Analysis | Can Trump Be Tied to His Allies’ Violent Intimidation? – The Washington Post

By Jonathan Bernstein | Bloomberg,

What explained the devastating weight of Tuesday’s hearing of the House Jan. 6 committee? The testimony barely mentioned the attack on the Capitol or other events of that day.

Instead we heard, in new and terrifying detail, about Donald Trump’s efforts to pressure Republican officials in state after state to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. By expanding the scope of the events covered, the panel heard from witnesses who recounted just how massive and systematic the efforts by Trump and his allies really were — and how violence and threats of violence played a central role in it.

Arguments about whether the attack on the Capitol was an “insurrection” or not are beside the point. What matters is the big picture.

We still do not have firm evidence tying Trump specifically to organized violent outbreaks, including the Capitol attack. But we’ve now seen enough that it’s clear Trump either knew his words would put people in danger or he should have known. And the same goes for those around him.

Those of us who have followed this story closely already knew the broad outlines and even many details in the stories of Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers; Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger; Gabriel Sterling of the Georgia secretary of state’s office, and Georgia election worker Shaye Moss.

But Tuesday’s airing of their accounts, one after another, was just brutal. Bowers endured Saturday protests outside his house, with armed Trump fans calling him (among other things) a pedophile. Sterling described how he was moved to give his forceful public statement denouncing efforts to overturn the election after seeing a staffer in his office overwhelmed by vicious, personal attacks on social media. Moss and her mother were so intimidated by the president’s attacks and those of his followers that they basically shut down their lives.

In other words, the committee artfully made the case that the violence of Jan. 6 was only a continuation of violent efforts to bully everyone who stood in the way of the president and his desire to stay in office, regardless of the facts and the law.

We already knew that the fraud accusations that Trump and his allies made were investigated and found to be false or frivolous, based on obvious fictions or misunderstandings of normal procedures. And that, despite this, Trump ramped up pressure on Republican officeholders in states that Joe Biden had won.

We knew about the scheme, probably criminal and certainly outside of the law and the Constitution, to submit slates of false electors in states that Trump had lost. And about his call to Raffensperger, in which the then president of the United States begged, cajoled and threatened him to “find” the votes needed to reverse the Georgia outcome — this figured prominently in Trump’s second impeachment and Senate trial.

There was some new detail. For example, Rudy Giuliani told Bowers that “we’ve got lots of theories — we just don’t have any evidence.” I don’t think that was previously reported, and it helped make the committee’s point that the conspirators were well aware that Trump had lost the election.

And we knew that violence and threats of violence had been present throughout the post-election period and were a regular feature of Trump’s rallies from the start of his 2016 run for president.

In contrast to Trump and his allies, Tuesday’s witnesses stood out as patriots. Committee Chair Bennie Thompson in his opening remarks thanked the various elected officials, bureaucrats and election workers who have testified “for their service”: The US is defended, after all, by its democratic institutions — defined by the men and women who do their jobs faithfully or not — even more than by its military might, and has been since 1776. It was inspiring to watching Bowers, Raffensperger, Sterling and Moss stand up for democracy, despite the costs that they have had to endure — especially when you consider how few Republicans have been willing to rally to their side.

It’s not yet clear how strong the legal case against Trump will be. But I agree with the political scientist Alex Garlick, who said that “the more we learn from the January 6 committee, the more it becomes obvious that the Senate’s inability to convict Trump in February 2021 was a failure of historical proportions.”

More From Bloomberg Opinion:

• The Plot Darkens in the Jan. 6 Hearings: Jonathan Bernstein

• The Jan. 6 Committee Should Finish Its Job — Quickly: The Editors

• Will Jan. 6 Be a Factor on Nov. 8?: Julianna Goldman

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering politics and policy. A former professor of political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University, he wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.

More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com/opinion

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