As someone who dislikes liars, bullies and shameless self-promoters, I’m encouraged by what the January 6 Committee has been doing lately. Chairman Bennie Thompson has announced that in the first months of 2022 they will lay out their case to the American public, and the world. They’ll present detailed evidence that there was an organized, well-funded conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election that resulted, when all other efforts failed, in the storming and sacking of the Capitol. There will be live testimony, there will be graphics, there will be blow ups of the text messages sent back and forth between the conspirators as the attack on the Captiol was going on.
It seems it’s taken a ridiculously long time, and much time was wasted when Democrats negotiated in good faith with Trump’s Republicans over the investigation, but the committee has seemingly uncovered a mountain of damning details. Details they are now strategically releasing in a teaser of what’s to come when they put on their case. I have a few thoughts about the difference between a trial with and without witnesses and evidence.
When Nancy Pelosi decided that Mueller’s findings about apparent obstruction of justice by former president Trump, charges Mueller explicitly wrote he could not exonerate the president for, were too complicated for Americans to understand she opted to impeach him over his attempt (the day after Mueller’s monosyllabic testimony to Congress did no further harm to Trump) to enlist a foreign government to smear his likely opponent, Joe Biden. Whatever you make of Pelosi’s decision, and I think it was a very poor decision, here is the problem with a purely political “trial”. You can have all the proof of your case at hand — the detailed report of the perfect phone call to Zelensky, suspiciously hidden in a top secret government safe, the attempt by Barr to illegally bury the urgent whistleblower complaint, the vicious, public attacks on those who properly reported the improper call to Zelensky, in some cases as they were testifying — but if the head juror announces he will be working closely with the defense, and not allowing witnesses to testify or new evidence to be introduced, and that head juror is the deciding vote, you lose. 100% of the time.
When you can have witnesses testify live, under oath, and evidence can be produced that must be rebutted by actual counter-evidence, and where the fact-finder has not corruptly announced he will be working closely with the defense to get this fake, witch hunt fishing expedition thrown out of court, the outcome is an open question.
If Don McGahn had been forced to testify, repeat publicly the things he told Mueller’s investigators, under oath, the American people would have seen the former White House counsel admit that Trump asked him to fire Mueller and then, after he declined, to write a memo claiming that Trump had never asked him to fire Mueller. Obstruction of Justice 101. Then add Hope Hicks to the witness list, and have her repeat what she quotes Trump as saying when Sessions told him a special prosecutor had been appointed, his soliloquy and anguished call for Roy Cohn’s ghost, in which he despaired “I’M FUCKED!”
There were many more witnesses of apparent obstruction of justice, who’d already given sworn testimony to Mueller, but Bill Barr took care of that. He created the most expansive executive privilege claim in American history, an absolute blanket protective privilege against any attempt by anyone to get any information whatsoever, and told Trump to run with the absurdly broad claim, that he could run out the clock. And so they did. Two impeachment trials in the narrowly GOP Senate, no witnesses or updated evidence allowed, two party line acquittals. Everything was ducky for the former president. Until Trump lost the election and his powerful gunsel Barr finally had to quit.
I have to say, I’ve always been in favor of disclosure. Things kept in the dark molder and fester. Sunlight is said to be the best disinfectant. I can think of endless instances of things hidden and forbidden from discussion coming back to haunt the parties that demanded their banishment. We pay a high price for backing a person’s right to lie if they find themselves in a tight spot, facing shame, loss of career, criminal charges. I’m looking forward to a little public sunlight on this hideous attempt to install an American dictator.