Two events took place yesterday which seem to tighten the noose around Donald Trump’s neck for his attempt to derail the qualification of the November 2020 elections and the presidential succession the following year. On the one hand, the former president was summoned to appear before Congress “on or around November 14” to account for his role in the assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, when legislators had to fulfill a protocol formality to make Joe Biden’s electoral victory “official.” These events caused the immediate deaths of four people, injured a hundred policemen and were probably decisive in the subsequent suicides of four more officers. The House of Representatives committee investigating the riots questioned the tycoon and stated, “In short, you were at the center of the first and only effort by any U.S. President to overturn an election … you knew this activity was illegal and unconstitutional.”
On the other hand, a federal judge has sentenced Steve Bannon, Trump’s 2016 campaign manager and White House chief strategist during his first seven months in office, to four months in prison and a fine of $6,500. Last July, the international promoter of neo-fascist movements and parties was found guilty of contempt for ignoring subpoenas to hand over documents and testify about the January 2021 coup attempt.
Bannon is much more than a former Trump advisor: He may well be classified as the greatest ideologue of Trumpism, as a phenomenon of an ultra-right that is at once jingoistic, racist, xenophobic, misogynist, religiously fundamentalist and militantly anti-intellectual and anti-scientific. Likewise, through his multimedia platform, Breitbart News, he became one of the most skillful exploiters of post-truth, the distortion of reality that occurs when false truths are no longer even constructed to sustain a discourse, but rather to discard factuality and supplant it with appeals to the public’s emotionality and beliefs. Fake news, created or disseminated by Bannon and embraced without hesitation by millions of Republican sympathizers, is to this day one of the main pillars of Trump’s popularity, despite the official distancing between the two figures.
However, it should be noted that these inquiry developments are only ostensibly conducive to justice for the blatant efforts to subvert the democratic process. In principle, Trump can simply refuse to appear, while Bannon has the option to appeal and will remain at large until all appeals are resolved. Moreover, the whole operation could collapse if the Republican Party wrests control of the lower house from the Democrats on Nov. 8. Even if the committee continues its work, prosecutes the tycoon and wins a conviction, there is a danger that this will only further Trump’s narrative of portraying himself as the victim of a witch-hunt by those who, in his view, stole the 2020 election. After all, despite the overwhelming evidence that the election was fair and that Trump did everything he could legally and illegally to hold onto power, he remains the most popular figure among his co-religionists, and his support was crucial in winning conservative congressional nominations. Republicans who opposed him, such as the Jan. 6 committee vice chair Liz Cheney, were swept aside in the primaries, so the former president has strengthened, not lost, his influence.
It is a bleak scenario for the U.S., with few prospects for justice and many for impunity, including the potential return of a figure who has systematically turned his back on the law and built his political success on the normalization of the most backward ideologies.