There’s a metaphor in politics – it even made its way into the pilot episode of The West Wing – about it being “Christmas morning” for someone when their opponent unwittingly hands them a political gift. Of course right now it’s literally Christmas morning. Accordingly, Trump and certain Republicans appear to be in the process of handing us a rather sizable gift.
The kicker is that at this point they don’t appear to be able to avoid handing us that gift. In reality they handed it to us nearly a year ago. Trump had already lost the election, the courts had already laughed at his appeals, and there was literally zero chance he was going to remain in office. But because he knew that the rest of his life would consist of civil and criminal consequences if he did leave office, he did something desperate and stupid – and he dragged large chunks of his own party into it.
Yes, at this point it’s accurate (if dark and brutal) to refer to Trump’s post-election criminal antics as a political gift. He had a number of his Republican allies commit election tampering in various states. He had a number of them get involved in planning January 6th. None of this had any chance whatsoever of helping Trump or the GOP. But because Trump was going to lose everything anyway, he demanded that the GOP follow him off that particular cliff – and many of them did.
Moreover, they all did it in remarkably stupid fashion. Trump got himself banned from social media, at a time when he was going to need his social media voice more than ever if he wanted to remain relevant. The Trump supporters who invaded the Capitol finally showed mainstream Americans in the middle that everything the anti-Trump people in their lives had been saying about pro-Trump people for four years really was true. More crucially, Team Trump left a trail of gigantic breadcrumbs that are now being used to take them down.
It’s not a coincidence that the letters the January 6th Committee sent this week to House Republicans Jim Jordan and Scott Perry just happen to focus on January 6th-related crimes that they allegedly committed with Donald Trump. The committee spent 2021 doing the ton of research and investigation required to learn every move these folks took, which is what you have to do before even engaging them. Let them know they’re nailed on certain things. Try to scare them into cooperating. Or bait them into lying during their testimony, then use a perjury referral to either send them to prison or scare them into caving. Or just ring them up for criminal contempt if they never do cooperate.
Yes, that’s right, there is now a distinct possibility that Jim Jordan and certain other House Republicans will be arrested for contempt in early 2022. Let that sink in. They’d be going on criminal trial right around the time the midterm elections heat up. Try to imagine the chaos for the Republican Party as it tries to find substitute candidates in those races, or defend its decision to let people seek reelection while they’re on criminal trial. Picture certain House Republicans in swing districts trying to figure out whether and how to distance themselves from their fellow House Republicans who are in the process of becoming convicted criminals.
That’s all before getting to the scenario where the January 6th Committee follows through on its stated goal and refers Donald Trump for criminal prosecution on charges like obstruction of Congress and Big Lie wire fraud. Yes, that’s right, the Republicans could find themselves trying to compete in the midterms while an indicted, arrested, obviously guilty, and howling mad Trump prepares to go on criminal trial.
It’s too early to predict precisely how all of this will play out. But it’s now abundantly clear how the January 6th Committee intends for things to play out. And if Team Trump wants to accuse the committee of making this political, then too bad, because the felonies that Trump and his people committed were overwhelmingly political to begin with. With its idiotic response to Trump’s 2020 loss, Trump and the GOP unwittingly handed everyone else a huge gift. It’s Christmas morning indeed.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report