A sitting United States president upon hearing a mob, which was making its way into the Capitol, chant about hanging Mike Pence, the vice president, said, “Maybe our supporters have the right idea. Mike Pence deserves it.”
I can’t get over this, so let me state it again: The sitting United States president was seemingly okay with his own vice president being killed because he didn’t think the vice president was doing what he ought to to help that sitting president remain unlawfully in power.
And yet. That man, Donald Trump, as it stands, is the presumptive presidential nominee for the Republican Party in 2024. In other words, there is still a chance that such a man diametrically opposed to our constitutional form of government, the oath of office he swore to defend the constitution from enemies both foreign and domestic, could be its head again.
On June 9, the United States House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack, a nine-person bipartisan committee, held its first prime-time hearing into the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, where insurrectionists in the name of, and inspired and willed on by, the president of the United States, stormed the Capitol to interrupt Congress as they counted the electoral votes of the November 2020 Election. In so doing, they brawled, beat, Tasered, and sprayed Capitol police guarding the building, and ultimately overwhelmed them to make their way into the Capitol. Members of our government, including the vice president, were rushed to undisclosed locations for safety. Guns were drawn on the House floor. Doors were barricaded. Staff members fled for their lives.
The Jan. 6 Committee will show over the course of its hearings that while the violence was going on, and the insurrectionists were fighting police and making their way into the Capitol, Trump did not check on his vice president, did not call any military officials, did not call any legislative leaders, and so, he “placed no call to any element of the U.S. government to instruct the Capitol to be defended.” That, again, is a dereliction of his sworn duty as president.
Instead, that duty ended up falling to Pence, who became acting president in a sense, while Trump was merely a president in name only.
It gives me goosebumps to even recount such a scene because it is still surreal, and enraging, to watch the footage (some of it new) shown by the Jan. 6 Committee from that day. I like to think, and I believe if you ask people who know me they will back me up on this, that I’m a calm and chill person. It takes a lot to rile me up. But watching that footage? Enraging and maddening. I can’t believe this happened. That it got to such a point.
Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards testified on the first day of hearings and described the scene that day as hours of hand-to-hand combat. At one point, she was knocked unconscious, and when she woke up, resumed her attempt at protecting the Capitol, and would later by Tasered and sprayed by the insurrectionists.
“I was slipping in people’s blood. I was catching people as they fell. It was carnage. It was chaos,” Edwards said.
One of the individuals in the footage who stormed the Capitol literally said he was willing to do whatever it takes and die. For Donald Trump. In the context of trying to overturn the will of the people by disrupting Congress, there is no other way to describe that sort of mindset but as fascist.
The only saving grace about that day was that the metaphorical guardrails of our democracy did hold, even if the real ones didn’t. Congress continued its business. They finished counting the electoral votes to formalize President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Biden would go on to be the president, despite Trump’s weak protests to the contrary and attempts at violently interrupting it.
But we can never get back the fact that for the first time in American history, the peaceful transition of power was tainted by Donald Trump, of all people.
Here is the Committee’s nearly 10-minute video they showed last night:
People who are supportive of Trump, or who play that maddening anti-anti role (so, I guess anti-anti-coup?) have tried to disparage the Committee as political theatrics, or to downplay and whitewash the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol itself, or both. To the whitewashing, nobody of good faith can watch that 10-minute video, or other videos of the attack, and think it was a “protest” that got a little too rowdy, or that people rightly outraged by it are being overblown in such outrage.
There are also those who are outraged by the attack, but are defeatist and cynical about the Committee’s ability to persuade anyone, i.e., those who most need to watch such hearings either won’t, can’t because Fox News isn’t showing it, or if they do watch, they won’t be convinced. But I’m not concerned by that up against the more important fact of documenting in detail how a sitting president encouraged a violent mob to invade the Capitol, both for our present selves, and for historical posterity. It matters.
As for the hearing itself, I have to commend Congresswoman Liz Cheney, who sits on the Committee, for being a straight, clear-eyed voice detailing the culpability of the Republican Party and Donald Trump in what happened on Jan. 6, at great risk to her political future, too.
But also, most importantly, in the 15 years I’ve been a political junkie, I have never seen a political event like the Jan. 6 Committee hearing (political in the sense of an event with politicians about political happenings) that was so decidedly nonpolitical. Most of these sort of things when televised turn into political theater, grandstanding, and quite frankly, a circus. This was not that.
I’m thankful, and impressed, by the Jan. 6 Committee’s meticulously detailed, thorough, devastating case they’ve laid out against Trump and his enablers for what happened on Jan. 6, 2021. We still have many more hearings to go, and it can only get more damning from here.
Importantly present its case after a year of investigation, the Committee relied largely on the words of those within Trump’s orbit, like Attorney General Bill Barr, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Jason Miller, Mark Short (former chief of staff to Pence), and so on, as well as the footage from that day, and the testimony from Edwards and documentary filmmaker Nick Quested, who was filming the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, two far-right groups who coordinated their infiltration of the Capitol.
Just as important is how the Committee has demonstrated that Trump was repeatedly told by those around him that there was zero evidence that the 2020 Election was rigged or stolen or that there was widespread fraud. Barr was blunt in his deposition to the Committee: any notion of that was “bullshit.”
Texts were also shown on the big screen between Sean Hannity of Fox News and White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany where they emphasize that there needs to be “no more stolen election talk.”
As an aside about that, Hannity and his ilk are always bemoaning the “elites,” and yet, for four years, he had the ear of the most powerful human being on the planet, and was also apparently trying to plan the response to Jan. 6.
You can read The Washington Post’s full break-down of yesterday’s hearing if you missed it here.
But back to the issue at hand: Trump still has a shot of occupying the presidency again. The ring is, we can talk policies all day long. I love “wonking” it up knee-deep in policy discussions (as you’ve seen with my repeated posts about the gun issue). We can talk current so-called “kitchen table” issues, such as Inflation, gas prices, tariffs, and immigration. We can talk character and whether Trump’s main issue is just sending “mean Tweets” as the cliché goes.
It all takes a backseat to this primary issue, what I would call first principles. That is, none of the rest of that matters without a belief and adherence to the basic constitutional form of government we all operate under. Trump is opposed to those foundational first principles. Unambiguously so. I have zero interest in discussing his policies or his character at that point. Because the starting point, and the only point worth discussing, is that Trump does not abide by those first principles.
He was fine with letting his vice president get killed! He did nothing as the sitting president to defend the Capitol and the legislative branch of government. He believed for the two months leading up to the attack, the day of the attack, and the time since to the present, that he was robbed of the presidency and that he is the rightful president.
That’s disqualifying. That makes him unfit to ever be president again in our constitutional form of government.
And yet. He still may just be president again. It’s unconscionable and indefensible.