Alan Zendell, June 15, 2022
The testimony, almost entirely from the mouths of Trump supporters and other prominent Republicans, has been damning. As one retired federal prosecutor said when asked if the Special January 6th House Committee was building a prosecutable criminal case against former President Trump, “If I were still a prosecutor I would be salivating over a case like this one.” Always skeptical about whether Congress had either the political courage or the competence to see something like the investigation of the attack on our Capitol through, I am amazed at what I saw in the first two Hearings.
Apparently, so were the executives at Fox News, who had vowed not to carry them live. Maybe it was the ratings – 20 million people viewed the first Hearing live in prime time, while 10 million viewed the second in the middle of a Monday workday morning. But these days, with DVRs, reruns on streaming channels, and dozens of online links to the proceedings, the total number of people who watched around the world can only be estimated. Or maybe it was the spectacle of former long-time Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, arguably the only real journalist in their fold, participating in CNN panels, sounding like a wise voice of reason, but even Fox decided to cover the remaining Hearings.
It was a great decision to turn the first two over to respected female members of the House. Liz Cheney (R, WY) and Zoe Lofgren (D, CA) were both eloquent and soft spoken. They were unemotional and to the point, presenting evidence like university professors teaching a history class about the insurrection. Cheney is one of only two Republicans on the Committee, but she represents every principled Conservative who accepts the label “Republican.” In a world in which the only defense against truth was an insane, twelve-page, lie-filled rant Trump released on his social media site, there is no better spokeperson for the truth than Liz Cheney.
Hearing people like Trump’s 2020 campaign manager Bill Stepien, his Attorney General Bill Barr, and loyal aide Jason Miller testify that Trump, despite understanding full well that he had lost a fair, free election, continued to spread the Big Lie that it was rigged and stolen by Democrats; hearing them testify that they repeatedly told him all of his accusations and conspiracy theories were nonsense and bullshit, and that Trump deliberately defrauded his own supporters to the tune of a quarter billion dollars made the truth too compelling to turn away from. Yet, there’s a downside to that, since every former Trumper who testified had remained steadfast in their support of Trump until they were subpoenaed by the House Committee. It was a little like watching a vicious criminal turning on his boss in exchange for a plea deal – but alas, that’s how many of our most heinous criminals are put away.
Despite Chairman Bennie Thompson’s (D, MS) insistence that the Committee’s job is simply to present the findings of a year-long extensive investigation to the public, it’s clear that they are also building a strong criminal case that will be referred to the Justice Department. AG Merrick Garland will have to decide whether to charge the former President with any number of serious felonies: wire fraud, inciting insurrection, conspiracy to obstruct the Congress from performing its constitutional responsibility among them. I don’t believe Mr. Garland is intimidated by politics or threats. The only thing that might prevent him from prosecuting Trump is if he believes the evidence gathered by the Committee is insufficient to win at trial. Legal observers also believe prosecutors in Georgia are close to seeking an indictment. From a lay person’s point of view, it’s difficult to imagine a more self-incriminating scenario than insisting on live television that Georgia’s Secretary of State needed to “find” enough votes to enable Trump to reverse Biden’s victory in the state. But politics being what they are today, it’s tough to predict.
On the other hand, it’s easy to predict that either indictment would end Trump’s chances of ever holding office again. A federal or state felony indictment will cost him his standing with independent voters, and even if every member of his MAGA base stays with him, they’re not enough to carry the day for him. But no matter how much you might despise Trump, and few people feel that way more than I do, driving him from the political scene won’t change the fact that he has spent seven long years activating and energizing the worst elements of his base. Thus, we may finally be rid of Trump, but we’ll still have to watch every step. There are vipers everywhere.