Alan Zendell, June 8, 2022
Last January, the Department of Justice indicted Elmer Stewart Rhodes III, the leader of the far-right extremist group, The Oath Keepers, charging him with seditious conspiracy. Two days ago, DOJ indicted Henry Tarrio, leader of another far-right extremist group, The Proud Boys, on the same charge. The indictments included several other charges, and netted fourteen other Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. The work of the Select House Committee on the January 6 Insurrection is providing a clear picture of how the two groups of all-male, anti-immigrant, heavily armed racists plotted to intimate Congress and prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.
Tomorrow, the Committee will begin presenting its findings based on evidence gathered over the past sixteen months. Maryland Congressman Jamie Raskin, Committee member and former constitutional law professor at American University, a man I admire greatly, told America that the televised hearings will blow the lid off the January 6th attack on the Capitol. The crimes committed that day are extremely serious, but they represent only the tip of the iceberg of Donald Trump’s legacy.
There will be bipartisan cheering when the conspirators are convicted. Democrats will beat their chests in vindication, while Republicans will try to blame the insurrection on the two extremist groups and claim that the Trump White House and its most rabid supporters were merely innocent bystanders, and any attempt to connect them with the attack on the Capitol is purely political. For the rest of us who are sick of divisive politics and fear for the future of our country, the outcome will be bittersweet at best.
The timing of the hearings has a political component, as they will take aim directly at several House Republicans up for re-election who openly spread Trump’s Big Lie and incited the crowd gathered at the White House that morning to march on the Capitol. America and the world saw and heard them on live television. The primary season has already given us an indication of what we may see five months from now in the midterm elections, as Missouri Republicans sent Josh Hawley, the loudest lie-spreading Trumper in the Senate, packing after one term.
We’ll have to wait and see what Congressman Raskin meant by blowing the lid off, but leaks from the Committee and the reactions of Trump associates taking the fifth in or refusing to cooperate with the investigation give us a clue. Two prominent Trump advisors, Stephen K. Bannon and Peter Navarro, have been indicted by federal grand juries for contempt of Congress. Refusing to testify or using the Fifth Amendment to avoid incriminating themselves is surely their right under the Constitution, but We the People also have rights, among them the right to ask what those who refuse to accept a valid congressional subpoena are hiding.
We have strong indications that the conspiracy to undermine the 2020 election and replace valid slates of electors from battleground states extended high into the Trump administration. Whether the facts prove that Trump himself was directly involved must wait for another day, but we have already seen considerable evidence that the former president ignored appeals from supporters and his own family to order the rioters to cease and desist, and testimony from some of the people closest to Trump that he thoroughly enjoyed the spectacle of his people attacking the Capitol.
The January 6th insurrection was an attempt to undermine our Constitution. Had it succeeded, and had Vice President Pence had not withstood pressure from Trump to refuse to certify the election results, our country would today be in the midst of a crisis from which we might not emerge whole. Perhaps more important, January 6th was merely the logical extension of everything Donald Trump stands for. From the day he announced his candidacy for president seven years ago, he relentlessly attacked our democratic institutions and traditions.
Trump demonstrated a complete lack of respect for truth, morality, and the most fundamental right of Americans to choose their own leaders in free elections. He brazenly let his personal greed and lust for power usurp every standard of fairness and decency. Politics is always ugly, but until Fox News founder Roger Ailes convinced Trump that lies and racism were the keys to victory, it managed to function when it had to. Trump replaced the natural divisiveness between Conservative and Progressive agendas with a war between truth and lies. His legacy, that facts don’t matter, autocracy is preferable to democracy, and moral leadership is irrelevant is the precise opposite of the principles on which our country was founded.
In the final analysis, the list of who is convicted and sent to prison is far less important than rooting out those would undermine our way of life for their own benefit and assuring that they never serve in a position of power again.