“I can just remember my breath catching in my throat because what I saw was just a war scene. It was something like I had seen out of the movies.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes: There were officers on the ground. They were bleeding. They were throwing up. I saw friends with blood all over their faces. I was slipping in people’s blood. I was catching people as they fell. It was carnage. It was chaos. I can’t even describe what I saw. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that as a police officer, as a law enforcement officer, I would find myself in the middle of a battle.”
So spoke DC Capitol police officer Caroline Edward on the first day of public hearings of the House January 6 committee hearings. I suspect that a lot of others in the US never thought they would see a scene like that either. At the time, I personally thought it was a group of delusional idiots who actually thought they could overthrow the U.S. government. The January 6 House committee hopes to make clear that this was part of a wider plan orchestrated by Trump along with people like Michael Flynn and Rudy Giuliani, and in fact they weren’t so very far from reaching their goal.
Even Fox “News” had to carry the story of the hearings. They provided some of the most important footage, including some never seen before video of January 6:
For example, it is reported that the head of Pence’s secret service detail, Anthony Ornato, tried to get Pence into his secure limo. Pence refused because he suspected he would have been taken out of town. Ornato denies such a conversation took place, but he is a Trump loyalist, having served as deputy chief of staff for Trump! (There are almost certainly others like Ornato in the Secret Service.) Had Pence been taken out of town, the election would not have been certified on January 6. This would have given Trump & Co. more time to work on the state legislators to reverse the election results. Even had they not succeeded, political chaos would have ensued.
The same goal would have been reached if the Capitol invasion had been able to disrupt the proceedings for long enough. It is now clear that the cabal around Trump was working with the Proud Boys and the Oathkeepers to lead the charge into the Capitol. According to AP there were about 10,000 at the January 6 rally, but “only” about 1200 actually entered the Capitol. Had anything close to the entire 10,000 invaded, the outcome would likely have been very different. One can envision the results: the mob capturing and beating or even killing some members of congress while others cowered in terror or fled for their lives, blood on the floors and tear gas floating through the air – followed by a declaration of martial law by Trump.
In the days following this riot/insurrection/coup attempt there was a general feeling of revulsion reflected in the fact that even Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy denounced Trump. Now, that revulsion has faded, at least among those who are pro-Republican. The purpose of these public hearings is to remind a wider layer of Americans about what happened and to clarify the extent to which Trump and his inner circle were directly responsible, in other words to affect the consciousness in the United States.
Whether they will succeed is uncertain. They will not affect the Trumpsters, who don’t even watch or read the legitimate news sources. The question is whether they will affect that middle layer – the white, middle class suburbanites.
The hearings are helping clarify the degree to which Trump and his inner circle supported and were involved in planning the January 6 events. The committee presented the comments of several Trump appointees, including Bill Barr, who refuted the “stolen election” claims, meaning that Trump knew the claims were a lie. They also presented preliminary evidence of Trump’s support for the Capitol invasion as it was under way. Liz Cheney, for example, said regarding the chant “hang Mike Pence” that Trump had commented, “maybe our supporters have the right idea. [Pence] deserves it.” They also presented preliminary evidence of the degree to which the Proud Boys and the Oathkeepers organized and led the invasion. This evidence included a clandestine meeting of leaders of the two groups on the night of January 5. Hopefully, they will present evidence of communication between Trump’s inner circle and these same leaders prior to January 6.
Let off the hook
However, the hearings and the reporting on them are letting several forces off the hook. Among those are:
Mike Pence, who is lionized for refusing to bend to Trump’s demand that he violate the law. But Pence did everything he could to enable Trump right up until that point.
The same is true for Liz Cheney, who supported Trump in the 2019 election despite the fact that he had clearly revealed himself by then. This included the fact that he had already revealed that he would not accept electoral defeat.
The same for Trump’s former attorney general, Bill Barr, who resigned as of January 1, clearly because he knew what was coming and didn’t want to be associated with it. But Barr helped cover the plans up by not breathing a word about them.
Marjorie Taylor Greene and possibly some others members of congress also may be let off the hook. There have been repeated stories that she and possibly other Representatives led unknown people on a tour of the Capitol on January 5. The only plausible explanation is that they were helping some of the January 6 rioters find the offices they wanted to target. The hearings last night made no reference to that although they may later on.
Merrick Garland, Biden’s attorney general, is also being let off the hook. Garland has refused to indict both Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows and Pat Cippolone Trump’s White House counsel. These two have flagrantly ignored committee subpoenas to appear before the committee. The only reason Peter Navarro, former director of manufacturing policy for Trump, was indicted is that he was stupid enough to blab much of what he knew to the media. What this means is that no matter how much evidence there is against Trump himself, it is very unlikely that Garland will bring charges against him.
The reason for this is that the Democrats are desperate for a return to the good old days when the two parties collaborated. Holding these high up Republicans, including Trump himself, legally accountable would be too strong of a break with the Republican Party. In any case, most if not all of these former Trump supporters only refused to go along with his schemes because they seemed almost certain to fail for two interrelated reasons: First, he would have had to overturn the results in at least three states rather than only one. Second, the military and other armed wings of the US government opposed the schemes. Had the situation been different, or if it is different in the future, such types as Barr and Liz Cheney will likely go along with it, just as they do with voter restriction laws.
“Peaceful transfer of power” and capitalist rule through democracy
Much is made of the “peaceful transfer of power” of the presidency – in other words, one president succeeding another in an orderly process. The great bulk of the US capitalist class finds this necessary for two reasons: First is to keep control over their president. If a president can hijack his or her way into office, then they can become semi-independent of the will of the capitalist class. That is what Trump started to do even during his first term in office. The clearest example is the fact that he basically was Putin’s puppet in many ways. The second important reason is that the US capitalist class basically rules through convincing the majority of people that they have a choice through “our democracy”. Without that belief (which is fading anyway), the capitalist class would have to rule through naked repression, which is always a more costly and less secure means of rule.
The Democrats and such anachronisms as Liz Cheney cling to the myth that the Republicans without Trump will return to the old days when they collaborated with the Democrats. But the dogs have been set loose and will not return to their kennel. If Trump were to have a heart attack and die tomorrow, the Republicans will continue down their same road.
The capitalists’ main problem is that their influence has weakened enormously. In the past, for example, they were able to influence the thinking through their media, but that media has lost much of its credibility. The main reason for this is that that media has been steadily promoting neoliberalism and, for example, the view that global capitalism will lead to a better life for all. Meanwhile, the lives of the great majority of workers has gotten worse. But due a variety of factors, including the low level of class consciousness and the cowardice of nearly the entire union leadership, most of those workers have turned to the far right instead of the left. A similar process is under way throughout the world.
The January 6 public hearings are meant to reverse this process in the U.S. Whether it will succeed in the short run will be seen in the results of this fall’s election results. In the longer run, the only alternative is a true mass working class revolt and a genuine working class movement for socialism.
Update: It is always interesting to watch the opinion page of the Wall St. Journal to get a sense of what the most aggressive wing of the capitalist class is thinking. Their editorial board condemns Trump’s lies, but they do it in such a way as to try to put the issue of the economy front and center while also excusing the great bulk of the Republican Party. On the other hand, they trot out Kimberly Strassel who takes the position of Tucker Carlson et al. Strassel denounces the committee for Pelosi’s having refused to accept as members those Republicans who were already committed to the “Big Lie”. These would have acted purely as obstructionists. Strassel follows the motto “If you have the facts, argue the facts. If you don’t, argue the law. If you don’t have the facts or the law, argue the process.”
Further update: According to CNN, over 20 million people watched some or all of the hearing.