Anyone acquainted with classic American science fiction will immediately recognize Isaac Asimov’s quote from his Foundation series. “Violence,” quoth Asimov, “is the last refuge of the incompetent.” In service to this fictional homily, life has certainly imitated art.
In the course of the live January 6 Committee hearings we have watched Donald Trump’s incompetence unfold in predictable ways. When Trump lost the 2020 election he turned to intimidating election and political officials, including the Vice President. When that failed he tried to install a corrupt head of the DOJ to illegally investigate non-existent voter fraud. When each succeeding desperate and clearly illegal effort failed, Trump turned to his last refuge. He turned to violence.
“The voters refused to keep him in office,” Committee chair Bennie Thompson said in his summary to Thursday’s live hearing, “The courts refused to keep him in office. But he continues to lie. And he went in search of anyone who would go along with his scheme.” But when Trump exhausted all other means, “there was a backup plan for stopping the transfer of power: the mob and their vile threats.”
Thompson went on to say, “When the Select Committee continues this series of hearings, we are going to show how Donald Trump tapped into the threat of violence, how he summoned the mob to Washington, and how, after corruption and political pressure failed to keep Donald Trump in office, violence became the last option.”
We will have to wait until after July 12 for the denouement of this real life political drama. That is when Congress returns from its break. But the Committee has saved the most damning for last. They will show how Trump and Trump alone created the January 6th insurrection. They will establish a causal link between Trump’s inability to accept reality and the violence that directly followed.
Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer, argued before Congress and in the foreword to his book that Donald Trump would never leave office peacefully. Cohen knew Trump as well as anyone ever has, and he saw clearly what the rest of us were shocked to witness on TV. Cohen saw Trump’s last refuge coming years before it happened. But it happened with an inevitability people closest to Trump could easily anticipate only too well.
It is unclear how many live hearings yet remain. Perhaps as many as three. But the Committee must conclude in time to publish its final report in the Fall. The last refuge of Donald Trump, violence, will form the epilogue of that report. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.