Trump was terrified of the January 6 hearings. Tonight proved he was justified

If there’s one thing the former president understands more than most, it’s the power of compelling television. And this was about as compelling as it gets

Ahmed Baba
Washington DC
Friday 10 June 2022 12:46 BST
Jan 6 committee share never-before-seen footage of Capitol riot

There’s a reason Fox News didn’t want to air this prime-time hearing. What we saw was the truth about January 6 showcased with captivating effectiveness.

What happened on that day was not a “tourist visit,” as Republican Rep. Andrew Clyde (GA) claimed. It was not “legitimate political discourse,” as the RNC argued. It was not a “love fest” as Donald Trump delusionally declared. And the responsibility for this does not fall on "everybody in the country," as Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) asserted just hours before tonight’s hearing. This was a violent, criminal conspiracy to overthrow American democracy perpetrated by Donald Trump, his allies, and domestic extremist groups. Or, to put it as simply as Chairman Bennie Thomson (D-MS) did, January 6 was "the culmination of an attempted coup" — an attempted coup that’s far from over.

“I did not agree with the idea of saying the election was stolen... which I told the president was bulls**t,” Donald Trump’s former Attorney General William Barr’s voice reverberated throughout the committee hearing chamber. "I respect Attorney General Barr, so I accepted what he was saying," said Ivanka Trump in a subsequent clip. We now know that even Donald Trump’s own daughter doesn’t believe the election was stolen.

This was thanks to evidence presented tonight by Vice-Chairwoman Committee Liz Cheney (R-WY). Cheney laid out how, over the course of the hearings this month, the committee will unravel Trump’s seven-part plan to overturn the presidential election. While the target audience tonight was very clearly the American people, much of what was covered seemed like it was directed at an audience of one: Attorney General Merrick Garland.

Cheney showcased clip after clip of testimony from Trump aides, from Jason Miller to William Barr to Ivanka Trump, where it was made clear Trump was told he lost. That testimony proved Trump was well aware the election wasn’t stolen but tried to overturn the results anyway. The committee likely led with this to demonstrate corrupt intent on the part of Trump, which would be key to a criminal case.

If you had any doubt remaining about whether the January 6 Committee believes Donald Trump engaged in criminal conduct, the number of times Cheney said "illegal" should rectify that. Cheney spoke about Trump’s "relentless effort" to pressure Mike Pence to overturn the election, stating, "What President Trump demanded that Mike Pence do wasn’t just wrong, it was illegal and unconstitutional."

Cheney also cited District Judge David Carter’s ruling which stated that Trump “more likely than not” committed obstruction and conspiracy in his bid to obstruct Congress’s ability to count the electoral votes in the 2020 election. The committee also plans to break down how Trump pressured state officials to overturn the election, including via the fake elector scheme. Cheney claimed that multiple Republican Congresspeople, including Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), sought pardons for their roles in the effort to overturn the 2020 election.

Aside from the very intentional effort to outline a criminal case, there were some purely shocking revelations. Cheney claimed that a witness told the January 6 Committee that in response to “Hang Mike Pence” chants from insurrectionists, Trump said: "Maybe our supporters have the right idea. Mike Pence deserves it."

Shortly after this, riveting new footage showed the entire Capitol siege in chronological order from multiple angles. Clips weaved together showed one overarching narrative. If any American forgot how violent the insurrection was and how close our democracy came to collapse, they were reminded tonight.

Then we had short testimony from two witnesses. Nick Quested, a documentary filmmaker who followed the Proud Boys in the days leading up to January 6, and Caroline Edwards, who was one of the first officers to be injured on January 6, testified about their experience.

The committee showed testimony from Proud Boys claiming that Donald Trump’s September 29, 2020 "stand back and stand by" comments increased membership. They showed that Trump’s December 19, 2020, tweet calling for people to come to the Capitol on January 6 spurred a strong reaction from the extremist group. Members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers are now charged with seditious conspiracy in connection with the attack. Putting a spotlight on these links between domestic extremist groups who plotted the violence on January 6 and Trump himself was the focus of the last hour.

This was an excellent first hearing. Speaker Pelosi’s decision to not include Trump sycophants like Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) on the committee has proved worthwhile. There were no belligerent tirades or disinformation-filled deflections. Just the facts.

With hearings scheduled throughout the rest of this month, there are certainly more shoes to drop. What I’m most looking forward to is the final outcome: the recommendations on what should be done. Will they recommend charges for Donald Trump or simply lay out their findings like Special Counsel Robert Mueller? Will they make legislative suggestions to address the ongoing assaults on democracy?

In the weeks leading up to tonight’s hearing, Trump has reportedly been obsessing over it, organizing his allies for counter-messaging. If there’s one thing Trump understands more than most, it’s the power of compelling television. This is why he was so fearful of the January 6 hearings. After 11 months of work obtaining over 1,000 interviews and reviewing over 140,000 documents, tonight the January 6 Committee proved Trump’s fear is justified.

If any Trump allies did happen to tune in tonight, I hope they heard what Liz Cheney said to them: "There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain."

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