Officers of the US Capitol Police criticized Republican leaders' opposition to the creation of a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol Hill riots in a powerful letter released Wednesday afternoon as the House debated the measure.
"The brave men and women of the USCP were subjected to hours and hours of physical trauma which has led to months of mental anguish," the members wrote, adding that the complex where they work still has broken doors and windows — visual reminders of the events of that day.
The letter was shared by Rep. Jamie Raskin's office in an email to a bipartisan list of members' chiefs of staffs. The email, obtained by BuzzFeed News, says the Maryland Democrat has been "in discussions with several rank-and-file" officers and listened to them "describe their physical and emotional traumas" stemming from the deadly riots.
His office said the letter was from officers "who remain anonymous because they are afraid of retribution for speaking out."
"Mr. Raskin is hoping your bosses will read this letter, and consider the sentiments behind it, before the vote," the email reads.
A spokesperson for Capitol Police said the letter, which was penned on agency letterhead, was not an official department statement and that officials there had "no way of confirming it was even authorized by USCP personnel."
"The U.S. Capitol Police does NOT take positions on legislation," the spokesperson said in a statement.
It was not clear how many people supported the message of the letter, but the officers who provided it to Raskin’s office told them it represented the views of about 40 to 50 officers.
"It is inconceivable that some of the Members we protect, would downplay the events of January 6th," the letter says. "Member safety was dependent upon the heroic actions of USCP. It is a privileged assumption for Members to have the point of view that 'it wasn't that bad.'"
Five people, including Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, died during or immediately after the riots on Jan. 6 and two officers who responded later died by suicide. Although a medical examiner found Sicknick, who sprayed with the chemical irritant, died of natural causes, the department still considers he died in the line of duty.
On Tuesday, GOP leadership urged Republican members of Congress to vote against the bipartisan proposal to launch an investigation modeled after the 9/11 Commission, which sought to uncover and explain the circumstances of the attack and the government’s response. Both House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have come out against a Jan. 6 commission, which would be tasked with reporting on the causes of the violent insurrection by the end of the year.
“It’s not at all clear what new facts or additional investigation yet another commission could lay on top of the existing efforts by law enforcement and Congress,” McConnell said at a private breakfast event Wednesday, according to Politico.
The House voted 252–175 to pass the bill Wednesday evening, with 35 Republicans joining Democrats to pass it. The legislation now goes to the Senate, where at least 10 Republicans will need to vote with Democrats for it to pass.
As Republican leaders called for a no vote, some GOP members expressed support for the commission and criticized their colleagues for failing to reckon with the violent attack on democracy committed by supporters of former president Donald Trump.
"Let us be clear: The imperative to have a public, objective, fact-based investigation of the Capitol attack is not a partisan issue and it should never be treated as such," Michigan Rep. Peter Meijer, a Republican, said in his remarks on the House floor. "If we avoid confronting what happened here just a few short months ago, we can be sure that intimidation, coercion, and violence will become a defining feature of our politics."
Rep. John Katko, a Republican from New York, called on his colleagues on both sides of the aisles "to set aside politics, just this once" and vote yes.
"I beg you, and pass this bill," Katko said.