In his Washington Post column yesterday, Max Boot admitted he had low expectations for the select committee-- expectation he was delight to see quickly surpassed. No more a Trump supporter than any DWT reader, he wondered what more could be said-- let alone persuasively. "The evidence of Donald Trump’s guilt in inciting an insurrection was already so obvious that it was hard to imagine that the committee would have much to add. This was not, after all, a situation such as Watergate, where the scandal happened behind closed doors. The entire nation saw Trump’s incendiary remarks and tweets, and the riot that followed, on national television. I am happy to say I was wrong. The committee’s hearings are exceeding expectations, because it is not behaving like a typical congressional committee. There is no grandstanding and no preening. There are no petty partisan squabbles. There is not even the disjointedness that normally occurs when a bunch of politicians are each given five minutes to question each witness. There is only the relentless march of evidence, all of it deeply incriminating to a certain former president who keeps insisting that he was robbed of his rightful election victory."
The most damaging witness for Trump was his own attorney general. Barr described Trump’s election lies as “bullshit,” “crazy stuff,” “complete nonsense,” and suggested that Trump “has become detached from reality if he really believes this stuff.” Barr said he had tried to set Trump straight, but there was “never an indication of interest in what the actual facts were.”
Barr’s statement was seen by some lawyers as evidence of the “criminal intent” that would be needed to convict Trump of crimes such as sedition. Whether that is accurate or not, Trump’s own aides have made an open-and-shut case that he is not fit to run Mar-a-Lago, much less the United States of America. Either Trump is spectacularly delusional or spectacularly dishonest. Take your choice. Or maybe he’s both? Whichever the case, he has no business returning to the nation’s highest office.
The Patriotic Millionaires offered another choice-- one that could blend nicely with either of Boot's choices. They pointed to "that money played in enabling Trump’s attack on our democracy. At [Tuesday] night’s hearing, the committee revealed that Trump’s campaign fundraised off election fraud lies an 'Official Election Defense Fund.' In reality, however, this fund didn’t even exist, and very little of the money raised was actually used for election-related litigation. Instead, most of the money was funneled to the 'Save America PAC' created by Trump two days after the election, which took funds from Trump’s small donors, combined it with millions from wealthy donors, and then used it to promote the Big Lie. The PAC gave $5 million to Event Strategies Inc., the company that organized the 'Save America' rally at the White House Ellipse that immediately preceded the Capitol attack on January 6th. This is in addition to the $3 million that Trump affiliates personally boasted of raising for the rally from a handful of dark money groups bankrolled by ultra-wealthy donors like Publix supermarket heiress Julie Jenkins Fancelli.
The Ellipse rally was, for all intents and purposes, the staging ground for the Capitol riot. It gave Trump and his far-right friends a platform with which to spew their lies and encourage their supporters to attack the Capitol two miles away. But, as we’re now learning, that platform was only made possible by the millions in funding that organizers received from the donors that financed the rally.
The Capitol assault made clear the urgent need to combat election misinformation and hate speech in America. But it also underscored the equally urgent need to reform our political system to dilute the power and influence of big money. January 6th was a clear and flagrant assault on American democracy, but it was only possible because of decades of groundwork laid by anti-democratic right-wing billionaires and lawmakers. They have spent years moving the United States closer and closer to an oligarchy by bankrolling campaigns and events just like the Ellipse rally and, in the process, have undermined the most basic building blocks of our democracy.
Recent Supreme Court decisions have only made it easier for the ultra-rich to use their wealth to wage successful battles against our democracy. Since the infamous 2010 Citizens United ruling, billionaire donors have poured nearly 40 times more money into federal elections and the number of Super PACs and dark money groups has exploded. More recent rulings-- most notably FEC vs. Ted Cruz for Senate which made it drastically easier for wealthy individuals to (legally) bribe candidates-- have only exacerbated this problem.
The conservative justices on the Supreme Court would have you believe that money equals speech. But money is not speech at all-- instead, it is power. All of us have the opportunity to contribute to our favored political causes and campaigns and make our voices heard, but only the rich have the financial power to realistically make use of that opportunity. This drowns out the speech of everyone else in America and, as we saw on January 6th, the consequences of this unbridled power can sometimes be dire.
Let’s hope that lawmakers leave the hearings with a renewed commitment to hold elected officials that tell lies and stoke violence accountable. While they’re at it, they should also leave with a commitment to reform our broken campaign finance system that gives right-wing billionaires and demagogues the megaphones which they use to spew their venom in the first place.
I spoke with two of the Blue America-endorsed congressional candidates-- one from each coast, Melanie D'Arrigo on Long Island and Jason Call in northwest Washington, both of whom are campaigning on getting money out of electoral politics. "Currently elections are not being decided by the ballot box, they are being decided in board rooms," said D'Arrigo. "The outsized spending on candidates that are compromised-- the ones bought and paid for by lobbyists-- is a direct threat to our democracy. If we want to see our government work for the people then we must do all we can to elect candidates who do not accept corporate money. If we want to see our votes really matter, then we need campaign finance reform including federal matching funds. If we continue to let corporate and Super PACs decide for us, then we are choosing to let the ruling class rule us. I’ll vote for an under funded candidate with conviction everyday over a politician who has sold themselves and our country out to the highest bidder. It’s time for wholesale change. It’s time for a working class, unbought Congress."
An unbought Congress is also what Call has been working for. "It’s really time for people all along the political spectrum, not just progressives, to recognize the detrimental effects of a corporate funded political system," he told me last night. "Every aspect of our lives has, over the last forty years, been reduced to a commodity which has value only if the already wealthy can further profit from it. This is further compounded by a corporate media, which is not in any way the free and impartial truth telling institution that would be the hallmark of a real democracy. The only antidote to our current predicament, to prevent the continued slide to the authoritarian right (predictions of another 2010 ‘red wave’ have been floated for many months) is the grassroots progressive movement. We are the ones who are urging the Biden administration to abolish the filibuster and expand the Supreme Court-- something that is highly unlikely to happen. We are the ones begging for economic and environmental justice, that if implemented would improve the lives if everyone along that political spectrum. The barrier to all of the good things is corporate money. That’s why winning a campaign without corporate money, as a number of congressional candidates may be able to do this year, is a necessary step to not just save democracy (something we have always had a tenuous relationship with in America) but to move towards real democracy and real representation for people."
Meanwhile, in the land of make-believe, Trump must be unable to testify because he's too busy fleecing the flock. The Grand Grifter Tour will be in Southaven, Mississippi on Saturday. "For one historic day, the American Freedom Tour will be at Landers Center. Come see President Donald J. Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Candace Owens, Mike Pompeo, Kimberly Guilfoyle, Dinesh D'Souza, Sheriff Mark Lamb and many more live and in person." They don't want to leave anyone out. If you're dirt poor, it's only $9 in the overflow room and you get a free wristband... except that's all sold out. General admission is $55. For $95, you can buy one and get one free. There's an Eagle Section for $195, a Liberty Section for $295, a VIP Section for $795, a Delegate Section for $995. Then they get into the big money-- $1,595 for the Ambassador Section, $1,995 for the Cabinet Section, $2,995 for the Congressional Section, $3,995 for the Presidential Section and an undisclosed amount ($4,995) for The Patriot Section. The folks who plunk down the $4,995 get a private roundtable discussion with Trump (including photo op with him and a separate photo op with Trump Jr and Kimberly Guilfoyle, as well as a breakfast Q&A with Dinesh D'Souza, a reception with Jr and Kimberly, a private afterparty and a souvenir tour lanyard and badge.
Same deal when the circus comes to town in Greensboro, North Carolina on July 15-- although this lineup includes Judge Jeanine Pirro "and many many more LIVE & IN PERSON. This is a historic, must-attend event featuring America’s top insiders and influencers, live-and-in-person. Register today. Build important relationships, help promote a conservative agenda and protect America’s future... Venue to be announced."