The January 6 House Committee, after eight days of hearings, is taking a breal. They will resume hearings in September. Thus, now is a suitable time to take stock of what has transpired.
One of the arguments made by the Trumpians is that there is no need for a committee. January 6 is in the past. Trump himself answered that claim. This past week, he contacted the Wisconsin Assembly Speaker to try to have the legislature overturn the 2020 election results in the state. Without saying the words that he is running for president, Trump has been acting as a candidate. Trump has repeatedly gotten involved in various elections, campaigning for candidates. He still acts as the leader of the Republican Party. He also tried to contact a potential witness at the hearing. Without having to bring other reasons why the Committee is necessary, the fact that Trump has not walked quietly into the sunset as did Nixon, is why the Committee’s work is important. Now it is time for winners and losers. It was hard to decide who to mention since there were so many.
When the process began, I had low expectations. We saw what happened on January 6. Much information concerning before and after January 6 involving the false claims of election fraud was public. Also, committee members typically use public hearings to give speeches. This includes the so-called question and answer portion of the hearing. Moreover, the Committee had a Democratic majority and two Republican members who are on the outs with the Trumpians who appear to control the Republican Party. In contrast, the fact witnesses are Republicans, many of whom worked in the Trump administration. It seemed like a long shot that they would get anything useful out of them. There had been the Muller report and two impeachments, yet it had negligible effect on the public support for Trump. There was no reason to believe this committee’s hearing would be different.
The Committee proved otherwise. Almost every witness who came in to testify was a Republican, and many, including Cassie Hutchinson, worked in the Trump administration. They also effectively used video including interviews from Attorney General Bill Barr, the White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, and Ivanka Trump. Only four members of the committee spoke each day of the hearing. Generally, speeches were left to a minimum and the hearing did not drag on. Also, Liz Cheney, a Republican, became the face of the committee became. A lot of new information was learned. The hearing has influenced the public and politicians in Washington. For example, the New York Post, in a July 22 editorial entitled “Trump’s Silence On Jan. 6 Is Damning,” said that “he was the only person who could stop what was happening. He was the only one the crowd was listening to. It was incitement by silence. He thought the violence of his loyal followers would make Pence crack or delay the vote altogether. To his eternal shame, as appalled aides implored him to publicly call on his followers to go home, he instead further fanned the flames by tweeting: ‘Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.’ His only focus was to find any means — damn the consequences — to block the peaceful transfer of power. There is no other explanation, just as there is no defense, for his refusal to stop the violence.”
The Republican Study Committee had a closed-door meeting with Mike Pence. He was widely praised for certifying the election. I doubt that either would have happened but for what was disclosed at the hearings.
Pence is a long shot to win the Republican nomination, but his reputation has been enhanced by what was disclosed at the hearing. He was subject to an immense amount of pressure by Trump. He barely escaped with his life. Nevertheless, he did not let Trump and the mob intimidate him from doing what was right in certifying the election. Also, Pence although he was not in the chain of command, took control of the situation while Trump sat at his television and did nothing while “his people” were defacing the Capitol looking for members of Congress. Pence reached out to the military and others to get help. Pence did not leave the area, although requested by Secret Service. Pence has become more emboldened to take on Trump. In Georgia, he supported Governor Kemp, who trounced Trump-supported candidate David Perdue. In Arizona, they are supporting different candidates as well.
Religious individuals played a significant role in the hearings and in what happened on January 6. Mike Pence’s religious beliefs are well known. His chief of staff testified about them praying at the beginning of January 6 and at the end of the day. Russel Bowers, The Arizona Speaker of the State Legislature, talked about his faith and that the constitution is a divinely inspired document. Their faith helped them to do the right thing and not listen to Trump.
Every witness is a winner. They showed courage in coming forth to testify. Each one knew that they would be subject to the wrath of Trump and his supporters. Also, they could be subject to death threats or demeaning comments. It has made them persona non grata with those who they traditionally would work with such as fellow Republicans. Two of the witnesses’ poll workers in Georgia spoke about the harassment and threats they received because of Trump and Giuliani falsely accusing them of engaging in illegal conduct. They had to leave their homes, and to date are still afraid. Another witness was subjected to harassment while his dying daughter was living with him.
He is keeping his mouth shut about the hearings and watching Trump twist in the wind. He is becoming the Trump alternative without the baggage.
He has been damaged politically by the revelations. At the beginning of the hearing, it appeared that his chances of being criminally charged was slim to none. That has changed. The presentation of Trump’s extensive involvement in nefarious conduct has created the atmosphere where the majority of the country could accept having the former president and probable candidate being charged with a crime without concluding that it is a political witch hunt.
He can kiss the speakership goodbye. He had the chance to name additional members to the Committee when two of his original choices were rejected. Instead, he decided to balk, thinking that the committee would be discredited as partisan hatchet job. Big mistake, which Trump has called him out for doing. If he had Republicans on the Committee, they could have been the moles keeping the Trump team informed as to the Committee’s plans and to whom they were talking. Also, the member could have tried to disrupt the flow of the proceeding by making speeches, getting to procedural arguments or the other nonsense that goes on at typical committee meetings.
McCarthy did not want to speak to the Committee. So, the Committee played his public comments and the comments he made to other members of Congress. The most damning was a Republican House member stating that McCarthy asked Trump to do something about the rioters who stormed the Capitol and Trump responded, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”
The Senator tried to create an image of a tough guy who gave a fist salute to the mob. The Committee showed video of him running for his life when the mob breached the Capitol.
He wanted to be appointed as Attorney General by Trump because he was going to do Trump’s dirty work. Trump reneged giving him the appointment when faced with the warning of mass resignations. The same day at the hearings when Clark was roasted by various members in the Justice Department as being incompetent, he had his house searched per warrant by the FBI.
Instead of doing what many others did like Rudy Giuliani, Michael Flynn, and Eric Trump by coming in and taking the fifth many times, Bannon decided not to cooperate at all. He was full of bluster when he refused to cooperate but went down quietly by not testifying at his criminal contempt trial, where he was found guilty.
There was testimony that when the mob breached the Capitol and came looking for Mike Pence, many of the Secret Service officers were calling family members saying their goodbyes. Not the image that they want to portray. Then it came out that the Secret Service decided to purge the members’ phones of information including text messages for January 5 and January 6 as part of a typical cleansing of equipment. This started even after requested by the committee and other agencies to retain the information. The Secret Service gave each agent the discretion whether they needed to save anything. To no great shock, only one innocuous item was kept. Then the Secret Service claimed that they could not get the data back. They are trying to protect themselves or Trump, or are just incompetent. None of the choices makes them look good. They are now subject to a criminal investigation. The Secret Service has also been uncooperative in having people come in and testify before the Committee, instead leaking unnamed sources.
Their slogan used to be “fair and balanced.” That Fox is long gone. Fox decided that it was more important to pander to their viewers, so they refused to show the two prime time hearings on its main station. Also, the hearings were basically a no-show on their website. In the words of Sergeant Schultz, “I see nothing, I hear nothing. I know nothing.” With only a few exceptions, such as Bret Baier and Neil Cavuto, they have now joined the likes of OAN and Newsmax as nothing more than a right-wing propaganda outfit and not a legitimate news network. Nevertheless, they were mentioned at the hearing. One of witnesses was a former employee who was forced out after he was the first person to call Arizona for Biden on air. The Committee also showed text messages from Fox stalwarts Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity, imploring Trump to do something while the rioting in the Capitol was going on.
There is so much to talk about. For those who have not seen the hearings, you can see them online, such as on YouTube. If you are pressed for time, skip the politicians’ comments except for Liz Chaney and watch the questioning of the witnesses and the video presentations. The hardcore Trumpians will continue the path of ignoring or belittling the Committee. Therefore, don’t expect much commentary about the hearings from Fox, my fellow columnists, or the other right-wing Jewish papers that we have in the neighborhood. However, most of the country has noticed. Minds are being changed.