Opinion Now we know the truth on what Trump sought to obscure about Jan. 6


HR King
May 29, 2001
The … suggestion that President Trump did not act swiftly enough to quell the violence is absolutely not true. Upon hearing of the reports of violence, he tweeted, pleading with the crowd to be ‘peaceful,’ followed by a tweeted video urging people to ‘go home’ and to do so in ‘peace.’ He and the White House further took immediate steps to coordinate with authorities to provide whatever was necessary to counteract the rioters. … He, like the rest of the Country, was horrified at the violence.”
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Trump lawyers’ trial memorandum, second Trump impeachment, Feb. 8, 2021.
Now we know the truth that President Donald Trump and his lawyers sought to obscure about that day.

Trump did not “act swiftly” to quell the violence — he barely acted at all, and then too late and only under enormous pressure from his advisers and family. (Except Melania Trump, who was, she insists, blissfully unaware of the insurrection, engaged as she was in “fulfilling one of my duties as first lady of the United States of America,” overseeing the photographing of a new White House rug.)

“Upon hearing of the reports of violence,” Trump tweeted … nothing, for hours, and when he did tweet it was more to incite than de-escalate (“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution”). That led staffers to resign in disgust.

One of them, deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews, testified Thursday night before the House select committee investigating Jan. 6 that, far from “pleading with the crowd to be ‘peaceful,’ ” Trump resisted doing so. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, Matthews testified, “looked directly at me and, in a hushed tone, shared with me that the president did not want to include any sort of mention of peace” in the tweet.

And Trump took no “immediate steps” to coordinate with law enforcement or military authorities. Vice President Mike Pence, whose own life was at risk, stepped in to fill the breach, ordering Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley and acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller to call out the National Guard.
Eugene Robinson: Trump’s behavior on Jan. 6 was worse than you thought. Much worse.
To the extent that Trump had a directive for Milley that day, it was delivered through White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows — and it was to make Trump look good: to “kill the narrative that the vice president is making all the decisions.”

Of course, anyone who was paying attention during Trump’s second impeachment trial knew that his lawyers’ self-serving depiction of Trump as alarmed by the insurrection was full of it. Still, Thursday night’s dramatic — and devastating — portrayal of Trump during the 187 minutes of the insurrection offers an opportunity to look both backward and forward.

Backward at the complicit silence of so many who remained mute for months about the appalling dereliction of duty they had witnessed. Perhaps with good reason: Even Thursday night, as Matthews testified, the official House GOP Twitter account attacked her as “Just another liar and pawn in Pelosi’s witch-hunt” — this about someone who worked for House Republicans. The tweet was taken down, but the chilling point remains.
Loyalty is a virtue, but the primary duty of loyalty is to country. Where were the administration patriots on Jan. 6 and beyond? Whispering on background, maybe.

And where are they now? As impressive a job as the select committee is doing, it has failed, through no fault of its own, to secure some critical testimony. Former White House counsel Pat Cipollone testified, finally, but on terms he imposed, unilaterally declaring his conversations with Trump off-limits. Imagine if Cipollone had been compelled to tell the nation what Trump had said on Jan. 6.

Other key players, most notably Meadows, have resisted the committee’s order to testify thanks in part to a Justice Department that declined to prosecute them on contempt of Congress charges. Imagine hearing from Meadows, under oath, about what the president said and did that day, as well as in the days preceding? On Jan. 5, according to Meadows’s aide Cassidy Hutchinson, Trump instructed the chief of staff to call Roger Stone and Michael Flynn and that Meadows planned to go to the “war room” at the Willard hotel set up by lawyers Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman.
The select committee has performed a vital public service by amassing the record it has, and it is poised to continue. One lesson, especially for those who doubted that this enterprise was worth the effort, is the critical role of congressional oversight, for posterity as well as the present.

But another lesson, one manifested during Watergate, is that oversight has its limits. Federal prosecutors possess unrivaled power to assemble evidence and compel testimony, overcoming bogus assertions of privilege and granting immunity when warranted. Are Justice Department officials preparing to deploy that authority when it comes to the events surrounding Jan. 6?

We can’t and shouldn’t know. “A central tenet of the rule of law is that we do not do our investigations in public,” Attorney General Merrick Garland noted Wednesday.
But he went on to lay out the stakes: “This is the most wide-ranging investigation and the most important investigation that the Justice Department has ever entered into, and we have done so because this effort to upend a legitimate election transferring power from one administration to another cuts at the fundamental of American democracy. We have to get this right.”