Second Day of January 6th Hearings More Propulsive

Former White House Political Director Bill Stepien, from the January 6th hearings, courtesy US House



The second day of hearings by the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol was held yesterday. The focus of its argument was tighter than on the first day of hearings, as the committee moved from an overview of Donald Trump’s complicity in events to specific elements of it. This day’s narrative—the hearing is a presentation, not a discovery—of how the president prepared his supporters to believe in fraud if he lost the election, then ignored all sources that showed he had lost, was presented in a more compelling and propulsive way.

Most of the testimony on video and from live witnesses was from Republicans, not only because they were often witness to what happened, but also to parry the right-wing counter-narrative that the committee is partisan. As a result, one of the most interesting aspects of what emerged is the understanding that supporters who thought they would share in the power of a second Trump win—whether average citizens or high-powered politicos and lawyers—got taken for a ride, and that this was not a glitch in the system but the way the organization functioned. By the end of it, only those willing to commit violence against others or against their own careers still had faith enough to act.

For example, Trump told his base to vote only in person, against the advice of his own advisors, as the committee established. The committee has not proved this was done in order for Trump to be able to declare victory on election night and shut down voting before mail-in votes (which favored Democrats) could be counted, but the circumstantial evidence is overwhelming. This insistence probably disenfranchised some Trump voters who never got to the polls.

In the confusion the Trump administration created, in hopes of retaining power, even those who might have felt the urge to help were overwhelmed. Former Attorney General Bill Barr says on video, “[T]here was an avalanche of all these allegations of fraud that built up over a number of days. And it was like playing Whac-A-Mole, because something would come out one day and then the next day it would be another issue. Also, I was influenced by the fact that all the early claims…were completely bogus and silly and usually based on complete misinformation.” This held true for the Detroit “vote dumps,” Philadelphia “suitcase” ballots, and Dominion voting machine “hacks.” None of it was true, and it must have been as exhausting for the president’s people as for the rest of us, especially when Trump would talk to the media after they had been debunked and repeat the same allegations of fraud.

It was, as a judge declared when dismissing a Trump lawsuit over falsely-claimed fraud, “a coup in search of a legal justification.”

This “Big Lie,” as it has come to be known, was followed by “the Big Ripoff,” as the committee calls it. The Lie—that there was fraud in the presidential election and that Trump had proof—was used to raise millions of dollars from true believers. Millions of emails were sent to Trump supporters—“sometimes as many as 25 a day”—in “fundraising schemes” said to be earmarked for fighting the nonexistent fraud. Instead, at least a quarter of a billion dollars, donated in large part by everyday people, was used for other purposes, including Trump hotels, and several million for the January 6th rally—the sparking event for the overrunning of the Capitol during the count of the Electoral College ballots.

The third day of hearings, regarding the Department of Justice’s role, was due to be held tomorrow, Wednesday, June 15, but has been postponed indefinitely. CNN reports that Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), the member of the committee who did the most talking in Monday’s hearing, said the rescheduling was for “’technical issues…and not a big deal.’” Thursday’s scheduled hearing will still be on Trump insisting that Mike Pence reject the electoral votes on January 6th and obstruct Biden’s win.

John Griswold

John Griswold is a staff writer at The Common Reader. His most recent book is a collection of essays, The Age of Clear Profit: Essays on Home and the Narrow Road (UGA Press 2022). His previous collection was Pirates You Don’t Know, and Other Adventures in the Examined Life. He has also published a novel, A Democracy of Ghosts, and a narrative nonfiction book, Herrin: The Brief History of an Infamous American City. He was the founding Series Editor of Crux, a literary nonfiction book series at University of Georgia Press. His work has been included and listed as notable in Best American anthologies.