Many conservatives refused to watch or were utterly unmoved by the latest House hearing, which zeroed in on the infamous 187 minutes in which President Trump made no move to end the violence at the Capitol.
But the prime-time session produced stinging editorials from the Wall Street Journal and New York Post, whose opinion pages are known for their conservatism.
"Trump didn’t lift a finger to stop the violence," the Post said, "it was incitement by silence… as a matter of principle, as a matter of character, Trump has proven himself unworthy to be this country’s chief executive again."
The Journal says Trump, rather than calling the military or Mike Pence, who was hiding with his security detail, "fed the mob’s anger and let the riot play out… Character is revealed in a crisis, and Mr. Pence passed his Jan. 6 trial. Mr. Trump utterly failed his."
Since both papers are part of the Fox empire, this was treated as big news by MSNBC and CNN, as if Rupert Murdoch waved a magic wand and everyone in the Fox empire scrambled away from Trump. While a newspaper owner is entitled to weigh in on big editorial decisions, Fox News still has some opinion hosts who defend the former president, and anchors and correspondents in a news division that attempts to cover him and his unproven election-fraud allegations fairly.
Bret Baier, for instance, criticized the Jan. 6 committee on "Media Buzz," saying the testimony from Republican witnesses would look much fairer if there was someone on the other side to cross-examine them. But the chief political anchor also told me, speaking of the former president, that "laying out all of these 187 minutes makes him look horrific. It really does."
That somehow didn’t make it into a New York Times piece yesterday – written by an MSNBC contributor – that tries to drag Fox into the "conservative media doubling down" realm by quoting a couple of opinion people.
Conservative Times columnist Ross Douthat says the hearings "probably played some role in bleeding Trump’s strength, by keeping him pinned to the 2020 election and its aftermath, giving him an extra reason to obsess about enemies and traitors and giving his more lukewarm Republican supporters a constant reminder of where the Trump experience ended up."
Given that baggage, lukewarm supporters might conclude that "maybe he’s not the right guy to take on the Democratic machine next time."
(It’s not looking like much of a machine at the moment, with President Biden way down in the polls as he recovers from COVID-19 and no obvious successor if he decides against running or is challenged in the primaries.)
Whatever the impact of the hearings, it’s because the most damaging testimony is coming from former Trump aides, acolytes and allies, including Ivanka Trump, not Democrats or liberal media types. It’s Cassidy Hutchinson, who worked for Mark Meadows; Sarah Matthews, former deputy press secretary; Mark Pottinger, former deputy national security adviser; Pat Cipollone, former White House counsel; Bill Barr, former attorney general; Jeffrey Rosen, former acting attorney general; Brad Parscale, former campaign manager and Rusty Bowers, Arizona’s Republican speaker of the House.
They worked for or with Trump and wanted him to win. None of them could point to a Trump aide who wasn’t pleading with him to stop the violence much earlier on Jan, 6th. What possible reason would they have for lying under oath?
And new video released yesterday shows Trump deleting from a script for his Jan. 7 speech a line saying the rioters should be prosecuted, according to Ivanka’s testimony.
Now the talk among media liberals and Democrats is that Trump should go to prison. But even some anti-Trump ex-prosecutors have acknowledged that the Justice Department hardly has an airtight case.
Something can be morally wrong and yet hard to prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt–especially if it involves a former president.
Yet some libs are openly lobbying Merrick Garland to bring charges–exactly the kind of political pressure decried when Trump was doing it to his attorneys general.
Maybe it’s not crazy to think that Trump wants to declare soon because that triggers some DOJ procedures that will make it even harder for the attorney general to seek an indictment.
Or maybe the man who insists virtually every day that the election was stolen just wants to be president again.