Trump's lying about the Jan. 6 committee — here's why

Trump's lying about the Jan. 6 committee — here's why
White House

As Donald Trump awaits a decision from the Supreme Court on whether his presidential records related to the Capitol attack should remain confidential or free for the Jan. 6 Committee to review, the twice-impeached former president is pumping out disinformation on all cylinders.

On Wednesday, after news broke that the select committee was narrowing a portion of its records request—a decision that was mutually reached with the Biden White House—Trump issued a public statement replete with lies and distortions.

“The Unselect Committee of Radical Left Democrats and two failed Republicans has just dropped a large portion of their request for my records and documents—a very big story even though the New York Times refused to put it on the front page,” Trump said in a Dec. 29 statement. “The reason that they dropped the records request is that they don’t want this horror show to happen to Biden and Hunter in three years. This also changes the entire complexion of their request, not that there are any documents that would be incriminating or a problem for me—but the Witch Hunt continues!”

The infantile attempts at insults aside, it takes little to no effort to unpack the falsehoods in this missive.

Let’s do that now.

  • The New York Times did run a story about the deferral agreement. It wasn’t on the print version's front page on Dec. 29 because the news organization apparently thought it wiser to run a story about Covid-19 testing for children. That is a story that impacts millions of people across the nation right now, which, in news, is sort of the point. Also, there’s still a pandemic on. So as much as the former president might like to see his face plastered all over every magazine, newspaper, website, or television, his whining about his “very big story” missing in action is just that – whining. Not to mention that quite literally every other major news outlet and hundreds of smaller ones tracking the investigation into Jan. 6 reported on this development. I know I did.
  • The Jan. 6 Committee has interviewed over 300 people and pored over thousands of documents. It has been chipping away at this massive undertaking of an investigation for nearly a year and doing so in the face of steep political stakes—how would you like to subpoena a hostile co-worker?—and criticism from just about every angle. So, when Trump says the committee dropped its request out of fear that the same tactics could be used against them in the future? Well, that’s a fun exercise to consider and sure, it could be that, all things being equal. But the evidence would also overwhelmingly suggest it’s a bit more nuanced than that. The committee members, like Trump, swore an oath to uphold the Constitution. The committee members, unlike Trump, have demonstrated a willingness to uphold that oath. More importantly, they have also publicly made the committee’s position known, explicitly, from press conferences to TV appearances to statements made under penalty of perjury in a court of law. The committee was formed so that lawmakers could try to find answers to questions about how the attack was organized, financed, and coordinated. The committee was formed so lawmakers could assess how they could amend, revise, or craft laws that would stop a megalomaniac president from trying to subvert the will of millions of voters. People died. Hundreds were injured. Post-traumatic stress from the attack is still very much alive for people who were on the front lines. Fellow sitting U.S. lawmakers may have been involved in the putsch and the Vice President himself could have ended Jan. 6 swinging from freshly erected gallows near the Capitol steps had it not been for the police that protected him and everyone else inside. So, despite Trump’s increasingly tiresome protests of the committee’s impropriety, the committee members have defined it for him ad nauseum: the primary function of the panel is to investigate and legislate. As legislators in a legislative body, that’s all they can do, and they know it. Their actions have shown it. When they held Trump’s ex-strategist Steve Bannon and Trump’s ex-chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt of congress, that was their right. They debated with other lawmakers about the decision, revised resolutions, and took it to a vote. You know, like how democracy works, with you know, like checks and balances. Plus, when the committee referred Bannon and Meadows to the Department of Justice to weigh an indictment, that too, was a perfectly normal part of their legislative process. Like committee chair Bennie Thompson recently said, if the probe turns up evidence of crimes, then they will weigh whether they, as the people reviewing that evidence, should recommend that the Justice Department do its thing and enforce the law.
  • So, let’s get down, then, to the reason the committee and the Biden White House agreed to defer the request. For the last several weeks, White House counsel Dana Remus has been in talks with the select committee. Remus and the probe members have been trying to sort out what documents are relevant, sensitive or as the Times put it, “potentially compromising to the long-term prerogatives of the presidency.” Trump, members of the GOP, and many of the people in the former president’s circle that have been targeted by the committee have complained at length about the panel’s disregard of presidential privileges. This mutual decision to withdraw or defer a portion of requests that “do not appear to directly bear on” Jan. 6 or on efforts to overturn the election makes a pretty strong case that the committee is agreeing to pay deference to the separation of powers. Prominent courts have already rejected suggestions that the committee is unconstitutional or that its members are guilty of overreach into the Executive Branch. Now, there is, without question, some novelty in Trump’s dispute over who will have the final say over access to presidential records, the incumbent or the former. But precedent would suggest Trump is fighting an uphill battle. Trump also claims that the entire “complexion” of the committee’s request has now changed. That is also false. The agreement to shelve some documents hasn’t changed the committee’s purpose or function. What it has done, according to the committee’s spokesman Tim Mulvey, is help clear the decks for other records if they are needed. A White House official also told the Times that the agreement was not a reflection of disarray or dissatisfaction, but rather, as discussed above, an indicator that no one is interested in widening the probe.
  • Lastly, let’s consider that very last part of Trump’s statement. The “not that there are any documents that would be incriminating or a problem for me” part. Now, it’s very easy to say, well, if you have nothing to hide, then confessing should be easy and you shouldn’t be worried about the punishment. But that’s also a touch narrow-minded because it excludes a lot of people in a lot of situations including those scenarios that we may not yet be able to anticipate or see. Silence, legally speaking, does not indicate guilt. Silence, legally speaking, is an option. It is a right. And even when we don’t want one person to exercise it, there may come a day that we wish to or we may wish it available for someone else. That’s a debate that will likely be dragged around in the comments, and I welcome you to have it. Everyone else is. But questions over the implications of silence aside, Trump’s last sentence in the Dec. 29 statement is more about Trump being Trump. The same Trump he has always been. Come and get me. I could give it to you, I just don’t want to, and you can’t make me. That’s it, in a nutshell. And at the end of the day, it means very little because the former president has a real problem telling the truth and takes pride in using hyperbole as a negotiating technique. So instead of saying, hey, if you’re not guilty, then confess! Maybe we should just go with hey, put up or shut up.
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