House Committee investigations into the January 6 attack never promised a quiet summer, but when hearings began a month ago, it looked like it could be quiet summer. Many of what was expected to be the biggest revelations were leaked before the hearings began, and the six to eight scheduled public sessions, expected to be only about two hours long each, showed modest ambition, especially compared to the 1973 Watergate hearings. years that stretched out over 237 hours, or even the much less important 2015 Republican-led Benghazi hearings in which only Hillary Clinton testified publicly for 11 hours.
But then the hearings began, and with it an emotional and tense multimedia roller coaster artfully crafted by former ABC News executive James Goldston to mimic a prestigious television series in which each “episode” reveals deeper twists and more corruption and outrage. . Rep. Liz Cheney and surprise witness Cassidy Hutchinson, aide to former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, were the hottest TV stars of the summer.
The testimonies so far have proven far more compelling, damning, and damaging to the reputation of former President Trump than almost anyone could have imagined. The committee clearly has the product and understands how to package it for maximum effect. The committee is preparing to return after a short summer break and hold two more hearings this week, one on Tuesday and another on Thursday, which will be its second prime time hearing.
For 18 months, the chaotic construction of the Trump administration until January 6 has been seeped into news reports, documentaries and government documents, giving the public a glimpse of the extent of wrongdoing and damage done to American democracy. But events seemed similar to what the country (and the world) had experienced during Trump’s four years in office – a tumultuous and noisy succession of incautious and haphazard statements, ill-advised tweets, hasty political decisions, and reckless bluster.
Now the country can see differently: Trump’s madness had its own system. Events during the 10 weeks from early November to January 6 were much more organized and sinister than previously thought.
Most importantly, evidence of crime and criminality proved inevitable.
Actually it seems to have been many crimes in the days and weeks leading up to the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, and Trump aides seemed clear on the prospect of criminal retribution. Like Hutchinson told White House attorney Pat Cipollone tells her, “We will be charged with every conceivable crime if we [let the President go to the Capitol on 1/6.]”
Overall, the committee painted a much more organized and coherent picture of the administration’s efforts than anyone could have imagined. Hearing revealed coordinated seven-part effort The Trump White House — and the President personally — will use as weapons all the public, political, and government tools at its disposal to hold on to power in the face of a clear and conclusive electoral defeat. He and a small group of loyal aides tried to undermine the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s victory, urged states to overturn the actual election results, tried to infiltrate election-doubting supporters into the Justice Department, and constantly pressured Vice President Mike Pence to resign. his constitutional role and to reject Electoral College certification. And then—when literally everything else failed—Trump called on his supporters to flock to the Capitol and then stood by—taking no action to stop the uprising—while they rampaged through the building and came close to harming Pence and lawmakers.
Trump knew what he was doing, his aides repeatedly and broadly said that it was wrong, and still continued his campaign of pressure. January 6 was not a spontaneous riot; it was the last attempt at a coup d’état, which until then had failed at every turn. And the fact that so many participants, from members of Congress to, according to Hutchinson, the head of the White House Mark Meadows himself apparently sought a presidential pardon for his actions in the final days of the Trump administration to clarify what prosecutors are calling “mens rea,” the guilty mind. In the 18 months since the events at the Capitol, the Justice Department has filed charges against more than 800 people involved in the Capitol riots, including outright allegations of a “rebellious conspiracy” against some members of white nationalist militias such as the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, who should rise to prominence. seat at a congressional hearing this week. It is certain that none of those who have yet been indicted were members of Trump’s inner circle.
That may change soon—and American democracy, in fact, may well depend on it changing.
While the chairman, Representative Benny Thompson, and Vice Chairman Cheney argue that their goal is only to provide a comprehensive account of the events around January 6, the outlines of a whole series of criminal acts are now clear. technical crimes may seem somewhat obscure—electronic fraud, theft of honest services, defrauding the United States, obstruction of justice, obstruction of the official business of Congress—but the pattern of facts seems to be getting clearer. Moreover, the White House hearings pressure on elected officials in the state of Georgia has again drawn attention to the possibility that, even if the US Department of Justice is inactive, public prosecutors may well decide that Donald Trump committed electoral crimes there.
However, the biggest shift in the national landscape since the January 6 committee appears to still be ahead.
It’s also worth remembering how much the political and factual landscape can change during hearings like this: the biggest revelation of the Watergate hearings is that Nixon installed a recording system in the White House that would capture all key conspiracy talk and shut down -up-not appeared until mid-July 1973, a few weeks after Senator Sam Erwin’s Watergate Select Committee hearing.
Perhaps in a similar vein, there is a growing sense that the blockbuster nature of the January 6 hearings — and the testimony received so far — itself calls for further cooperation and testimony. For example, Hutchinson, who was long represented by a lawyer paid by Trump, changed lawyers midway through and began cooperation. On Friday, Cipollone, who also resisted testifying, met with committee investigators. almost eight hours. And the Department of Justice announced Monday’s court hearing said one of Trump’s lawyers interviewed the FBI as part of Steve Bannon’s criminal contempt trial, evidence that could have wide-ranging implications and in itself encourage new targets to cooperate. (As part of that statement, the Justice Department rejected Bannon’s public statement that he was willing to cooperate with the committee as insinceresaying: “The only thing that has really changed since he refused to comply with the subpoena in October 2021 is that he will finally face the consequences of his decision to default.”)
Prosecutors are well aware of this phenomenon: as evidence of crimes accumulates, cooperation between conspirators often expands. Conspiracies crumble as evidence accumulates, and with it so does personal legal and criminal danger. John Dean, a former White House adviser who initially helped plan the Watergate cover-up before serving as a state witness, became a star witness only after he realized just how—and how openly—he was involved in obstruction of justice.
Other Trump aides appear to be listening to the Jan. 6 hearing and making their own calculations as the committee reconvenes this week for two more hearings. Surely many of them will be unpleasant what they will hear in the coming hours and days.
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