July 13, 2022 | Reading Time: 4 minutes

J6 committee hints at an attempted ‘congressional coup’

It really does look like seditious conspiracy

147 Republicans who voted to overrule the people.
147 Republicans who voted to overrule the people.

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The J6 committee did not explicitly accuse Donald Trump of the federal crime of seditious conspiracy. But after its seventh hearing Tuesday, lasting over three hours, it damn well looked that way. Ditto for some Republicans. 

Florida Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy, a J6 committee member, said that 10 House Republicans convened at the White House on December 21, 2020, to discuss an illegal legal theory by law professor John Eastman, according to which the vice president could reject the certification of electoral votes or send them to state legislatures. 

Law professor John Eastman believed state legislatures could trump democracy. Now apply that theory to the US Congress.

Present at that meeting were the following, Murphy said: US Reps. Matt Gaetz*, Andy Biggs*, Brian Babin, Jody Hice, Louie Gohmert*, Andy Harris, Mo Brooks*, Paul Gosar*, Scott Perry* and Jim Jordan. Margaret Taylor Greene*, representative-elect, was there. So were Mike Pence, Mark Meadows* and Rudy Giuliani*, Murphy said. (The asterisk indicates who among them later asked Trump for a pardon.)

Murphy said it was important to explain that Eastman’s legal theory was illegal. Why? Because Republicans in the House and Senate “were looking for reasons to object.” The thinking appears to be that with a sufficient number of congressional Republicans objecting to the electoral count, which is to say, voting to overturn the results of the 2020 election, they could keep Trump in the White House.

These 10 Republicans have not gotten as much attention as they deserve. (Neither have the 137 other Republicans who voted to object.) That’s understandable. The J6 committee has uncovered a dogpile of material evidence of the walking crime scene that is the former president. But these co-conspirators deserve a moment.

Congressional coup
Recall that the goal was pressuring the vice president, state election authorities and senior officials in the Department of Justice to go along with overturning the election. “Just say it’s corrupt and leave the rest to me and Republican congressman,” Trump allegedly said.

If Mike Pence, as president of the Senate, rejected the electoral votes, alleging that they were the product of widespread voter fraud, the election process would return to the states, where Eastman had said Republican majorities could assign their own slates of electors for Trump in spite of 8 million more people having voted for Joe Biden.

Eastman believed state legislatures could overrule democracy.

Now apply that theory to the US Congress.

The Republicans “in the House and Senate,” Murphy said, planned to vote against accepting Joe Biden’s electors. All they needed was a good reason, she said. The Republicans had a majority in the Senate. Could the Senate have done what Eastman said GOP legislatures could do – and overrule the democratic will of the American people? 

Call it a congressional coup.

Voting against democracy
Which brings us back to the meeting on December 21, 2020.

Matt Gaetz gave an account to Steven Bannon’s podcast. He said that he and the other Republicans tried persuading Mike Pence to reject the electoral votes. Gaetz said that, “we were in the Cabinet Room meeting with Mike Pence in the days leading up to January 6, and I left quite disappointed that he was not motivated by our argument.”

That’s because it wasn’t an argument. 

Murphy said House and Senate Republicans never got any evidence of voter fraud. There wasn’t any to receive. Meanwhile, the chair of the House Republican conference, who had been Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney, who is now the vice chair of the J6 panel, issued a lengthy memo explaining why objection posed “legal and constitutional problems.” Even so, “they went forward anyway.”

Indeed, these 10 House Republicans not only voted to reject Biden and hence the democratic will of the American people. They voted to reject the president-elect after the former president had ordered his paramilitaries and armed mob to sack and loot the US Capitol. 

Again, with feeling: these Republicans met with Trump to pressure Pence. When they failed, they voted to overturn the results of the 2020 election. In all, 147 Republicans in the Congress followed suit. 

There could have been more. After all, the goal of the attack was to put the fear of God into Republicans who preferred abiding by the rule of law. But that backfired. Jim Jordan also suggested in a text to Mark Meadows on January 6 that there could have been more. 

But Trump’s “various congressional supporters seemed increasingly less excited now that their revolt would be covered only by C-SPAN.”

Thank God for Nancy Pelosi
Did Jordan know about the coming attack? The J6 committee doesn’t know. He refuses to cooperate. We do know, however, that Kevin McCarty knew. On January 6, the House minority leader called Cassidy Hutchinson, aide to Mark Meadows, when he heard that Trump said he would go with the raging throng to the battle site.

“You told me this whole week you weren’t coming up here,” Hutchinson recalled McCarthy saying. “Why did you lie to me?”

Did McCarthy know about Jordan being at the December 21 meeting. Again, the J6 committee doesn’t know. He refuses to cooperate. 

What we do know is that McCarthy tapped Jordan to serve on the J6 committee. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi nixed that, fortunately.

Why “fortunately”? Because if she had allowed Jordan onto the J6 committee, she would have unwittingly delegitimized it. A potential witness to a crime can’t be allowed to join the investigation of it. A possible co-conspirator can’t be allowed to investigate the conspiracy he’s possibly part of.

Did McCarthy set out to sabotage the committee? Again, we don’t know. But that would fit the profile of Republicans who, from all appearances, conspired with a president to defraud the people.

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

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