Gene Collier, Tribune News Service
Bumped off the national stage by Vladimir Putin’s swelling atrocities in Ukraine, a potentially devastating legal filing last week by the House Select Committee on the Jan. 6 attack got lost in its own arrhythmic soundtrack.
You might not even have heard that it was the closest thing yet to a road map for the Department of Justice to nail the 45th president with criminal wrongdoing, just in case it missed the criminality he flaunted in plain sight on Jan. 6, 2021, and in the months leading up to the riot at the US Capitol.
The filing in US District Court appeals for access to a ream of emails to and from discredited law professor John Eastman, supposed Trump counsel and author of a DIY handbook on how to overthrow the 2020 election. The evidence presented in the appeal provides, according to the committee, “at minimum, a good-faith basis for concluding that President Trump has violated federal law” in that he “obstructed, influenced, impeded, or attempted to obstruct, influence, or impede an official proceeding of the United States and did so corruptly.”
It somehow took the committee some 550 interviews to reach this conclusion despite Donald Trump doing it all in broad daylight (and on television — “If you don’t fight like hell ... ”). The significance is in the legal point:
“For the first time the committee lays out a legal theory and lists the evidence for charging Trump with crimes,” Barbara McQuade, the University of Michigan law professor and former U.S. attorney, told PolitiFact. “Under this theory, it is unnecessary to show that Trump conspired with the Jan. 6 rioters, only that he pressured Mike Pence to abuse his power to certify the election results.”
This, too, is not exactly a heavy lift, because Trump did in fact, and again in plain sight, say that all Pence had to do was exactly what he was not allowed to do and “WE WIN!” Though the committee has promised a full theatrical springtime of hot testimony on these issues (Ivanka Trump? I’d say 50-1), the real issue is whether the Department of Justice will go after the former president criminally. Attorney General Merrick Garland has indicated that he’ll follow the evidence wherever it leads and that no one is above the law — and it would be perfectly nifty if there were any indication he actually means it.
Otherwise, the primary purpose of what the Jan. 6 committee put into the record last week was to demonstrate, perhaps to the highest degree yet, that Trump can sustain a lie regardless of who calls him on it.
The “Big Lie,” the one about the stolen election, has been blown to bits by his own Department of Justice, his own Department of Homeland Security, his own DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, his own attorney general and by some 60 judges, many of them appointed by him only to have to deal with the ravings of Rudy Giuliani, the Trump attorney now suspended in multiple jurisdictions for statements that were “demonstrably false.”
Even former AG Bill Barr, whose shameful record of obsequiousness should long since have installed him in the Lickspittle Hall of Fame, was forced to tell Trump after a thorough investigation by the DOJ that claims of election irregularities “are all bulls---.”
And still, when Bill the Bookseller turned up on NBC with an interview for Lester Holt over the weekend, Trump produced a letter to Holt with still more of the same perfect nonsense:
“Despite massive amounts of evidence, with far more produced after his leaving,” Trump wrote, “(Barr) refused to go after the fraud and irregularities that had so openly taken place in the 2020 Presidential Election.”
Every part of that sentence is incorrect or better described as a lie — a perfectly predictable spasm, as lying is the former president’s primary language. His pathology is not that he doesn’t know the truth, but in the belief that he can change the truth by lying it to death, as he long ago explained to the soon-to-be notorious “Access Hollywood” host Billy Bush.
Trump had an unbreakable habit of claiming that “The Apprentice,” the reality show that launched him back into public consciousness after a series of bankruptcies, was the No. 1 show on television.
“I’d had enough,” Bush told HBO host Bill Maher. “I told him, ‘Wait a minute, you haven’t been No. 1 for like five years — not in any category, not in any demo.’”
Trump said, “Billy, look, you just tell them and they believe it. That’s it; you just tell them and they believe. They just do.”
Of course, then we were talking about “The Apprentice,” and now we’re talking about inciting a riot, getting people killed, undermining democracy and attempting the overthrow of the US government.
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