In the tradition of the Clintonometer, the Trump Apocalypse Watch, and the Impeach-O-Meter, the Is It a Crime-O-Meter is a wildly subjective and speculative estimate of whether the Jan. 6 select committee’s work will convince enough individuals of relevance (prosecutors, juries, voters) that Donald Trump committed insurrection-related crimes that he will be, in some fashion, held accountable for them.
The first part of Monday’s Jan. 6 House of Representatives select committee testimony described events that took place at the White House on election night in 2020. The most eyebrow-raising moment thereof was foreshadowed when apostate Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney referred to “an apparently inebriated Rudy Giuliani” in her opening remarks. This characterization was backed up by video of the following exchange regarding a White House conversation between Giuliani, who was asking to speak to the president, and several Trump advisers:
JAN. 6 COMMITTEE LAWYER: Was there anyone in that conversation who in your estimation had had too much to drink?
TRUMP CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN JASON MILLER: Um, Rudy Giuliani.
“I think the mayor was definitely intoxicated,” Miller said. He and campaign manager Bill Stepien explained that Giuliani wanted to tell Trump to declare that he had won the race.
Said Miller: “I think effectively Mayor Giuliani was saying, we won it, they’re stealing it from us, where did all the votes come from. We need to go say that we won and essentially that anyone who didn’t agree with that position was being weak.”
Stepien and Miller say they told Trump not to make such a speech because, in Stepien’s words, “it was far too early to be making any sort of call like that. Ballots were still being counted, ballots were going to be being counted for days.”
Said Ivanka Trump, who was also at the White House at the time: “It was becoming clear that the race would not be called on election night.”
Instead, here’s what Trump said when he spoke: “This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election.” YOLO!
As Stepien put it, the president had made a conscious decision to go in a “different direction” from the one that was recommended to him by the people looking closely at vote tallies. (The committee wasn’t clear about how Giuliani ended up making his way through the phalanx of advisers to speak to Trump in person, but a clip of Giuliani averring that he did in fact speak to the president that night was played during the hearing, and Miller alluded to knowing about a conversation between Trump and Giuliani elsewhere in his remarks.)
Now, on one level, this is funny: The president ignoring his advisers’ tedious scoldings about “precinct-level data” and “determining who won the election by counting the votes” in order to take the counsel of a visibly deranged, elderly Italian American man who likely centered his case around an arcane Sicilian slang term for the testicles. It’s tabloid-friendly and will attract attention to the Jan. 6 committee’s work, which is part of its goal.
But it’s also relevant to the committee’s case that Trump knew or should have known by Jan. 6 that he had lost. Not only was he told as much in the weeks and months after the election, he started saying otherwise before anyone knew who won at all. The claim was fraudulent even at its origins, and the only person who supported it, even in a room of highly motivated partisans, was (seemingly) quite drunk. Our meter will be adjusted forward to the midpoint between “maybe some crimes” and “really crimey.”