Coupgate? Trumpgate?

This week will begin the televised hearings of the January 6th committee and while I’m not holding my breath, I am hopeful that the American public will at least be convinced of one thing:  Donald Trump is a crook, a criminal, who attempted a coup to overturn the U.S. election in 2020 and can NEVER be allowed to hold public office again.  Robert Reich gives us a comparison to another set of televised hearings 49 years ago … all the news then, but Watergate pales in comparison to what happened on January 6th 2020.


The Week Ahead: Why everything depends on Liz Cheney

Forty-nine years ago, Howard Baker had a similar responsibility — but hers will be far more challenging

Robert Reich

The televised hearings of the House Select Committee on the January 6 insurrection, which begin Thursday, mark an historic milestone in the battle between democracy and autocracy. The events that culminated in the attack on the Capitol constitute the first attempted presidential coup in our nation’s 233-year history. The Select Committee’s inquiry is the most important congressional investigation of presidential wrongdoing since the Senate investigation of the Watergate scandals in the 1970s.

To a large degree, the success of those hearings will depend on the Wyoming Republican congresswoman and vice-chair of the committee, Liz Cheney. Although I have disagreed with almost every substantive position she has ever taken, I salute her courage and her patriotism. And I wish her success.

I vividly recall the televised hearings of the Senate Watergate committee, which began nearly a half-century ago, on May 17, 1973. More than a year later, on August 8, 1974 —knowing that he would be impeached in the House and convicted in the Senate — Nixon resigned.

I was just finishing law school when the Watergate hearings began. I was supposed to study for final exams but remained glued to my television. I remember the entire cast of characters as if the hearings occurred yesterday, and I’m sure many of you do, too — people such as North Carolina Senator Sam Ervin, a Democrat, who served as the committee’s co-chair; John Dean, the White House counsel who told the committee about Nixon’s attempted coverup; and Alexander Butterfield, Nixon’s deputy assistant, who revealed that Nixon had taped all conversations in the White House.

But to my young eyes, the hero of the Watergate hearings was the committee’s Republican co-chair, Tennessee Senator Howard Baker, Jr.

Baker had deep ties to the Republican Party. His father was a Republican Congressman and his father-in-law was Senate minor­ity leader for a decade. Notwithstanding those ties, Baker put his loyalty to the Constitution and rule of law ahead of his loyalty to his party or the president. His steadiness and care, and the tenacity with which he questioned witnesses, helped America view the Watergate hearings as a search for truth rather than a partisan “witch hunt,” as Nixon described them.

It was Baker who famously asked Dean, “what did the president know and when did he know it?” And it was Baker who led all the other Republicans on the committee to join with Democrats in voting to subpoena the White House tapes — the first time a congres­sional commit­tee had ever issued a subpoena to a Pres­id­ent, and only the second time since 1807 that anyone had subpoenaed the chief executive.

Fast forward 49 years. This week, Baker’s role will be played by Cheney. Her Republican pedigree is no less impressive than Baker’s was: She is the elder daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney and Second Lady Lynne Cheney. She held several positions in the George W. Bush administration. She is a staunch conservative. And, before House Republicans ousted her, she chaired the House Republican Conference, the third-highest position in the House Republican leadership.

Cheney’s responsibility this week will be similar to Baker’s 49 years ago — to be the steady voice of non-partisan common sense, helping the nation view the hearings as a search for truth rather than a “witch hunt,” as Trump has characterized them.

In many ways, though, Cheney’s role will be far more challenging than Baker’s. Forty-nine years ago, American politics was a tame affair compared to the viciousness of today’s political culture. Republican senators didn’t threaten to take away Howard Baker’s seniority or his leadership position. The Tennessee Republican Party didn’t oust him. Nixon didn’t make threatening speeches about him. Baker received no death threats, as far as anyone knows.

It will be necessary for Cheney to show — as did Baker — more loyalty to the Constitution and the rule of law than to her party or the former president. But she also will have to cope with a nation more bitterly divided over Trump’s big lie than it ever was over Nixon and his coverup of the Watergate burglary. She will have to face a Republican Party that has largely caved in to Trump’s lie — enabling and encouraging it. Baker’s Republican Party never aligned itself with Nixon’s lies. Meanwhile, Cheney’s career has suffered and her life and the lives of her family have been threatened.

The criminal acts for which Richard Nixon was responsible — while serious enough to undermine the integrity of the White House and compromise our system of government — pale relative to Trump’s. Nixon tried to cover up a third-rate burglary. Trump tried to overthrow our system of government. The January 6 insurrection was not an isolated event. It was part of a concerted effort by Trump to use his lie that the 2020 election was stolen as a means to engineer a coup, while whipping up anger and distrust among his supporters toward our system of government. Yet not a shred of evidence has ever been presented to support Trump’s claim that voter fraud affected the outcome of the 2020 election.

Consider (to take but one example) Trump’ phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in which he pressured Raffensperger to change the presidential vote count in Georgia in order to give Trump more votes than Biden: “All I want to do is this,” Trump told Raffensperger in a recorded phone call. “I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state.” Trump threatened Raffensperger with criminal liability if he did not do so. Trump’s actions appear to violate 18 U.S.C. § 371, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and 18 U.S.C. § 1512, obstruction of Congress.  

The Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation into these activities. Attorney General Merrick Garland has said that the Justice Department will “follow the facts and the law wherever they may lead.” As with Watergate, the facts will almost certainly lead to the person who then occupied the Oval Office.

This week’s televised committee hearings are crucial to educating the public and setting the stage for the Justice Department’s prosecution. Federal district court Judge David Carter in a civil case brought against the Committee by John Eastman, Trump’s lawyer and adviser in the coup attempt, has set the framework for the hearings. Judge Carter found that it was

 “more likely than not that President Trump corruptly attempted to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021,” and concluded that Trump and Eastman “launched a campaign to overturn a democratic election, an action unprecedented in American history […] The illegality of the plan was obvious.”

Those who claim that a president cannot be criminally liable for acts committed while in office apparently forget that Richard Nixon avoided prosecution only because he was pardoned by his successor, Gerald Ford. Those who argue that Trump should not be criminally liable because no president in American history has been criminally liable, overlook the fact that no president in history has staged an attempted coup to change the outcome of an election. Without accountability for these acts, Trump’s criminality opens wide the door to future presidents and candidates disputing election outcomes and seeking to change them — along with ensuing public distrust, paranoia, and divisiveness.

Liz Cheney bears a burden far heavier than Howard Baker bore almost a half-century ago. Please watch this Thursday’s Jan. 6 Committee televised hearings. And please join me in appreciating the public service of Liz Cheney.

30 thoughts on “Coupgate? Trumpgate?

  1. Gradually the White Nationalists have been stripping away their veneer of being concerned about ‘freedom’ and ‘liberty’; .Since January 2021 we can see they have left this guise behind and are now going for going for a blatant grab at power. Bringing the whole nation to heel under their idea of evangelical Christian ( a blasphemy and set of heresies) White Male Domination.
    This maybe not the last chance to halt them by democratic process, but time is running out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are so right … they no longer even bother to hide their bigotry. I read tonight about the Lt. Governor of … I think North Carolina … who said that Christians are to be “led by men, not women” and something to the effect that women should know their “place”. I was, needless to say, incensed. I don’t see him complaining about the women who work at their jobs to pay their taxes that pay his salary!

      Yes, my friend, time is running out for this nation to save itself. Will it? I dunno, but with each passing day I am less hopeful.

      Liked by 1 person

          • For this, let’s give it over to the underrated but magnificent Brewer & Shipley

            Lyrics:

            Nighttime is only the other side of daytime
            But if you’ve ever waited for the sun
            You know what it’s like to wish daytime would come
            And don’t it seem like a long time
            Seem like a long time, seem like a long, long time

            Sometimes it seems like a long time, seems like a long time

            Seems like a long, long time

            Yes it does, a long, long time

            Hard times are only the other side of good times
            But if you ever wished hard times were gone
            You know what it’s like to wish good times would come
            And don’t it seem like a long time
            Seem like a long time, seem like a long, long time

            Sometimes it seems like a long time, seems like a long time

            Seems like a long, long time

            Yes it does, a long, long time

            You know what it’s like to wish good times would come
            And don’t it seem like a long time
            Seem like a long time, seem like a long, long time

            Sometimes it seems like a long time, seems like a long time

            Seems like a long, long time

            Yes it does, a long, long time

            War time is only the other side of peace time
            But if you’ve ever seen how wars are won
            You know what it’s like to wish that peace would come
            And don’t it seem like a long time
            Seem like a long time, seem like a long, seem like a long, long time

            Sometimes it seems like a long time, seems like a very long time

            Seems like a long, long time

            Sometimes it seems like a long time, seems like a long time

            Seems like a long, long time

            Yes it does, a long, long time

            Yes it does, a long, long time

            Yes it does, a long, long time

            Liked by 1 person

            • Inspiring, to say the least! Yeah, I know the hard times will pass, and it DOES seem like a long time. But, I’ve begun to wonder if they will pass this time. Oh, I know sooner or later the coin will flip, but I’ve begun to think that it might be a few decades down the road. Ah well … I keep fighting as long as I keep breathing! (Which might not be long, since it’s supposed to get to 98° here next week (that’s only 37° Celsius, which sounds much better!)) Thanks for the song … I had never heard that, but I enjoyed it.

              Liked by 1 person

                • Since I do like Rod Stewart, I’ll probably go find his version and listen to it anyway, but I’m sure that if he sounds like a grandpa at the end of a long day, then I’ll like the Brewer & Shipley version best.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • I find the lines:

                    “War time is only the other side of peace time
                    But if you’ve ever seen how wars are won
                    You know what it’s like to wish that peace would come”
                    One of the most arresting verses in song-writing.

                    Listening to their renditioning I always imagined a group of Union soldiers around a camp fire, somewhere (possibly after Gettysburg) in 1863 singing that to a harmonica and banjo.

                    Like

  2. I don’t think it’s all on Liz Cheney to the extent Reich says. Mark Meadows was in the thick of all this, and one of his staffers spent 20 hours testifying before the Committee. Some have said she’ll be the “John Dean” of these hearings.

    I remain the worrying optimist.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sadly for us, this is all just another dog & pony show, another event to keep the peasants distracted. Didn’t teflon Don arrogantly bragged that he could shoot someone on 5th Ave and still get elected?
    My fear is that regardless of Jan 6 insurrection, he’ll still be on the ballot come 2024, *sigh*

    Like

  4. A friend and I were discussing how people can adore politicians and bask in the ‘glow’ of that person’s popularity, even if they are known to be corrupt. I said it’s like trying to convince a person that their significant other is not what/who they think… They are blind and see only the good while ignoring the bad..

    The week will be an interesting one….

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think the problem is that far too many people see through the lens of only those things that directly and personally affect them. Right now, they’re more concerned with the price of food & fuel than mass shootings, loss of democracy, loss of voting rights, racism, etc. And, they aren’t willing to listen to more than a single point of view … if they are Fox patrons, that’s the only view they will be bothered to listen to. We are largely, it seems, a selfish and ignorant nation. Sigh. Yes, it will be an interesting week … the January 6th committee televised hearings begin on Thursday evening … I WILL be watching!!!

      Like

  5. Like you Jill, I’m not holding my breath either regarding the final outcome of this committee’s investigation. 🙄 After all, today there is no such thing as “No One in the USA is Above the Law,” not anymore. Just look at the track-record of former Presidents who were absolutely guilty of breaking several laws while in office (Nixon), and didn’t spend one iota of time in jail or pay any fines, reparations, etc, OR even at the very least make a truthful, remorseful public apology.

    No, the rest of the world knows full well that if you are in high positions of power and inside the upper 10% — 1% of the wealthiest, you absolutely ARE above the law. This has sadly been proven time and time again in our nation’s 240+ years of history.

    That said, most intelligent Americans know he is as guilty as Nixon, Reagan, Casey Anthony, and O.J. Simpson! Period. No debate whatsoever.

    Liked by 1 person

    • An article in WaPo today by Bernstein and Woodward was titled, “Woodward and Bernstein thought Nixon defined corruption. Then came Trump.” Apt, isn’t it? I said a few times that Trump made Nixon look like a boy scout! Sigh. The biggest concern, I think, is that he keeps threatening to run again in 2024, and with the voter restrictions and other mechanisms being put into law in so many states, he could slide back into the Oval Office without having to win an election. He simply must NOT be allowed on the ballot in 2024!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Couldn’t agree more Jill! But then, you and I and most of your followers here seem to be a weak (in influence), small minority with our votes—I’ve always been an Independent for over 25-yrs, btw, until tRumpelstiltskin came on the scene. He utterly demolished the former sane Repub Party. As a result, I now have no choice but to vote Dem across the board! Grrrrrrr, I hate doing that, 😠 but the alternative for our nation is a hellish, fascist nightmare!

        Way too many current Repubs have no spine or intelligence—barring Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger and members of the Republican Political Alliance for Integrity and Reform (REPAIR)—to standup & oppose the Orange Orangutan.* Sad, very sad.

        —————————
        * – Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Republicans_who_opposed_the_Donald_Trump_2020_presidential_campaign

        Liked by 1 person

        • It will be interesting to watch the hearings starting Thursday night. I’m not convinced that we are in the minority, my friend … I think the majority of people think very much like we do, but we are quieter … we don’t parade around tooting our horns, wearing red hats and shirts with offensive sayings. We have our nose to the grindstone, we are working trying to accomplish something and don’t have the time nor the stomach to play stupid games like ‘they’ do.

          That said, the Republican Party no longer has any of what we would call values. They no longer believe in truth and honesty, they no longer believe they have a duty to uphold their oaths, they take money in exchange for votes that hurt the people of this nation, and they are bigots of every variety … racists, misogynists, homophobes, and more.

          I was surprised that list of people who opposed Trump’s 2020 campaign was as long as it was! Why in heck don’t those people form an all new party and compete against their former party?

          Liked by 1 person

          • I’m not convinced that we are in the minority, my friend …

            That’s what I keep hearing from “experts” the last 8-10 yrs, BUT look what happened in the 2016 Election between Hillary and Donald, and ever since. I know personally a big, BIG problem are those quieter, moderate, sane voices you speak of are also the ones that infrequently get out and VOTE… on all levels of government! Here in Texas Jill, it is horrendously bad. Get this recent point and case…

            These past two primaries here in Central Texas and statewide, back in March and again this past May, our polls and voting-stations are basically segregated or separated by party affiliation, literally. One side of the large room is Dems machines (few), and the other side is Republican machines (many more stations). Both months when I entered to vote I was in and out in less than 5-mins. The other side of the building & room? A waiting line of about 25-50 people voting Republican and their machines all occupied. When I approached MY (forced) political party table to prove legal registration, the two kind ladies there explicitly told me that I was their very FIRST Dem voter of the day—and I had arrived about 1pm both times! They said I will probably be the last as well. 🤦‍♂️😔

            Jill, I know dayum good-n-well that I CANNOT be the one and only Independent, not Democrat, not voting Republican!!! No way!!! 😡

            Riddle me that.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Ah, but the majority did vote for Hillary in 2016 … nearly 3 million people more than voted for the former guy. But for the quirk of the Electoral College, we would likely still be addressing President Hillary Clinton.

              WHOA … that tale of election day is … stymieing! My jaw dropped! We don’t have segregated voting machines here, so you have no idea, unless they’re wearing a red maga cap, who is in what corner. But only ONE Democratic voter by 1:00 p.m.??? Unthinkable. I know Texas is … largely Republican, but I don’t think I realized to what extent.

              Liked by 1 person

              • In most all the rural areas and towns of Texas those counties are hardcore Republican and typically (hyper?) religious Conservatives. But in the highly populated four mega-metroplexes(?), true Blue counties UNLESS the incessant, non-stop, 2-4 year redistricting gerrymandering was redrawn again to make specific demographic, wealthy zip codes “fall into” Republican districts… making them essentially rural counties as well.

                Liked by 1 person

    • I’m with you on that!!! She thumbed her nose at the corrupt GOP and last I heard is still holding her own in the polls for November! They have my support and I think most sane people’s, but what concerns me is that the media seems to enjoy playing both ends against the middle these days. We need a fair and honest media to get the truth out to the people, but I rue that we don’t have that today.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Ha ha … I do that ALL the time, glance at a word and think it says something completely different than what it says! Yes, a big of cleaning would be a good thing … in fact, a thorough cleaning, removing all the garbage, then starting over sounds good! xx

      Like

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