The Moments I Remember From The First January 6 Committee Hearings
The first of the January 6 Committee hearings had moments that were shocking and touching, often at the same time. Here are some of my takeaways from it.
- Trump Was No Longer Commander In Chief Or Even President: Donald Trump de facto forfeited his role as Commander in Chief and Head of the Executive Branch. Mike Pence temporarily stepped into those roles, effectively becoming the Acting President of the United States in this crisis. Liz Cheney set the table for this stating that:
“Not only did President Trump refuse to tell the mob to leave the Capitol, he placed no call to any element of the United States government to instruct that the Capitol be defended. He did not call his Secretary of Defense on January 6th. He did not talk to his Attorney General. He did not talk to the Department of Homeland Security. President Trump gave no order to deploy the National Guard that day, and made no effort to work with the Department of Justice to coordinate and deploy law enforcement assets. But Vice President Pence did each of those things.” — Liz Cheney
Cheney then presented the testimony of General Milley, the Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff:
“There were two or three calls with Vice President Pence. He was very animated, and he issued very explicit, very direct, unambiguous orders . . . he was very animated, very direct, very firm to Secretary Miller. ‘Get the Guard down here, put down this situation.’” — General Milley
Cheney contrasted that with Milley’s description of a call with Trump’s Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows:
“He said we have to kill the narrative that the Vice President is making all the decisions. We need to establish the narrative that the President is still in charge and things are steady and stable, or words to that effect. I immediately interpreted that as politics, politics, politics.” — General Milley
For a time, Donald Trump effectively forfeited his capacity as President of the United States. He was no longer Commander in Chief. He no longer commanded the agencies of the executive branch. Vice President Mike Pence did, and deserves commendation for his action in the face of the President’s inaction.
The 25th Amendment provides for the Vice President to act as President when the President is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” We could say that Trump was not technically “unable” to do so but he was certainly unwilling to do so, and perhaps that makes him technically unable. In the midst of a Constitutional crisis, this happened regardless of any language in the Constitution. Had it not happened our democracy may have fallen.
There is a real question to ask here. What if the military leadership had remained loyal to Trump and refused to act to defend the Capitol without his order? There are so many different ways democracy could have been lost that night.
You can watch what I describe above here:
2. Donald Trump, The President of the United States, endorsed a mob’s desire to assassinate the Vice President of the United States: Can it get more jaw dropping than this? Liz Cheney bluntly told the American public that President Trump, aware of the rioters’ desire to hang Mike Pence, stated:
“Maybe our supporters have the right idea. Mike Pence deserves it.” — Donald Trump
Cheney said that half a dozen former members of the Trump’s Administration would testify to this, and that Trump was resistant and angry to any suggestion that he make a statement to call off the mob or otherwise act to end the attack. I will simply direct your attention to 18 U.S.C. § 2385:
“Whoever knowingly or willfully advocates, abets, advises, or teaches the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States or the government of any State, Territory, District or Possession thereof, or the government of any political subdivision therein, by force or violence, by the assassination of any officer of any such government . . . Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both, and shall be ineligible for employment by the United States or any department or agency thereof, for the five years next following his conviction.”
This is serious stuff folks.
3. Officer Caroline Edwards Describes A “War Scene.”
In as powerful a repudiation of the Republican narrative that January 6 was like “tourists” going through the Capitol, Officer Caroline Edwards presented riveting testimony. Edwards was among the first officers injured that day. She was at the very front when the mob breached a thin line of five or so officers protected by nothing but a bicycle rack. Thrown to the ground she hit her head on steps and was knocked unconscious.
Having been knocked on unconscious, this brave defender of our democracy upon awakening went back to manning the lines against the mob. She describes the carnage that made her gasp:
“I can just remember my breath catching in my throat because what I saw was just a war scene. I saw friends with blood all over their faces. I was slipping in people’s blood. It was carnage.” -Officer Caroline Edwards
4. Ivanka Trump Repudiates Her Father’s Claim of Election Fraud: The committee had promised we would hear testimony from some of Trump’s family, and Jared and Ivanka both made brief appearances. The more interesting was Ivanka’s as she addressed Attorney General Barr’s (previously shown) statement that the claims of widespread election fraud were “bullshit.”
“I respect Attorney General Barr. So I accepted what he was saying.” — Ivanka Trump
Wow. Watch it yourself.
5. The Committee Chairman Promises Testimony Linking Extremists To Trump’s Inner Circle: This was technically after the hearing, when January 6 Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson appeared with Jake Tapper on CNN but it is so portentous as to mandate mention. Tapper asked Thompson, “Are there going to be witnesses that describe actual conversations between these extremist groups and anyone in Trump’s orbit.” Thompson’s incredibly pithy, but nonetheless explosive answer is simply:
Watch Tapper’s reaction below. His eyebrows raise so fast at such a clearly unexpected direct affirmative answer that he nearly flips his glasses off his head. Tapper seeks to confirm. “There will be?” he somewhat incredulously seeks to confirm. To which Thompson again simply answers:
Watch it yourself.
So that is one Helluva teaser for the rest of the show folks. Another huge teaser was Cheney’s announcement that Representative Scott Perry requested a pardon from Trump. She claimed other members of Congress did too. It will be interesting to see who those are. It’s possible some members of Congress will be confessing in advance that they did, so they can preempt the Committee and put their own spin on it.