I spent the summer of 1973 watching a good number of hours of the Watergate hearings on TV. It's not so much that I was interested in politics; I wasn't. I had become quite ill following a biology field trip to Mexico during May 1973 and was laid up in the small hospital in Marksville, LA for two weeks with high fever and double pneumonia (it was tularemia). There was a TV in my room, and when I felt well enough to watch something, it seemed the Watergate hearings were on all four of the channels available. So I watched, and got interested, read newspapers and magazines. Too weak to return to USL to resume teaching duties (biology labs, graduate assistantship), I had to spend the summer resting, so I watched way more TV than I usually would have. Somewhere along the way, I became convinced Nixon was guilty, and, indeed, the truth eventually came out. I wondered why he'd been so dumb as to push for the break-in when he was so far ahead in the polls. Years later, it came out that he wondered what kind of dirt the Democrats might have on him. Paranoid man! But in the end, he put the country before himself and resigned the Presidency. He would have been impeached if he hadn't, but he might not have been convicted in the Senate. We'll never know.
Fast forward to January 6, 2021, and the attack on the U.S. Capitol by followers of President Trump. As with Watergate, the question of Presidential culpability is front and center, only all the events leading up to the attack unfolded in broad daylight. Trump was impeached by the House in February 2021, but not enough Senators voted to convict him, many saying that was superfluous since he wasn't President any longer. Conviction would have barred him from holding office again, however.
Following the impeachment trial, Congress entertained the idea of an independent commission to investigate all that led up to the violence on January 6th. It would have been comprised of 5 Democrats and 5 Republicans, with broad investigative powers. Republican leaders killed the idea, saying impeachment had brought things to light and that the Dept. of Justice was also investigating. DOJ was also investigating Watergate, but it was the open, public hearings that informed the public of what had happened and even moved the conscience of John Dean and others to come forward with critical information.
Without an independent commission, the only other recourse for proper congressional oversight and redress was for a select committee from the House or Senate to lead an investigation. Speaker Pelosi of the House of Representatives called for such a committee and asked Republican leader McCarthy to appoint five members while she appointed seven (Democrats are the majority at this time). McCarthy appointed his five, but included two men (Jordan and Banks) who had been mostly pro-Trump disrupters during impeachment and congressional hearings about Jan 6 and, earlier, Trump's shenanigans in Ukraine. Pelosi rejected Jordan and Banks and asked for alternative members; McCarthy angrily withdrew all five. Pelosi then asked Republicans Liz Cheney and Adam Kinsinger to serve -- both strong conservative and supporters of Trump policies! -- and they agreed. This made it a bi-partisan committee, though not ideally so.
The House committee investigating January 6th has broad investigative powers. They can subpoena documents and witnesses, but they cannot convict anyone of a crime. They can recommend actions to the Dept of Justice, and it seems they are doing so.
Thus far, the committee has held eight public hearings, and I've watched them all. This took me back to the old days of Watergate hearings, only these are much more professionally staged, with a wide range of evidence presented, including video clips from the Jan 6 invasion of the Capitol. Opening and closing statements by the committee members are important civics lessons in themselves; several of them are compelling public speakers. As members of the House, they are from the "people's chamber," holding a former President accountable for his corrupt actions.
I have watched all eight hearings and will share below my learnings and reflections on them. There are likely more to come, and I will continue to add comments as needed. Your own comments on this topic are welcomed, but you must be a registered member to share them. You can also post comments via Facebook.
I'm continually surprised by how many don't know what's been discovered so far by the congressional committee investigating the events of January 6, 2021. The public hearings have been well-done, with a preponderance of Republican witnesses, many from Trump's inner circle. Fox News and NewsMax have basically ignored the whole process, but history will record what has been learned.
Here's a good summary of what we now know:
1. Trump heard from many authorities, including his own Attorney General, that there was no election fraud. Dozens of court cases also ruled against his claims that there were such. That he continues to promote this "big lie" is not because he has any supportive evidence, but because he could not accept the truth of his loss, nor cooperate in a peaceful transfer of power. He also knows his staunch supporters will believe anything he tells them.
2. Trump tried to pressure state and local election officials to change vote counts, sometimes implicitly threatening them if they did not do so. Some of these conversations were taped by phone. Fortunately, the officials stood up to him.
3. Having rejected the Electoral College vote on Dec 14, which declared Biden the winner, Trump then tried to replace the acting AG with someone who would have contacted the key states to audit their election accounts. His staff pushed back and he backed down. He also supported states sending alternate slates of Electors to Congress -- illegal.
4. Shortly before Jan 6, Trump tried to pressure VP Pence to refuse to certify the election on January 6. Pence was advised this was illegal, so Trump turned up the heat on Twitter, threatening Pence even as his mob invaded the Capitol. The chant, "Hang Mike Pence," came in response to a Trump Tweet. Protestors shared they would have killed him if they had found him, but Pence narrowly escaped.
5. Trump convened a protest for Jan 6, when Congress was to certify the election results. He called his followers to come, telling them on Twitter "it will be wild." Witness after witness said they understood this to be a summons to come help reverse the election and stand up for American democracy. Recall, the Electoral College had already declared the winner weeks before. The whole gathering on Jan 6 happened because, first and foremost, Trump refused to accept election defeat. The election was officially over on Dec. 14, 2020.
6. At the protest gathering on Jan 6, Trump pushed to allow armed protestors to join the crowd listening to him and march to the Capitol.
7. After his speech, Trump was told that he would not be allowed to go to the Capitol to protest as it was legally too risky. He pitched a fit in the car, and witnesses say he grabbed the steering wheel from the back seat and even throttled the driver. This point needs more corroboration, but somehow Secret Service texts that could shed light on the subject have disappeared. Tssk, tssk.
8. Trump was then taken to the White House, where he watched Fox News coverage of the protest and takeover of the Capitol. For 187 minutes, he refused requests from family, friends, staff and congress to call for more help. When reinforcements requested by Pence began to arrive, he asked his mob to go home.
- Some have falsely reported that Speaker Pelosi refused reinforcements. She is not the Commander-in-Chief. It was Trump who convened the raid, who watched it happen, and who approved of it.
9. In Trump's speech to his mob, telling them to go home, he praised them for their actions, telling them he loved them and they were very special. He also continued to repeat his election fraud "Big Lie," and told them to remember this great day. He had no criticisms of them whatsoever. How different was his response to BLM mobs that rioted after the killing of George Floyd.
10. Since then, Trump has continued to promote his lies about election fraud, and to endorse Republican candidates who agreed with him. Those who don't, he calls RINOs.
- Republican state legislatures have also passed laws stripping election officials of authority to certify elections, and they've made it more difficult for minorities to vote. If these provisions had been in place in 2020, it would have been easier for Trump to thwart the will of the American people. That seems to be the "backup plan" for 2022 and going forward.
A summary link is below, and you can watch the hearings on YouTube. Be informed on this topic, especially as primary season unfolds and we head for 2022 mid-terms. Don't vote for anyone who buys into Trump's election fraud lies. They're telling you they don't plan to accept election results unless they win, and if they don't, Trump has shown them how to try to game the system.
Looking over this list, it's obvious that Trump is guilty of:
1. Lying about election fraud, promoting this lie.
2. Seeking to subvert the will of the people, who chose Biden as our President.
3. Burdening the courts with baseless lawsuits.
4. Pressuring elected official to change vote counts. Calling some by phone, inviting others to D.C. to meet with him personally about this.
5. Failing to cooperate in a peaceful transfer of power, one of the great hallmarks of American democracy.
6. Undermining confidence in American democracy by continually calling our system rigged and unfair -- the most crooked election in history! -- even though there was no evidence of such.
7. Failing to do his job as President during the weeks following the election on November 2, 2020, as he was completely obsessed with overturning the election.
8. Supporting the creation of alternative slates of Electors to present to the Electoral College.
9. Undermining confidence even in America's courts by not accepting their rulings, some of which came down from judges he appointed.
10. Continuing to fire up his base about election fraud even after the Electoral College voted on December 14, 2020 to choose Biden as President. That should have been the end of it.
11. Seeking to corrupt the U.S. Dept. of Justice by planning to appoint an acting AG that would have instructed the states, in late December, to do another audit of their elections.
12. Spreading misinformation via Twitter and in speeches that VP Pence had the authority to refuse the Electoral College results, and should ask states (just a few, mind you, that he lost) to re-audit their election results.
13. Convening a mob to protest Congessional certification of the election on January 6th, promising a wild time -- they knew he wanted action. This was three weeks after the election was over. There was no need for the protest.
14. Taunting Pence during his speech on Jan 6th, then via Twitter during the insurrection.
15. Dereliction of duty -- doing nothing to intervene on the attack. Allowing it to unfold because he approved of it.
These are the actions of a man who completely shirked his Oath of Office and should never again be given any serious consideration as a relevant political force in the United States. Trump is, minimally, a tyrant and a traitor. Just what or how much of what he has done qualifies for legal prosecution is another question, but there's no doubting the moral corruption he has brought to American politics.
The relevance of all this for the future is that Trump's past behavior is predictive of his future strategy.
He emerged from the Jan 6 attack completely unrepentant, expressing no remorse for the dozens of casualties, five deaths, and ongoing trauma of many. He's never even offered condolences.
Hundreds of his supporters were charged with crimes; some are serving prison terms. Trump has nothing to say about any of this! He doesn't believe he did anything wrong; he regards the attackers as patriots, and told them in a Tweet on Jan 6 to "remember this day forever!" Like it's D-Day or something.
Since that time, Trump has catalyzed and supported the emergence of a whole slew of election-denier candidates, some of whom are winning in primaries around the country. If these people lose an election, they cannot be trusted to accept the results and move on, like politicians have done since the time of Washington. Trump has modeled an alternative route using lies, pressure, the courts, and even violence, if need be.
Trump has also emboldened Republican state legislatures to change their election laws, undermining the authority of election officials, reducing the number of drop boxes, making absentee voting more difficult -- in other words: creating hardships for poor and minority voters. In some states, it's illegal to even bring water to people standing in long lines in the hot sun!
Trump has been raising money since Jan 6. I know, as I'm on his mailing lists. I've received over 4,000 emails from him, his kids, and others in his circle during the past 18 months. He never talks about Jan 6, but goes on incessantly (still!) about how he was cheated out of the election, how this ought never happen again, please give him some money. Please, pretty please, with a Big Mac on top!
Why does he need money? Is he running for something?
Well, he never comes right out and says it, but you get the idea that he's sneaking up on an announcement to run for President again.
Or, maybe he's just raising money because he likes money?
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