Discover more from Diane Francis
July 25, 2022
Republican Liz Cheney has likely sacrificed her political future, but guaranteed a place in history, by leading the Congressional probe into the January 6 riot. She and her House Committee colleagues outlined Donald Trump’s plot to overturn a legal election, based on testimony from Republican insiders and officials. And the “smoking gun” arrived last week with damning footage of Steve Bannon, Trump’s guru, before the 2020 election as he explained their scheme: “He’s going to declare victory. That doesn’t mean he’s a winner. He’s just going to say he’s a winner,” said Bannon. “More of our people vote early that count. Theirs [the Democrats’] vote in the mail. And Trump’s going to take advantage of it, that’s our strategy. If Trump is losing by 10:00 or 11:00 at night, it’s going to be even crazier… because he’s going to sit right there and say, 'They stole it’ then ‘I’m instructing the Attorney General to shut down all ballot places in all 50 states’.”
On July 22, the day after the incriminating tape was aired, Bannon was convicted by a jury of “contempt of Congress” for refusing to cooperate with the Jan. 6 hearing, a jail-able offence. Meanwhile, the pile of potential charges against the former President grows. His biggest threat is Georgia where a special grand jury has audio recordings, witness testimony and documentation that demonstrate he personally broke electoral laws. And the court of public opinion has rendered a verdict: Six out of 10 Americans think he should be charged for the riot and 62 percent of Republicans have a favourable view for Mike Pence who refused to leave the Capitol Building on January 6 despite being the principal target of Trump’s mob.
As things now stand, Trump and Bannon are the Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid of American politics. Lawless and on a ledge, they have promoted a theology of white supremacy, misogyny, racism, autocracy, twisted history, violence, and misguided American nationalism. Enamored with military metaphors, Bannon incited followers the day before the riot on his podcast the “War Room”, issuing a call to arms: “So many people said, ‘Man, if I was in a revolution, I would be in Washington.’ Well, this is your time in history. It’s all converging, and now we’re on the point of attack tomorrow. And all I can say is: Strap in. You have made this happen, and tomorrow it’s game day.”
Facts show that Trump came within a bullet or pipe bomb explosion away from pulling off a coup d’etat. If Vice President Mike Pence had been assassinated or injured or kidnapped, Trump would have invoked The Insurrection Act of 1807. That would have allowed him to unilaterally send in troops in Washington and across the country in the defence of constitutional rights and to postpone the handover of power then assumed it indefinitely.
Another bombshell in the hearing was a recording from members of Pence’s security detail who were panicking as the violent mob drew closer. Some even called loved ones to say goodbye, assuming the worst. These messages were transmitted to the White House, but Trump did nothing. He did not call off the riot for more than three hours, nor did he ever call Pence to see if he was okay. Trump’s scheme was to extend his tenure indefinitely by starting, then quelling, his own insurrection.
Because the coup nearly succeeded, reforms must be expedited to prevent any recurrence. A revamped 1887 Electoral Count Act has been put forward so that Congress cannot reject Electoral College votes, the chokepoint rioters targeted. Next lame-duck Presidents cannot be allowed to remain in office for 72 days or, at the very least, should not be allowed to govern without supervision. Trump fired both his defense secretary and attorney general after he lost the election and appointed replacements who would try and pave the way for the insurrection. And blanket immunity for a President from criminal charges, as stated in the 1973 Department of Justice memo concocted during the Nixon era, must be expunged. This memo protected Trump from the Robert Mueller investigation and was a loophole he was well aware of in 2016 when he told an Iowa campaign rally that he could “shoot somebody on 5th Avenue in New York, and wouldn’t lose any voters”. As his lawyer later stated, he wouldn’t go to jail, either, because Presidents cannot be charged.
To date, Trump has been credibly accused of committing at least 48 criminal offenses while President or campaigning for that office, and is being investigated by authorities in New York relating to the Trump Organization, according to Citizens for Ethics, a non-profit advocacy and investigative organization of lawyers. Some of his closest insiders and associates have gone to jail, another dozen have been indicted, and 882 rioters have been charged.
The Wall Street Journal said it best in its post-hearing editorial: “No matter your views of the Jan. 6 special committee, the facts it is laying out in hearings are sobering. The most horrifying to date came Thursday [July 21] in a hearing on President Trump’s conduct as the riot raged and he sat watching TV, posting inflammatory tweets and refusing to send help. Mr. Trump took an oath to defend the Constitution, and he had a duty as Commander in Chief to protect the Capitol from a mob attacking it in his name. He refused. He didn’t call the military to send help. He didn’t call Mr. Pence to check on the safety of his loyal Vice President. Instead he fed the mob’s anger and let the riot play out. In the 18 months since, Mr. Trump has shown not an iota of regret.”
Trump will run again, unless convicted of something. This is why Congress must build guardrails against future grifters. Younger Republicans disavow Trump but the rest of the party hangs tough and wants to shoot the “messenger” — Ms. Cheney. She is admired by only 13 percent of Republicans and her polling is down in Wyoming where she is up for re-election in the upcoming mid-terms – a state where Trump trounced Biden in 2020. However, one Wyoming politician told newspapers that she may not have been “Trumped”. He pointed out that her forthright actions abide by the Code of the West which is “do what has to be done,” “be tough, but fair,” and “when you make a promise, keep it”.