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Dismantling Trump’s Big Lie

Public Citizen News / May-June 2022

By Robert Weissman

This article appeared in the May/June 2022 edition of Public Citizen News. Download the full edition here.

There’s every reason for Americans of conscience to want to consign the events of Jan. 6, 2021 to the dustbin of history.

We cannot.

The insurrection was not a one-time or one-off explosion. It was the product of a concerted campaign of lies and deception, normalization of violence, destruction of norms, and cultivation of conspiracy and authoritarianism. The insurrection’s orchestrators and perpetrators have continued that campaign, denying the insurrectionary violence that we all saw with our own eyes, perpetuating the Big Lie about the 2020 election and – most dangerously – escalating their assault on the very foundations of our democracy.

In June, the nation will have an opportunity to come to terms with what happened on January 6 when the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol holds a series of high-profile hearings.

Public Citizen is doing everything in our power to support, elevate, and amplify those hearings. January 6 was a flashpoint moment in the struggle over the survival of our democracy. We want everyone to remember what was at stake and to act accordingly.

To get the word out, we’re employing a high-level communications and organizing plan:

  • In the run-up to the hearings, we have held briefings for activists, joined by thousands, with key leaders like U.S. Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.).
  • We are working with celebrities and influencers so they are prepared to broadcast key takeaways from the hearing on their social media channels.
  • We are organizing “watch parties” in homes across the nation for people to come together and watch the televised hearings, with larger outdoor events in Washington, D.C., and other large cities.
  • Our Not Above the Law Coalition is pulling together hundreds of organizations to share common messages to their supporters as the hearings unfold.
  • We are staffing with top-level media experts a centralized communications hub to prepare rapid responses to the hearings’ revelations and to coordinate messaging among our far-reaching coalition.

While the details of the violent attack on January 6 are well known – and not in dispute among people with respect for facts – the committee is promising startling revelations at the hearing.

In addition to whatever shocking information presented, we anticipate the hearings will work not just to remind Americans of what happened on January 6, but to expose the full-fledged effort to carry out an American coup.

The outlines of what we expect to emerge are becoming clear: There was a two-track effort to override the November 2020 election results and sabotage democracy. There was an outside game that involved Trump and his allies’ spreading the Big Lie and rallying the masses, culminating in the January 6 insurrection. For many people who participated in the insurrection, what happened was spontaneous. But the instigators had prepared the way for the violence and there were many orchestrators, including far-right and racist militias, who planned for violence. With the insurrection underway, many top Trump allies begged him to call it off, but he declined.

Along with the outside game was an inside strategy aiming at an outright usurpation of power based on a calculated misuse of constitutional authorities. The idea was to claim that one or more states presented disputed lists of electors, for Vice President Mike Pence to reject the electors put forward, and for resolution of the election to be sent to the U.S. House of Representatives. The House, with a majority of Republican state delegations, would then throw the election for Trump. This illegal scheme perhaps came closer to success than was apparent at the time.

We anticipate the high-profile disclosures at the January 6 hearings may well justify criminal prosecution not just of insurrectionists but the insurrection inciters and the top-level masterminds of the inside strategy, perhaps up to and including Trump himself. We are ready to make that call.

We are certain the hearings will display both the strength and fragility of our democratic institutions and the urgent need to shore them up through measures like the Protecting Our Democracy Act that Public Citizen is championing and measures to protect voting rights.

And we will be highlighting the throughline from January 6 to the ongoing perpetuation of the Big Lie and ongoing effort by Trumpists to grab control of the nation’s electoral administrative machinery – including secretary of state offices – in order to pave the way for another coup attempt in 2024.

The stakes could not be higher. We need as many eyeballs trained on the hearings as possible to galvanize and then for us to mobilize. We are ready.