Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), one of two Republicans on the House Jan. 6 committee, recently made public a letter mailed to his home threatening to kill him, his wife and his 5-month-old child.
The ongoing threat of violence was at the core of Tuesday’s hearing of the select committee, which explored the campaign by President Donald Trump and his lawyers to pressure state legislators and election officials to overturn the election results — and the harassment, intimidation and threats they set off.
Shaye Moss, a Georgia election worker who with her mother was falsely accused by Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani of wrongdoing, testified about how Trump supporters busted into her grandmother’s home to perform a “citizens arrest,” and about how their constant threats and vile, racist attacks have caused her to become a recluse and gain 60 pounds. Her mother had to abandon her home for two months at the FBI’s urging.
Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, a Republican, testified about the man with a pistol who threatened his neighbor and the people who came to his house with “panel trucks with videos of me, proclaiming me to be a pedophile and a pervert and a corrupt politician,” upsetting his wife and terminally ill daughter.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, also a Republican, testified about the doxing of his email and cellphone, the “sexualized attacks” on his wife of 40 years and the break-in of the home of his late son’s widow.
Warned the vice chair of the panel, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.): “We cannot let America become a nation of conspiracy theories and thug violence.”
The democracy America has cultivated for 230 years is slipping away, leaving us in danger of becoming a system in which political differences and elections are not resolved by the rule of law but “decided in the streets,” as Greg Jacob, former vice president Mike Pence’s chief counsel, put it in his testimony about the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.
We didn’t arrive at this precarious moment solely because of Trump. Trump couldn’t have happened if Fox News and Republican elites hadn’t normalized his threats to democratic traditions. Now they continue to do so with their breezy dismissal of the breathtaking revelations of the Jan. 6 hearings.
The conservative elites surely know we are moving toward instability and violence. Yet rather than grapple with the threat, they excuse Trump’s lawlessness once more by resorting to tribalism: There’s nothing new here. The needle isn’t moving.
This has been the Fox News refrain from the start of its brownout coverage of the Jan. 6 hearings. “This isn’t going to move … the needle one bit,” Fox News contributor Joe Concha said on air before the hearings began. “Democrats are toast in the midterms.”
Raymond Arroyo told Fox News’s Laura Ingraham: “I don’t think this moves the needle for the American voter.”
“Did this move the needle at all?” Fox News host Shannon Bream asked.
“I kind of doubt it,” responded Fox News’s Martha MacCallum.
“When it comes to moving the needle,” conservative Katie Pavlich told Fox News, those revisiting Jan. 6 “are not winning.”
The pendulum of history is swinging toward the autocratic, at home and abroad, and Republican elites are nattering about “the needle” of short-term partisan gain.
It’s reductive, and reckless. Top former Trump advisers detailed how the former president knew he had lost the election but perpetrated an illegal coup attempt. As legendary conservative jurist J. Michael Luttig testified: “Donald Trump and his allies and supporters are a clear and present danger to American democracy.”
Now, Trump is claiming the Jan. 6 probe is “fake and phony” and the testimony from his former advisers “doctored.” And Trump allies and supporters are helping him get away with it — again.
In doing so, they are effectively guaranteeing more violence. And no side is immune from the growing threat, as the arrest of a man planning to assassinate Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh reveals.
During Tuesday’s hearing, the committee also heard from Gabriel Sterling, the Georgia election official who, incensed by threats against elections workers, lashed out at Trump and other politicians in a December 2020 video: “Someone’s going to get shot. Someone’s going to get killed. … All of you who have not said a damn word are complicit in this.”
And all who are silent now are complicit in assuring that the horrors of Jan. 6 will recur.