Analysis by Stephen Collinson | CNN
Former President Donald Trump’s attempt to steal the 2020 election is proving deeper and broader week after week than it initially appeared, sharpening the national dilemma of whether and how he could be held accountable.
Even as a federal judge ruled on Monday that Trump “more likely than not” sought to commit a crime to stay in power last year, the ex-president’s attacks on democracy are intensifying. They were exposed as recently as Saturday night at a lie-filled rally that highlighted how his conspiracy to nullify the election – whether criminal or not – remains viscerally alive and capable of damaging future elections. .
As much of the country has been gripped by Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine, the House committee investigating the insurgency has raced against time to its own likely demise if Republicans win back the House midterm in November. He took another step on Monday toward holding two former Trump advisers accountable by advancing criminal contempt removals.
On Tuesday, the Washington Post and CBS News reported that there was a discrepancy of more than seven hours in the logs of phone calls made to or from Trump on Jan. 6 that were turned over to the House committee. CNN previously reported that records were missing regarding the calls.
It is extraordinary that, more than 14 months later, new details about the efforts of Trump and those around him to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory are still emerging. It’s also ironic that this threat to American democracy is on greater display as Washington leads an international effort to save freedom in Ukraine, which is under far greater attack from Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom Trump still seems to revere as a hero.
Here at home, a flurry of new details in recent days about the ex-president’s behavior warrant continued investigations into the worst attack on American democracy in decades. These revelations also explain why pro-Trump Republicans were so eager to keep the House select committee investigating January 6, 2021 from getting off the ground. And they inject a new political dimension into Trump’s comeback bid as he casts the 2022 midterm elections as a referendum on the lie he won in 2020 and seeks to build a comeback in the White House on the same lies that have drawn millions of his followers.
Trump ‘more likely than not’ tried to obstruct Congress
In a Monday development that single-handedly summed up the stunning events of the last election that still hang over the country, a federal judge wrote that it was “more likely than not” that Trump “corruptly attempted to obstruct “Congress in its certification of Biden’s election victory. . Judge David Carter’s comment came as he ruled that emails from John Eastman, a conservative lawyer who helped craft Trump’s bogus argument that the 2020 election was stolen, should be turned over to the committee.
Carter cannot sue Trump. But his words not only raised a glaring historical marker about a president committing a potential crime in office – and one that has endangered the entire American democratic system. His comment refocused attention on debate in the House committee over whether to make what would be a historic criminal referral of Trump to the Justice Department. Such a move would present Attorney General Merrick Garland with the life-changing decision whether or not to prosecute an ex-president who maneuvers with a $100 million war chest in a potential bid to reclaim his post in 2024.
There might be few hotter political potatoes for an attorney general already facing political pressure to deal with Trump aides filibustering the committee.
Failure to prosecute Trump under such circumstances would send a signal of impunity to presidents who seek to destroy America’s democratic institutions, even as Trump supporters who trashed the US Capitol begin to be convicted and face jail time for apparently acted on the wishes of their political hero.
But acting against Trump would ensure that the dark history of the 2020 election continues to dominate American politics for years to come, as it would provide the ex-president with new material for his claims that he is being persecuted by the political establishment. . Building on that theme on Monday, Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich called Carter’s decision “just another example of how the left is weaponizing every branch of government against President Trump.”
But the panel fought back.
“The court’s opinion also includes a warning: that a breach of responsibility could set the stage for a repeat of Jan. 6,” said committee chair Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, and vice chair Liz Cheney, a Republican from Wyoming, in a statement. Monday.
“America must not allow what happened that day to be minimized and cannot accept as normal these threats to our democracy,” they said, clearly trying to underscore the enduring relevance of the Capitol riot as the political clock races.
The Supreme Court dragged into the mud
Monday’s developments rocked Washington as it still accepted the implications of last week’s revelations that Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, had aggressively tried to support Trump’s attempts to s clinging to power in late 2020 and early 2021 There is no evidence that her husband was involved in attempts to overturn a legal election.
But the reputation of the Supreme Court rests on the assumption of impartiality and avoidance of any appearance of ethical problems. This issue has now drawn the upper judiciary directly into the aftermath of January 6, a scandal that taints all branches of the US government. And it came as Republican senators spent the past week smearing Biden’s Supreme Court pick, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, with misleading claims that she was soft on child porn offenders, which could damage his reputation with some voters for years to come. Ironically, many of those same senators were among Trump’s staunchest enablers and apologists when he tore up the rule of law in the White House.
Multiple sources said on Monday that the committee would request an interview with Ginni Thomas over texts in its possession that show her pleading with then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to redouble efforts to block the victory of Biden.
“We want to hear from everyone who has something to say,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Democrat from Maryland who serves on the committee, told CNN on Monday. “And she obviously interacted frequently with the president’s chief of staff and was actively involved in efforts to overturn the election. So speaking as a member, I think it’s important that we hear it.
Carter offered another victory to the Jan. 6 committee, which signaled Monday that it was making progress in its investigation.
In ordering the release of 101 emails held by Eastman circa Jan. 6, 2021, the judge revealed new details about the documents the House panel may receive — including one that appears to aid Trump and Eastman’s alleged plot to Hampering Congress: A draft memo written for another Trump lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, recommending Vice President Mike Pence reject voters from certain states at the Jan. 6 congressional meeting.
Eastman was instrumental in crafting the plan to have Pence refuse to certify congressional election results based on false allegations, refuted in court, that there had been massive fraud against Trump. Eastman “intends to comply with the court order,” his attorney Charles Burnham said.
But the Eastman corner is just one front the committee is pushing forward. The son-in-law of the former president and senior White House adviser, Jared Kushner, is expected to speak voluntarily before the committee this week. And the committee voted late Monday to send the entire House a criminal contempt referral regarding former Trump advisers Peter Navarro and Dan Scavino, both of whom spurned the panel.
Assuming the entire House supports the dismissal, it will again be up to Garland to decide whether to prosecute. While the Justice Department has opened a case against former Trump political guru Steve Bannon, who will face trial this summer, it has yet to weigh in on a similar contempt case against Meadows, which could have a much stronger executive privilege grounds for refusing to testify.
Garland’s challenge shows that while the committee can make big token gestures, its ability to compel testimony may be limited ahead of its scheduled public hearings later this spring.
Some Democrats on the committee called on the Justice Department to do more to hold Trump aides who refuse to testify to account through prosecution.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California warned, “This committee is doing its job. The Department of Justice must do its part.
Representative Elaine Luria of Virginia called on the department to act quickly and showed genuine frustration with Garland. “I will echo what my colleagues have already said, but more frankly, Attorney General Garland, do your job – so we can do ours.”
Such frustrations raise the question of the broader impact of the committee. Millions of Americans who support the ex-president have already shown themselves ready to accept the denials of what happened on January 6, which have been advanced by Trump’s GOP cronies.
But even if the committee, which has interviewed hundreds of witnesses and appears to have a difficult story to tell, cannot itself bring Trump to justice, it can sway public opinion with its final report and public hearings.
If he succeeds in capturing the attention of the American people, he will implicitly ask voters if they still put up with years of lies from an ex-president who clearly lost an election he insists he won.
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