Beating a dead horse: Jan. 6 committee has proved what we all knew. Does it even matter?

Donald Trump is encircled by multiple investigations. He could end up broke and in jail. His fans do not care

By Lucian K. Truscott IV


Published October 15, 2022 8:00AM (EDT)

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a Save America Rally to support Republican candidates running for state and federal offices in the state at the Covelli Centre on September 17, 2022 in Youngstown, Ohio. (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
Former President Donald Trump speaks at a Save America Rally to support Republican candidates running for state and federal offices in the state at the Covelli Centre on September 17, 2022 in Youngstown, Ohio. (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

The House Jan. 6 committee, bless its heart, went through it all again on Thursday:

  • All the lawsuits Trump filed, and lost, attempting to overturn election results in the battleground states, including excerpts of judges' decisions slapping down 61 of the 62 suits. (No. 62 was a minor technical issue that didn't change anything.)
  • The pressure campaign by Trump on elected officials and legislators in battleground states trying to coerce them into helping him overturn the election, including the infamous hour-long phone call four days before the Jan. 6 insurrection to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger when Trump asked him to "find" enough votes so he could carry the state. "I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have," Trump pleaded.
  • Pressure on the Department of Justice to investigate allegations of election fraud, which resulted in Attorney General William Barr telling Trump that all his charges of fraud were "bullshit" just before he went public in an AP interview and resigned.
  • A continuing campaign of pressure on the acting attorney general who replaced Barr, Jeffrey Rosen, and his underlings, aimed at persuading the Justice Department to intervene with state legislatures to help Trump overturn the election.
  • The two-month tsunami of lies told by Trump after Election Day, claiming that the election was "stolen" when he knew perfectly well he had lost. The committee included video of Trump repeating stories about "suitcases of votes" and Dominion voting machines, claims that he had been told were false by aides and other officials, including Barr. The committee presented new information that Trump's team had plans, months before Election Day, that Trump would declare victory on election night whether he won or not, a lie he has repeated relentlessly ever since.
  • Trump's conspiracy with an outside lawyer, John Eastman, and the chairs of state Republican parties around the country to submit slates of fake electors they hoped would confuse or delay the count of electoral votes, or even throw the election into the House of Representatives, where Trump knew he had the votes and would be declared winner of the 2020 election by constitutional fiat.
  • A powerful reminder of the "Sunday night massacre," when Trump's attempted appointment of DOJ underling Jeffrey Clark as acting attorney general ended only after other officials at Justice and Trump's White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, threatened to resign in protest. 
  • More details about Trump's plan, which began weeks before Jan. 6, to send an angry mob to the Capitol after his speech on the Ellipse. He and his aides knew the mob would be armed and equipped with military equipment such as Kevlar vests, tactical helmets, riot shields, handguns and rifles.
  • New information was presented from recordings, texts and emails finally given up by the Secret Service and Homeland Security after months of stonewalling. All the information backed up testimony the committee had already received from White House aides about the predictions of violence and the firearms the Secret Service knew were in the crowd at the Ellipse. Some of the new texts and emails contradicted sworn testimony by Trump aides like Jason Miller, who had previously told the committee that he knew nothing about the potential for violence on Jan. 6. The committee uncovered texts that showed he knew exactly what right-wing groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers were planning. The committee announced that it is "reviewing" previous testimony, with an eye toward charging anyone found to have lied.

And finally, the headline: The committee voted unanimously to issue a subpoena to Trump, calling on him to provide documents and testify before the committee.

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Good luck with that. The chances of getting Trump before the committee are almost nil, with Republicans likely to take over the House majority in January. In fact, it will take luck or a miracle for the entire enterprise of this select committee to have any effect on Trump's seeming death grip on the Republican Party. After more than 20 hours of testimony in nine hearings held over the course of five months, the committee's work hasn't even budged the needle of Trump's approval ratings.

More than 20 hours of testimony and evidence in nine hearings, over the course of five months. Trump's guilt is clear. Has that demolished his popularity? Not exactly.

According to the polling aggregator FiveThirtyEight, Trump's average approval rating was at 42.7 percent at the beginning of the hearings early in the summer. It stood at 40.4 percent when the hearings ended on Thursday. A Monmouth University poll at the beginning of the hearings found that 29 percent of Americans (and 61 percent of Republicans) believed that Joe Biden only won the 2020 election because of voter fraud. The exact same proportion believed the same thing at the close of the hearings. In fact, the Monmouth poll found that when the hearings began, 42 percent of Americans held the former president "directly responsible" for the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol. That number went down to 38 percent by last month, with the final hearing still to come. 

As these congressional hearings have proceeded, a powerful department over in the executive branch has been assembling a criminal case against the former president for his theft and mishandling of government documents after he left office. The Department of Justice has been investigating Trump for his apparently illegal removal of thousands of documents and other materials from the White House when he left office. Some of the documents bear the highest classification markings intelligence agencies can use and were found in Trump's office and residence in Mar-a-Lago, when the FBI searched the premises in August. 

That DOJ investigation has tracked the House hearings almost month by month. In June, the month of the first committee hearing, the DOJ sent officials, including the leader of its counterintelligence division, Jay Bratt, to Mar-a-Lago to retrieve an envelope containing 38 classified documents that Trump asserted was the sum total of all the government-owned materials he had stored at Mar-a-Lago. One of Trump's lawyers signed an official statement to that effect, a sworn affidavit that was proved false when the FBI discovered 11,000 more government-owned documents, including another 100 folders of highly classified documents, during its August search.

I have written in these pages about the travails of the DOJ investigation in court over the last few months as a Florida federal judge, Aileen Mercedes Cannon, has done her best to impede the government's investigation of the man who appointed her to the bench, Donald Trump. Those travails appeared to come to an end on Thursday when the Supreme Court rejected Trump's emergency plea for the court to stay part of an order by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals that removed the 100 or so folders of classified documents from the special master appointed by Judge Cannon to review the entire Mar-a-Lago trove for possible attorney-client privilege and executive privilege. 

Trump incited an armed mob to attack the Capitol. He stole classified documents. He could end up in prison. But 40% of the public is just fine with all that.

So, with just three weeks left until the midterm elections and two years before the next presidential election is held, that's where we stand. Donald Trump's stranglehold on 40 percent of the electorate looks unassailable, since it hasn't been affected by the House committee hearings or a steady drumbeat of news about the DOJ investigation of Trump for possible serious felonies, including violations of the the Espionage Act, which is intended to prosecute spies against the United States.

The select committee has proved to the public, or at least to those who were watching, that Donald Trump conspired to overturn the 2020 presidential election in multiple ways, including inciting an armed mob to attack the seat of federal government. He knew his vice president's life was in danger. He watched the insurrection on TV in the White House and listened to reports that Capitol and Metropolitan police were being attacked by his supporters, and he did nothing. The Department of Justice is amassing evidence of crimes that could end up with Trump being indicted. A conviction could send him to prison.

And here's the thing: Forty percent of the country is apparently just fine with all that. They will try to vote him back into office if he decides to run for president again. Given that Trump may end up convicted of a felony that could bar him from holding any federal office, the words "constitutional crisis" come to mind. So do the words, we're fucked.

By Lucian K. Truscott IV

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist and screenwriter. He has covered stories such as Watergate, the Stonewall riots and wars in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels and several unsuccessful motion pictures. He has three children, lives in rural Pennsylvania and spends his time Worrying About the State of Our Nation and madly scribbling in a so-far fruitless attempt to Make Things Better. You can read his daily columns at and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

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Commentary Donald Trump Jan. 6 Committee Justice Department Mar-a-lago