Trump’s Big Lie Will Continue
In the third hearing of the Select Committee the focus was on Trump’s vendetta against Pence that risked Pence’s life.
The Select Committee is providing evidence of a variety of potential charges for everyone on Team Crazy who knew Trump lost the election but went along with Trump’s claims that he had won the election and was being unfairly deprived of his victory because of rampant unproven vote fraud. Even now there is ample evidence to indict a number of these characters on Team Crazy for obstructing an official proceeding and/or conspiracy to defraud the United States. The issue for DOJ when it comes to indicting Trump himself will be whether they can convincingly prove up Trump’s state of mind to a jury of 12 people who all have to agree that Trump had the state of mind for the crime he committed in order to be convicted.
Trump continues to amplify the Big Lie every day at his rallies. Not only does that fill his coffers with money and help him get MAGAs into power on local election boards to create a glidepath for himself to the presidency in 2024, but asserting this Lie might be his last best get out of jail free card some day with a jury depending on what he could be charged with which is still in flux.
The Evidence Keeps Growing that Trump and Allies Knew Better But Kept Up the Con
Trump allies who pushed conspiracy theories that the election was stolen had to be either living in Cloud Cuckooland or aware that these conspiracy theories were part of a fraud being perpetrated on the American people. Vote fraud myths circulated by Team Crazy took a variety of paranoid conspiratorial forms from Dominion voting machines magically changing votes but only affecting the presidential race, to ballot dumps, to immigrants voting illegally and so on. All of those unhinged ideas were shot down by courts across the country in every single one of those 61 cases. Judges berated Trump’s attorneys for wasting their time. Dominion sued Fox, OAN and other outlets for reputational damages because these so-called news outlets were claiming that their machines were rigged when they were not. Dominion won, forcing conservative outlets like OAN and others to disavow their lies on air.
Trump has persisted in his alternate universe of stolen elections and vote fraud. He has to. It’s going to be Trump’s last get out of jail free card when it comes to evading a criminal conviction. He will say he didn’t have criminal intent because he really really believed he won the election.
But I don’t think it will work.
Trump’s Vicious Vendetta Against Pence
On January 6th, the day of the ceremonial vote count over which Pence was supposed to preside based on Constitutional requirements, Trump accelerated his effort to stay in power to Defcon Level 1. His actions support the idea that he and his allies knew better but refused to concede the election he had lost and that he was determined to bully his way back to continued presidential power.
The Select Committee showed us how vindictive, brutal and morally bereft Trump was on January 6th. The guy was perfectly willing to sacrifice the life of his Vice President, Pence, in his quest to stay in power. He did that by first ordering Pence to decertify the election, then berating him–calling him a wimp and a pussy in a phone call the morning of January 6th, then setting his MAGA mob after Pence to first try to scare him into doing his bidding and when Pence still refused to do so (because Pence knew that what Trump asked him to do was both illegal and unconstitutional), siccing the mob on Pence with a tweet that poured gasoline on what Trump knew was already a conflagration.
Witnesses testified that Trump had been told a violent mob had breached the Capitol before he tweeted at 2:24 pm that Pence “didn’t have the courage to do what was necessary.” The committee showed video of Trump supporters on the steps of the Capitol reading Trump’s tweet aloud, their anger growing at the Vice President, who they believed had “betrayed” Trump. The committee then showed video of the crowd chanting “hang Mike Pence” and a noose set up outside the Capitol building. (Time Magazine)
Shocking evidence from the third hearing on June 16th tracked Trump’s unbridled, very intentional vendetta against Pence and how close Pence came to being attacked and possibly killed by members of the mob.
According to an F.B.I. affidavit the panel highlighted on Thursday, a government informant said that members of the far-right militant group the Proud Boys told him they would have killed Pence “if given the chance.” The rioters on January 6th almost had that chance, coming within forty feet of the Vice-President as he fled to safety. (New Yorker- Susan Glasser column)
How Pence Responded
The third hearing also contained remarkable photographic images from the National Archives of Pence hiding out from the mob at a loading dock under the Capitol with a skeletal staff, doing what Trump should have been doing but was not doing, namely, calling people to get the National Guard to show up to protect Congressional members from harm and getting ahold of people like Mark Meadows to appeal to Trump to call off his MAGA rioters. We see snapshots of Pence taking the presidential role in the absence of a functioning president: sitting on the edge of the car floor– the door of the car open, his cell phone in hand, trying to reach people to end this nightmare, and eventually seeing Trump’s lame video telling the mob how loved and special they were to him and to go home.
We also learned that Pence refused to get into a car with the Secret Service agent he didn’t know, saying to his own close Secret Service agent “Tim, I know you and trust you but you’re not the one behind the wheel.” The takeaway from that momentous comment is that Pence did not trust the Secret Service driver behind the wheel to be loyal to him not Trump. Pence knew Trump. He knew that Trump intended to force his will on him even if that meant kidnapping Pence to get him away from the Capitol against his will. If the driver had taken Pence away from the Capitol, preventing him from returning for the ceremonial counting of the Electoral votes, that would have created the chaos Trump wanted and needed to declare martial law, decertify and overturn the election.
Chaos and Terror Was Trump’s Goal
Trump needed chaos and terror as part of his pressure campaign so that he could use his presidential powers to declare a state of emergency, put the Capitol under military control, and keep working the plot to get the election decertified and overturned. The foreseeable result of Pence’s absence for the ceremonial counting or Pence’s death (or other lawmakers like Pelosi, Schumer or others) would have been mayhem, lawsuits, and street fighting; a constitutional crisis the likes of which we have not seen since the Civil War. Trump wanted that.
It’s one thing to believe you won an election you lost and quite another thing to defy the law and our constitution to try to stay in power. Actions Trump both took and failed to take shed light on his true intent.
Our democracy held by a thread that day, but as Judge Luttig testified in the hearing Trump and his allies are a clear and present danger to our democracy. Pence deserves some credit for doing the right thing in the end when it became clear that Trump was determined to break the back of our democracy to stay in power and would be fine if Pence was offed so long as he, Trump, could stay in power.
Others inside the White House, who were Trump devotees until they realized Trump was pushing a coup to overturn a free and fair election also deserve some credit. They split off from Trump in the end and pushed back against John Eastman, the lawyer who counseled Trump about how he could stay in power if only Pence would play along. John Eastman was the main plotter but he knew better. Eastman knew the plot to overturn the election was just that- a plot built on lies about a stolen election that was not stolen. Others close to Trump on Team Crazy also knew Trump had lost the election and what they were doing was illegal and unconstitutional.
Team Crazy Will Face Consequences
We know that John Eastman knew he broke the law. He took the fifth 100 times before the Committee and asked Rudy Guiliani to put him on the list of people that Trump would pardon. People don’t need pardons unless they have broken the law. Ultimately, Trump did not pardon him. Eastman was a well-respected attorney before he went down the rabbit hole for Trump. Eastman and Guiliani will likely end up in jail.
But most important, Eastman himself was clearly aware that their coup plot was illegal and unconstitutional and said so to others close to Trump. It is unreasonable to think Eastman did not warn Trump of that too. Unlike Nixon, Trump was unwilling to back down, concede he was wrong or leave the scene and still refuses to do that. Worse, Trump and his MAGA followers are ratchetting up violence around the country. The continuing threats of violence coming from the MAGA Republicans in places like Texas and Montana and other GOP strongholds, the continued bullying by the MAGA crowd and the failure to follow the law will, I believe, ultimately force Merrick Garland’s hand. Even if it further riles up gun toting MAGAs, I think Garland will have no choice but to indict Trump to stand up for the rule of law in our country. To fail to do so will be tantamount to conceding that our country is no longer a country ruled by laws. Instead, it can be subjected to the will of a rogue president.
There Might Be More Damning Evidence of Intent Coming
Judge Carter, who was asked to rule on whether John Eastman’s emails must be turned over to the Select Committee, not only required most of those emails to be turned over, he wrote in his opinion that “more likely than not” Eastman and Trump dishonestly conspired to break the law. He called the Eastman plot a “coup in search of a legal theory.” Even though Carter’s language in this opinion comes out of a civil case where documents were turned over, not a criminal case, Judge Carter is expressing an opinion based on a more extensive look at the evidence than we the public have seen or learned about yet. There may be more to come that will make Trump’s corrupt intent even clearer including his infamous phone call to Raffensberger in Georgia asking him to “find” the exact number of votes that would put him over the top in that state.
We know there is more to come from the Select Committee. What could tip the scales further in favor of a DOJ indictment of Trump? More evidence that exposes Trump’s state of mind. What could that be? Let’s speculate.
- Trump failed to act when he was begged for help during the attack on Congress. What did Trump say when he was asked to send help? If he said something like: “I don’t care if I lost, I am going to stay in power.”
- Trump was gleeful, smiling and delighted watching the attack on the Capitol and the crowd yelling “Hang Mike Pence”. Isn’t this as good as hearing him say something like: “I don’t care about the truth, or Pence or anyone else, I am gonna stay president!” We already know he said “maybe the crowd had it right” and Pence “deserved it” which is like saying I am not interested in the truth, I am going to stay in power by forcing Pence to decertify this election.
- Eastman might rat out Trump to get a lesser sentence. If Eastman says “I told Trump this whole scheme was a crock, illegal, and unconstitutional, but if you want to pursue it, I’m your guy.”
- Or if we learn that Trump told the guys he put into Pentagon leadership positions at the last minute (remember that?) that they were to hold back and not respond to calls for help to protect Congress while the mob was attacking, but that they would get the go ahead from him as soon as he declares martial law. That could be good evidence that Trump had pre-planned a coup.
Why the Select Committee Might Have the Goods on Trump Including Evidence of Intent
There is more to come from the Select Committee. We have not yet heard a lot about what Trump said, did, or looked like when he was told he really did lose the election. I would like to know that. That would go to state of mind.
Let’s see what more we learn from the witnesses they have interviewed to see if Trump is toast. My guess is that they may have the goods on Trump including evidence of intent because they seem so confident in their statements about Trump’s culpability. Don’t forget this House investigation has been piloted by former Assistant US Attorneys who understand what is needed to prove up intent.
There is already a mountain of evidence that Trump wanted a coup without regard to the truth about his electoral loss. Bottom line is DOJ will need to indict him in order to reaffirm that our country that believes in the rule of law, not the whims of wannabee dictators. The Department of JUSTICE is all about the rule of law, after all. To fail to indict Trump would be tantamount to saying we are not a country of laws and the president is above the law. That is contrary to everything in our Constitution and our history as a democracy.
In the most recent Ipsos poll close to 6 in 10 Americans already think Trump should be indicted and the January 6th Committee is not done making its case to the American people.