A comprehensive Washington Post series published this week on the events of January 6 vividly illustrates why the current Congressional investigation into the insurgency is so important – and why the Republicans’ continued efforts to undermine that investigation are so untenable. The series should be required reading for anyone still trying to brush aside this unprecedented crime against democracy by a sitting president. And it is because former President Donald Trump continues to lead the GOP and hints at a new presidential candidacy that his actions thwarting democracy deserve continued and relentless scrutiny.
The Washington Post’s meticulous account of Trump’s three hours of determined inaction as the mob raged should infuriate all Americans, regardless of political persuasion. The report provides granular new details about the calculated efforts by Trump and his entourage to sow public distrust of the electoral process even before the November 3 election. It reveals previously unreported law enforcement failures to heed early warnings of violence to come. Much of this expected violence was in direct response to Trump’s statements.
The series provides a devastating timeline of what happened on Capitol Hill during the 187 minutes Trump watched the violence on TV from the White House while refusing to publicly condemn the rioters:
“Twenty-five minutes after Trump was silent, a press photographer was dragged down a staircase and thrown over a wall. Fifty-two minutes later, a police officer was kicked in the chest and surrounded by a crowd. In the first hour, two rioters died from cardiac events. Sixty-four minutes later, a rioter paraded a Confederate battle flag across the Capitol. Seventy-three minutes later, another police officer was sprayed with chemicals in the face. Seventy-eight minutes later, another police officer was assaulted with a flag pole. Eighty-three minutes later, rioters broke in and began looting the Speaker’s office. Ninety-three minutes later, another press photographer was surrounded, pushed down and stripped of a camera. Ninety-four minutes later, a rioter was shot and killed. One hundred and two minutes later, rioters stormed the Senate Chamber, stealing papers and posing for photos around the dais. One hundred and sixteen minutes later, a fourth policeman was run over in a doorway and beaten with his own baton.
Through it all, Trump watched the violence on TV from a White House dining room, ignoring frantic calls from all directions to defuse the situation. His tweets during the riot could have made the situation worse. “Return home in love and in peace,” he wrote lukewarmly in one – but only after alleging in the same tweet that “a sacred landslide election victory is so bluntly and viciously stripped of great patriots …”
The problem, as always, was that Trump assesses every situation through the distorted prism of his epic self-esteem. Trump had a duty to disown the thousands of frenzied supporters storming the seat of government on his behalf – but Trump would not. When Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy implored him to speak out forcefully on the incursion, Trump replied, “You know what I’m seeing, Kevin? I see people who are more upset than you by the elections. They love Trump more than you do.
One of the most surprising new revelations in the newspaper series is how determined Trump and his people were to use Vice President Mike Pence as the instrument of their attempted coup. It wasn’t all boasting. It is now clear that Trump and some around him were genuinely convinced that Pence could simply refuse to certify the results of key states won by Joe Biden.
The plan was ridiculous at first glance – no serious jurist believes Pence’s ceremonial certification role gave him the power to unilaterally quash an election – but the Post series documents how serious Trump and his people were about it . Among the new revelations was an angry email exchange during the riot between Trump’s lawyer John C. Eastman and a Pence aide who accused Trump of causing a “siege.” Eastman replied, “The ‘siege’ is because YOU and your boss [Pence] did not do what is necessary ”to block the certification.
Trump himself was fully invested in this illusion and, in the midst of the raiding, he made sure the marauders knew about it. “Mike Pence did not have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our country and our Constitution,” Trump tweeted, even as the Secret Service pushed Pence away from insurgents on Capitol Hill calling for his execution.
The culture of disinformation built around Trump’s big lie about a stolen election has encompassed so much that it is necessary to repeat the indisputable facts with every discussion about it: There has never been any indication, let alone proof of significant electoral fraud. The Trump team’s wacky allegations of “impropriety” were either gross exaggerations or whole fabric fabrications, which is why the allegations have been dismissed in more than 60 court cases. Those who stormed the Capitol on January 6 were not leftist radicals, as some have claimed. It was Trump supporters who chanted his name after being pressured into helping him overthrow a presidential election.
If the Washington Post series helps dispel some of the rhetorical smoke that Trump and his supporters have used to obscure the reality of what happened that day, it will have served America better than Trump did. never did. The story he tells is an indictment from every Republican who has subsequently voted against impeaching Trump for the most clearly impeachable offense a president has ever committed – and a resounding condemnation of those who continue to defend the indefensible today.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial
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