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The bottom line on Jan. 6: There's a lot we still don't know

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Trump supporters gather in Washington DC to protest election he lost
Thousands of Trump supporters violently storming the Capitol on January 6, 2021.Michael Robinson Chavez / The Washington Post via Getty Images file

WASHINGTON —When it comes to the House committee to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, there’s politics (which party does the investigation hurt/help?).

There’s process (how is the committee structured and who holds the power?).

And then there are the facts (who did what, why and how, and what do we still not know?).

After plenty of attention yesterday to politics and process when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected two of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s picks to serve on the committee (and when McCarthy subsequently pulled all of his picks), we want to focus this morning on the facts about what happened on Jan. 6.

And what we still don’t know about that day.

Here’s what we know: What took place on Jan. 6 — as Congress was certifying the 2020 Electoral College results — was a violent, sustained attack on the Capitol building and American democracy itself. It also was conducted on behalf of the Republican president at the time, who had lost the 2020 election.

Here’s what we still don’t know about that day: We don’t have an official accounting of Donald Trump’s actions on that day, especially once he returned to the White House after addressing his supporters.

We don’t have official testimony confirming what Trump allegedly told McCarthy. (“Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”)

We still don’t know if there was coordination between members of the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers and other extremist groups who participated in the attack — or coordination with anyone else.

We still don’t know why it took so long to deploy the National Guard.

And we don’t know — as McCarthy asked yesterday — why the Capitol Police were so ill-prepared on that day.

Bottom line: We still don’t know a lot about what happened on Jan. 6. And a key potential witness — the former president — is someone who might be on the ballot again someday.

Tweet of the day

It didn’t have to go down this way

As for the politics and process of the Jan. 6 investigation, it’s important to remember that Democrats and Republicans had multiple routes open to them about how to handle that day.

The first option was for leadership in both parties to present a united front against the former president and the rioters who supported him. The parties would fight over taxes and spending and immigration and abortion, but Trump’s efforts to radicalize the party against the election was out of bounds.

For a moment, there were signs this might happen. Mitch McConnell savaged Trump and reportedly weighed impeachment, which could also bar Trump from running for office again, rendering him far less relevant to the 2024 cycle.

But cracks started showing almost immediately: Most — but not all — Republicans voted against his impeachment or conviction; McCarthy traveled to Mar a Lago to reassure Trump of his support; McConnell decided to acquit Trump on narrow technical grounds; and Liz Cheney was ousted from GOP leadership after refusing to keep quiet about Trump’s ongoing behavior.

Then McConnell killed a bipartisan deal to investigate the January 6th attack with a joint commission — after it passed the House with bipartisan support (the majority of House Republicans still voted against it, though).

Afterwards, Pelosi decided to create a committee with subpoena power to investigate the attacks. And on Wednesday, she chose to purge it of two Republicans who supported Trump’s efforts to overturn election results.

Republicans yesterday argued that this made the investigation partisan, and they pulled their remaining members in response, although Cheney is still on the committee.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

95 percent: The progress of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

5: The number of cities the Justice Department is targeting with new gun-trafficking strike forces.

34,385,111: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 57,299 more since yesterday.)

613,235: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 374 more since yesterday.)

339,102,867: The number of vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC. (That’s 611,493 since yesterday.)

48.8 percent: The share of all Americans who are fully vaccinated, per the CDC.

59.6 percent: The share of all American adults at least 18 years of age who are fully vaccinated, per CDC.

McAuliffe releases first TV ad of general election

After Republican Glenn Youngkin has blanketed Virginia’s airwaves for months, Dem opponent Terry McAuliffe is up with his first TV ad since clinching the general election.

The ad touts McAuliffe’s record as Virginia governor from 2014-2017, and it also ties Youngkin to Donald Trump.

“When I was governor last time, I worked with reasonable Republicans to get things done,” McAuliffe says in the ad. “We created thousands of new jobs, put billions into our infrastructure projects and a billion dollars into education.”

“But let me be clear, Glenn Youngkin is not a reasonable Republican. He is a loyalist to Donald Trump.”

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

President Biden says the CDC will “probably” recommend that children under 12 years old wear masks in school, as the Washington Post reports the White House is weighing a new push on masks.

The debt ceiling fight could get ugly.

And the infrastructure debate stalled on Wednesday as Congress seeks a bipartisan deal.

A panel of independent advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will meet Thursday to discuss whether some patients may need an additional dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. Related: the NBC News Health and Medical Unit addresses the questions around the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The lobbying firm belonging to the brother of a top Biden aide has seen a windfall in the first few months of the Biden administration, per the Wall Street Journal.

Next week’s Federal Reserve meeting comes amid serious questions about inflation and the economy.