Trump’s January 6th War Room — A Real Declaration of War on America
Over the years, many of us in politics have used the term “War Room” to denote the place where decisions are made to win a political campaign, or to pass critical legislation, or to organize around an important issue, from impeachment to civil rights. There was an Academy Award-nominated documentary about the 1992 Clinton Presidential campaign featuring James Carville and George Stephanopoulos, “The War Room.”
My Macalester College classmate and longtime friend, Vietnam veteran Tim O’Brien, is probably the most celebrated author of our generation writing about war (The Things They Carried; Going After Cacciato). In his latest Dad’s Maybe Book, dedicated to his sons, O’Brien discusses the use of the word “war” and why it should be eliminated from our vocabulary. His notion is that politicians should be transparent when using the word – it is about “killing people, including children.”
Tim and I have had conversations about the use of the word “war” — the War on Poverty, the War on Drugs, yes, now the much over-used “War Room.” Tim O’Brien is a master of words, their intent and meaning, and he raises the bar on how to tell stories that expand our minds, our emotions and our understanding.
As we begin to dig deeper into the events before and during January 6th it is becoming increasingly clear that what was taking place was a true declaration of war against the United States. This was violence, this became about killing people, up to and including even the Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence.
When Trump advisor John Eastman describes the effort to perpetuate the big lie of election fraud, to overturn the 2020 Presidential election, to orchestrate armed insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, and to coordinate what amounted to a coup, he says. “we had a war room at the Willard (Hotel)…kind of coordinating all of the communications.” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/willard-trump-eastman-giuliani-bannon/2021/10/23/c45bd2d4-3281-11ec-9241-aad8e48f01ff_story.html)
Shortly after the election in November, Eastman and Rudy Giuliani and others, set up shop for their activities at the Mandarin Oriental, another posh hotel in Washington. By December 18th they moved their war room to the Willard Hotel, a block from the White House, where they stayed at least through January 8th. The Trump campaign picked up the $55,000 hotel tab.
It turns out that December 18th was the fateful day of the six hour meeting in the Oval Office. Described as “unhinged” by Cassidy Hutchinson it pitted Rudy Giuliani and Sydney Powell and Michael Flynn, among others, against White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and his team of lawyers. As the House hearing of July 12, 2022 made clear, efforts failed to succeed to appoint Sydney Powell as a Special Counsel, and Trump did not issue an Executive Order to the Secretary of Defense to seize voting machines. Rather, at 1:42 am on December 19th, after the marathon meeting ended, Trump issued his call to arms, “Big protest in DC on January 6th. Be there, will be wild.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/07/12/january-6-hearing-trump/
The War Room at the Willard swung into action; the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers began coordinating their operations and communications; the internet lit up, hash tags and web sites were created and the focus became January 6th. Many participants have been charged with “seditious conspiracy to overthrow the government of the United States.”
Trump called in to his War Room and met in the White House with many of the participants. According to Cassidy Hutchinson, she dissuaded Chief of Staff Mark Meadows from going over on January 5th for meetings, instead he also called in to them by phone that day. Steve Bannon was there, Giuliani aide Bernard Kerik was there, Boris Ephshteyn, One America News Reporter Christina Bobb, and many others were part of the “Trump War Room”, as we are beginning to learn. Old hands such as Michael Flynn, Alex Jones, Peter Navarro, Corey Lewandowski, David Bossie, Mike Lindell (My Pillow), Sen. Tommy Tuberville, Nebraska gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster and even Trump’s sons, Eric and Don, Jr. (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/09/us/politics/jan-6-subpoena.html)
Cassidy Hutchinson testified before Congress that Rudy Giuliani told her about the plans for January 6th in a conversation on January 2nd as she walked him to his car:
“As Mr. Giuliani and I were walking to his vehicle that evening, he looked at me and said something to the effect of ‘Cass, are you excited for the sixth? It’s going to be a great day.’ I remember looking at him and saying, ‘Rudy, can you explain what’s happening on the sixth?’ And he responded something to the effect of ‘we’re going to the Capitol. It’s going to be great. The President’s going to be there. He’s going to look powerful. He’s going to be with the members. He’s going to be with the senators. Talk to the chief about it. Talk to the chief about it. He knows about it.'”
When Ms. Hutchinson brought it up to Mark Meadows, she testified that Meadows said “something to the effect there is a lot going on…but things might get really, really bad on January 6.” (https://www.cnn.com/politics/live-news/january-6-hearings-june-28/h_d1ca49d1f3e1c58651a882206551eeae)
Really, really bad — that is the least of it. What we are learning is that the Trump War Room at the Willard Hotel was certainly aptly named. Steve Bannon said on his January 5th podcast, ironically also called War Room — “all hell is going to break loose tomorrow.”
Michael Flynn told Alex Jones in an interview at the Willard Hotel on January 5th that “we are essentially in a national emergency. The truth is going to come out, Donald Trump will be president of the United States for the next four years.”
This is the man who pled the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination when asked by Rep. Liz Cheney if he believed in “the peaceful transition of power in the United States of America.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oyg60yZhdy0 This is the man who was fired as Trump’s National Security Advisor after lying to the FBI.
This War Room was the command post for the coup plot where, just steps from the Oval Office, violent mobs, armed and ready, were called to the Ellipse. Trump knew they were armed; Trump was ready to lead the assault on the Capitol if only the Secret Service had allowed it; Trump endorsed the calls to hang Mike Pence and no doubt supported a similar fate for Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
This was, no doubt, the final solution to stop the peaceful transition of power to the man who won the election by over seven million votes and over 300 electoral votes, Joe Biden.
From December 18th on, President Trump and his participants in the War Room plotted and coordinated the effort to keep him in power by taking over the peaceful transition to Joe Biden on January 6th. If Vice President Pence was not going along with their plan, they were going to storm the Capitol. This was what the War Room at the Willard was all about.
The phrase War Room and the use of the word “war” has a particularly terrifying meaning now in the United States – it is the end of democracy as we know it and came within 40 feet, a whisker, of becoming a reality. Trump’s War Room, as it was unfolding, was about killing people at the Capitol, and also killing democracy. War as my friend Tim O’Brien makes clear, has consequences — devastating consequences. We all might want to take a moment and reflect on who we have become.