Historically, hearings such as those currently investigating the January 6 sacking of the Capitol have usually left a footprint in memory. For Watergate, it was John Dean’s statement about “a cancer on the presidency,” along with the revelation of recording devices in the Oval Office. For Iran/Contra, it was President Reagan repeating some permutation of “I don’t remember” more than 200 times, along with Oliver North’s ghastly emergence as a right-wing superstar.
These January 6 hearings are no different in content — a number of no-bullshit “smoking guns” have been revealed, with more potentially to follow — but they are also unfolding at the same time as a hard right Supreme Court has chosen to rain down hard right rulings on reproductive freedom and guns.
The duality of the moment is horrifying. On one side, Congress is actually doing something on guns and Trump corruption — small things, yes, but actual tangible things like the hearings… while down the block squats SCOTUS, dragging us all deeper and deeper into a bog of hyperviolent patriarchy.
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It’s a mind-cramp, to be sure. What will we remember most about the January 6 hearings into Trump’s criminality and the insurrection? The overthrow of Roe v. Wade. Just when things get really bad, they get worse. Such is the way of the 21st century. Makes you wish the Y2K bug actually had obliterated all the computers. Maybe we’d be tending cooking fires and hunting rabbits, and we’d be free.
And so much for all that. Notwithstanding the giant dung bombs raining down from the high court, the January 6 hearings have been nothing short of remarkable. “The bipartisan congressional commission investigating the January 6 coup attempt has found strong evidence that Donald Trump is a criminal,” reports Mitchell Zimmerman for Common Dreams. “As the hearings reveal, the former president illegally plotted to stay in office after the American people voted to boot him out. Now he must be indicted.”
Thursday’s testimony delivered three thunderclaps, none louder than former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue’s contemporaneous handwritten notes from a conversation with Trump about the 2020 election. “Just say the election was corrupt,” Donoghue quotes Trump as saying, “and leave the rest to me and the Republican Congressmen.” It does not get much clearer than that right there.
Trump’s statement came within the context of the second thunderclap: His overwhelming effort to stuff the Justice Department with partisans, and to get them along with officials already at the department to do just what the note said: Call the election corrupt, back that with the power of the department, and leave the rest to me. The plot failed when officials like Donoghue refused to cooperate, and sent Trump’s handpicked minions scuttling like baby ducks. Wannabe-AG Jeffrey Clark may have been the most conniving, grasping, pathetic Trump official of the bunch, and that is saying something.
The third thunderclap: The stampede of pro-Trump politicians seeking pardons both before and after the January 6 attack. “Videotaped testimony presented at the end of Thursday’s hearing named Reps. Matt Gaetz, Mo Brooks, Andy Biggs, Louie Gohmert and Scott Perry as the lawmakers who sought preemptive pardons after or, in at least one case, before the Capitol breach,” reports The Washington Post. “They were among the most active and outspoken supporters in Congress of Trump’s false claims of election fraud.”
As committee member Rep. Adam Kinzinger pointedly noted, “The only reason I know to ask for a pardon, because you think you’ve committed a crime.” Yet another quote for the ages on a day of testimony that deserves to be remembered.
“Perhaps the most decisive piece of evidence that the hearings are working,” reports Molly Jongh-Fast for The Atlantic, “is an ABC poll, done after the first three hearings, showing that ‘nearly 6 in 10 Americans believe former Pres. Trump should be charged with a crime for his role in the Jan. 6 riot.’ It’s hard to get Americans to agree on anything, let alone something as polarizing as this…. We don’t know what the Justice Department will do. But if it takes action, it will almost certainly be thanks, in part, to the very compelling testimony and proof that the January 6 committee presented to the American people.”
There is nothing to suggest these hearings will decelerate into the mundane once they start up again, and more revelations are sure to follow. It is our collective lot to absorb what these hearings tell us while the Supreme Court runs wild, and as we wait for action from a Justice Department still badly denuded and disgraced by the Trump years. The hottest summer burns on.