Republican Witnesses Are Making a Damning Case Against Trump… 17 Months Late

Watching the long procession of pious Republican witnesses during Monday’s January 6 Committee hearing, I was abruptly flung back to Marc Antony’s famous line in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar: “I have come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.”

Bury him they did, shovelful by shovelful, throughout a day’s testimony that was not notably marred by the abrupt absence of former Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien. Clips of Stepien’s prior testimony were probably enough to send Trump up the walls of Mar-a-Lago like a parakeet trying to find an open window. The absence of the warm person was not detrimental to the case.

Bill Stepien. Bill Barr. Jason Miller. Chris Stirewalt. Matt Morgan. Eric Herschmann. Richard Donoghue. Al Schmidt. Byung Pak. Alex Cannon. These men arrived Monday with knives drawn to cut down Caesar on national TV, just like Cassius and Brutus. They were there — mostly under subpoena — to call The Big Lie a lie in broad daylight, to establish Trump knew it was a lieAll along, and to mention how they watched it all fall over a long series of dark days. They were all crucial witnesses.

And there’s the rub… as the Bard’s Hamlet would say. Here’s the kind way The Washington Post said it: “One of the takeaways from this hearing is how many Trump advisers and government officials knew his voter fraud claims were false. Witness after witness disproved his claims, proving them to be absurd and disconnected from reality. However, many of these officials did NOT say this publicly in the days preceding Jan. 6, when it would have been important..” (Emphasis added)

Right. At the end of the day, the fact that all these Republicans kept this massive and incredibly dangerous nation-destabilizing crisis a secret for so long has no ultimate bearing on the committee’s mission. The committee will prove that Trump acted with malice before it was obvious and with profit in his mind when he went about savoring the earth with his stolen election bullshit. That activity, the committee seeks to prove, led directly and inexorably to the sacking of the Capitol by Trump’s hardcore supporters and more than a few fascist militias (also Trump supporters but with better gear). Those honorable men are helping to make the case… 17 months late.

But I’m not bitter.

As I was watching the argument of the committee on Monday, I thought of a less classic line. “I watched a snail,” husks Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, “crawl along the edge of a straight razor.” That straight razor is where the January 6 committee finds its case regarding Trump’s ultimate intent.

There was a lot of testimony that hammered home the fact that Trump was telling so many people it was over and they were ready to quit. There was a lot of testimony about Trump’s profit motive, the long-running fight over the results, and who was still getting paid.

All of those men of honor made it very clear that they told Trump the venture was unviable. The final task of this committee is to prove Trump was aware that he was selling that glass full of dust for his personal gain.

Barr quotes are the razor like this one:

I felt somewhat demoralized by the thought that if he truly believes this stuff, he must have become detached from reality. On the other side, I didn’t get any interest when I tried to tell them how ridiculous some of these claims were.

Trump is lying. The other side? He doesn’t care, he knows. This does not prove intent. Trump has an outsize Lincoln Tunnel. Take a moment to recall. the warnings of Mary Trump from late November of 2020: “He’s the only person I’ve ever met who can gaslight himself. I don’t think he’s ever accepted the truth of the loss. I don’t think he’s psychologically or emotionally capable of that.

If the committee cannot prove beyond doubt that Trump knew it was all a scam then intent is thrown out the window like that Mar-a-Lago parakeet. Barr and the others calling Trump “detached from reality” serves that ultimate cause not one bit.

Brutus, Cassius, and others are honorable men. This would be a fair way for these old-school schemers, to play both sides and muddy waters for another slick escape. The committee appeared to have walked right into it on Monday. Now there are two Trumps on trial — Trump the deliberate and Trump the deluded — which chops the chances for any actual justice neatly in half.

Let’s not overlook the fact that one of Monday’s expert witnesses was Benjamin Ginsberg, “a Republican lawyer who was one of the chief strategists behind the red-in-tooth-and-claw Bush game plan in 2000,” as Charles P. Pierce reminds us. This moment was possible because of the history-shattering effort made in Florida 22 years back. Ginsberg was still invited to comment on the current crisis, but he didn’t mention his dark past. It was a little like asking Henry Kissinger about the Ukraine war without first checking his wallet for bones.

I am not sorry if I sound negative. This is hard-earned. Trump and his associates are adept at finding the low places and weak spots. They slither through cracks, if they are allowed to exist. And if I have learned anything in the 50 laps I’ve made around the sun, it is that Democrats will bollix the recipe for a bread sandwich if given half an opportunity.

Almost on cue, January 6 Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson — also an honorable man — told CNNMonday night the panel will not make any criminal referral of former President Donald Trump or anyone else to the Justice Department.” Rep. Liz Cheney clapped back immediately, saying, The January 6th Select Committee is yet to reach a conclusion about potential criminal referrals. We will announce a decision on that at an appropriate time.”

The most important person watching all of this — Attorney General Merrick Garland — got let off a very large hook if the chairman holds to this no-referral course. It’s hard to imagine worse timing; Garland said Monday that he told reporters, I can assure all that the January 6 prosecutors are monitoring all hearings.”

On Tuesday morning, the committee announced that Wednesday’s hearing would be postponed until Thursday due to technical difficulties.” What that really means is anyone’s guess, but I would bet the long green that there has been some tall shouting behind closed doors after Thompson made his proclamation. There is still some time to salvage this. But if the committee wants to move Garland with enough vinegar, those cracks will need some caulk. The word of the week is seamless,” or else we all should have stayed in bed.

Who doesn’t love a bread sandwich?