Editorial: Sedition, extortion, and so much more

Column By John Young

What did he eat while his worshippers ransacked our Capitol?

Did he pop bonbons? Chocolate or cherry? Did he order Chinese?

Did a noble DoorDash dispatch persist through the haze and bear spray to bring unto the king his Quarter Pounder?

Thanks to the Jan. 6 Committee, you and I know what else Donald Trump did amid a blood-soaked siege: nothing.

Didn’t alert the National Guard. Didn’t call for reservists or parks police (like he did for Black Lives Matter protesters). Didn’t do anything for hours, until he recorded a video telling the rioters, “We love you.”

But special counsel Jack Smith might find Trump did something more than watch the riot on Fox News – like, say, burner-phone the “War Room”: Rudy and the boys — at the Willard Hotel with battle-zone maps arrayed, democracy in the crosshairs.

Sedition. For weeks after all this, Fox News pooh-poohed, “No one’s been charged with sedition.” That was true only then. Since then: seditious conspiracy convictions of Proud Boys and Oath Keepers.

Most pertinently, one of the convicted, Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, was not on the scene at the Capitol. So, one didn’t need to spear a Capitol officer with a Trump flag pole or blast through a window or use the halls as a toilet to be convicted of trying to overthrow our republic. Donald Trump, be very afraid.

Toward such a conviction, Jack Smith’s probe might confirm something barely discussed heretofore: attempted extortion of a vice president.

In her book, “Confidence Man,” The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman writes that to pressure Mike Pence to reject the 2020 election results, Trump withheld funds for a post-government office for the vice president, a tradition that needs the president’s signature.

That makes two insidious extortion attempts (that we know of) from Trump, including the one that led to his first impeachment. That, of course, was withholding military aid to Ukraine for “a favor” to help him with his re-election bid by consecrating a tall tale that Ukraine was investigating Joe Biden.

Back to the Justice Department probe of Jan. 6 and a gaping void in the ambitious and stunningly effective campaign to hold the foot soldiers of the insurrection to account for their crimes: convictions for the “boots,” but not the “suits,” not yet at least.

The defense for the Proud Boys laid the blame for the violence at the feet of Trump, calling Tarrio a “scapegoat” for the ex-president.

Special counsel Smith, with his questioning of Pence and the whole of Team Trump, seems intent on making that very case against Individual One.

Criminal charges must be administered as well to Giuliani, Sidney Powell, John Eastman, Roger Stone, and Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff, who all conspired to overthrow the election and to mislead and intimidate state officials

Let us at this moment salute members of the Jan. 6 Committee. Whatever the criminal possibilities aside, the committee’s hearings filled in so many blanks about what Trump and his cronies did to neutralize the verdict of the American people at the polls.

Katherine Miller writes in the New York Times that whatever else emanates, the committee hearings established, for millions of Americans, “a building consensus about what happened” on Jan. 6 and to “reorient the nation’s attention” about it:

“Attention is hard to maintain and focus, especially when, with Mr. Trump, it’s as if we’re always trying to hold water in our hands.”

Yes, the man who, when advised in no uncertain terms that he’d lost, told one true believer in the Justice Department:

“Just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me.”

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email him at jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

The opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the author.