The Five Acts Of The January 6 Hearings Season Finale!
"Be there. Will be wild!" Donald Trump tweeted on December 18, 2020, summoning the mob to DC for a violent insurrection. The former president wasn't talking about last night's hearing of the House January 6 Select Committee — but he could have been!
Indeed, we were there, and it was wild! Here are our top five takeaways.
1. Inaction Is Also An Act
We at Wonkette have spilt a lot of pixels making fun of Trump for being a lazy-ass television junkie who does nothing but eat Big Macs and tweet. (Well, before he lost his Twitter account, LOL.) And so of course we took our digs at President Couch Potato, watching Fox in the Oval Office dining room for almost three hours while the Capitol was under attack. But it's not really that funny, since he was watching the Capitol be overrun and doing exactly nothing for 187 minutes.
He didn't call out the army, or the National Guard, or the Secret Service, or the FBI, or the DC police. He didn't call for an end to the violence on his screen, because it was exactly what he wanted. And he only bothered to put out a statement telling the mob he "loved" them but it was time to "go home in peace" when it was clear that the rioters were not going to succeed in stopping Joe Biden's electoral certification.
"You heard him Pat, he thinks Mike deserves it," Mark Meadows reportedly responded to White House Counsel Pat Cipollone's exhortation to get Trump to put out a statement calling off the mob seeking to hang the vice president. "He doesn't think they're doing anything wrong."
Because the mob was doing exactly what he'd summoned them to do when all his other attempts to overturn the election failed. After lawsuits got tossed, and the DOJ coup was thwarted, and the Powell/Flynn plan for martial law died in its cradle, and the states never certified the fake electors, and Vice President Pence refused to go along with John Eastman's harebrained scheme to unilaterally reject the electors, Trump turned to violence.
"President Trump did not
fail to act during 187 minutes," said Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who led the hearing last night along with Rep. Elaine Luria. "He chose not to act."
Luria agreed that the account of Trump parked on his keister watching TV as the Capitol was under attack isn't a story of "inaction" but a story of "violent action to usurp the peaceful transition of power."
2. Everyone in the White House Knew Trump Had the Power to Call Off the Mob
Part of the genius of these hearings is that they go out of their way to cast Republicans as the "heroes," or at least the innocent victims of Trump and his minions. And we get why this has to be, but ... let's just say that framing the events of the day as a mad scramble by patriotic staffers to get the president to tell his supporters to quit attacking the seat of government leaves a little something to be desired.
It's all very well for White House lawyers like Eric Herschmann and Pat Cipollone to testify that they tried desperately to get Trump to call off the mob on that day. But we remember those same lawyers indignantly defending Trump's sacred right to extort the leader of a foreign country for dirt on Joe Biden during the first impeachment — a similar abuse of power to stay in office, only wielding executive authority, not a violent mob. And, not for nothing, but they'd watched him summon that mob for three weeks without doing a thing to stop him.
And we're glad to see that Kayleigh McEnany and her fellow White House comms staffer Judd Deere recognized that Trump needed to put out a statement condemning the violence. But they'd been on the Trump train for years, as he said there were "very fine" Nazis in Charlottesville, told the Proud Boys to "stand by," and fanned the flame of election lies. And, again, not for nothing, but these same comms hacks pushed lies about a stolen election all the way up to the moment when it reached its inevitable violent crescendo, when they seem to have finally realized that words have consequences.
A major theme of last night's hearing was the three-hour pressure campaign by everyone in the White House to get Trump to call off his goons. Slow clap fellas.
Here's a har-har-hilarious video of Cipollone saying that everyone at the White House wanted the mob to leave ... well, maybe not everyone.
\u201cRep. Cheney: Who on the staff did not want people to leave the Capitol...in the White House?\n\nWH Counsel Cipollone: I can't think of anybody\n\nRep Schiff: What about the president?\n\nCipollone: I can't reveal communications. But, obviously, I think, you know https://t.co/MCCiiZcF4H\u201d— MSNBC (@MSNBC) 1658460507
And the testimony that everyone at the White House felt "drained" by the exhausting day trying to wrangle the Manbaby in Chief to call off his mob of goons, juxtaposed with the ongoing hand-to-hand combat as Trump finally put out the "we love you video" was ... well, it was something.
3. Good Republicans and Bad Republicans
Because the committee has been scrupulous about casting Republicans as the heroes here, ensuring that criticism of Trump comes only from stalwart Republican witnesses, every hearing features a "good" Republican. Presumably, the strategy is to give any Gippers in the audience someone to identify with, giving them a path to stay on the "real" Red Team while turning on Trump.
Last night, the part was played by former Deputy National Security Adviser Matthew Pottinger. Who is white and male and Republican, and he even praised Trump's foreign policy accomplishments, so ... eh, fine, whatever.
This strategy has the added bonus of insulating the committee from allegations of partisanship, although of course the GOP and Fox are going to make them anyway, despite the fact that the testimony given consisted of "a series of confessions by Donald Trump's appointees, people who have worked for him for years, his own family," as Vice Chair Cheney intoned.
"Would the evidence be different if Leader McCarthy had not withdrawn" from participating in the committee, Cheney asked ruefully. "Do you really think Bill Barr is so delicate?"
In contrast, the committee, and particularly Kinzinger and Cheney, its two Republican members, has been scathing in its criticism of "bad" Republicans. We've already had hearings on the treason caucus, who spent weeks strategizing to overturn the election based on lies, summoned the mob to the Capitol, blamed Antifa or FBI provocateurs for the violence when things went sideways, and then sought pardons before Trump left office.
Last night, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy came in for particular scorn, with audio of him blaming Trump for the violence in real time and then scurrying back into his hidey hole once the danger had passed and he remembered he'd need Trump's support to maintain his position as chair of the caucus in the next Congress. In contrast, the committee showed Senator Mitch McConnell taking a more principled stand, and maintaining his distance from Trump, who has made a promise to vote against McConnell as Senate majority leader the price of his endorsement.
And, of course, Senator Josh Hawley came in for particular scorn.
4. No Remorse
Trump wasn't unhappy about the violence as it unfolded, and he wasn't upset about it the day after. The outtakes of him being coached by Ivanka on January 7, 2021, are spectacularly damning.
\u201c"I don't want to say the election's over": House January 6 committee shows outtakes from then-President Donald Trump's January 7 speech https://t.co/91MC68Yaoy\u201d— CNN Politics (@CNN Politics) 1658458419
"I don’t want to say the election’s over,” Trump said. “I just want to say Congress has certified the results, without saying the election’s over, okay?”
And we've all been living with the consequences ever since. A third of the country still believes the election was stolen, despite Trump's Big Lie claims being disproven over, and over, and over again. It's a problem we'll all be living with for a long time.
5. Ongoing Danger
Rep. Kinzinger, who is not running for reelection, ended with a stemwinder of a speech describing Trump's conduct as "a supreme violation of his own oath of office and a complete dereliction of his duty to our nation, a stain on our history, a dishonor to all those who sacrificed and died in service to our democracy."
He warned darkly that the fire Republicans are playing with in their desperate effort to hold on to power has the potential to burn down the country. There is a cost for emboldening conspiracy theorists, racists, and rightwing militias, spewing lies, and valuing "party tribalism or the cheap thrill of scoring political points" over efficient governance.
But the evening belonged to Liz Cheney, who is on track to lose her primary on August 9, likely ending her political career because she spoke out against Trump. It's probably not an accident that she's worn white for a lot of these hearings, since the color is associated with the women's suffrage movement and later our political empowerment. And indeed she alluded to the heavy price women in politics pay when they buck the system, referring to the threats of violence to witness Cassidy Hutchinson, even as she is publicly attacked "by 50-, 60- and 70-year-old men who hide themselves behind executive privilege."
If you have time, this is long, but a wonderful speech.
"We cannot abandon the truth and remain a free nation," she warned, promising more hearings in September.
If you feel like putting in a joke here about Cheney accidentally shooting someone in the face after she loses her primary, have at it. Or we can just applaud a remarkable act of political bravery, since those are vanishingly rare in this day and age.
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.