The eighth hearing in the House of Representatives investigation into the plot to overturn the 2020 presidential election was stunning. In it, a picture of the then-president refusing to act, knowing full well that an armed mob of thousands was attacking one of our country’s three ultimate centers of government authority. What became clear in last Thursday’s select committee hearing was that, while everyone around Donald J. Trump wanted him to urge the mob to leave the Capitol, he would not do so. Instead, he spent nearly three hours watching television in the White House and continuing his outrageous effort to delay or halt the Electoral College vote count. Among those close to Mr. Trump who pleaded with him were Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham; former White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney; Eric Herschmann and Pat Cipollone, top White House lawyers; Dan Scavino; chief of staff Mark Meadows; Donald J. Trump Jr., and Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner. The president also did not reach out to law enforcement or the Pentagon for help.
Mr. Trump, as Americans learned from previous hearing testimony, was entirely aware that his supporters in the streets of Washington carried weapons. Cassidy Hutchinson, who had been Mr. Meadows’s top aide, testified that the president said, “They are not here to hurt me,” in the leadup to the Jan. 6 rally that preceded his supporters’ hunt for lawmakers and the vice president. We also learned more about the minutes following the rally, when the president raged at the Secret Service personnel protecting him, who would not take him to the Capitol to interfere directly with the proceedings.
Also damning are the gaps in the historical record that the select committee described. According to the official presidential phone logs, he made or received not a single call between 11:06 a.m. and 6:54 p.m. And yet, investigators know from other sources that he had spoken to other participants in the plan through other means. As Representative Elaine Luria, a member of the committee said, “As to what the President was doing that afternoon, the Presidential Daily Diary is also silent. It contains no information from the period between 1:21 p.m. and 4:03 p.m. There are also no photos of President Trump during this critical period between 1:21 in the Oval Office and when he went outside to the Rose Garden after 4.”
Now, this week, information about a Justice Department criminal probe into the president’s effort to remain in power is coming into focus. A grand jury is hearing testimony from multiple witnesses about the scheme to substitute Trump allies for certified electors from some states Joe Biden won. There have been search warrants in several states and subpoenas for records.
Prosecutors’ interest extends back to at least December 2020, when Mr. Trump’s outside lawyers, including John Eastman, Cleta Mitchell, and Rudy Giuliani, began working actively on his behalf. The Justice Department has already charged more than 840 people who, it said, were part of the assault on the Capitol. Now it appears to be working its way closer to those, including the then-president, who, as Representative Liz Cheney said last week, took advantage of his supporters’ patriotism. Ms. Cheney, who may well lose her seat in Congress as a result of her role on the select committee, posed a final question last Thursday: “Every American must consider this: Can a president who is willing to make the choices Donald Trump made during the violence of January 6 ever be trusted with any position of authority in our great nation again?”
The answer is no. No one is above the law.