Playing with matches. The Hearing.
At the opening remarks segment of the Select House Committee Hearing, both Thompson-Cheney and the designated interlocutor of the day — Lofgren, Day 2; Aguilar, Day 3 — use the floor to build a bridge between “what we heard during the last hearing and what we are about to hear at today’s hearing.”
One can argue that by laying out the goal of the Committee’s presentation, the Committee is inviting the criticism that the presentation, the spectacle, if you will, matters more than the information and the presentation of facts.
It’s a disingenuous criticism and displays a fake generosity: ‘let them have their show, no one’s interested, no one cares.’ There is no momentum behind the criticism. McCarthy and ‘big lie’ tribe have already cast the first stone by refusing to cooperate, even superficially with the Committee Investigation. After Day 1, a ‘caucus briefer,’ a partisan salvo by Elise Stefanik, the big lie “fixer” was buried in the 24 hour news cycle. Reneging on a promise to “push back” on the Hearing testimony, Republicans are not countering the Committee “narrative,” of what happened January 6. Neither are they contesting the election steal lie “reveal.”
The ‘Big Lie’ may still be at large but it is stowed away, or Ginni Thomas is sitting on it, or both.
During her opening remarks. Vice Chair Liz Cheney explained,
‘Where we saw during the second day of the hearings that President Trump was told repeatedly by numerous lawyers and campaign officials that the ‘big lie’ was total nonsense, today we are focusing on the President’s efforts to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to recount votes on January 6.’
Day 3’s witnesses in temperament and robustness were different and more demanding of our attention than the Stepien-Barr show of Day 2.
First up was J. Michael Luttig, described by the media as a “conservative judge with a long career history of judicial decisions from the Federal Society wing of the legal establishment.’ Whereas Bill Barr shielded himself as “an adult in the room,” Luttig reserved his time to emphasize issues of legality, not obfuscate them as Barr had.
Compared to Barr, Luttig’s testimony was both refreshing and painful to watch. Luttig spoke haltingly. One was annoyed at his lengthy answers and surprised at his conviction. Luttig was no golfing buddy, no confidante back from a round or two with Trump. Luttig has retired from the Appellate Court and during the re-election campaign, was legal advisor to Vice President Mike Pence. Luttig had a score or two to settle: his former law clerk, John Eastman, is the source of the fake, illegal claim that Pence had the authority to decertify the electoral college votes.
Second up was Greg Jacob, White House legal counsel to Vice President Mike Pence, and who accompanied Pence during the day of January 6. Jacob is a visible counterfoil to Luttig: younger, perky, looking straight into the camera. Luttig seemed to strain under the camera’s enforced intimacy.
As Luttig walked the audience through the ‘rule of law cornerstone of democracy,’ Jacob walked the audience through the deliberation to decertify the electoral votes: ‘first we looked at the text, then we looked at the structure, and then we looked at the history.’ Both Luttig and Jacob mentioned the Electoral Act of 1882 and the Twelfth Amendment multiple times. Both convinced Pence that the Trump pressure to decertify the electors votes was illegal, unconstitutional and at odds with America’s democracy.
All good so far, except unanswered was the question, ‘if you knew all this, why you didn’t act sooner?’
In as much as Barr and company defended their role as “adults in the room,” the unspoken understanding that no reasonable adult could have prevented what was to transpire, Luttig and Jacobs defended their role as “institutionalists,” protected by status and the gravitas reserved for the legal establishment. At the end of the day, Luttig and Jacobs demonstrated that they, too, like Barr and company, were powerless to ‘stop the steal’ steal.
To sum up, the two jurists ceded the escape of the Vice President from Trump and the mob to Pence: America’s democracy was “saved” by a hidden loading dock, forty feet, a gaggle of armed Secret Service officers. And a prayerful, convinced and determined Vice President.
Like Impeachment I and Impeachment II, one could hear the footsteps of the President walking away from an indictment: if the President’s advisors and his colleagues couldn’t ‘stop the steal,’ it was questionable that President Trump could have stopped the mob.
Honestly, things had gotten ‘out of hand.’
There were mobs in the street and mobs in the President’s head. Even the 25th Amendment couldn’t protect America from the second attack on the Capitol, not by a foreign adversary but by a domestic one.
On January 6, cringe as one might, America was at war.
“We were one Pence away from a coup.”
-Joy Reid, MSNBC “Prime Time” Coverage of the January 6 Committee Hearings, June 16
Why is it that the more energized Reid, Maddow and company seem that their January 6 reveal is “nailing it,” the less convinced one feels that we as a nation are further along the road to redeeming democracy and learning from the events of January 6?
During prime time on the days of the hearings, MSNBC will recap what transpired with the added bonus of editing and commentary with a lineup of legal eagles from Ari Melber to Frank Filuzzi to Joyce Vance. It’s a conceit mirrored by the Committee — mix interpretation with pre-recorded testimony — a meta, macro, contextual mix.
Digging through the “prime time” commentary the night of Day 3, one finds the reveal that Eastman admitted the existence of a plot to undermine the election certification.
Echoing Chris Hayes’ wife, a professor/lawyer, for her insight, Joy Reid proposed that the ‘coup’ “portal” was Pence, not the office of the Vice President. Eastman when challenged that Gore ‘could have’ or Harris, acting as President of the Senate, could similarly decertify electoral votes, admitted, ‘oh, that would never happen.’
In other words, ‘No, this was not transactional, this was a takeover.
This was a coup.’
To salvage sinking audience ratings, the fall-off of viewers after the opening session, (1) the cable networks fill the Committee recesses with commentary from some of the Committee members.
During one recess, one heard Rep. Adam Schiff reveal the purpose of the Committee’s work, where the Hearing was going:
“We wanted to present Trump’s culpability.”
Schiff sounded more like a Committee scriptwriter than a lawmaker/investigator. Notably, Schiff spoke in the past tense. For the audience, for the few watching the Hearing, the “Elephant in the Room,” is Trump’s criminality. One recalls that Schiff served as House chief presenter during the first Impeachment of President Trump. The charges were so obvious and yet so elusive. Think Teflon meets “The Apprentice.”
Consider why the public remained unconvinced after Schiff and company’s presentation. The phone call, the quid pro quo bribe, proffered by the President, was in the end a phone call.
The country learned that saying what he (Trump) wants is not the same as accomplishing what he (the President) is not allowed. In effect, treason gets a pass.
With the second impeachment trial the country learned that everything with Trump is a ‘show,’ that attempts don’t matter.
Consider that this was the reveal of Maddow and Schiff’s attempts to reconcile the damage to America of January 6, the ‘why’ Trump was so pissed off at Pence for retreating behind the Constitution and the peaceful transfer of power.
The ‘show’ of democracy was being spoiled.
Deserving of a noose.
1-The Anticlimax of the Jan. 6 Hearings