What’s the use of the hearings by the House committee to investigate the January 6 insurrection —hearings that began last night and will run for the next several weeks — unless they lead to criminal prosecution of Donald Trump for his patently criminal actions?
In a word: History. We tend to underestimate the importance of an historic record. But it is vastly important. It charts the course of the future by illuminating the course of the past. It is literally the final word.
I don’t know whether Trump will be prosecuted. He deserves to be. He has violated his oath to the Constitution; he has violated America. But even if he is not prosecuted, the hearings will provide a full, detailed account of what Trump did in the weeks and months after the 2020 election — and therefore of what he did to our nation.
In other words, even if he avoids prosecution, even if he is never formally deemed a criminal under the law, Trump will be accountable to history. That is not as satisfying a form of accountability as a criminal judgment, to be sure. But it is a form of accountability that is inescapable. If the committee does its work properly — and I have every confidence it will — it will create a clear record. Which means that for our children and our children’s children — for as far as future generations will know of our recorded history — Donald Trump will live in infamy.