On Thursday, December 22, 2022, at 9:42 PM ET, I issued the blog 2023: The Year of Indictments. The opening line was:
What a week and it is not even over.
The closing was:
And there is more to come.
About ten minutes later, the Trump hit the fan with the release of the 845-page of the House Select Committee. That action has made it very difficult to keep up in my blogs with the historic news of the visit of Zelenskyy and the disclosure of the former President’s tax returns. While a newspaper can cover multiple stories on one day, for a blogger this means catch-up. But by the time you catch-up, it’s on to the next big story.
Be that as it may, there are several big takeaways from the House Select Committee that may be overlooked in the haste to read the report while being interviewed live on a cable talk show.
DIRECT HIT TO THE FREEDOM CAUCUS
For weeks if not months we have been hearing about the slew of investigations the Freedom Caucus will conduct once it is part of the majority party in the House of Representatives. Clear your calendar and save your paper has been the mantra. Prepare for shock and awe or a blitzkrieg or whatever metaphor you wish to use.
The House Select Committee report is game changer for such efforts. Bluntly put, the Freedom Caucus us out of its league if it attempts to produce anything even roughly comparable as a media presentation or in print to what the House Select Committee has done. That Committee has raised the bar for what committees should produce.
Remember after January 6 when Jim Jordan was asked about his telephone calls to the President of the United States? His answers made him a laughing stock. Now that same person will be in charge of investigating the number one issue in the United States today – the laptop of Hunter Biden. Democrats would be wise simply to stand back and let the Freedom Caucus make a spectacle of itself. John Durham spent over $6 million for what? We could use some comic relief from Congress and the Freedom Caucus is poised to provide it.
If you have any doubts, considered the report just issued by Republicans on the breakdown in security on January 6 due to Nancy Pelosi. They have yet to explain why tourists engaged in legitimate political discourse would even generate special security. What would warrant anything unusual being done if patriotic Americans were touring the Capitol? Oh! Of course. They were Antifa and FBI plants in a false flag operation, all 900 of them. The inability of freedom Caucus to think things through guarantees anything it produces will be a joke especially in comparison to what the House Select Committee did. The Freedom Caucus should stick to short sound bites on Foxhub rather than try to emulate what they lack the mental necessities to produce.
In the meantime, there investigations will serve to trash the Republican brand for the upcoming election.
In the blog yesterday, I reviewed the various indictments expected in 2023. Here is what I wrote about witness tampering:
Witness tampering is hard to prove so let us wait and see what else is in the transcripts or what the DOJ uncovers.
Ten minutes later, the House Select Committee dropped a bombshell on witness tampering. Cassidy Hutchinson detailed the efforts by Stefan Passsantino, a Trump-affiliated lawyer to ensure her testimony would not be critical of the former President. Hutchinson described the personal ordeal she experienced as she confronted the reality she would not be able to look herself in the mirror if she complied with the instructions from the free lawyer with whom she never entered a service agreement and whose source of funding remains unknown. These scenes in the movie and/or TV series will be the ones actresses will be clamoring to portray.
In the midst of this anguish, an important thought came to her. She might not be the first person in American history to have undergone such an experience. So she turned to that great fount of corruption in American Presidential politics, Watergate. There she found the comfort and solace she needed in the person of Alexander Butterfield, a White House aide during Watergate. He is not as well known today as the Howard Baker moment, but he was the one who testified to the Senate Watergate Committee that President Richard Nixon had a taping system in place in the Oval Office. With that revelation soon it was the missing 18 minutes and soon afterwards the Nixon resignation. It was striking on Thursday night after my blog had been sent to then see Butterfield on tape testifying to the Senate and then conversing on-line with Laurence O’Donnell. I confess I would not have recognized him 50 years apart.
This situation between Hutchinson and Passsantino reminded me a little of a #MeToo scenario. Here the older male was dangling job and financial security if only the younger woman would play ball. True there was no sex involved but one should underestimate the power differential and how difficult it was for her to wrench herself free of the Trump grasp.
Yesterday I wrote about the alternate elector scam precisely targeting the battleground states a candidate needed to win in 2024. I suggested that the media coverage of the scandal will tarnish the Republican image throughout the year. Now we see the white suburban college educated women will receive the same treatment in the Cassidy Hutchinson situation and be repelled but how she was treated … or do you think they will identify with Stefan Passantino? It is as if Trump is a one-man wrecking ball against the very audiences the Republicans seek to win over.
As for Passantino, he has taken a leave of absence. For inspiration, he does not need to go back 50 years. He should be on the phone with Michael Cohen, an earlier fixer. This is Passantino’s “come to Jesus” “look in the mirror” moment that will shape the rest of his life. Who was paying him? Was he in direct contact with Mark Meadows, Donald Trump, or both? Are there other people he was “counseling”? Will Cassidy Hutchinson revelations cause other witnesses to step forward in a cascading effect? Passantino does not have much time to decide what he wants to do now that he is in the crosshairs.
“as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us”
On a recent talk show, the question was asked what does the world think of us as we work our through legal actions against a former President. The question called to mind the words of John Winthrop on the Arabella as it prepared to sail for the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630. Centuries later those words directly or in paraphrase became part of American mythology as an expression of America’s destiny in the world.
This past week we have had two shining examples that illustrate the indispensable position of the United States of America as the leader of the world in the quest for democracy and freedom. By no means does it mean the United States has always lived up to the ideals embedded within that phrase. Certainly the Woke have carved out a niche for themselves in their constant belittling of everything the United States has done. And the MAGAs with their voter suppression and support for the insurrection have n acquitted themselves well as false patriots.
Still, in the real world in which we live, there is no substitute for American leadership. Zelenskyy made that point quite clear although he did not use this phrase. The party of Reagan who used it against the Soviet Union has abandoned it. But in the span of a few brief days we had the opportunity to glimpse what is exceptional about this country, that we can stand up for freedom as Ukraine battles against Putin and his genocide, that we can hold people in power accountable. Both efforts remain precarious and subject to reversal.
But the visit of Zelenskyy to the chamber of the House of Representatives and the investigation of the President who assaulted that very chamber rather than accept a peaceful transfer of power after he had lost show that the vision is not mere words. Now that the winter solstice has passed and Christmas is upon us, we should rejoice that we still are a city on a hill, the eyes of the world are still upon us, and they still light our way to a better to tomorrow.