The Jan. 6 Hearings Make Trump Look Guilty. But, Does It Matter?

Despite damning evidence against the former president of the United States, it's most likely that nothing will happen to him because nothing ever does.
The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol Thursday voted to subpoena former President Donald Trump.
The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol Thursday voted to subpoena former President Donald Trump.
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

In the middle of the presumed finale of the Jan. 6 hearings on Thursday, a spoiler arrived in the form of real-time reports that committee members voted to subpoena former President Donald Trump to testify under oath.

The build to that now foregone conclusion began with Bennie Thompson, chair of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, attempting to convince lingering skeptics of their work. Thompson assured critics on Thursday that the committee’s findings are not part of some vast liberal conspiracy depicted across conservative media.

“When you look back at what has come out through this committee’s work, the most striking fact is that all this evidence comes almost entirely from Republicans,” Thompson explained.

Republicans like Steve Bannon, who the committee played a video of saying the following in an Oct. 31, 2020 meeting: “What Trump is gonna do is just declare victory... when you wake up Wednesday morning, it’s gonna be a firestorm... he’s not going out easy. If Biden’s winning, Trump is gonna do some crazy shit.”

In a tweet, Robert Costa, chief election and campaign correspondent for CBS News, said the outlet has confirmed that this meeting “was a key date in the pre-election maneuvers by Trump. Set off the alarm with WH counsel and Herschmann, among others. I’ve seen texts from that night from some aides, and they knew it was no joke; declaring victory was Trump’s plan. Period.”

The committee shared Thursday, via documentary footage provided to them, a clip of longtime Trump political ally Roger Stone saying: “I really do suspect it’ll still be up in the air, but when that happens, the key thing is to declare victory. Possession is 9/10 of the law. ‘No, we won. Fuck you.’”

Stone added, “Fuck the voting; let’s get straight to the violence.”

What’s long been lost in all of this ongoing back-and-forth from the right about the 2020 presidential election results thanks to Trump’s conspiracy peddling is that based on the significant amount of votes he legitimately earned in that contest, had he employed a better strategy, we might have been stuck with him for four more years.

The US House Select Committee convenes a hearing to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the US Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on October 13, 2022.
The US House Select Committee convenes a hearing to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the US Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on October 13, 2022.
Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

It’s a point highlighted in an audio clip played by the committee of Jared Kushner, a former Trump adviser, saying that he and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told Trump mail-in voting was not fraudulent.

“I just remember generally, you had people arguing... mail-in ballots could be a good thing for us,” Kushner explained.

Trump’s apparent stupidity and shortsightedness never cease to astound. So naturally, Trump preferred to win by cheating than actually trying to win legitimately. Yet after he exhausted all legal options to pull a paper coup, in spite of his public claims, he knew he had truly lost. This was noted by Cassidy Hutchinson, a former White House aide and assistant to former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows during the Trump administration, on what happened after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take the Trump election case.

Hutchinson, who appeared via another video clip before the committee, testified that Trump “had said something to the effect of, ‘I don’t want people to know we lost, Mark. This is embarrassing. Figure it out. We need to figure it out. I don’t want people to know that we lost.’”

Then came the rally, violence, and attempts to chide then-Vice President Mike Pence into playing a key role in the plot.

We know a lot of this already, but it had not been completely clear that Trump told more than a few people that he knew he had lost.

Additionally, as some of us suspected but can now confirm, the Secret Service hasn’t been telling the truth about what exactly happened in the moments leading up to the insurrection.

The United States Secret Service (USSS) had 10 days’ notice of plans to violently attack the Capitol. One tip sent to the Secret Service specifically said, “their plan is to kill people.” The person sending the tip begged the federal agency to act on this information.

Someone should call FBI Director Christopher Wray to the hill to testify.

Someone else ought to ask President Joe Biden why Wray remains in that position in light of such an intelligence failure.

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 09: The Hunter’s Moon rises behind the dome of the U.S. Capitol on October 9, 2022 in Washington, DC. The Hunter’s Moon historically signaled the time for hunting with brighter moon light in preparation for the upcoming cold winter. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 09: The Hunter’s Moon rises behind the dome of the U.S. Capitol on October 9, 2022 in Washington, DC. The Hunter’s Moon historically signaled the time for hunting with brighter moon light in preparation for the upcoming cold winter. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Alex Wong via Getty Images

In sum, a racist madman who governed like a stupid sovereign knowingly lied about election fraud as part of an effort to overturn the presidential election through legal means, or if those efforts failed, with the aid of violence and disruption courtesy of white supremacists.

Oh, and maybe some Secret Service members? TBD. It depends on if they can find those lost texts, I guess.

It’s all shocking but not surprising, considering even before all of this, Trump openly said he was stalling post office deliveries to make it harder to vote by mail, which Democrat voters disproportionately planned to do during that election cycle. He abused his presidential powers during the campaign without punishment, so why would he have stopped after?

“We want to hear from him,” Thompson said regarding Trump and the insurrection that occurred last year.

“He is required to answer for his actions,” Thompson added. “He is required to answer to those police officers who put their lives and bodies on the line to defend our democracy.”

Critics predict that Trump will fight the subpoena, which could take a considerable amount of time to settle. Trump wrote on Truth Social Thursday, “Why didn’t the Unselect Committee ask me to testify months ago?” He has even told aides he wants to testify so long as he can do so live, according to The New York Times.

I’ll believe it when I see it.

It’s uncertain but expected that the most recent hearing was the last. If that is the case, again, this all feels anticlimactic. It was clear on Jan. 6, 2021, what role Trump played in the violence. It’s even more apparent at the end of the committee’s work.

To the committee’s credit, had they not investigated and shared their findings in hearings modeled after successful crime-focused podcasts and docu-series, many Americans wouldn’t hold Trump largely responsible for the Capitol attacks.

In a July NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, taken at the height of the hearings, 57% polled said Trump is to blame a great deal or a reasonable amount for the Capitol riot – including 92% of Democrats, 57% of independents, and 18% of Republicans.

However, while half of the respondents said they think Trump should be charged with a crime, six in 10 respondents said they don’t think Trump will face any charges.

Because nothing ever happens to him.

It is no fault of the committee that Trump has yet to face any charges for engaging in acts as brazen as a coup. They are performing their responsibilities as members of Congress, and this has been one of the only examples of Congress functioning well that I can think of.

Still, Trump led a coup and continues to blather about fraud and tease a re-election bid.

The Jan. 6 hearings have made Trump look guilty, but ultimately the committee doesn’t have the power to do anything about it outside of issuing a report and making criminal referrals.

If Thursday’s hearings were the committee’s last, we’re left with what many of us thought going into them: It’s obvious that Trump played a role in the riot on the Capitol, but nothing will probably happen to him.

It never does.

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