Exactly seven years later, damaging to democracy, the now ex-president was still there Thursday, dominating the political scene, his savagery and extremism still threatening to tear the country apart.
In any normal political era, such testimony would traumatize the nation to its core, make the former president a national pariah, and cause his party to disown him as a disgrace to the republic. It made the heist of the Democratic National Committee 50 years ago today and the ensuing cover-up that brought down President Richard Nixon at Watergate half a century ago seem almost quaint in comparison.
Yet it’s a measure of the way Trump has shattered political conventions, dug spiteful divisions and thrived on the confusion he stirs up that the committee’s startling revelations are unlikely to inflict a similar fate on him. It’s long been a cliché that nothing brings Trump down. Millions of Americans who believe his voter fraud is lying and prefer his side of the story are likely ignoring the House committee’s televised hearings. Trump is already the leading contender for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024. And after seven years of being beaten by his extravagance, the other half of the country may be long past the point of shock.
As the committee prepares its damning case, it is already beginning to wrestle with a fundamental conundrum that has long applied to Trump’s business and political career. How can this force of nature, which has defied accountability all its life by creating ever greater breaches of accepted behavior and the rule of law, ever be made to pay the price for its actions?
There is a growing debate in Washington over whether the former president or his cronies could face a criminal investigation by the Justice Department for their role in the insurgency once the committee ends. But the story, however, of using constitutional means and government checks and balances to break through Trump’s impunity has rarely been successful. The historic stain of two impeachments for flagrant abuse of power did not. Nor was his rejection by voters after a single term.
“Donald Trump and his allies and supporters are a clear and present danger to American democracy,” Luttig said in the hushed courtroom.
One of the challenges for the select committee has been finding a new way to impress the horror and implications of the January 6, 2021 uprising in the minds of voters who saw much of it unfold live. on the television. He puts together a puzzle of evidence that creates a new perspective on these events and puts pressure on the Department of Justice to consider criminal prosecution.
In its first televised hearing last week, the committee recreated the terror and chaos of Trump’s instigated mob attack on the Capitol and showed it was repeatedly told that its voter fraud allegations were false. But he continued, stoking supporters who besieged the building as lawmakers gathered to certify President Joe Biden’s election victory. On Thursday, the committee added more pieces to a puzzle that exposed Trump’s misdeeds like never before.
- According to testimony from people around the then-Vice President and elsewhere in Trump’s political and campaign machine, the then-President was told that Eastman’s plan to simply have Pence declare that he had won a second term or to accept alternate lists of voters from the states was illegal. Yet he still tried to move on. It certainly ranks as one of the boldest and most damaging attempts at presidential power grabs in US history.
- Trump’s former White House attorney, Eric Herschmann, told the committee in video testimony that Eastman told him he was willing to accept violence in order to void the election.
- After the uprising, Eastman emailed Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and asked to be put on a list of potential presidential pardon recipients. In his own testimony before the panel, he invoked his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination 100 times, according to the committee.
- Pence, despite his four years of genuflecting to Trump, never seriously considered following the then-president’s plan and came across as something of a hero in the committee’s presentation. His contempt for his boss and the mob allowed the American tradition of presidential power transfers to continue unbroken, even if the process was not peaceful as it had once been.
Committee Chairman: Trump’s Threat to Democracy Not Diminished
The longer the committee hearings drag on, the darker the picture of Trump’s attempt to cling to power becomes.
This latest twist in history from January 6, 2021 highlights the unusual reality of a presidency that is still rocking Washington more than a year and a half after its incumbent lost re-election. And it underscores that attempts to insulate the democratic system from its threat are always urgent. While many observers in the aftermath of Biden’s inauguration expressed satisfaction that the political system’s insurance policies against extremism held firm, Thompson is far more circumspect given subsequent events. He warned on Thursday that US constitutional governance “nearly failed” under pressure from Trump.
Seven years later, and despite the efforts of the committee, there are still none.