children telephoned. He asked, “Have you heard the news yet? Turn on the television!” I replied, “Why? All the news is good. The networks have called both Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff the winners in the 1/05/2021 Georgia Senate runoffs. The Democrats will now control the Senate, as well as the House, and Biden will soon be in the Oval Office.” He replied, “Don’t you know? A mob of MAGA supporters, after hearing an agitated speech by our ‘leader,’ has stormed the Capitol. They have broken in and are fighting with the Capitol Police. Members of the House and Senate are in fear of their lives. They are trying to flee the building or go into hiding.” Shocked, I turned on CNN and watched in horror like much of the nation. After seeing this attempted coup, most of the major newspaper and television commentators ultimately “got it,” after being in denial for nearly four long nightmarish years. They finally decided and repeatedly declared what I and many others had determined a long time before—Donald Trump was a direct threat to our democracy.
Unlike Pearl Harbor and 9/11, the 1/06 attackers were not foreign enemies. They were living in our own country. Most of them were not poor and uneducated. They were businessmen, doctors, lawyers, people in law enforcement. Many had served in our military. For a few days after this awful attack, both Democrats and Republicans condemned it. However, after hearing from their rabid “Always Trumper” base, GOP legislators quickly made a 180 degree turn back to Trump’s corner. They pledged loyalty to their Mar -a- Lago, FL “Napoleon in exile.” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) personally made a pilgrimage to Trump’s retreat. Most GOPers either defended Donald, whitewashed the account of the fatal violence, or pretended it was not that serious. Months before 1/06/2021, Trump had repeatedly pushed the “big lie” that his 2020 election loss to Biden occurred because of massive voter fraud and that his followers had to “stop this steal.” He was impeached a second time for inciting over 1,000 of his followers to attack the Capitol and stop the counting of the electoral votes. His GOP lackeys in the Senate again acquitted him. Never mind the fact that repeated recounts and examinations by judges, prosecutors, governors, election agencies, and news media organizations did not find any credible indication of fraud on a scale that would have changed the outcome (See Baker, P., nytimes.com, 1/06/22). Although the media has constantly noted that Trump’s account of voter fraud is non-existent, the former Chief Executive, with the help of Republican shill Fox News and other similar outlets, has managed to convince 70% of GOPers that Democratic President Joe Biden was illegitimately elected. Never mind that the GOP “noise machine” has no problem with the legitimacy of the “Team Red” Congressmembers, Senators, Governors, and state legislators elected in that very 2020 same election. About half of Republicans say the rioters were the ones “protecting our democracy” and nearly half as many think that the attack was not even that violent (nytimes.com, Baker, 1/06/22). Some GOP Congressmembers, including GA’s Marjorie Taylor Greene and FL’s Matt Gaetz, have promoted falsehoods and conspiracies spread by Fox News that blame the FBI for the attack! Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) has often claimed that the 1/06/21 attackers were not armed, despite multiple court documents detailing evidence that weapons were used in the Capitol assault. Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA) inaccurately described footage of the Capitol attack as “showing people in an orderly fashion staying between the stanchions and ropes taking videos and pictures.” It looked like a “normal tourist visit” to him (americanindependent.com, 1/03/22, Willis, O.). Polls released on 1/03/2022, show that a strong majority of Americans currently see the 1/06/2021 riot as an attempt to undermine democracy and blame Trump for instigating the insurrection (ABC News/IPSOS, CBS News, PBS, americanindependent.com, 1/03/22, Willis). The NY Times found that three-quarters of Americans view the storming of our Capitol as an assault on our democracy (Baker, 1/06/22). Still 25% of Americans don’t see democracy as having been attacked by those rioters, an alarming statistic.
The first anniversary of the 1/06/2021 assault on the Capitol was marked by commemorations of this horrible event. However, our national polarization over this riot remained on display. Congressional Democrats joined President Biden, VP Kamala Harris, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in an all- day commemoration of this event while GOP leaders absented themselves (Baker, nytimes.com). Demagogue Donald decided at the last minute not to speak about 1/06/2021, although he later sent an insane statement dealing with the election and riot. He will spread more of his election fraud lies and defend his 1/06/2021 conduct at a Florence, Arizona rally on 1/15/2022. That date would have been Martin Luther King’s 93rd birthday (azcentral.com, Kavaler, 12/30/21, Goldmacher, S., & Haberman, M. 1/04/22, nytimes.com). No doubt, Demagogue Donald will besmirch MLK’s legacy in his first 2022 speech. GOPers questioned Trump speaking on the same day Biden would about the 1/06/2021 attempted coup, because it would hurt their “image” and be a “distraction.” However, many people believed Trump cancelled his 1/06/2022 counterprograming because Biden would get far more television publicity than Donald, a major obsession of Trump’s (See nytimes.com, Goldmacher & Haberman, 1/04/22).
In his strong and emotional speech that he worked over for several weeks to commemorate the 1/06/2021 Capitol assault, President Biden uttered this very powerful line, “You can’t love your country only when you win.” Biden repeatedly pummeled Trump 16 times without mentioning his name and in ways that will infuriate him (cnn.com Ghitis, 1/06/22). Biden attacked Trump for his “big lie” on voter fraud and for directly causing this 1/06/2021 fatal attack on the Capitol. In answering a reporter’s question after he gave this speech, Biden declared that the key issue is “about the system and someone who tries to put himself above everything (cnn.com, Cillizza, 1/06/22).” Translation: it is not about Biden, Harris, or any reasonable leader. It’s about a narcissistic egotist, (Trump) who can’t face losing. Trump has to win to stay in power, even if he incites his followers to use violence and trashes our Constitution.
Yes, the general American public doesn’t currently buy Trump’s awful arguments that the rioters were “peaceful, special people.” However, without having a strong written record of the true facts, public opinion can easily “turn on a dime.” True, President Biden gave a great speech and Democrats set aside this day as a somber memorial. Yet one day of solemn events can still be easily forgotten. The present Democratic House wants to set the record straight not only for us but for history. It wants to make sure that the 1/06/2021 attempted coup on our democracy does not get whitewashed or ever forgotten. That is why House Speaker Pelosi created a select committee to investigate the 1/06/2021 attack. This committee consists of nine members, seven Democrats and two Republicans. Democrats Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD) are on this committee. Schiff worked on the first Trump impeachment involving Donald’s trying to get Ukraine to dig up “dirt” on Biden. Raskin worked on the impeachment involving the 1/06/2021 Capitol attack. Two GOPers who bravely defied their party and voted to impeach Trump for the 1/06/2021 insurrection, Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), are on this committee. For impeaching Trump, Cheney lost her position in the GOP’s leadership ranks. Kinzinger is not running for re-election in 2022. Congressman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) is this committee’s chairman. Here’s Rep. Thompson.
Fifteenth-term Congressman Bennie Thompson (73) presently represents Mississippi’s 2nd Congressional District (CD). The current MS 2nd includes the entire Mississippi Delta and covers much of western MS. It takes in the Mississippi riverfront from the city of Tunica in the north, near Memphis, TN and goes south almost to Natchez. The MS 2nd includes most of heavily African American Jackson, MS’ capital, and surrounding Hinds County. Nearly 1/3 of the 2nd CD’s population is in Hinds County, which is 73% African American. The entire MS 2nd is about 67% black v. 30.60% white (Cohen & Cook 2022 Political Almanac). The MS 2nd is a Black-majority district, but includes six majority white counties in the east, which unlike the rest of this district, vote Republican. The most recent Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI) gives the MS 2nd a D+13 score. MS, which has always been torn apart by racial issues, still remains polarized by skin color. Since the 2nd became a Black majority district in 1982, it has been the only MS district to vote Democratic in presidential elections. Biden received 64% of the 2nd’s vote, identical to Hillary’s 2016 percentage. African Americans constitute 38% of white-dominated MS. Thanks to white GOP gerrymandering, Cong. Thompson is the Magnolia State’s only Democratic Representative and its only black one. The Magnolia State 2nd additionally includes the cities of Clarksdale, Greenville, Yazoo City, and Vicksburg of Civil War fame (Cohen & Cook 2022 Almanac).
The MS Delta consists of dark fertile soil, caused by centuries of flooding by the Yazoo and Mississippi Rivers. However, this rich agricultural land contains many of the nation’s poorest people. For years, black sharecroppers worked this land in conditions little better than the slavery that President Lincoln had freed them from. When the mechanical cotton-picking machine was invented in 1944, many blacks left this poor and Jim Crow legally segregated area to work in northern factories in Chicago, Detroit, and other big northern cities. Income levels in the MS Delta area remain among the lowest in the nation and there is a high infant mortality rate. The economic pillars of the 2nd include soybean production and poultry farms. This Delta region produces more than half the nation’s catfish and gambling casinos are found in Tunica County. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the 2nd hard (Cohen & Cook 2022 Almanac).
Bennie Thompson grew up in the city he was born in, Bolton, MS, outside Jackson. A 1968 graduate of Tougaloo College, Thompson received a 1972 Master’s degree from Jackson State University. In 1969, at age 21, he was elected alderman in Bolton. Four years later, Thompson was elected Bolton’s mayor. Thompson was a longtime volunteer firefighter and obtained Bolton’s first fire engine. As mayor, Thompson improved Bolton’s infrastructure by paving roads, fixing water and sewer systems, and repairing and renovating dilapidated houses. In 1980, Thompson became a Hinds County supervisor. Inspired by civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evers, and Fannie Lou Hamer, Thompson became a lifelong grassroots activist and labor organizer. He led voter-registration drives and successfully encouraged African Americans to run for office. He organized associations of MS black mayors and supervisors (Cohen & Cook 2022, benniethompson.house.gov). In 1993, when African American Dem. Mike Espy left Congress to become Bill Clinton’s Agriculture Secretary, Thompson successfully ran for that seat and won it in a special election. He has been re-elected ever since, usually with little opposition (Cohen & Cook 2022).
Cong. Thompson is now the longest serving African American elected official in MS. He has been a liberal Democrat in an otherwise deeply conservative GOP state that was a key linchpin in the GOP’s Southern Strategy. He has received 90% ratings from the Americans for Democratic Action, a liberal group, and a 100% score from labor’s AFL-CIO. He has had basement 8% scores from the American Conservative Union (See Cohen & Cook 2022). He is chair of the House Homeland Security Committee and a leader of the Congressional Black Caucus. He strongly attacked Demagogue Donald’s anti-immigrant policies and his attempts to separate immigrant children from their parents at our southern border. On the Homeland Security Committee, Cong. Thompson focused on the needs of firsresponders. Rep. Thompson has been vocal about the threat of computer-based attacks. He has kept the GOP from scaling back this vital committee. He has worked to restructure FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) after its failures in handling 2005 Hurricane Katrina. Cong. Thompson helped the House push through recommendations from the 9/11 commission. He enacted a requirement to screen all passenger jet and ship cargo. Thompson was named a vice-chair of a House Democratic task force on gun violence. Cong. Thompson, an avid hunter, regularly receives “F” ratings from the NRA (National Rifle Association). In 2020, Thompson was one of the leaders in successfully removing Confederate statues from the Capitol (Cohen & Cook 2022).
Cong. Thompson is a longtime friend of fellow African American, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC). Clyburn was instrumental in getting Joe Biden to win the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Cong. Thompson joined Clyburn in backing Biden after his Super Tuesday 2020 victories. Cong. Thompson vigorously defended Biden against criticism that he had done business with segregationist southern Democrats during his early Senate years. Thompson told “Politico,” “If he (Biden) was able to work with James Eastland (of MS), he’s a great person.” Cong. Thompson was rewarded with the gavel to preside over the successful 2020 Democratic Convention, one conducted virtually because of COVID-19 (Cohen & Cook, 2022). According to friends and advisors, Cong. Thompson’s national security expertise strongly qualifies him to lead the House Select Committee investigating the 1/06/2021 attack (Sanderlin, L., 9/08/21, clarionledger.com).
Cong. Thompson has sued Trump, Donald’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, and the extremist Proud Boys and Oath Keepers groups. In this lawsuit, Thompson accused Donald of inciting the deadly 1/06/2021 assault and of conspiring with his lawyers and extremist groups to prevent the certification of the 2020 presidential election results. Thompson has called 1/06/2021 a “horrible day,” one that is “still almost surreal that it even occurred.” Thompson further stated, “We have to get it (the facts of the investigation) right.” Speaker Pelosi appointed Thompson chair of the 1/06 House Select Committee after he had worked with Cong. John Katko (R-NY) on legislation to create an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the 1/06/2021 insurrection. GOPers in the Senate killed that bill (usatoday.com, Elbeshbishi, S.,7/26/21).
And under Cong. Thompson’s leadership, his committee is getting out the entire account of this horrible day. They are aiming to collect evidence that there was a coordinated effort behind the insurrection with Donald Trump’s complicity. Thompson’s committee is preparing a series of public hearings intending to address Donald’s continued false claims that the election was somehow fraudulent. Some of these hearings will be prime-time broadcasts that will focus on the two months between the 2020 election and the 1/06/2021 riot. These prime-time hearings will likely include testimony from state election officials and former top members of Trump’s Justice Department. The hearings are expected to be followed by an interim report over the summer of 2022 and a final report in the fall of that year, just before the crucial 11/2022 midterm elections. The goal will be to establish a definitive narrative about what happened on January 6, 2021 and proposed legislative recommendations to prevent such an attack from ever happening again, a key reason for congressional oversight (See cnn.com Grayer, Nobles, & Wild, 1/05/22). Cong. Thompson aptly noted, “In this great country of ours, I’m convinced that sunlight and truth are the best disinfectant when you’re dealing with a lie. Hopefully, we will provide the proper disinfectant for what’s happened on January 6, so that people will understand it.” Since this committee was formed six months ago, they have interviewed more than 300 witnesses and collected some 35,000 records (cnn.com, Grayer et al, 1/05/22).
Cong. Thompson’s committee is divided into five investigative teams, each with its own color designation. The green team is tasked with “following the money.” They will track the funding behind Trump’s MAGA rallies and untangle the complex web of financial ties between rally organizers and entities affiliated with Trump or his campaign. That team has made considerable progress. The blue team is focused on how government agencies prepared ahead of 1/06/21 and responded to the attack. The gold team is examining the attempts by Trump and his allies to pressure Department of Justice officials and those at the state level to overturn the presidential election results. The red team is investigating rally planners and the “Stop the Steal” movement. The purple team is examining domestic violence and extremist groups including the Proud Boys, 3 Percenters, and Oath Keepers (cnn. com, Grayer et al, 1/05/22). The committee has spent nights and weekends keeping up with the incoming volume of documents. Cong. Thompson takes his iPad with him while deer hunting with his grandson in MS (cnn. com, Grayer et al).
Far-right Fox Trump fanatics will never change their minds about their “supreme leader’s” behavior. However, Thompson’s committee will show many swing voters and the Democratic base that democracy is fragile, and must be fought for daily. That means coming out in droves to vote in Campaign 2022 to keep the Trump-dominated GOP from taking back the House and Senate. A GOP congressional majority will certainly shut down this legitimate investigation into how we almost lost our democratic republic. We must continue to support Congressman Thompson and his committee and keep the GOP from covering up Trump’s authoritarian actions. In Michelle Obama’s words, “We’ve got to vote (in 2022) like the future of our democracy depends on it (cnn.com, Janfaza, R., 1/09/22).” It does.