Whether fomenting insurrection, standing accused of rape or stiffing the IRS, Donald Trump remains in the news. On Monday, the House select committee voted to issue its final report. Three days later, after releasing witness transcripts, the committee delivered the full monty. Bennie Thompson, Liz Cheney and the rest of committee name names and flash receipts. At 845 pages, the report is damning – and monumental.
Trumpworld is a crime scene, a tableau lifted from Goodfellas. Joshua Green of Bloomberg nailed that in The Devil’s Bargain, his 2017 take on Trump’s winning campaign. The gang was always transgressive, fear and violence part of its repertoire.
Brian Sicknick, the Capitol police officer who died after the riot. E Jean Carroll, who alleges sexual assault. Shaye Moss, the Georgia elections worker targeted by Rudy Giuliani and other minions. Each bears witness.
The January 6 report laments that “thuggish behavior from President Trump’s team, including efforts to intimidate described elsewhere … gave rise to many concerns about [Cassidy] Hutchinson’s security, both in advance of and since her public testimony”.
Hutchinson is the former aide to Trump and his final chief of staff, Mark Meadows, whose testimony may have been the most dramatic and impactful.
In the same vein, the committee chronicles Trump’s demand that Brad Raffensperger, the Republican secretary of state in Georgia, “find 11,780 votes”. Trump reminded Raffensperger of the possible consequences if his directive went unheeded: “That’s a criminal, that’s a criminal offense. That’s a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer … I’m notifying you that you’re letting it happen.”
Now, a Fulton county grand jury weighs Trump’s fate. Jack Smith, a federal prosecutor newly appointed special counsel, may prove Trump’s match too.
Transcripts released by the committee show Stefan Passantino, Hutchinson’s initial lawyer, engaging in conduct that markedly resembles witness tampering.
“Stefan said, ‘No, no, no, no, no. We don’t want to talk about that.’” According to Hutchinson, Passantino was talking about Trump’s fabled post-rally meltdown on January 6, when told he couldn’t go to the Capitol too.
Hutchinson understood that disloyalty would mean repercussions. It took immense courage and conscience to speak as she did. Trump’s supporting cast was retribution-ready. She knew she would be “fucking nuked”.
In a woeful prebuttal, Passantino claimed to have behaved “honorably” and “ethically”. He blamed Hutchinson. His advice, he said, was “fully consistent” with the “sole interests” of his client. He is now on leave from his law firm.
To quote the final report, “certain witnesses from the Trump White House displayed a lack of full recollection of certain issues”. Meadows, for one, is shown to have an allergy to the truth. The committee singles out The Chief’s Chief, his memoir, as an exercise in fabulism. Trump gave Meadows a blurb for his cover: “We will have a big future together”. In so many ways, Donald. In so many ways.
The book “made the categorical claim that the president never intended to travel to the Capitol” on 6 January, the committee now says, adding that the “evidence demonstrates that Meadows’s claim is categorically false”.
He had needlessly cast a spotlight on himself and others. The report: “Because the Meadows book conflicted sharply with information that was being received by the select committee, the committee became increasingly wary that other witnesses might intentionally conceal what happened.”
Then again, no one ever accused Meadows, a former congressman, of being the sharpest knife in the drawer. Reptilian calculation is not prudence or prescience. Last year, Trump trashed Meadows as “fucking stupid”. He may have a point. After all, Meadows confessed to Trump of possibly putting Joe Biden’s life in jeopardy at the September 2020 debate, after positive and negative Covid tests that were covered up.
Trump himself derided the Chief’s Chief as “fake news”. The committee referred Meadows to the justice department.
“It’s easy to imagine Meadows has flipped and is cooperating with the justice department,” said Ryan Goodman, a New York University law professor and former Pentagon special counsel. The vicious cycle rolls on.
The committee also gives Kayleigh McEnany, Trump’s final press secretary, her own moment in the sun. She too attempted to cover the tracks of her boss.
“A segment of McEnany’s testimony seemed evasive,” the committee concludes. “In multiple instances, McEnany’s testimony did not seem nearly as forthright as that of her press office staff, who testified about what McEnany said.”
We saw this movie before – when McEnany stood at the West Wing lectern.
“McEnany disputed suggestions that President Trump was resistant to condemning the violence and urging the crowd at the Capitol to act peacefully when they crafted his tweet at 2.38pm on January 6,” the report says. “Yet one of her deputies, Sarah Matthews, told the select committee that McEnany informed her otherwise.”
Last year, McEnany delivered a book of her own, namely For Such a Time as This. The title riffs off the Book of Esther. McEnany repeatedly thanks the deity, touts her academic credentials and vouches for her honesty. She claims she never lied to reporters. After all, her education at “Oxford, Harvard and Georgetown” meant she always relied on “truthful, well-sourced, well-researched information”.
She lauds Trump for standing for “faith, conservatism and freedom” and delivers a bouquet to Meadows. “You were a constant reminder of faith. Thank you for being an inspiring leader for the entire West Wing.”
Whether Trump retains the loyalty of evangelicals in 2024 remains to be seen.
The January 6 report often kills with understatement. For example, it repeatedly mocks Giuliani and his posse. The committee notes: “On 7 November, Rudy Giuliani headlined a Philadelphia press conference in front of a landscaping business called Four Seasons Total Landscaping, near a crematorium and down the street from a sex shop.”
Like Giuliani’s three ex-wives, the members of the committee loathe him.
“Standing in front of former New York police commissioner and recently pardoned convicted felon Bernard Kerik, Giuliani gave opening remarks and handed the podium over to his first supposed eyewitness to election fraud, who turned out to be a convicted sex offender.”
If the debacle surrounding George Santos, the newly-elected New York congressman, teaches us anything, it is that you can never do enough background-checking.
Giuliani’s law license is suspended, on account of “false claims” in post-election hearings. A panel of the DC bar has recommended disbarment.
Nick Fuentes, Trump’s infamous neo-Nazi dinner guest, also appears in the January 6 report, regarding his part in the insurrection. He is quoted: “Capitol siege was fucking awesome.” Recently, Fuentes reaffirmed his admiration for Hitler. Trump still refuses to disavow him.
Trumpworld is a tangled web. Ultimately, though, the January 6 report is chillingly clear about the spider at its center.
“The central cause of January 6 was one man, former President Donald Trump. None of the events of January 6 would have happened without him.”
The Final Report of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol is available here.