The Fascist Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight

The Fascist Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight

The Fascist Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight

The latest January 6 hearing shows how close Trump and his toadies came to overturning democracy, despite their ridiculous incompetence.

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Just say it was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen.”

History is going to have a hard time adequately representing the banal yet persistent criminality of Donald Trump’s presidency. But that sentence, reported at Thursday’s January 6 select committee hearing, will go a long way toward capturing it. For me, it replaced Trump trying to trade lethal weapons for Clinton/Biden political dirt in his famously “perfect” phone call with Volodymyr Zelensky: “I would like you to do us a favor though…”

In this case, Trump was attempting to convince Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and his deputy Richard Donoghue to publicly endorse false claims that Joe Biden and the Democrats had stolen the 2020 election, and then walk away, because “the Republican congressmen” would handle the rest of it. Who were those Republican congressmen? The cadre seems to have been formed at a December 21 meeting between Trump and right-wing Freedom Caucus dimwits Andy Biggs, Louie Gohmert, Matt Gaetz, Mo Brooks, Scott Perry, and the newly elected but not yet sworn in Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-QAnon. In one for the annals of criming, they later sought “blanket pardons” from Trump for whatever they might have done. Brooks went so far as to ask that Trump pardon “every Congressman and Senator who voted to reject the electoral college vote submissions of Arizona and Pennsylvania” on January 6.

Thursday’s hearing seemed to break through the wall of indifference or learned passivity Trump has induced in all but his rabid admirers. My phone rang constantly—“Are you watching this?”—and I heard people talking about it while I was crossing the street, on the subway, and at the veterinarian’s office (Sadie is fine). I’m not entirely sure why. I’ve watched and been blown away by all of these hearings.

It might just be the low-rent sleaze of the operation. I don’t want “environmental lawyer” to become a punch line; it’s a noble calling if you’re on the right side, but it so aptly summed up the lawless Jeffrey Clark’s unfitness to be even acting acting acting attorney general. “He’s never been in front of a grand jury, let alone a trial jury,” former Trump attorney Eric Herschmann told the committee. Clark ambled into a meeting with Trump, alongside Scott Perry, and thought he got his ticket to the top. Luckily for all of us, he did not. Unlucky for him, maybe: On Thursday the Department of Justice executed a search warrant on Clark’s house, putting him outside “in his pjs” according to an outraged Trump-affiliated colleague, and seizing, among other things, his electronic devices.

I have to admit that when Jeffrey Rosen took over after the odious Bill Barr decided he’d had enough of Trump’s crimes, I assumed he was a toady. Courage looks good on him. At Thursday’s hearings, he and deputy Donoghue recounted the extraordinary two-month campaign they resisted to get them to go along with Trump’s scheme. At one point, Clark wrote a letter endorsing Trump’s baseless election fraud claims, and put their names on it. They only had to sign it, he said, and then he would walk away. Otherwise, he and Trump insisted, Clark would replace Rosen as acting attorney general. It all came to a boil on January 3, at a meeting where Clark and Trump pitched that notion. Only the threat of a 21st-century Saturday Night Massacre—Richard Nixon’s attempt to scuttle the Watergate scandal by upending the Justice Department—in which Rosen, Donoghue, and other lawyers threatened to quit if Trump elevated Clark, halted the plan.

There were so many other scary and ludicrous details: Trump tried to get the Department of Homeland Security to seize voting machines. Defense Secretary Christopher Miller called Italian diplomats to investigate nonsense about “Italian satellites” changing American presidential votes. The president considered preemptively pardoning his entire White House staff. When Rosen and Donoghue resisted his election fraud theories, Trump replied, “You guys may not be following the Internet the way I do.” Indeed.

When the hearing ended, chair Bennie Thompson promised more are coming. The committee, he said, gets new information every day. It will be hard to top Thursday’s events, but I think that after every hearing. I also came away from Thursday’s spectacle thinking Trump’s gang was so incompetent that there have to be criminal charges coming for at least some of them. Keep watching.

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