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Three Take-Aways From Jan. 6 Hearings

Bill Press, Tribune Content Agency on

The nation has seen blockbuster congressional hearings before: the Army-McCarthy hearings, which wrecked the career of the hateful Senator Joseph McCarthy; the Watergate hearings, which forced the resignation of President Richard Nixon; and the Iran-Contra hearings, which exposed President Ronald Reagan’s plot to sell arms to Iran in order to fund the Contras in Nicaragua.

But we’ve never seen a set of hearings like the Jan. 6 hearings now underway. As David Corn, Washington bureau chief of Mother Jones, told me on my podcast, they’re the “Super Bowl” of congressional hearings. The very first – the first congressional hearing ever carried in prime time by all three broadcast networks – attracted an audience of 20 million households: 4 million more than tuned into Donald Trump’s last State of the Union address.

Each of the three hearings so far has delivered a powerful punch. On June 9, using never-before seen video, the committee documented the full extent of the carnage and chaos at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 – and pinpointed Donald Trump as the man behind it all. As Congresswoman Liz Cheney put it, “Trump summoned the mob, he assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack.”

The second hearing, on June 13, focused on events leading up to Jan. 6. Based on testimony from former top Trump White House aides, including Trump’s attorney general, campaign manager, and his own daughter – the committee showed that Trump knew he’d lost the election and knew there was no evidence of voter fraud, yet began on election night to tell the “Big Lie” which led directly to the violence of Jan. 6: a lie he and his supporters are still spreading today.

On June 16, the committee zeroed in on the intense pressure Trump placed on Vice President Mike Pence, after everything else had failed, to single-handedly overturn the election: an illegal scheme cooked up by Trump crony John Eastman, which Pence rejected on the advice of in-house counsel Greg Jacob and former federal judge Michael Luttig.

This may prove to be the most consequential of all Jan. 6 hearings, because it concerns possible criminal activity by Trump. A federal judge in California has already ruled that Trump and Eastman likely entered a criminal conspiracy to pressure Pence and obstruct Congress. Testimony by Luttig and Jacob could give Attorney General Merrick Garland all the ammunition he needs to indict Trump.

We’re only halfway through the Jan. 6 hearings, but there are three big take-aways so far. One, Donald Trump is guilty as sin. There’s no doubt about it. Knowing he’d lost the election, Trump figured the only way he could stay in power was to stage a coup and destroy our democracy. So he summoned his supporters to Washington, sicced them on the Capitol, knowing ahead of time it might turn ugly – “Will be wild!” - and then did nothing to stop the violence once it broke out.

There are many who argue that Garland should not file charges against Trump. It’s enough, they say, if a majority of Americans conclude that he’s guilty. But I strongly disagree. Everybody in a small town may know who robbed the bank, for example, but unless the robber is tried and convicted, he’ll just go out and rob another bank. Same with Trump. He must be indicted for the crimes he committed, and I’m disappointed Merrick Garland hasn’t already done so.

 

Second take-away. The Trumps are a bunch of grifters. We kind of knew that before. Trump, after all, used the presidency to line his own pockets, charging the Secret Service rent at Mar-A-Lago. Now, thanks to the Jan. 6 committee, we know he also used the “Big Lie” to raise $250 million from clueless supporters to fund a “fight the big steal” committee that didn’t even exist – which may also be illegal.

Finally, don’t be fooled by the sudden candor seen from Bill Barr, Bill Stepien, Jason Miller, and other former Trump aides. They may be telling the truth now, but why? Only because they were subpoenaed by the committee and forced to testify under oath. For over a year, they said nothing. Several of them continued to work for Trump.

Where were they when we needed them? Why’d they wait until forced to testify before telling the truth? Had they spoken out earlier, Trump’s Big Lie would have been busted – and Jan. 6 might not have occurred.

Third big take-away: There are no bad guys and good guys in Trump world. They’re all bad guys.

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(Bill Press is host of The BillPressPod, and author of 10 books, including: “From the Left: My Life in the Crossfire.” His email address is: bill@billpress.com. Readers may also follow him on Twitter @billpresspod.)

©2022 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

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