Game on: Jan. 6 Committee’s Day 2 hearing delivers ‘The Big Grift’
After observing the House January 6 Select Committee’s hearing on Monday, its second, I would say that Trump World — and perhaps Trump himself — should be very worried. Judging from Monday’s hearing, the credibility of Trump’s claim of being a victim and his grievances about his 2020 election defeat are melting away.
Instead, he’s potentially become — with credible allegation — not only The Big Liar, but also The Big Grifter, conning his own unsuspecting base out of hundreds of millions of dollars to nourish his false victimization and grievance proclamations. The committee laid out evidence. Some or much of that money might have gone to enriching Trump Worlders for purposes other than what the donors intended it for. Ostensibly it was to be used for Trump to fight his election loss in court.
Following the hearing, for instance, panel member Zoe Lofgren said some of the money, $60,000, paid for a speech at the Jan. 6 Trump rally by Kimberly Guilfoyle, Donald Trump, Jr.’s fiancé. The speech lasted just two and a half minutes, according to Lofgren. Other such transactions will be revealed soon by the committee.
Suddenly, we have a plausible and understandable possible motive for why Trump has perpetuated the Big Lie: to perpetuate the Big Grift.
In a video presented by the committee near the end of the hearing, Amanda Wick, a senior investigative counsel for the committee, testified that the Trump campaign, after the election, “continued to barrage small dollar donors with emails, encouraging them to donate to something called the ‘Official Election Defense Fund.’” According to Wick’s testimony, one quarter of a billion dollars — with a “B” — was raised by Trump and his allies. Wick said the committee could find no evidence that the fund actually existed — and presented sworn testimony from Trump campaign officials that it did not.
If that realization ever sinks in with Trump’s supporters, I wouldn’t want to be Trump, his family or his inner circle.
What comes to mind apropos of Trump’s big electoral loss — despite his prowess in fundraising — is a comment former Washington Redskins (now Commanders) executive vice president Bruce Allen said after the then-Redskins finished their 2014 season 4-12: “We’re winning off the field. But we’ve got to start winning on the field.” Trump must feel similarly.
The substance of the committee’s presentations has been impressive and professional so far, in both hearings. Last Thursday’s primetime hearing was light on evidence and more of a table-setter for subsequent hearings. Monday’s hearing was chock full of evidence and persuasive testimony. I can’t help but think that House Republicans are very much regretting their decision to not participate. Their voice is a tree falling in a remote forest.
The committee’s strategy has also been effective.
The hearings have been streamlined for brevity’s sake, dispensing with norms such as opening statements, full member participation, and other rituals. The result is viewers remain engaged. The committee has also exclusively used testimony from Trump supporters to make its points. It doesn’t get better than that in the space of polemics.
Also, the amount of information coming out of the select committee is coming so fast and furiously that Trump’s ability to respond is hampered on two fronts. First, the committee has scheduled three hearings this week, in addition to the one last week, so there’s a veritable tsunami of assertions for Trump World to contend with. Second, the committee has done a good job of masking who will testify until the last moment, leaving Trump oppo research with little time to prepare rebuttals. While Trump World is scrambling to respond, the committee is moving on to a new subject.
With the committee’s considerable credibility on display thus far, I can easily see new witnesses coming forward who wouldn’t have otherwise. That would be a bonus, especially if a Trump inner circler decides to step forward.
The most effective strategy employed thus far by the committee is that it has stayed in its own constitutional lane.
It might be laying out a reasonable legal strategy for the Justice Department to take note of, but members are shying away from trying to pressure Justice overtly. That’s wise, in my view. At this point, as the committee comes forward with more and more evidence, the evidence should do its own talking.
Some Jan. 6 panel members suggested weeks ago that the testimony would “blow the roof off the House.” With Monday’s testimony, that prognosis has now come into the window of plausibility. That is, assuming forthcoming hearings produce equally revealing evidence. Monday’s evidentiary presentation was impressive enough to anticipate that more will come.
In that respect, the game is now afoot.
Kris Kolesnik is a 34-year veteran of federal government oversight. He spent 19 years as senior counselor and director of investigations for Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa). Kolesnik then became executive director of the National Whistleblower Center. Finally, he spent 10 years working with the Department of the Interior’s Office of Inspector General as the associate inspector general for external affairs.