I am not going to go so far as to say I was let down by Thursday night’s prime-time hearing of the January 6 Select Committee, because I wasn’t. Not really; there was enough red meat on that bone to give a whole pack of dogs a nice healthy snack. If the eighth hearing in the series did not entirely live up to the pre-game hype I reported on yesterday, maybe that’s because the previous seven had been so damned good. Last night felt a bit like a victory lap, an underscoring of that which has already been told.
Repetition, they say, is good for memory. Let’s hope so.
Speaking of memory, you will recall the infamous photo of GOP Rep. Josh Hawley saluting the rioters as he made his way to the Capitol on January 6. “We spoke with a Capitol Police officer who was out there at that time,” noted committee member Rep. Elaine Luria during the hearing. “She told us that Senator Hawley’s gesture riled up the crowd, and it bothered her greatly because he was doing it in a safe space, protected by the officers and the barriers.” That image was deftly contrasted with video of Hawley hauling ass out of the building and away from the violence later that same day. Monty Python leaps unavoidably to mind: “Brave Sir Robin ran away…”
“187 minutes” was the overarching theme of the evening. For that grueling span, every warm body with a voice pressed Trump to put a stop to the violence, which he could have done with a 60-second walk to the running cameras in the press room. Not to go tumbling down the basement stairs of bar-napkin metaphysics, but not making a decision is making a decision. Beyond asking for a list of senators to pester about overthrowing the results — Rudy Giuliani was doing the same thing — Trump did nothing to quell the riot, and he could have. He apparently did not want it to stop.
Then there were the outtakes, the clips of video filmed the day after the attack, when Trump tried to fill three short minutes with pieties and scolding… but just couldn’t bring himself to put a bad word on the “patriots” who had spent the day before trying to salvage his election loss at the butt end of a length of pipe. The video shows a man who looks like he just bit into a very old lemon while trying to pass a kidney stone, and the transcript… well, here:
I would like to begin by addressing the heinous attack yesterday…. (weird hand gesture, cut) To those who broke the law, you will pay. You do not represent our movement, you do not represent our country, and if you broke the law.… can’t say that, I’m not, I already said “you will pay” (another weird hand gesture, cut)…. The demonstrators who infiltrated the Capitol have defied the seat (slaps podium) it’s “defiled,” right? I can’t see it very well. I’ll do this, I’m gonna do this, let’s go (cut)…. But this election is now over. Congress has certified the results. I don’t want to say the election’s over, I just want to say “Congress has certified the results” without saying the election’s over, OK? Let me see, go to the paragraph before (cut, messes with sport coat) … OK? I would like to begin by addressing the heinous attack yesterday…. ‘yesterday’ is a hard word for me. Take the word ‘yesterday’ out, cuz it doesn’t work with ‘the heinous attack on our country,’ say ‘on our country,’ wanna say that? (cut) My only goal was to ensure the integrity of the vote (violent gesture, grimace, cut)…. My only goal was to ensure the integrity of the vote (pained expression, slaps podium, cut, fade).
“I don’t want to say the election’s over,” Trump puled. Well, it’s been 18 months. Why start now? Or then? Or ever? Please also note: The passage above accounts for three minutes of what was in full an hour-long ordeal. Make the bad man stop.
For me, the most damning point in the hearing came when those testifying explained how the demeanor of the crowd changed after Trump’s mid-afternoon tweet that Mike Pence had let him down. The mob had been violent and angry already, but word from Trump that Pence had screwed them all led to a detonation of wrath from the rioters that had some in Pence’s security detail radioing in farewell messages to their families. Were these the same Secret Service agents who tried to get Pence into the car he wanted nothing to do with? More testimony is clearly needed.
And that’s the good news: The committee is going to take the month of August to rake up all the as-yet-unexamined leaves they’ve shaken from the trees, and begin the hearings again in September. This will not be a joyful noise for Republicans running in the November midterms, but as Finley Peter Dunne once said, politics ain’t beanbag.
It’s always fascinating to see Democrats remember they actually have muscles, too.
Memo to AG Garland: The case has been made. Thursday night was about making that clear.