Talking Points

The Jan. 6 committee won't find a smoking gun

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the Capitol insurrection, and the Jan. 6 committee is still plugging away. Just this week, the panel announced that it wants to interview Sean Hannity, whose stressed-out behind-the-scenes texts about then-President Trump told a very different story from his pronouncements on Fox News. The committee is tangling with Bernard Kerik, the Trump ally who was once the New York City police commissioner, about documents that may shed light on efforts to overturn Joe Biden's election. There's even talk of holding televised hearings in prime time so that the public can see testimony and evidence for themselves.  

"The public needs to know, needs to hear from people under oath about what led up to Jan. 6, and to some degree, what has continued after Jan. 6," said the committee's chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.).

This is all very important work, of course. But if the goal is to bring about a reckoning about Jan. 6, it's probably not going to work.

Americans already know — if they want to — what happened both on the day of the insurrection and in the preceding months. Joe Biden won the election. Donald Trump lied and said the election was stolen. He tried to get state-level officials to overturn votes. He brought a lot of lawsuits challenging results. He pressured Mike Pence to reject electoral votes. And when all that didn't work, he riled up a crowd of supporters and sent them to the Capitol, then sat silently in the White House while they rampaged. 

Nothing about that story has changed in the last year. For the most part, it all happened out in the open. The committee's job is merely to fill in the details. Maybe there will be some high-level criminal prosecutions as a result. Maybe not.

One gets the sense that Trump's detractors still hope there will be a sudden lightbulb moment — when some damning testimony or piece of evidence causes the scales to fall from America's eyes, and the former president's power over his supporters (or the GOP, at least) is finally broken. But that didn't happen after the Access Hollywood tape, nor after Charlottesville, nor after the Mueller Investigation, nor after two impeachments. Indeed, our divisions have only become more intractable over the last year.

There will be no "aha!" moment. There is no smoking gun. There is only us, the American people, and what we choose to do about what we already know.