If you didn’t know the story of Donald Trump’s life and times, you would have come away from the final hearing of the January 6 select committee nearly certain that this time, finally, they had him dead to rights. That this time, finally, he was done.
And if you went for the bonus points and read the committee’s 100-page-plus executive summary of the panel’s report on Trump’s insurrection-related high crimes and misdemeanors, as I did, you’d come away even more certain.
It’s all there, in either the hearing or in the executive summary or both. The damning video testimony from Trump acolytes. The constantly-on-repeat, Zapruder-like film of the storming of the Capitol. The audio of the overwhelmed Capitol police. Trump’s callous disregard for democracy, for human life, for truth, justice and the American way.
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It’s all there and more. This is not like the Mueller report, with all its hems and haws. It’s not like the impeachment trials where the fix really was in.
This is the plot against America. The original lie, the desperate attempts to, uh, find more votes, the fake electors, the failed Mike Pence ploy, the insurrection, the violence and death, the comic co-conspirators, the Trump enablers in Congress, the Trump-inspired violence, the admission from Trump to Chief of Staff Mark Meadows — via Meadows aide Cassidy Hutchinson — that he “didn’t want people to know we lost” and for Meadows to somehow fix it.
When they make the movie, the only debatable point will be whether to write it as a MAGA comedy or a MAGA tragedy.
We already knew the story, but the committee filled in so many details, including the clear evidence of a conspiracy that was built not just on wild, invented lies, but, in the end, against the advice of nearly everyone in the White House outside the Rudy Giuliani-Sidney Powell-John Eastman ring of demented advisers.
It’s all there, the half-truths in the testimony from some of Trump’s inner circle, the ignored subpoenas, the Trump ask/demand to find 11,000 votes, the attempt to subvert the Justice Department, the fact that Trump was told repeatedly, and by nearly everyone in his camp, that no machines were rigged, no suitcases full of ballots existed, no Chinese or Italian satellites were involved, that all the crazy theories were, in fact, crazy, unsupportable, rejected-in-every-courtroom theories.
It’s Trump inviting the mob to Washington and refusing to ask them — despite pleas from some of his closest advisers — to forgo violence. It’s Trump watching the violent mob, which he had been told was armed and dangerous, and refusing, for the now-infamous 187 minutes, to ask them to stop.
Instead, It’s Trump telling those who had assaulted the Capitol that he loved them and that they were special people.
It’s Trump’s desire to go to the Capitol that day after his speech on the Ellipse, it’s his argument with the Secret Service detail that refused to take him, and it’s us left wondering what would Trump have done if he had gone there — lead the charge, cheer from the sidelines, offer up coordinates to the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers?
What the committee has clearly shown is how the Big Lie fed the conspiracy theories that led to fraud that led to coercion that led to corruption that led to a violent attempted coup at the Capitol.
And, finally, there were the four charges against Trump that the committee referred to the Justice Department. The charges are, at once, meaningful and meaningless. The Justice Department, which has been conducting its own investigation that is now being led by a special counsel, can ignore the committee’s suggestions at will. But the charges — the first ever referred by Congress against a president — also put on record the naked truth.
One, that Trump should be tried for obstructing an official proceeding. This one seems like a slam dunk. Jan. 6 was the day that electoral votes would officially be counted. Jan. 6 was the day that the rioters tried not only to hang Mike Pence and threaten Nancy Pelosi but, mainly, to stop the Electoral College count that would mean Joe Biden had officially won the presidency.
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Two, that Trump should be charged with conspiring to defraud the United States. A federal judge had already said it was “more likely than not” that Trump had, in fact, conspired with Eastman — who was also referred to the DOJ on the first two counts — in the bid to present fake electors to Congress as the real thing.
Three, Trump made false statements to the federal government. Of course, to the federal government. And, by the way, to everyone else.
Four, he assisted and engaged in an insurrection against the United States. This is the one we’re told would be hardest to prove, even though it appears, as another former president said in a far different context, to be self-evident.
You see the proposed charges. You note all the scandals. You see the long list of possible charges Trump faces from prosecutors and grand juries. You think you know what must happen next.
But then you remember — because how could we possibly forget? — that the running theme throughout Trump’s life and presidency is that he never pays for anything. Not literally. Not figuratively.
And, so, yes, his standing is diminished in the eyes of many, and the jackals — I mean the Ron DeSantises — see weakness and vulnerability.
And, yes, Trump’s hand-picked election deniers were routinely beaten in the midterm elections, particularly in the swing states, costing Republicans the Senate and leaving them with narrow gains in the House.
And yes, it looks like he stole all those super-classified documents just because he wanted them, that he lied about taking them and then left documents in various unsecured locations.
And, yes, he’s having Mar-a-Lago dinners with Holocaust deniers and celebrity antisemites when he’s not making major announcements of $99 Trump trading cards for sale.
And, yes, there’s this from the damning report, which says the evidence leads to one obvious conclusion: “The central cause of Jan. 6 was one man, former President Donald Trump, who many others followed. None of the events of Jan. 6 would have happened without him.”
Of course, Trump should be done. But if there’s anything we’ve learned in the past seven or so years, it’s that there’s no “should” when it comes to Trump. He should never have been president in the first place. And the truth is, despite the committee, despite his low poll numbers, despite all the scandals, despite the possible charges, despite everything, it’s not impossible that Trump, with the help of his ever-loyal base, wins his third GOP nomination for president.
And if we ever — and, yes, I tremble at the thought — get that far again, who wants to predict what might happen next?
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