There was some fear when the Jan. 6 committee convened that it would amount to little more than a partisan tool that could easily be discredited. That’s not how it turned out.
The nine members of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, as the House panel is formally known, have been working for almost a year. In that time the committee has developed evidence of a “coordinated, multi-step effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and prevent the transfer of power.”
And it has established beyond doubt that the former president and many high-ranking Republicans are implicated in the effort’s criminality.
This is all sure to be made clear when the committee tonight presents the first of several public hearings. The committee’s work and the public reckoning it prompts is essential if Americans want to maintain democracy and restore constitutional norms.
That, however, is not what many Americans want, which is a sign that no matter what truths the committee reveals, the threat to democracy is as great today as it ever was.
Consider some of what we now know because of the committee’s work:
- Then President Donald Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, exchanged scores of texts with Trump loyalists on Jan. 6 that show even some of the former president’s staunchest supporters, including his own son, pleaded for Trump to stop the violence.
- Ginni Thomas, the influential wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, implored Meadows in a series of text exchanges in the weeks after the November 2020 election to overturn the results.
- Trump during the insurrection upon hearing that rioters chanted “Hang Mike Pence!” reacted by saying that maybe the vice president should be hanged.
- Trump and his lawyer John Eastman, who at the time was a University of Colorado Boulder visiting scholar, developed in the weeks after the election a multitiered and far-reaching scheme to overturn the results. The Jan. 6 committee asked a court to force Eastman to release documents, and in an extraordinary March ruling in favor of the committee, federal Judge David Carter wrote that it was “more likely than not that President Trump corruptly attempted to obstruct” the certification of President Joe Biden’s win — in other words, that the president committed a crime. This week the judge ordered Eastman to release more documents to the committee, including an email that the judge characterized as evidence of a likely crime. “Dr. Eastman’s actions in these few weeks indicate that his and President Trump’s pressure campaign to stop the electoral count did not end with Vice President Pence — it targeted every tier of federal and state elected officials,” wrote Carter in one particularly hair-raising passage. Eastman previously had been revealed to have written a six-step plan, known as the “coup memo,” to overturn election results.
- Several far-right members of Congress were involved in the “beginning stages” of discussions with the White House that led to Trump’s “big lie” effort to reverse election results. Those lawmakers included Colorado’s own Rep. Lauren Boebert as well as Reps. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Jim Jordan of Ohio and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, according to testimony provided to the committee by Cassidy Hutchinson, a former assistant to Meadows.
- White House records turned over to the committee show a gap of more than seven hours during the insurrection in Trump’s phone logs, which could be an indication of a cover-up.
- On Wednesday, a committee aide said the public hearing will include previously unseen information that ties the violent attack on the Capitol directly to Trump.
The hearing is scheduled for 8 p.m. Eastern times and will feature at least two witnesses: U.S. Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards, the first law enforcement officer injured by rioters on Jan. 6, and documentary filmmaker Nick Quested, who captured extensive footage from the insurrection. It will be carried live by the major networks, except for Fox News. The second hearing will be at 10 a.m. Eastern on Monday, June 13, and a third hearing would be 10 a.m. Eastern on June 15.
The basic points of the democracy-erasing, power-at-all-costs conduct of Trump and his cabal of crooks have long been plain to anyone who cared to look. And at what cost? Practically none.
According to Democratic committee member Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, the hearings will allow the panel to share “evidence of the chilling inside plan to overturn the 2020 election and block the constitutional transfer of power.”
It is shocking that such a plan existed, and it is critical that those who were involved are held to account.
But what is even more chilling than Trump’s plan to overturn the election is how little it seems to matter to so many Republicans.
The truth is that while the committee has uncovered numerous details that in any other era would each have constituted an unthinkable revelation and will doubtless in the coming weeks bring out further evidence of massive corruption, the basic points of the democracy-erasing, power-at-all-costs conduct of Trump and his cabal of crooks have long been plain to anyone who cared to look.
And at what cost? Practically none.
Trump remains the undisputed leader — cult leader by some measures — of the Republican Party and the favorite to win the next GOP presidential nomination. The vast majority of Republican voters still believe the 2020 election was stolen. The potential for more far-right violence due to the spread of misinformation around upcoming elections is high.
A democracy functions only when citizens are willing to accept reality and work from a core set of basic facts, despite differences of political opinion. The hope regarding the Jan. 6 committee was that with the factual evidence it produced Americans collectively could see the extreme danger Trump posed to democracy and constitutional order.
The public hearings will surely bolster the assertion that Trump is a dangerous man who attempted a coup. But their primary outcome might be to demonstrate that an alarming number of Americans, like the former president, are more interested in the attainment of power than the maintenance of democracy.
Editor’s note: This commentary was updated at 10:42 a.m., June 9, 2022, to include an updated schedule of hearing times.
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