Hope Hicks, once an influential aide to former President Trump, told the House Jan. 6 committee that she was concerned her boss’ efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election would damage his legacy.
In testimony played for the first time in public on Monday, she said that Trump told her something along these lines: “Nobody will care about my legacy if I lose. So that won’t matter. The only thing that matters is winning.”
He’s right on one count; winning matters. But he’s wrong about the legacy thing. Even though he lost — decisively — he leaves a legacy unlike any other American president.
It’s a steaming legacy inside a paper bag set alight on the country’s front porch. We will never forget the stench of it.
Trump will be remembered forever as the only president in history who orchestrated a plan to overturn the results of a free and fair election. Who begged state officials to fraudulently change legitimate votes and threatened them with prosecution if they didn’t.
Who called his vice president a “pussy” for refusing to go along with his corrupt plan.
Whose legal foot soldiers, including John Eastman, tried to trash the Constitution, and others, such as Rudy Giuliani, slimed hard-working poll workers, comparing them to drug addicts.
Whose supporters answered his summons to the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and allowed themselves to be whipped into a violent frenzy in service of a man who lied to them about why they were there in the first place.
Trump told them to “fight like hell” for his phony cause, and they did, assaulting police officers with their fists, flagpoles and bear spray, among other weapons. Five deaths were connected to the attack, not including the handful of law enforcement officers who died by suicide in the months that followed. Countless others were injured and traumatized.
He will be remembered as the first president in history to become the subject of criminal referrals by Congress to the Justice Department. The first president to be impeached twice. And, maybe, just maybe, the first president to be charged with federal crimes.
On Monday, the House Jan. 6 committee concluded 18 months of work, presenting a summary of its findings, then voting unanimously to ask the Justice Department to charge the ex-president with four federal crimes: insurrection, obstructing an official proceeding, conspiring to defraud the United States, and conspiring to lie to the federal government by helping gin up slates of fake electors.
Nearly 1,000 people have been charged with crimes in connection with the Jan. 6 insurrection; at least 465 have entered guilty pleas. A handful have gone to trial or will, including Stewart Rhodes, founder of the far-right Oath Keepers, who was found guilty of seditious conspiracy by a jury last month. On Monday, a federal criminal trial began in the case of four members of another right-wing group, the Proud Boys, who are facing seditious conspiracy charges as well. It’s high time the person who orchestrated the attempt to overturn the election is held accountable.
“Ours is not a system of justice where foot soldiers go to jail, and the masterminds and ringleaders get a free pass,” said committee member Rep. Jamie Raskin, the Maryland Democrat.
Trump should get no free pass.
To the widely invoked argument that charging a former president would unsettle the country, I would argue that Trump’s schemes to overturn the 2020 election, which culminated in a failed insurrection, were far more unsettling, and we have so far survived that.
The other night, I was taken aback when I heard veteran Washington Post political reporter Bob Woodward, who has written or co-written three books about Trump, say on CNN that the media did not properly vet Trump when he first ran for president in 2016.
My God, I thought. Are you kidding?
Throughout that cycle, there were countless stories about Trump’s dishonesty and incompetence in business, his self-dealing, his family’s legacy of racial discrimination in housing, his phony charitable giving, his decades-long history of alleged sexual harassment and abuse. And there were numerous episodes that should have knocked him out of competition, from the insults he lobbed at John McCain, his boasts about grabbing women’s genitals, to his racist attack on the Indiana-born judge presiding over the Trump University fraud trial. The only thing we didn’t know about him at that point was whether or not he’d cheated on his taxes.
But rational Republicans held their noses and voted for him to keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House. MAGA Republicans embraced his xenophobia, racism and dalliances with dictators such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.
Nothing seemed to put a meaningful dent in his popularity until he started championing losers. The November midterms were a political wipeout for Trump; voters all over the country rejected most of the candidates who ran on his Big Lie. As he told Hicks, the only thing that matters is winning.
Rupert Murdoch, whose Fox News, New York Post and Wall Street Journal have been shameless Trump cheerleaders, reportedly told the former president he would not back another candidacy.
One day after the midterms, the Post declared Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis “DeFuture.”
On Tuesday, a Journal editorial announced that “Republican voters finally seem ready to bang the gong on the Trump show.”
And in the New York Times, Republican strategist Scott Reed tolled the bell for Trump. “Abandonment,” he said, “has begun.”
From your lips to God’s ear, Mr. Reed.
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