It is the end of the beginning; I wish it were the beginning of the end. I have seen every minute of these riveting, often jaw-dropping sessions. While the events were known in their broad contours prior to the hearings, the Committee’s meticulous documentation and building of the timeline before, during and after the January 6th attempted coup by Donald Trump leaves no doubt in my mind that he must be indicted and, I hope, convicted of seditious conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and inciting insurrection to overturn the outcome of the 2022 election.
Trump’s plan was always to declare victory, whatever the outcome. (His close ally and convicted felon Roger Stone had launched the “Stop the Steal” slogan as early as 2016.) Despite knowing Joe Biden had won, despite the fact that 60 times Trump’s lawsuits claiming fraud had been rejected by courts across the country, despite the many attempts of his inner circle to dissuade him from promoting the Big Steal, the former President nonetheless incited the riot leading to seven deaths directly connected to the attacks and 150 officers wounded. As the hours passed and the violence grew bloodier and more frightening, President Trump again violated his oath of office and steadfastly rejected pleas to call off the mob.
Trump used the lie to run fraudulent ads to raise $250 million allegedly for legal defense, though the money was deployed elsewhere. He tried relentlessly to interfere in the electoral process in a variety of schemes, including creating false slates of electors, pressuring state officials to change the election results, leaning on Vice President Mike Pence to violate his Constitutional responsibility to certify electors, and maneuvering to get either the Justice Department or the Defense Department to seize voting machines. Against the advice of “team normal,” he conspired with “team crazy” (Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Steve Bannon, Mark Meadows, and DOJ Trojan horse Jeffrey Clark) to undermine the rule of law and violate his oath to the U.S. Constitution, all to further his political career and salve his fragile ego.
In all of this, he was buoyed by the spineless Republican sycophants in Congress who so feared his wrath that they outdid themselves in embracing the Big Lie that the election was stolen. (They have been brilliantly portrayed by author Mark Leibovich in his scathing new book “Thank You for Your Servitude.”) When violence became Trump’s last option, he took our democracy right to the precipice. Even with the reptilian enablers’ help, however, Trump’s criminal conspiracy did not achieve its primary goal, returning him to office.
We’re now at a summer pause in the January 6th Committee’s proceedings, but behind the scenes work continues. Evidence is still coming to the committee and presumably Justice Department lawyers are busy with their own investigation and building a case for indictment. On May 25, Attorney General Merrick Garland alerted U.S. Department of Justice officials that extra steps are required before action can be taken in politically sensitive cases during a fall election season – and unprecedented charges against a former President and erstwhile candidate would qualify. This doesn’t signal that Garland is backing down the way Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg concluded it too risky to indict Trump for unlawful business practices. Garland’s reasonable public warning to avoid the perception of politically motivated investigation means we should not expect any indictments until after the November election, however much we might desire it.
Those around Trump are culpable as well and could also be Justice Department targets. In apparent recognition of this, Giuliani and Meadows reportedly asked for pardons, knowing they had committed crimes. They too knew there was no evidence to support the claim of fraud sufficient to change the outcome of the election. A most telling testament to their evil was Michael Flynn’s taking the 5th when asked if he believes in the peaceful transition of power.
If Trump is convicted, barred from running again, and his cronies end up going to jail, might that be a deterrent to future authoritarian presidents?
It’s possible that a jury can’t be found without a single member who believes the election was stolen. But isn’t a hung jury with no conviction better than a failure to indict and pursue accountability at the highest levels?
Isn’t it better to bring a legitimate case against unprecedented outrageous crimes – and lose – than signal by prosecutorial inaction that such Presidential behavior is beyond the law?
Donald Trump must not be allowed to get away with his malign and criminal behavior, the remnants of which are already poisoning the next election cycle. In Trump’s 2017 inaugural address, he warned about the carnage on the streets of America. The carnage is what Trump himself wreaked upon this country. He and his felonious gang must pay the price.