The unexpected emotion I felt reading the 1/6 Committee's summary report
A 154-page summary released on Monday speaks volumes about Trump's lack of respect for his own supporters.
The House January 6th Committee’s full report is set to be released to the public today and — if the Committee’s summary of findings that was released on Monday is any indication — we’re in for a long and detailed report.
And while the summary did not reveal a ton of new information (I’m still going through it), I was struck by an emotion while reading it — and it was not one I was expecting.
I expected that my blood pressure might go up at times, or perhaps I’d feel a sense of anger, dread, or disgust at what was a dark time in American history following the 2020 election.
But instead, I was filled with sadness and even a bit of pity.
Focus on the footsoldiers
The summary does not begin where you think it might. It doesn’t start with a focus on former President Trump. It starts with the footsoldiers.
It begins with a series of quotes by some of those who participated in the riot at the Capitol on January 6th, 2021.
The quotes make clear the sobriety that many of those who stormed the Capitol now feel. The quotes express regret, embarrassment, and sadness that police officers were hurt (one of whom was killed), that the halls of perhaps the greatest monument to democracy were trashed, and that they were the footsoldiers of a fraudulent cause.
It’s easy to read these quotes and dismiss those involved as fools. Or, to look at those convicted of crimes stemming from the riot as having gotten what they deserved.
To be honest, that’s what I felt when I first read these quotes on Monday night.
It’s hard not to fall back on a that’s-what-you-get attitude. It’s also hard not to feel a bit of self-righteousness toward those who tarnished our nation’s wonderful tradition of peacefully transferring power, who did so on behalf of perhaps the least deserving of leaders, and who now regret it.
But when I continued reading the summary on Tuesday, those were not the feelings I had.
Perhaps it was the result of reading with fresh eyes on a new morning. Perhaps I’m just an optimist about people’s true nature. But instead of feeling vengeful, I felt sad.
And there was one chart in particular that made me feel that way. Here it is:
Ends justify the means for Trump
This chart astounds me because it not only shows Donald Trump’s true nature but also shows what was happening behind the scenes leading up to January 6th, 2021 — details that Trump’s supporters who stormed that Capitol didn’t know about at the time.
Regarding Trump’s true nature, it shows how he is a man for whom the ends justify the means. It shows the depth of Trump’s disregard for the truth and how when reality doesn’t serve his interests, he ignores it.
As the summary notes, Trump was told repeatedly that his dubious allegations of fraud following the 2020 election — despite exhaustive efforts to try and verify them — simply were not panning out. He was repeatedly told this by his campaign manager Bill Stepien, Attorney General Bill Barr, and by various aides and advisors.
But instead of changing course and accepting that he lost, Donald Trump dismissed that reality. He instead began surrounding himself with yes men (and women) and those who were willing to tell him what he wanted to hear.
As noted in the chart above, on December 15th, 2020, Donald Trump was told by then-Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen that allegations of someone dropping off a suitcase of ballots in Georgia had been investigated and that nothing improper had occurred. Despite this, a week later on December 22nd, Trump repeated the claim anyway.
He was told again — on December 17th and December 31st — that allegations about ballots being shoved into a suitcase and repeatedly run through tabulation machines were investigated and also found to be false.
“We looked at it, we looked at the video, we interviewed the witnesses,” then-Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue told Trump, according to testimony before the 1/6 Committee.
“It was not true,” Donoghue said.
But just days later, Trump would again repeat a story he knew to be false.
And despite concerns within the White House that the situation was becoming ripe for violence, Trump pressed harder. He didn’t tamp down the flames, he poured gas on the embers and upped the stakes. He told his supporters that this fraud was not about losing an election — it was about losing our democracy.
Of course, the real threat to our democracy was not widespread election fraud. It was Donald Trump.
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The chart above is like watching a false prophet manipulate their flock.
For years now, Trump has been preying on conservative values. He’s taken advantage of the sense of patriotism, however misguided, held by millions of Americans — our neighbors, friends, and family — and convinced them that those who don’t support MAGAism are their enemies, or that those who disagree with them politically are out to destroy the country.
And in looking at the 2020 election, it’s yet another example of Trump selling his supporters snake-oil lies about something that he knew wasn’t true.
The report notes that those around Trump said he was concerned with the embarrassment of having lost the election. He allegedly told his Chief of Staff Mark Meadows: “This is embarrassing. Figure it out. We need to figure it out. I don’t want people to know that we lost.”
So, in his effort to retain power and spare a bruising to his ego, Trump whipped his supporters into a frenzy over allegations he knew were false and then turned them on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, 2021.
Many of them, as the summary describes, thought they were doing the right thing — one of them said that he thought it was the U.S.’s equivalent of storming the Bastille at the start of the French Revolution. But instead, they were pawns in an insurrection masquerading as a righteous fight.
Some of those caught up in the riot will spend years in jail. Some will have felonies on their records forever. Some will have to live knowing they attacked the very democracy they thought they were out to save.
Believe me, I get it. It’s hard to have sympathy for those who stormed the Capitol calling for the Vice President to be hanged — and no doubt, some of those who took part are not manipulated flock but true believers filed with the bile of hatred, racism, and bigotry. But there were otherwise ordinary people there too and history has shown us how people can do terrible things when under the spell of a charismatic and manipulative leader.
Those involved in the January 6th riot should be held accountable, not least of all those at the top. As the House January 6th Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson said Monday, this is a time of “reflection and reckoning.”
What do you think? Let me know in the comments!