December 20, 2022

Good Riddance to the J6 Committee

In its one-sided final report, Nancy Pelosi’s panel of Trump haters sent a handful of criminal referrals to the Biden Justice Department.

Nancy Pelosi’s undemocratic and illegitimate January 6 Committee finally called it quits yesterday, finally put an end to its 18-month-long show trial by unanimously voting to send criminal referrals to Merrick Garland’s Department of Justice and recommending that former President Donald Trump and a handful of his associates be criminally prosecuted.

In doing so, the committee decided, as the Wall Street Journal editorial board put it, “that the best way to cap its 18 months of work would be a political gesture.” The committee, of course, is purely political, and had to get its work done and submitted before the new Republican-controlled House of Representatives is seated on January 3. (House Republicans will have their own say on the events of January 6. Their separate report is expected to be released in the not-too-distant future.)

Thus ends a weird and unhealthy obsession with the former president and his apparently impeachable offense for having exhorted his supporters thusly on January 6, 2021: “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.” That isn’t the only thing he said, of course, and Democrats ignored it in impeaching him, but that declaration certainly guts the core of their ridiculous “incitement” charge.

As Fox News reports, “The referrals include obstructing an official proceeding of Congress, conspiracy to defraud the federal government, making a false statement, and inciting, assisting, or aiding and comforting an insurrection.” In addition to Trump, former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and former Trump legal team members Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Kenneth Cheseboro, and Jeffrey Clark were referred with various criminal charges.

The committee also referred four House GOP lawmakers — Leader Kevin McCarthy and Congressmen Jim Jordan, Andy Biggs, and Scott Perry — to the House Ethics Committee for having had the temerity to engage in discussions with the former president before, during, and after the Capitol riot, and having refused to comply with the committee’s subpoenas earlier this year.

“This,” said a Jordan spokesperson immediately after the committee’s ethics referrals were announced, “is just another partisan and political stunt made by a Select Committee that knowingly altered evidence, blocked minority representation on a committee for the first time in the history of the U.S. House of Representatives, and failed to respond to Mr. Jordan’s numerous letters and concerns surrounding the politicization and legitimacy of the Committee’s work.”

Regarding these ethics referrals and whether they’ll be taken up by the new Republican-controlled Congress, The Hill reports: “It’s unclear if the Ethics panel will launch an investigation based on the select committee’s new recommendations. Unlike most other standing committees, membership on the Ethics panel is evenly divided between the parties. And the committee strives — at least rhetorically — to avoid the divisive partisan politicking that practically defines some of the other panels.”

As for the committee’s end product, “I can summarize it,” said former South Carolina Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy: “It’s utterly worthless. It means absolutely nothing.”

Likewise, constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley noted that the referrals of Trump and his associates have no binding effect and is “basically a rehashing of what we’ve seen in every one of these hearings.”

If AG Garland decides to charge Trump and his team members, Turley argued that he might get some convictions on Democrat-friendly turf in Washington, DC, but such convictions would have a hard time standing up on appeal due to the weakness of the prosecution’s case. “As a criminal defense attorney,” he said, “I was struck by how weak this case was. You need more than mere repetition for a case, for prosecution. Many people thought Trump behaved recklessly, but that’s not a crime in and of itself.”

Turley also noted that President Trump’s January 6 speech is constitutionally protected: “The problem is, I don’t think these convictions on this evidence would likely withstand judicial scrutiny. The biggest problem are those counts that turn on the president’s speech. That speech, in my view, was protected under existing Supreme Court cases like Brandenburg. It would not meet the standard the Supreme Court has set out for the criminalization of speech.”

Former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy agreed, and he latched onto one of the real oddities of the committee’s end product — namely, that its fourth charge against Trump was Insurrection (18 U.S.C. § 2383), a charge not leveled against any of the 800 or so people whom the DOJ has already charged. The committee had 18 months to lay the groundwork for an insurrection case against Trump, but it never tried to do so. What changed? “They have not brought a single insurrection case against anybody who’s been prosecuted,” McCarthy said. “Just because the committee doesn’t mention that Trump said to march peacefully doesn’t make that go away.”

Another voice, it seems, is worth hearing: that of former Vice President Mike Pence, who said yesterday that he hopes the Justice Department does the right thing and refuses to charge Trump.

“I hope the Justice Department understands the magnitude, the very idea of indicting a former president of the United States,” Pence said. “I think that would be terribly divisive in the country at a time when the American people want to see us heal. At this time of year, we’re all thinking about the most important things in our lives, our faith, our family, and my hope is the Justice Department will think very carefully with how they proceed in that regard. … As I wrote in my book, I think the president’s actions and words on January 6th were reckless. But I don’t know that it is criminal to take bad advice from lawyers.”

As for Trump, he posted this to his Truth Social account: “These folks don’t get it that when they come after me, people who love freedom rally around me. It strengthens me. What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger. Americans know that I pushed for 20,000 troops to prevent violence on Jan 6, and that I went on television and told everyone to go home.”

Trump did indeed call for National Guard days before January 6, and the failure to act on his authorization rests with Speaker Pelosi and DC Mayor Muriel Bowser. Trump also told everyone to go home — both his many thousands of peaceful supporters and the relatively small number of hooligans who began rioting at the Capitol before Trump’s speech that day had even concluded. But he should’ve done so sooner — and saying as much doesn’t make one a Trump hater.

Not surprisingly, there was plenty missing from the committee’s summary of its final report. As we wrote months ago, thoughtful Americans could’ve learned a great deal from an honest accounting about January 6 — from an honest committee conducting an honest hearing. We could’ve learned why Nancy Pelosi, who as House speaker is responsible for the Capitol’s security, failed so miserably to secure it even though she had advanced knowledge of the potential for violence, and even though she had Trump’s authorization for 20,000 National Guardsmen.

We could’ve learned why the FBI hasn’t come clean about its role in promoting the violence and inciting the storming of the Capitol building. After all, as New York Times reporter Matt Rosenberg said in a moment of devastating candor, “There were a ton of FBI informants amongst the people who attacked the Capitol.”

And so, good riddance to a bad committee. Now we’ll wait and see whether AG Garland decides to pursue a purely political prosecution of a former president and an announced candidate for the presidency in 2024.

Beyond that, we’re hopeful that the House Republicans’ report, whenever it comes out, can provide some much-needed balance to the political document produced by the Democrats’ deeply flawed and woefully biased January 6 Committee.

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