Michael Luttig is a highly regarded former federal judge with rock-solid conservative bona fides. Appointed by former president George H.W. Bush, his former clerks include Sen. Ted Cruz and John Eastman, the lawyer who helped former President Donald Trump try to stage a coup after the 2020 election. He was also an adviser to former vice president Mike Pence.
And at the end of the third day of testimony overseen by the bipartisan congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol, Luttig issued a warning: “Donald Trump and his allies and supporters are a clear and present danger to American democracy.”
“That’s not because of what happened on Jan. 6,” he added. “It’s because to this very day the former president, his allies and supporters pledge that in the presidential election of 2024 — if the former president or his anointed successor as the Republican Party presidential candidate were to lose that election — that they would attempt to overturn that 2024 election in the same way that they attempted to overturn the 2020 election. But succeed.”
“I don’t speak those words lightly,” Luttig said. “Except that’s what the former president and his allies are telling us.”
Indeed. They have taken their messages to social media and to political rallies, memorializing their priorities in speeches, email, interviews and other communiques. They want power for power’s sake, and they are willing to disenfranchise voters to acquire and keep it.
Luttig, who has watched all of this up close, knows that Trump and his team are coming back for more.
Those who say Trump is not anti-democratic, or ignore the ongoing dangers he poses, are in denial. After all, Trump’s preference for rule-breaking and law-breaking, along with his thirst for attention and attachment to power, have been evident for decades. The idea that Trump could become president without breaking things — such as the norms, institutions and laws of American government — has been proved deeply wrong.
The testimony and evidence presented in Thursday’s hearing laid it all bare. The theme wasn’t new. Trump, who was trying to corrupt federal agencies, the court system and the executive branch to stay in office after he lost the 2020 election, tried to force Pence to help him corrupt the electoral process as well. Pence, to his everlasting credit, refused.
But new details from the hearing about Pence’s travails were harrowing. Rep. Peter Aguilar, a Democrat, revealed that a confidential informant told the Federal Bureau of Investigation that the far-right militia group, the Proud Boys, would have killed Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Jan. 6 if they had found them. A Pence aide, Greg Jacob, testified that he read from the Bible while he and his boss hid inside the Capitol that day, uncertain if they would be assaulted and unaware that a mob armed with baseball bats and other weapons came within 40 feet of their location at one point. Trump was indifferent to Pence’s safety, taunting him in a speech he…