Defeated former president Donald Trump is notorious for turning on allies if they fail to show sufficient loyalty. When his first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, properly recused himself from the Russia investigation, Trump berated him until he resigned. Even Supreme Court justices whom he appointed felt his wrath when they did not produce his desired outcome. And who can forget all the people Trump claimed he barely knew when they ended up in trouble or criticized him?
But disloyalty can come back to bite you. On Wednesday, Trump yanked his endorsement from staunch supporter Rep. Mo Brooks for a Senate seat in Alabama, faulting Brooks for not wanting to dwell on the 2020 race. Brooks struck back with a damning written statement.
“The only legal way America can prevent 2020’s election debacle is for patriotic Americans to focus on and win the 2022 and 2024 elections so that we have the power to enact laws that give us honest and accurate elections,” Brooks wrote. “President Trump asked me to rescind the 2020 elections, immediately remove Joe Biden from the White House, immediately put President Trump back in the White House, and hold a new special election for the presidency.” Twisting the knife, he added, “As a lawyer, I’ve repeatedly advised President Trump that Jan. 6 was the final election contest verdict and neither the U.S. Constitution nor the U.S. Code permit what President Trump asks. Period.” Oops.
This account, if true, is invaluable to the Jan. 6 committee and to any criminal investigation given the difficulty in proving Trump’s “criminal intent.” If Trump asked Brooks to rescind the election, as Brooks alleged, and if Trump understood from Brooks that there was no legitimate way to overturn the election, Trump’s risk of being charged with obstruction of an official proceeding (i.e., the electoral-vote-counting session), attempting to defraud the United States or seditious conspiracy increases dramatically.
The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection certainly will send an invitation to Brooks to testify. He turned down a request from the committee last year for phone records, but he didn’t rule out testifying. His campaign spokesman previously released a statement that, “if Congressman Brooks is asked to testify, the testimony must be in public, not in secret and not denying the American people their right to hear the entirety of testimony by any and all witnesses.” He might now be more willing to cooperate with the committee. And he might have plenty to tell.
The Post previously reported, “A review of [Brooks’s] speeches, tweets and media appearances as well as affidavits and other court filings reveals his central part in mobilizing the effort to overturn Joe Biden’s victory by repeatedly claiming that the election was stolen and then becoming the first member of Congress to declare he would challenge the electoral college results.” He publicly claimed to have “led the charge.” Whatever testimony he could give about conversations he had with Trump or senior aides in the events leading up to Jan. 6, 2021, or on the day of the armed insurrection would be invaluable.
One might be skeptical of the veracity of a claim from a congressman who eagerly spread the “big lie” of a stolen election. But the benefit of the Jan. 6 committee’s exhaustive investigation is that any testimony he gives can be corroborated by scores of documents and other witnesses’ testimony. Brooks’s testimony might simply put an exclamation point on the account of Trump’s treachery and betrayal of his oath.
And if Brooks needs any incentive to testify, the committee might seriously consider granting him some sort of immunity. Recall that the Justice Department previously refused to defend him in a civil lawsuit linking him to the Jan. 6 insurrection, arguing that he was not acting in any official capacity when he spoke at a rally outside the White House preceding the violence. While Brooks was dismissed from that lawsuit, the potential for criminal investigation remains if there is sufficient evidence tying him to the coup attempt and the armed insurrection on Jan. 6. Thus, giving him immunity in exchange for direct testimony about Trump’s state of mind might be an attractive deal.
Trump might come to regret pulling the rug out from under Brooks. Sometimes you want to keep friends close — and potentially dangerous witnesses closer.