How Could Anyone Still Support Donald Trump?
On Thursday evening, Jan. 21, the Select Committee on January 6 wrapped up the season with a blockbuster hearing, its eighth, into Donald Trump’s role in the violent insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021. Netflix could not have produced a better series.
Like bookends, its first and last hearings were especially powerful. On June 10, the committee opened by showing never-before-seen video of the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6. In this week’s finale, the committee closed by documenting what Donald Trump was doing at the White House for 187 minutes, while that violent attack was taking place.
The answer? He was sequestered in his private dining room for over three hours, watching Fox News. Which, as members Adam Kinzinger and Elaine Luria pointed out, doesn’t mean Trump was doing nothing. He made a conscious choice not to do anything to stop the violence. He called Rudy Giuliani. He called Republican senators. But he did not call the Pentagon, the D.C. Metropolitan Police, or the Department of Homeland Security to ask for help. He didn’t even call Mike Pence, whose life was literally on the line.
Why? Because Trump didn’t want the violence to stop. He liked what he saw on television. This was his last chance, the final plank of his seven-part plan to overturn the election and stay in office. As Stephanie Grisham, former White House press secretary, relates in her book “I’ll Take Your Questions Now,” while Trump was “gleefully” watching television on Jan. 6, he kept saying out loud: “Look at all those people fighting for me.” In Trump’s sick mind, the armed mob wasn’t trying to hang Mike Pence, kill members of Congress, or destroy the Capitol, they were fighting for him. He was just sorry the Secret Service wouldn’t let him join them.
Among all the evidence of Trump’s “missing in action” on Jan. 6, there were several highlights. Most shocking of all: the radio traffic among Secret Service agents, trying to figure out how to get Vice President Pence to a secure location. Even though heavily armed themselves, they were clearly nervous and afraid for his life and their own. Some even made goodbye calls to loved ones. Again, while Trump did nothing.
Another highlight: the outtakes of Trump’s video message on Jan. 7. All day long, staffers and allies in Congress and the media had been imploring him to make a statement condemning the violence of the day before. Otherwise, they warned, Cabinet members were about to invoke the 25th Amendment. Finally, late in the day, Trump agreed. And yet, 24 hours after the siege on the Capitol and two months after the election, he could still not bring himself to utter the words “The election is over” – and refused to do so. In fact, he still won’t utter those words today.
My favorite highlight, I must admit, was the slow-mo video of Sen. Josh Hawley running out of the Capitol to escape the mob – the same mob he’d saluted earlier with a fist pump while walking into the Capitol. That clip produced howls of laughter inside the committee room. Some have criticized the committee’s use of the video as a “cheap shot.” But, as the first senator to say he’d vote against certification of the Electoral College and a constant critic of the Jan. 6 committee’s work, Hawley deserved it.
This last hearing wrapped with two powerful closing statements, both of them by Republican members of the House. No matter how hard Trump tries to dismiss the hearings as a “witch hunt,” Adam Kinzinger pointed out, Trump’s actions leading up to and on Jan. 6 transcend politics: “Whatever your politics, whatever you think about the outcome of the election, we as Americans must all agree on this: Donald Trump’s conduct on January 6 was a supreme violation of his oath of office and a complete dereliction of his duty to our nation.”
And, as usual, it was Vice Chair Liz Cheney who closed the hearing with a bombshell. After noting that all committee witnesses were Trump’s own appointees, friends, campaign officials, staffers, and family, not political enemies, Cheney raised the most important question of all: “Can a president who is willing to make the choices Donald Trump made during the violence of Jan. 6 ever be trusted with any position of authority in our great nation again?”
The answer is: Of course not. Republicans have lots of other choices. Especially after what we’ve learned from these hearings, Donald Trump should not even be on the list.
(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: email@example.com. Readers may also follow him on Twitter @billpresspod.)
©2022 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.