Bob Sheak, July 28, 2021
In this post, I focus on how the con man Trump and his Republican followers have advanced the falsehood that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from the former president, how Trump refused to concede the election and incited the Jan. 6 insurrection on the U.S. Capitol, how the Republican Party has by and large supported Trump’s “big lie,” and how Democrats have pushed ahead to form a quasi-bipartisan investigation of the insurrection, despite Republican efforts to sabotage and divert public attention away from the investigation.
As it stands now, on July 29, 2021, the efforts to delegitimize the Biden presidency are just one reflection of innumerable efforts by Trump and Republicans to undermine democracy, with the goals of creating a Republican-dominated state resting on voter suppression, gerrymandering, and corruption of the state-level election systems.
Their agenda is an amalgam of goals. They support right-wing, neoliberal economic policies, downplay the need for government to address the pandemic, reject the pressing need to phase out fossil fuels in responding to the growing climate crisis, support only minimal and inadequate measures on infrastructure, all the while catering to Trump and his base of white supremacists, gun advocates, far-right Christian evangelicals, anti-reproductive rights proponents, and anti-immigrant groups that want the U.S. walled off from all but a selected few who want sanctuary in the country.
If Trump, the Republicans, and their allies are successful, they will be in a position in 2022 and 2024 to double-down on their anti-democratic agenda and, in short order, take the country toward a virtual one-party state with an autocratic president and where they make up their own “facts.”
In the meantime, getting back to the focus of this post, they want to resist and sabotage any genuine investigation of the Jan. 6 insurrection that would document their complicity.
Trump the liar and inciter in chief
The Washington Post’s fact checkers, Glenn Kessler, Salvador Rizzo and Meg Kelly, “counted a total of 30,573 false or misleading claims made by President Trump during his White House tenure (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/01/24/trumps-false-or-misleading-claims-total-30573-over-four-years).
The lies and misleading claims increased over time. “When The Washington Post Fact Checker team first started cataloguing President Donald Trump’s false or misleading claims, [they] recorded 492 suspect claims in the first 100 days of his presidency. On Nov. 2 alone, the day before the 2020 vote, Trump made 503 false or misleading claims as he barnstormed across the country in a desperate effort to win reelection…. By the end of his term, Trump had accumulated 30,573 untruths during his presidency.” — averaging about 21 erroneous claims a day.” The full data are available at the Trump claims database website.
Barbara A. Res worked directly with Trump for eighteen years on some of his biggest projects and had nearly unlimited access to him. In her book, Tower of Lies: What My 18 Years of Working With Donald Trump Reveals About Him (2020), she writes: “Anger is the underlying reason for many of Trump’s actions as president and almost all of his tweets. Anyone who has watched a Trump tantrum firsthand understands the tweets – the all caps, the exclamation points, the swinging from topic to topic – as his rage in text form. Twitter was built in a lab for Donald: As a coward, he needs to lob attacks safely from his couch. As a liar, he needs to spread falsehoods on a massive scale. As an impulsive person, he needs to not have to explain or answer for his words” (pp. 232-233).
Of course, we now know that Trump was permanently banned from using Twitter on January 8, 2021. NBC’s Haley Messenger reported: “Twitter was the first social media platform to take permanent action against Trump following the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, after applying an initial 12-hour suspension” (https://www.nbcnews.com/business/business-news/twitter-uphold-permanent-ban-against-trump-even-if-he-were-n1257269).
The company did so “due to the risk of further incitement of violence,” the company announced in a blog post on Jan. 8.” Twitter CFO Ned Segal told CNBC: “Our policies are designed to make sure that people are not inciting violence.” Snapchat also permanently banned Trump.
Shannon Bond reports that Facebook suspended former President Donald Trump’s for two years and says it will only reinstate him “if the risk to public safety has receded.” This is the maximum penalty under the company’s rules, and extends until at least January 7, 2023. (https://npr/06/04/1003284948/trump-suspended-from-facebook-for-2-years).
From the election to the insurrection
Michael Wolff has written three books on Trump’s presidency, all based on his access to the White House. The publisher writes: “Wolff embedded himself in the White House in 2017 and gave us a vivid picture of the chaos that has descended on Washington.” Wolff informs us that, in doing the research for the books, he had close contact “with almost every phase of the Trump White House and nearly every member of the revolving cast of characters around him,” including “a great many of them in the West Wing, the campaign, and in the greater Republican Party” (xvi).
In his newest book, Landslide: The Final Days of the Trump Presidency, Wolff describes how Trump and his cohorts behaved in the 77 days from election day on November 4, 2020, through January 6, the day the rioters attacked the Capitol in Washington, D.C. (p. xiii-xiv).
On his throne
“…Wolff finds the Oval Office now even more chaotic and bizarre” than it was at the onset of Trump’s presidency He describes how a typical day goes, writing:
“All times of the day, Trump behind the Resolute desk, is surrounded by schemers and unqualified sycophants who spoon-feed him the ‘alternative facts’ he hungers to hear – about COVID-19, Black Lives Matter protests, and most of all, his chance of winning reelection.”
A maliciously narcissistic con man
Wolff describes Trump’s approach to policy and to people as resting on a “binary logic: he liked something or he didn’t like something; someone liked him or didn’t like him; it was good for him, or it was bad for him; he knew what he knew and had no idea or interest in what he didn’t know.” If he didn’t like the person or source, he would attack, smear, and/or dismiss them.
Then there was Trump’s “emotional intelligence” as being “all about performance. He was a circus barker, the ultimate promoter personality, mass rather than class, with a genius sense of how to satisfy his audience. He was an actor playing Trump the character, doing what he thought that character would do, what would most appeal to the character’s audience – what would get ratings” (p. 148).
The Big Lie
The big lie that the 2020 presidential election had been stolen from him originated in a meeting in the Oval Office on November 11, according to Wolff. Among those present, Rudy Giuliani, the most prominent of Trump’s lawyers, proposed “both a systematic legal challenge to millions of ballots…and a pitch directly to the bodies that, in his view, had the power to vacate the election: the individual state legislatures.” Wolff continues:
“What was most stunning to the others in the room was that Rudy and the president clearly believed it would work: an American presidential election, otherwise orderly and without serious complaint from any overseeing authority or governing body, one where the margin of victory between winner and loser appeared substantial and where few (if any) experts were disrupting the underlying analytics, could be vacated and the purported winner replaced by the purported loser” (p. 101).
Failed attempts to overturn the election
Challenging the election results
Trump and his cohorts launched a campaign “to convince state legislatures to refuse to certify the election results. Instead of sending Biden’s electoral votes to the Electoral College, Trump-supporting legislatures would decertify Biden electors and send Trump electors” (p. 102). No state decertified Biden’s election.
They also questioned the election results in other ways. For example, Trump tweeted on November 11 that Dominion, a manufacturer of voting machines, had “DELETED 2.7 MILLION TRUMP VOTES NATIONWIDE” (P. 103). The result: “none of the targeted state bodies was willing to convene a formal hearing” to consider such a charge (p. 131).
Pence refused to go along
Vice President Mike Pence refused Trump’s demand that he reject the electors selected by the various state election officials. On this point, Pence reiterated his position on a number of occasions and repeated on January 5 that “the overwhelming opinion of those constitutional experts he had consulted” said “the Constitution did not give him the authority to do what the president thought he could do” (p. 211).
Going to the courts
Giuliani drummed up another “strategic path” to victory, that is, “federal courts acting under Article II of the Constitution, which gives the power of regulating each state’s elections to the state legislature (and only to the state legislature, which now became the Trump legal team’s rallying cry) would throw out millions of votes where decisions had been made by election officials instead of state legislators” (p. 122). No court went along with this appeal. Wolff writes: “More than fifty separate lawsuits had collapsed by early December” (p. 147). Moreover, the Supreme Court rejected the Trump lawsuits to change the election outcomes in Texas and other states. Wolff adds: “The idea that one state or group of states could object to how another state conducted its elections did not even merit an argument before the court” (p. 158)
Trump ignores the evidence and perpetuates the big lie
Nonetheless, Trump’s pitch continued. Wolff quotes him. “People have got to know this was stolen. This was taken from us. It was originated. It wasn’t even a close election. It was a landslide. A landslide – and it was taken. This is what people have to understand – it was a landslide (p. 116). At the same time, key members of the administration departed. For example, “On December 1, Attorney General Bill Barr quite formally checked out of the Team’s circle, announcing that the Justice Department had found no evidence of widespread election fraud” (p. 136).
Trump’s loyal Republican followers embrace the big lie
Wolff refers to a poll taken on May 2021 “showing 67 percent of Republicans were of the view that Joe Biden was not the legitimate winner of the 2020 presidential election” (xv).
In an article for Morning Consult on June 28, 2021, Eli Yokley reports on another poll that documents a widening partisan divide over the “culpability, motivation and severity of Capitol attack” (https://morningconsult.com/2021/06/28/capitol-riots-six-months-later-polling).
Since the first Morning Consult/Politico poll, conducted Jan. 6-7, the share of Republican voters who said Trump was at least somewhat responsible for the events that led to the Capitol attack fell 11 percentage points, to 30 percent, while the share who said the same of Republicans in Congress fell by a similar share, to 22 percent, in the June 18-20 survey. Both surveys were conducted among roughly 2,000 registered voters, with 2-point margins of error.” In contrast, 63 percent of “all voters” blamed Trump in the in the January poll and 61 percent did so in the June poll.
Yokley summarizes: “Since the aftermath of Jan. 6 and Trump’s second impeachment trial, his popularity has improved among the GOP voters nationwide, Republican candidates for the midterms have flocked to his properties in search of his endorsement and GOP leaders’ expressions of disapproval about his behavior following his loss to Biden have given way to efforts by some lower-level Republican lawmakers and influencers to downplay the Capitol attack.”
The corporate facilitators
Kenny Stancil offers an example of how some “big corporations” say one thing and do another, but in the end, it’s their bottom line that is determinative. In this case, there were corporations that publicly decried Georgia voter suppression law while simultaneously donating to its key backers (https://commondreams.org/news2021/07/22/big-corporations-decried-georgia-voter-suppression-law-donated-its-key-backers).
Stancil writes: “Several of the same corporations and law firms that publicly condemned the passage of Georgia’s voter suppression law in March also contributed thousands of dollars this year  to state lawmakers and officials who supported the legislation, according to a new analysis of campaign finance disclosures, first reported on Thursday by the Washington Post.”
For example, “Comcast was one of multiple businesses that portrayed themselves as opponents of the GOP’s voter suppression onslaught only to give more…between April and June of this year to Georgia politicians who voted for or publicly endorsed the state’s restrictive voting law.”
Trump Loyalists in the states
Stancil identifies some of the evidence. He writes: “In addition to sparking a deadly coup attempt, former President Donald Trump’s ‘big lie’ that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him has fueled the GOP’s ongoing nationwide assault on the franchise.”
Continuing, Stancil elaborates as follows. “Between January and mid-July, right-wing lawmakers in 49 states introduced more than 400 bills that would make it harder for millions of Americans, especially people of color and other Democratic-leaning constituencies, to vote, or would empower election officials to overturn the will of voters.” Additionally, he writes, “Since the beginning of this year, Republican-controlled legislatures, invoking the supposed need to shore up so-called ‘election integrity’ have enacted a combined total of 30 voter suppression laws in 18 states, including Georgia.”
Last month, Stancil notes, “Biden’s Justice Department filed a lawsuit accusing Georgia of discriminating against Black voters with its new law. The president, however, has so far refused to advocate for repealing the Senate’s 60-vote filibuster rule that stands in the way of enacting voter protections at the federal level.”
I have described how the insurrection unfolded in earlier posts (1) https://vitalissues-bobsheak.com/2021/01/15/trump-the-insurrection-and-what-comes-next; and (2) https://vitalissues-bobsheak.com/2021/02/06/the-right-wing-assault-on-american-democracy-heats-up). A six-month New York Times investigation has synchronized and mapped out thousands of videos and police radio communications from the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, providing the most complete picture to date of what happened — and why(see summary of the Time’s investigation in Luke Broadwater’s article, “House Opens Jan. 6 Investigation Over Republican Opposition,” (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/30/us/house-jan-6-riot.html).
The upshot is that it was a criminal, violent, destructive attack on the Capitol incited by Trump.
Karoun Demirjian reports: “Authorities have estimated that about 10,000 people descended on the Capitol campus and that about 800 broke inside. To date [at the end of June], about 550 have been charged with crimes; more than 165 individuals are accused of assaulting or impeding law enforcement (https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/january-6-select-committee-hearing).
Here’s, edited, some of what I earlier wrote on the insurrection in a January 15, 2021, post, “Trump, the Insurrection, and What Comes Next” (https://vitalissues-bobsheak.com/2021/0`1/15/trump-the-insurrection-and-what-comes-next).
Before the rally on the morning of Jan. 7, Anne Gearan and Josh Dawsey reported that “some aides worried that if Trump spoke at the event not far from the Capitol, it could stoke the crowd and create a volatile scene, a senior administration official said. But Trump, the official said, was determined to do it” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-election-capitol-building).
Then, once in front of the crowd, they report on Trump’s fiery words as follows.
“‘We will never give up. We will never concede. It doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved,’ Trump told the crowd to whoops and loud cheers, falsely claiming that President-elect Joe Biden’s victory was based on fraudulent vote counts. ‘We won this election, and we won it by a landslide. This was not a close election.’” Gearan and Dawsey also report that Trump told the crowd that “Republicans had to keep fighting and urged a crowd of aggrieved supporters to mount an insurrection against constitutional order on Wednesday, encouraging what quickly became a mob assault on the U.S. Capitol carried out in his name. The fabrications were familiar, but this time, Trump’s angry rant amounted to a call to arms.”
Later Wednesday on Jan. 6, after many in the crowd had already attacked and entered the Capitol, “Trump appeared to sympathize with the mob and to explain away the violence as the natural consequence of his election loss to Biden. He also edged close to celebrating the day’s events in a tweet with these words: “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long,” adding, after the mayhem at the Capitol was going on, “Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!” Twitter then decided to lock Trump’s account.
Charlie Savage analyze’s what Trump told the assembled crowd at the rally and argues that Trump’s words constituted an incitement to riot. (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/10/us/trump-speech-riot.html). He identifies five parts of Trump’s harangue at the rally.
First, “Trump urged his supporters to ‘fight much harder’ against ‘bad people’ and ‘show strength’ at the Capitol.” For example, Trump told the crowd this: “Republicans are constantly fighting like a boxer with his hands tied behind his back. It’s like a boxer. And we want to be so nice. We want to be so respectful of everybody, including bad people. And we’re going to have to fight much harder.” At the same time, he made only a passing suggestion that the protest should be nonviolent, saying, “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.”
Second, “Trump told the crowd that ‘very different rules’ applied,” as when he said: “When you catch somebody in a fraud, you are allowed to go by very different rules. So I hope Mike [vice-president Pence] has the courage to do what he has to do, and I hope he doesn’t listen to the RINOs [moderate Republicans] and the stupid people that he’s listening to.”
Third, “Trump insinuated that Republican official, including Pence, would endanger themselves by accepting Biden’s win.” With respect to this point, Trump hoped that Pence would have the courage to support alternative slates of electors, thanked the “courageous” members of the Senate who were supporting his position, and said that the vice-president and senators who did not support him [should know] that it would safer to go along with what he wanted.”
Fourth, “Trump suggested that he wanted his supporters to stop the certification of Biden’s electoral win, not just protest it.” For example, Trump said that “we will stop the steal,” or the country “will have an illegitimate president” and “we can’t let that happen” and “we will fight like hell” to keep it from happening.
Fifth, “As he dispatched his supporters into what became deadly chaos, Trump falsely told them that he would come, too.” Here’s what he said: we’re going to walk down, and I’ll be there with you.… We are going to the Capitol, and we are going to try and give — the Democrats are hopeless, they are never voting for anything, not even one vote, but we are going to try — give our Republicans, the weak ones, because the strong ones don’t need any of our help, we’re try — going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.”
The invasion of the Capitol by a violent insurrectionary mob – a rough timeline
Sandhya Kambhampati and her colleagues at The LA Times provide a detailed time-line and the context of the mob’s attack on January 6 on the nation’s capital, interrupting the electoral college vote count (https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2021/01/06/how-pro-trump-mob-stormed-us-capitol). They write: “The rioters, fueled by Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud, breached the building and ran freely through its historic halls before being forced out.”
Trump supporters gathered between 11:00 a.m. and 12:00 a.m. to hear Trump repeat his claims of how the election has been stolen from him and that they should protest the ratification by the Joint Session at the capitol building. By 1:00 p.m., his supporters are advancing toward the capitol. At 1:13 p.m. Trump finishes his speech, closing with this: “We’re going to walk down Pennsylvania Ave … and we’re going to [try] to give our Republicans – the weak ones because the strong ones don’t need any of our help – we’re to try and get them kind of pride and boldness they need to take back our country.” By 1:20 p.m., Trump’s crowd, now a violent, insurrectionary force, forms outside the Capitol building, while some try and successfully break past police barriers.” At 2:16 p.m., rioters breach the building, despite it being on lockdown.
By 2:20 p.m., disregarding guards, Trump’s supporters are banging on doors and breaking windows and are entering the building, storming into the Capitol Rotunda by 3:00 p.m.
Reporters from The New York Times, add further details about this criminal invasion (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/01/06/us/trump-mob-capitol-building).
“Shouting demonstrators mobbed the second-floor lobby just outside the Senate chamber, as law enforcement officers placed themselves in front of the chamber doors.”
“The President’s supporters swarmed the western and eastern sides of the Capitol’s exterior….
“The mob also broke through the main doors on the east side of the Capitol’s central building, which leads into the Capitol Rotunda,” some vandalizing the statutes ringing the area.”
The mob gathered outside the door of the main House chamber, while lawmakers “were given masks and evacuated”
Police arrested “at least 13 people, while dozens of others were allowed to go free”
Meanwhile, rioters invaded and roamed freely in the Senate chamber. Speaker Pelosi’s suite of offices was breached.
The LA Times reporters continue the story.
4:06 p.m.: “President-elect Joe Biden makes a speech in Delaware, saying ‘our democracy is under unprecedented assault.”
4:18 p.m.: “Trump tweets a video repeating his false claims of election fraud and praising his supporters, although he encouraged them to go home.”
5:34 p.m.: “Capitol building is announced as secure.”
6:00 p.m.: Curfew starts in Washington
7:00: p.m.: Preparation for the Joint-Session of Congress to resume and continue to count the electoral college results
Trump has second thoughts – momentary as it turns out
At 4.54 p.m. on January 7, Trump switched gear and, in a video, condemned the mob violence he had unleashed. Dave Nemetz reports: “Trump began the video by addressing the ‘heinous attack’ that took place on Wednesday when a mob of pro-Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, which resulted in at least four deaths [now 5] and several dozen injuries [over 50]. After facing intense criticism for inciting his supporters and justifying the siege, Trump now says he is ‘outraged’ by it: ‘The demonstrators who infiltrated the Capitol has defiled the seat of American democracy. To those who engaged in the acts of violence and destruction, you do not represent our country. And to those who broke the law, you will pay” (https://tvline.com/2021/01/07/trump-concession-speech-video-concedes-election-watch).
Trump’s belated “concession”
According to a report by Darragh Roche, “White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications Dan Scavino shared Trump’s statement on Twitter. The president was not currently able to send tweets from his account” (https://www.newsweek.com/did-donald-trump-concede-president-statement-sparks-debate-1559597). The statement read as follows: “Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th. I have always said we would continue our fight to ensure that only legal votes were counted. While this represents the end of the greatest first term in presidential history, it’s only the beginning of our fight to Make America Great Again!”
There is now a debate about what Trump’s statement meant. He refers to an “orderly transition,” but also suggests the election results illegally denied him the presidency. And, in conceding the election, he does not mention Biden by name. Roche adds: “Many social media users were quick to suggest that Trump’s statement stopped short of conceding that Biden had defeated him, while others claimed it was as close to a formal concession as the president would offer.”
Trump and Republicans make up their own stories about January 6
Since Trump’s ambiguous concession, however, Trump, Republicans in the U.S. Congress, state governments, and Trump’s base have coalesced around counter narratives. They reversed their view and now argue one or some combination of the following arguments: (1) the crowd was peaceful, not insurrectionist or riotous (see below); (2) any violence at the Capitol was provoked or carried out by left-wing agitators (no evidence); (3) Trump lost the election because of widespread voting fraud and the courts will return him to the White House in August (see below); (4) given the evidence, some Republicans in the U.S. Congress are now attempting to divert public attention from the Trump-incited insurrection by blaming Nancy Pelosi for the violent attack on the Capitol (see below); and (5) Speaker Pelosi’s decision to investigate the causes of the capitol invasion is said to be partisan and will distort the facts (see section on the investigation later in this post).
Trump now identifies Jan. 6 rioters as “loving,” “patriotic,” “peaceful”
David Cohen reports for Politico on July 11, 2021, that Trump has been describing the rioters as “loving and patriotic” and that any violence that occurred on January 6 can be blamed on the Democrats
(https://www.politico.com/news/2021/07/11/trump-jan-6-insurrection-these-were-great-people-499165). Cohen continues: “Echoing his rhetoric about the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Trump said, ‘These were peaceful people, these were great people.’ Trump used this language on July 11, 2021, in an interview on the Fox News Channel “Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo” on the Fox News Channel.
Trump went on to say “the rally participants were patriots, that some of them were unjustly arrested and jailed, and that a woman who was shot and killed by law enforcement during the insurrection was a great hero.”
This, Cohen writes, is part of an effort by Trump and his Republican supporters to cast themselves as “the aggrieved parties from the Jan. 6 riot, which left five people dead and others injured — and, for a brief time, halted the wheels of democracy as President-elect Joe Biden’s victory over Trump in the Electoral College was being confirmed by Congress.” In the interview, Trump “said those at the events of Jan. 6 were loving people who wanted to save the nation.”
Trump continued: “The crowd was unbelievable and I mentioned the word ‘love,’ the love in the air, I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said of his rally on the Ellipse. “That’s why they went to Washington.”
He added: “Too much spirit and faith and love, there was such love at that rally, you had over a million people,” inflating the size of his rally crowd,” estimated to be about 30,000.
The verifiable facts are the facts
Cohen sums it up. “After Trump’s speech, the Capitol was invaded by backers of his seeking to disrupt the Electoral College count. On the way in, they battled with police officers; according to the Department of Justice, approximately 140 police officers were assaulted. Hundreds of those who entered the Capitol have been charged with various crimes, including more than 50 who have been charged with using a deadly or dangerous weapon or causing serious bodily injury to an officer.”
Trump claims he will be returned to the White House in August
“Trump Has Convinced His Followers He’s About to Return to Office This Summer [in August],” as reported by Sasha Abramsky (https://truthout.org/articles/trump-has-convinced-his-followers-hes-about-to-return-to-office-this-summer). The logic underlying Trump’s claim is that the audit being conducted of the 2020 presidential election results in Maricopa country Arizona will find massive voter fraud, this evidence will be the basis of a lawsuit that will end up in the Supreme Court, and the court will rule that the election was significantly flawed and Trump should be identified as the winner – and therefore be anointed the president.
“Last month [June 2021],” Abramski writes, “a Hill/HarrisX poll found that about 30 percent of Republicans thought it likely Trump would be declared president again this year. Other polling has found that a significant percentage of all respondents think Trump could well return to the presidency in 2021; this includes up to 1 in 5 Democrats and 3 in 10 Independents — who, presumably, largely view this prospect not with glee but with horror.”
There have been a series of other events that promote or imply the big lie and his claim of being reinstated as president in August. Here’s Abramsky’s summary. “Trump himself has been fanning the flames of this fantasy, appearing either in person or from his Mar-a-Lago perch via satellite link at political rallies in which speakers have, at various times, called for martial law, spouted QAnon conspiracy theories and urged military intervention against Joe Biden’s administration. On Telegram and other encrypted social media sites, there are increasingly strident calls for violent actions aimed at reinstating Trump. And die-hard supporters such as MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell and former Trump adviser Steve Bannon have been touring the country claiming that vote count ‘audits’ in Arizona and elsewhere will trigger Supreme Court rulings that negate Biden’s victory.”
Trump’s fuels his violent-prone movement
This is not a glib charge. Abramsky reports: “Earlier this summer, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) briefed Congress specifically on the danger that this movement could turn to violence again. As the supposed August ‘Trump reinstatement’ date neared, the DHS worried that individuals and groups could shed blood as a way to somehow trigger a broader conflict.”
Concern about a Trump-inspired “military coup”
Abramsky also reports on section of a new book, I Alone Can Fix It, by two Washington Post reporters, Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker, that details how Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley and other top generals believed that, in the weeks leading up to the January 6 congressional certification of the Electoral College vote, Trump was about to order a military coup. The top brass even discussed mass resignations as a way to stymie Trump’s democracy-busting plans. But even if these eventualities had played out, resignations by generals alone would have been insufficient to forestall a coup. Trump could have replaced them.
As Abramsky puts it:
“Trump’s team could simply have appointed other, more pliable generals to replace those unwilling to be complicit in his dictatorial ambitions — men and women whom he would undoubtedly have tried to portray as ‘enemies of the people’ those who opposed Trump and against whom his fierce propaganda apparatus would instantly have been turned.”
In this case, Trump would no doubt declared “a form of martial law and ordering new elections in key swing states.” Indeed, insofar as the military is concerned, a majority of military veterans supported Trump in the 2020 election, and they and other weapons-trained personnel might have joined with the Oath Keepers and other extremist groups to go along with any Trump-led coup.
Abramsky offers the following sobering thoughts.
“The more we learn about Trump’s last months in office, and his willingness to lean on the muscle provided by paramilitary groups such as the Oath Keepers, the clearer it becomes that talk of coups and martial law was far more than just idle chatter. Trump couldn’t fathom losing his reelection bid and bowing out gracefully; he had no interest in a peaceful transfer of power and a preservation of basic democratic principles, and he felt no moral limits on his exercise of power to beget more power. The recent revelations about how worried the military’s top brass were about being ordered into action against U.S. civilians give further evidence of just how close the American democratic experiment came to a catastrophic collapse.”
Trump insists he will be elected president again in 2024
In an opinion article for the New York Times, Michael Wolff posits some reasons on why he thinks Trump will run for the presidency in 2024. He bases his view on an interview he had with Trump at Mar-a-Lago this spring and on what he has learned about the man in writing three books on Trump (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/23/opinion/trump-2024-michael-wolff.html).
Wolff reports as follows.
“After dinner, I asked about his plans for a presidential library, the traditional retirement project and fund-raising scheme of ex-presidents. There was a flash of confusion on his uniquely readable face, and then anger, aroused, I figured, by the implication of what I seemed to be saying — that his time in office was past.
The former president replied: “No way, no way,” he snarled, “no way.” That is, the Trump thinks he will run for the presidency in 2024. Wolff offers the following interpretation.
“It is [for Trump] an existential predicament: He can’t be Donald Trump without a claim on the presidency. He can’t hold the attention and devotion of the Republican Party if he is not both once and future king — and why would he ever give that up? Indeed, it seemed to be that I was strategically seated in the lobby of Mar-a-Lago when I arrived precisely so I could overhear the efforts by a Republican delegation to court and grovel before Mr. Trump and to observe his dismissive dominance over them.
Trump spent much of the interview “savoring his future retributions” against Mike Pence, Mitch McConnell, and other Republicans who had not supported his ongoing “stop the steal” campaign.
Wolff ends the article on a cautionary note. “For Democrats, who see him exiled to Mar-a-Lago, stripped of his key social media platforms and facing determined prosecutors, his future seems risible if not pathetic. But this is Donald Trump, always ready to strike back harder than he has been struck, to blame anyone but himself, to silence any doubts with the sound of his own voice, to take what he believes is his and, most of all, to seize all available attention. Sound the alarm.”
The Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attacks on the U.S. Capitol
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wanted to establish a bipartisan committee to investigate the evidence and issues around the Jan. 6 insurrection. The committee’s full name: The Select Committee to Investigate Jan. 6 Attacks on the U.S. Capitol.
The Initial proposal for a bipartisan investigation rejected by Senate Republicans
Columnist Jennifer Rubin reports that “[h]ouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), whom the insurrectionists tried to hunt down on Jan. 6, was deadly serious about getting to the bottom of the day’s events and exposing all groups and individuals who played a role in the attempt to overthrow our democracy. She was willing to have a bipartisan, evenly divided Jan. 6 commission” (https://washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/07/212/jan-6-committee-pelosi-chose-truth-over-theater).
NPR journalist Claudia Grisales fills in the some of the background, reporting that “Pelosi wanted to set up a bipartisan committee ‘modeled after the commission established in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, with a panel of commissioners divvied up evenly between the parties and bipartisan subpoena power.’ The House had already agreed to the plan. ‘Earlier in May, the House approved the plan by a vote of 252 to 175, with 35 Republicans joining Democrats in that case.’ But on May 28, Senate Republicans opposed it and used the filibuster to defeat it.” The final vote in the Senate was 54 to 35, with six Republicans voting with Democrats. The Democrats in the Senate need 60 votes to by-pass the filibuster and begin debate on the plan (https://www.npr.org/2021/06/24/1009818514/house-speaker-nancy-pelosi-launches-select-committee-to-probe-jan-6-insurrection).
The plan to create a bi-partisan House Select Committee
Pelosi had already signaled that, if the Senate blocked the bipartisan investigation, she would launch a select committee to take over the probe. So, nearly a month after the Senate filibuster, the Speaker made the following announcement. “This morning, with great solemnity and sadness, I am announcing that the House will be establishing a select committee on the Jan. 6 insurrection. Jan. 6 was one of the darkest days in our nation’s history … it is imperative that we establish the truth of that day and ensure that an attack of that kind cannot happen and that we root out the causes of it all.”
Rubin continues the story. “Pelosi then decided to form a select committee of 13. She chose Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) to participate “and even offered House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the disgraced former president’s chief apologist, the opportunity to name five members. McCarthy picked three who participated in the attempt to overthrow the election results, including one who immediately trashed the committee after his appointment.”
The Republican House Speaker tries to sabotage the committee
The Washington Post editorial board urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi not to let Keven McCarthy to undermine the January 6 investigation she has proposed (https://washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/07/20/kevin-mccarthy-picks-jan-6-panel-make-clear-he-wants-continue-coverup). The WP editors identify the obvious.
“Republicans are now intent sabotaging any kind of serious investigation. The board says that “became clear with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) selection of [five] members to serve on the select committee formed to investigate the insurrection,” choosing ‘Jim Jordan of Ohio, Jim Banks of Indiana, Rodney Davis of Illinois, Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota and Troy E. Nehls of Texas — for the 13-member committee.’ Expressing his contempt for the investigation, Banks “issued a blistering statement that blasted Democrats, attacked the purpose of the committee and suggested Republicans might use it to attack President Biden. Banks also said: ‘I will not allow this committee to be turned into a forum for condemning millions of Americans because of their political beliefs.’
In response, Pelosi could have accepted the Republican selections and, as Rubin puts it, let them “expose themselves as unhinged, unpatriotic provocateurs.” Instead, she “rejected two of those appointments.” Then House Republican Speaker McCarthy responded by pulling all five of his people, “hysterically threatening on Wednesday [June 23] to run his own investigation,” which, Rubin notes, “would highlight only how unserious and untrustworthy his party truly is.”
Pelosi is able to establish a quasi-bipartisan committee
Pelosi has subsequently chosen another Republican to join the select committee. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), “who condemned the insurrection, voted to impeach the instigator in chief and supported a bipartisan commission,” agreed to participate. The select committee is now composed of seven Democrats and two Republicans.
Rubin sums it up well. “The ‘story’ is simple. “Republicans continue to cover up and defend a violent insurrection instigated by their cult hero. They blocked a bipartisan commission and now won’t participate unless their disruptive members have a chance to throw the committee into chaos.” Now, Rubin maintains, “the select committee can proceed with a “serious, professional, and focused” investigation,” and without “the provocateurs and Jan. 6 apologists. The committee members “can proceed unimpeded through their witness list, subpoena documents and produce a comprehensive account of the day’s events, the forces behind it and the recommended steps to prevent this from reoccurring.”
The Republicans try to discredit Pelosi
Congressional Republicans, not Trump, now appear willing not to totally reject the realty of January 6 that there was a violent assault on the Capito
l. But they want to shift the discussion away from that reality of the insurrection and blame House Speaker Nance Pelosi for the security lapse at the Capitol.
This is issue addressed by Chris Walker, who describes the situation as follows (https://truthout.org/articles/having-failed-to-sabotage-jan-6-inquiry-mccarthy-is-blaming-pelosi-for-the-riot).
“House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California), who has opposed the formation of a commission at every step of the way, tried to suggest that Pelosi had endangered the lives of workers and officers at the Capitol on the day that a mob of loyalists to former President Donald Trump attempted to interrupt the certification of the 2020 presidential election results.
“‘On January 6 these brave officers were put into a vulnerable and impossible position because the leadership at the top failed,’ McCarthy said speaking to reporters on Tuesday morning [July 27, 2021], falsely implying that it was Pelosi’s responsibility to secure the Capitol.
“Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a Trump loyalist whom McCarthy tried to nominate to the commission but who was blocked by Pelosi over his lack of integrity, also suggested Pelosi was largely to blame for that day’s events.
“‘Why don’t they want to answer the fundamental question, which is why wasn’t there a better security posture on that day?’ Jordan asked.”
Trump also took up this refrain. “In a statement he published on his campaign website, Trump, who in other situations has downplayed the violence and described his mob of loyalists as “loving” on that day, said that the commission ought to investigate Pelosi herself over what went down.
“‘Nancy Pelosi is spending a great deal of time, effort, and money on the formulation of a Fake and highly partisan January 6 Committee to ask, what happened?’ Trump said in his statement.” Trump continues: “Will Nancy investigate herself and those on Capitol Hill who didn’t want additional protection, including more police and National Guard, therefore being unprepared despite the large crowd of people that everyone knew was coming?”
“The commission…will likely question why the National Guard wasn’t deployed sooner to secure the Capitol on January 6. However, it’s unlikely that Pelosi will be blamed for such inaction, as the National Guard can only be called up by governors of the states in which they reside, or by the president. Pelosi, as Speaker of the House, has no authority to call them into the Capitol building, in the event of violent attacks or other unrest.”
Walker adds: “The insinuations by Trump and Republicans in Congress who are loyal to the former president, suggesting that Pelosi played a role in the violence of that day, also contradict who is in charge of security at the Capitol. Oversight of the Capitol Police is managed by a Capitol Police Board, which is run by various committees in the Senate and House of Representatives. Pelosi is not a member of any committee or board that has oversight over Capitol Police.”
Fact-checking the Republican claim about Pelosi
Tom Kertscher reports on a “fact check” of this claim by Politifact
(https://www.politifact.com/factcheck/2021/feb/25/facebook-posts/no-capitol-security-not-only-pelosis-responsibilit). He describes the Capitol security system as multi-tiered.
“Capitol security is provided by the sergeants-at-arms , who are the chief law enforcement officers for the House and Senate, in coordination with the Capitol Police, a federal law enforcement agency.
“The House sergeant-at-arms reports to the speaker of the House, or Pelosi at the time of the attack. The Senate sergeant-at-arms reports to the Senate majority leader; in the days leading up to and including Jan. 6, that was Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell.
“Security of the Capitol Complex is the direct responsibility of the four-member Capitol Police Board, which includes both sergeants-at-arms, said Jane Campbell, president and CEO of the United States Capitol Historical Society.”
Politifact rates the Republican claim about Pelosi’s culpability as “mostly false.”
The first hearing before the Select Committee
William Rivers Pitt reports on the first Jan. 6 Hearing on July 27, 2021, and writes that it revealed what we already know: “It was a GOP Riot” (https://truthout.org/arrticles/just-1-6-hearing-reveals-what-we-already-know-it-was-a-gop-riot). Four security policemen testified, including “U.S. Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, Washington Metropolitan Police Department officer Michael Fanone, Washington Metropolitan Police Department officer Daniel Hodges and U.S. Capitol Police Sgt. Harry Dunn.”
Pitt describes some of what the officers told the Committee.
“Sgt. Gonell spoke after Thompson and Cheney, raw with emotion. The story he told was harrowing. ‘What we were subjected to that day was like something from a Medieval battle,’ said Gonell. ‘We fought hand to hand.’ He expected to die guarding the doorway where he and his fellow officers clashed with the rioters.
“Our children will know we stood for the truth.”
“Officer Fanone spoke next. His was a familiar face, as he has appeared on the news channels multiple times to tell his story, and to scald congressional Republicans for insulting the truth of 1/6. His fury was likewise palpable as he described being tasered on the back of the skull, of getting beaten ruthlessly, and of nearly being killed by his own service weapon as the crowd chanted, ‘Kill him with his own gun!’
“The indifference shown to my colleagues [by Republicans who deny the facts of the day] is DISGRACEFUL,” Fanone roared at one juncture, pounding the table loud enough to make the room jump. Following Fanone was Officer Hodges, who recounted his similar experiences with a brittle calm. Of the three, Hodges was the most unsparing in his clear declaration that the mob which attacked him was by, for and with Donald Trump.
“Hodges, too, wept during his testimony when he reached the portion of his story recounting his close brush with death when he got caught between the two masses of fighting bodies. Most who have followed this story since January will recognize Hodges; he was the officer screaming for help as a man “foaming at the mouth” battered him in his helplessness and tore off his gas mask.
“Officer Dunn opened his testimony with a request for a moment of silence for Brian Sicknick, one of the Capitol Police officers who died after the attack. Dunn — the officer who was captured on camera leading rioters away from vulnerable Congress members — laid out the evident tactical planning that went into the attack, the deliberate coordination of forces for the specific purpose of sacking the Capitol and disrupting the certification of the election.
“Dunn recounted the torrent of racial abuse he absorbed from the mob, and shared that other Black officers he later spoke to had similar experiences to recount. Dunn quoted McCarthy’s searing criticism of Trump, spoken immediately after the attack was over, a vivid counterpoint to the minority leader’s abrupt about-face.”
As argued in this and other posts, our democracy is under assault by Trump and his allies. Trump remains the most powerful person in the Republican Party and he and the party will apparently do anything to regain control of the US Congress and state legislatures across the country in 2022 and 2024.
Meanwhile, Wolff tells his readers that the Mar-a-Lago lobby is “really the throne room,” where “Donald J. Trump presides or is on display” (p. 291). There is “a steady stream of Republican senators and congressmen seeking his endorsement – indeed, almost every Republican officeholder or seeker, save the few opposed to him, who can make the trip seem set to come to Mar-a-Lago to slavishly attend to him” (p. 291).
Trump is unshaken in his beliefs that (1) “he has been forced out of office by an election coup that involves almost all aspects of modern society and its coordinated power centers organized against him,” and (2) “he absolutely believes he is the single most powerful political entity in the United States” (p. 294). On the latter point, Trump promises that every Republican primary race for 2022 will have…a Trump candidate, with the goal of ruling out all other candidates.”
But, with or without Trump, the Republican Party espouses a far-right agenda, opposes any legislation that promotes voters’ rights, and depends on the same Trumpian electoral base.
There is hope amid this reality. Democracy can be saved by a confluence of events: (1) the Democratic Party offers policies that seriously address the society’s crises; (2) there are vibrant and widespread grassroots mobilizations; and (3) Democratic voters turn out in droves in 2022 and 2024.