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January 6: Pay Attention

Thu, 07/21/2022 - 11:40

Editorial

There is no doubt at this point that former President Donald J. Trump knew that there would be violence at the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. The House select committee that has been looking into that day and what led up to it has presented a string of mostly Republican witnesses as well as documentary evidence that have made clear that Mr. Trump was part of a conspiracy to overthrow the results of the 2020 election.

In the words of one of the leading co-conspirators the day before the attack on Congress, Steve Bannon told his podcast audience, “All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. Just understand this. All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. It’s gonna be moving. It’s gonna be quick.” Mr. Bannon had spoken by phone to the president twice on Jan. 5, 2021, but the planning for that day began far earlier — well before Election Day with the president’s fabricated claims that the vote would be “stolen” amid “massive fraud.”

A timeline presented by the House committee noted that Rudy Giuliani and others encouraged the president — regardless of the outcome — to simply declare victory anyway. The committee demonstrated in detail that his own attorney general, William Barr, had explained to Mr. Trump in the fall that he had legitimately lost and that Joe Biden would be the next president of the United States. After numerous courts rejected some on the Trump team’s blizzard of false election claims, they turned to a plot to attempt to undermine the process by which state-by-state electors were selected. At about the same time, the Jan. 6 committee witnesses said, Mr. Trump tried to get the Justice Department to seize voting machines. There was even a draft executive order dated Dec. 16, 2020, that would have directed the military to step in when the Justice Department refused.

Fake electors organized by the Trump backers met in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Nevada, and Wisconsin; the Georgia attorney general this week indicated that 11 individuals in her state were the target of a grand jury investigation. Georgia is also where Mr. Trump unsuccessfully pressured Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger “to find 11,780 votes” to reverse the election results. This, too, is the subject of a criminal probe.

After Mr. Barr finally had too much and quit in December, Mr. Trump told his replacement, “What I’m asking you to do is, just say it was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen.” This takes us, reluctantly, to Lee Zeldin, eastern Long Island’s member of the House of Representatives who now hopes to be elected as governor of New York. Mr. Zeldin was a part of the Trump plot, if peripherally, delivering a floor speech on Jan. 6 seeking to reject poll results in Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, then voting to overturn the 2020 election. If Mr. Zeldin accepts what he said as true, then he is a very stupid man; we do not believe that he is a very stupid man.

Perhaps the most horrifying revelation from the committee witnesses was that Mr. Trump knew the protesters gathering in Washington on Jan. 6 were armed, but that he desperately wanted them to be allowed past metal detectors. In her testimony, Cassidy Hutchinson, the aide to the president’s chief of staff, told the congressional investigators Mr. Trump said, “ ‘You know, I don’t effing care that they have weapons,’ ” going on, “ ‘They’re not here to hurt me. Take the effing [magnetometers] away. Let my people in.’ ”

The committee has also detailed how Mr. Trump has attempted to influence witnesses, including Ms. Hutchinson. Today, the committee is to outline how the president failed to respond publicly to the Jan. 6 attack for more than three hours, as some members of the mob that he whipped up searched the Capitol for Vice President Mike Pence, whom they apparently hoped to hang at the president’s clear instigation.

The Republican Party, to this day, seems okay with this, having refused to vote to convict Mr. Trump at his impeachment trial and showing no interest in opposing his participating in the 2024 presidential primaries. This is addiction to power for power’s sake and what the American system was created to prevent. The G.O.P.’s willingness to subvert democracy in the face of all reason and evidence is a national crisis of almost unprecedented importance. We owe it to our country to halt the right’s fast descent into authoritarianism. Truly paying attention to the Jan. 6 committee hearings is one way to begin to do just that.


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