Second paragraph of third chapter:
President Trump and his allies prepared their own fake slates of electoral college electors in seven States that President Trump lost: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. And on December 14, 2020—the date when true, certified electors were meeting to cast their electoral votes for the candidate who had won the popular vote in each of those States—these fake electors also met, ostensibly casting electoral votes for President Trump, the candidate who had lost.
Like the rest of you, I was utterly appalled by the extreme right wing attack on the Capitol on 6 January 2021, a direct attempt to overturn the 2020 election result by violence. What was not clear on the evening, but has now been made very clear by the labours of the Select Committee set up by the House of Representatives to look into the events, is the extent to which this was a part of a premeditated and criminal plan by Trump to illegally remain in power.
The evidence is clear. Most of those who testified to the Select Committee were Republicans, a number of them working directly for Trump in the White House. I myself said on the record to Bloomberg News, the day after the election, that there was little chance of the election result being overturned in the Supreme Court because there was no case. Eight leading conservative American lawyers have reported clearly and succinctly on the justified failure of all of Trump’s legal challenges. Nobody who has looked into it can seriously maintain, in good faith, that there is any doubt about the legitimacy of Biden’s win in the election.
Bad faith is a different matter, and the Report lays out how Trump cast aside the sensible lawyers and started to take advice from those who told him what he wanted to hear, culminating in the massive effort on 6 January to intimidate Vice-President Mike Pence into breaking the law and disqualifying enough valid votes for Biden to enable Trump to remain in office. I must admit that Pence comes out of it rather well, sticking to his position even when the mob came within a few metres of the office were he was being protected.
The Republican National Committee does not come out looking as good. They supported Trump’s hopeless legal challenges to the election results in the states, and also legitimised his shameless and aggressive personal bullying towards election workers – some senior state officials, some just ordinary folks who happened to attract the president’s ire. They also benefited from the fraudulent fund-raising to “Stop the Steal”, which continued long after the result was beyond any doubt. It is sickening that the mayhem and deaths of 6 January were instrumentalised as a marketing tool.
The National Guard also comes out looking bad. Although there had been internal discussion of how to use them in support of public order, delays in the command chain meant that by the time they got authorisation to assist the hard-pressed police, the riot was over because the President had called it off. There are also constitutional ambiguities about Trump’s role as commander-in-chief, but the report is clear that this was not the problem on the day.
But it all comes back to Trump. There is no smoking gun demonstrating that he had operational command and control over the mob. But there is plenty of evidence that they thought they were taking orders from him. For three hours they rampaged through the Capitol while friends, allies and family begged Trump to speak out against the violence; and as soon as he told them to disperse and go home, they did. The evidence from White House staffers who were there on the day is particularly chilling.
Anyone who defends Trump, let alone the rioters, over 6 January 2021 is not worth listening to. He decided that he did not like the election results; he desperately looked for legal ways to overturn the vote, and did not find any; and he attempted to use mob violence to cling to power. He is not fit for office, and nor is anyone who supports him.