Will Jan. 6 House Investigation Lead to Accountability for Trump and Coup Co-Conspirators?

Interview with Sarah Kendzior, author and co-host of the Gaslit Nation weekly podcast, conducted by Scott Harris

One and a half years after thousands of Trump supporters launched a violent attack on the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 Presidential election victory, the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection held its first public hearing on June 9. The hearing, broadcast live on primetime television featured never-before-seen video of the attack and clips of former Trump administration officials’ testimony, including former Attorney General William Barr, Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Committee Chair Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi and vice chair Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, gave opening statements which asserted that Trump’s own inner circle did not believe the former president’s baseless claims of a stolen election. Cheney, one of only two Republicans on the committee, stated that Trump had a “sophisticated seven-point plan” to overturn the 2020 presidential election, details of which will be the focus of as many as seven future hearings.

Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Sarah Kendzior, author of “Hiding in Plain Sight” and cohost of the Gaslit Nation podcast, who assesses the opening hearings of the House Jan. 6 Committee and the urgency of holding Trump and his co-conspirators accountable.

SARAH KENDZIOR: Basically, I feel like this is too little, too late. These attacks were planned online. The public was broadly aware of them. You know, you could watch them being planned in real time. They were not prevented. They were aired on TV live. They were live-streamed over the Internet. We all witnessed this happen. And one thing that’s interesting to me is that in the immediate aftermath of the attack, the vast majority of Americans condemned it.

And the vast majority of Americans including Republicans at that time, viewed Biden as the legitimate president and viewed Trump as somebody who should face consequences for these actions. This is not controversial. This is not particularly partisan. And what has happened is that so much time has elapsed from Jan. 6 until now that collective memory of what actually happened that day has been altered.

And that is just as much the fault of the Democrats and of the Jan. 6 Committee and the DOJ as it is of the right-wing, you know, outlets like Fox News that are constantly rewriting history in real time. Their inaction has allowed that other narrative, that counter-narrative to really take hold. And so, you know, what they’re doing now is basically trying to revive people’s memories, you know, bring them back to that day and be like, “No, you know, there wasn’t voter fraud.”

They’re still arguing against the claims that Trump made in late 2020, early 2021, instead of laying out the broader conspiracy, which implicates not just Trump, but people like Roger Stone or Michael Flynn or Steve Bannon, who notably are not being mentioned at all.

SCOTT HARRIS: Hmm. Well, we’ve got more hearings coming up, so we hope there’s a fuller picture that’s painted by this committee. But one thing that alarmed me that I want to get your take on is, I heard many commentators when they were watching Thursday’s opening hearing of the Jan. 6 Committee talk about the most important audience member for that hearing. And they talked about how they hoped Attorney General Merrick Garland was sitting there watching the hearing, taking notes.

But you would hope that the U.S. Justice Department is currently investigating the attempted coup. They should have all the evidence and more gathered by the Jan. 6 House Committee. It seems impossible to believe that the Justice Department has not already acted to indict those involved as you said, in plain sight organizing this attempted coup. Indictment, sure, but in the view of many people, including myself, there’s plenty of evidence to have already tried and put these folks in prison who attempted to overturn our deeply flawed democracy.

SARAH KENDZIOR: Yeah, absolutely. Merrick Garland has had no intention from the start of holding any of the criminal elites accountable. He’s only going for, you know, random, ordinary Americans who got heated up by Trump’s rhetoric or by, you know, a QAnon on post and showed up on Jan. 6. They’re not looking at the actual operatives. And that’s because those operatives are people from their circle, whether it’s, you know, Ginni Thomas or Michael Flynn and (Steve) Bannon, who both served in the administration or, you know, and I really should bring this up, it’s a topic no one wants to discuss.

But the Jan. 6 hearings are being overseen by a woman named Jamie Gorelick you may remember her, (deputy attorney general) from the Clinton administration and from, you know, just a variety of broad corruption scandals over the last 25 years or so. She was Ivanka and Jared’s lawyer. She’s the person who installed Ivanka and Jared in the White House and allowed them to get through, you know, ethics violations that they normally would face.

She also is a lifelong friend and mentor of Merrick Garland, going all the way back to their Harvard days from when they both were trained by Alan Dershowitz, who, of course, was one of Trump’s lawyers. So you have this giant conflict of interests. You have a, you know, sort of modern Roy Cohn, you know, having great influence behind the scenes over both the DOJ and the Jan. 6 Committee. And what they don’t want to do is indict anybody within that department or connected to it. That’s why we’re seeing reputational rehab through these hearings. They’re seeing people like Bill Barr get touted out as some sort of, you know, moral arbiter, as somebody who was against Trump when he was actually somebody who contributed to the plot and who did nothing in real time to stop it.

And the same, of course, is true of Ivanka and Jared. So it’s really disturbing. I mean, I think that’s what it boils down to. And the whole, you know, Merrick Garland just sitting there watching TV, getting his information from that that just brought to mind Donald Trump you know, who used to watch Fox News and just parrot their narrative.

So I felt like it was like almost a little nudge, nudge, wink, wink kind of moment. It was very strange, at the least extremely unprofessional and lazy.

SCOTT HARRIS: There are many people who are observing these hearings and the lack of action by the Justice Department on holding Trump and his inner circle accountable. And they assure the public that behind the scenes in secret, there’s a grand jury working to hold these folks accountable and make the American justice system work. Have you seen any evidence that this actually is going on and that Trump and the folks who attempted this coup will be brought to justice?

SARAH KENDZIOR: No, I see no evidence of that. And honestly, these claims are very reminiscent of what happened during the Mueller probe. You know, people were constantly saying, “Oh, you know, (Robert) Mueller is going to save us. Mueller is going to bring him down.” Then they switched to Cy Vance (Jr). You know, the SDNY (Southern District of New York) D.A. and said, “Oh, Cy Vance is going to take Trump down.”

And then they switched to the Jan. 6 committee. And now it’s Merrick Garland; it’s savior syndrome. You know, it’s this rotating mythical savior figure that people invent in order to justify the lack of accountability and to not ask questions about it. And it really mirrors the phenomenon we saw with QAnon, you know, with all these Trump fans who are just like, “Oh, you know, trust the plan. Wait, the storm is coming” and constantly just trying to pacify his audience into obedience.

That’s actually what my book, “They Knew” is about in large part, about actual conspiracies and the sort of, you know, tactics of placation and manipulation that powerful people use to try to prevent the public from embracing critical inquiry.

Sarah Kendzior’s forthcoming book, “They Knew: How a Culture of Conspiracy Keeps America Complacent” will be published in September. 

For more information on Gaslit Nation Podcast with hosts Sarah Kendzior and Andrea Chalupa, visit gaslitnationpod.com. Follow Sarah Kendzior on Twitter at @sarahkendzior.

Listen to Scott Harris’ in-depth interview with Sarah Kendzior (16:27) and see more articles and opinion pieces in the Related Links section of this page.

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