Posted By Russ Carroll
Yet did the committee offer a damning look at President Trump’s scheme to stay in office after losing the 2020 election? Also yes. Fresh video of the riot is a reminder that Jan. 6 was a brutal melee of fists and chemical sprays. “I was slipping in people’s blood,” said Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards. The footage is visceral, even if similar scenes were already on YouTube.
The committee did offer some new and ugly details. “Aware of the rioters’ chants to ‘hang Mike Pence, ’” Rep. Liz Cheney said, “the President responded with this sentiment: Quote, maybe our supporters have the right idea. Mike Pence, quote, deserves it.” Who is the source of that quotation? The committee didn’t say.
Ms. Cheney also said that Mr. Trump gave no orders to the National Guard on Jan. 6 to aid the besieged police, even as Mr. Pence was calling in the cavalry from his post at the Capitol. “There were two or three calls with Vice President Pence,” said Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, in audio testimony. “He issued very explicit, very direct, unambiguous orders.” In effect, “get the Guard down here, put down this situation.”
Mr. Milley also spoke with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. “He said, we have to kill the narrative that the Vice President is making all the decisions,” Mr. Milley recalled.
So was Mr. Pence in fact giving orders to the military, while the President watched the riot on TV and abdicated his responsibility as Commander-in-Chief? This was reported by the press soon after the riot, citing anonymous officials. But it’s something else to hear it from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
The same goes for the testimony about Mr. Trump’s flimsy theories of undetectable mass voter fraud. “I did not agree with the idea of saying the election was stolen and putting out this stuff, which I told the President was bull—,” Attorney General Bill Barr testified.
Alex Cannon, a lawyer for the Trump campaign, recounted a conversation with Mr. Meadows: “I remember sharing with him that we weren’t finding anything that would be sufficient to change the results in any of the key states.” The point is that Mr. Trump was told by his own advisers that he lost the election but still deceived his supporters.
The committee appears to be trying to build a case of “seditious conspiracy” against Mr. Trump, but here the evidence isn’t persuasive. Ms. Cheney offered no evidence that Mr. Trump communicated directly with the Oath Keepers or Proud Boys, who were the vanguard of the assault on the Capitol.
The President spread falsehoods about the election. He invited supporters to Washington on Jan. 6, tweeting on Dec. 19 that it “will be wild!” He riled up the crowd and urged it to march on the Capitol. After violence began, he dawdled instead of sending help. Mr. Trump bears responsibility for the mayhem. But inspiring followers to march is not the same as leading a criminal conspiracy.
One irony is that the largely Democratic committee’s evidence makes clear that Mr. Trump’s designs on overturning the election were foiled mainly by Republicans, including many in his Administration. White House lawyers threatened to resign if he fired Justice Department officials who didn’t indulge his fraud theories. GOP state legislators refused to name new electors. His judicial appointees rejected dubious fraud claims. Above all, his own Vice President stood up to Mr. Trump’s public and private pressure not to count electoral votes.
The committee calls Jan. 6 an “attempted coup.” That makes it seem as if there was a chance of success. There wasn’t. It was an impossible plan hatched by screwballs, and it would have gone down as such if the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers hadn’t breached the Capitol. In the event, Congress still returned to fulfill its duty and count the electoral votes.
Many Congressional Republicans dishonored themselves by voting to object to electors, even after the riot. But most of the GOP refused to go along. The person who owns Jan. 6 is Donald Trump. Remarkably, he seems to welcome this. “January 6th was not simply a protest,” he wrote Thursday on Truth Social, “it represented the greatest movement in the history of our Country to Make America Great Again.”
Pity the people who went to Washington believing this nonsense, not least the more than 800 who have been charged with criminal offenses. Thursday’s hearing ended with video of rioters explaining their thinking, as their criminal charges flashed on the screen. “I did believe that the election was being stolen,” one man said, “and Trump asked us to come.”
Mr. Trump betrayed his supporters by conning them on Jan. 6, and he is still doing it.