July 6, 2022
Eighteen months ago today, rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop Congress from counting the electoral votes that would make Democrat Joe Biden president. Thanks to the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, we are learning more about just how deep that plot ran, and more evidence is dropping almost daily.
Yesterday, for example, Politico revealed a two-minute trailer for the documentary about the Trump family by British filmmaker Alex Holder. With extraordinary access to the family, Holder witnessed what the trailer portrays as the attempt of the Trump family to create an American dynasty, and its determination to hold onto power even if it meant the destruction of American democracy.
Today, Maggie Haberman and Luke Broadwater of the New York Times reported that the committee has secured an agreement with Trump’s White House counsel Pat A. Cipollone to testify in a videotaped, transcribed interview. Last week’s testimony by Cassidy Hutchinson put great pressure on Cipollone to testify. She said that she and Cipollone had had several conversations about the illegality of the things Trump and his chief of staff Mark Meadows were doing.
She recounted Cipollone’s determination to prevent Trump from going to the Capitol with the rioters he sent there, alleging that if Trump went, Cipollone said, “We’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable.” He also insisted that Trump must call off the rioters, even after Meadows said the president didn’t want to.
He will testify privately the day after the January 6 committee’s next public hearing.
There is movement on other issues surrounding the attempt to overturn the 2020 election, as well. Yesterday, a Fulton County, Georgia, grand jury issued a subpoena for Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), among others, and today Graham’s lawyers said they will challenge the subpoena. They say the investigation is a “fishing expedition” and that any information it turns up would go straight to the January 6th committee. They assert that as then-chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Graham “was well within his rights to discuss with state officials the processes and procedures around administering elections.”
The subpoena refers not to processes and procedures around administering elections, of course, even if it were in fact appropriate for a senator from South Carolina to ask questions about such procedures in Georgia. It refers to at least two phone calls Graham made to Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger or his staff in which Graham apparently asked about “reexamining certain absentee ballots cast in Georgia in order to explore the possibility of a more favorable outcome for former President Donald Trump.” And, in November 2021, Graham admitted he reached out not only to officials in Georgia, but to those in Arizona and Nevada as well.
This outreach had nothing to do with the Senate Judiciary Committee; Graham was plainly working for Trump’s campaign. Further undercutting this argument is that it is not the Senate Judiciary Committee that oversees elections; it is the Senate Rules Committee.
Former federal prosecutor Shanlon Wu tweeted that Graham is challenging the subpoena on the grounds that the grand jury is working for the congressional committee, and thus the subpoena will “erode the constitutional balance of power and the ability of a Member of Congress to do their job.” Wu said the legal course is as follows: Graham’s challenge will lose in state court and then his lawyers will try to get a federal court to stop the enforcement of a state subpoena. Wu said that the Supreme Court is unlikely to agree that the state of Georgia is a branch of the federal government. He called it “an arrogant[,] pompous and legally weak argument from Graham [that] should be slam-dunk rejected by any court that hears it.”
Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA) was more succinct. He tweeted: “It’s a subpoena. Not a request to RSVP.”
There are more subpoenas in the news. Today, New York state judge Arthur F. Engoron held Cushman & Wakefield, the real estate firm that valued the Trump properties under investigation by New York attorney general Letitia James, in contempt of court for failing to comply with subpoenas about the valuation of certain Trump properties. A spokesperson for the company says that the company has gone to “extreme lengths” to comply with the subpoena, although it has not managed to produce the documents yet. The delay of the documents is crucial because Trump and two of his children are scheduled to testify about the valuations next week under oath.
The firm will be fined $10,000 a day until it provides the documents the subpoenas require.
What all these demands for information under oath do is establish what really happened, in contrast to the false narratives political operatives have spun in front of television cameras and on the internet, where they are not bound by any requirement to tell the truth.
The slow accumulation of facts over fiction might well become a financial crisis for those who participated in Trump’s narrative. The Fox News Corporation, One America News Network, and Newsmax are currently facing multibillion dollar lawsuits from Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic, a voting machine company and an election software company, that those channels claimed had stolen the 2020 election for Biden.
Smaller companies OAN and Newsmax are financially vulnerable to lawsuits alone, to say nothing of an adverse judgment, but according to an article by Adam Gabbatt in The Guardian, FNC has more to worry about than money. We already know that FNC hosts and White House officials were in contact about the January 6 insurrection, and in the discovery phase of a lawsuit, FNC could have to hand over documents that might tell us more about that connection.
Angelo Carusone, chief executive officer of Media Matters for America, told Gabbatt: “I think once you start to pull the discovery material, what you’re going to find is there was a lot of communication between the Trump people both internally and externally about pushing very specific lies and narratives.”
The role of fact versus narrative is on display elsewhere in our government as well.
Both the Organization of American Historians and the American Historical Association, the flagship organizations of professional historians in the U.S., along with eight other U.S. historical associations (so far), yesterday issued a joint statement expressing dismay that the six Supreme Court justices in the majority in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision that overturned Roe v. Wade ignored the actual history those organizations provided the court and instead “adopted a flawed interpretation of abortion criminalization that has been pressed by anti-abortion advocates for more than thirty years.” Although the decision mentioned “history” 67 times, they note, it ignored “the long legal tradition, extending from the common law to the mid-1800s (and far longer in some states, including Mississippi), of tolerating termination of pregnancy before occurrence of ‘quickening,’ the time when a woman first felt fetal movement.”
The statement focuses less on politics than on the perversion of history, noting that “[t]hese misrepresentations are now enshrined in a text that becomes authoritative for legal reference and citation in the future,” an undermining of the “imperative that historical evidence and argument be presented according to high standards of historical scholarship. The Court’s majority opinion…does not meet those standards.”