Overshadowing the Jan. 6 House select committee’s work and hearings were the ghosts of Congress past that attempted to hold Donald Trump responsible for his actions.
Twice the House approved articles of impeachment, the second for incitement of insurrection that is at the heart of the current hearings. Twice the U.S. Senate voted against the articles.
The question that must now be confronted is what will be the next steps for the nation. The committee has served in many ways as a grand jury for the U.S. Justice Department. Members have presented that Trump at least knew about the armed attack that was to take place and did nothing to stop it. The last hearing provided evidence that he did not live up to his duties as commander in chief, in failing to call off the assault carried out in his name.
The case the bipartisan committee has built is compelling and has had some real “Wait, what?” moments in their hearings. But the question that now must be answered:
Is there any provable criminal behavior that could get a conviction in court?
The former president has demonstrated that he can beat a case due to a jury of his peers—the MAGA Republican crowd—have yet to hold him accountable. As Rep. Liz Cheney alluded to last week, the spirit of Trump’s statement that he could “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters” has proven to be true.
We believe everything the committee has presented and understand the call for charges against Trump and his inner circle. But, truthfully, we had not been convinced that any indictments by the U.S. Department of Justice would connect with Americans, a majority who have not followed the hearings or have their minds changed. Many would see it as just another political witch hunt.
Smarter people than us will explain what charges could be brought. But the American public is the jury of this court. Short of proving a direct order that explicitly came from the mouth of Donald Trump being on tape or paper, the jury was likely to be a hung one.
Except for something that actually happened outside the committee recently.
The Secret Service destroying evidence is the type of act that can change minds. The erasing of text from the day before and of Jan. 6 will re-engage people, echoing the coverup and the erasing of the tapes that was the downfall for Richard Nixon.
Let’s make clear what some individuals in the Secret Service have allegedly done in a way a lawyer would tell a jury: The Secret Service did not delete its web browser history; it erased its hard drives in regards to evidence they were told to archive.
That is a jumping off point that the American jury can wrap their minds around and understand more of the criminal events of that day.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland reiterated recently that “no person is above the law in this country.”
“I can’t say it any more clearly than that. There is nothing in the principles of prosecution and any other factors which prevent us from investigating anyone – anyone – who is criminally responsible for an attempt to undo a democratic election,” said Garland.
To date, the mob that stormed the Capitol have been and continues to be held accountable. We believe the Jan. 6 committee has provided evidence the former President played a significant role that day and one that should be adjudicated in a courtroom.
It is time that those attacked that day—U.S. Capitol police officers—have their day in court for the man who approved of and then waited 187 minutes to stop the mob that stormed Congress that day: Donald J. Trump.