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Written by Jason Montoya on . Posted in Society.

Oath & Honor by Liz Cheney: Part 1 — The Plot Against America — A Book Review & Commentary

"No one can have two selves... part of the reason why you have to be very careful about what you say and do is that when you practice falsehood, you become false. It's not like those are beliefs that are just in your head. You rewire yourself so you start to literally see the world through the frame of your falsehoods. That's a very bad plan... It's even worse than believing lies, you become the lie. The [lies] are built into you as implicit axioms." - Jordan Peterson, How To Destroy Your Negative Beliefs, Modern Wisdom With Chris Williamson

Trump's history prior to 2016, my personal experiences with people like him, the values I was taught growing up, and my previous experience of political radicalization are major reasons I, a registered Republican who voted in prior elections for Republican candidates, never voted for Trump or got on the Trump train. Trump, and everything he represents is the antithesis of the type of person I want to be and follow. He's the opposite of the values and virtues my Christian faith, parents, and community taught and demonstrated for me growing up. He's the opposite of the role model I want my kids to admire.

I understand why many people voted for Trump in 2016, particularly those who did not support or advocate for his bad behavior. If it were not for my particular history, I probably would have done the same.

We all make mistakes. We also can rectify those mistakes.

Fast forward to 2020 and the beginning of 2021, on January 6th. The insurrection was a milestone moment for me. It was what I feared would happen after the 2020 election because of the determination of Trump to propagate a firehose of falsehoods and stay in office. As a lifelong Republican, I voted for Biden because I believed the best-case scenario was a landslide victory for Biden (so that there was no confusion as to who won and because Trump would exploit the result - as he did anyway).

This election year was also amid my multi-year deep dive study into institutionalized evil (totalitarianism) and the people who participated in it. The engine lights of our country were (and still are) blinking.

The worst-case scenario, as far as I could tell, was an election reminiscent of 2000, where the outcome was close and determined by the Supreme Court of the United States. That seemed, because of Trump, like a recipe for chaos at best, and violence in the streets at worst.


Bad Endings

When things end with abusive people, like Trump, as informed by my personal experiences, they end horribly and escalate in chaotic ways. This was no different with Trump in 2020, and the question remains: was January 6th the peak of that end or just a small tremor of what's to come? When America finally, and decisively fires Trump, I suspect it's then that we'll see events unfold at their worst. The inclination is to kick the can down the road, but the longer we go down it, the bigger that event is likely to become.

I certainly hope that I'm wrong, but it is these types of moments that I'm watching as dangerous inflection points throughout 2024. 

All Americans have a role to play going forward, directly, indirectly, actively, and passively. January 6th was a symptom of much deeper issues. This means we all have lessons to learn from our past and examples to celebrate (leaders with character) as we move forward in transforming ourselves into better leaders who will make a better country and handle the challenges ahead.

My goal for sharing this review and commentary is to convey why Trump is not an option for me to vote for, much like an abuser is not an option to babysit our children. Who we vote for must be committed to a truthful election outcome (even when it means they lose) and a commitment to the Constitution above personal ambition.

These are two sets of values that Trump actively fights against. Trump will set aside the truth and the Constitution if it gives him power. This makes him unacceptable to me as a presidential candidate.

While we will always have to pick imperfect candidates, to choose people who cross these societal lines is to put our country in a highly vulnerable position of irreversible fracturing. It's these values that surpass any policy matters because the consequences of faltering are so severe.

The Republic matters more than winning.

It's more important that the Republic continue than it is for Republicans to hold power.

A Miracle

The 2020/21 chaotic and destructive transfer of presidential power was a nightmare for our country, but it could have been much worse. It's a miracle that it was not. Part of that miracle comes down to people who... valued truth-tellers over liars, wanted what was good versus what they selfishly wanted, and had allegiances to the Constitution, not political parties or people. It was people who rejected the "ring of power", as we're all so familiar with in the Lord of the Rings story, that prevented this event from being a much worse catastrophe.

In contrast to the absolute hollow character and weakness of Trump was the strong character and goodness of Liz Cheney who spoke truth to power and was one of many good people who did the right thing when it mattered. If Trump is the opposite of what I want to become, it's the courage and character of Liz Cheney, amid powerful corrupt pressures, that I want to emulate.

Cheney supported Trump on 90% of policy matters, yet she is hated by Republicans and Trump is loved. That indicates to me, that this is not about policy, but something else.

Unfortunately, we're in an upside-down world where Republicans want the most corrupt candidate and hate the people who demonstrate character and courage in the face of temptation to take and abuse power. Liz Cheney could have easily gone along with Trump's lies to keep her position of power, like most Republicans did, and continue to do.

The Source of Human Power and How To Identify People of Character

It's easy for a Democrat  to criticize Republicans. It's easy for Republicans to criticize Democrats. It requires no courage and only cowardice to do so. This is because the power is derived from the people in these parties and the parties don't like their rivals. Criticizing people that our supporters don't like enhances our power while satiating their deep-seated passions.

But to be a Republican or a Democrat who pushes back against one's own party, who speaks the truth to colleagues and friends at the risk of losing influence and authority is commendable. It's the opposite of embracing the ring of power. It's outright rejecting power for what is good and true. This is a sign of love for our country and the people in it.

I didn't know much about Liz Cheney until watching the January 6th hearings, but I've come to appreciate the work she's done for our republic, deeply. Because I admire her example and want to know what happened in our country in as granular detail as possible, as we harrowingly transitioned from one president to another, I purchased and have read her book; Oath and Honor.

Since the information is crucially important and most people will not read her book (particularly the people who need to), I'm sharing highlights here, so you can get the gist of what happened up to Jan 6 and the years that followed.

This exploration is for moderate Republicans and independents who want to know the truth of what happened. It's for those who may be inclined not to look, but know that it's important to look at hard things, to know what's happening, so that we can move America forward together in the best possible way.

Perhaps you voted for Trump in the past and/or are considering voting for him in the future. Would you consider the following information before you make that decision?

And, if you think I'm wrong about things or see them differently, shoot me a message and tell me why.

I've said and done terrible things. But I always had choices along the way to change my trajectory and the future of those affected by my actions. I commend the many people, who went along with Trump's corruption but have since changed gears and done the right thing.

You too have that choice now. Let these insights inform your actions going forward.

Don't justify doing wrong because your political rivals do wrong.

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Commentary on Cheney's Book

Now that I've shared my introduction, let's explore the book! Through this exploration blog post, I'll include excerpts from the book that stood out to me. I'll also include my commentary on different parts of the story. This blog post will focus on part one of the book, about Trump's Plot Against America.

Oath and Honor: A Memoir and a Warning by Liz Cheney

Book Summary: A gripping firsthand account from inside the halls of Congress as Donald Trump and his enablers betrayed the American people and the Constitution — leading to the violent attack on our capitol on January 6th, 2021 — by the House Republican leader who dared to stand up to them.


The book does an incredible job of telling the story of January 6th. It's compelling and a page-turner; I got through it in a matter of days and this true story would make for a great movie. 

Without further ado, let's dive in, starting with the prologue.

I'll share key quotes and my thoughts on each part, working through all the chapters in part 1.

Prologue

"Every American president had fulfilled his solemn obligation to guarantee the peaceful transfer of power— until Donald Trump. When Trump lost the 2020 presidential election, he attempted to overturn the results in order to seize power illegally and remain in office. When the violent mob he had mobilized laid siege to our Capitol, he watched the attack on television and refused for more than three hours to tell the rioters to leave."

"Like other aspiring autocrats, Donald Trump cannot succeed alone. He depends upon enablers and collaborators. Every American should understand what his enablers in Congress and in the leadership of the Republican Party were willing to do to help Trump seize power in the months after he lost the 2020 presidential election — and what they continue to do to this day. So strong is the lure of power that men and women who had once seemed reasonable and responsible were suddenly willing to violate their oath to the Constitution out of political expediency and loyalty to Donald Trump."

As I've read through the book, it's this idea, of how much deeper the problem runs in the Republican party. Leaders are going along with deeply troubling actions in service to their ideology, their social tribe, and their ambitious desires.

What America's current crisis and the insights from this book help us understand, is what is at the root of what makes America great. What are the core values that we must support to continue that greatness? If we fail to understand these things, America will fail, like the many failed democracy-building projects we've embarked on as a country in the last several decades. What's clear is that we fail to understand what makes our society so amazing. Will we learn that lesson before it's too late?

Both our constitution and the truth about core aspects of it are critical to the future of our country. Those who flippantly disregard and discard these things put us in peril.

Prologue: Graphics For Social Media Sharing


Part 1: The Plot Against America — Election Day 2020 to January 5th, 2021

The first part of the book illuminates the chaos Trump was seeding with lies upon lies in his efforts to change the outcome of the election he lost. He was not interested in the truth. He was interested in doing whatever he could to win.

Jan 6 was not an unexpected event. It was the logical conclusion of what came before it. Without Trump, it would not have happened and at every point of the way, he could have stopped it, but yet he chose to keep stoking the fires, further driving a divisive wedge into our republic, which he did not care about preserving.

Chapter 1: The Only Thing That Matters Is Winning

Chapter 1 of Cheney's book focuses on how the stage shifted, with Republicans changing their priorities to winning over the truth and the American Constitution. Trump always valued winning over truth and the Republic, but it was also explicitly revealed in these events.

Here are the key passages that struck me.


"Trump was taking something he knew to be a routine feature of the counting process and making it seem criminal."

So much of this book brought back the many memories I had of the 2020 election. And, at the time, it was highly concerning what Trump was communicating up to the election. The firehose of falsehoods came fast and furious and did not relent. People believed them.

"McCarthy appeared to be dealing in reality. This made it all the more surprising when I saw his appearance on Fox News just a few hours later: "President Trump won this election," Kevin proclaimed, "so everyone who is listening, do not be quiet! Do not be silent about this! We cannot allow this to happen before our very eyes." McCarthy knew that what he was saying was not true."

As things unfolded in real-time, I remember seeing some Republicans, for a moment, be aghast at what was happening. But it was also stunning to see how quickly others efficiently perpetuated the stolen narrative lie. The problem was and is not just Trump. The wolves are in the hen house, and we let them in.

"At one point, before Trump’s 2016 nomination, Mark [Levin] had declared himself “Never Trump.”'

...

"[Mark] Levin was suggesting the state legislatures should ignore the laws they themselves had passed specifying the manner in which election disputes would be resolved, ignore the outcome of balloting in their states, and simply switch the results from Biden to Trump.

"We were only two days past the election, and already Trump and his key supporters were inventing ways to ignore the lawful outcome of that election."

I was actively on Twitter, even losing sleep quality up to, during, and after the 2020 election. I remember seeing Mark Levin's post. It felt like we had entered the twilight zone; intelligent people were propagating lies and arguments to keep Trump in power. I didn't expect them to be successful, but I anticipated that a clash of violence was likely to come.

"Not a single member of Congress -including those from the states Trump was already saying had been stolen from him — suggested that their own election had been rigged or was flawed in any way."

This was a prominent dynamic of how obvious the whole swindling was. They said, Trump had the election stolen from him, but yet those same elections put them in power and there was no problem? And what about all the counties and states where Trump won? Why no scrutiny there?

It became obvious pretty quickly how deep the deception ran and how many people were participating. This is when it became a powerful moment of clarity as to who had character and integrity and who did not.

"[Jim Jordan] didn't seem to think the rules mattered. "The only thing that matters," Jordan said, "is winning."'

One of the four problems is selfish ambition. For Trump, Jordan, and many others, it was about winning, no matter how that success was attained.

"Here was Rudy Giuliani, the lawyer for the president of the United States, standing in a strip-mall parking lot making wild and false claims of election fraud."

"I kept thinking how far Rudy Giuliani had fallen."

I had distinct memories of Giuliani after 9/11 leading New York and setting a positive example for America. I also remember him running and losing the Republican primary in 2008. He went from being a positive icon to someone now who is morally bankrupt.

"I was serving on the House Armed Services Committee at the time, charged with overseeing the Department of Defense (DOD). Esper's firing was deeply disquieting. 

The period of transition from one administration to the next is a time of heightened potential vulnerability for the United States. 

No lame-duck president focused on securing the nation would replace his top civilian leaders at DOD days after losing an election. Yet that's what Trump was doing. 

Esper believed he had been fired in part because he had made it clear that he would not stand for any use of the military to contest the outcome of an election.

Chris Miller was quite possibly the least-qualified nominee to become secretary of defense since the position was created in 1947.

At the same time, Trump moved to install other loyalists in what seemed an effort to ensure the inexperienced Miller could be guided and his decisions shaped to suit Trump's whims.

Trump had lost the election. Why was he appointing inexperienced loyalists to the most senior civilian positions in the Pentagon at a moment when stability was key? Why was he making these moves if he intended to begin an orderly and peaceful presidential transition to Joe Biden?"

These tectonic removals and replacements in leadership were things I was watching, but it was not clear to me at the time, how dangerous they were. It's much easier to get things done by someone who won't question you or is in over their hands too severely; they are paralyzed in responding.

Chapter 1: Graphics For Social Media Sharing


Chapter 2: Put Up or Shut Up

The way the American system works is that all presidents are entitled to legal avenues to demonstrate election problems that could alter the outcome of the election. This is a unique feature of our republic and is nonexistent in authoritarian regimes. Trump leveraged these channels and lost big. Out of 61 court cases, Trump lost 60 of them.

Because Trump valued winning over the truth and over the Constitution, he leveraged illegal and morally wrong avenues to overturn the election results. Ironically, he was trying to do the very thing of which he was accusing his political opponents of doing.

As Trump was stealing cookies out of the cookie jar, he started screaming that other people were stealing cookies, which gave him cover to steal the cookies.

president eating cookies while pointing out the window
A hypothetical image of a president trying to steal cookies (election) while accusing others of stealing the cookies (election)

Chapter 2 in the book illuminates the shift from legal means of objecting to illegal means of overturning the results.


"I wasn't comfortable with a number of things about the group, including their rule requiring every member of the caucus to support any position that was held by 80 percent of the membership. It didn't seem right to me for a member of Congress to agree to have their vote bound by anything other than their obligations to their constituents and to the Constitution."

These loyalty pledges are wretched. The Republican primary has one and it seems only to be abused as a way to boil the frogs. Almost all of the Republican leaders pledged to support a convicted criminal if they won the nomination.

Let's see instead, a truth and constitution pledge.

"Trump fired Krebs via tweet, just as he had fired Defense Secretary Esper a week earlier. Trump claimed, without any evidence, that "there were massive improprieties and fraud," and that glitches in machines had switched millions of votes from Trump to Biden.

Krebs did not go silently. After his dismissal, he confirmed repeatedly and publicly what federal and state election experts had concluded. In response, Joseph DiGenova, one of Donald Trump's lawyers, raged in an interview that Chris Krebs should be "drawn and quartered and taken out and shot at dawn."

This trend has not let up. It's wild when people I know are telling me that certain people should be hung for treason. And because it's based on lies, it does not seem like it can get any more sinister. But I better not hold my breath.

"It quickly became apparent, even to hard-core Trump supporters such as Tucker Carlson, that Sidney Powell had no evidence to back up her claims. Three days after the press conference, Ellis and Giuliani issued a statement saying Sidney Powell was "not a member of the Trump Legal Team. She is also not a lawyer for the President in his personal capacity."

Rush Limbaugh, a steadfast Trump supporter, said of the press conference, "They promised blockbuster stuff and then nothing happened!"

Ultimately, all three of the lawyers who spoke at the press conference-Giuliani, Powell, and Ellis — would be sanctioned by courts, censured, or have their license to practice law suspended. And each would be indicted because of their lies about the election.

Sidney Powell responded to a defamation lawsuit against her by arguing that "no reasonable person would conclude that the statements were truly statements of fact."

Jenna Ellis admitted she engaged in "professional misconduct" by spreading falsehoods about the 2020 election, and she was censured.

But the damage had already been done. Millions of Americans - including tens of thousands of my own constituents —believed these lies, and they believed in the people telling them."

I remember having conversations with Trump supporters zealously sharing these false claims by these corrupt lawyers. My friends and family believed the lies and wanted me to believe them. But it turned out there was not anything I could say to change their minds. They were convinced it was true. They had accepted the lie and were grabbing hold of any reason to validate their decision.

"We were in dangerous territory. The president and his legal team were making outlandish and false claims that struck at the heart of our electoral process. Millions of Americans believed them. And the Trump campaign continued to send emails and run ads, spreading these same falsehoods all over the country. Donald Trump was doing it nearly every time he spoke publicly."

It was Trump's persistence in telling the lies over and over. We'd come to discover that he was informed on many occasions by many people over and over again, that he had lost the election. But Trump had other plans. He wasn't interested in the truth, the Constitution, or the Republic. Trump wanted to win, and even if that meant destroying everything, he was gonna try and bend reality to do his bidding. Many people went along with it. Many still are.

"...the truth was not breaking through. Far too many people were hearing only Donald Trump's lies.

But how could I be sure it wasn't true, [my constituents] each wanted to know (about whether Trump had won).

I was dumbfounded. These were two relatively reasonable individuals— not people I would have guessed would be susceptible to crackpot claims like this. So ludicrous was the accusation that I wasn't sure where to begin to knock it down. It was becoming clear that the truth no longer really mattered."

For many Republicans, it came down to the reality that they didn't care what was true. What mattered was what they wanted and they could not imagine a scenario where they were deceived and participating in the lie. And I can understand this. It's a lot to swallow to recognize our participation in evil, even if from a distance indirectly. Often we double down because of our pride and selfishness instead of embracing the uncomfortable truth.

"When his lawsuit was dismissed, Gohmert claimed that the only option left was to take to the streets and get violent.

Gohmert later said that he hadn't actually been calling for violence. But there was no question that he had been spreading the worst lies and then implying that all the institutions of American democracy had failed. Gohmert was suggesting to people that their country was being stolen from them and there was only one way to save it."

This rhetoric was clear to me. I wonder how many people knew about it and either accepted or dismissed it as "catastrophizing". Were people ignorant of the nefarious actions unfolding, were they aware and didn't care, or did they want the logical conclusion to unfold? That's a question I'm still not sure how to answer.

Chapter 2: Graphics For Social Media Sharing


Chapter 3: Someone Is Going To Get Killed

Chapter 3 explores how these lies and illegal activities were going to lead to real-world consequences. It would turn out, Trump and Republicans didn't care.


"Never did any of Trump's allegations of fraud - including supposed fraud by Dominion Voting Systems, by Smartmatic, or by any other voting machine or software company —prove to be true. None of it was backed up by evidence, Dozens of courts reviewed the Trump allegations, and dozens of courts rejected them."

I remember watching many of the press conferences and then reading these court filings. It became clear, the Trump legal team was deceiving citizens. They had monumentally lost their legal battle, but they lied to their constituents that they won big. The clown car show was manipulating people.

"Across the country in early December, state election officials were facing increasing pressure as a result of Trump's continued false claims as they prepared to certify the results. In Georgia on December 1, election official Gabe Sterling held an extraordinary press conference in which he pleaded with the president personally to stop inciting threats and violence: “Stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence. Someone's going to get hurt. Someone's going to get shot. Someone's going to get killed and it's not right."

Winning mattered more than doing the right thing.

Winning mattered more than protecting people.

Trump had always leveraged pressure to get people to do what he wanted them to do. Thank God people, including those in the Republican party, did the right thing and pushed back. No one would have expected and been able to prepare for having a president leveraging their power to overturn election results.

"According to Johnson, Trump would be paying close attention to who did and did not sign on [the Texas Amicus brief]: "He said he will be anxiously awaiting the final list to review."

Mike Johnson and our Republican leaders had played a destructive role. Johnson had convinced 125 other Republican members of Congress to sign on to an amicus brief that many had never read —a brief, more over, that made numerous false factual and constitutional claims. Members signed on in the hope that it would show support for Trump and out of fear of political retribution if their names were not on the list."

The Texas Amicus brief was not something I was paying attention to, so this fact and how it unfolded was a novel discovery in reading this book. It's wild how such a corrupt politician is now leading the House of Congress. The book was written before this happened.

"[Mike] sent me a Fox News Poll showing that 77 percent of Trump voters and 68 percent of Republicans believed the election had been stolen from Trump. "These numbers are big," Johnson remarked. "And something we have to contend with as we thread the needle on messaging.
Of course, Donald Trump's public campaign to spread false allegations of massive election fraud had created those polling numbers. And when members of Congress and other elected Republicans echoed his stolen-election claims, or accused the Supreme Court of throwing out the rule of law, those falsehoods had an impact on polling results because some people believed the lies."

A corrupt person tells people lies. They believe those lies. A corrupt person proceeds to justify corrupt actions based on this newfound corrupt-derived evidence. Horrifying events.

Chapter 3: Graphics For Social Media Sharing


Chapter 4: The Blood of Patriots & Tyrants

Chapter 4 explores how Trump pressured people and systems to do his bidding. It explores how the lies affected people.


“Trump had continued to make blatantly false claims that the election was rigged and stolen. He often tweeted more than 20 times in a single day, repeating his debunked assertions. And his false ads alleging election fraud were only reinforcing those lies. Furious with the Supreme Court, Trump continued to launch assaults on justices, judges, and elected officials across the country.”

As Trump's firehose of falsehoods continued, I was increasingly concerned. This does not end well. These chronic and blatant lies were a stark contrast to the truth-telling values I had heard from Republicans for decades.

"General Michael Flynn, who had received a presidential pardon from Donald Trump less than a month earlier, spoke shortly after Pierson.

When Flynn stepped up to speak, he said he was absolutely confident that Donald Trump would remain president. He then took aim, as Pierson had, at the rule of law: "The courts do not decide who the next president of the United States of America will be. We the people decide.

Some invoked religion, calling Donald Trump "our anointed one," proclaiming that "a group of wicked men...have stolen our Republic" and that "this is our 1776" as they called on listeners to rise up in an ultimate fight of good vs. evil."

Chilling statements.

"There is no role for the US military in determining the outcome of an American election.

The DOD statement— which was factual and should have been unobjectionable — enraged Donald Trump. He instructed the director of White House personnel, Johnny McEntee, to call Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller, apparently to convey the message that if any further statements like this were made, the officials would be fired."

I remember when these statements about the military staying out of the election began coming out. My friend indicated their importance, but it wasn't until reading this book that I fully grasped their crucial message. Trump supporters would later call these types of truthful and integrity acts as treasonous, and deserving of the death penalty. It's logical when you want to do evil, to get rid of the only good people standing in the way.

“At 8:08 p.m. on the 22nd, Trump posted a video attacking Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Shaye Moss, two poll workers in Georgia. The video repeated false claims about ballot counting in Georgia and accused Freeman and Moss of illegal activity. Trump's unfounded public attacks against Freeman and Moss resulted in terrifying harassment and death threats, ultimately putting both women in serious danger.”

I didn't learn about this event until the Jan 6 hearings. What a horrible abusive way to treat someone all based on lies. But all Americans don't matter to Republicans, only winning does. I believe how we win matters just as much, if not more, than whether we win (or not).

Chapter 4: Graphics For Social Media Sharing


Chapter 5: The Oath

Chapter 5 contrasts the oath of office by our political leaders and the actual allegiance of Republicans; tossing their oath in the garbage.


“The question before us as we approached January 6 was whether we were going to abide by the oath we had all sworn to the Constitution.”

I was surprised how many Republicans threw out the Constitution. I thought, as egregious as Jan 6 was, it would be a turning point. It has since turned out, that it's more of a loyalty test to Trump. Part of that is because of how far most of the Republicans participated in Trump's plan.

“…what truly protects American freedom: the structural provisions of our Constitution, principally the separation of powers and federalism." He would explain that no bill of rights, standing alone, is sufficient to ensure liberty:

They are what the Framers of our Constitution called "parchment guarantees," because the real constitutions of those countries—the provisions that establish the institutions of government — do not prevent the centralization of power in one man or one party, thus enabling the guarantees to be ignored. Structure is everything…

Those who seek to protect individual liberty ignore threats to this constitutional structure at their peril.

I believe that Donald Trump's decision to attack the lawfully certified Electoral College results, and to ignore the rulings of our courts, was an assault on the structural constitutional safeguards that keep us free."

This insight is so powerful and helpful. Not only is there a constitutional layer, but a core facet of the constitution. This is a key to understanding who we ought to vote for and why Trump is not an option. While you may not like the alternative presidential candidate, he, unlike Trump, does not threaten this core constitutional separation of powers. Any candidate that does not pass this test is not an acceptable candidate for president, even when I disagree on policy.

"Congress does not have the authority to undo an election by refusing to count state-certified electoral votes. Period."

Obviously. But, it turns out that if you want to steal an election, the legal cover helps the continued manipulation of constituents, even if it's unfounded, illegal, and morally wrong. What I failed to realize is these rules are enforced by people, and if those people in authority go along with wrong actions, there's nothing to stop them.

One federal judge said this: "Allegations that find favor in the public sphere of gossip and innuendo cannot be a substitute for earnest pleadings and procedure in federal court. They most certainly cannot be the basis for upending Arizona's 2020 General Election." Another said, "Calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here."

The tyranny of possibility is something that is being used by Trump and Republicans. They fire off numerous falsehoods to plant doubt and confuse. And then they get supporters to rally behind them. It's all based on lies, but people go along with it for various reasons. We all have justifications for why we're right and we can all easily make them, even when doing evil.

Chapter 5: Graphics For Social Media Sharing


Chapter 6: The Secretaries of Defense

This chapter focuses on the story behind America's former secretaries of Defense speaking out about the dark dealings that were unfolding.


“...senior government officials feared that Trump was "threatening to overstep the constitutional limits on his power." One possibility Ignatius reported was that Trump might attempt to stay in power by using violence on January 6 as an excuse to invoke the Insurrection Act. Trump could then, Ignatius reported, take steps like the ones retired General Mike Flynn detailed in his December 17 Newsmax interview, including deploying the military to rerun the election in swing states.”

I never thought this was a likely outcome, but it's scary to think that our corrupt leaders were considering and talking about it. What a nightmare it would have been if they had tried this unconstitutional act.

“By the end of December, it was clear that privately urging Trump to do the right thing was fruitless. He didn't care. I had had several firsthand experiences of sitting in the Oval Office, calmly trying to tell Donald Trump what he did not want to hear. I knew how he would respond. A private approach would not work. We needed a public warning to Trump, and to his new appointees at the Pentagon. And it needed to come from a leader or group of leaders who could not easily be ignored.

We decided to try to mobilize the former secretaries of defense. There were 10 living secretaries."

I suspect I heard about this, but I don't remember this event unfolding in real time. It makes me happy to read this in Cheney's book. Past political leaders put aside their differences and worked together towards preserving the Republic, the Constitution, and truth. It's nice to know, some of our leaders still have character.

"Rumsfeld came on the line, along with his daughter Marcy. As I listened to my dad read the letter, the gravity and peril of the moment were palpable. He began:

As former secretaries of defense, we hold a common view of the solemn obligations of the U.S. armed forces and the Defense Department. Each of us swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. We did not swear it to an individual or a party.

American elections and the peaceful transfers of power that result are the hallmarks of our democracy. With one singular and tragic exception that cost the lives of more Americans than all of our other wars combined, the United States has had an unbroken record of such transitions since 1789, including in times of partisan strife, war, epidemics, and economic depression. This year should be no exception."

Chapter 6: Graphics For Social Media Sharing


Chapter 7: Just Humor Him

Chapter 7 explores ways Republicans were going along with the lies and deception. To them, it was just a game, no need to take Trump seriously, they mistakenly thought.


"I had just explained why the Constitution did not authorize us to object Members justifiably wanted to know what the House Republican leader's position was. How could he be refusing to answer?

As members continued to press him.

Kevin [McCarthy] adopted a surprising approach: He lashed out at those asking for his view. Referring to the individualized card each member of Congress uses to cast their votes in the machines on the House floor, Kevin suggested anyone asking for his view should hand over their voting card. If you're so concerned with what I think," he bristled, "why don't you just give me your voting cards? I'd be happy to vote for you.”

It's so deeply concerning how many Republicans are placating Trump. I thought January 6th would change that. I hoped the 2022 midterm losses would help change things. But, in the end, Republicans seem to want to take the Trump train, and all of us, to hell.

"Kevin McCarthy was essentially telling members of Congress to ignore their constitutional obligations and, instead, do what Trump wanted. It was no wonder he preferred to deliver this message in small groups only."

This is why Republicans can not be trusted and why we should not vote for those who participated. They put a person and their party above the constitution. That's the final line to draw. Beyond that, the rules are out the window and these corrupt leaders can do anything they want, no matter how morally abhorrent it is.

“Had Congress attempted to follow Cruz's proposal, chaos would have ensued — potentially with no presidential transition on January 20 and no constitutional process to resolve the crisis. As we know now, Cruz had coordinated this [vote audit] proposal with the White House. Our Select Committee investigation later uncovered text messages about the "audit" scheme between Ted Cruz and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.”

More lies and unconstitutional acts. And these are the people leading the Republican party.

“If they objected to certified state electoral slates now, they would be doing so knowing that their actions were unconstitutional and knowing that the courts had already concluded there was no legal or factual basis for doing so.“

Republicans chose the lie. They chose Trump. They demonstrated truth, the constitution, and our Republic didn't matter anymore.

This is why I expect most Republicans to support Trump in 2024. They all had their hands in the cookie jar. To say any different now is to indict oneself. So, they're latched into Trump's corruption and, because of their pride, selfishness, ideology, or social community, can't get off the train.

Chapter 7: Graphics For Social Media Sharing


Chapter 8: More Sinister Than I Was Prepared For

This chapter begins to explore the beginning efforts to overturn legitimate electoral votes.


"It was increasingly clear that efforts were underway to disrupt or delay the counting of the electoral votes, and we worried that a bomb threat or some other tactic might be used to halt the count."

Now, it wasn't just about a game. That game was crossing over into illegal and unconstitutional activities by Republicans.

"Trump had replaced Rosen with Jeffrey Clark in the position of acting attorney general because, unlike Rosen or other DOJ leadership, Clark was willing to issue the type of Justice Department statement that Trump wanted —a statement indicating that the 2020 presidential election had likely been corrupted."

It's the enablers, particularly those that help tyrants gain power, that allow for these bad leaders to gain and keep power.

"When I saw reports about the call, I assumed the audio of Trump pressuring state officials to violate the law and overturn the election would mean the end of most of the objections in the House. I couldn't imagine members would continue to do Trump's bidding. A short time later, after what we all assumed was significant pressure from Donald Trump, Kevin McCarthy announced he would be voting to object…"

Once you get on the train based on the reasoning for doing so, it's difficult to jump off. I was surprised as well as to how many Republicans went along with such wretched acts. All humans are dormant radicals, we've just not faced the context to become radicalized. Republicans are in that process now.

"If members were going to object to electoral votes on the grounds that elections in certain states had been tainted by fraud and irregularities —or on the grounds that certain states had administered the 2020 elections in a way that violated the US Constitution — how could members of Congress from those states simultaneously agree to recognize the legitimacy of their own elections and seat themselves?"

What a wild contrast. This fact is what made it so clear that Republicans did believe Biden won, but they had to retain their power and carry on with the lie. I'm so thankful we have such clarity about the nefarious things that were going on. The truth, is perhaps, part of what can inform the electorate so that they choose accordingly.

"That evening I received a text from a well-known conservative legal analyst. He had been critical of Trump's strategy but hadn't fully recognized the danger of what was happening. Now he texted me to say, "You were right. I thought this was just a clown show, Wrong. I mean, it IS a clown show, but it's more sinister than I was prepared for."

The Crazy Clown Show was a cover for the nefarious acts going on underneath. And there is a Republican base willing to provide cover to this day.

Chapter 8: Graphics For Social Media Sharing


Chapter 9: Fake Electors

“JENNA ELLIS KICKED OFF THE January 4 Trump "surrogate" call with a claim that seven states had "dueling slates of electors." This was a dangerous lie. Every state had certified a single slate of electors…The only way any state would have what Ellis was calling "dueling slates of electors" would be if the Trump campaign had created fraudulent slates and sent them in.

In the seven states with supposed "dueling electors," Jenna reported, there was "clear evidence" that the states had "violated their own laws?" This too was a lie: There was no such evidence.

This would, of course, have thrown our nation into turmoil.“

Trump was blatant about trying to steal the election he had lost. And he was smart too, building himself legal cover instead of taking responsibility for his actions. Directing these fake electors is one of his worst criminal offenses, and he's going to have severe consequences in his trial proceedings because of this illegal and unconstitutional act.

"...we had been hearing the false claims of fraud and the lies about what was constitutionally permissible on January 6 for weeks now, but this was the first time I had heard such a detailed description of how Donald Trump and his supporters actually planned to put their false claims into action.

Then Jenna explained that some Republican members of Congress were already aware of these plans. She was saying out loud that this was a plan to obstruct or delay the lawful counting of electoral votes. And that some members of Congress were in on it."

The attempt to steal the election was not just Trump. Republicans in the House were going along with it. Another deep reason why so many are likely to support Trump and why they so strongly push back against his criminal trials. If he was wrong, and committed crimes, so did they.

“Trump was attempting to seize power unconstitutionally. If Pence had gone along, as one of the January 6 Select Committee witnesses later suggested, the conflict would very likely have been settled in the streets.

What Trump's team was describing on this call was illegal. It was destructive. And they all knew by then that the stolen-election allegations were "complete nonsense" and "BS," as Attorney General Barr and other Justice Department officials had repeatedly said. Yet here they were, trying it anyway.”

It's wild how Trump was able to make the entire 2020 election narrative about the Democrats stealing the election all the while he was the one who was actually conducting a campaign to illegally and wrongly stay in power. Now, we need to shift the narrative back to the truth, of what happened and contain the tyranny of possibility that Trump has leveraged to cover his wrongdoing.

"A lot now rested in Mike Pence's hands. It was clear he was under enormous pressure from Trump to violate the law and the Constitution. Would he withstand the pressure, or would he fold? I didn't know if we could count on him.

Paul Ryan summed up the situation this way in a text shortly after midnight on January 5: "I worry he breaks but think he will not?"

I had learned that there was no legal basis for Pence to do anything to change the election outcome. However, I did not consider or appreciate the amount of chaos created by people in authority doing the wrong thing. We saw that on Jan 6. If it had been a close election, in a single state, and more people in authority did illegal and unconstitutional acts, it would have been a nightmare. That may be the nightmare ahead of us in 2024.

Chapter 9: Graphics For Social Media Sharing


Chapter 10: Powder Keg

Chapter 10 closes out the chapter of events building up to January 6th. It's these events that paved the way and made the insurrection the event it was. It was led by Trump and carried along by the Republican party.


"[Mike] Johnson was asserting that Congress should —absent any constitutional authority, or legal or factual basis —reject the rulings of the courts and throw out the duly certified electors from each of these states. He admitted that Congress had no "express authority or ability to independently prove the many allegations of fraud in the four subject states," but then asserted, "Since we are convinced the election laws in certain states were changed in an unconstitutional manner, the slates of electors produced under those modified laws are thus unconstitutional."'

I'm still in disbelief that Mike Johnson is the speaker of the house right now. Someone who was so blatantly perpetuating the lie and acting in unconstitutional ways. As Liz Cheney has said in interviews, we can't risk Mike being in leadership when the 2024 election could end up in a constitutional crisis.

"Another federal judge, also appointed by Donald Trump, explained that an action taken by the Georgia secretary of state "is a manifestation of Secretary Raffensperger's statutorily granted authority. It does not override or rewrite state law." Under Mike's theory, simple legal issues about the scope of an official's delegated authority, which had already been resolved by a host of courts, had now become a basis to attempt to throw out the will of the voters and seize the presidency. Mike knew about these and many other similar judicial rulings, but he did not care."

As I read these many stories of slimyness, I thought about my kids doing similar things to get out of being punished or to get what I wanted. And here before us, in the most powerful place on the planet, Republican leaders were (and are still) acting like my sneaky children.

"Dan Crenshaw of Texas cautioned members planning to object that they should stop saying this was not about overturning an election: This was quite literally about overturning an election, Crenshaw insisted, because that is precisely what an objection is."

I've had mixed feelings about Crenshaw, but ultimately a sense of disappointment. At times he seemed like he was speaking up and doing the right thing while other times he went along with the Trump tribe. I hope he leads truthfully instead of going along with liars in 2024.

"Our founders had explicitly prohibited members of Congress from assuming this authority. In Federalist 68, Alexander Hamilton explained why:

And they have excluded from eligibility to this trust, all those who from situation might be suspected of too great devotion to the President in office. No senator, representative, or other person holding a place of trust or profit under the United States, can be of the numbers of the electors."

This whole process unfolding, learning about it in retrospect, and diving into the details of Trump's trials has been a monumentally helpful history and legal lesson. I've learned a tremendous amount about our history. If there is one positive to these wild unfolding events, it's that we become more intimate with the workings of America and why it works (as well as how we can break it).

"McCarthy assured Lesko he would be meeting with the Sergeant at Arms to discuss this and make sure things were covered. They'd been preparing ahead of time, Kevin said, and security precautions were already heightened, including the closure of many local streets.

That night, Eric Trump, the president's son, appeared on Sean Hannity's show on Fox News. He said there would be consequences for any member who did not do what his father wanted, threatening that any senator or any congressman... that does not fight tomorrow... their political career is over." I received a text from a senior Republican House member who had just watched the interview: "Eric Trump is on Hannity threatening or promising primaries for anyone who does not object. Where is our leadership? Is this what our party has become? I'm beyond disgusted."'

Doublespeak. It's a perfect combination of horrible people all working together for a horrible action.

"Privately, Sean Hannity had texted Mark Meadows that same day: "I'm very worried about the next 48 hours." Yet here was Hannity, making things even worse by giving the president's son a platform to threaten members of Congress."

This was wild, how far the emotional and intellectual splitting went. People were fine playing the game but got cold feet with real-world consequences. Trump had no such qualms, so he pushed the envelope further than they were willing to go, but as long he was leading, they had no issue with going along with it publicly. The stage was set.

The next day would set a match to Donald Trump's powder keg.

Chapter 10: Graphics For Social Media Sharing


That is the end of my commentary and review of Part 1 of Liz Cheney's book, Oath & Honor: A Memoir & A Warning. If you want to learn more, I'd encourage you to pick up a copy and read the entire book for yourself; every American should.

I've included some additional resources I've created listed and linked to below.


Additional Resources

jan 6 hanging gallows jan 6 hanging gallows

Talking to the Angry Mob on the Street: A Citizen's Reflection For The Non-Crazies To Speak Up

dark train, at night dark train, at night

Dear Republicans, Are You Really Going To Make Us Ride The Trump Train All The Way To Hell?

trump biden, 2020 presidential debate trump biden, 2020 presidential debate

Did Donald Trump Win The 2020 Election By A Large Margin?


Created on January 16, 2024.
Last updated on February 07, 2024.