SAY WHAT? - Ohhh....So that's why the Repubs didn't want a Jan. 6 Commission. It's taken almost a year for the glacial, creaking wheels of justice to gear up, but lawmakers, legal officials and even penitent rioters have finally begun unveiling a mountain of sublimely damning evidence on the whos and hows of the "gutless attack" that was the Capitol Riot. With subpoenas still dropping for unnamed witnesses, this week's most sensational moments featured Liz Cheney - as the daughter of Lord Voldemort, really, who'da thought? - reading aloud eye-popping text messages Mark Meadows received during the riot from unlikely correspondents who never imagined one day they'd be unwittingly thrown under the bus by a guy so dumb and indecisive he turned over all this incriminating stuff and only when the shit hit the fan thought, oh wait, maybe not.
Thus, the spectacle of Cheney quietly, soberly unmasking months of later lies by Fox' disingenuous fabulists who kept insisting, nope, no riot, just Antifa, our guys were all good and what about Hillary's emails? In truth, they were frantically texting Meadows that "POTUS needs to calm this shit down" and "someone is going to get killed,” which they did. Brian Kilmeade: "Please get him on TV. Destroying everything you have accomplished (sic)." Sean Hannity: "Can he make a statement, ask people to leave?" Laura Ingraham, who last week placidly nodded when Trump told her his words that day were "extremely calming": "This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy." (Yes, we too never realized the rubble he left in his trail was a "legacy.") Even little Donnie Jr.: "He's got to condemn this shit ASAP... We need an Oval Office address. He has to lead now.”
"These text messages leave no doubt the White House knew exactly what was happening,” said Cheney, who seems to have enough criminal law background to also know exactly what they portend: "further evidence of (Trump's) supreme dereliction of duty," an offense under the U.S. military code. Thus does she hammer at the key criminal issue: "Did (Trump), through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress’s proceedings?" And Cheney is just the start of the unfurling evidence. Rep. Adam Schiff has said he has other incriminating messages from still-unnamed lawmakers, like the next day's, "We tried everything we could in our objection to the 6 states. I’m sorry nothing worked.” There are also signs Gym Jordan and his wingnut Freedom Caucus henchmen - Gosar, Goehmert, Biggs, Brooks of the bulletproof vest - worked with Meadows to not just talk up election fraud but act on it, from blitzing DOJ with dubious claims of voting errors to harassing state legislators to do pointless audits. Most famously, Jordan turns out to be the formerly unnamed lawmaker - shocker (not) - who texted Meadows with the startling claim Mike Pence had the Constitutional authority to object to Congress' certification of the vote from some states - again, not - because who needs representative democracy? And even as the rioters crashed the capitol, Trump's legal minions were working on other ancillary schemes - let's get the military to side with the rioters! - to support him. Much of this was rumored; now, in part because these guys keep talking, most of it's proven to be true. Rep. Ruben Gallego: "Why is anybody surprised? The coup is ongoing."
Apart from Congress, many others are digging to uncover the actual and attempted crimes by this clown-car of perpetrators, like the sinister, made-for-TV plan to use visuals of violent clashes with leftist protesters as a pretext to invoke the Insurrection Act and declare martial law - a plan happily foiled by the wise absence of said leftist protesters, so good on you. Meanwhile, some disillusioned Jan. 6 organizers are coming forward to cooperate with the Committee - "We're turning it all over" - and the law is coming down on all sides. D.C.'s Attorney General hasfiled a civil federal lawsuit against 31 members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers to recover millions the city spent to defend the Capitol and clean up from their havoc. Using the same 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act enacted to protect civil rights that prosecutors successfully wielded against the organizers of Charlottesville's hate fest, D.C.'s suit charges rioters - aka the "mob" of "vigilantes" - with "conspiring to terrorize the district" in "a coordinated act of domestic terrorism," and seeks maximum penalties. Similar civil suits have been filed both by members of Congress and Capitol Police, and the DOJ has already hit some white supremacists with federal criminal conspiracy charges, but this is the first civil effort by a government agency to hold rioters accountable. Plus, a recent key ruling by a federal judge - Trump-appointed, yet - just upheld the DOJ move to use a felony obstruction law against rioters, thus potentially clearing the way to also charge criminal higher-ups - Meadows? Jordan? The Big Orange Guy? - with obstructing Congress.
Despite the disparate levels of competence in the democracy- vs- fascism battle - check out these crackpots' typos, conspiracies and treasure hunters with "magical" swords - Dana Milbank warns we may not be so lucky next time. Still, for now the corrupt head of this bumbling crime empire isn't faring so hot. Another judge he appointed just threw out his bid to block Dems from getting his tax returns - yes, still going on - ruling Trump's “wrong on the law” and Congress is due “great deference.” He also faces countless lawsuits and criminal investigations, including a probe of his company involving over a dozen hefty felony charges from grand larceny to multiple counts of tax fraud; the case was brought by New York A.G. Letitia James, who is seeking Trump's testimony and just announced she's ending her gubernatorial bid because, “There are a number of important investigations and cases that are underway, and I intend to finish the job,” which God willing she will. Perhaps feeling the pressure from the fiery James, Cheney et al, the noxious mouthpieces at Fox have been uncommonly quiet, then defensive before the onslaught. When Meadows' texts first hit the news, a wary silence descended on the right; Hannity even had Meadows appear as both virtually ignored the blaring headlines, which was some weird. Eventually, they started firing back, but barely on a half-cylinder. Hannity babbled about "privacy" and lamely asked, "Why this riot and not 574 other riots?" Ingraham whined it's all "revenge and defamation" and, in a bravado act of both-sides-ism, nervously declared she never downplayed the riot, "But it was NOT an insurrection. To say anything different is beyond dishonest, and is ignoring the facts of that day." Ah yes. We love the smell of unassailable facts in the morning.
(Abby Zimet has written CD's Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, involved in women's, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues. )