The Trump Subpoena Will Be the Headline, But the Real Washington News Was Elsewhere


It was essentially two-and-a-half hours of leadup to the final moment of the Jan. 6 hearing. Donald Trump, in the words of Vice Chair Liz Cheney, had a “premeditated plan to declare the election was fraudulent and stolen before Election Day”; he knew he had lost and fed his base endless lies about it; he welcomed a siege of the Capitol and did nothing to stop it. And because, in Cheney’s words, the “cause of Jan. 6th was one man… his state of mind, his intent, his motivations…,” his testimony was required.

With that, the committee unanimously voted to subpoena the former president, ensuring the day’s headline news.

It is almost surely a symbolic act. The odds that Trump will enthusiastically appear to make his case is roughly equivalent to Herschel Walker’s admittance into Mensa, and the committee’s writ will expire by year’s end, long before a court fight over the subpoena would be resolved. While it may make for full employment for cable news legal experts, it also has the potential to overshadow the most striking revelations from today’s hearing — that the Secret Service had days of advance knowledge about the potential for violence at the Capitol, as well as the steely resolve of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who reached out for help in combatting the violence as it was happening. (Her conduct also makes a strong case that age is not necessarily a disabling quality in a leader.)

What’s most striking to me about the hearing is that it was not the big news that came out of Washington today; rather, the most consequential news came from across the street from the Capitol, and a mile or so away on 14th Street.

First, the U.S. Supreme Court turned down Trump’s request to allow a special master in the Mar-a-Lago case to review classified documents. The unsigned order involved a relatively narrow dispute, but the lack of any dissents suggests that the court may not give Trump the protection he will seek from the Justice Department, should it end up indicting Trump for violating one or more federal laws. For all of the legal landmines in Trump’s path — breaking Georgia’s laws on election interference, a possible contempt citation if he refuses to comply with today’s subpoena — the Mar-a-Lago case remains the most damaging to Trump, especially considering that at different times, he has more or less acknowledged breaking one or more of the laws regarding federal documents.

The other major news came from the Department of Labor. Inflation continues to rise unabated, with the Consumer Price Index jumping at an 8.2 percent annual rate — a 40 year high. Core inflation — excluding food and energy — rose 6.6 percent. Coming less than a month before the midterms, it is sure to send sales of Maalox surging at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. For some time now, midterm election prognostications have been clouded by cross currents — inflation, crime and low presidential approval ratings favoring Republicans, and abortion, threats to democracy and flawed Republican candidates favoring Democrats. For those GOP contenders, today’s inflation numbers are an answered prayer.

Such an argument, no doubt, will be infuriating to those who have seen in these hearings a powerful case that the former president deliberately sought to sabotage the last election and to hold power by any means necessary. The embrace of Trump’s fraudulent case by well over 100 GOP candidates for offices up and down the ballot, they will argue, is powerful evidence that the Republican Party as a whole has embraced a clear and present danger.

But my observation in June when the hearings started remains unhappily true: “In the case of Trump, the conclusion that he engaged in corrupt and quite possibly criminal behavior has been breathtakingly obvious at least since November 2020, if not before. And that certainty — along with the blatant refusal of millions to accept that reality — defines the limits of what the January 6 committee can accomplish.”

Those inflation numbers today only underscore that point.

Source: Politico