Day 7 of the hearings of the House January 6 committee helped clarify what role Trump and his “team crazy” played in the build up to that day. The question is what difference will it make? Nevertheless, it’s useful to understand that history.
Plan A: Seize Ballot Boxes
A key event was the “unhinged” meeting with Trump on December 18. At that meeting meeting were Sidney Powell, Mike Flynn and a few others of Team Crazy. Representing Team Normal were former senior advisor to the president Eric Herschmann, the president’s legal counsel Pat Cipollone and others. Powell presented a plan for Trump to order seizing of the ballot boxes and to appoint her as special counsel. A wild meeting ensued. Two quotes from an Axios report happened:
‘Finally Herschmann had enough. “Why the fuck do you keep standing up and screaming at me?” he shot back at Flynn. “If you want to come over here, come over here. If not, sit your ass down.” Flynn sat back down.’ And: “The arguments became so heated that even Giuliani — still on the phone — at one point told everyone to calm down. One participant later recalled: ‘When Rudy’s the voice of reason, you know the meeting’s not going well.’”
(The full article makes for some enjoyable bedtime reading.)
Plan B Set in Motion
Evidently Trump realized that that plan was unworkable because none of the established bureaucracies would cooperate. So he came up with another plan: Early the following morning (December 19), Trump released a tweet whose key sentences were: “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there. Will be wild.” Up until that point, Trump’s militias had been planning that rally, and Trump must have known their plan was for more than just a loud protest, but it was his tweet that really set the wheels in motion. According to testimony, it brought together the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys and the Three Percenters – groups that had not worked together before. Social media’s lights lit up, with everybody from Alex Jones to Ali Alexander jumping on board.
Two days later – December 21 – Congressman Mo Brooks (the one who gave the speech calling for “kicking ass and taking names” on January 6th) set up a meeting with Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, himself, Giuliani and some of the key militia leaders. One can guess that the general plans for January 6th were worked out at that meeting.
Stone and Flynn evidently worked closely with the militias – especially the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers – and reported to Meadows. As revealed at a previous hearing, there had been a meeting planned with all these groups and individuals for January 6th. However, Meadows evidently thought better of attending in person and, in any case, felt his presence near the rally was more important. Instead, he evidently was on the phone with them while in his limo. (This most probably was the phone call that he refused to allow his young aide Cassidy Hutchinson to overhear.)
By January 5th, it was clear that everything had been planned and that Trump was in on it. According to testimony, Trump and his team had gone back and forth over the text of his speech for January 6th. He had wanted to include a call to march on the Capitol but that kept getting deleted. Then on January 5th, he had a final call with Pence in which he called Pence a wimp. Immediately after that, he ordered that call to be included in his speech. Trump also spoke with Steve Bannon that morning, after which Bannon went onto social media to say, “all hell is going to break loose on January 6th.” In other words, Trump finally concluded that the invasion of the Capitol was necessary and he communicated that to Bannon, who spread the world. On that day, Ali Alexander – a key leader of the event – sent out a message “Ellipse [where Trump spoke to the rally] then the US Capitol. Trump is supposed to order us to US Capitol.”
In other words, Alexander (and presumably others) had a line of communication with Trump and were coordinating together.The evidence is that that line went from the militias and others like Alexander to Roger Stone and Mike Flynn to Mark Meadows to Trump himself. It seems that a few members of congress such as Mo Brooks were also in on the plan. Also probably involved was Congressman Barry Loudermilk, who gave a guided tour to some of the rioters on January 5th. In that tour, he showed those rioters key security places. (Loudermilk at first denied giving the tour altogether, then claimed it was for family members, and then denied the group wore red MAGA hats when film showed that they did.)
According to testimony, Trump had been in a terrible mood for weeks prior to January 5th. After that, his mood brightened, especially as he heard the crowd outside his office on the day prior to January 6th. He had finally decided on a plan of action.
Reflecting their Great Leader, the militias live in their own bubble and were out of touch with reality. They actually thought they could provoke a civil war which they could win. According to testimony, they had stored thousands of dollars of military equipment and even explosives in a motel room in Virginia, just outside of D.C.
But that dream world is not complete fantasy. A question that was never even hinted at in the hearing is this: Alarm bells were going off in the security apparatus of the federal government. This included Homeland Security (and clearly the FBI). Yet nothing was done to seriously prepare for January 6th. If that had been a Black Lives Matter protest, thousands of police and even the National Guard would have been mobilized. But many in the security apparatus of the US government sympathize politically with the militias. What they cannot accept is an armed attack on their own people.
During Trump’s first impeachment hearing the point was made that if he was not convicted this would just be a green light for him to make further transgressions. January 6th proved that and during the second impeachment hearing that same point was made. Now, the dominant wing of the Republican Party is following down that road that Trump helped blaze. And once again, the more open Democrats are making the same point: If these people, including Trump himself, are not prosecuted then the door will be open to others to follow in Trump’s footsteps. And yet Attorney General Merrick Garland has refused to prosecute Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows for flagrantly violating a subpoena to appear before the January 6th committee. What are the chances of Garland prosecuting the chief cook and bottlewasher, Donald Trump?
Garland’s appointment reflects the mind set of the president, who is desperate to return to the old days – the only days he’s known in his political life. (Biden’s real mind set is seen in his flying to Israel and from there to Saudi Arabia in an effort to encourage a further partnership between these two reactionary regimes.)
As for the role of Republicans Liz Cheney and Adam Kinsinger on the January 6 committee: Both of these are complete reactionaries. Both campaigned for Trump in 2020 after he had already said he would not accept electoral defeat. Neither has the slightest objection to the extreme gerrymandering and the bills for voter suppression or – even more critical – the vote nullification their party is pushing through state legislatures around the country. In other words, the are part and parcel of a party that understands that their program is generally unpopular and must therefore find ways to overturn elections. But they understand that a violent coup would destroy US capitalist stability as well as nearly wreck US influence abroad.
Instad, they are after a legal coup. In order to accomplish that, Republicans must first gain the majority in both houses of congress later this year, followed by winning – or stealing – the presidency in 2024. Cheney, Kinsinger and their minority wing of the Republicans believe that the hard core Trumpsters make that election victory more difficult. Another key to this will be the upcoming ruling by the supreme court on whether state legislatures have the sole power to run elections. If they so rule, that will open the door
to state legislatures doing exactly what Trump had been demanding – that those legislatures overrule the electorate and send Republican electors to D.C. (Possibly the court will take some sort of middle ground, opening the door to weeks of uncertainty and turmoil in 2024, and possibly throwing the election results to the House of Representatives, which will vote for the Republican candidate.)
As for the Democrats, they are fighting with one hand tied behind their back, as their goal is to help the
Cheney/Kinsinger/Mitt Romney wing of the Republicans regain power in the Republican Party. That will give the Democrats a reliable rival which is also a partner. It is very had to imagine how that could happen. The militias and their wider base are not going away.
What remains to be seen is whether a mobilization of a layer of the US working class will develop and reverse the direction of US politics.