A Solemn Slog for Jan. 6
Terry H. Schwadron
June 22, 2022
Resumed, solemn hearings airing the findings of the House Jan. 6 Select Committee got right to the point:
As a losing candidate but still president, Donald Trump pressured federal and state officials to betray their oaths in the effort to overturn the election results — through various efforts to decertify results, appoint competing Trump electors or finding reason to announce new vote outcomes.
As in previous sessions, the committee effectively presented edited video and live testimony — straightforward to the point of dulling — to buttress the case that Trump leaned heavily on election officials in Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and more states, as well as on federal Justice Department appointees to ignore the law in the effort to find a way to keep him in office. As in previous hearings, the committee relied on Republican appointees to tell the story.
Promises from Trump and attorney Rudy Giuliani to provide specific evidence of the widespread vote fraud they claimed never showed up, leaving state officials with no legal justification to pursue the Trump demands.
The efforts to find nonexistent votes, to declare alternative Electoral College slates of electors, to challenge baseless election fraud claims in 60 courts, to get states to dismiss voting majorities all were part of plotting that led inexorably to the Jan. 6 riots over validating the electoral results.
There were simply too many people telling the truth at the hearing to believe anything else.
Still, we should remember that these hearings are not the investigation, but the presentation of conclusions of having conducted more than 1,000 interviews and depositions and having reviewed 140,000 documents and communications.
If you were looking for a through line, it was easy: Trump was more interested — and personally involved — in efforts to be declared a late winner than in following the rules, the law, or the Constitution. If you were a Trump defender, you attacked the committee as unfair — and irrelevant to the coming mid-term elections but did little to dispute the lengthening pattern of facts.
Until and unless all this evidence goes to the Justice, these are the only stories under oath.
Where’s It Going?
As a nation, we’re still figuring out how significant these sessions are. There were competing pictures of whether all this talk about the road to Jan. 6 is resonating with voters or is causing Trump to lose standing among his supporters. The Justice Department has formally requested all the documents and testimony and depositions.
Consider that an IPSOS poll found that 60 percent of Americans want criminal charges for Trump in the name of accountability, though that polling result has not changed wildly.
Yet Republican primary voters have supported more than 100 candidates for office this year who insist that the 2020 election was rigged, and the Texas GOP voted a platform that renewed the election falsehood as well as a rejection of gay lifestyle choices. Illustrative of the pressure and threats of violence accompanying the campaign, Eric Greitens, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Eric Greitens in Missouri, released a violent new political advertisement this week that showed himself racking a shotgun and accompanying a team of men armed with assault rifles as they stormed into a home in search of “RINOs,” or Republicans in name only. Then he said it was a joke; some joke.
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), committee vice-chair, called out a rise in “thug violence” from the continuing campaign to insist that Trump won a rigged election. The testimony about threats repeatedly targeted by name being carried out against a Black woman election worker and her mom were hard to excuse as mere politics — as if it were an ordinary everyday thing to have the president of the United States call her name 18 times, with the predictable result.
Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported that internal campaign emails and memos that it had obtained show that the convening of the fake electors appeared to be a much more concerted and earlier strategy than previously understood. It was plotting intended to give Vice President Mike Pence a reason to declare the outcome of the election was somehow in doubt on Jan. 6, 2021, when he was to preside over the congressional counting of electoral college votes. Again, the documents indicted personal involvement by Trump and notification by John Eastman, the author of the plan to challenge electors in Congress.
The details are still emerging.
The Remarkable Aspects
What continues to be remarkable in the hearings is how many Trump supporters were willing to stand up and tell the president his demands, requests and pressures were out of line — and likely illegal. Witness after witness, including Arizona House Speaker Russell “Rusty” Bowers, disputed the election facts that Trump and his inner circle had claimed, insisting that they could not find evidence of what was being asserted, that much of what was being asked was both practically impossible and legally forbidden.
It was remarkable that Trump supporters have used and continue to use threats of prosecution and violence in pursuit of their goals, to say nothing of public harassment.
Trump’s continuing resistance to fact is also proving remarkable, disputing his own officials, his party’s election representatives, recorded phone calls and contemporary witness accounts. Trump complains that the committee ought properly to be investigating every election fraud that these Republican state officials say never happened.
We’ve known that the request to the Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger “to find” 11,780 new Trump votes was so remarkable that there was no surprise that a grand jury is currently reviewing whether criminal charges will result.
It was remarkable that Trump’s inner circle continued to pursue a plan to replace state slates of electors even after courts ruled that these efforts were legally devoid of any legal standing — something that the Justice Department now is re-investigating. The Eastman documents indicate that the inner group wanted these electors in place in case any court or Congress would allow a sliver of a reason to consider them.
Simply, it is illegal to submit false documents to the federal government. It is against state bar association rules to file lawsuits without evidence. It is illegal to conspire to bring down the authorized government of the United States.
There is nothing joyful about this process of slogging through a book whose main theme was understood long ago.