The story goes that during the occupation of Paris a German officer visiting Picasso came across a postcard of “Guernica,” his most celebrated work. “Did you do this?” the German asked. “No,” Picasso replied, “you did.”
When it comes to blame we are a species that likes to get it right. Our collective sense of justice is best served when the people responsible for atrocities are exposed and ultimately punished for those atrocities. To be sure, we go after their spear-carriers too, but our principal target is always the one with the power, the one who gave the orders, the one who thought the whole thing up. Don’t kid yourselves, no matter how much we dress it up in legal niceties, in justice there is an unmistakable, all-important component of revenge.
From the very beginning the January 6th Committee has made it clear that their ultimate target is Donald Trump. They showed that as far back as April of 2020 it was Donald Trump laying the groundwork for the narrative that if he lost the November election it could be for one reason and one reason alone: that the election was rigged.
It was Donald Trump, surrounded by a phalanx of men and women, of sons and daughters who asked him, begged him to please, please call off the January 6th rioters. Trump stood gleefully impervious to their importunities and watched gangs of thugs doing his bidding on television. For hours Trump wrapped himself in the fantasy that his little coup was going to keep him in power.
Slowly, dimly, the truth began to dawn. It wasn’t going to be that easy after all. But like a true narcissist Trump remained bulletproof against reason and evidence, refusing to acknowledge or accept that he could ever lose an election. At no point was Trump willing to believe that which he did not want to believe, what everyone around him saw as obvious. He had lost. It is an old habit of denial that has never really given him trouble before. Until now.
If the January 6th Committee could be said to have one job it is this: to affix blame, to present a culmination of inescapable evidence placing that blame squarely and unmistakably on the head and shoulders of Donald John Trump. Thus far it has done its job and done it with stunning, pinpoint accuracy. It is a theme they of the Committee return to time and time again. There could have been no January 6th insurrection without Donald Trump. Donald Trump was the insurrection.
This is particularly satisfying after spending the intervening months and years watching only the little people being brought to justice. The January 6th Committee is doing what the Justice Department cannot do: giving us a peek under the hood. It shines a spotlight precisely where the spotlight needs to be, directly in the eyes of Trump.
It is also a dress rehearsal for justice to come. Prosecutors in the Department of Justice are avidly watching the unfolding of the Committee’s brilliant and compelling brief. Trump is being dissected and exposed. Beneath the searing lamp of evidence there is simply nowhere for him to hide. The Committee is doing much of the work for the DOJ. When the Committee is finished it will be up to the DOJ to step in and finish the job. They are being handed all the tools they need to win the case and firmly affix the blame precisely where it needs to go. 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.