This former prosecutor has never seen a tighter, more riveting presentation of evidence than the one the House Select Committee investigating January 6 put on television yesterday.
Many who watched last Thursday’s prime time hearing might have thought it an impossible act to follow. They were wrong. Don’t be surprised if the same is true of hearings coming this Wednesday and Thursday. The subjects are Trump’s relentless pressure on his Justice Department and Vice President Pence to join his criminal conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election.
The focus yesterday was on Trump’s Big Lie—his false claim that widespread voter fraud cost him the election. It didn’t, and the evidence yesterday showed that he knew it.
It’s not only that for Trump, being a loser is intolerable to his fragile ego. It’s also that he knows that the road to his ultimate goal—destroying democracy and claiming dictatorial power—is paved by the Big Lie.
There are three, future-oriented questions that the committee’s compelling presentation poses to all Americans:
- Do we choose to live in a fact-based world?
- Do we recognize the danger that Trump’s continuing Big Lie poses to our ability to choose our own leaders—those who can protect our kitchen tables, our families’ health, and our liberty?
- And if we do, will we demand accountability for those whose misdeeds still threaten us?
Trump and his Big Lie remain, as Committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) put it, a “clear and present danger.” The false claims of voter fraud are the rocket fuel upon which Republican-controlled legislatures across the country have launched their voter suppression measures and their legislation grabbing partisan control over local election offices.
Then there is the companion danger coming from “election-denying” Republican nominees for state offices such as secretary of state. If elected, these demagogues can declare victory for “their” candidates whatever the vote.
As Yale historian Timothy Snyder has written, “A failed coup is practice for a successful one.” Coups may succeed without violence through the power to overturn the vote, and Republicans are laying a foundation to do just that.
There has been a central theme to the evidence that has made the committee’s presentation irrefutable for those who inhabit the fact-based world. The testimony came from his allies, people who would have been eager to validate election fraud claims if there were a scintilla of proof for them.
Thus, with poetic irony, the Committee turned the tables on those on the right who falsely say its hearings are not bipartisan. Through two sessions, every witness whose party affiliation is known has been a Republican. The cumulative effect was overwhelming.
Validating Trump Attorney General Barr’s Thursday testimony that he told Trump that his claims of widespread voter fraud were “bullshit,” Barr’s successor, Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen testified that whenever Trump raised claims of fraud that he had heard, Rosen was able to tell Trump that the DOJ had investigated and found each claim false.
Tellingly, per Rosen, Trump never disagreed.
Trump Deputy White House Counsel Eric Hershman described the fraud claims as “nuts.” And when Trump’s outside lawyer, John Eastman, tested his legal theories on Hershman, he responded, “Are you out of your eff-ing mind?”
Bjay Pak, Trump’s US Attorney in Georgia called flat-out “false” Rudolph Giuliani’s allegations of ballot stuffing in Atlanta.
Chris Stirewalt, whose team at Fox News Digital Politics, was first to call the Arizona election for Joe Biden, not only testified that he was proud of being first; he also testified that “you would be better off to play Powerball” than to have bet in mid-November on Trump winning the national election via election recounts.
For a prosecutor, one piece of Bill Barr’s new testimony Monday stood out. He testified that Trump never indicated “any interest in the actual facts.” Actual facts are of no concern to candidates who know that they lost and are looking to stay in power anyway.
Even before the election, Trump knew he would likely lose. Trump’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, testified that in the summer of 2020, he and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy pleaded with Trump to encourage voting by mail because it would help his cause. Trump refused. Denigrating mail-in ballots—rather than improving prospects of winning—matters a lot to autocrats who don’t believe that they can win fairly.
If we want to live in a fact-based world, if we see the jeopardy to our future if we let that world slip, there is time to ensure accountability. It will come by demanding it and by voting and working for candidates who support the truth. That is how we keep the control of our lives that goes with our votes.