As I watched the Jan. 6 congressional hearing two weeks ago and learned about the subtle pressure (translate: witness tampering), I harked back to The Godfather movie. The cinematic scene simulated the 1950s Kefauver hearings in the investigation of the mob.
Readers, do you remember?
A potentially explosive witness unhappy with the powerful Corleone family was about to testify when he saw his brother in the audience. The Corleone family deliberately tried to intimidate the witness by bringing his brother from Italy, instilling in his mind the efforts to which the family would go to silence hostile testimony.
It was an effective scare tactic. Michael Corleone understood the fear factor. He was clever and resolute. He virtually silenced the former ally.
Unidentified Trump cronies texted an unnamed witness suggesting that his or her testimony, if harmless to Trump, would warrant the former president’s continued friendship—and what else? Unnamed perks? Payment of legal fees?
Reminiscent of mob tactics, at least as portrayed in movies? No question. Kill a person with love and money, or subject the individual to personal assassination or even physical harm? The hearings have demonstrated the illegal lengths to which Trump and his gang of misfits would go to alter the election results and punish those who did not go along with their undemocratic schemes.
The Godfather romanticized the Corleone family and their violent rise to wealth and influence. It was easy to admire Michael Corleone’s determination to succeed in a corrupt world, to follow in his father’s footsteps. He exercised formidable power over police, judges and elected officials. Family members were not exempt from his vengeance.
As I watched the Jan. 6 hearings, horrified by the total disregard that Trump had for the well-being of Vice President Mike Pence—and democracy and the rule of law— I wondered how Hollywood would treat this frightening episode in American history. Would it glorify the Mafia-esque actions and behavior of Trump and his group of democracy deniers?
I hope not. The facts wreak of ugly reality. They leave a permanent blemish on our American conscience.
A sad truth faces all of us, regardless of our political allegiance: an American president empowered an armed mob to attack the nation’s capital and intimidate members of Congress to refuse to certify the results of a legitimate election. Even Hollywood could not conjure up such a formerly inconceivable scenario.
As I paid rapt attention to the six hearings, I admired real-life heroes, like Judge Michael Luttig, Arizona Speaker of the House of Representatives Rusty Bowers, White House staffer Cassidy Hutchinson, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards.
Another hero stood out: Congresswoman Liz Cheney, who has withstood ostracism by the Republican Party to advocate for democracy and decency. She will not yield to party pressure and poor treatment.
Cheney will likely lose her re-election in Wyoming to a Trump acolyte. That’s the price she will pay for condemning the vengeful Trump. I suspect her defeat will not diminish her stature—or even future political success. Though her political views are far different than mine, her unrelenting defense of the U.S. Constitution and legitimate presidential election results bestow upon her unmistakable respect and gratitude from American patriots.
Horror movies have never enticed me. When the Jan. 6 movie is made, and it surely will, I will not and cannot watch it. The actual events were sufficiently scary and unforgivable.
Believers in the rule of law do exist. They can resist a corrupt president. They deserve our gratitude.
Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.