For, be the constitution of a government what it may, if there be within its jurisdiction a single man who is not subject to the law, all the rest are necessarily at his discretion.
Discourse on the Origin of Inequality,
Dedication to the Republic of Geneva, 1754.
Barring something resembling a miracle, the Republicans will likely regain control of the House of representatives, putting an end to the life and work of the House Select January 6 Committee come January 3. With the clock clearly ticking, the Committee has held its ninth and presumptively final public session, a dramatic two-and-one-half-hour session with no new witnesses but with more hitherto unseen video from that dreadful day, ending with the unanimous committee vote to subpoena the person at the center of it all – Donald Trump.
After all the committee has heard, with hours of testimony, much of it from Republicans, the case has clearly been made that Trump, although he knew he had lost the election, nonetheless orchestrated a scenario which resulted in a violent mob, some of whom were armed, attacking the Capitol in order to prevent the Congress from carrying out it prescribed constitutional function of counting the electoral votes, thus in effect seeking to disrupt the normal, peaceful transfer of power. There have been presidents who have, for one reason or other, absented themselves from their successors’ inaugurations, but there has never in our 200+ years of presidential transitions been a president who has attempted to overthrow an election and prevent his successor’s replacing him. The malice of what occurred was, if anything, exacerbated by the physical danger the president’s actions posed for Capitol police personnel, for members of Congress, and, most shockingly, for the Vice President, whom the mob was led to believe was the ultimate culprit for not intervening (unconstitutionally) to, in effect, appoint a president other than the one elected by the members of the electoral college.
In the process, the hearings have highlighted some of Trump’s enablers. But in the end it all came back to Trump, back to where it started, to what Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren called a “plan concocted in advance to convince his supporters that he won.” The heroine of the committee, Congresswoman Liz Cheney warned that what we escaped this time could conceivably succeed next time. She called for accountability.
Yet accountability remains elusive. And not just because the committee will likely go out of business soon – although the imminent danger of a Republican-run House highlights the wider dimension of our national division which will further frustrate any accountability on the part of the political party which enabled Trump to get to January 6 and has enabled him, not only to escape all accountability, but to continue to be the menace to the constitution and democracy that he remains.