Notes taken by a high-ranking Trump administration DOJ official in late 2020 record Trump urging him to “just say the election was corrupt [and] leave the rest to me.” Washington Post anti-Trumpers Devlin Barrett and Josh Dawsey say the notes “illustrate how far the president was willing to go to prevent Joe Biden from taking office.”
The notes show no such thing. They raise the question of how far Trump was prepared to go, but don’t answer it. The answer depends on what he meant by “the rest.”
We can be pretty confident that “the rest” did not include a military coup. There is no evidence that Trump planned or even contemplated one.
We know that “the rest” did include calling on his supporters to come to Washington and thereby pressure key players, including Mike Pence, not to certify the results of what Trump considered a corrupt election. Trump did that.
But did “the rest” include inciting his supporters to violate the law and, in particular, to storm the Capitol? That’s what Nancy Pelosi’s hand-picked committee wants to prove. But the DOJ notes don’t tell us.
Trump might have wanted that. I wouldn’t put it past him.
But the best evidence of what Trump wanted his supporters to do is what he said to them on January 6. And what he said fell short of urging them to act lawlessly, much less invade the Capitol.
The DOJ notes are not a smoking gun. In fact, they tell us nothing of importance that we didn’t already know.
The most interesting part of the Post’s story comes near the end. According to Barrett and Dawsey:
Trump and his lawyers could have sought to block the release of Donoghue’s notes to Congress. There were days of discussion among Trump advisers about whether to do so, one adviser said, but the former president did not believe that the notes showed anything problematic, even though some of his advisers feared that the disclosures would be damaging.
“If it gets more attention on the election, he welcomes it,” this adviser said.
So apparently, Trump wants more attention on the election. Pelosi wants more attention on January 6, 2021 and the period leading up to it.
Most Americans want more attention on the present and future, and most rational Republicans want more attention on Joe Biden’s presidency. But Trump can’t get past the 2020 election and Pelosi wants to divert attention from Biden.
My hunch is that both obsessions are losing propositions. Pelosi and her caucus won’t be able to avoid defeat in 2022 by harping on early January 2021. And if Trump seeks the GOP nomination in 2024, harping on the 2020 election, assuming he’s still doing so, will hinder his campaign.