Early reports suggest tonight’s reportedly final 8 pm House Select Committee hearing on the January 6 Capitol attack will be quite the stemwinder. According to The Washington Post, one core element of the evening will involve showing outtakes of a video Donald Trump tried to make the day after the attack. The video was intended to calm the waters, but as the Post has it, “Over the course of an hour of trying to tape the message, Trump resisted holding the rioters to account, trying to call them patriots, and refused to say the election was over.”
You just knew Dr. Strangelove trying to suppress a Nazi salute was going to be in this somewhere.
It gets deeper. We all recall how heated everyone was in the immediate aftermath of the attack. No lesser lights than Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy and even notorious lickspittle Lindsey Graham publicly washed their hands of Trump. In that climate, according to a CNN report, Trump was pushed to make that video because “his own cabinet might be preparing to use the 25th Amendment to remove him from office.”
Chicken-fried Trump is not the only item on the menu, as Rolling Stone reports:
The Jan. 6 committee plans to use its Thursday-night hearing to call out insurrection-friendly lawmakers who cowered during the Capitol attack but have since downplayed the insurrection’s severity, according to two sources familiar with the committee’s planning.
“They have plans to paint a really striking picture of how some of Trump’s greatest enablers of his coup plot were — no matter what they’re saying today — quaking in their boots and doing everything shy of crying out for their moms,” one source tells Rolling Stone. “If any of [these lawmakers] were capable of shame, they would be humiliated.”
In other words, tonight’s festivities will apparently be a nationally broadcast humble pie, and everyone in Trump’s corner has to take a bite. This hearing also comes just after the prosecution rested its case against Trump ally Steve Bannon for contempt of Congress. Only two witnesses were called. The defense attempted to “flood the zone with shit,” in the immortal words of Mr. Bannon, but was soundly smacked down by Judge Carl J. Nichols. “I do not intend for this to become a political case,” the judge warned the defense, “a political circus, a forum for partisan politics.” Thus was Bannon deprived use of the most well-worn club in his bag.
All good things must come to an end. So it is with tonight’s apparently final event. These hearings, without fail, have been a showcase for what government can accomplish if it chooses to get out of its own way and let the facts do the talking. Though the panel is predominantly comprised of Democrats, with two notable GOP expats in the mix, almost every witness has been Republican, and their testimony has been ruinous for Trump and the prior administration. If the tatters of this democracy are eventually salvaged, a large portion of the credit will rightly go to this group of lawmakers, led by Bennie Thompson of the Delta and Liz Cheney of the range.
“I believe this is the most important thing I’ve ever done professionally,” Cheney recently told The New York Times, “and maybe the most important thing I ever do.” No argument from me on that score; before the insurrection, “important” to Cheney involved going on Fox News to defend torture, support Donald Trump 93 percent of the time, and denounce Democrats as antisemitic jihadist baby-killing socialists. She was Matt Gaetz’s favorite Republican. As Adam Serwer said in The Atlantic last year, “Cheney now finds herself on the wrong side of a line she spent much of her political career enforcing.”
As distasteful as it may have been for progressives and other mammals to tolerate Cheney on the committee, her presence lent credence to hearings which could otherwise have been dismissed as a partisan sideshow.
Make no mistake: These were all incredibly vital moments in the life of this republic. The committee needed to prove beyond doubt that Trump was responsible for the violent chaos visited upon us all, that every opportunity he had to settle things down — before, during and after that fateful day — he instead deliberately used to make everything worse. That case has been made, and will apparently be underscored with emphasis tonight.
Put another way, if Democrats had been allowed to run the Trump impeachments the way they ran these hearings (looking at you, Nancy Pelosi), the odds of his removal would have significantly increased, especially after the second riot-inspired proceeding. This committee has no such power, so it falls to Attorney General Merrick Garland to pick up the battle standard and charge the high ground. Garland’s recent missive to the agency warning everyone to be nice to politicians leaves me thinking nothing will happen with this before November, except perhaps to motivate Trump to jump in early.
And whatever to all that. The Justice Department has been a damn nightmare factory for as long as I can recall, so why should tonight be any different? Still, the testimony was worth it, because all of us deserved to know the truth.
I’ll see you tonight. Be sure to bring a crying towel for all the congressional Trumpers who are about to be humiliated in prime time. Let the million flowers bloom.