As this is being posted, it was just announced that the US Supreme Court has officially overturned Roe v Wade. The dictatorial role of these political hacks simply confirms everything in this analysis of the fifth day of the hearings on January 6.
It is a mistake to ignore the hearings of the January 6 House Committee. These hearings are truly historic, far more significant that the Nixon Watergate hearings, and their intent is to have a huge bearing on the political future of the United States. In fact, they could be called the possible last gasp of US capitalist democracy. These hearings also reveal the strategy of the Democrats and the tiny and shrinking Republican minority. Finally, they really reveal how the capitalist class rules through democratic means and why it prefers that means.
The most significant statement came from Republican Adam Kinzinger early on in Day 5 of the hearings: “I want to take a moment now to speak directly to my fellow Republicans. Imagine the country’s top prosecutor with the power to open investigations, subpoena, charge crimes, and seek imprisonment. Imagine that official pursuing the agenda of the other party instead of that of the American people as a whole.” We will unpack that comment later. First some of the details of Day 5 of the hearings:
There were three witnesses in the hearing – former Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, former Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, and former DOJ official in charge of the legal counsel Steve Engel. They were questioned by the two Republicans on the committee – Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney.
Debunking the Lies… Again
There was the usual litany of debunking all the election fraud claims, the most crazy of which was that some Italian satellites had been able to flip votes in some of the Dominion voting machines. This lunatic idea had been proposed by an ex-
CIA agent whose video Trump found on Youtube. (The image of the president of the United States spending his time scrolling through wacko Youtube videos is truly revealing.) Trump actually assigned one of his flunkeys in the Department of Defense, Cash Patel, to ask the Italian government to investigate this. (One can only imagine what the Italians must have thought of the state of affairs at the White House!)
There was testimony about the claimed 16% error rate in Dominion voting machine tabulations in Antrim County, Michigan. A hand recount found one mistaken tabulation, meaning a .0063% error rate.
Donoghue and Rosen explained how they debunked these claims over and over again with Trump, as Barr had explained in a previous hearing.
The response of Trump was to tell Donoghue “just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest up to me and the Republican congressmen.” In other words, Trump & Co. just needed a legal-seeming cover to disrupt the election count. The plan was to send the fake elector documents from six or seven states to VP Pence and have him either accept the fake documents or send the entire matter back to the (Republican-run) state legislatures to decide. During that time, Trump & Co. would have time to work on the legislators to send back the fake documents as the official ones.
Central to this strategy was what could be called the “Georgia Letter”. This was a
letter to be sent from the DOJ to the top officials in Georgia saying that there were grounds to investigate apparently fraudulent voting in Georgia. This would have provided the pretext to reconsider the vote outcome in that state. What happened was that the DOJ’s environmental attorney Jeffrey Clark (who is now working for the Koch foundation) had come to the attention of Trump through Republican Representative Scott Perry, who introduced Clark to Trump. Clark drafted up the letter and Trump then sought the signatures of Rosen and Donoghue, both of whom refused. Trump then mounted a pressure campaign aimed at them. This campaign culminated in Trump’s plan to fire Rosen and place Clark as acting attorney general (AG). In fact, Clark was already being referred to as acting AG. It was a fait accompli apparently. Until the shit hit the fan.
Rosen, Donoghue, Engel and a couple of others met with Trump on January 3. (Remember, it was getting down to the wire as Pence was set to count the elector votes on January 6.) Pointing to Rose, Trump said “you aren’t going to do anything.” And then he asked “what do I have to lose?” in replacing Rosen with Clark. All three told Trump they would resign if he placed Clark as acting AG. It seems Trump was particularly surprised at Engel, who had been a total Trump loyalist up until that time. Previously, it was Engel who had drafted up the statement for then president Bush justifying torture of prisoners. Engel had provided legal cover for Trump during the first impeachment trial. Over and over, he had been Trump’s legal cover man, but this was a step too far even for him. Not only that but Trump was informed that nearly all the assistant AG’s would resign. In fact, Rosen said that hundreds of top officials in the DOJ would resign. Another Trump advisor who was present called it a “murder-suicide pact”. Trump was forced to back down.
Capitalist Institutions More Powerful than President
The entire affair was summarized by Donoghue, who said he told Trump that it’s impossible to “turn the department on a dime.” In other words, like all the institutions of the government, the Department of Justice is based on certain rules. The overwhelming majority of its top officials have the momentum of their careers and they won’t just “turn on a dime” and reverse course. The entire bureaucracy has been built on the foundation that this is the best way for the capitalist class to retain control. It would take a mighty crisis for this bureaucracy – or any other for that matter – to make that transformation.
In the end, the DOJ officials played a role similar to that of the top generals. In June of 2020, Trump was contemplating sending soldiers into the streets to quell mass protests. A series of retired generals, who were clearly speaking on behalf of the active ones, made it clear that that would not fly. Mike Mullen, former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – the top military commander in the US – explained that officers were obligated to obey “any lawful order” of the president. The implication was that they would not obey an unlawful order. So Trump never gave the orders.
In other words, the institutions that the US capitalist class has established to carry out its rule are more powerful than is the president, up until now.
“Two Party System”
Another important institution in the US is the two (capitalist) party system. More subject to the consciousness and moods of masses of people, that institution is breaking down, with Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party. The Democrats are desperate to try to revive it. This is revealed yet again in the outsized role of the more sane wing of the Republicans in these hearings. All the witnesses throughout the hearings were Republicans. Yes, that made their testimony more credible, but there was another result too. That result is revealed in the fact that on this, the last and in some ways the most important day of the hearings, the only two questioners were the Republicans on the committee, Cheney and Kinzinger.
It is extremely difficult to see how that less blatantly bigoted and crazed wing of the Republicans can make a serious come back. Maybe if these hearings have an impact on some of the swing voters, the more sane wing of the Republicans can have a temporary revival, but the more crazed wing is here to stay and probably will retain overall control of the party.
What, however, is the real difference between these two wings of the Republican Party? After all, Kinzinger and Cheney both voted against the first impeachment of Trump. In so doing, they helped enable Trump to go even further. They both supported Trump in his reelection campaign despite the fact that even at that time Trump had made clear that he would not accept defeat. They both support all the totally reactionary policies of their party. This includes the various states’ new voter suppression and vote nullification laws. This wing of the Republican Party simply recoils from a violent coup and prefers a more slow rolling legal coup instead. And the Democrats are providing them cover by ignoring this similarity.
Both parties make the Constitution sacred. Completely aside from the fact that it was written by the slave owners and bankers of their time in order to institutionalize their rule, even this worship is open to interpretation. The right wing hacks of the Supreme Court majority just ruled that anybody any time and in nearly any place can carry a gun. The Court’s mandating allowing open carry, which is purely meant to intimidate, is supposedly based on the Second Amendment. But the framers of the Constitution meant the Second Amendment to refer to state-run militias, not every lunatic being able to run around armed. These Supreme Court (in)Justices claim to be guided by the “original intent” of the framers of the Constitution. This is an entirely reactionary concept, but even that concept is ignored or lied about when it is inconvenient. But the more sane wing of the Republican Party, such as Senator Susan Collins of Maine, were entirely in favor of the appointment of these right wing hacks to the Supreme Court.
As for the alleged heroes such as Rosen, Donoghue and Engel, they all expressed the view that the DOJ must not interfere in how elections are run. The state legislatures must be left to their own devices in that. But that is exactly the problem that the 1965 Voting Rights Act was meant to resolve because the state legislatures in the South could not be trusted to their own devices. Never mind the fact that that act was gutted by the Supreme Court, now the Republican DOJ “heroes” are also giving legal justification for allowing the state legislatures to return to those bad old days, and return with a vengeance. What they are advocating is a renewed theory of “states’ rights”, which was the battle cry of the Southern segregationists back in the 1960’s.
Future Criminal Charges?
Hints have surfaced of dissatisfaction of some members of the January 6 committee with the present attorney general Merrick Garland. And a subtext to the hearings seems to have been to pressure Garland to act. In fact, one must wonder whether the timing of the DOJ’s raid on the home of Jeff Clark on the same day as the hearings is coincidental. Garland’s stated refusal to charge Trump’s former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, for overt contempt of congress must rankle the committee. Now Garland appears headed to charging Clark. But who else will he charge? These hearings revealed that Representatives Matt Gaetz, Mo Brooks, Andy Biggs and Jim Jordan had sought preemptive pardons from Trump. Apparenlty Marjorie Taylor Greene had also. In other words, they all knew they’d broken the law, but if Garland charges them, this will provoke a true crisis.
But the real question being asked now is whether charges will be brought against the real organizer of this illegal conspiracy: Donald Trump. That truly unprecedented action would provoke a renewed and massive political crisis! There would likely be mass violent protests in the streets and terrorist acts that would dwarf what we’ve seen up until now. But if Jeffrey Clark is charged, as seems likely now, how can it possibly be justified not to charge his leader – Donald Trump?
One Person Dictatorship
The true danger to the capitalist class is seen in Kinzinger’s statement that we quoted above. Imagine the main law enforcement arm of the federal government entirely serving the interests of one individual – the president. All we need do is look at what has happened in the country run by Trump’s puppeteer – Putin. There, the president can confiscate the assets of and arrest any economic or political rival he likes. This is no way to run a rational capitalist system. The capitalist class much prefers established rules of the game and a level (for them) playing field in which they all play by the same rules. True, there are the bribes (in the form of campaign donations) that obtain this or that advantage, but a necessary evil and doesn’t upset things too severely. Just imagine what would happen if, for instance, Trump Inc. wanted to obtain some real estate for his latest venture and they were bidding against a rival real estate developer. If Trump had full personal control over the DOJ, they would find some very real tax fraud of their rivals and imprison the CEO. This would be the modus operandi for the entire economy.
The US capitalist class prefers to avoid such a situation at all costs… until it no longer can. On every score, this crisis is far from over.