The news was fast and the former president furious yesterday as a series of blows landed that threaten his political, legal and financial standing. Let’s helicopter over the landscape and assess the damage.
The Jan. 6 Committee Hearings Were Devastating and Upped the Ante on Trump
Those hoping for more revelations and drama on Thursday’s hearings of the January 6 Committee were not disappointed. Much of the information was previously known in scattered form but was never packaged in such an easily understood and accessible way.
The Committee covered much ground, but here are the main points that scored hits against Trump:
Trump was in on plans to claim election fraud before the election even happened.
One Trump ally, a conservative activist named Tom Fitton who is president of the right-wing Judicial Watch, sent the White House an email on October 31, 2020 urging Trump to claim victory on election night based solely on the in-person election returns.
That would take advantage of what’s known as the “red mirage” that favors the GOP in early results. “We had an election today—and I won,” Fitton recommended Trump announce.
This mirrored statements by Steve Bannon, who was recorded in October telling a group that Trump was going to declare victory on election night no matter the results. Another close advisor, Roger Stone, was even more direct.
Stone said in a clip aired by the Committee:
“F*ck the voting. Let’s get right to the violence.”
Trump knew he lost the election and acted that way.
While Trump made public pronouncements of victory, he was privately conceding to aides that he’d lost.
He told witness Alyssa Farrah Griffin as he watched television showing Biden:
“Can you believe I lost to this effing guy?”
And when the Supreme Court refused to hear his election case, a livid Trump was overheard by witness Cassidy Hutchinson saying:
“...something to the effect of, ‘I don’t want people to know we lost, Mark. This is embarrassing. Figure it out. We need to figure it out. I don’t want people to know that we lost'.”
The Committee also showed that not long after the election was called for Biden, Trump ordered U.S. troops out of Somalia and Afghanistan—a move to be completed before Biden took office as a middle finger to the incoming administration.
The Pentagon managed to amend that catastrophic order and proceed along a later timeline, but the order was evidence that Trump knew his own days in the White House were numbered.
Nancy Pelosi was revealed to be a strong leader, while Trump watched the television purposefully doing nothing.
Some of the most gripping moments came in a seven minute clip, taken from footage captured by Nancy Pelosi’s daughter Alexandra, who is a documentary filmmaker, that showed the House Speaker and Congressional leaders making urgent calls to governors of neighboring states to send in the national guard.
Speaker Pelosi appeared calm and determined to restore order and to proceed with the election certification. By contrast, Trump was shown doing nothing for hours while the insurrection overtook the Capitol then tweeting out against Mike Pence at the height of the battle, further enraging his followers.
Trump has been subpoenaed to testify before the Committee.
As a cap to the proceedings, the nine-member Committee voted unanimously to subpoena Trump to appear before them under oath. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) read the motion.
“We are obligated to seek answers directly from the man who set this all in motion."
“And every American is entitled to those answers, so we can act now to protect our republic.”
It is highly unlikely that Trump would agree to appear and will ultimately fight the subpoena, as others in his circle have, some successfully and others not. His response on his platform Truth Social was telling as to his view of the subpoena.
“Why didn’t the Unselect Committee ask me to testify months ago?”
“Why did they wait until the very end, the final moments of their last meeting?"
"Because the Committee is a total ‘BUST’ that has only served to further divide our Country which by the way, is doing very badly—A laughing stock all over the World?”
Trump Lost Again Before the Supreme Court
Right as the hearings were taking place, a terse response dropped from the Supreme Court denying his motion, made earnestly and quite technically by his $3 million retainer fee lawyer Chris Kise, to vacate part of the the ruling of the Eleventh Circuit. Had it gone the other way, some 103 classified documents would have been included in the materials currently under review by Special Master Dearie.
Trump may have placed his hopes on the fact that the motion would land first on the desk of Justice Clarence Thomas, who oversees the Eleventh Circuit. Justice Thomas had the power to rule on the matter himself, but many believed (correctly it now seems) that even he would not be so bold.
Instead, Justice Thomas referred the question to the entire Court which issued a single sentence opinion, with no visible dissents, denying the motion.
That means that Trump’s hopes that the Supreme Court would move to intervene on his behalf in the NARA-Lago matter have dimmed significantly. A more pliant Court might have found some odd basis, perhaps on the question of jurisdiction, to overturn the Eleventh Circuit.
But that was not to be.
With this ruling, the question of the most important documents recovered during the search of Mar-a-Lago is now pretty much settled: The Department may continue to use them in its ongoing criminal investigation, and the Special Master will not be reviewing them for questions of executive privilege.
Letitia James Goes for a Potential Knockout
As quite the capper on a difficult day for the former president, New York Attorney General Letitia James appeared in state court on Thursday asking the judge to freeze the assets of the Trump Organization and put in place an “independent monitor” in the pending civil suit.
James is concerned that Trump is preparing to shift his assets out of New York and thus the reach of its courts. She has some reason to worry: Trump incorporated a new “Trump Organization LLC” in Delaware on September 15, 2022 then registered the company with the state of New York as “Trump Organization II LLC” on the very same day her lawsuit was filed, September 21, 2022.
It isn’t clear whether the court might be willing to play along, as this would be quite a drastic step in a case that has yet to be litigated. Still, because Trump’s lawyers won’t give James any assurances that his assets won’t attempt to flee the state in advance of a judgment—she is seeking $250 million—James says the move is a necessary precaution.