Saturday, December 9, 2023

Trump: The dog that didn’t bark at Capitol insurrection

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By Kenneth Tiven

Sherlock Holmes solved a murder in “Silver Blaze” because witnesses said a dog did not bark, identifying the suspect  as a friend of the deceased. The same logic has been applied to former US President Donald Trump’s behaviour by the House Committee investigating the insurrection of January 6, 2021.

Trump then watched for three hours as a mob he inspired attacked the Capitol. His observed disregard for both the federal law and his Oath of Office is the irrefutable clue that he was involved beforehand and that it all amounts to a massive dereliction of duty. The first seven hearings suggested “losing”  is outside Trump’s emotional capability, and like Dr. Frankenstein, he created a monster he would not stop.

For three hours, Trump made no official phone calls through the White House switchboard as required by archive regulations, took no meetings as the mob savaged cops and defaced the Capitol. He did tweet his disgust with Vice President Mike Pence’s failure to act as Trump had wanted. He sat in the Oval Office Dining Room and admired his vision playing out on television screens. Regardless of what happens going forward, this coup is his legacy as a mediocre businessman and corrupt president.

The fallout from the House Committee’s eight episode presentation of what happened is having a discernible, if difficult to quantify, impact. Conventional wisdom about America’s midterm national elections may be meaningless. Republican optimism is based on people missing Trump, angry about inflation and Biden’s difficulties with a deadlocked Senate, which now may be somewhat unrealistic.

Democrats believe they have voter enthusiasm from opposition to the Supreme Court’s recent decisions on civil rights issues of abortion, religion, and gun ownership. Combined with a true picture of Trump’s involvement in the coup effort, there is optimism that they can gain enough Senate seats to make it possible for the Biden Administration to carry out proposed social and economic policies.

In a move sure to upset the ultra-conservative faction of Trump supporters the committee is considering a subpoena for Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Text messages to and from Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows indicate she was actively involved in planning and supporting ex-president Trump’s Big Lie propaganda.

A host of legal ramifications will make his running again either impossible or difficult.

The Committee released footage from their interview with Christopher Miller, who was acting Secretary of Defense in the final months of the Trump Administration. Miller contradicted Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, who told Fox News in February 2021, a month after the coup, that Trump had ordered 10,000 troops to be ready on January 6. Miller said he had received no such order. 

There are multiple legal issues ahead for Trump. At the federal level, Attorney General Merrick Garland has declared that no one is above the law, not even a former president. Clearly, the Justice Department is engaged in its own investigation beyond the cases against actual participants of the attack. Additionally, it has the evidence the Committee has artfully transformed into a television crime series. 

In the last week, local prosecutors in Atlanta, Georgia  barreled ahead with their criminal investigation into the effort by Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia, targeting fake electors, issuing a subpoena to a member of Congress and winning a court battle forcing Rudolph W. Giuliani to testify to a grand jury.

This past week his former wife, Ivana Trump, died. Another loss came as two mainstream newspapers declared him unfit to be president again.The Wall Street Journal’s editorial was headlined: “The President Who Stood Still on Jan. 6.” This Republican-friendly paper is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns the Fox News Channel on television, which has not been heard from so directly. The Journal wrote, “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 VP. 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. Character is revealed in a crisis, and Mr. Pence passed his Jan. 6 trial. Mr. Trump utterly failed his.”  

The tabloid New York Post put it in language for its down-scale readers: “His only focus was to find any means — damn the consequences — to block the peaceful transfer of power. There is no other explanation, just as there is no defense, for his refusal to stop the violence. As a matter of principle, as a matter of character, Trump has proven himself unworthy to be this country’s chief executive again.” 

It will be fascinating if Murdoch claws back some respect for truth and honesty with Fox News on television, considering its willingness to play to the prejudices of its audience. This is an interesting media situation with an outright condemnation unlikely. Expect Fox News to shift focus to stories and clips of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. He is considered ideologically similar, but smarter in disbursing his animus for people who disagree with him. It beggars belief that either paper would have written editorials without approval from the 91-year old Murdoch, a throw-back press boss from an era when newspapers in America were the main distributors of information.

Nearly 18 months ago, multiple media entities and organizations identified the basics of Trump’s personal involvement, often expressed through his lawyer Rudy Giuliani. The evidence laid out by the House probe has made Trump so toxic that organizations are forced to admit that most of them knew was false from the start. One explanation of their sudden change of heart is expediency. An increasing segment of Republican financial support now recognizes that the insurrection might be a big disadvantage for anyone they nominate in 2024.

The committee used video clips recorded the day after the coup where Republican leaders Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy placed responsibility clearly on Trump. Seeing this got under Trump’s thin skin because he called McConnell a “disloyal sleaze-bag.” A bit harsh considering that without McConnell’s Senate leadership, Trump’s political agenda would have failed. It was McConnell who led the packing of the federal courts with inexperienced conservative judges, passed tax cuts for the rich, and loaded the Supreme Court with three conservative Justices to give the right-wing a 6-3 majority, This is especially useful as they want to take the nation back a few hundred years in personal rights and business regulation to an era of unfettered capitalism.

Republican Rep. Liz Cheney, who chaired the committee, has been an outspoken critic of Trump. In her closing statement at the 8th hearing she played this pre-election podcast audio from Steve Bannon, just convicted of contempt of Congress for refusing to testify:

Bannon is a Trump advisor and friend:  “And what Trump’s gonna do, is just declare victory. Right? He’s going to declare victory. But that doesn’t mean he’s the winner. He’s just gonna say he’s a winner. So, when you wake up Wednesday morning, it’s going to be a firestorm. Also, if Trump is losing by 10 or 11 o’clock at night, it’s going to be even crazier. Because he’s going to sit right there and say they stole it. If Biden’s winning, Trump is going to do some crazy shit.”  

Cheney said this demonstrated that, “Donald Trump was confident he could persuade his supporters to believe whatever he said, no matter how outlandish, and ultimately that they could be summoned to Washington to help him remain President for another term. As we showed you last week, even President Trump’s legal team, led by Rudy Giuliani, knew they had no actual evidence to demonstrate the election was stolen. Again, it didn’t matter. 

“Here is the worst part,” she continued, “Donald Trump knows that millions of Americans who supported him would stand up and defend our nation were it threatened. They would put their lives and their freedom at stake to protect her. And he is preying on their patriotism. He is preying on their sense of justice. And on January 6th, Donald Trump turned their love of country into a weapon against our Capitol and our Constitution. We must remember that we cannot abandon the truth and remain a free nation. Let me assure every one of you that our Committee understands the gravity of this moment, the consequences for our nation. We have much work yet to do, and will see you all in September.”

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