Before the insurrection, there was, well, the insurrection. Perhaps every bit as insidious and potentially injurious to the republic as the riot of January sixth was the quiet but devastating attempt by Donald Trump to influence his acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen to use legal threats against states to decertify the election. To his credit, Rosen resisted Trump’s “full court press,” as senator Dick Durbin, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, phrased it.
“Today’s interim staff report sheds new light on former President Donald Trump’s efforts to co-opt the Department of Justice into helping overturn the 2020 election,” Durbin said in remarks on the floor Thursday morning. “We were a half-step away from a full-blown constitutional crisis.”
The timeline went like this. First Trump got Rudy Giuliani and others to file sixty lawsuits in several jurisdictions to undermine the election results. When those sixty lawsuits failed he turned to attorney general Bill Barr and asked him to use the power of the DOJ to intimidate states where Trump lost. Trump wanted Barr to ask the states to throw out the election results and appoint new electors. When Barr refused and instead announced that the election was fair and Biden won, Barr then fell on his sword and resigned on December 23, 2020.
At that point Trump worked on the acting AG Rosen trying to get him to pressure states into overturning the election. When Rosen refused, Trump turned to the mob on January 6th, 2021, and asked them to do his dirty work for him. No doubt what he said to the mob, that he was going to go to the Capitol with them, was the same lie he told everyone else. Trump wanted to overturn the results of the election using any means possible, all of those means illegal, but he wanted others to do it for him. If the effort failed Trump wanted others to take the blame.
It’s chilling when you think about it. The only thing standing between Trump and the overthrow of the lawfully constituted government of the United States of America was a bunch of corrupt Republicans. It may very well be the case that America didn’t fall late last year and early this year because Republicans blocked Trump. Had more of them been insane like Giuliani, the outcome might have been very different.
Had Trump got his way, Durbin’s “full-blown constitutional crisis” might well have been the end result and America could have split into two violent and warring halves. So the Constitution hung by a shoestring composed entirely of Republicans. It is, perhaps, because they hadn’t yet fully evolved into the horrors they are becoming that we were saved. Had those Republicans been more like Matt Gaetz and Jim Jordan and Rudy himself, there would have been no help for us.
It may be that Donald Trump acted too soon. Republicans are several different degrees of awful, but they are all getting worse with each passing year. This is why we cannot allow another Republican administration to take power ever again. The next one just might turn out as bad as the one Donald Trump wishes he had. 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.