In the hours that followed Wednesday afternoon, a series of Democratic congressmen – from Joe Negus of Colorado to Joaquin Castro of Texas – tweeted and made public comments of Trump that laid the groundwork for the big lie that culminated in the violent takeover of Capitol Hill on January 6.
I watched the hearings and took notes on what was most important. My findings are below.
Trump is his worst enemy: yes, those responsible for impeaching the House have done an excellent job with their cause. But the truth is, Trump himself has done an excellent job for them. His tweets. His speeches. His media interviews. There were so many of them. And over and over again, Trump left nothing to the imagination. He said the election was rigged. He told his supporters they would have to fight tooth and nail to preserve democracy. He refused to accept a peaceful transfer of power if he lost. Again and again and again. And House officials put Trump’s own words and Trump’s tweets in the lap of every senator in the House. All of this evidence coming directly from Trump’s mouth – and from the fingers of his keyboard – makes it hard for a Republican to assume that this is a purely partisan process with no “out.” It wasn’t the House impeachers who put words in Trump’s mouth. It was just him… Talking, tweeting, and talking again.
2nd Liz Cheney: A week after the Wyoming Republican survived a challenge to her seat as House GOP leader, her words about why she voted for Trump’s impeachment were again used by Democrats to argue why he should be condemned. “The president of the United States called this crowd together, brought them together and lit the flame of this attack,” Negus said, summing up what Trump did – a direct quote from Cheney’s January 12 statement. Negus wrapping Cheney’s statement like an anchor around the waist of every Republican senator is what House leader Kevin McCarthy of California feared most after the impeachment of the House. Cheney’s vote is one thing. His statement-especially the line quoted by Negus-was quite another for many Republicans, who thought the Democrats could beat any Republican member with it. And they were right.
3. Trump’s supporters took him at face value: Remember the pointless debate in the first days of Trump’s presidency over whether he should be taken seriously or taken at face value – and whether his supporters understood that he was one or the other? On Wednesday, those in charge of impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives said unequivocally that Trump’s strongest supporters still take his remarks at face value. They believed him when he said the election would be rigged. They believed him when he attacked the Michigan vote. They took him at his word when he told them on January 6 to fight to save democracy. How do I know they believed him? Because impeachment officials showed video footage of Trump supporters in Maricopa County demanding an end to vote counting. And footage of Trump supporters outside the Michigan Secretary of State’s house chanting “Stop the Flight.” And participants in the January 6 riots insist they were acting on orders from their president. “His orders led to their actions,” Castro once said, referring to Trump and January 6.
4 Connecting the dots : One of the main discussion points in this process is whether the people who rioted on Capitol Hill on January 6 did so at Trump’s instigation, or whether they were simply bad actors who decided to cause problems with the certification of the vote before Trump had spoken at the “stop flying” rally that day. Trump supporters were quick to point out that some rioters had descended on the Capitol before Trump even began speaking, and that planning for the riots had begun well before January 6. But the behavior of the executives on Wednesday shows that it wasn’t just January 6. They went back to the Fox News interview with Chris Wallace in mid-June 2020, in which the president refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he lost – and then carefully explained to senators how countless times Trump lied between then and January 6 about everything from absentee ballots to counting votes in the transition state to his chances of winning. It wasn’t a one-time thing. It was the result of months of pressure by Trump, who lied to his supporters about the election and the outcome. January 6 was the culmination of all these lies, not the starting point.
5 Josh Hawley plays the bad guy: Since announcing in late 2020 that he officially opposed counting Electoral College votes in several states, the Republican senator from Missouri has been at the forefront of efforts to set up a vote to elect Trump before an independent presidential race in 2024. And he has repeatedly made it clear that he believes the best way to get Trump elected is to trot out the Democrats – and the media – as much as possible. Not surprisingly, Hawley was seen by NBC’s Garrett Haake at Neguse’s inaugural presentation “sitting in the gallery with his feet on the chair in front of him, looking at documents everywhere.” Hailey told CNN correspondent Manu Raj that he was sitting in the high gallery of the Senate because he was “very interested” in the process, adding, “Well, I have the court notes with me and I’m taking notes. Uh-huh.