The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Reps. Adam Kinzinger, left, and Liz Cheney

Photo, left, by Hudson Institute (CC Attribution 2.0). Photo, right, from cheney.house.gov

I wish I could be a Cheney fan. I really do. Rep. Liz Cheney has conducted herself honorably for the past nine months. Her courage in telling the truth about the election and the insurrection of Jan. 6 has been punished by the Republican conference, which booted her from leadership and replaced her with the lying, scheming Trumpist, Rep. Elise Stefanik. Former President Donald Trump is apparently working feverishly to unseat Cheney from Congress altogether, and his lickspittle lieutenants are joining the effort.

The invertebrate minority leader, Kevin McCarthy — who, let's recall, declared on January 13 that "the president bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters" — has long since scurried back under Trump's skirts, from whence he issues barbs against the few remaining Republicans who still have some principles. McCarthy sniped that Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, the other Republican appointed to the Jan. 6 committee over the objections of party leadership, are "Pelosi Republicans."

The opening segments of the January 6 select committee hearings were another fine moment for Cheney. She began by thanking the police officers who testified about their experiences defending the Capitol that day:

"Thank you to each of the witnesses appearing before us today. ... You defended the Constitution and our Republic, and every American owes you our undying gratitude. Every American, I hope, will be able to hear your testimony today and will watch the videos. The videos show the unbelievable violence and the inexcusable and intolerable cruelty that you all faced, and people need to know the truth."

She went on to outline the stakes:

"If those responsible are not held accountable, and if Congress does not act responsibly, this will remain a cancer on our Constitutional Republic, undermining the peaceful transfer of power at the heart of our democratic system."

Those are good words, and as I said above, I respect Cheney's willingness to pay a price. She understood that by taking on the "Big Lie" and the almost-as-consequential lie about what happened on January 6, she was risking her leadership position, her seat and possibly her own security. Every word of truth that she (and Kinzinger) utters is like a balm of Gilead.

And yet, the voice in the back of my head keeps saying, "Is it too late?"

Both Cheney and Kinzinger, may they live to be 120, had many, many earlier opportunities to extinguish this forest fire before it became a raging inferno. Both supported Trump's reelection in 2020. Kinzinger said he was "upset" by President Joe Biden's victory. Cheney appeared on Fox and Friends in July 2020, and while she allowed that she disagreed with Trump on some issues, most notably withdrawal from Afghanistan, she emphasized how important it was that Trump be reelected: "Whether or not we have debates and discussions internally — as I'm sure we continue, we will continue to do — we are going to be absolutely united going forward on the big issues, and I'm not going any place."

Both Cheney and Kinzinger voted against the first Trump impeachment. They stuck with their support for his reelection, despite the first debate with Biden, despite the catastrophic handling of COVID-19, despite Trump's green light to China's Uyghur camps, despite QAnon, and despite the avalanche of lies and cruelty that corrupted America's soul — and prepared the ground for the violent insurrection they are now investigating.

Is it welcome that they finally found a line they couldn't cross? A thousand times, yes. But how might this story have unfolded differently if they, and thousands of other Republicans, had found their uncrossable lines sooner?

You can say, "The base is calling the shots, and the elected are just following what the voters demand." That's nonsense. The base doesn't get its ideas from nowhere. It gets them from Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham and the rest of the conservative media world. And it gets them from elected officials. To paraphrase what Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn told the Jan. 6 committee: When elected officials give permission, there is no limit to the violence that may ensue.

Trump was the arsonist. But if every time he dropped a match on the dry tinder of American polarization, Republican elected officials and others had leaped to extinguish the small flames, we would not be here.

And where is here? We have seen the end of 160 years of the peaceful transfer of power. We've seen the majestic United States Capitol turned into a scene from a dystopian fantasy; an armed mob attempting to subvert an election. They smashed and tortured and caused deaths. They erected a gallows and hunted for the speaker of the House and for the vice president. And Republicans, almost to a man and woman, are excusing, downplaying or whitewashing what happened. An entire political party has abandoned commitment to the rule of law.

To speak up now, well, it's better than nothing. But it's a little like saying you'll take away a drunk's driver's license after he crashed into and killed an 8-year-old. What about all of those times when you saw him get behind the wheel after five drinks and did nothing?

Trump attacked the basics of American democracy. The consequences were foreseeable. There were countless warnings. The great tragedy of this moment is not that Trump attempted what he did, but that so few Republicans tried to stop him when it would have made a difference.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast. Her most recent book is Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense.To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com

Advertising

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Former President Donald Trump, left, and former White House counsel Pat Cipollone

On Wednesday evening the House Select Committee investigating the Trump coup plot issued a subpoena to former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, following blockbuster testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who said the lawyer had warned of potential criminal activity by former President Donald Trump and his aides.

The committee summons to Cipollone followed long negotiations over his possible appearance and increasing pressure on him to come forward as Hutchinson did. Committee members expect the former counsel’s testimony to advance their investigation, owing to his knowledge of the former president's actions before, during and after the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Keep reading... Show less

Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}