House Committee the investigation into the January 6 attack never promised a quiet summer, but when the hearings started a month ago, it certainly looked like it could be a more quiet summer. Many of what were expected to be the biggest revelations seemed to have leaked before the hearings began, and the six to eight scheduled public meetings, which are expected to last only about two hours each, telegraphed modest ambitions – especially compared to The Watergate hearings in 1973, which stretched to 237 hours, or even the far less consistent Benghazi hearings in 2015, in which Hillary Clinton alone testified publicly for 11 hours.
But then began the hearings, and with them an emotionally charged and tense multimedia slide, exquisitely produced by former ABC News chief James Goldston to emulate a prestige TV series in which each “episode” reveals deeper twists and ever-increasing corruption and indignation. Representative Liz Cheney and surprise witness Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to former chief of staff Mark Meadows, proved to be the biggest TV stars of the summer.
The testimony has so far proved far more convincing, judgmental and damaging to former President Trump than almost anyone had imagined. The committee obviously has the goods and knows how to pack them for maximum effect. The committee is preparing to return from a short summer break with two more hearings this week, one on Tuesday and another on Thursday, which will be its second hearing in prime time.
For 18 months, the tick of the Trump administration’s chaotic build-up to January 6 has been leaked into news reports, documentaries and government documents, giving the public a sense of the extent of the atrocities and damage to American democracy. But the events had seemed akin to what the country (and the world) had gone through during Trump’s four years as president – a disorderly and noisy series of careless and haphazard statements, ill-considered tweets, hasty political choices and ruthless blasts.
Now the country can see something else: There was a method to Trump’s madness. The events across the 10 weeks from early November to January 6 were far more organized and scary than previously known.
Most importantly, evidence of crime and criminality has proved inevitable.
In fact, it seems that there was a lot of crime in the days and weeks leading up to the riot in the Capitol on January 6 – and Trump’s aides seemed to clearly understand that they were heading for a criminal showdown. Like Hutchinson reported White House attorney Pat Cipollone told her: “We will be charged with every conceivable crime if we [let the President go to the Capitol on 1/6.]”
Overall, the committee has drawn a far more organized and coherent picture of the administration’s efforts than anyone had imagined existed. The hearings have revealed a seven-pronged coordinated effort by Trump’s White House – and the president personally – to arm any public, political and state tool at his disposal to hold on to power in the face of a clear and convincing election loss. He and a small cadre of loyal aides tried to undermine the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s victory, urging states to overturn valid election results, trying to install skeptical loyalists in the Justice Department, and consistently putting Vice President Mike Pence to step outside. his constitutional role and reject the Electoral College certification. And then – when literally everything else failed – Trump encouraged his supporters to flock to the Capitol and then stood next to it – taking no action to stop the uprising – as they stumbled through the building and were close to hurting Pence. and legislators.
Trump knew what he was doing, was told by aides repeatedly and broadly that it was wrong, and yet continued his press campaign. January 6 was not a spontaneous riot; it was the last attempt at a coup that had failed at every step until then. And the fact that so many of the participants, from members of Congress to, according to Hutchinson, head of the White House Mark Meadows even, apparently seeking the president’s pardon for their actions in the last days of the Trump administration, makes it clear that there was what prosecutors call “while rea,” a guilty mind. In the 18 months since the events at the Capitol, the Department of Justice has filed charges against more than 800 people involved in the riots at the Capitol, including eye-opening allegations of “rebellious conspiracy” against some of the white nationalist militia members, such as Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys, who should have a prominent place at this week’s congressional hearings. Just none of those yet charged have been within Trump’s inner circle.