What’s the end game for the January 6 Committee?


I’ve said for a while now that I don’t understand how Trump could have threatened the peaceful transfer of power, disrupted the constitutionally required actions of Congress, and instigated a riot and/or launched an insurrection without breaking any law in any way. 

The work of the January 6 committee is important but somewhat superfluous. It’s uncovering new details, but all of us watched the events play out live that day. 

We already got the gist.

I am sure there are Donald Trump fans out there who tell themselves and anyone else who will listen that the witnesses who testify against the former president are all biased against him, and that they’re all making it up as a result. And who knows? 

While Cassidy Hutchinson’s account of what she was told by a Secret Service agent, that Trump attempted to grab the steering wheel from the agent driving the presidential SUV — after the agent refused Trump’s demand to be driven to the Capitol following his January 6 rally — is jaw-dropping, it’s troubling to hear reports from NBC News’ Peter Alexander and New York magazine’s Yashar Ali that the two Secret Service agents in question “are prepared to testify under oath that neither man was assaulted and that Mr. Trump never lunged for the steering wheel.” 

Maybe these are just rumors, and the January 6 Committee screwed up royally by putting an unreliable witness under oath and not thoroughly investigating and verifying her claims before putting her in front of the television cameras.

If it didn’t happen, that would help explain how such a shocking anecdote — the sort of unhinged outburst that should instantly trigger the 25th Amendment — could remain a secret for so long.

The problem is a lot of these critics and hostile witnesses worked for Trump and were picked for those jobs by him. If you say that you don’t trust Michael Cohen or Omarosa Manigault or some of the other Trump officials over the years, fine; most of these characters leave a trail of slime everywhere they go. If you don’t trust Michael Wolff’s accounts, and think that they are at best a mix of truth, exaggerations, unverified rumors, and just flat-out crazy stuff that he thinks will sell books, well, that makes two of us.

But there is this continuing pattern where once widely respected, reputable figures who worked with Trump come away from the experience telling the public that he belongs nowhere near any government power: James Mattis, Betsy DeVos, John Bolton, John Kelly, Rex Tillerson, Mark Esper, William Barr, Ty Cobb . . . and I’m sure I’ve forgotten a lot of other lesser-known figures.

Even Trump’s own vice president, Mike Pence, characterized Trump’s nutty belief that Pence could have selected which electors to recognize as spectacularly “un-American”:

“I heard this week that President Trump said I had the right to overturn the election. President Trump is wrong. I had no right to overturn the election. The presidency belongs to the American people, and the American people alone,” he said at a Federalist Society event in Florida.

“Frankly, there is almost no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president.”

All of these people who agreed to work for Trump came away with the impression that he is a maniac or deeply corrupt, stunningly ill-informed or ignorant, selfish, nuts, or some combination of these or other bad traits.

The typical cabinet-secretary memoir laments that the president didn’t listen to the author enough, but such memoirs don’t often characterize the author’s former boss as “an unprincipled person who, given his self-interest, should not be in the position of public service,” as former defense secretary Mark Esper contended.

All of those people are lying? Doesn’t it seem a little odd that so many cabinet secretaries and high-ranking officials, over a period of many years, came away from dealing with Trump with the same dire conclusions?

If you think Trump is the only one telling the truth, and everyone else is lying . . . just what is it about Trump that makes all these former loyal employees and cabinet members suddenly decide to make up terrible stories about him and be willing to say so under oath, under penalty of perjury?

And even if you believe that Donald Trump is the lone figure in Washington telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, there is still the question of how you can excuse Trump’s selecting all these people whom you now deem traitorous pathological liars. Occasionally you will run into a Trump supporter who waves this away by saying, “Well, Trump has a bad habit of trusting the wrong people,” or shrugging and lamenting, “ 

Either the U.S. Department of Justice should indict Trump on criminal charges, or it should publicly state that it can’t prove such charges in a court of law. The events of January 6, 2021, occurred a year and a half ago. It is long past put-up-or-shut-up time. 

I don’t know what Attorney General Merrick Garland has been doing all this time, but it’s not hard to see why some who cheered his nomination to that post think they’ve gotten stuck with a lemon.

The latest rumor is that Trump wants to announce he’s running for president again perhaps as soon as July 4. This is absurdly early in the four-year presidential cycle, and suggests Trump wants to run because he’s frustrated that he’s not the center of attention anymore. But the fact remains that, by moving at a glacial pace, Garland will have harmed any effort to prosecute Trump: An indictment of Trump by Joe Biden’s attorney general after Trump announces he’s running for president would look a lot more like a political vendetta against one of the president’s top rivals than an indictment announced before Trump makes his 2024 intentions clear.

We’re told Trump is an aspiring tyrant, a menace, and a destructive megalomaniac, that he represents a threat to American democracy unlike anything else we’ve ever seen in our lifetimes. And yet we’re also told — at least so far — that the only thing that can stop him from taking power again is GOP primary voters and/or the entire electorate making the right choice in 2024. 

Really? Our national government and its system of laws are that powerless to generate metaphorical antibodies against a dangerous pathogen? Hey, U.S. Department of Justice, do you guys want to wake up and do something here?

Everybody in America already knows what they think of Donald Trump. Instead of trying to persuade voters, try persuading a grand jury.

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