Dr Alon Ben-Meir*
Last Thursday’s hearing by the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol was nothing but shocking. If we were watching a movie based on a fictitious story portraying an American president who had done what Trump attempted to do it would have still been simply so far-fetched beyond what anyone could possibly fathom
Righting the Wrong
New York (The Hawk): The House Select Committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol held another hearing yesterday which was, no less than all the previous hearings, of historic significance. These are among the most important hearings in our nation’s history, for they detail the unprecedented depravity and dishonor of an American president, and they are crucial to exposing the existential danger that his political presence still represents.
Thursday’s hearing focused on what must be the darkest and most morally outrageous three hours in the annals of the American presidency: the 187 minutes in which Trump refused to take any action whatsoever to quell a violent insurrectionary mob as it stormed the Capitol building, thwarting the peaceful transfer of power and seeking to kill the Vice President of the United States, who took shelter just feet away from his would-be assassins. The Committee revealed that Pence’s security detail believed that the mob was likely to discover their location and that they were not going to survive its violent onslaught – so much so that some were making calls to say goodbye to family members in the event they did not make it home alive.
For three hours Trump watched the television as violence consumed the Capitol; and in all that time he did not make a single call to the Secretary of Defense, to the Attorney General, to the Secretary of Homeland Security, or to the Vice President for that matter. For three hours, against the unequivocal advice of his counsel, friends, and family, Trump purposefully and steadfastly declined to give the mob he had summoned any signal to disperse, to exit the building peacefully, or to simply cease threatening the life of his vice president or other members of Congress. The president knew full well, and better than anyone, that his mob of supporters were hanging on every word he said or tweeted; he knew beyond any doubt that had he told them to leave the Capitol they would have complied – but he would not do so for the simple reason that he wanted the attack to continue.
Trump would not take any action to halt the insurrection because the attack served his unscrupulous designs: for while the mob held the Capitol, the Senate could not reconvene to certify the election result, and had the vice president been maimed or murdered then he would no longer be in a position to preside over the proceedings as specified in the Constitution. Indeed, after Trump knew the Capitol had been breached, he sent out a tweet at 2:24pm which served only to pour gasoline over the conflagration he had already ignited, describing Mike Pence as lacking the courage to do Trump’s bidding; immediately following that disgraceful message to his fanatical followers the mob swelled in size, and grew more enraged and emboldened.
Trump’s inaction during those three pivotal hours was not merely a dereliction of duty: it was a deliberate, indefensible decision on his part to allow the mob to continue its desecration of the Capitol, its assault on our democracy, and its unbridled effort to impede the transfer of executive authority, all so that Trump could maintain power. Only after it became clear that the insurrectionists would not be successful did the president finally stand before the TV cameras and tell the mob to leave the Capitol and return home. He did not condemn the violence, he did not issue any reprimand to those who had defiled the Capitol, he did not express a single word of support for those who valiantly fought against the insurrection and sought to protect this Republic from being overthrown by a violent swarm of his deluded supporters. Instead, he praised the mob as patriots and told them how much he loves them.
The former President of the United States, Donald Trump, betrayed this country and the American people – both Republicans and Democrats – in a manner so despicable and outrageous that the misdeeds of all his forty-four predecessors pale by comparison. He is the very embodiment of demagoguery: his lies are poisonous and his hollow vanity boundless. He has brought this Republic to the brink of dissolution with his contempt for the rule of law and the institutions of democracy. He forfeited the public trust when he determined that his hold on power was more important than the oath he took before the country and before God to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, more important than honoring the sacrifice of countless Americans who gave their life so that the Republic could survive, more important than the very continuation of this noble experiment in popular government.
If he should ever hold office again, then the shame will be on our heads – for no one can say now that they did not know what this man was, or what he was capable of doing. Trump’s lust for power is insatiable and as we have witnessed, he resorted to any means, however illegal, to stay in power regardless of the unimaginable damage he inflicts on the country.
Trump is corrupt to the core, a traitor who deserves nothing but contempt and to spend the rest of his life behind bars because he remains a menace to this country and an existential threat to our democratic institutions.
*Dr Alon Ben-Meir is a retired professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He taught courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies for over 20 years.