Bannon Craves Martyrdom; Mark Meadows Too?
Yesterday, on Meet The Press, Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee and a member of the select committing investigating the Trump coup attempt, said that the select committee will refer former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows for a criminal contempt charge for defying a subpoena and not cooperating. The video (above) is worth watching. When Chuck Todd asked him if he was concerned that Bannon might be pursuing some kind of MAGA-world martyrdom, Schiff said he was concerned. Over the weekend, David Frum, in his Atlantic column, noted that Bannon Knows Exactly What He's Doing and that "the fight over January 6 is about much more than the law."
Remember that Frum, even if he's toned it down and sometimes sounds sensible now, was a longtime right-wing jackass with shit-for-brains. Ignore the first part of his column where he compares Bannon to the Chicago Seven, which can only make sense to a right-wing imbecile. But Frum is correct in noting that Bannon's indictment will be part of the opening bell of a "fight over law, justice, and authority" and that Bannon and other pro-Trump authoritarian nationalists have been exhibiting a "gleeful contempt for legal authority" in regard to their advance knowledge of the January 6 attempted coup. "At former President Trump’s direction, those partisans have adopted a no-cooperation strategy, pleading that the defeated ex-president should permanently enjoy the legal privileges of his former office."
That’s not a very smart legal strategy. But it’s not meant as a legal strategy. It’s a political strategy, intended... to discredit a legal and constitutional system that the pro-Trump partisans despise.
The Trump partisans start with huge advantages that the Chicago Seven lacked: They have a large and growing segment of the voting public in their corner, and they are backed by this country’s most powerful media institutions, including the para-media of Facebook and other social platforms.
Thanks to that advantage, the Trump partisans don’t need to convince much of anybody of much of anything. It won’t bother the Trump partisans that their excuses are a mess of contradictions. They say that nothing happened, and that it was totally justified; that Trump did nothing, and that Trump was totally entitled to do it. Their argument doesn’t have to make sense, because their constituency doesn’t care about it making sense. Their constituency cares about being given permission to disregard and despise the legal rules that once bound U.S. society. That’s the game, and that’s how Bannon & Co. will play the game.
Permission seeking and permission granting were exactly how January 6 happened in the first place. Trump supporters were gradually radicalized through a series of escalating claims:
Trump didn’t really lose.
The majority in a state legislature has the right to reverse that state’s election results if it does not agree with them.
The vice president can initiate that reversal process if he wants to.
If the vice president balks, kidnapping him and putting a gun to his head until he changes his mind is legitimate.
If the plot fails, any attempt to hold the would-be kidnappers to account is unjust political persecution.
Now, in 2021–22, the project is to repeat that kind of kaleidoscopic shift of denial and justification... Bannon understands the political power of ridicule and contempt. He’s not coming to trial to play by somebody else’s rules. If he does eventually testify about the events of January 6, he won’t play by the rules then, either.
Bannon and Trump’s strategy of distraction and denial won’t necessarily succeed. Most people recognize reality. But to prevent the strategy from working, it’s important to anticipate it and be ready for it.
The most important basis of national self-defense is to always keep in mind the limits of criminal prosecution to deal with political wrongdoing. Many things are wrong without being illegal-- and certainly without being provably criminal. The criminal law rightly demands overwhelming evidence. Convicting people unable to recognize they were doing wrong can be very difficult.
...Trump’s consigliere Michael Cohen testified a long time ago that Trump does not leave a paper trail. He does not speak direct orders. He signals what he wants, and then leaves it to his underlings to figure out for themselves how to please him. Trump likely followed those lifetime habits in the weeks leading to January 6.
The struggle between supporters of constitutionality and legality, on the one side, and Trump and his faction, on the other, is always an asymmetrical fight... Those trying to protect Trump from accountability for January 6 know what they are trying to accomplish and have built a large constituency in the country that supports them. The fight to uphold law cannot be won by law itself, because the value of law in the face of violence is the very thing that’s being contested. The fight ahead is an inescapably political fight, to be won by whichever side can assemble the larger and more mobilized coalition. The Trump side is very clear-eyed about that truth. The defenders of U.S. legality and democracy against Trump need to be equally aware.