187 Minutes of Desperation
Terry H. Schwadron
July 22, 2022
The 187 minutes of deliberate inaction depicted by a House Select Committee on Jan. 6 that ran almost as long may not have described new violations of law. But its emotional punch of a forlorn, angry Donald Trump muttering in seclusion in the White House left viewers as landing somewhere between disgusting and pathetic.
We may have heard prior reference to many of the findings that the committee shared, but a presentation that cleverly synched what detail could be scratched out from administration records, witness observation and email traffic with the concurrent, ongoing violence at the Capitol landed as a series of visceral punches.
As the committee presenters said, Trump chose not to act, which is worse that dereliction of duty and failure to act at all.
The hearing also underscored that while those three hours may not have produced any new violations of federal crime statutes, we saw a distinct picture of a Donald Trump who had turned his back on his oath, on Constitutional duties and on any responsibility to look out for anyone but himself.
In his just-the-fact report, Gen. Mark Milley said that after a day of Trump silence, chief of staff Mark Meadows tried to persuade him to change the narrative to one that sounded as if Trump had sought to end the violence.
Indeed, with recordings of Secret Service members around Vice President Mike Pence in panic, with the obvious and intended pushback from Trump against repeated pleas to call off his dogs, with his own insistence that he should remain in office, what the committee delivered was a powerful, if awful, visualization of desperation.
Of the many points that stood out, however, prime was the enforced White House silence during the 187 minutes on whom Trump was calling on private cellphones. Why was it necessary to block record-keeping and photographs of him gleefully watching television, and why did Trump decide to put Pence in even more danger than he found himself through the few tweets he sent.
Frankly, Trump’s actions in sealing off his actions from the record smells of cover-up, and it puts renewed pressure on why Secret Service texts from the day also are missing.
Though the committee answered several questions, it could not answer a fundamental one: Did Trump intend or prove complicit with an attempt to capture or kill Pence and congressional leaders? How long would he have remained approvingly silent had Pence or a leader been grabbed and zip-tied? Had Trump persuaded the Secret Service to drive him to the Capitol, what would he have done, exactly, and would he be involved in a physical takeover of the congressional chambers and staff.
Trump kept his eye on Fox News. On FoxNews.com today, it is difficult to find a mention about last night’s hearing.
How far does the need to win his evidence-free, stolen-election campaign go? Trump was still at it this week in Wisconsin, where he demanded anew that the state legislature overturn results from 2020. The picture we saw from the committee’s investigation was clear and dangerous.