The highly anticipated congressional hearings into the January 6, 2021, assault on the United States Capitol are slated to begin this Thursday evening. Member of the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack, Rep. Jamie Raskin, stoked the rising anticipation on Monday by reporting, “The select committee has found evidence about a lot more than incitement here. We’re going to be laying out the evidence about all of the actors who were pivotal to what took place on January 6.”
It seems, however, that some are worried enough about gathering an audience for the event that they are allowing some heavy bricks to fall early, or perhaps someone is merely not willing, after 17 months, to wait a minute longer. Whatever the reason, the leaks that began on Monday have become a torrent.
“The Georgia email has not been disclosed publicly until now,” reported CNN on Monday morning. “It was sent by Robert Sinners, [former President Donald] Trump’s election day operations lead in Georgia on December 13, 2020, 18 hours before the group of alternate electors gathered at the Georgia State Capitol, according to multiple sources familiar with it. ‘I must ask for your complete discretion in this process,’ Sinners wrote. ‘Your duties are imperative to ensure the end result — a win in Georgia for President Trump — but will be hampered unless we have complete secrecy and discretion.'”
This email is in the hands of the January 6 committee; the Justice Department’s investigation into the attack; and the Fulton County, Georgia, district attorney’s office, where they have been investigating Trump’s direct effort to have Georgia elected officials “find” more than 11,000 votes after the election was over.
It is altogether ominous on its face; the scheme to send alternate electors to Congress could have badly fouled the election process had it been carried out with a modicum of competence. The same tactic worked all too well in 1876. At a bare minimum, the demand for “complete secrecy” betrays the fact that the actors here knew full well they were operating well outside the parameters of good faith and the law in search of a different election result.
Later on Monday, former Department of Homeland Security official Miles Taylor dropped a tweet for the ages:
I believe Trump intended to incite an insurrection as a pretext for declaring some form of marshal law. He mused about invoking the Insurrection Act YEARS before Jan 6 — calling it a “magic power” — in convos I witnessed & was briefed on.
— Miles Taylor (@MilesTaylorUSA) June 6, 2022
Leaving aside the bracing need for someone to sit these folks down and teach them how to spell “martial law,” (paging Marjorie Taylor Greene) is the fact that, if Taylor’s account is accurate, we now have two distinct tracks to follow: 1.) The initial plan behind the mob action was to force then-Vice President Mike Pence into overturning the election results during the certification hearing; 2.) failing that, the vivid violence of the insurrection itself could be used as justification for imposing martial (!) law, which would at least temporarily have imperiled the election results.
Thursday better hurry up, lest all the cats bolt the bag before the show even begins. “The House select committee investigating the Capitol attack will unveil new evidence at Watergate-style public hearings this week showing Donald Trump and top aides acted with corrupt intent to stop Joe Biden’s certification,” reports the Guardian. “As the Justice Department mounts parallel investigations into the Capitol attack, the select committee is hoping that the previously unseen evidence will leave an indelible mark on the American public about the extent to which Trump went in trying to return himself to the Oval Office.”
Not content to let the evidence do the talking on its own, the committee has enlisted the help of James Goldston, former president of ABC News and master documentarian for “Nightline” and “Good Morning America.” According to Axios, “Goldston is busily producing Thursday’s 8 p.m. ET hearing as if it were a blockbuster investigative special. He plans to make it raw enough so that skeptical journalists will find the material fresh, and chew over the disclosures in future coverage. And he wants it to draw the eyeballs of Americans who haven’t followed the ins and outs of the Capitol riot probe.”
The Brookings Institute was kind enough to assemble a highly detailed primer for Thursday’s events. “The report covers key players in the attempt to overturn the election, the known facts regarding their conduct, and the criminal law applicable to their actions,” according to the executive summary. For those who wish to be fully prepared for Thursday, it is an indispensable document.
This moment arrives freighted with extreme tension. On Monday, four members of the hard right militia group Proud Boys — leader Henry “Enrique” Tarrio and lieutenants Ethan Nordean, Joe Biggs and Zachary Rehl — were indicted in federal court on charges of seditious conspiracy: “opposing the lawful transfer of presidential power by force.” According to The Washington Post, “The charges show prosecutors pulling together a wider picture of organization within extremist groups that shared overlapping if not common goals. The investigations have exposed hints of coordination among groups, even as the FBI and Justice Department are expanding their investigations into the political orbit of former president Donald Trump.”
The Proud Boys and groups like it are the fascist fist within Trump’s insurrectionist glove, the implicit promise of extreme violence if the will of the maximum leader is thwarted. How that group, and the others, will react to these indictments remains to be seen. Some have cooperated with investigators, but the others, the ones still free? I assume security at the Thursday hearings will be tight.
Only days ago, a retired judge in Wisconsin named Jack Roemer was found in his home, zip-tied to a chair and shot to death. His assassin, who shot himself but survived, carried a hit list that included Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The alleged killer could very well have been a rogue element, but then again, so was George Wallace’s attempted assassin Arthur Bremer. In a country enduring an upward spiral of political violence, the fear of returning to an age of politically-motivated murders is all too present.
Many today are exhausted, dispirited, more than a little afraid and altogether out of patience. The people have been led on snipe hunts leading nowhere since the Iran-Contra hearings and the Great Big Nothing that was the Robert Mueller investigation, combined with a pair of deliberately futile impeachment proceedings, were awfully damned close to the last straw. I have not spoken to a single person who expects anything to come from these hearings. In my capacity as journalist, I am required to keep an open mind… but I, too, share in that collective exhausted despair.
The building thunderclouds are impressive, at least. We shall see if they bring the rain, or just more empty wind.