Now that anonymous sources are leaking to The Washington Post that the Department of Justice is officially targeting former President Donald Trump with criminal charges, this is a good time to ask: Just how crazy are the occupants of Washington, D.C.? Do they really think they will indict, prosecute, convict, and imprison the Republican frontrunner for president in 2024 without creating a massive amount of public backlash?
For half the country, trying to take down Trump for giving a speech over a mile away from the Capitol on Jan. 6 while hardly anybody has been held accountable for the atrocious Russia collusion hoax that nearly destroyed his presidency will be nothing less than total confirmation of a two-tiered and irreparably corrupt justice system and could permanently tear the nation in two.
This may come as a shocker to Washington, but Congress’s J6 obsession is not high on Americans’ list of critical issues. Polls show the American people’s top concerns are skyrocketing inflation and economic uncertainty, not what happened on Jan. 6. To say that the American government and the American people are not speaking the same language right now is an understatement.
A Soviet-Like Spectacle
Had Attorney General Merrick Garland felt that Trump had potentially committed a crime before leaving office, he should have pursued an investigation free from the overtly political atmosphere created by Congress’s J6 committee hearings. Whatever Nancy Pelosi’s Jan. 6 Committee is, it has not been a courtroom pursuing justice. Though witnesses are brought before the committee to “confess,” as Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., so Stalin-esquely put it, there is no one cross-examining their testimony for truth or accuracy.
While one side presents a damning case against anyone who even thought about attending rallies near the Capitol that day, there is no defense counsel to challenge evidence, offer competing explanations, or provide mitigating circumstances on the accused’s behalf. No one is present to contest the committee’s allegations at all. Third-party hearsay evidence, normally inadmissible in courts of law, is used to advance the committee’s narratives. For that matter, long-winded and rhetorical political speeches from admittedly biased committee members advance theories of the case not grounded in evidence at all. Exculpatory evidence that might call into question the committee’s grave charges is regularly excluded.
Still, the whole proceeding is conducted with such an air of legal seriousness that an ordinary observer could be excused for mistaking it as a place for justice. It is difficult to watch a spectacle such as this one in America, a nation that has generally managed to avoid the kind of theatrical show trials we normally associate with Soviet Russia’s Iron Curtain days. Yet here we are. The end result is that the Jan. 6 Committee has permanently destroyed any veneer of objectivity and effectively tainted any potential jury pool by flooding primetime television viewing audiences with misinformation and salacious gossip.
Goal to Box Out Trump
While Pelosi, Garland, and President Joe Biden all insist that J6 investigations into Trump are serious legal matters, the nearly two-year public spectacle is so over-the-top that it is difficult not to conclude that the J6 committee’s principal concern is keeping Trump from running for president again in 2024. Rep. Cheney has gone so far as to explicitly make this point by asserting that he “must never again be anywhere close to the Oval Office.” In a nation with democratic elections, that would presumably be a decision for the voters to make.
Cheney and her colleagues, however, either fear that the American people will make the wrong choice, or they don’t really believe in the value of democratic elections as much as they claim. Either way, the J6 Commission’s efforts to turn President Trump into a criminal target for the Justice Department seem like a cynical bureaucratic workaround for depriving the people of their chance to decide Trump’s fitness for office on their own.
Should Congress’s J6 committee hearings not succeed in keeping Trump off the 2024 ballot, they may ironically be seen years from now as having done much to help Trump get reelected. It’s interesting to go back in time to the fall of 2015 when the Republican primaries were still months away and Republican voters had a veritable all-star class of candidates from whom to choose. According to an Associated Press-GfK poll at the time, an overwhelming 77 percent of Republican voters preferred “an outsider candidate who will change how things are done, rather than someone with experience in Washington who can get things done.” Republicans were so committed to choosing an “outsider” that their top two choices for the White House according to the poll were Ben Carson and Donald Trump.
Although political pundits expected primary voters to change their minds as the 2016 state contests arrived, Republicans’ desire for an “outsider” not only clinched Trump’s nomination but also assured his general election victory. Nothing about the electorate’s mood today suggests that Republican voters are eager to return to mainstream establishment political candidates.
Washington’s vast Never Trump coalition would have been most successful in tanking Trump’s political chances in either 2020 or 2024 had they found a way to embrace him as one of their own, force him to compromise his goals and betray his promises, and leave Americans with the impression that Trump had played voters seeking an “outsider” as fools. Instead, nonstop attacks from D.C.’s permanent bureaucracy have been the hallmarks of the Trump presidency.
From the Russia collusion hoax, the two-year Mueller inquisition, two congressional impeachments, countless administration betrayals, and now two additional years of J6 investigations intent on seeking his prosecution and conviction, it is unmistakably clear that Trump is just as much an outsider today as he was before his first victory. And should voters’ appetites for an outsider candidacy remain as high as they were in 2016, then nobody will have greater tried and true credibility than Trump.