In the closing minutes of today’s January 6 committee hearing, Rep. Liz Cheney presented evidence of possible witness intimidation. various witnesses, she reportedHe had received messages from shadowy people allegedly close to former President Donald Trump implicitly warning of the consequences if those witnesses told the truth about their conduct.
That’s kind of a cover-up attempt. The most effective cover-up of the January 6 conspiracy is not the one organized in the shadows but the one that takes place in broad daylight.
Everyone connected in any way to the investigation anticipates that if the Republicans win control of the House of Representatives in November, these hearings will be shut down. Congressional Republicans who took the other side against Trump have lost their political careers: Liz Cheney is now an outcast within a party that has a place for Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar. The hearings were held only because Democrats had a majority in the House, and the hearings will continue only as long as that majority remains in place.
So the United States has arrived at a strange and frightening situation. On the ballot for the November election is not only the usual politics (inflation and taxes, infrastructure and national defense), but also this ultimate question: Should Americans know the whole truth about the former president’s attempt to overthrow by violence an election he lost?
Republicans don’t have to be the cover party. That is a choice. Indeed, the history of the hearings has been the courage and integrity of many individual Republicans, culminating most dramatically in the heroic testimony of former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson. But as an institution, the party has to date whitewashed its pro-Trump politics. This policy of protecting the former president involves excusing the worst political crime in the history of the presidency, which looks more and more like a completely planned attempt to cling to the highest office in the country, first by fraud, then by force. A coup.
One of the things we have learned about his administration is that Donald Trump did not get much value from his true believers. They usually turned out to be too crazy, crooked, or stupid to gain and wield power for him. He got the most value from the weak and the supine who could wield some power more or less competently. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy is on record and on audio condemning Trump’s coup at the time it happened. Since then, he has been reduced to the enabling role that he has played for the last 18 months.
As we saw with Senator Mitch McConnell’s willingness to allow a gun safety bill to advance in the Senate, even cold-blooded politicians are not always completely amoral actors. They are also not entirely indifferent to their future reputation. That is one of the revelations of these hearings: that even many people who were prepared to walk a long way down Trump’s corrupt and authoritarian path were not willing to accept a violent overthrow of the Constitution.
So Americans need to start asking and keep asking: Leader McCarthy, will you be part of the cover-up? Will he try to protect Trump when the matter is turned over to the Justice Department?
When this is all over, a few heroes will stand out: Hutchinson and Cheney, at the top of the list. Some villains downright, too. And the many deluded and foolish. But most glaring of all will be the people who were weak and venal up until decision time, and then either accepted the bad deeds of a president, as Chief of Staff Mark Meadows did, staring helplessly at his phone, or side of the Constitution under violent attack, as Vice President Mike Pence did.
Is there any of that last shred of decency and independence alive in the Republican who could soon lead the House majority? Or is McCarthy a worm through and through?
We’ll find out soon, when voters mark their ballots. The future of American democracy may depend on the answer.