January 6 insurrection hearings offer Trump two alternatives — both are horrific for the US
Despite mounting evidence, Donald Trump hints he wants his day in court regarding the January 6 Select Committee’s hearings. Maybe they should invite him to testify, but only under oath. That could clear up whether he was delusional or a cynical purveyor of dangerous fantasies. Either way, he should not be allowed to get away again with running for president.
Following several days of live testimony, gripping video inserts and vivid graphics, as well as sombre comments by the congressional members of the select committee investigating the events of 6 January (testimony is supposed to resume this week from Tuesday), it should already be clear to any sentient being that only one of two alternatives for Donald Trump’s behaviour is possible — as long as the laws of physics and biology continue to hold.
Either way, both have horrific consequences for the nation.
Alternative A is that then president Donald Trump was truly convinced there actually was a massive conspiracy to steal the election from his anointed self and in favour of then former vice-president Joe Biden.
Those machinations included the willing connivance of the dead president of Venezuela, depredations by voting machine manufacturers, mysterious computer programmers operating secret, deeply industrious ballot stuffers working 24/7 across multiple states, commands from secret Italian weather satellites, and a ragtag brigade of other co-conspirators (including some faithless Republican officials in key states) — all of them determined to deliver an apocalyptic Democratic Party victory in November 2020.
And, of course, if they were not stopped, they would engage themselves further in stealing the upcoming mid-term election as well, furthering future depredations by the Biden administration on freedom, liberty, the economy, gun ownership and multiple other fronts.
If Trump truly held (and still holds) such views — and if numbers of his sleazy crew were right there with him, such as the (inebriated on election night) ex-New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and the potentially seditious Chapman University law professor John Eastwood (who was preemptively about to ask for a pardon) — it would be prima facie evidence that Donald Trump was seriously delusional.
Some 60-plus court cases and reams of testimony and mountains of documentation later, no proof of any such fabrications has ever come to light. Logically enough, it is because no such proof exists in the real world.
In fact, as the testimony in the select committee grinds on, it is increasingly clear that a majority of Trumpian advisers — including his special assistant daughter and Attorney General Bill Barr, weren’t buying into the president’s imaginary sand castle.
Moreover, the then vice-president’s senior staffers (and a highly reputed retired federal judge who has been held in high regard for decades by conservatives) have all testified that vice-president Mike Pence held no constitutional powers to arbitrarily cast out duly cast electoral votes of key states in order to overturn the voters’ verdict.
Such an effort would represent the illegal, unethical and unconstitutional imposition of one man’s vision in place of the choices made by millions of voters.
Nevertheless, this delusion has now deeply infected several million people, including those who engaged in a civil insurrection, egged on by the president’s exhortations, others’ words on social media, and the agitprop on Fox News.
It is testimony to the power of such a myth over the less exciting, mundane reality, and the desire of some to believe in such myths despite the lack of any evidence. Perhaps it stems from their need to fill the voids in their own inner universes.
Regardless, in this case, purely on the basis of Trump’s inability to discriminate between fact and fairy tale, he should have been disqualified for a second term of office — either in 2020 or, God help us, in 2024.
The second version, alternative B, is that Donald Trump didn’t believe in this bizarre tale either, but that he simply carried on swimming deeper into the denialism of his publicly espoused alternative reality in order to hold on to the presidency by fiat — or force.
But, of course, he could only do that if Mike Pence would metaphorically hold his nose, obsequiously tug his forelock, do the bidding of his president, traduce several hundred years of constitutional precedents and practice, and then ignore the advice of every one of his staffers to whom he turned in extremis — even including a former Republican vice-president, Dan Quayle, who told him outright the vice-president has no such power.
Accordingly, from that stance of simple probity and “doing one’s job properly”, Pence is being lauded by some (presumably by people so wounded by four years of rampant Trumpism) as a man of virtue and constitutional principles, and he is being applauded for his fortitude in withstanding the threats and blandishments of his president.
‘Hang Mike Pence’
But much more ominously, on that day, the vice-president was actually within 10 metres of likely personal violence directed at him, and rather directly incited by the president, by a mob of insurrectionists as they stormed the Capitol.
Those rioters had been loudly chanting, “Hang Mike Pence,” and some had actually constructed a symbolic gallows on the grounds of the Capitol Building — once they had been unleashed by the president to do their damnedest to prevent certification of Joe Biden’s electoral victory.
In the end, only after the mob had been cleared from the building by force (and with casualties among police and rioters), was Pence able to continue the interrupted electoral vote tally to its inevitable and legitimate conclusion.
Pence’s reward for doing his job has been for him to become virtually persona non grata at Republican gatherings (a party he has been an energetic, right-wing spear-bearer for, over decades).
Moreover, so far at least, more than a hundred vociferous election deniers have been successful in a variety of Republican primary election contests across the nation. The net result has been the turning of that party into even more of a cult than a serious political effort carried out by coherent adults than ever before.
But if this has purely been a strategic decision on the part of Donald Trump to pursue this delusion in spite of the advice from many of his senior advisers and aides, but with the actual knowledge it was nothing more than a tissue of lies and fantasies, then this may even have been worse than his actually believing in his delusion.
As The Economist argued, explaining Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney’s statement at the hearings, “Mr Trump made no effort to defend the Capitol. When his advisers pleaded with him to call off the rioters, he angrily refused. The insurrection, Ms Cheney suggested, was not an unfortunate culmination of his lies; rather it represented his last throw of the dice in a ‘sophisticated seven-part plan to overturn the presidential election and prevent the transfer of presidential power’.
“She [Cheney] promised that the six ensuing hearings this month would examine each of those seven parts. They are, first, Mr Trump’s effort to spread misinformation about an election he had lost; second, his scheme to replace the acting attorney-general and suborn the Justice Department; third, his leaning on the vice-president, Mike Pence, to illegally refuse to certify the electoral vote; fourth, his effort to make state election officials and legislators change their vote-counts; fifth, a scheme executed by his lawyers to persuade Republican state legislators to create false electoral slates and report them to Congress; and sixth and seventh, his summoning of the Maga mob and refusal to act as it tore up the Capitol.”
Cheney’s standing among many Republicans has been fatally compromised, given her unwillingness to cut the former president any slack for his behaviour.
With this second alternative, here, then, was a president deliberately packaging a massive fraud upon susceptible citizens, along with the willing connivance of several advisers, and conspiracy rabble-rousers, eager for self-aggrandisement, and with Fox News and with certain popular social media outlets — all in the furtherance of what must be labelled an attempted coup and sedition.
Six months ago, the Washington Post reported on some of the first legal steps in dealing with the rioters at the Capitol: “In a critical step forward in the investigation of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, the Justice Department arrested and charged 11 members and associates of the far-right organization the Oath Keepers — including its founder, Stewart Rhodes — with seditious conspiracy.
“The charges mark the first time prosecutors have filed sedition charges in connection with the attack. Members of the Oath Keepers were among the rioters that entered the Capitol that day.
“Rhodes — a disbarred lawyer — was arrested Thursday morning in Texas. A 48-page indictment from the Justice Department says he conspired with his co-defendants on a ‘plot to oppose by force the 2020 lawful transfer of presidential power’.
“The charge is defined in the federal criminal code, Section 2384, as an effort by two or more to ‘conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both’.”
If the president actually did encourage the rioters, as opposed to believing in his delusions, then, rather than the need for some serious psychiatric help, the proper recourse by Attorney General Merrick Garland and the many attorneys in the justice department should be to begin preparing documents for charges of seditious conspiracy to be tried in the appropriate federal court against those who egged on the president in this effort — and likely, the president as well.
State of the nation
Unfortunately, such is the state of the nation, with millions of people still tightly embracing that charade of the stolen election, action by federal prosecutors along that line would almost certainly trigger further rounds of violent protest — or worse — by those who still want to believe the myth.
And who knows where that would end up — such is the state of feverish anxiety and anger among too many citizens these days.
For too many, this myth now also draws power from difficult economic issues such as current general price inflation and petrol prices in particular.
Such people are somehow convinced a second Trump administration would have magically banished all the ills confronting the US — both foreign and domestic — simply by the sheer force of Trump’s rhetorical sleight of hand.
The world is more complicated than that — and much more complex and difficult to deal with than with bombastic sophistries from the former president. DM
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