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The mother and partner of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who died after the 6 January insurrection, have described their “disgust” at the lawmakers who voted against establishing a bipartisan commission to investigate the events of the riot.
They spoke out as pressure mounts on Joe Biden to set up an investigation into the insurrection after Senate Republicans used a procedural manoeuvre to thwart a bill that would have created a bipartisan commission to establish what happened that day and why.
In an interview with CBS news, Mr Sicknick’s mother Gladys and his longtime partner Sandra Garza said they blame ex-president Donald Trump for inciting the riot – even though they had supported the president themselves, as did Mr Sicknick.
“[Mr Trump] knew that Brian was devoted to him,” said Ms Garza, “and he did not once reach out to me, to Gladys, he didn’t even send a letter of condolences. He did absolutely nothing.” Ms Garza explained that she would meet with Mr Trump to ask him why he “failed all of law enforcement” that day, and why he has not reached out to them since Mr Sicknick died.
Ms Sicknick, sitting next to her, opined that Mr Trump “just watched it on television like it was a soap opera. I don’t understand it. How can you be so uncaring?”
Mr Sicknick was sprayed in the face with a chemical irritant, thought to be bear spray, by people gathered outside the Capitol Building. He collapsed several hours later and died 24 hours after that, having suffered two strokes.
Besides Mr Sicknick, the Capitol Police lost two other officers shortly after the insurrection – both of them taking their own lives.
Mr Trump’s behaviour during the riot has been the subject of much debate since the day itself. According to numerous reports, congressional Republicans trapped in the Capitol complex struggled to convince Mr Trump to say or do anything to pull the insurrectionists back.
Particularly relevant is a phonecall between Mr Trump and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, usually a reliable Trump loyalist who is now standing firm against calls for a commission and saw that Trump critic Liz Cheney was expelled from the party leadership structure. According to numerous reports from shortly after the insurrection, Mr McCarthy had a heated phone conversation with Mr Trump even as people were smashing windows to break into the Capitol – an exchange in which the president is said to have told him: “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”
Mr Sicknick’s mother visited Capitol Hill in person last week to lobby senators to support the commission, saying after a meeting with Trump critic Mitt Romney that “You know, usually I'm staying in the background and I just couldn't, I couldn't stay quiet anymore”.
Her efforts came to nothing. With Mr Trump describing the commission as a “Democrat trap” and Republican senators warning in public that a public investigation could compromise their messaging in the midterm elections next year, the proposal’s defeat was assured.
In the end, a full 35 Republicans voted against the bill. To get to the 60 votes needed to overcome the filibuster instigated by Republican leader Mitch McConnell, nine GOP senators would have had to defy him; in the end, only nine did, among them leading Trump critics Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowsi and Susan Collins. Nine Republicans and two Democrats did not vote at all.
Asked about the Republican opposition to the bill that would have created the commission, Ms Garza did not hold back. “I’m disgusted at the Republican senators that decided to vote no. It’s a spit in the face to Brian. It’s a spit in the face to all the officers that were there that day.”