From former judge J. Michael Luttig’s opening remarks below as prepared for the Jan. 6 select committee’s public hearing Thursday.
The war on democracy instigated by the former president and his political party allies on January 6 was the natural and foreseeable culmination of the war for America. It was the final fateful day for the execution of a well-developed plan by the former president to overturn the 2020 presidential election at any cost, so that he could cling to power that the American People had decided to confer upon his successor, the next president of the United States instead. Knowing full well that he had lost the 2020 presidential election, the former president and his allies and supporters falsely claimed and proclaimed to the nation that he had won the election, and then he and they set about to overturn the election that he and they knew the former president had lost.
The treacherous plan was no less ambitious than to steal America’s democracy.
Over a year and a half later, in continued defiance of our democracy, both the former president and his political party allies still maintain that the 2020 presidential election was “stolen” from him, despite all evidence -- all evidence now --that that is simply false. All the while, this false and reckless insistence that the former president won the 2020 presidential election has laid waste to Americans’ confidence in their national elections. More alarming still is that the former president pledges that his reelection will not be “stolen” from him next time around, and his Republican Party allies and supporters obeisantly pledge the same.
False claims that our elections have been stolen from us corrupt our democracy, as they corrupt us. To continue to insist and persist in the false claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen is itself an affront to our democracy and to the Constitution of the United States -- an affront without precedent.
Those who think that because America is a republic, theft and corruption of our national elections and electoral process are not theft and corruption of our democracy are sorely mistaken. America is both a republic and a representative democracy, and therefore a sustained attack on our national elections is a fortiori an attack on our democracy, any political theory otherwise notwithstanding.
Accordingly, if, and when, one of our national elections is actually stolen from us, our democracy will have been stolen from us. To steal an election in the United States of America is to steal her democracy.
As in all things, the essence of our participation in democracy is not knowledge, but judgment -- studied, discerning judgment. No more so is this true than in the Constitution and in the Law.
Very few ever have the honor of counseling the President of the United States of America. That highest of honors carries with it the highest of obligations. Counsel provided to the President of the United States must be the product of not only exquisite, penetrating legal analysis but also profound, insightful legal judgment. These two combined are so far from mere technical legal competence as almost to be its polar opposite. The President and the country deserve nothing less from those who counsel the President, so consequential are the stakes for the Nation when the President acts upon the advice of his or her Counsel.
Whatever else, the President of the United States did not receive such counsel during his sustained effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election. It is as much the former president’s fault as anyone’s that he did not.
Irrespective of the merits of the legal arguments that fueled the former president’s efforts to overturn that election -- irrespective of them, though there were none -- those arguments, and therefore those efforts, by the former president were the product of the most reckless, insidious, and calamitous failures in both legal and political judgment in American history.
From their inception, the legal arguments that underlaid the efforts to overturn the 2020 election were, in that context, little more than beguiling and frivolous, perhaps appropriate for academic classroom debate, but singularly inappropriate as counsel to the President of the United States of America in his effort to overturn the presidential election -- an election he had lost fair and square and as to which there was not then, and there is not to this day, evidence of fraud.
It is breathtaking that these arguments even were conceived, let alone entertained by the President of the United States at that perilous moment in history.
Had the Vice President of the United States obeyed the President of the United States, America would immediately have been plunged into what would have been tantamount to a revolution within a paralyzing constitutional crisis.