An Unspoken Truth and the Jan. 6 Hearings
The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection wrapped up its fifth hearing of the month this week with a focus on former President Donald Trump’s efforts to pressure the Justice Department to help overturn the 2020 presidential election won by Joe Biden. Yesterday’s hearing was the final hearing this month by the committee, but the panel is planning hearings in July as it weighs voluminous evidence still coming in, according to panel members.
We turned to Charles Ellison, executive producer and host of “Reality Check” on WURD Radio to walk us through some of the unspoken racial dynamics that have emerged over the last several weeks and give us context for what to expect during next month’s hearings.
URL Media: How would you summarize the last few weeks of the Jan. 6 hearings?
Charles Ellison, EP/Host of “Reality Check,” WURD Radio: First: The Jan. 6 Committee itself and these public hearings are an essential exercise. We need to have them. It’s absolutely crucial Congress investigate and hold those who attacked it accountable because this is about governance, confidence, and stability. If Congress fails at this function, public confidence in government (which is barely at 25%, according to Gallup polling) will erode further.
These hearings have been, on one hand, very revealing as they present information and gripping visuals we’ve never seen or were never aware of until now. As a former Capitol Hill staffer (who once worked in an office directly under the Dome), it was both angering and jarring to watch a video of coup attackers storming through rooms and hallways in the Capitol that I know, personally, are some of the most secure, off-limits and unknown parts of the Congressional campus. We need to keep asking: how did they know about these spaces? Who told them where to go? That’s useful in not only educating the American public about the truth of what happened on January 6 but also in creating a sense of urgency around this event as most Americans have lost interest or forgotten. These hearings also prove to us that this was not a “riot” or a “mob” — it was a highly organized and well-organized coup attempt. These people were dressed for an attack.
That said: this committee is being very disingenuous in its equivocation on the topic of whether they should push for Trump’s prosecution. That’s dangerous.
URL: What are some of the unspoken racial dynamics of the insurrection and the efforts by Trump and his team to discredit the election (one thing noted by Linn Washington today on WURD is that many of the cities targeted as fraudulent were majority Black and Brown — Philadelphia, Detroit, Atlanta, Milwaukee, etc.).
Ellison: Make no mistake about it: the coup on Jan. 6, 2021 was organized and carried out in direct response to the effective electoral performance of the Black vote in key presidential battleground states, including Georgia, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. In essence, the Black vote dominated the Electoral College — the Electoral College is, indeed, an HBCU because of the strategic placement of Black voters in key states. Trump’s political ecosystem, including the Republican Party and aligned white nationalist groups, were strategically outmaneuvered by the Black vote and it triggered them into coordinated violence. Black voters should not underestimate our power at the polls.
The Jan. 6 Committee hearings are showing, in a meticulous fashion, how the Jan. 6 coup was a violent “whitelash” against Black electoral mobilization. Republicans & Trump’s team — in disbelief that they were defeated by Black voters — appeared obsessed with discounting those votes, even if it meant engaging in criminal conspiracy and fraud.
In other racial dynamics, it was very clever how the committee’s first key testimony on day one was from a young white female Capitol Hill police officer who had been critically wounded on Jan. 6. She was previously unknown by the public. Optically, that move was designed to draw in more white viewers, change white voter sentiment around the coup, and embarrass white Republicans in an effort to show the type of people the attack on the Capitol had hurt.
URL: Who are Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Wandrea “Shaye” Moss? And what is the significance of their testimony?
Ellison: Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, mother and daughter respectively, were two committed average Georgia election workers simply doing their job administering the 2020 election in their state. They were not only falsely accused of stealing votes, but their names were slandered publicly by Republican operatives, they became the target of President Trump, and they were actively harassed and had their lives ruined by an extensive network of white terrorist operatives.
The Moss and Freeman testimonies were the most gripping and heartbreaking. It is one more reason why all Black people in America should be watching the Jan. 6 Committee hearings. No self-respecting Black person in America can walk away from watching the Moss and Freeman testimonies without being: 1) angry and 2) driven to mobilize and vote against the people responsible for their distress, the Republican Party, in 2022. Clearly, based on the public response, most Black people were not aware of these two Black Georgia election workers and their struggles. Bringing their stories to light was both a necessary move for public information and also a very shrewd political move by Democrats on the committee who desperately need to activate Black voters in 2022 by showing them how real these threats are. Moss and Freeman’s experiences illustrate that threat.
URL: The committee is pressing pause on hearings scheduled for next week citing “mountains of new evidence.” Why is there a deluge of new evidence at this stage of the hearings?
Ellison: The American public isn’t the only audience for the hearings. It’s also designed for the participants in this coup. New and very damaging information is being revealed, and information that incriminates people is being disclosed daily. People who either participated directly in the coup, planned it, or have relevant information regarding its leaders of it are now scared. Meanwhile, we are seeing slow movement from the Justice Department as FBI raids are increasing. The committee is clearly sending a signal that it is giving those who have information a “last chance” to come forward. This delay is really a necessary move to ensure the door is open ... but, it will close at some point.
URL: What’s next?
Ellison: Still: both the House Jan. 6 Committee and the Justice Department must keep public opinion in mind and move swiftly. It is insane that voters are putting more focus on inflation and higher gas prices, items that will always stabilize at some point, over the fate of democracy — which will never return once destroyed. Trump must be held criminally responsible. At the very least, we should not be having any conversation about him running for president again in 2024 because the evidence clearly shows he staged a coup — and the Constitution’s 14th Amendment, Section 3, is very explicit that individuals who commit treason against the nation’s government must be disqualified and barred from running for office again. The role of the Republican Party in staging a coup and still attempting to overthrow the legitimate government must be revealed to voters. They must be held accountable by this committee, by the law and by voters.
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