‘Pure Insanity’January 6 Committee Hearings Suggest ‘Trump’s Future Freedom’ in Question
Heidi Siegmund Cuda reports on a week of damning Republican witnesses who alleged the former President knowingly spread conspiracy theories and instigated violence
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In a week of hearings from the House Select Committee into the 6 January 2021 insurrection in the Capitol, the US Congress heard compelling evidence that the then President of the United States, Donald Trump, spread far-fetched conspiracy theories about how the 2020 Presidential election was ‘stolen’, floated the idea of seizing voting machines, attempted to weaponise the Justice Department, and his stochastic Twitter terrorism forced election workers into hiding and despair.
The hearings dropped bombshell after bombshell. Conspiracy spreaders Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, asked for pardons, as did other members of Congress who promoted known lies about the 2020 presidential election results.
As if to preview the content of the fifth day of the hearings, former Justice Department lawyer Jeffrey Clark’s home was raided by federal agents just a few hours before the hearing began.
According to witness testimony, Clark was a key figure in the effort by Trump to coerce the Justice Department to lie about his false claims of voter fraud.
“President Trump abused your trust,” Rep. Liz Cheney said on fifth day of the hearings. “He deceived you.” Cheney, the Committee’s co-chair and a Wyoming Republican, was speaking directly to Trump supporters.
“That the public is so very shocked at the depth and nature of this scheme is a good indicator that the hearings are serving their intended purpose, and reaching people in both parties,” disinformation researcher Dave Troy told Byline Times.
The second day of the investigation into the Capitol insurrection suggested Donald Trump misled his supporters about the outcome of the 2020 election as part of a cynical money-making scheme
Members of the Justice Department testified Trump relentlessly tried to get them to co-sign his false allegations of voter fraud, with one scheme called “pure insanity”. When they refused, they had a stand-off with Trump that resulted in him standing down.
Three Trump appointees testified in-person on Day 5: Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, his deputy Richard Donoghue, and Steven Engel, who led the department’s Office of Legal Counsel.
“The United States Justice Department functions on facts, evidence, and law, and those are not going to change,” Donoghue said he told the President, who had planned to put environmental lawyer Clark in charge of the Justice Department in the desperate hours before the January 6 certification of Biden’s win.
“Authoritarians come to power to hide their corruption,” historian and author Ruth Ben-Ghiat told Byline Times. “Strongmen are brutal amoral individuals… with years of experience in bullying and intimidation and violence.”
According to the House Select Committee, Trump checked all those boxes. Members of his own party who testified over the past week, said they were bullied, intimidated, and strong-armed. According to witnesses, Trump called Vice President a “wimp” and a “p***y” for not following his orders. Although efforts to thwart Trump from succeeding with his myriad schemes to remain in power worked, the end result was what the Committee called “Trump’s last stand”, the bloody, violent day of January 6. The Committee’s investigation concluded Trump was the central figure of the insurrection.
The gravity of the evidence revealed by the hearings is unlike anything else in American history. A reality TV President attempted a coup, and Committee chairman Rep. Bennie Thomson, a Democrat from Mississippi, made it clear the country is still in peril.
A retired conservative judge, Michael Luttig, said on Day Three that “Trump and his allies and supporters are a clear and present danger to American democracy.”
In one of the most profoundly moving moments of the hearings, Luttig said he would have “laid his body down on the road” before allowing Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the election.
Among core takeaways from the five days of hearings:
Day 1: Trump attempted a coup, according to Thompson, the eloquent, soft-spoken chairman of the Committee.
Day 2: Trump’s repeated claims of voter fraud was a cynical money-making scheme, according to the Committee’s investigation, which determined he raised $250 million off the Big Lie.
Day 3: Witness testimony detailed the enormous pressure Mike Pence was under to not certify the election, and how Pence came within 40-feet of the mob on January 6–putting his life in danger.
Day 4: Election officials described how Trump and his allies bullied and attempted to coerce them into lying about his election fraud schemes. Falsely accused of voter scamming, election worker Wandrea Arshaye”Shaye” Moss, and her mother, Lady Ruby Freeman, described receiving death threats.
Day 5: Witness testimony revealed Trump tried and failed to weaponize the Justice Department, and Republican members of Congress who spread election lies asked for pardons.
“It is very clear that there is sufficient evidence to indict Trump for his actions in perverting the course of democracy. That must happen,” investigative reporter Paul Niland told Byline Times. “It is an awful precedent to indict a former president, but these are not political games. Simply, the evidence is what the evidence is and nobody is above the law.”
Niland said the reason Trump was “desperate to stay in power is that he had convinced himself, wrongly, that his position conferred absolute immunity on him.”
In videos shown at the hearings, members of the January 6 mob stated they were there at Trump’s behest to prevent the certification of the election by any means necessary—as they chanted “Hang Mike Pence” and attacked police officers. Four people died that day. A police officer’s testimony on Day 1 of “slipping in people’s blood” offered a dark, lingering image that shrouded the hearings.
Speaking directly to the violence instigated by Trump’s words, Cheney said that Trump “did not care about these threats of violence” and said, “we cannot let America become a nation of conspiracy theories and thug violence.”
Retired Internal Revenue Service criminal investigator Martin Sheil said that Trump being “outed as a crook” by testimony from religious conservatives in his own party is some kind of karma.
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“When Donald Trump was first barnstorming around the country in pursuit of attention and political support, it wasn’t until the Christian Coalition publicly backed him that he became a viable political force,” Sheil told Byline Times. “It is not only ironic but truly karma that Trump be brought down by Christian fundamentalists.”
Sheil said to keep a close eye on the Georgia state investigation of Trump. Recorded telephone calls played during the Committee hearings revealed Trump asking the Georgia Secretary of State to change the electoral outcome by finding votes that did not exist.
The call was chilling and mob-like.
Sheil said: “It is that investigation in my honest opinion as an ex-law enforcement person that will prove to be most lethal to Trump’s future freedom.”
The House Select Committee hearings resume in July.