Donald Trump has always committed his crimes in public. He has boasted on TV about tax evasion, revealed during prime time that he would like to sleep with his daughter, encouraged his followers to hospitalize opponents and told a journalist on tape that he was lying about Covid, although it had long been clear to him how devastating this plague was in American cities.
And on January 6, 2021, Trump called on — no, actually gave the order to — a mob to storm the Capitol. The ceremonial counting of votes that made Joe Biden the 46th President of the United States should be prevented; it was the first time in the history of American democracy that there was no peaceful transfer of power. Trump threatened his Vice President Mike Pence several times during his memorable speech. If he doesn’t prevent the counting of the votes, Trump will be terribly angry with him. Pence refused. The result: A gallows was erected as the Capitol was stormed, and Trump supporters roared, “Hang Mike Pence!”
All of this could be known by anyone who wanted to know in the days when it was happening. As such, it comes as a surprise that the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 events would come up with something new. And yet it was so. The first night the investigative committee presented its findings — 8 p.m. EST during prime time — the viewer’s jaw dropped several times to the floor. This was mainly due to the members of Trump’s team who testified before the committee and had themselves filmed.
Bill Barr, who served as Attorney General under Trump, said there were no significant irregularities in the fall 2020 presidential election. In other words, Joe Biden is President by rights! In today’s Republican Party, you really can’t say that anymore. Worse, the president’s daughter agreed with Bill Barr, and even son-in-law Jared Kushner distanced himself from Trump.
The testimonies before Congress also made it clear that Donald Trump must have known since December 2020 that he had lost the election. When he ordered his followers to Washington via Twitter so that they dared to revolt for him there, it was because of a deliberate lie — not because Trump himself believed his nonsense.
He did nothing on January 6 to alert the National Guard or the army; on the other hand, who did try to move troops was the vice-president. That is to say: the supreme commander of the American armed forces — and according to the Constitution that was Donald Trump — refused to do his duty on January 6; his deputy tried to fill in for him. The prescribed chain of command was broken.
These are facts, they are outrageous and cannot be argued away. The documentary film by Nick Quested, which the committee of inquiry showed, was also impressive. Quested is a journalist who ventured among the Proud Boys, a troupe of violent racists whom Trump had asked to “stand back and stand by” during a televised debate; the number of members of the troupe had then tripled.
Trump supporters would like us to believe that the storming of the Capitol was a legitimate demonstration, a peaceful walk by patriotic Americans. Nick Quested’s film showed once again how brutal it was that day, how fanatical the atmosphere was. It’s sheer luck that there weren’t more dead or injured.
The first night of the hearings also presented American television audiences with a real heroine — Caroline Edwards, a young police officer who was protecting the Capitol that day. She was thrown to the ground by the angry mob, banged the back of her head and spine on concrete steps while her foot was crushed, but got up to continue doing her duty and was pepper sprayed and tear gassed by Trump supporters.
As a thank you, this American patriot had to allow herself to be insulted as an enemy of the constitution and a traitor. When asked what was the most impressive memory that January 6, 2021 left in her mind, Caroline Edwards said: There was this moment when she realized that this was a war scene — “like in a movie”. She saw the bloodied faces of her comrades, slipped in blood; the battle lasted for hours. But she was not trained for a battle, she was a police officer.
The vice chair of the January 6 investigative committee is Liz Cheney, a Republican congresswoman from the state of Wyoming. She did an excellent job, asked unambiguous questions, seemed absolutely confident. It just won’t do her any good: since taking up her post on this committee of inquiry, Liz Cheney has become a non-person in her own party. She’s not just anyone: her father is the famous—some would say infamous—Dick Cheney, who served as vice president under George W. Bush.
Up until the storming of the Capitol, Liz Cheney voted in favor of Donald Trump’s bills on almost every occasion. She’s a staunch conservative. Except she’s a conservative who believes in the rules of American democracy. Among today’s Republicans, that’s enough to cast them as a hated outsider.
Kevin McCarthy, the leader of the Republican faction in the House of Representatives, did not even show up for the hearings. On January 6, he practically begged the President by phone to stand by him against the mob (Trump responded to this request with scorn). Right-wing Fox TV network followed Kevin McCarthy’s lead by staying away from the action — simply refusing to broadcast the hearing, arguing that if I squint and plug my ears, it didn’t happen.
Should further proof be needed that Fox is not a news channel but a propaganda organ, this is it. However, this points to a deeper problem: About a third of the American population has lost touch with reality. No documentary or testimony will make these people take note of what happened.
This can be particularly frightening because the House Committee is not investigating a historical issue, but rather a crime scene that remains active. Donald Trump remains the most important man in the Republican Party. There is nothing to suggest that he will not run for office in 2024. In many “swing states” that are crucial for the election, by then henchmen could be responsible for certifying the votes counted, who will never, ever recognize any winner other than Trump – even if he should lose a landslide.
A scenario in which not thousands, but tens of thousands storm the Capitol to install their Savior in the presidency, prompting violent clashes across the country, is not far-fetched. History will tell if January 6, 2021 was just a sad chapter or the beginning of something far worse: a second American Civil War.