You don't even have to look for the tell. It's right there in the first thing they say after they "cooperate" with the Jan. 6 Committee: The Republican functionary witnesses sit there looking smug and self-satisfied as they tell what they know about what Trump did and the puny shit they did to try to stop him, and when they're finished they've been told they can smile and say, "but just look at his accomplishments."
This article first appeared in Salon.
That creation stamped out of a prep-mold in a suit and tie sitting at the witness stand on Thursday night with the last name Pottinger was a perfect example of the con job they're trying to run. Why, I was so horrified by what I saw when I got finished with my off-site meeting with India's ambassador to the United States that I resigned!
Then what does Pottinger tell us? A complete and utter crap-load of smarmy claptrap about how dedicated he is to "national security," and how proud he was that he served as deputy national security adviser, and how Trump got "tough" with China and put together some treaty in the Middle East that's not worth the paper it's written on.
Mr. Pottinger was at his desk in the National Security Council office when Trump was completely and utterly capitulating to Vladimir Putin at Helsinki. He was sitting there in the Executive Office Building working for John Bolton when Trump was putting a gun to the head of Volodymyr Zelenskyy and telling him he wanted the "favor" of trashing Joe Biden before Trump would release $400 million in military aid the Ukrainians needed in their fight against the Russian incursion into their territory. Pottinger sat there on his hands when Trump fired Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch on utterly spurious grounds, knowing that she had done nothing to deserve it and that Trump was just positioning himself to exploit Ukraine in his effort to get reelected.
Pottinger knows full well that it was Trump's lap-dog nuzzling of Putin and his constant attacks on NATO and his weakening of U.S. support for Ukraine that gave Putin the idea he could attack Ukraine and get away with it in the first place. Where was our hero Pottinger when Trump virtually disassembled the entire foreign service profession at the State Department by cutting its budget by more than 30 percent? We're supposed to thank him for his heroic decision to resign 14 days before Trump left office after helping to facilitate every stupid-ass foreign affairs move Trump made for four long years?
It's a con job, and the chief con artist running the whole game is Liz Cheney. She was right there at Trump's side for 3.9 years as he loaded up the Supreme Court with right-wing lunatics and ripped children from the arms of migrant mothers at the border and then proceeded to lose them in a miasma of botched red tape and incompetence. She was all-in for that crime against humanity. She was all-in for the tax cut for millionaires and billionaires like her father who used his political connections to make millions as chairman and CEO of Halliburton and then turned around and loaded up Halliburton's coffers by being the chief architect behind the war in Iraq.
Cheney was all-in for Trump's absurd wall on the border. To this day she's all in on every attack on women's rights Trump enabled, including the overturn of Roe v. Wade.
She was all-in for Trump's absurd wall on the border, another boondoggle for Republican contractors that has done precisely nothing — zero, nada, zip — to stop migrants from crossing the border who are seeking to flee oppressive regimes in Central and South America. She is, to this very day, all in on every attack on women's rights Trump enabled with his Supreme Court appointments. including the disastrous decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. She was all-in on Trump's loon-laden appointments to his Cabinet, all-in on his assaults on the environment and the regulatory powers of the EPA and other important agencies. She is still all-in on the complete legacy of Donald Trump, with the sole exception of his attempted coup after he lost the election of 2020.
And how about "rule of law" hero Pat Cipollone? He sat there in his White House counsel's office for more than two years while Trump told lie after lie after lie and eviscerated every single tradition and norm that has helped keep our nation running for 240 years. He supported Trump's disastrous policies at the border, including taking children from migrant parents and then losing them. He defended Trump at his first impeachment trial for soliciting foreign interference in the 2020 election, when Trump attempted to extort a foreign leader and obstructed justice by instructing officials to ignore subpoenas and refuse testimony. Cipollone authored an eight-page letter to Democratic leaders refusing to cooperate in any way with the impeachment inquiry and accused Democrats of "violating the Constitution, the rule of law and every past precedent" in their investigation of Trump. He represented Trump at his second impeachment trial for inciting the riot on Jan. 6. He provided legal cover for everything Trump did to attempt to "deconstruct the administrative state," in the immortal words of Steve Bannon.
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In short, Cipollone enabled Donald Trump right up to his attempt to overturn the election of 2020, and then he refused to cooperate with the Jan. 6 committee until testimony by witnesses like Cassidy Hutchinson forced him to meet with the committee, and then he still refused to answer questions about what Donald Trump did on Jan. 6 on spurious executive privilege and attorney-client grounds, although he knows perfectly well there is no privilege if you witness a crime being committed, which Cipollone certainly did if he was present in the room with Trump on Jan. 6. And he was.
And Cipollone was the chief usher to Trump's right-wing theocratic appointments to the Supreme Court, and I'm sure his buddies in the Federalist Society have patted him on the back so much he's worn out a couple of suit jackets.
Are we supposed to be impressed that these Republican witnesses "stood up for the rule of law" after four years of an administration that never cared about it?
Liz Cheney has spent about a quarter of her time on the dais of the Jan. 6 committee hearings reminding us that all the witnesses called before the committee to testify about Trump have been Republicans. Oh, boy, does she beat that tired-ass drum, like it's supposed to mean something. Of course they're Republicans! They were working for Donald Trump! And we're supposed to be impressed that responding to subpoenas, they showed up and in many, many cases reluctantly revealed a few "truths" about Trump's lies and illegal behavior after he lost the election in November? We're supposed to be impressed that they "stood up for the rule of law" after participating in an administration whose hallmark was breaking laws and norms for four long years?
I'm sick and tired of Eric Herschmann getting praised over and over again for telling John Eastman that the only two words he wanted to hear out of his mouth were "orderly transition!" Wow! What a tough guy!
Uhh, hey, Eric, did it ever occur to you while you sat there watching Giuliani and Eastman and Jeffrey Clark and Sidney Powell and the rest of them commit multiple federal crimes in your presence in the damn Oval Office that you should pick up the phone and call the deputy attorney general in charge of the criminal division and report a crime?
Herschmann was in his White House office supporting Trump through two solid months of lying about "winning" the election, while he had his minions file no less than 60 lawsuits to overturn election results, every one of which he lost. Herschmann and the rest of the White House heroes supported everything Trump did right up until they made a determination that participating in Trump's conspiracies to overturn the election might subject them to criminal charges, and only when served with subpoenas demanding their testimony in the face of possible jail time did they reluctantly utter a few squeaks of disapproval to congressional investigators.
Wow! That's some heroic Republicans for you! And according to Liz Cheney, these Republican pipsqueaks should be thanked for "coming forward and telling the truth."
At the close of Thursday's hearing, Cheney gave one of her self-justifying-reach-around-and-pat-myself-on-the-back-like-I'm-triple-jointed statements, and this one was a doozy. She included this gem, which apparently we're supposed to get down on bended knee to thank her for: "As January 6 approached, I circulated a memo to my Republican colleagues explaining why our congressional proceedings to count electoral votes could not be used to change the outcome of the election."
Well, goodness gracious, sakes alive! She wrote a memo! Even thinking there was a need to tell her "Republican colleagues" something that is written into the Constitution should have been all the evidence she needed that the Republican Party had so completely gone off the rails that she didn't belong there any longer. But did she resign and become an independent? Noooooo. She started laying plans for a future she thought she could see, even if none of her "colleagues" could.
I think on Thursday night I realized what the Republican long-term plan is. Liz Cheney and the "adults in the room" in the Republican Party are laying the groundwork for the party to survive after Trump is finally put in jail or in some other yet-to-be-determined way expunged from their midst. Liz Cheney is Dick Cheney's daughter. She is a lifetime right-wing Republican functionary. She wants there still to be a Republican Party so they can continue to grease the skids for billionaires to make more billions and millionaires to make more millions like her dad did.
Remember the arc of Dick Cheney's career? He did his time as a House Republican back when that was a real shit-detail, for which he was rewarded with the secretary of defense slot under Bush I. He was an architect of the first Gulf War, which ensured that oil would continue to flow from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and that oil company coffers in the good old USA would continue to bulge. When Bill Clinton was elected, Cheney was taken under the wing of the Owners who made him CEO and Chairman of Halliburton, where he fattened his own bank account to the tune of several tens of millions of dollars. Then he appointed himself vice president under Bush II and promptly began his campaign for the war in Iraq, which further filled Halliburton's bottom line (it owned KBR, a major defense contractor in Iraq) and ensured that oil would flow from Iraq's massive oil fields and further pad the bottom line of the oil companies to whom he owed his millions.
Liz Cheney learned at her father's knee how the Republican Party works. It's who they are and who they have always been. As Gore Vidal used to call them, they are the "Owners." All the rest of this stuff, like screaming about transgender bathrooms and vaccine mandates and school choice and even their anti-abortion hallelujah chorus with fundamentalist Christians is crap. It's red meat for the rubes. Do you really think they care if their wife's or mistress' hairdresser marries his longtime partner? Do you think if a Cheney granddaughter got raped at college and got pregnant that she wouldn't be able to get an abortion? Do you think if a Cheney granddaughter just wanted an abortion because she broke up with the boyfriend who got her pregnant that she wouldn't be put aboard a biz-jet and flown across state borders to the best abortion doctor in the country?
Of course not. They'll always protect the Owners and their mansions and their yachts and their Gulfstreams and their ability to avail themselves of abortion services or even contraception if it comes to that. They'll always cut taxes for each other even if it means that poor people get poorer and that children don't get fed at lunchtime in public schools and migrants continue to die in tractor-trailers in Texas.
They don't give a shit about the poor. As Liz Cheney is at last admitting, they don't give a shit about Trump, either, so long as they've got their tax cuts and their millions and billions and they can keep the minimum wage at $7.25 an hour and maintain their control over red-state governments. Trump was just a hireling. He strayed off the reservation, and they grew tired of his gross lack of taste and slovenly appearance. So they're serving up a few schmucks with smug grins on their faces to tell us what a bad guy they suddenly discovered he is, after his usefulness to them came to an end.
It's a con job. Don't believe a word of it. They're just ridding themselves of a cancer they accidentally found growing on one of their legs so they can continue stomping on poor people and women and gay people and anybody they don't like and ensuring we stay in our place. They're Republicans. It's what they do.