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Why the Capitol Riot Inquiries Leave Room for a Broader Commission

Even if prosecutors did want to provide a panoramic view of Jan. 6, they would not have much of an opportunity, Mr. Rozenshtein said. Many, if not most, of the Capitol defendants are likely to plead guilty in the weeks to come and avoid a trial where their stories would be told in full.

“With so many plea agreements,” Mr. Rozenshtein said, “there will never be a complete exploration of the facts and issues with witnesses and evidence.”

When Republican senators say that Congress is already studying Jan. 6, they usually have one particular inquiry in mind: a joint investigation by the Senate Homeland Security and Rules Committees.

That investigation is no small undertaking. It is bipartisan — a rarity in today’s Congress — and together, the two committees have oversight jurisdiction to look at the Capitol Police, the Defense Department and the broad government response to the violence. They plan to release a modest report about their findings and recommendations to secure Congress in early June.

But the scope of their work is tightly focused on questions of security and policing, rather than on what fueled the mob in the first place, what role Mr. Trump may have played and how the government coordinated its actions. The congressional investigators have also given themselves about only four months, meaning they will necessarily leave behind valuable information, and the dozen or so staff members involved in the investigation are also responsible for maintaining the committees’ regular work at the same time.

“There’s plenty more work to be done, and the more folks that are engaged in it, the better,” said Senator Gary Peters, Democrat of Michigan and one of the committee chairmen leading the inquiry. “They’re going to have more time and staff resources, and a commitment to do a real deep dive.”

Across the Capitol, House committees are taking a more scattershot approach, looking separately at domestic terrorism, the Capitol Police and intelligence failures. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has signaled that she could authorize a more comprehensive investigation, including the formation of a select committee, should the push for an independent commission collapse.

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