Yesterday Ted Johnson, writing for Deadline, reported Nielsen’s numbers for the latest select committee hearing— 17.7 million viewers across 10 networks, solid but not as big as the 20 million (across 11 networks) for the June primetime show. “Those are solid albeit not blockbuster numbers,” he wrote. “The committee’s hearings, though, have commanded news cycles, and moments have gone viral on social media. That happened on Thursday, when the committee played a clip of Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) running from the Senate floor as the mob approached on January 6. Hours earlier, Hawley had raised his fist in solidarity with the protesters.” People are happy that they announced they’ve been picked up for a second season.
But are Republicans abandoning Trump? And when I say, “Republicans,” let’s leave out the fascists and other MAGA variants. The latest YouGov poll, released on Wednesday, so before this latest episode, shows registered voters about equally split on the committee— 44% approving and 43% disapproving. The partisan breakdown is predictable:
Democrats- 69% approve, 18% disapprove
Independents- 32% approve, 39% disapprove
Republicans- 18% approve, 70% disapprove
Similarly, when asked if Trump is responsible for the sacking if the Capitol, 54% of registered voted say he is and 29% say he isn’t. Partisan breakdown:
Democrats- 85% say he’s responsible, 12% say he isn’t
Independents- 46% say he’s responsible, 34% say he isn’t
Republicans- 17% say he’s responsible, 75% say he isn’t
But one Republican who appears to have been persuaded is Rupert Murdoch. He’s been edging away from Trump and yesterday his two big New York newspapers, the Wall Street Journal and the NY Post both ran anti-Trump editorials. The Journal editorial board reenforced exactly the point of Thursday’s hearing: Even as the riot raged at the Capitol, Trump wouldn’t tell his supporters to stop. This isn’t what Trump wants to see on from the conservative flagship property: “No matter your views of the Jan. 6 special committee, the facts it is laying out in hearings are sobering. The most horrifying to date came Thursday in a hearing on President Trump’s conduct as the riot raged and he sat watching TV, posting inflammatory tweets and refusing to send help. Shortly after Trump urged protesters to march on the Capitol, he was told violence was breaking out. At about 1:30 p.m. he went to the dining room, where he stayed until 4 p.m. There is no official record of what he did, and the photographer was told no pictures.”
All of MAGA world was texting Chief of Staff Mark Meadows that Trump needed to call off his supporters. White House Counsel Pat Cipollone testified that he argued internally “there needs to be a public announcement, fast, that they need to leave the Capitol.” He added that Meadows joined those calls throughout the day, as did Ivanka Trump.
By 2:13 the Capitol was breached. The committee played radio traffic from Vice President Mike Pence’s security detail. “I’ve got public about five feet from me down here below,” one voice said. Another warned: “If we lose any more time, we may lose the ability to leave.”
At 2:24 Trump issued his tweet saying Pence “didn’t have the courage” to stop the electoral count. The VP was evacuated from a Capitol office at 2:26, according to the committee. What if that route had been blocked? Would the mob have harmed Pence? Would the Secret Service have opened fire?
At 2:38 Trump tweeted: “Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!” Sarah Matthews, a White House communications aide, didn’t think Trump was doing enough, and she recounted a conversation with Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany.
“She looked directly at me and, in a hushed tone, shared with me that the President did not want to include any sort of mention of ‘peace,’ in that tweet,” Matthews said. “It took some convincing on their part, those who were in the room.” The group tried to find some language Trump would consent to post, and “it wasn’t until Ivanka Trump suggested the phrase ‘stay peaceful’ that he finally agreed to include it.”
How did rioters react to the tweet about the Capitol police? The committee played what it said was radio chatter by Oath Keepers. “He didn’t say not to do anything to the Congressmen,” one voice chuckled. Another added: “Well, he did not ask them to stand down.” Not until 4:17 did Trump post a video telling rioters to go home, while justifying their actions, since “this was a fraudulent election.”
… [T]he brute facts remain: Trump took an oath to defend the Constitution, and he had a duty as Commander in Chief to protect the Capitol from a mob attacking it in his name. He refused. He didn’t call the military to send help. He didn’t call Pence to check on the safety of his loyal VP. Instead he fed the mob’s anger and let the riot play out.
In the 18 months since, Trump has shown not an iota of regret. On Thursday he claimed to be vindicated by a bill to clarify the Electoral Count Act. “Mike Pence told me, and everybody else, there was nothing he could do,” Trump wrote. “If so, how come the Democrats and RINOs are working so hard to make sure there is nothing a VP can do.”
Character is revealed in a crisis, and Pence passed his Jan. 6 trial. Trump utterly failed his.
The NY Post has a much lower-brow readership and the paper’s editorial board kept the sentences short and simple. “As his followers stormed the Capitol,” they began, “calling on his vice president to be hanged, President Donald Trump sat in his private dining room, watching TV, doing nothing. For three hours, seven minutes.
There has been much debate over whether Trump’s rally speech on Jan. 6, 2021, constituted “incitement.” That’s somewhat of a red herring. What matters more— and has become crystal clear in recent days— is that Trump didn’t lift a finger to stop the violence that followed.
And he was the only person who could stop what was happening. He was the only one the crowd was listening to. It was incitement by silence.
Trump only wanted one thing during that infamous afternoon: to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to decertify the election of Joe Biden.
He thought the violence of his loyal followers would make Pence crack, or delay the vote altogether.
To his eternal shame, as appalled aides implored him to publicly call on his followers to go home, he instead further fanned the flames by tweeting: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.”
His only focus was to find any means— damn the consequences— to block the peaceful transfer of power.
There is no other explanation, just as there is no defense, for his refusal to stop the violence.
It’s up to the Justice Department to decide if this is a crime. But as a matter of principle, as a matter of character, Trump has proven himself unworthy to be this country’s chief executive again.