Sicknick’s family and the police officers who protected lawmakers Jan. 6 plead with GOP senators to back investigation

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The mother and partner of the late Capitol Police officer Brian D. Sicknick personally lobbied Republican senators Thursday to support an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.

Sicknick’s family plead with Republicans senators to back investigation into Jan. 6 attack

Two other officers who responded that day and protected members of Congress also pleaded with GOP lawmakers to support a probe into the failed insurrection and the events surrounding it.

“If January 6th didn’t happen, Brian would still be here. Plain and simple,” U.S. Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn said Thursday morning as the group began a long day of lobbying senators ahead of a possible vote.

Gladys Sicknick, the late officer’s mother, and Sandra Garza, his companion of 11 years, are leading the lobbying effort, which comes as the legislation for an independent commission faces near-unanimous Republican opposition, led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

The face-to-face meetings involving Sicknick’s family, police officers and Republican senators highlighted a stark choice for GOP lawmakers: either stand with former president Donald Trump, who opposes the commission, or with members of law enforcement.

Sicknick suffered two strokes and died of natural causes a day after he confronted rioters at the insurrection, the District’s chief medical examiner ruled last month. In early February, Sicknick, who grew up in New Jersey, was honored at the U.S. Capitol. His remains were interred at Arlington National Cemetery.

Nearly 140 officers were assaulted during the failed insurrection as they faced rioters armed with ax handles, bats, metal batons, wooden poles, hockey sticks and other weapons, authorities said.

The House last week passed legislation that would form an independent commission to investigate the attack. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday began the process of setting up a Senate vote on the bill, which could come as early as Thursday evening.

But the legislation’s prospects in the Senate remain dim. Democrats would need at least 10 Republicans to join them in supporting the measure for it to pass. McConnell has voiced opposition to the commission, dismissing it Thursday as “extraneous” and arguing that it would not shed light on the events of Jan. 6.

“I do not believe the additional, extraneous ‘commission’ that Democratic leaders want would uncover crucial new facts or promote healing,” McConnell said in floor remarks. “Frankly, I do not believe it is even designed to.”

Several Republican lawmakers have also sought in recent days to play down the seriousness of the Jan. 6 attack, comparing the violent mob to “tourists,” railing against law enforcement for seeking to arrest them and questioning how anyone could be sure the rioters were supporters of Trump.

Gladys Sicknick, Garza, Dunn and D.C. police officer Michael Fanone scheduled meetings with more than a dozen Republican senators Thursday, according to former congresswoman Barbara Comstock (R-Va.), who is accompanying the group during their visit to Capitol Hill.

Their first stop was at the office of Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who has announced his support for the commission.

In a brief exchange with reporters after the group’s visit with Romney, Garza said the message for Republican senators who are on the fence is, “Facts are facts.”

“If they look at the footage that happened, it’s very obvious that was not a peaceful day,” Garza said. “Police officers were getting attacked, fire extinguishers were being thrown at them, they were being attacked by flagpoles. Officer Dunn here, Officer Fanone — they can basically tell you right now what they experienced, and it wasn’t a tourist day. It wasn’t tourists just passing and walking by.”

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), meanwhile, said he continues to oppose the commission even after meeting with the group.

“Although we respectfully disagreed on the added value of the proposed commission, I did commit to doing everything I could to ensure all their questions will be answered,” Johnson said, according to CNN.

Johnson, a Trump ally, has been among the most vocal lawmakers in pushing false and misleading accounts of the Capitol riot. He also last month sent a letter to U.S. Capitol Police questioning the department’s earlier statement that Sicknick died from “injuries sustained while on-duty.”

In a statement Thursday morning, Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) lashed out at McConnell and any other Republican who opposes the independent commission, accusing them of taking a “political position” and fearing the truth.

“There is no excuse for any Republican to vote against this commission since Democrats have agreed to everything they asked for,” Manchin said.

“Mitch McConnell has made this his political position, thinking it will help his 2022 election,” Manchin added. “They do not believe the truth will set you free, so they continue to live in fear.”

While Democrats hold the majority in the Senate, several in their ranks, including Manchin, oppose eliminating the filibuster rule that would allow the party to push through its priorities, including establishment of the commission.

This week, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a moderate who has expressed willingness to vote for a commission, began circulating an amendment to build GOP support for the bill. But it remains unclear whether her proposed changes would be enough to bring the Republican senators needed on board — or even whether Democrats would accept the amendment.

Some former members of Congress have been urging those currently in the Senate to approve the establishment of a commission.

“History is going to reflect on this day pretty clearly,” former senator Chuck Hagel, a Republican from Nebraska who also served as President Barack Obama’s secretary of defense, said on a call with reporters Thursday.

“To have no response from the Congress of the United States in asking: What happened here? Why did it happen? How deep was it in this country? What’s going on in this country? Not to have the Congress involved and do something and respond to this is going to be a terrible black mark on the Congress of the United States. … As a former member of the Senate, I wouldn’t want to have to live with that,” Hagel said on the call, which was organized by the group Issue One.

In an exchange with reporters Thursday morning, Garza said the past four months since Sicknick’s death have been “excruciating” and that it has been “very, very upsetting” to see some people “celebrating” Sicknick’s cause of death.

“But it doesn’t change the fact of what happened on January 6th. … So we just, we want members of Congress to ensure that it doesn’t happen again,” Garza said.

The medical examiner’s determination that Sicknick died of natural causes does not mean the officer was not assaulted, or that the violent events at the Capitol did not contribute to his death. The examiner noted last month that Sicknick was among the officers who engaged the mob and said that “all that transpired played a role in his condition.”

But some Trump supporters have cited the ruling in an effort to minimize the seriousness of the Jan. 6 attack.

Sicknick’s mother told reporters Thursday morning that it has angered her to see Republican senators oppose the commission.

“That’s why I’m here today,” Gladys Sicknick told reporters. “You know, usually I stay in the background, and I just couldn’t — I couldn’t stay quiet anymore.”

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