Trump: Jan. 6 Was Just Fine
Terry H. Schwadron
Nov. 14, 2021
On the one hand, we understand that Donald Trump does not want to deliver documents or allow testimony from his inner circle about Jan. 6 — insisting on “executive privilege” to avoid being part of the Congressional probe around the planning and White House conduct of that insurrection day at the U.S. Capitol.
On the other, the same Donald Trump keeps shoving our collective heads in the toilet with interviews, videos and recordings he has made voluntarily about what happened that day that reflect his constant contempt for democracy.
There was an avalanche of surprise over learning on Friday that journalist Jonathan Karl of ABC has audio tapes of Trump defending the Jan. 6 crowd demands to “hang Mike Pence” for failing to unconstitutionally and unilaterally throwing out national election results. The tapes were released as Karl is promoting a new book about Jan. 6.
This column is not meant to follow every wag of the news tail, but to note developments when they tell us something more lasting. Here, the story is one of hubris and self-delusion while adding a healthy dose of self-protection against owning up to the record.
Set aside Trump’s proffered argument that he was assured that Pence was physically protected, and that it was “common sense” for rioters to threaten the former vice president. Let’s focus on the more central idea — an admission by Trump himself, offered voluntarily and however inadvertent, that he was fully aware of the details and dangers of the insurrection that day, and that he wanted to overturn the election, what the rest of us call a coup.
That’s the basis of the investigative theory, that Jan. 6 was not some random event, not an out-of-control mob of leftist Antifa followers, not “mere tourists,” not even an instantaneous, if large protest, but rather a substantive outcome of plotting and planning for those threats to come about in an attack by Trump supporters, some armed, some carrying Zip-ties, some grabbing flagpoles and attacking Capitol police.
Isn’t that the ballgame here?
The Privilege Fight
The core of the fight over congressional committee access to White House records and of the testimony of participants in various planning sessions at the White House, the Willard Hotel and in phone calls with Trump is to establish that Trump was fully aware of the Jan. 6 planning and that he did nothing to halt it once underway.
Indeed, any number of people were reported to have urged him to call for insurrectionists to halt the rioting that killed five, but Trump did not respond for hours.
Axios.com published the transcript of the audiotape, and, for a bonus, find the audiotape here. Trump puts himself in the center ring, and spins the same Big Steal fabrications of fraudulent election results as justification.
But the remarks are not under oath, which they would be before the committee.
The same goes for testimony from Steve Bannon, who has been voted in contempt of Congress and now has been indicted with a criminal charge face, Mike Meadows, who is now facing the same fate after failing to show up to the committee on Friday, and other Trump insiders.
Several former prosecutors were on the inevitable cable commentary circuits to argue that these Trump recordings had once again put him in legal jeopardy, noting that his remarks reflect “intent,” a requirement in any potential criminal charge emerging from any investigation.
Disclosure of the Trump interview came as a U.S. Court of Appeals allowed a temporary block on the orders from a lower court for delivery of Trump White House documents to the committee. A full hearing on the status of the privilege will come within two weeks, but the result is almost certain to move to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Delay is a tactic, of course.
Also pending are decisions by the Department of Justice about whether to prosecute criminal charges against Bannon, and resolution of cases against a dozen more Trump advisers who took part in memos and planning sessions. Plus, Trump continues to face unrelated lawsuits and criminal inquiries over business practices and sexual assault charges; one sexual harassment from his television days was dropped and another involving payments to his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, was dismissed in a New York court.
Not much has yet surfaced about follow-ups to reports in ProPublica that as much as $3 million may have been raised to support the Jan. 6 rally in Washington, D.C., that preceded the attack on the Capitol attack, with some money flowing to Republican dark-money groups that helped bring crowds to the event.
Trump met Karl for the interview in March at Mar-a-Lago, one of a dozen book interviews since leaving office. In the interview, the former president suggested that the January 6 insurrectionists had a right to be upset with Pence. Pence was evacuated from the Capitol after he had come dangerously close to some of rioters during the attack.
Whatever else, disclosure of this tape now (Why other than for book promotion are we only learning from a journalist about a Trump interview six months ago?) only adds layers to an already complicated process to unravel Jan. 6.