June 28, 2022

Jan. 6 hearing: Don’t let motives obscure facts

The boilerplate Republican response to last Thursday’s prime-time, televised hearing of the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol runs something like this:

It wasn’t really a “hearing.” It was a campaign infomercial for the Democratic Party and the anti-Trump wing of the GOP. Its goal was partially to save the Democrats’ bacon in the November midterms, and partially to protect the two Republican members of the committee from pro-Trump primary challengers, by leaning into the narrative of, essentially, an attempted coup d’etat by the disgraced former president.

I’m inclined to agree with that assessment. If truth in advertising laws applied to Congress, the committee’s name would use the word “exploit” rather than “investigate.” Politics being politics, it’s always safest to assume ulterior motives.

An intention to exploit the facts, however, does not change those facts. And the facts are these:

Donald Trump attempted to, and conspired with others to, overthrow the government of the United States.

Trump lost the 2020 presidential election.

Trump knew he lost the presidential election. His attorney general told him, in no uncertain terms, that claims to the contrary were “bull.” His legal proxies withdrew every court challenge in which they were accorded standing and invited to present evidence, because they knew they had no such evidence. Not a single investigation or audit -- not even fake stunt “audits” such as the one in Arizona -- produced any evidence of fraud sufficient to have changed the results.

And yet Trump both privately and publicly asked figures ranging from Georgia’s secretary of state to his own vice-president to steal the election for him.

Trump’s campaign recruited fake electors and urged them to “complete secrecy” pending attempts to fraudulently replace the real electors so that he could steal the election.

Trump publicly addressed a mob he had scammed into believing he won the election, inciting them to march on the Capitol to help him steal the election.

One need not like the uses those facts are being put to as a condition of acknowledging that they are, in fact, facts.

Who’s to blame for those facts being put to these uses?

Donald Trump.

Nobody forced him to lie about the election’s outcome.

Nobody forced him to conspire with others to steal the election.

Nobody forced him to whip a mob into a frenzy.

His choices produced predictable consequences.

If Trump had any desire to honestly address the committee’s exploitation of his actions, he could just quote Richard Nixon’s 1977 characterization of Watergate: “I gave them a sword and they stuck it in and they twisted it with relish. And I guess if I’d been in their position I’d have done the same thing.”

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism