A headline at the top of the Washington Post’s front page today informs us that “D.C.’s Willard hotel served as ‘command center’ for Trump team” during that team’s attempt to contest the 2020 election. I’m not sure what’s headline-worthy about this. Presumably, Al Gore had a command center or “war room” when he was contesting the result of the 2000 election. That’s standard operating procedure.
I don’t see that it matters whether Trump’s team headquartered itself at the Willard, a Holiday Inn, or Steve Bannon’s basement. All that matters at this point is whether anything illegal or improper occurred at the “command center.”
The Post’s article shows that, as far as the Post knows, neither illegality nor impropriety occurred. Maybe that’s why the Post felt compelled to highlight the location of the command center at a “posh” hotel.
What went on there? According to the Post, various operatives tried to find evidence of election fraud and tried to persuade members of state legislatures that there was enough evidence of it to challenge the result in their state. Meanwhile, John Eastman wrote memos presenting his view regarding the power of the vice president to prevent Joe Biden from being declared the winner on January 6.
Clearly, there was nothing illegal about this. Nor was there anything improper. There’s nothing wrong with writing memos — whether sound or unsound — about what the vice president can and cannot do, and nothing wrong with trying to persuade state legislators that rampant fraud in their state changed the result there.
Whether this lobbying effort at such a late date, after the Trump Justice Department had failed to find result-determinative fraud, was a good idea, and good for the country, is another question. But there is nothing scandalous about what the Post reports happened at the Willard.
This doesn’t mean the Post’s story is worthless. On the contrary, I view the Post’s report as important because it helps show that congressional Democrats are off-base in trying to obtain the records of those who were at the Willard working for Trump.
As I understand it, Congress is investigating the storming of the Capitol building on January 6. In any case, that’s all that deserves to be investigated.
Nothing in the Post’s article suggests a connection between actions at the command center — all legal, as far as the Post shows — and the illegal actions at the Capitol. Again, all that seems to have happened at the Willard was memo writing and attempts at persuasion.
It’s possible that the records the Dems seek contain statements suggesting that having Trump supporters come to Washington D.C. would assist in the effort to prevent Biden being declared the winner on January 6. But such statements wouldn’t be evidence of unlawful or improper conduct, either. Urging people to come to D.C. to protest is a time-honored way of advancing an agenda, and is protected by the First Amendment.
Maybe the Democrats hope to find in the records of someone at the Willard’s “command center” a statement to the effect that it would be great if pro-Trumpers stormed the Capitol. This, though, is a fantasy. Seeking the records in question for that purpose is a fishing expedition, par excellence.
Indeed, if you think about it, the question of whether Trump or pro-Trumpers incited the storming of the Capitol can’t be determined from records. Outsiders can’t be incited by insiders’ notes and memos. They can only be incited by what they are told.
Thus, congressional Dems only need records of what Trump and others on his team communicated to the crowd that came to Washington to protest. (No communication of which I’m aware can be construed as advocating that the Capitol be stormed. Indeed, the communications the Post cites advocate being “peaceful” and “respecting the law”.) The inside baseball is irrelevant to any legitimate inquiry.
Unfortunately, congressional Dems aren’t interested in a legitimate inquiry. They simply wish to keep generating news stories about January 6, hoping, unrealistically, to make that day one that will live infamy — and not just in the minds of partisan Democrats and never-Trumpers.
The Washington Post is eager to do its part.