He Tried to Pull a Mussolini

Will Bunch of The Philadelphia Inquirer asks what would have happened if the Cancer on America had made it to the Capitol on January 6th and what’s going to happen next:

The nation’s right wing — swelled by disgruntled military veterans and those with a penchant for violence — had grown increasingly restless that fall, with occasional street clashes between these reactionaries and anti-fascists on the left. Finally, the leader of the right bloc — a big man who strutted on stage, sometimes buffoonishly — massed his followers and urged them to march on the capital and fight for their country, even though in the end he didn’t march with them.

Instead, Benito Mussolini would get in a car and drive to Rome in October 1922, where he again met up with the throng of as many as 60,000 who’d marched there after the future dictator’s speech to them in Naples. This was the-now notorious March on Rome, and the intimidation of Italy’s ruling elites by this large, angry mob and its “strongman” leader worked beyond anyone’s wildest dream. By month’s end, King Victor Emmanuel III had ceded all political power to Mussolini and the fascists, who would not relinquish it for two decades.

Just four months before the 100th anniversary of what is now seen as the lift-off of modern fascism, we have seen in dramatic fashion how the concept and underlying terror tactics of Mussolini’s March on Rome never went away, but lived on to be modernized by a reality-TV star who’d faked his way into the White House and was determined to stay there.

Tuesday’s riveting testimony before the House Jan. 6 Committee by former D___ Trump White House insider Cassidy Hutchinson … revealed just how close T____ came to a true Mussolini moment: His own plan to “march” on the U.S. Capitol.

The now 26-year-old Hutchinson — deputy to T____’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, embedded in the then-president’s inner circle on Jan. 6, 2021 — testified under oath that T____ knew that his supporters were heavily armed when he exhorted them to march from a rally near the White House to the Capitol, where the ceremony to certify President Biden’s win was beginning.

… Hutchison confirmed prior suggestions that the 45th president had demanded to go to the Capitol, where he would have stood among Proud Boys and others launching a violent assault on democracy.

I’m the effing president — take me up to the Capitol right now,” T____ is said to have bellowed at the head of his security detail, as Hutchinson said was related to her that afternoon by Secret Service-connected deputy chief of staff Tony Ornato in the presence of that security head, Robert Engle. But the president was overruled by aides who insisted his security could not be guaranteed at or near the wild and increasingly violent melee.

To experts on authoritarianism — who’ve been some of the most reliable tour guides during the long, strange trip of America’s last seven years — T___’s scheme was an effort to create a legend, reassert his leadership, and reverse his embarrassment over losing the election to Biden by 7 million votes.

As Hutchinson was testifying, Ruth Ben-Ghiat, the New York University historian who’d specialized in Mussolini and wrote the book Strongmen, tweeted that “of course T____ was trying to get to the Capitol. A coup leader must be there to bless the new order birthed by violence and be acclaimed as savior by the crowd.”

I reached out to Ben-Ghiat to follow up on this. She told me that Jan. 6 was essentially “a cult leader rescue operation,” in which T____ “prepped his followers for months to be outraged at their hero being robbed of what was rightfully his, and then summoned them to the Capitol to save America by saving him.” She had written recently that the moment T____ hoped to achieve — restoring his movement’s warped sense of justice and order — is what is known as “the pronunciamiento.”

June 28, 2022, was a devastating day for T____ … Over just a couple of hours, Hutchinson laid out a compelling case that he and his closest aides knew the potential for violence on Jan. 6 and knew that morning of dangerous weapons, yet still sought mayhem at the Capitol when the votes were to be counted. She showed how T____ not only had no real interest in calling off the insurrectionists but supported their chants to hang Mike Pence. Most aides, she testified, knew what they were doing was against the law, either from their in-house legal advice or the pathetic last-minute begging for pardons….

But … what if the Secret Service and other aides had indeed kowtowed to “the (expletive deleted) president” and driven him to the Capitol? How might that have changed the course of the attempted and ultimately failed coup that was underway?

… T____’s physical presence could have intensified the violence [and] prolonged it…. If that had happened, it might have been unsafe for Vice President Mike Pence and Congress to resume Biden’s certification. T____ might have declared the national emergency that the worst of his advisors had been urging.

Simply put, Hutchinson’s testimony showed how close … the American Experiment came to bursting into flames.

Which is why “what next?” is so important. Just how, exactly, will the slow-moving Justice Department of Attorney General Merrick Garland respond to the increasingly mapped-out-for-them case that T____, his lawyers Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman, and others took part in a criminal conspiracy in fomenting the insurrection?

The Magic 8 Ball is very cloudy…. There are understandable reasons to fear indicting T____, which would surely heighten the partisan divisions in America…  But recent events, from political violence to a rogue Supreme Court that was molded by T____, suggest that unrest is happening, no matter what. The real pressure is not to keep a false calm but to do the right thing, with the future of America on the line. D____ T____ [and his co-conspirators] must be brought to justice.