At the battleground of Gettysburg in the midst of the Civil War that saved and united our country, President Abraham Lincoln asked, “that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Lincoln was speaking in 1863, but his words were meant for future generations, including ours.
Today, our democratic form of government is threatened again, but by a different kind of war — a war on truth. This war has crept up on us. As a nation, Americans have become more tolerant of being lied to by public officials. We have gone from the 20th century, when former president Richard M. Nixon resigned to avoid impeachment for the Watergate cover-up, and former president Bill Clinton completed his term of office in disgrace after being impeached for lying under oath, to today, when former president Donald J. Trump lies with abandon.
In 2017, when he was sworn in, President Trump wasted no time in establishing this practice. He claimed that his inauguration was attended by a million or a million and a half people — vastly overstating reality. Recently, when former president Trump visited Alaska and spoke at the Alaska Airlines Center, he spent most of his lengthy remarks repeating fully discredited claims about winning the 2020 election. It was as though saying something often enough and blatantly enough would make it true.
Schoolchildren would say, “Liar, liar, pants on fire!” But today’s war on truth needs to be taken seriously. Our country’s future as a democracy “of the people, by the people, for the people” is at stake. All of us, Democrats and Republicans, should take a clear-eyed look at the truth of the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol.
To our good fortune, the Department of Justice and the U.S. House select committee are working in tandem to expose what actually happened and who was involved in the Jan. 6 assault. Only the Department of Justice can make legal determinations of criminality based on evidence. But informing the public, the job of U.S. House select committee, is equally important.
The House select committee heard testimony by former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson that was particularly relevant. She stated that, without the forceful interference of a security official, Trump would have driven the presidential vehicle to the Capitol at the time of the insurrection. Told about cries to “Hang Mike Pence,” Trump commented that Pence deserved it. He tweeted that Pence “lacked the courage” to object to the count showing that President Joe Biden won the election. When Trump was made aware that the crowd approaching the Capitol had weapons, he directed that the metal detectors be removed. He was quoted by Hutchinson as saying, “I don’t f-in’ care that they have weapons.”
As a result of this and other mutually validating testimony, the U.S. House select committee has accused Trump of violating his oath of office to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Republican Dick Cheney recently supported the House select committee’s work by stating that Trump was a ‘coward’ and saying, “A real man wouldn’t lie to his supporters. He lost his election, and he lost it big. I know it, he knows it and deep down, I think most Republicans know it.” Cheney’s video has been widely circulated.
On the legal front, the Department of Justice has made significant progress determining the criminality of those involved in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland has said, “Working together with state and local law enforcement partners nationwide, we have made hundreds of arrests of those who assaulted law enforcement and sought to interfere with a fundamental element of our democracy: the peaceful transfer of power; whether they were present that day, or otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on democracy.” Recently, a leader of the Proud Boys was sentenced to five years in prison for his role in the attack on the Capitol.
Though he has carefully avoided any mention of former president Trump, Attorney General Garland has repeatedly said “No person is above the law.” This being the case, Trump should be prosecuted for obstructing the certification of the electoral college vote that determined the next president. To most people, it seems unfair to have underlings spend time in jail while the main instigator goes scot-free.
When he was appointed attorney general, Garland said that moving to America saved his family from death during the Holocaust in Nazi Germany. Garland spoke of his gratitude for American democracy, and his wish to serve this nation. He may soon have an opportunity to do so by prosecuting former president Trump for his role in the attack on the Capitol. By shining the bright light of truth on Trump’s blatant lying, Garland could win the war on truth and save our nation.
Janet McCabe and her husband David came to Alaska in 1964. She is a graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and a member of Alaska Common Ground and Commonwealth North.
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