How Did We Not See It Coming?
January 6 -- A Year Later
“We keep using terms like post-factual, but it almost feels like there’s this national psychosis or amnesia about what happened a year ago. It’s not just that we’re two nations. It’s as if we live on two different reality planets when it comes to the memory of Jan. 6.” —Me, to the AP
A year ago this morning, Donald Trump woke up thinking that he might actually be able to overturn the election and stay in power.
He failed, but the country came within one vice president of a constitutional crisis — and a presidential coup.
If Mike Pence had gone along with Trump’s bizarre plan to overthrow the election, no one — and I mean literally no one — knows for sure what would have happened next.
But we do know what actually happened, because we saw in it real time. And here are some data points to keep in mind as we relive the experience today:
Five people died as a result of the riot that Trump incited, including Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who died the next day. More than 150 police officers were injured in the assault on the Capitol, some with head wounds, cracked ribs and smashed spinal disks. Pro-Trump rioters shouted “kill him with his own gun” at officer Michael Fanone while they tased him, triggering a heart attack. Four other police officers committed suicide in the days and months after the riot.
Despite the violence, 147 Republicans voted to overturn the election results hours after the attack. Here they are:
A week after the attack, in a bipartisan 232-197 vote, the House impeached Trump for a second time. Ten Republicans voted for impeachment.; the rest — 197 — sided with the now ex-president.
In February, 57 senators — including seven Republicans — voted to convict Trump. Conviction required a two-thirds vote, so he was acquitted.
But right-wing media was quick to rally around both Trump and his supporters who attacked the Capitol. The day after the Insurrection, The Federalist’s Ben Domenech downplayed the violence, insisted that Republicans rally around the protesters: “A party of the right that rejects the mob of people who spent their hard-earned, working-class money to drive to Washington, D.C., and wave a flag as deplorables will never win, or deserve to, any more than a party of the left could reject naming something Black Lives Matter plaza.”
The pivot came quickly.
In a secret ballot in early February, House Republicans voted 145-61 to keep Liz Cheney in her leadership post, despite her outspoken support for impeachment. Three months later, with the support of GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, Republicans voted to oust her — replacing Cheney with Trump cheerleader Elise Stefanik.
By the end of the year, with the exception of Cheney and Illinois Representative Adam Kinzinger, GOP critics of Trump’s role in the Insurrection had either retired or fallen silent.
And the GOP had rallied around the defeated, disgraced, twice impeached ex-president.
Today, the Republican Party is very much still Mr. Trump’s, transforming his lies about a stolen 2020 election into an article of faith, and even a litmus test that he is seeking to impose on the 2022 primaries with the candidates he backs. He is the party’s most coveted endorser, its top fund-raiser and the polling front-runner for the 2024 presidential nomination.
As the nation prepares Thursday to mark the anniversary of the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Trump has pushed a majority of his party into a full embrace of his false election fraud charges, while simultaneously leading the ongoing efforts to whitewash the violence carried out that day by a pro-Trump mob.
At least 163 Republicans who have embraced Trump’s false claims are running for statewide positions that would give them authority over the administration of elections, according to a Post tally. The list includes 69 candidates for governor in 30 states, as well as 55 candidates for the U.S. Senate, 13 candidates for state attorney general and 18 candidates for secretary of state in places where that person is the state’s top election official.
Join us tonight!
Thursday Night Bulwark is back January 6 at 8 p.m. ET.
Charlie Sykes, Amanda Carpenter, Jonathan Last, and Sarah Longwell discuss and dissect the January 6 insurrection one year later—what happened, what we still don’t know, and what we need to do to defend democracy.
Exclusively for Bulwark+ members!
How Did We Not See It Coming?
They told us.
“Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election,” Trump tweeted on December 20. “Big protest in DC on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”
The day before the assault, Steve Bannon announced on his podcast: “All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. Just understand this: All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. It’s going to be moving. It’s going to be quick.”
“So many people said, ‘Man, if I was in revolution, I would be in Washington.’ Well, this is your time in history.”
“It’s all converging, and now we’re on the point of attack tomorrow. … And all I can say is: Strap in. You have made this happen, and tomorrow it’s game day.”
He was hardly alone. As Christian Vanderbrouk wrote in the Bulwark last year: ‘We should have known January 6 was coming, because Trumpism’s ‘intellectual’ wing called for it, for weeks.”
Appeals for revolutionary violence on the right were supercharged following President Trump’s defeat.
Three days after votes were cast, conservative activist Ned Ryun (who ironically served as a member of Trump’s Advisory 1776 Commission), itemized a number of alleged election irregularities—“you’re telling me the semi-senile basement dweller won roughly 3 million more votes than Obama did in 2008?” “Look at Milwaukee and the statistical improbabilities of the Democratic votes there.”—before channeling Malcolm X to propose violence as a remedy for his grievances:
History tells us that at some point if a country cannot settle its differences like civilized people at the ballot box in a system they trust, they stop talking with ballots and start communicating with bullets. [Emphasis added]
The pressure on Pence to overturn the election was not subtle. Speaking at a rally in Georgia, two days before the attack on the Capitol singled out his vice president: "I hope Mike Pence comes through for us, I have to tell you," he said. "I hope that our great vice president -- our great vice president, comes through for us. He's a great guy. Of course, if he doesn't come through, I won't like him as much."
When Pence failed to follow Trump’s lead a year ago, the president attacked him via tweet —“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution” — even as some of his supporters roamed the halls of the Capitol chanting “Hang Mike Pence.”
Here’s what Morning Shots readers had been reading in the days leading up to the attack.
January 4, 2021: What We Learned From the Trump Tape; 16 Days That Will Test America
[The tape of Trump’s call to Georgia election officials had just been released.)
“So look. All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state.”
At this point, it’s silly to talk about whether Trump crossed any red lines. He crossed them all. He has obliterated the very concept of red lines.
The president on the tape is consumed, delusional, and deeply corrupt; he has marinated in febrile conspiracy theories, and is immune to information and facts.
Time and again the Georgia officials tried to set the record straight. No, Mr. President, dead people had not voted. No, parts of the voting machines had not been removed. No, it was not true that votes had been scanned three times.
But this is incandescently obvious from the tape: Trump’s mind is an impenetrable wall of denial. He believes it all.
To the extent that Trump engages in any sort of coherent thought process, he seems to believe that he did, in fact, win the election, and he is clearly determined to do anything to keep power.
And he will be president for another 16 days.
In that 16 days, America is going to be on the rack — subjected to a constitutional, political, and moral stress test.
The day before the Insurrection:
I’m sorry, but this needs to be emphasized:
Republicans who object to the count will have to take the wild theorizing of Sidney Powell, the insane rants of Rudy Giuliani more seriously than they take official certifications of officials at every level in the six contested states. They will have to ignore the rulings of more than 60 courts. And they will use the bogus deceptions as the basis for throwing out the votes of tens of millions of Americans.
This is Trumpism boiled down to its essence. There is no principle here, because there are no facts.
There is only grift and performative loyalty to Trump.
A year ago this morning:
Even after the madness of the last four years, today’s news cycle will be extraordinary. We don’t know how messy, or absurd, or violent it may get, but we do know this: today will put an exclamation mark on the deplorable ending of Donald Trump’s disgraceful presidency.
Let’s rewind the tape: Trump has tried everything he can think of to steal the election: he has lied about the process, spread baseless conspiracy theories, and bullied election officials.
He tried to get the Department of Justice to find evidence of massive fraud; it wasn’t there.
He tried to get the courts to overturn the results; and failed. He failed in state courts, federal courts, federal appeals courts, and in the U.S. Supreme Court.
He tried to get state legislatures to nullify the popular vote; and failed. He tried to get Republicans in Congress to refuse to certify the election; and failed. He tried to get state officials to “find” him votes; and failed.
So now he is embracing the Louis-Gohmert-stupid-level notion of having Pence throw out the election.
By this point, even Trump must know that he is going to lose. But he continues to look for scapegoats, and Mike Pence is today’s designated chump.
Far-right online forums are seething with references to potential violence and urging supporters of President Trump to bring guns to Wednesday’s protests in Washington — in violation of local laws — as Congress meets to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
Many of the posts appear to be direct responses to Trump’s demands that his supporters pack the nation’s capital in support of his bogus claims that November’s national vote for Biden resulted from election fraud. Congress’s largely ceremonial role in confirming Biden’s victory has emerged as a catalyst for expected unrest that has D.C. police and the National Guard deploying on city streets to quell potential trouble.
Talk of guns and potential violence is rife on the encrypted messaging app Telegram, the conservative social media site Parler and on thedonald.win, an online forum that previously operated on Reddit before the company banned it in June after years of racism, misogyny, anti-Semitism and calls for violence.
Scenes from last night:
And this was before Democrats took control of the U.S. Senate. Former congressman Denver Riggleman is worried:My fear, from years of mil intel experience, is this: How does this coalition of the insane react tomorrow if it looks like the Dems won GA? The call to revolt is based on dehumanizing theories & messianic themes. It's merging into a conspiracy sticky bomb with a short fuseCongrats to everyone in politics and media who signed on to this totally sane and hinged effort, completely tethered to reality, not at all 🍌 🍌 https://t.co/dqfzS1zWmnJake Tapper @jaketapper
1. Trial Runs Always Look Incompetent
What a bunch of clowns! How could anyone have taken Yousef and his bumbling co-conspirators seriously? They never could have brought down the towers!
That was the general tenor of the response. A handful of arrests were made. The towers were closed for a couple months to repair the damage and do some renovations.
But no larger actions were taken. And the people who viewed this bumbling attempt as part of a larger emerging pattern of Islamist terrorism were, for the most part, dismissed as worrywarts. It was a criminal matter and it was taken care and it was time to move on. In fact, I’d bet a watch that the vast majority of Americans don’t even remember February 26, 1993.
Except that eight years later a different group of terrorists with the same goals, but who were much better organized, managed to bring down both buildings with nothing more than a couple credit cards and some boxcutters.
2. Trump must have his day in court for his crimes on Jan. 6
Garland must not fear that prosecuting Trump would be viewed as a partisan act. He need only look to the words of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who, after voting against an impeachment conviction on the (meritless) ground that Trump had left office, all but called for Trump’s prosecution. “We have a criminal justice system in this country,” McConnell said. “President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he was in office,” McConnell added. “He didn’t get away with anything yet. Yet.”
3. The Twisted, Trumpist Religion of Jan. 6th
An underappreciated aspect of last year’s insurrectionist mob attack at the U.S. Capitol is its religiosity. The involvement of conspiracy-minded QAnon adherents was vividly on display as the insurrection was televised live, and the participation of extremist political groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers has been widely reported. But less obvious and less well understood is the extent to which Christian groups played a part in the day’s events—groups like the Jericho March, one of several prominent efforts to bring Trump supporters to the nation’s capital on January 6th.
More death bed conversions.
On this anniversary of January 6.