This is a time for hope and for healing, but that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t also be a reckoning — especially within the halls of Congress — by those who disgraced their office, violated their oaths to uphold the Constitution, and endangered their colleagues.
There can be no reconciliation without an accounting, no peaceful collaboration without a determination about the extent of culpability of certain members of Congress in the Jan. 6 insurrection that wreaked havoc on the Capitol and forced the evacuation of the vice president, the House speaker, and most of the assembled members of Congress.
During those moments, democracy itself came under assault. Now being contemplated by some congressional leaders is a looming question: Were there elected representatives so in thrall to Donald Trump and the Big Lie of election fraud that they were complicit in this assault on the Capitol? Several Democrats believe that is the case and are demanding an investigation and answers.
House majority leader Jim Clyburn of South Carolina is among those distressed by what seemed like the rioters’ insider knowledge. It wasn’t his well-marked office off Statuary Hall that was attacked, but rather his unmarked office on the third floor “where I do most of my work,” Clyburn said.
“There are many members of the United States Congress right now who could not tell you where that office is,” he told MSNBC. “How did they know where that office was? Something’s wrong here.”
Reports persist that although the Capitol has been officially closed to the public because of the pandemic, groups of visitors were seen being escorted around the building in the days leading up to the insurrection. Attention has centered on Representative Lauren Boebert of Colorado, who was seen days before the invasion by two Democratic legislators with a “large” group in the tunnel that connects the Cannon House Office Building to the Capitol — though she insists that she was only leading family members on tours.
Boebert, a Republican freshman who has links to QAnon conspiracy theorists and is a gun-rights activist who vowed to bring her Glock on the Capitol grounds, has already had a run-in with Capitol Police after metal detectors were installed at the entry to the House Chamber in the wake of the riots. Boebert’s tweeting about Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s location in the midst of the riots has already brought calls for her censure.
Pelosi warned at her Thursday news conference that those lawmakers who actively helped the rioters will face more than mere censure.
“There will be prosecution if they aided and abetted an insurrection in which people died,” the speaker said.
Boebert is hardly alone among Republicans whose culpability merits investigation. Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama actually addressed the Jan. 6 rally, telling participants, “Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.” Hours later, rioters were ripping through the Capitol. House Democrats Tom Malinowski of New Jersey and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida have already introduced a resolution calling for Brooks’s censure.
Representative Andy Biggs of Arizona, head of the House Freedom Caucus, and his Arizona colleague Representative Paul Gosar have been implicated in helping to plan the massive demonstration that preceded the riot. Biggs, through his office, has denied any such role.
And then there are those who led the fight to perpetuate the biggest lie of all by questioning the election results in key battleground states and, therefore, attempting to overturn the results of a legitimate election. Senators Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas continued to lead their shameful effort even after the rioting that left five people, including a Capitol police officer, dead. They both openly raised campaign contributions off their despicable conduct, giving new meaning to the term blood money. (No wonder Hallmark asked Hawley to return its $7,000 contribution.)
Cruz’s hometown paper, the Houston Chronicle, in an editorial called on him to resign and “deliver Texans from the shame of calling him our senator.”
As ringleaders of the effort — as those who encouraged insurrectionists by feeding their delusions — Cruz and Hawley should be held accountable by their colleagues under the 14th Amendment, which prohibits those who have engaged in insurrection from holding office.
Congress will also need to reckon with the results of an investigation into whether any of its members, including but not limited to Boebert, led “reconnaissance” tours for potential insurrectionists.
Representative Stephen Lynch’s answer to that is simple. “We’ll have to expel them,” the Massachusetts congressman told WGBH radio. “That’s pretty low, when you take an oath to support and defend the Constitution. You have colleagues there, and you’re putting them in danger.”
These are no small matters. As federal authorities fan out and bring insurrectionists to justice, the role of elected officials who used and abused their offices must not be forgotten. Those who violated their oaths to uphold the Constitution and endangered their colleagues must be held accountable. Only then can order and dignity be restored and healing within the halls of Congress begin.
Editorials represent the views of the Boston Globe Editorial Board. Follow us on Twitter at @GlobeOpinion.