In a primetime special— live from Capitol Hill— the Jan. 6 Committee wrapped up its first season of hearings with an extravaganza worthy hype on July 21..
During eight hearings, the committee has forever linked former president Donald Trump to the January 6, 2021 coup attempt at the Capitol. As Rep. Liz Cheney (a long-time Trump supporter) said, it wasn’t Trump’s political opponents who nailed him to the wall, but “a series of confessions,” from his own staff that did.
In fact, the entire eight-part production was dominated by Republicans, intent on purging their party of the cancer brought by Donald Trump. Cheney highlighted the seriousness of the effort by saying that Trump engaged in the “most serious misconduct of any president in history,” and declared him unfit for office. She is no RINO. She voted 89 percent of the time with Republicans– but because she snubbed Trump— she will probably lose her bid for re-election this fall.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger agreed with Cheney, and took it a step further at the hearing, outlining with Trump’s former Deputy National Security Adviser Matthew Pottinger about the damage Trump did to American prestige overseas. In a back-and-forth live questioning, Kinzinger and Pottinger outlined how the former President of the United States compromised American ideals and empowered petty autocrats and dictators, both by his actions on Jan. 6, and by refusing to accept “a peaceful transfer of power.”
While Kinzinger also claimed America never went anywhere and is still here today, it is notable that both Kinzinger and Pottinger felt the issue was important enough to hammer home that America’s enemies were unsuccessful in upending our democracy.
The point missed during the last night of hearings is that none of it would have needed to be done if anyone who worked for Trump held him accountable from the outset. No one did. Pottinger and Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Matthews, who testified by Pottinger’s side on July 21, only departed the Trump train after the insurrection. Pottinger stayed for four years, through Trump’s racist rants, his misogyny, his continuous lies and two impeachments. Matthews stayed for less time than Pottinger, and thankfully both of them threw in the towel after Trump abandoned all common-sense and encouraged his followers to storm the capitol over a lie.
But, many of Trump’s followers and staffers tried to collar the Don that day and no one could, until— according to testimony from former staffer Cassidy Hutchinson— a Secret Service agent refused to drive the president to the Capitol so he could lead the riot.
Testimony from several independent witnesses, and a tweet from the President himself regarding Vice President Mike Pence, leaves little doubt Trump would’ve been fine with the mob hanging Pence and stopping the certification of an election Trump clearly lost. Trump knew the crowd had weapons, but didn’t care because they weren’t coming after him. He appeared on the ellipse and shouted “Fight fight fight,” like a cheerleader to the crowd as he whipped them into a frenzy and promised to walk with them to the Capitol.
The eight days of hearings has proven conclusively that Cheney is right about Trump. It’s a truth we would’ve known for a long time if we listened and watched with disinterested yet curious eyes during the Trump administration instead of either callow or fawning eyes.
Trump never acted to quell the violence on Jan. 6. He sat and watched it with glee from his private dining room in the West Wing. He ignored all requests to come to the Brady Briefing Room and denounce the violence. I, and dozens of other reporters, requested this for hours. He did nothing for 187 minutes. When he finally tweeted anything out it was “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.” That pronouncement only incited violence— though it also provoked Pottinger and Matthews to finally resign.
What we were left with after the hearings was an overwhelming sense of dread and one key question left to be answered: Will anyone face criminal charges for what occurred on Jan. 6?
That question won’t be answered by those who conducted the hearing. Congressional oversight can only go so far. While it is important— and the hearings have certainly established a narrative anyone can follow— they cannot directly lead to any indictments of anyone who was involved with the insurrection.
For that, the Department of Justice and Attorney General Merrick Garland must act. There are many who are critical of Garland and say he is dragging his feet, but former federal prosecutor Michael Zeldin explained that those who are critical of Garland— including other former federal prosecutors— do not understand Garland’s methodical nature, nor the challenges the investigation he is conducting face.
Garland echoed those sentiments recently when he laid it out.
“This is the most wide-ranging investigation and the most important investigation that the Justice Department has ever entered into, and we have done so because this effort to upend a legitimate election transferring power from one administration to another cuts at the fundamental of American democracy. We have to get this right,” Garland told the Washington Post.
Making a case in the court of public opinion is important for the Democrats and Republicans who wish to salvage the ideals of the American experiment in self-government. That is why the hearings have been critical— to open eyes. Remember on Sept. 23, 2020— six weeks before the election— President Donald Trump told me in the White House briefing room that he wouldn’t necessarily respect a peaceful transfer of power. He made history that day— being the first president ever to publicly snub his nose at the very thing that has amazed and endeared the American experiment to people all over the world— peacefully transferring power.
But outside of politics, we are a nation of laws— not a nation of mob sentiment. Garland is right and must “get this right” to protect the sanctity of law. If it takes more time than we’d like, then so be it.
As long as the reckoning is coming.