Jim Beam column:Final word on Trump up to AG

Published 11:39 am Wednesday, December 21, 2022

The committee accused former President Donald Trump of four crimes, but what happens next is anyone’s guess. The next word is up to Attorney General Merrick Garland and special counsel Jack Smith who are also investigating Trump.

Garland’s decision on what to do about Trump is no different than decisions made by local district attorneys. Local law enforcement agencies do the investigating and district attorneys file charges if they believe the evidence gathered will result in a conviction.

The Associated Press said while the so-called criminal referral by the Jan. 6 committee has no real legal standing, it is a forceful statement by the committee and adds to political pressure already on Garland and Smith.

The committee may have also tapped into some valuable evidence others could have missed, so its work has value. Here are its four suggested charges against Trump:

  • The committee’s recommendation to charge Trump on aiding an insurrection was based on Trump being “directly responsible for summoning what became a violent mob.”
  • On obstructing an official proceeding, the committee based that on Trump’s relentless badgering of Vice President Mike Pence and others to prevent the certification of the 2020 presidential election results on Jan. 6.
  • Trump’s repeating lies about the election and efforts to undo the results opened him up to a charge of conspiracy to defraud the United States.
  • The fourth charge — conspiracy to make a false statement — is based on Trump and his allies trying to put forward slates of fake electors in battleground states won by Trump.

What effect the committee’s actions may have had on Trump’s loyal supporters is still pretty much unknown, but it has had some impact.

The committee recognized that, NPR said, when it said, “Although the committee’s hearings were viewed live by tens of millions of Americans and widely publicized in nearly every news source, the committee also recognizes that other news outlets and commentators have actively discouraged viewers from watching, and that millions of other Americans have not yet seen the actual evidence addressed by this report.”

Eighty percent of Democrats and 55% of independents said they were paying “a lot” or “some” attention to the hearings, according to NPR. “But 56 percent of Republicans said they were not.”

Politico’s headline said, “It’s the accumulation’: The Jan. 6 hearings are wounding Trump, after all.”

Randy Evans, a Georgia lawyer who served as Trump’s ambassador to Luxembourg, told Politico, “I think what everybody thought was that the first prime-time hearing was such a non-event that that would continue. But over the course of the hearings, the steadiness, the repetitiveness, has had a corrosive effect. You’d have to be oblivious to the way media works, the way reputations work, the way politics works, to not understand that it’s never the one thing. It’s the accumulation.”

While most political observers and writers are reluctant to predict what is going to happen from here on out, David Frum in a Monday column in The Atlantic had no hesitation. “Justice is coming for Donald Trump” is the headline.

Thanks to the work of the committee, Frum said Americans know more about when and how Trump provoked the Jan. 6 event and have a timeline of his words and actions. He said they can identify who helped him and who tried to dissuade him.

Frum said, “But with all of this information, Americans are left with the same problem they have faced again and again through the Trump years: What to do about it? Again and again, they get the same answer: ‘It’s somebody else’ job.’”

Inciting violence, Frum said, isn’t an infraction that can be dismissed and forgiven by any political system that hopes to stay constitutional.

“For six years, the job of upholding the rule of law against Donald Trump has been passed from one unwilling set of hands to the next,” Frum said. “Now the job has returned to where it started. There is nobody else to pass it on to. The recommendation has arrived. The time for justice has come.”

Americans will be anxiously awaiting the final word on Trump from Attorney General Garland.