House committee The inquiry into the January 6 attack never promised a quiet summer, but at the start of the hearing a month ago it certainly looked like it might be quieter summer. Many of what were expected to be the biggest revelations appeared to have leaked out before the hearings began, and the scheduled six to eight public hearings, each meant to last only about two hours, appeared to show modest ambitions—especially compared to the 237-hour Watergate hearings of 1973, or even the far less consequential 2015 Republican-led Benghazi hearings, where Hillary Clinton herself testified publicly for 11 hours.
But then the hearings actually began—an emotional and tense multimedia roller coaster, exquisitely produced by former ABC News executive James Goldston to emulate the best of the prestigious TV series, where each “episode” reveals deeper twists and more corruption and anger. Rep. Liz Cheney and surprise witness Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to former chief of staff Mark Meadows, instead emerged as the biggest TV stars of the summer.
The testimony thus far has proven far more compelling, damning and damaging to former President Trump’s reputation than almost anyone could have imagined. The committee clearly has the goods and knows how to package them for maximum effect. The panel is now preparing to return from a short summer break with two more hearings this week, one on Tuesday and then, on Thursday, a second prime-time hearing.
For 18 months, the tick-tock of the Trump administration’s chaotic build-up to January 6 has leaked out in news reports, documentaries and government documents, giving the public a sense of its misdeeds and damage to American democracy. But the events seemed similar to what the country (and the world) experienced during his four years as president – a messy and noisy series of ill-advised and haphazard statements, ill-advised tweets, hasty policy decisions and reckless awakening.
Now the country can see differently: There was method in Trump’s madness. The events during the ten weeks from early November to January 6 were far more organized and sinister than previously known.
Most importantly, evidence of crimes and criminality proved inescapable.
In fact, it appears that there was a lot of crime in the days and weeks leading up to the riots at the Capitol on January 6—and Trump’s aides seemed to understand clearly that they were headed for a criminal crackdown. As Hutchinson recounted how White House counsel Pat Cipollone told her: “We will be charged with every crime imaginable if we let the President go to the Capitol1/6”[letthePresidentgototheCapitol1/6”[pustimopredsjednikadaodenaKapitol1/6”[letthePresidentgototheCapitolon1/6”
Overall, the committee painted a far more organized and coherent picture of the administration’s efforts than anyone imagined existed. The hearings revealed a coordinated effort by the Trump White House — and the president himself — to weaponize every public, political and governmental tool at his disposal to maintain power in the face of a clear and convincing election loss. He and a handful of loyal associates tried to undermine the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s victory, encouraged states to overturn valid election results, tried to install election-doubting loyalists in the Justice Department, encouraged consistent pressure on Vice President Mike Pence to step down in his constitutional role and rejected Electoral College certification, and then – when literally everything else failed – encouraged his supporters to the Capitol and then stood by, without action, as they rampaged through the building and came close to harming Pence and lawmakers.
Trump knew what he was doing, his aides repeatedly and widely told him it was wrong, and he continued his pressure campaign anyway. January 6 was not a spontaneous riot; it was the last attempt at a coup that until then had failed at every step. And the fact that so many participants, from members of Congress to, according to Hutchinson, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows himself, apparently sought presidential pardons for their actions in the final days of the Trump administration makes clear that there was what prosecutors call “mens rea,” a guilty mind. . In the 18 months since the events at the Capitol, the Justice Department has filed charges against more than 800 people involved in the riots at the Capitol, including eye-opening “seditious conspiracy” charges against some members of white nationalist militias, such as the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, who are expected to be featured in this week’s congressional hearings. None of the accused were in Trump’s inner circle.