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The Threat to American Democracy Grows

Lawyers keep telling judges that former president Donald Trump has immunity regarding everything that happened on January 6. US District Judge Amit Mehta wasn’t buying it and called the charge “simply inappropriate”. The judge was dealing with the meaning of Trump’s refusal to call off the rioters for 187 crucial minutes during the insurrection as they stormed the Capitol building.

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By Kenneth Tiven in Washington

With each passing day, it becomes clearer how determined the Donald Trump faction of the Republican party was to overturn a presidential election to destroy 250 years of democracy and keep their leader in the White House. Lawyers keep telling judges that Trump has immunity regarding everything that happened on January 6.

The latest is Attorney Jesse Binnall, who tried the blanket immunity claim for anything “said or done while president” before a federal district court this past week.

US District Judge Amit Mehta wasn’t buying it. “So the president, in your view, is both immune to inciting the riot and failing to stop it?” Mehta asked this in a civil suit brought by Capitol Police officers hurt in the insurrection battle. He was dealing with the meaning of Trump’s refusal to call off the rioters for 187 crucial minutes during the insurrection as they stormed the Capitol building. Binnell intimated that the judge was holding Trump to a different standard than he would hold a Democrat. Mehta called the charge “simply inappropriate”.

Judge Mehta was born in Patan in Gujarat. He went to college in the US and graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1997. He was nominated for the federal judiciary by President Barack Obama.

It was Metha who ruled in 2019 that the accounting firm Mazars must release financial records regarding president Trump from before his time in office. He wrote then that “history has shown that Congressionally-exposed criminal conduct by the president or a high-ranking executive branch official can lead to legislation. It is simply not fathomable that a Constitution that grants Congress the power to remove a president for reasons including criminal behaviour would deny Congress the power to investigate him for unlawful conduct—past or present—even without formally opening an impeachment inquiry.”

Meanwhile, the House Investigating Committee indicated it is also looking at state-level efforts to overturn the vote that put Democrat Joe Biden in the White House. We now learn that in several states Trump supporters fabricated election certificates submitted for the electoral college vote. This happened in Michigan and Arizona. Sticklers for authenticity in Arizona, they affixed the state seal to the filing. The national archivist rejected the false certificates and alerted the secretaries of state.

Unlike the secrecy surrounding progress in the Robert Mueller probe of Trump’s 2016 election, the House Committee continuously reveals in a number of formal and informal ways what it is finding. Apparently evidence suggests the role of Republicans in Congress to pressurise state officials to find votes for Trump.

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The Committee issued three more subpoenas, this time for documents and testimony from Andy Surabian and Arthur Schwartz, political strategists communicating with Donald Trump, Jr., and Kimberly Guilfoyle about the morning rally on the Ellipse that ignited the insurrection. The third went to Ross Worthington who helped write Trump’s rally speech. Invitations to several Republican Congressmen to appear voluntarily before the Committee have been rejected. Not a surprise and subpoenas could be next. All of this is keeping lawyers busy arguing for and against in court.

In 2015 in the run-up to the 2016 election, Republicans began an “investigation” into the death of an American diplomat in Libya. The Benghazi hearings were designed to denigrate then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the Benghazi incident. Republicans had her appear in a hearing which lasted 11 hours. Clinton was respectful but her appearance in October, 2015 had the intended negative effect on her as a presidential candidate.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris went to the district of the late Representative John Lewis, the Georgia Congressman for whom one of the voting rights bills before the Senate is named to make the case for changing the filibuster rule. This archaic rule, which is not in the Constitution, allows a Senator to object to a bill and stop any vote on it. That can be overridden with 60 votes in the 100 seat US Senate but with membership split 50/50 this is, in reality, unobtainable. The result is that many issues which need attention die rather than getting bipartisan cooperation for a solution.

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Former Florida Congressman Alan Grayson is running to get his seat back. His colourful language and poster art enlivened many debates in the House of Representative in the past. Part of a tweet he recently sent, suggests he still speaks with a sharp voice. Referencing the rally speech on January 6, he quotes the former president: “You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong…. We fight like Hell and if you don’t fight like Hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

Grayson put it this way:

“That’s an attempted coup. It is a conspiracy against the United States. It is sedition. It is treason. The reason that we have a government is to protect US from people like THEM. And the reason why we have prisons is to put people like them inside. A year later, only 74 of those traitors have been sentenced. And they are just the small fry, like the one who defecated on the Capitol’s marble floors.  Meanwhile, the ones who wear coats and ties go unpunished.”

Quoting a Bob Dylan lyric from Hurricane, he added: “All the criminals, in their coats and their ties, are free to drink martinis, and watch the sun rise.”

— The writer has worked in senior positions at The Washington Post, NBC, ABC and CNN and also consults for several Indian channels

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