Donald Trump Tried to Destroy the Constitution

What will it take for millions of Americans to care?

An image of former President Donald Trump displayed during the third hearing on the January 6 attack
An image of former President Donald Trump displayed during the third hearing on the January 6 attack (Anna Moneymaker / Getty)

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The final hearing of the House January 6 Committee made clear that a duly elected and sworn president of the United States tried to overthrow the constitutional order. When are we going to act on that knowledge?

But first, here are three new stories from The Atlantic.

Unnatural Disaster

There are days when the presidency of Donald Trump seems like just another natural disaster that we can allow to recede into history after we count its victims and repair the damage. But earthquakes and volcanoes do not have will and cannot choose to return and destroy again. Trump, however, is like a hurricane pacing just offshore, waiting and plotting to flatten and flood our political system, perhaps for good.

And the hell of it is, we Americans know he’s there. We know what he’s done and what he can do (again). Yet millions of us would gladly welcome his landfall again. Millions more of us have thrown up our hands in exasperation as Trump and most of his regiment of Renfields have, for now, managed to escape any consequences for their actions.

Yesterday, in what was likely the final hearing of the January 6 committee, the nation was told, once more and without ambiguity, that Donald Trump, the commander in chief, actively sought to subvert our democratic order. My Atlantic colleague David Frum summed up the committee’s findings—and the nation’s reaction—in one tweet: “Decisive [and] irrefutable documentary evidence that the 45th president of the United States tried to overthrow the US Constitution by violence, no big deal, just another news day.”

For years, I have been wondering when Americans would draw the line on Trump and his minions. We could rehearse the litany of Trump’s awfulness: his vulgarity, his racism, his callous disregard for veterans, his pathetic submissiveness around Vladimir Putin. We could remind ourselves of the attempt to pressure the Ukrainian government that got him impeached (the first time).

None of it seems to matter, because for a large swath of the American public, nothing really matters. And here, I do not mean only the “MAGA Republicans,” loyalists who are already a lost cause. (Trump was tragically prescient when he said that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and they would not abandon him.) Nor do I mean the people who have attached their parasitical careers to their Trumpian host.

No, I mean the ordinary Americans who shrug at a violent insurrection and the near-miss of a coup. As the historian Michael Beschloss said on MSNBC last night after the hearing, Trump “probably wanted to declare martial law.” He also pointed out that the insurrection was a close-run thing, noting that if “Trump and those rioters had been a little bit faster, we might be living in a country of unbelievable darkness and cruelty.”

But who cares? After all, inflation is too high, and gas is still too expensive, and that’s a bigger problem than the overthrow of the government, isn’t it?

The worst of the worst, however, are the people in public life who know better but who refuse to condemn the candidates flying Trump’s banner. Ohio Senator Rob Portman, for example, supports J. D. Vance, a former Trump critic who now slathers himself in the stink of Trumpism like a teenage kid with his first bottle of cheap body spray. Portman is retiring and had nothing to lose—well, nothing except his long-standing reputation as a decent man—but he declared his support anyway. Apparently, with a Senate seat in play, Portman thought it gauche to be too judgmental about Vance emulating Trump, the president who put his own vice president in mortal danger.

In a country that still had a functional moral compass, citizens would watch the January 6 hearings, band together regardless of party or region, and refuse to vote for anyone remotely associated with Donald Trump, whom the committee has proved, I think, to be an enemy of the Constitution of the United States. His party, as an institution, supports him virtually unconditionally, and several GOP candidates around the country have already vowed to join Trump in his continuing attack on our democracy. To vote for any of these people is to vote against our constitutional order.

It’s that simple.

Many GOP supporters, particularly in the conservative-media ecosystem, would reject all of this as guilt by association—as if somehow, a candidate who embraces Trump may be excused for supporting lawlessness and sedition. This is how, for example, The Wall Street Journal justified endorsing Kari Lake in Arizona. Lake is one of the most extreme election deniers and Trump sycophants in the GOP, but the Journal thinks she’d be great on the issue of school choice, as though the funding of education would be the big issue if Lake conspires with other Trump cultists across the United States to deliver the final blow to the notion of the peaceful and constitutional transfer of power.

In the confusion of the moment back in January 2021, it was easier to believe that perhaps the mob was spontaneous, that elected Republicans were sincere in reviling Trump for his part in creating it, and that the GOP might come to its senses, at least where Trump is concerned. Today, thanks to the January 6 committee and the evidence it has amassed, we know better. To vote for anyone still loyal to a party led by the narcissistic sociopath who put our elected officials and our political system itself in peril is to abandon any pretense of caring whether the United States remains a constitutional democracy. The question is whether enough of us will care, in little more than three weeks from now, to make a difference.


Today’s News
  1. U.K. Prime Minister Liz Truss reversed a tax plan that has caused turmoil in the global financial markets.
  2. Putin announced that his mobilization of army reservists to Ukraine will be complete in about two weeks. The call-up of troops has been highly unpopular among Russian citizens.
  3. Five people, including one police officer, are dead after a mass shooting in Raleigh, North Carolina.


    Evening Read
    mother and baby goat
    (David Sewell / Alamy)

    Pregnancy Is a War; Birth Is a Cease-Fire

    By Katherine J. Wu

    Evolutionarily speaking, every human is a bit of a preemie. The nine months most babies spend in the womb are enough for them to be born with open eyes, functional ears, and a few useful reflexes—but not the ability to stand, sprint, climb, or grasp onto their parents’ limbs. Compared with other primates, our offspring are wobbly and inept; they’d probably get their butts kicked by infant lemurs, gorillas, and even tiny tarsiers, which all come out more fully formed. Think of it this way: Researchers have estimated that, for a newborn human to be birthed with a brain as well developed as that of a newborn chimp, they would have to gestate for at least an extra seven months—at which point they might run 27 inches from head to toe, and weigh a good 17 or 18 pounds, more than the heftiest bowling ball on the rack.

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    (The Atlantic / Getty)

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    I still get a Sunday paper. I know I can read it in bits and pieces on the internet, but there’s something about Sundays that just makes me want to spread newsprint all over the place. Maybe it’s nostalgia; as a child, of course, I snatched up the funnies, and I am one of the cranky older people who today laments the shrinkage in size and length of the comics (which I still read first even now). In college and graduate school, the Sunday paper came along to brunch, for a group of friends to share and discuss.

    But I also come back to my phone or desktop for some weekend reads, and you should too, starting this Sunday, October 16, when we launch The Atlantic’s new culture-focused weekend edition of the Daily. Every Sunday, our writers will provide answers to interesting questions about many areas of culture. This week, the debut installment includes recommendations on what to read, watch, and listen to from the Atlantic staff writer Sophie Gilbert, a 2022 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Criticism. In response to “What was the last thing that made you snort with laughter?,” she answers, “This is going to make me seem unbearably basic, but I believe it was a facial expression Kelly Bishop made on Gilmore Girls when Lorelai did something irritating.”

    — Tom

    Isabel Fattal contributed to this newsletter.