February 3, 2023

January 6 convictions bolster democracy, but McCarthy’s defense of Trump threatens it

7 min read


The American tradition of peaceful transitions of presidential power was overshadowed by horrific violence. January 6, 2021.

Twenty-two months later, a Washington, D.C., jury on Tuesday examined the nation’s violations of democracy. A monumental decision Against the right-wing rebels.

But while the courts – and Voters in mid-term elections — has endorsed the rule of law, angered by a meeting with former President Donald Trump A white supremacist Holocaust denier It’s showing how fragile it is. As denies. Republican leader Kevin McCarthy — the man who wants to be speaker of the House — bluntly condemned Trump on Tuesday for breaking bread with an extremist.

In a landmark jury verdict, Oath Keepers leader Stuart Rhodes and a subordinate, Kelly Maggs, were found guilty of conspiracy to commit treason and other charges in what the Justice Department said was a plot to keep Trump in power after a 2020 defeat. .

The rarely executed felony convictions provided justice over constitutional outrage, established a deterrent for future instigators of rebellion, and demonstrated that the legal system could enforce accountability for attacks on democracy.

And they reinforced the narrative that the U.S. Capitol uprising was not just a wild protest that fizzled out, but a premeditated attempt to overthrow the government, the Constitution, and the will of the voters. Decisions came like this Special counsel Jack Smith Continues investigations against the former president, including more than January 6. On that front, Trump’s former close associates Stephen Miller testified before a grand jury on the matter, CNN reported.

Yet a momentous day for democracy represented by the swearing-in ceremony also offered fresh signs that the forces of authoritarianism, extremism and electoral denial are far from over.

McCarthy, who is running to become speaker of the same House after being vandalized by Trump supporters last year, defended the former president from criticism over his dinner with white nationalist Nick Fuentes a week ago.

The California Republican said Fuentes has no place in the GOP. But his false claim that Trump had condemned the far-right firebrand four times was consistent with his willingness to indulge the former president’s provocations to consolidate power for himself and his party. . McCarthy likely needs the support of Trump and his hard-right supporters in the House to become speaker next year, and will owe it to them if he gets the post.

Fuentes is a Holocaust denier who also has ties to pro-Trump House Republicans such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green of Georgia, who Addressed a white nationalist conference. He managed. Extreme lawmakers like him would be even more influential in a reduced House GOP majority. And bringing the day’s events full circle, Fuentes was on Capitol grounds on Jan. 6, weeks after lying about the election at “stop the theft” rallies.

Tuesday’s dramas also came amid fresh signs that even though voters rejected many of the denialists in the midterm elections, the virus of denial has not yet been eradicated. An Arizona county and one in Pennsylvania have refused to certify their results since this month as misinformation spreads and far-right activists seek to sow distrust in the system based on claims of fraud.

Despite the strengthening of the American political system after the 2020 election and the strengthening of the 2022 midterm elections, when many pro-Trump voters lost in swing states, the most dangerous divide in American politics is between left and right. Not between, but between powers. People of democracy and dictatorship. Almost every day in Washington can be seen as a tug-of-war between these opposing dynamics, which sometimes cross partisan lines, and are boiling to the surface again as the twice-impeached Trump seeks to reclaim the presidency. are

After seven weeks of testimony, Rhodes and Meigs were both convicted of conspiracy to treason and obstruction of official proceedings. Three other defendants were found guilty of several other subversion-related charges in an endorsement of the DOJ’s response to the attack on democracy.

A conspiracy charge is a charge that a criminal conspired to overthrow, overthrow, or destroy the U.S. government by force. In particular, the jury’s decision bolsters the notion that the Justice Department can prosecute and obtain convictions on such complex charges and the turmoil at the Capitol is a rebuke to Trump’s dismissal of the world. The fact that juries acquitted some defendants of the most serious charges emboldens prosecutors against any claims that this was a biased trial before a politically motivated jury.

In retrospect, this court case – one of many targeting alleged coup perpetrators – represents a concerted effort to repair American democracy after the trauma of the 2020 election.

“(It’s) a great day for the United States, for the rule of law, for the peaceful transition of power and making sure that it’s protected because that’s basically what was on trial,” CNN’s Juliet Keim of National Security said. , intelligence and terrorism analysts. “The opposite would have been much worse, I think, not only for the Justice Department but for the provocation and the violence — people would have thought they could have avoided it.”

Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland, who sits on the House Select Committee investigating the coup — which is expected to unveil its final report next month — said the rulings would reinforce a sense that after the 2020 election What really happened in the painful weeks of

“The role of January 6 is finally sinking in across the country now,” Raskin told CNN’s Briana Keller. “This was a series of events designed to derail the presidential election and essentially overthrow the constitutional system.”

The conclusion of the Oathkeepers’ trial, along with other convictions of the Jan. 6 rioters, reinforced a lingering question: Will there be accountability — ultimately for those around Trump and the former president himself? He fabricated the hoax of a stolen election, which destroyed faith in American democracy, and then told his supporters to “fight like hell” in the Capitol to save their country.

Any conviction in the relevant case could increase the sense of legal exposure for those involved in the wider drama. But it remains unclear whether there is enough evidence or potential to threaten Trump, at least in a legal forum.

But in a sign of the seriousness of Trump’s position, Miller testified before a grand jury on Tuesday, making him the first known witness to do so since Smith’s appointment, CNN’s Caitlin Pollantz reported. Miller will be in a position to understand Trump’s state of mind before the rioters storm the Capitol. Along with Trump’s role leading up to the coup, the special counsel is investigating the former president’s stash of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. Trump has not been charged in either investigation. But both raise the unusual possibility that a former president — who is again an active candidate for the White House — could be indicted. It’s a scenario that will provide an even greater test for the justice system than the one it faced in the capital coup, especially since Trump is touting as a central plank of his campaign that he’s partisan persecution. are victims of

Much of McCarthy’s appearance in the West Wing on Tuesday — after discussing the current lame-duck session of the Democratic-controlled Congress with President Joe Biden and other congressional leaders — was squarely within the confines of traditional politics.

That coincided with a Republican takeover of the House earlier this month, albeit with a smaller-than-expected majority. He was combative, showing his rank-and-file members that he was ready to take the White House to task and wield Republican power, setting the tone for a newly divided Washington next year. And while emphasizing core Republican issues like the southern border and backing Twitter chief Elon Musk, he appeared to push his speakership campaign with soundbites on conservative TV stations. McCarthy has a real mandate to hold Biden to account — assuming he eventually gets the 218 votes he needs to win the Speaker’s race in January.

Still, some of his melodramatic tone may have been designed to impress Trump if he was watching on television. McCarthy has chosen to license extremism in his conference and on behalf of former presidents if it paves the way to power.

In her first on-camera reaction to Trump’s dinner with Fuentes — who also included rapper Kanye West, who has changed his name to Ye — McCarthy said: “I don’t think anybody has time with Nick Fuentes. Must spend. He has no place in this Republican Party.

McCarthy’s comments were a clear repudiation of Holocaust denial. But he wasn’t finished — and continued to blur the lines about Trump’s behavior and spread misinformation about what the former president said and did.

“I think President Trump came out four times and denounced him, and he didn’t know who he was,” McCarthy said. The Republican leader’s statement was inaccurate at best, if not deliberately misleading. Trump has made at least four statements about his meeting with Fuentes, but mostly to claim he knew nothing about him or his views before he arrived at Mar-a-Lago. Knew. Given that Fuentes was a vocal supporter of the former president, that’s a hard statement to believe.

“I didn’t know what his views were, and they weren’t expressed at our very early dinner table, or they wouldn’t have been accepted,” Trump said in an interview with Fox Digital on Tuesday. Trump said in an interview with Fox Digital on Tuesday. But again, he did not condemn Fuentes or his views, sending familiar veiled signals to far-right groups in his electoral base.

On the one hand, McCarthy’s dancing on the head of a pin was a troubling sign for someone who could soon become the nation’s third-highest-ranking official. But his defense of Trump and the controversy it will create in the media could add to his political advantage, as hard-line Republicans see nothing more than seeing their leader at odds with establishment Washington.

And their willingness to unequivocally condemn the former president for meeting with a Holocaust denier shows that the strain of extremism that Trump mobilizes to consolidate his political power is a powerful force in the GOP. .

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