Arguments about whether the attack on the Capitol was an “insurrection” or not are irrelevant. What matters is the overview.
We still don’t have strong evidence specifically linking Trump to organized violent outbreaks, including the attack on the Capitol. But we have now seen enough to make it clear that Trump knew his words would put people at risk or that he should have known. And the same goes for those around him.
Those of us who have followed this story closely already knew the outlines and even many of the details in the stories of Arizona House President Rusty Bowers; Georgian Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger; Gabriel Sterling from the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office and Shaye Moss, Georgia Election Agent.
But the airing of their stories on Tuesday, one after another, was brutal. Bowers endured protests on Saturday outside his home, with armed Trump fans calling him (among other things) a pedophile. Sterling described how he was moved to make his forceful public statement denouncing efforts to nullify the election after seeing a staffer in his office overwhelmed by vicious personal attacks on social media. Moss and her mother were so intimidated by the President’s attacks and those of his supporters that they practically took their lives.
In other words, the committee shrewdly argued that the violence of January 6 was just a continuation of violent efforts to intimidate all those who stand in the way of the president and his desire to stay in power, regardless of the facts and the law. .
We already knew that the accusations of fraud made by Trump and his allies had been investigated and found to be false or frivolous, based on obvious fictions or misunderstandings of normal procedure. And that, despite this, Trump intensified the pressure on elected Republicans in the states that Joe Biden had won.
We were aware of the scheme, probably criminal and certainly outside the law and the Constitution, to submit lists of fake voters in the states that Trump had lost. And about his appeal to Raffensperger, in which the then President of the United States begged, cajoled and threatened him to “find” the votes needed to reverse Georgia’s result – it featured prominently in Trump’s second impeachment and Senate trial.
There was a new detail. For example, Rudy Giuliani told Bowers that “we have a lot of theories – we just don’t have any proof”. I don’t think this has been reported before, and it helped impress upon the committee that the conspirators were well aware that Trump had lost the election.
And we knew that violence and threats of violence had been present throughout the post-election period and had been a regular feature of Trump’s rallies since the start of his run for president in 2016.
Unlike Trump and his allies, Tuesday’s witnesses stood out as patriots. Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, in his opening remarks, thanked the various elected officials, bureaucrats and election workers who testified “for their service”: The United States is defended, after all, by its democratic institutions – defined by the men and women who do their job faithfully or not – even more so than by its military might, and has done so since 1776. It was inspiring to see Bowers, Raffensperger, Sterling and Moss defend democracy, despite the costs they had to endure – especially when you consider how few Republicans agreed to side with them.
It is not yet known how strong the legal case against Trump will be. But I agree with political scientist Alex Garlick, who said “the more we learn from the Jan. 6 committee, the clearer it becomes that the Senate’s failure to convict Trump in February 2021 was a failure of historic proportions.”
More from Bloomberg Opinion:
• Plot darkens in January 6 hearings: Jonathan Bernstein
• The January 6 committee should complete its work — quickly: publishers
• Will January 6 be a factor for November 8? : Julianna Goldman
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Editorial Board or of Bloomberg LP and its owners.
Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering politics and politics. A former political science professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University, he wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
More stories like this are available at bloomberg.com/opinion