Sunday, December 25, 2022

Christmas Present


I fell in love with this opening to the January 6 Report the moment I saw it last week. Telegraphing the ending instead of jumping into the medias res, it's not Dickens or Tolstoy, but it's the powerful jolt of narrativium I've been longing for in all these productions for the last three or four years. And the report is Dickensian or Tolstoyan in the extreme length of the thing, the panoply of grotesque characters among the occasional sincere and tormented person you can identify with, caught up in the war and seeking redemption.

In fact it's Christmas! It's a big fat novel your parents put under the tree when you're big enough—I know I was pretty young when I first read David Copperfield or Ivanhoe—where you come back from sledding or skating or whatever and you curl up on the couch with it and a cup of cocoa. It's really what I'd want to do over the next week or so, if only there were some snow and a print edition (I'm ordering mine from, an anti-Amazon gesture, but it'll be a while before I get it) and an actual vacation to work with.

Not that it's all that suspenseful, as far as I can see at the outset—there's plenty of "tell 'em what you're gonna say, say it, then tell 'em what you said", as I suppose is necessary. My first recommendation to readers-for-pleasure is to skip the Executive Summary for now and start with the full report, on p. 195, on Election Night, and Trump's premature decision to declare victory right away:

According to testimony received by the Committee, the only advisor present who supported President Trump’s inclination to declare victory was Rudy Giuliani, who, according to Miller, was “definitely intoxicated” that evening.4 

President Trump’s decision to declare victory falsely on election night and, unlawfully, to call for the vote counting to stop, was not a spontaneous decision. It was premeditated. The Committee has assembled a range of evidence of President Trump’s preplanning for a false declaration of victory. This includes multiple written communications on October 31st andNovember 3, 2020, to the White House by Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.5 This evidence demonstrates that Fitton was in direct contact withPresident Trump and understood that he would falsely declare victory on election night and call for vote counting to stop. The evidence also includes an audio recording of President Trump’s advisor Steve Bannon, who said this on October 31, 2020, to a group of his associates from China [of Guo Wengui's media company]: 

And what Trump’s going to do is just declare victory, right? He’s gonna declare victory. But that doesn’t mean he’s the winner. He’s just gonna say he’s a winner. . . . The Democrats, more of our people vote early that count. Their vote in mail. And so they’re gonna have a natural disadvantage, and Trump’s going to take advantage of it. That’s our strategy. He’s gonna declare himself a winner. So when you wake up Wednesday morning, it’s going to be a firestorm. . . . Also, if Trump, if Trump is losing, by ten or eleven o’clock at night, it’s going to be even crazier. No, because he’s gonna sit right there and say ‘They stole it... to “provide the narrative engine for how we go forward.”

Also in advance of the election, Roger Stone, another outside advisor to President Trump, made this statement:

I really do suspect it will still be up in the air. When that happens, the key thing to do is to claim victory. Possession is 9/10s of the law. No, we won. Fuck you, Sorry. Over. We won. You’re wrong. Fuck you.7

And so on, and so on. If you think you got everything in the televised hearings, you're wrong. There are new gems of Trumpery everywhere

Donoghue and Rosen told President Trump “flat out” that “much of the information he [was] getting [was] false and/or just not supported by the evidence.”152 President Trump responded: “You guys may not be following the internet the way I do.”

In fact—and this has been said elsewhere—it's something of a defect overall that the focus is so relentlessly on Trump himself and his responsibility, even as it puts his stupidity and helplessness on display as in that example, leaving so many of the White House politicals (other than Mark Meadows) seemingly off the hook,  as if to help the Republican Party detach itself from him, a job the party really has to do for itself. But Trump is such a compellingly awful character, how could they not end up doing it that way?

On the other hand, is a Christmas book what the public really needs? Who reads an 800-page novel any more, in the first place? It's certainly not the thing that's going to convert any Trumpies either, is it? It's not really art, either, though it's fun to point out the resemblance. I'm not quite sure what it's for. 

It's nice to think the Justice Department investigation will make a practical use out of the material, for a firmer idea of the motivations and expectations the villains brought to their project of overturning the election, and sort out all the different ways they thought they might do it. It was a war fought on a lot of different fronts, in the courts and the legislatures and the press and on the street; were some of those approaches really feints, designed to distract from the real ones? Did any of them really think any of the lawsuits would come through? Did they really think that "fake elector" scheme had a chance of success? Or did they invest their main hopes in a "Reichstag moment", as Mark Milley told his aides, and a level of violence that would allow Trump to declare a national emergency and assume some special powers not envisaged in the Constitution? And did the refusal of "antifa" forces to take the bait on January 6 itself leave the Trumpers with no option but to try to create the violence on their own, while the Emperor spent that 187 minutes waiting to make his move? (You know what I think.)

You won't find answers to these in the report, which doesn't even acknowledge them (it maintains the view of Trump's inaction that afternoon as "dereliction of duty", as if he was just too lazy to call the National Guard—"Daddy's watching the game, ask me when the commercial comes on"). But you will find tons of material for working through them. I think that may be the best way to think of it, as a kind of Warren Commission equivalent, that fails to come to a satisfactory conclusion but will inform the debate on it for a long time to come. As such, it's a Christmas present that we won't just curl up with, but retain as an heirloom, forever.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.


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