July 25, 2022 | Reading Time: 4 minutes

By voting to acquit, Josh Hawley covered up his involvement in Trump’s ‘congressional coup’

He has some explaining to do.

A screenshot of interview of Josh Hawley on January 4, 2021.
A screenshot of interview of Josh Hawley on January 4, 2021.

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Two weeks ago, I wrote about one of the overlooked aspects of the former president’s failed hostile takeover of America – the role of congressional Republicans and what I called a “congressional coup.”

The idea, I said, seemed to be that the Congress has the authority to overrule electoral votes even after they have been certified by the states. This idea appears to have been distinct and separate in the minds of congressional Republicans from the idea that the former vice president could on his own reject those same electoral votes.

I elevated this layer of Donald Trump’s multilayered insurgency, because the J6 committee revealed over the course of the last two hearings that Republicans in the Senate were searching for reasons – any reasons – to object to the electoral count. The committee also revealed that the former president had lobbied Republican senators to object before, during and after his attack on the US Capitol.

During the last J6 hearing, Vice Chair Liz Cheney offered some curious math. In addition to the 57 votes to convict, she said 20 or so Republicans believed that conviction was unneeded given Trump’s term had expired. (The trial ended after Joe Biden’s inauguration.) Cheney seemed to be giving them the benefit of the doubt. But that still leaves 20 or so Republican senators unaccounted for. Why?

The thinking appears to have been that with votes from a sufficient number of Republican senators, a congressional objection would have returned the process to the states or triggered the 12th Amendment or, well, no one knows. No one has ever attempted to use the Congress to overrule the will of the American people.

On Friday, I wrote about the other side of the “congressional coup” – its cover up by some of those same Republicans senators. That cover up came into view during Trump’s second impeachment trial. It came in the form of 43 Republican senators acquitting him on all counts. (Conviction requires two-thirds of 100 senators, or 67 votes.) The vote nearly reached the threshold. Fifty-seven voted to convict.

During the last J6 hearing, Vice Chair Liz Cheney offered some curious math. In addition to the 57 votes to convict, she said 20 or so Republicans believed that conviction was unneeded given Trump’s term had expired. (The trial ended after Joe Biden’s inauguration.) Cheney seemed to be giving them the benefit of the doubt. But that still leaves 20 or so Republican senators unaccounted for. Why?

They may have been in contact with the former president for the duration of the insurgency and afterward, I said. The J6 committee revealed Thursday that Rudy Giuliani lobbied six of them after the attack – Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, Marsha Blackburn, Bill Hagerty, Tommy Tuberville and Lindsey Graham. Three voted to object as well as to acquit – Cruz, Tuberville and Hawley. How many more were involved in the cover-up? Cheney seemed to suggest there’s more.

During an interview on January 4, 2021, two days before the attack, Fox host Bret Baier asked Josh Hawley: “are you trying to say that as of January 20, that President Trump will be president?” Without pause, he said: “That depends on what happens on Wednesday.”

Hawley did not mean the violence coup attempt he later ran from.

“Congress is directed under the 12th amendment to count the electoral votes. … There’s a statute that governs what Congress does on January the 6th. It says that we have a vote of certification and that we have the opportunity to debate the results, to certify the results. We count them and then we certify,” Josh Hawley said.

He meant a “congressional coup.”

He meant a coup attempt that he was involved in.

An involvement he covered up by acquitting Trump.

Give Garland his due
I don’t watch cable TV news regularly. So I don’t know whether MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, the top host, has always been this bad. But ooooof was she bad last week when she “broke” the story of an internal memo issued by US Attorney General Merrick Garland.

If you didn’t know anything about the law, about politics and about political history – which is, I’d guess, a lot of people who watch Maddow – you’d come away from her segment on the memo with immense loathing, believing something really bad’s coming down.


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But you wouldn’t know what exactly, or why, because Maddow didn’t say what you should be dreading or why. Instead, she offers a series of dramatic pauses, outraged gestures and insinuating looks as a stand-in for actual substance regarding the possible investigation and (fingers crossed!) indictment of a criminal former president.

Here’s what the memo said. Investigations of politicians is a really sensitive matter that requires approval from the very top (meaning Garland). It forbids “announcements” of investigations of major political figures on the cusp of election season, because such announcements can be seen as interference by the public. (I’m getting this from USA Today.) In short, the memo is sensible, even though the policy is in keeping with former AG Bill Barr’s policy.

If Barr had sent the memo, I’d be worried.

Though there was no there there, fear and dread of Donald Trump running for election a third time has created conditions in which, buh Gawd! There gonna be a there there come hell or high water! 

So the takeaway from Maddow’s “scoop” was that Trump won’t face any federal indictment over the J6 insurrection before the election in November. (Again, this is from USA Today.) Yes! That’s probably true. 

Does that mean he’ll never been indicted?

No! 

But that was the big hint Rachel Maddow thumped on her viewers, causing a panic of such intensity that the attorney general held a press conference Wednesday. He said that there’s a lot of speculation going on, and will continue to be a lot of speculation going on, because the department’s investigations are not done in public.

Then he added this tantalizing and reassuring line: “This is the most wide-ranging investigation and the most important investigation that the Justice Department has ever entered into,” Garland said. 

“We have to get this right.”


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“We have to get this right” could mean anything. But in the context of policy about the need to appear above politics for the purpose of protecting department integrity put in the service of enforcing the rule of law equitably – well, it felt like things are going in the direction they should be going. It’s just a matter of dotting every i. 

I have no idea if Garland will or won’t do what everyone thinks he should. I do know, however, that there’s no evidence – none – for us not to take him at his word when he says no one is above the law.

Let’s give him his due.


John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.

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