In her opening remarks at Tuesday’s January 6 committee hearing, Rep. Liz Cheney had a blunt message: Donald Trump doesn’t get to play the unwitting dupe when it comes to his role in the run-up to and riot at the US Capitol.
“President Trump is a 76-year-old man,” Cheney said at one point. “He is not an impressionable child.”
“Donald Trump cannot escape responsibility by being willfully blind,” the Wyoming Republican said at another moment.
Those quotes were part of a broader argument made by Cheney centered on the evolution of the approach that Trump and his defenders have adopted over the duration of the January 6 committee’s activity.
Cheney noted that early on, the strategy by Trump allies was to delay their testimony by throwing up a variety of roadblocks to key aides appearing before the committee.
But Cheney, the vice chair of the committee, said that approach has morphed as “there appears to be a general recognition that the committee has established key facts, including that virtually everyone close to President Trump, his Justice Department officials, his White House advisers, his White House counsel, his campaign, all told him the 2020 election was not stolen.”
The new strategy, according to Cheney, is one in which Trump’s defenders are seeking to cast the former President as having fallen under the sway of a small group of provocateurs – such as attorneys Sidney Powell and John Eastman – and therefore, blameless for the way in which he acted (and continues to act) in regards the 2020 election. As Cheney said, the argument goes something like Trump “couldn’t tell right from wrong.”
“The strategy is to blame people his advisers called, quote, the crazies, for what Donald Trump did,” said Cheney. “This, of course, is nonsense.”
That’s a fascinating change in strategy that Cheney outlined. Especially for someone who, more than anyone else who has ever held the Oval Office, insisted he was solely in charge and had total and complete authority to do whatever he wanted.
When asked in 2017 about the large number of vacancies within his State Department, Trump responded this way on Fox News:
“Let me tell you, the one that matters is me. I’m the only one that matters, because when it comes to it, that’s what the policy is going to be. You’ve seen that, you’ve seen it strongly.”
And remember that Trump repeatedly referred to “my generals” and “my military” and repeatedly sought to use the Department of Justice for his own personal and political hobbyhorses.
Everything that came out of Trump’s White House for four years was centered on the idea that while he might have sought input on various matters, he was the ultimate decider – and those decisions often came as much from his gut as his head.
Which, of course, makes the attempt to cast Trump as under the spell of a group of “crazies” heading into January 6 utter bunk.
In fact, Trump was in a position to know far more about the veracity (or, in reality, lack of veracity) of his claims than almost any other person in the country.
“As our investigation has shown, Donald Trump had access to more detailed and specific information showing that the election was not actually stolen than almost any other American,” said Cheney. “Just like everyone else in our country, he is responsible for his own actions and his own choices.”
That’s it right there. Trump was a man who insisted he be in utter control of every decision made by his White House. He doesn’t get to walk away from all of that posturing because it’s now convenient to do so.