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Clarence Page: Willful blindness is no excuse for Trump’s coup attempt

Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

No matter how much congressional Republicans leaders may encourage us to look anywhere but at the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol assault, the hearings have only become harder to ignore.

Hiring a veteran TV executive helped. The committee astutely turned to former ABC News president James Goldston to help avoid the usual long-winded, mirror-kissing speeches that make me want to take a snooze.

The result? A parade of witnesses, enlivened by lively montages of the Capitol Hill riot, woven into a crisp, clear, made-for-TV narrative that plays out like a TV miniseries.

The miniseries analogy seemed ironically appropriate as the committee played clips from pro-Trump YouTubers and media inviting others to the Jan. 6 rally, calling it a “Red Wedding,” a term familiar to “Game of Thrones” fans as the name of a wedding party that turns into a mass slaughter. Awesome.

As the narrative laid out by live and pre-taped witnesses moved from the streets to what was going on inside the White House that day, Republican co-chair Liz Cheney of Wyoming noted Thursday that a new narrative was strategically being spun by former Trump appointees and allies — and she shot it down.

“The strategy is to blame people his advisers called, quote, the crazies for what Donald Trump did,” she said. Then, as plainly and deliberately as a scolding grade school principal, she lowered the boom.

 

“This, of course, is nonsense. President Trump is a 76-year-old man. He is not an impressionable child. Just like everyone else in our country, he is responsible for his own actions and his own choices.”

Thank you, ma’am. Now that the tyrannical plotting of Trump loyalists is coming into public light, so has a shameful parade of excuse-making by insiders. After years of basking in the glow of their dear leader, Trump’s people now scramble to justify their complicity as, to borrow an infamous phrase from the Nuremberg Trial defendants, “only following orders.”

This new Trump-didn’t-know-any-better narrative was framed on the second day of the hearings by Bill Stepien, one of Trump’s former campaign managers, who described a split in Team Trump between what he called “Team Normal,” his side, and “Team Giuliani,” who he might just as well have called “Team Not-Normal.”

Team Normal had seasoned campaign and legal professionals like himself, as Stepien described them. They knew their boss had lost, told him so and tried to walk him back from the legal ledge off of which he seemed to be so eager to jump.

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