Judging by the number of times he was quoted, Donald Trump played a rather small supporting role in the action detailed at the committee’s Jan. 6 hearing on Tuesday.
But as the driving force behind the ugly developments the committee documented, he clearly played the lead role.
The dramatic centerpiece of the hearing was a meeting at the White House on Dec. 18, 2020. Barely “meet” does that justice: This was a six-hour scramble marathon, roaming the White House from the Oval Office to the official’s residence, between teams Crazy – Michael Flynn, attorney Sidney “Release the Kraken” Powell and others who still amuse the President and tell him the tall tale that he won the election – and Team Normal, government officials, mostly lawyers, who are still on board the Trump White House.
In fact, one of the most unusual features of the meeting is that it happened at all. Outsiders don’t just stroll into the Oval Office and meet with the leader of the free world unplanned.
In fact, the job description of the White House chief of staff – in this case, Mark Meadows – is to prevent such informal encounters. But as we heard from the committee, by December of that year, Meadows was something between a cipher and a co-conspirator.
When White House adviser Pat Cipollone learned of the intruders’ meeting with Trump, he and others rushed to the Oval Office to stop the president from harming himself and the nation. (Said Powell in her taped statement, “I bet Pat Cipollone set a land speed record.)
Several witnesses testified what happened next. Screaming, yelling, profanity, and even an overture to fist punches. As for Trump, only one statement has been attributed to him, but it was significant.
On videotape, Derek Lyons, a former White House staff secretary who was present at the meeting, was asked if he recalled the President saying anything along those lines: “You [meaning Cipollone] did not offer him any solutions, but Sidney Powell and others did. So why not try what Ms. Powell and others suggested?”
“I do,” Lyons testified.
In other words, the contested criterion for the president was to overthrow the will of the people and stay in power. Details like the law, evidence and truth were secondary.
In Tuesday’s narrative, Trump had another line, the tweet he sent out in the early hours after the meeting finally ended as he rallied his supporters to come to Washington on January 6, 2021, promising that it “will be wild. ”
For a prosecutor to be able to closely link the president to the events of Jan. 6, important gaps in the conversation during the “out of joint” meeting would need to be filled.
But Trump’s basic strategy seems clear enough: He stuck to the rally as perhaps the best remaining way to hold on to the White House. By then he had lost case after case and he had heard his official circle tell him he was at the end of the road.
So he called the cavalry.
And the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers and thousands of others answered. They arrived at the Ellipse rally on Jan. 6, where Trump acted out another scene highly conclusive for prosecutors.
Despite objections from official advisers, he maneuvered to insert a reference to Vice President Mike Pence in the official text of his January 6 speech, and at the moment he’s improvising further references to Pence and his role in confirming the election, including red meat phrases like : “You will never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength.”
There’s no shortage of unethical lawyers and synophants to tell a ruthless leader like Trump what he wants to hear, including the rogue gallery that had his ear on December 18th.
And there are plenty of homegrown terrorists like the paramilitary Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys waiting to be called into action. (I prosecuted some of them when I was US Attorney in western Pennsylvania.) Typically, they’re a ragtag bunch faced with the whipping hand of a charismatic leader like Stewart Rhodes — Tuesday’s hearing revealed.
What made the committee’s presentation jarring was how clearly it showed these characters wielding the power of the presidency at the end of Trump’s term. They sold Trump a way of staying in power, and Trump endowed them with the authority to carry out their plans, which became his plans. At the same time, he parted ways with consultants such as Cipollone and US Atty. General William Barr in power.
Team Crazy and the likes of Stewart Rhodes deserve our contempt. They plotted to bring down democracy. But in the drama of our narrow escape, they are the supporting actors.
Their bizarre and malicious turn on the national stage, and their rise from the darkness they deserve, came at the whim of the drama’s protagonist, President Trump.
https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2022-07-13/jan-6-hearing-pat-cipollone-unhinged-meeting-donald-trump Litman: Jan. 6 hearings ID the bad guy in day’s drama — Trump