On December 27, 2020, more than six weeks after losing re-election, a furious President, Donald Trump, phoned his acting Attorney General, Jeffrey Rosen. Mr Trump’s former attorney general, Bill Barr, had announced his resignation less than two weeks earlier, after telling the president that the voter fraud allegations Mr Trump had trumpeted were – as Mr Barr l he later said bluntly in his testimony – “bullshit” and publicly asserting that there was no fraud of a magnitude that could affect the outcome of the election.
With Mr. Rosen’s deputy, Richard Donoghue, also online, Mr. Trump embarked on the same tired, refuted and discredited allegations he had so often propagated at rallies, at press conferences and on social networks. None of this was true, and Mr. Donoghue told him so. According to Mr. Donoghue, Mr. Trump, exasperated that his own hand-picked senior officials at the Justice Department were not asserting his baseless allegations, replied: “Just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican members of Congress.
It was a remarkable statement, even for a president who had serially abused the powers of his office. After being told by the very department that had investigated his fraud allegations that they were false, Mr. Trump told the acting attorney general and his deputy to lie about it and said he would take him back to him. from there.
That Mr. Trump was willing to lie so outright about an issue at the heart of our democracy — whether the American people can rely on elections to ensure the peaceful transfer of power — now seems obvious, even trivial, when one considers the violent attacks. against the Capitol which he instigated a few days later. But Americans should not lose sight of how much this behavior indicts the former president, and not just the former president, but the Republican members of Congress whom he knew would accept his big lie.
The report released Thursday by the Jan. 6 committee, which I served on, makes it very clear that there were multiple lines of effort to nullify the 2020 election. Some involved attempts to pressure state legislatures to ‘they declare that the loser was the winner. Others involved a conspiracy of fake voters, pressure on the vice president to violate his constitutional duty, and efforts to force an election official to “find” thousands of votes that did not exist. It was only when all these other efforts failed that the president resorted to inciting mob violence to try to stop the transfer of power.
But a line of effort to overturn the election receives little attention, and it involved the willingness of so many members of Congress to vote to overturn it. Even after the Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police put down the insurrection at great cost to themselves, the majority of Republicans in the House picked up where they left off, still voting to overturn results in important states.
During one of our January 6 hearings, Committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney, a Republican, called out her congressional colleagues for their duplicity in the most searing terms: “There will come a day when Donald Trump will be gone, but your dishonor will remain.”
With our work on the committee largely done, it will now fall to the Department of Justice to provide a form of accountability that Congress is not empowered to provide, and to enforce the rule of law of a way out of our reach: through lawsuits. Multiple laws were violated during a sweeping attempt to nullify the election, and not just by the infantrymen who stormed into the Capitol building that day and brutally assaulted police officers, but also by those who encouraged them, encouraged them and, when it was all over, brought them help and comfort. Bringing to justice a former president who still calls today for the “cancellation” of our Constitution is a perilous undertaking. Failure to do so is far more dangerous.
There is a growing disregard for the law and for our country’s institutions, and a chilling acceptance of the use of violence to resolve political disputes. Mr. Trump’s Big Lie has been one of the most powerful instigators of political violence, as he persuaded millions that the election they lost must have been rigged or fraudulent. If people can be convinced of this, what is left but violence to decide who should govern? The attack on the Capitol was an all-too-predictable consequence of Mr. Trump’s relentless efforts to alienate the people from his government and from the most important foundation of governance: their right to vote.
Even the Constitution cannot protect us if the people who have sworn to uphold it do not give meaning to their oath of office, if that oath is not informed by ideas of right and wrong, and if people do not want to accept the fundamental truth of things. None of this will be enough.
But if we let ourselves be guided by facts – not factions – and if we choose our representatives according to their allegiance to the law and the Constitution, then we should be confident that our proud legacy of self-government will continue. . We hope that this report will make a small contribution to this effort. Our country has never faced the kind of threat we have documented. May this never happen again.
Adam B. Schiff is a Democratic Congressman from California and the author, most recently, of “Midnight in Washington: How We Almost Lost Our Democracy and Still Could”.