Jan. 6 committee makes the case clear for Merrick Garland
Judge Merrick Garland testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on his nomination to be US Attorney General(AFP)

Donald Trump thinks you're an idiot.

That's the message that the Jan. 6 committee sent to Republican voters during Monday's hearing, the second of what could be as many as eight hearings through June. As Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., had promised, the hearing covered the first part of Trump's seven-part plan to steal the election, which was "a massive effort to spread false and fraudulent information to the American public claiming the 2020 election was stolen from him." Straight from the beginning, Trump voters were portrayed as the primary victims of his Big Lie. Cheney kicked things off by painting the people who sacked the Capitol on Jan. 6 as Trump's dupes, people who acted on Trump's lies and now are paying for it by going to prison. Quoting the Wall Street Journal, Cheney said, "Mr. Trump betrayed his supporters by conning them on January 6th. And he is still doing it."

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., followed this up by highlighting how Trump has repeatedly sent out emails fundraising off the Big Lie, taking in money that he can redirect into his personal coffers quite easily. "The big lie was also a big ripoff," she declared.

RELATED: Bigger than Trump: Republicans will expose how the Big Lie took control of the GOP

Tellingly, pretty much all the evidence that Trump deliberately lied to defraud his own supporters came from other Republicans, both in taped depositions and live witnesses. As Heather "Digby" Parton argued in her preview Monday morning, for "at least a few GOP voters it must be a little bit difficult to buy that all of these Republicans are liars." The all-Republican witness list gave the hearing the air of a cult deprogramming effort, repeatedly confronting Republican voters with truths coming from people they simply can't write off as Democrats playing politics.

It's a strategy with some obvious pitfalls, however.

The case that Trump did all this very much on purpose is, as the committee showed, a slam dunk.

Few Republican voters will even allow themselves to take in this information. Instead, they will turn to propaganda outlets like Fox News to be told comforting lies. But the problem may be even bigger than that. Waking Republican voters up with the truth only works if "truth" is something Republican voters care about. Unfortunately, there's little reason to believe it is.

Republicans know full well that Trump is just making up his claims of a "stolen" election and they simply don't care. They weren't duped by the Big Lie —they think they're in on it.

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As I've argued before, the Big Lie is less of a literal belief for Trump supporters, and more a myth embraced because it speaks to their deeper belief: That they're entitled to rule, no matter what. They don't believe the 2020 election was a "fraud" because of any actual evidence. It's far more that they just think that people who voted for President Joe Biden shouldn't have a right to vote in the first place. By repeating the Big Lie, they are participating, along with Trump, in spinning a narrative that they are using, just like Trump, as a pretext to justify this deeper and more fundamental belief. It's just that they know that there's no way to argue out loud that only conservative white Christians should have the vote, so they use these conspiracy theories to perpetuate this ugly belief without stating it out loud.

As Cheney said, there's no one paying a higher price for the Big Lie right now than the people who have been arrested for storming the Capitol on January 6. If anyone was going to be seized by regret and eager to blame Trump for lying to them, it should be these folks. But almost none of these people have expressed remorse for believing Trump's lies. Instead, most of these people have refused to admit what they did was wrong or to back off of their Trump worship at all. They clearly don't feel "betrayed" by a man whose lies sent them to prison. They just don't feel on a fundamental level, like they were lied to. Attempting to overthrow democracy was their desire all along. For the rioters, like Trump, the Big Lie is just a pretense.

RELATED: To indict Donald Trump, prosecutors will need to prove intent. Well, here it comes

If Republican voters were innocent victims who actually believed the election was stolen, then yes, that's a belief that could be rattled with facts. But mostly, they're people who don't care about facts. They just want to run the country and don't care if they have to dismantle democracy to do it. That said, there is another audience that might be moved by this cascade of testimony from Republicans explaining that the Big Lie was always a lie: Attorney General Merrick Garland.

Despite mounting public pressure on the Department of Justice to press charges against Trump for sedition, fraud, and incitement of the riot, there's been very little public evidence that Garland is ready to move forward. The hope is that his reluctance comes back not to political machinations, but to the question of how likely a prosecution of Trump is to succeed.

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As Noah Bookbinder of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington pointed out recently at Salon, the case against Trump could very well come back to the question of intent. Did Trump knowingly lie about the 2020 election to create a pretense for a coup? Or was the man simply delusional and acting in good faith?

It's a dumb question, perhaps, as Trump has never acted in good faith in his life. But convincing a jury otherwise might be an uphill climb. After Monday's hearing, what is absolutely undeniable is that Trump was told, over and over by his advisors, that he lost the election. He knowingly blew them off to tell petty lies instead. It matters that Trump was claiming "fraud" before the ballots were cast, as this shows he always intended to lie. It matters that his biggest cheerleader was Rudy Giuliani, whose constant drunkness removed the normal human inhibitions against chronic lying. All the evidence points to deliberation, not delusion.

After Monday's hearing, what is absolutely undeniable is that Trump was told, over and over by his advisors, that he lost the election

The case that Trump did all this very much on purpose is, as the committee showed, a slam dunk. Garland says he wants to run the DOJ as an apolitical organization that follows the evidence where it leads. Well, it leads directly to the conclusion that Trump is a criminal. Any failure to prosecute now should be seen as exactly the kind of political game-playing Garland said he wanted to avoid.