Exactly seven democracy-damaging years later, the now ex-President was still at it on Thursday, dominating the political stage, his wildness and extremism still threatening to tear the country apart.
In any normal political age, such testimony would traumatize the nation to its core, render the former President a national pariah and cause his party to disown him as a disgrace to the republic. It made the burglary at the Democratic National Committee 50 years ago today and subsequent cover-up that brought down President Richard Nixon in Watergate half a century ago look almost quaint by comparison.
Yet it is a measure of how Trump has destroyed political conventions, has carved rancorous divides and prospers in the discombobulation that he stirs up that the committee’s amazing revelations are unlikely to deal him a similar fate. It’s long been a cliche that nothing brings Trump down. Millions of Americans who believe his election fraud lies and prefer his version of history are likely ignoring the House committee’s televised hearings. Trump’s already the leading candidate for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024. And after seven years of being pummeled by his outlandishness, the other half of the country may have long passed the point of being shocked.
As the committee puts together its damning case, it is already beginning to wrestle with a fundamental riddle that has long applied to Trump’s business and political career. How can this force of nature, who has defied accountability all his life by creating bigger and bigger infringements of accepted behavior and the rule of law, ever be made to pay a price for his actions?
There is a growing debate in Washington about whether the former President or acolytes could face a criminal investigation by the Justice Department for their role in the insurrection once the committee wraps up. But the history, however, of using constitutional means and the checks and balances of government to puncture Trump’s impunity has rarely been successful. The historic stain of two impeachments for gross abuses of power didn’t do it. Nor did his rejection by voters after a single term.
“Donald Trump and his allies and supporters are a clear and present danger to American democracy,” Luttig said in the hushed hearing room.
One of the challenges for the select committee has been to find a fresh way to impress the horror and implications of the insurrection of January 6, 2021, on the minds of voters who watched much of it unfold live on television. It is piecing together a jigsaw of evidence that creates a fresh perspective on those events and is raising pressure on the Justice Department to consider criminal prosecutions.
In its first televised hearing last week, the committee re-created the terror and mayhem of the mob attack incited by Trump on the Capitol and showed that he had been repeatedly told that his claims of election fraud were false. But he pushed on, whipping up supporters who laid siege to the building as lawmakers met to certify President Joe Biden’s election victory. On Thursday, the committee…