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It’s been nine months since the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Nine months. At the rate the Committee investigating the attack on our democracy is going, perhaps we’ll get a final report by the end of the decade. Once again, Democrats are dropping the ball.
The midnight deadline for subpoenas issued to four of the disgraced former president’s colleagues has passed. They failed to produce the documents requested at the urging of the said former president, who is claiming executive privilege. Yes, you read that right. He’s claiming executive privilege even though he’s no longer president. Only in a post-Trump world can you not make this stuff up.
The Committee told us that things were going to be different this time around. No more messing around, they said. We don’t have the Trump Justice Department obstructing us now, so we’ll be able to force their hand to comply.
Really? I do not see it. To me, it’s looking like more of the same. During the Mueller investigation, and after, we saw nothing but stonewalling, ignored court dates, threatening letters that didn’t mean a damn thing, and obstruction of investigations that made Richard Nixon look like a member of the glee club.
The former president continues to exert his outsized influence over our politics, by spouting lies, issuing directives and proclamations to his minions, and giving maniacal interviews to the right-wing echo chamber.
The man is, and I’ll continue to say it over and over, the most dangerous man in America. He’s the biggest threat to the democracy we’ve ever had. Yet, he’s free to say what he wants, when he wants, all the while our Justice Department seemingly yawns as if it’s not a big deal.
Even yesterday, with the release of the Senate Judiciary’s report of what happened leading up to January 6th, you’d think we’d have an increasing sense of urgency. That damning report showed that at least nine times, Trump tried to pressure the Justice Department into overthrowing the election. What the hell is going on with Attorney General Merrick Garland’s Justice Department?
I’m beginning to wonder if he’s only concerned with how bad it might look if we go after a former president. He may be under the assumption that we don’t do that here in America because the precedent that would set might throw our democracy into a free-for-all, much like we see in dictatorships worldwide.
I hope that’s not the case because inaction now is a far more significant threat. If these people aren’t held to account, including the big enchilada himself, then we do nothing but enable future administrations to take what happened on the 6th much further. And yes, that includes the possibility of a rogue Democratic president as well.
My hope here is that Garland and the rest of his agency are, at this time, compiling as much evidence as possible, waiting for the opportune time to issue indictments finally. Maybe that’s why it appears like he’s asleep at the wheel. If he’s not, then we’re in worse trouble than I thought.
I do take into consideration that we have two Republicans on the Committee. We don’t know how they feel about taking an aggressive posture towards the subpoena-ignoring Trumpers. Let’s hope they’ll be on board with the other Democrats. If not, I hate to say it, they should move forward regardless. It’s not the time to go easy because you don’t want to ruin the bi-partisan nature of the Committee.
The way I understand it, the Committee has three choices. They could either file a civil lawsuit against anyone who ignores the subpoena, find them in inherent contempt of Congress, or give the Justice Department a criminal referral.
Of the three, the civil lawsuit is probably the worst option. This is what Democrats did with Don McGahn, Trump’s White House Counsel when he was president. You remember McGahn. He ran out the clock for two years in court, eventually testifying to a closed session in Congress earlier this year. We do not have two years, folks.
The middle option, inherent contempt, is also problematic. Under this type of proceeding, either the House or Senate has its Sergeant-At-Arms take a person into custody for proceedings in Congress. Fines could also be issued for every day an individual ignores the subpoena. I don’t know if this Congress would have the nerve to do such a thing, although you have to admit, seeing these guys in cuffs would undoubtedly send a strong message.
But the third option may be the best one; a criminal referral of contempt, filed with the Justice Department, whose duty would be to bring the action before a grand jury. Before, when Trump was president, he could claim executive privilege, and the case would never reach the grand jury. That’s not the issue now because President Biden has already signaled he wouldn’t stand in the way.
If they use the third option, it becomes Merrick Garland’s job to see it through. While Trump has already declared executive privilege in this matter, most legal observers say it’s a stretch beyond belief. The guy isn’t president anymore. Remember?
The bottom line is pretty straightforward. It’s time, once again, for Democrats to stop screwing around and take a stand. There’s no time for courting bi-partisanship or empty threats that never produce anything of value. Bring the hammer down on these people now, or risk even further irreparable harm to our faltering democracy.
If the lack of action from this Committee already is any indication, we’re in dire straights. They knew none of these four people would comply, or at least they should have known. At 12:01 AM, one minute after the deadline passed, they should have had the referral complaint ready to go and filed with the Justice Department.
At least that’s what I wanted to see. I guess I’m hopelessly naïve here. I keep hoping the Democrats grow a spine, and each time I’ve been highly disappointed. I don’t know what the Committee is going to do. But they better quit wasting time because before you know it, the mid-term elections will be here. The chance Republicans takeover one or even both houses of congress is becoming more likely every day.
And if that happens? We’ll see all things related to the insurrection conveniently thrown out the window, replaced by daily hearings into Biden’s flawed Afghanistan withdrawal, illegal immigration, and God knows what else.
In the midst of it all, the former president remains a free man. He is a free man who seems likely to run again for the job he tried to steal back from a legitimately elected President, Joe Biden. Maybe this time will be different. Perhaps the January 6th Committee and the Justice Department will rise to the occasion and show the American people that no president is ever above the law.
Yeah, I’m skeptical. I hope they prove me wrong.