The January 6 committee made its case. Will someone act on it, and when?

Inflation, abortion and crime are top issues in the midterm elections, but Thursday’s public hearing by the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol American was a valuable reminder of what’s at stake in November.

The link between the attack and the midterm elections could not be clearer. Committee hearings established that former President Donald Trump is ready before 2020 election to call foul if he lost – that he deliberately ignored aides who told him after the vote he had lost, then brazenly dismissed those who told him his conspiracies for widespread fraud were unfounded and sometimes ridiculous. Trump continues to traffic these same misrepresentations today.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Republican candidates who bought into the lie that the election was stolen are on the ballots this fall. If they win, they pose a potential threat to future elections. The threats will become even more serious if an unwarned Trump becomes the party’s presidential nominee in 2024.

The panel’s last public hearing before the election produced no dramatic new revelations. It was more of a summary of the case against Trump. But it included a provocative act: a unanimous vote to issue a subpoena for Trump to testify before the release of a final report, a stick in the eye of the person whose committee was the subject of his work. The chances of Trump testifying are almost non-existent, leaving open the question of how and when Trump will be held to account for what happened.

Analysis: 5 takeaways from the last hearing on January 6

Criminal referral to the Ministry of Justice is certainly possible. Months ago, in a filing in federal district court, the committee said it believed there was enough evidence to indict the former president. That would leave the matter where it has been for some time, in the hands of Attorney General Merrick Garland. But like the subpoena, a criminal referral would be above all symbolic.

The House committee hearings, thorough and compelling as they were, were not a court of law. There has been no cross-examination of witnesses, no presentations by a defense, no jurors other than the court of public opinion, which has been sharply divided from the start and has not appeared to change over the course of the summer and fall. Department of Justice attorneys do not need a criminal referral from the committee; their investigation progresses on a parallel track.

The committee can state its conclusions more or less definitively. Garland and Justice Department lawyers must measure their decisions against different standards than those by which the House committee’s findings can be stated. For example, is the evidence against Trump compelling enough to persuade Garland that there’s a good chance a jury will convict the former president based on what the Justice Department found?

Even if that standard were met, another question would have to be considered, as Harvard Law School’s Jack Goldsmith wrote a few months ago in the New York Times: Would filing a lawsuit against the former president have such consequences? on a country divided and inflamed? that the cost of moving forward is higher than the cost of not doing so? Whatever the Justice Department’s final decision will be met with a barrage of criticism.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who sacrificed her House seat to pursue the Jan. 6 inquiry, has repeatedly said she doesn’t think Trump should be allowed near again. from the Office of the President. Disqualifying him from that possibility has been her job since the Capitol was attacked, and it will likely remain her goal even when she is no longer elected to the party that surrendered to Trump.

Absent an indictment and conviction, the ultimate question of Trump’s fate and future would be left up to voters, which is whether he decides to run in 2024. Some non-Trump Republicans, however, consider Trump injured and ineligible by 2024. Former House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) is among them, as he reported recently.

But every poll today — and take them for what they are, more than two years before the next presidential election — shows Trump could be re-elected in a rematch with President Biden. At this point, a free and likely vengeful second-term Trump could try to do a lot of things he was not able to do before – and as noted on Thursday, probably without enough people around him who would try to dissuade him.

This takes the story back to November and the midterm elections that may well shift the balance of power in Washington and affect politics and governance in the states. Republicans only need five seats to take control of the House, and it’s hard to find a prognosticator who suggests the GOP will get less than that number. How many more than that is a matter of debate, but there are more than enough seats held by Democrats at stake, and the normal cycles of midterm elections are at work, to give Republicans a clear advantage.

Nate Silver’s modeling at FiveThirtyEight gives Republicans about a 7 in 10 chance of taking control of the House. That leaves the Democrats with a slim chance of retaining their majority, though as 2016 has taught everyone, sometimes low odds turn out to be winning chances. Otherwise, Trump would never have been in the White House.

A Republican House and the possibility of a Republican Senate, albeit with the narrowest majority, foreshadows a period of legislative deadlock in Washington, but a climate that could spawn House investigations against Biden, his policies, his son Hunter and others in the administration. Already, there is vague talk of dismissals.

After the election, much of the country’s political attention will shift to the upcoming presidential campaign. November’s results will offer clues to the scale of the chaos that could lie to come, depending on how many Holocaust deniers win and if they start to act on what they said. One clue could be the fluidity of the counting and verification of these elections.

Beyond that, the potential for disruption in 2024 will exist if enough Trump cronies are elected in the states or in Congress. Trump’s position seems clear: if he is the GOP nominee, he will contest any election he loses. Now he could have sympathetic elected officials working to challenge the normal process of declaring a winner and a base of supporters willing not to accept legitimate results.

Trump loyalists viewed the committee’s work as purely partisan. Other voters were indifferent to the hearings, preferring to move on from the past. But the committee’s findings and the Justice Department’s ongoing work keep Trump at the forefront of the choices many voters will make. The committee has made its point. It will be up to others, government officials and citizens, to decide whether to act on it, in November and beyond.


Washington

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