A comprehensive series The Washington Post published this week regarding the events of Jan. 6 vividly illustrates why the current congressional probe into the insurrection is so important — and why continuing efforts by Republicans to undermine that probe are so indefensible. The series should be required reading for anyone still trying to shrug off this unprecedented crime against democracy by a sitting president. And it’s because former President Donald Trump continues to rule the GOP and hint at a new presidential bid that his democracy-thwarting actions deserve ongoing, relentless scrutiny.

The Washington Post’s meticulous account of Trump’s three hours of determined inaction as the mob raged should infuriate every American, regardless of political persuasion. The report provides granular new detail about calculated efforts by Trump and his inner circle to sow public distrust in the electoral process even before the Nov. 3 election. It reveals previously unreported law enforcement failures to heed early warnings of the violence to come. Much of that expected violence was in direct response to statements by Trump.

The series provides a devastating timeline of what was happening in the Capitol for the 187 minutes that Trump watched the violence on television from the White House while refusing to publicly condemn the rioters:

“Twenty-five minutes into Trump’s silence, a news photographer was dragged down a flight of stairs and thrown over a wall. Fifty-two minutes in, a police officer was kicked in the chest and surrounded by a mob. Within the first hour, two rioters died as a result of cardiac events. Sixty-four minutes in, a rioter paraded a Confederate battle flag through the Capitol. Seventy-three minutes in, another police officer was sprayed in the face with chemicals. Seventy-eight minutes in, yet another police officer was assaulted with a flagpole. Eighty-three minutes in, rioters broke into and began looting the House speaker’s office. Ninety-three minutes in, another news photographer was surrounded, pushed down and robbed of a camera. Ninety-four minutes in, a rioter was shot and killed. One hundred two minutes in, rioters stormed the Senate chamber, stealing papers and posing for photographs around the dais. One hundred sixteen minutes in, a fourth police officer was crushed in a doorway and beaten with his own baton.”

Through it all, Trump watched the violence on TV from a White House dining room, ignoring frantic pleas from every direction to defuse the situation. His tweets during the riot might have made it worse. “Go home with love & in peace,” he tepidly wrote in one — but only after alleging in the same tweet that “a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots …”

The problem, as always, was that Trump assesses every situation through the warped lens of his epic self-regard. Trump had a duty to disavow the thousands of frenzied supporters storming the seat of government in his name — but Trump wouldn’t do it. When House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy implored him to forcefully denounce the incursion, Trump responded: “You know what I see, Kevin? I see people who are more upset about the election than you are. They like Trump more than you do.”

Among the most startling new revelations in the newspaper series is just how determined Trump and his people were to get Vice President Mike Pence to become the instrument of their attempted coup. This wasn’t just bluster. It’s clear now that Trump and some around him were genuinely convinced that Pence could simply refuse to certify the results from key states Joe Biden won.

The plan was ludicrous on its face — no serious legal scholar thinks Pence’s ceremonial certification role gave him power to unilaterally set aside an election — but the Post series documents how serious Trump and his people were about it. Among the new revelations is an angry email exchange during the riot between Trump lawyer John C. Eastman and a Pence aide who’d accused Trump of causing a “siege.” Eastman responded: “The ‘siege’ is because YOU and your boss [Pence] did not do what was necessary” to block certification.

Trump himself was fully invested in that delusion and, in the midst of the marauding, he made sure the marauders knew it. “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution,” Trump tweeted, even as the Secret Service was rushing Pence away from Capitol insurrectionists who were calling for his execution.

So encompassing has been the misinformation culture built around Trump’s big lie of a stolen election that it’s necessary to repeat the undebatable facts with every discussion of it: There has never been any indication, let alone evidence, of significant vote fraud. The Trump team’s wild claims of “irregularities” were either gross exaggerations or whole-cloth fabrications, which is why the claims were rejected in more than 60 court cases. Those who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 weren’t leftist radicals, as some have asserted. They were Trump supporters who chanted his name after being egged on to help him reverse a presidential election.

If the Washington Post series helps clear some of the rhetorical smoke that Trump and his supporters have used to obscure the reality of what happened that day, it will have served America better than Trump ever did. The story it tells is an indictment of every Republican who subsequently voted against Trump’s impeachment for the most clearly impeachable offense any president has ever committed — and a ringing condemnation of those who continue today to defend the indefensible.

Editorial by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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