TOP STORIES Former federal judge warns of danger to American democracy

Former federal judge warns of danger to American democracy


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J. Michael Luttig, former Judge of the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, arrives to testify before a House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the US Capitol.

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Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

J. Michael Luttig, former Judge of the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, arrives to testify before a House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the US Capitol.

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

During a committee hearing on Thursday, January 6, retired federal judge J. Michael Luttig issued a dire warning to the country. Luttig, who advised former Vice President Mike Pence, said that 17 months after the US Capitol riots, “Donald Trump and his allies and supporters are a clear and present danger to American democracy.”

Luttig said the United States was at a crossroads similar to the one the country faced during the Civil War, and he said America needed help.

Lattig was appointed to the federal bench by George W. Bush and served in both the Bush and Reagan administrations. In his affidavit, he said that the US was fighting a “war” for national democracy and that “only the side that instigated this war can put an end to it”, urging the Republican Party to start a reconciliation process.

Speaking on NPR Saturday, Luttig repeated his message that lawmakers should start talking to each other as “fellow Americans who share a common destiny and shared hopes and dreams for America.” But the Republicans must start the process, he added.

Luttig spoke to NPR Everything is taken into account about the chances of members of the Republican Party to start those good-faith conversations, the pro-Trump candidates currently running for office, and whether the January 6 committee hearing could help close the gap.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Interview Highlights

Do you think that within your party, that is, the Republican Party, there are significant supporters who are ready to have good faith conversations about this? And if so, where are they?

On the day when I testified, no, they are not, and have not been for these couple of years. I’m not a politician, I don’t do politics, but I suggest doing it. And I fervently hope that at least some of our elected leaders will hear the words that I said on Thursday and understand what I said, which is that they have a commitment, a high commitment, that they are taking on. themselves under an oath to act in the interests of America and Americans as opposed to their own personal political interests.

If you look at the most recent primaries, pro-Trump candidates are still competing across the country and winning on lies about electoral fraud in 2020. How do you build confidence in our democracy, in the idea that we can achieve a better place in our country, when you have people at these important high levels who are denying the results of the 2020 elections?

You cannot and cannot, which is why I testified on Thursday that the former president and his party are a clear and present danger to American democracy today. And I specifically contrasted this circumstance, if it were the case, that the former president and the Republican Party resigned after the 2020 election and recognized the results. But, as I told the selection committee on Thursday, that didn’t happen.

To this day, the former president and the Republican Party insist—and insist stubbornly—that the 2020 election was stolen, and not only that, but are committed to fulfilling the same plan in 2024 as they did in 2020. their whole intention is that if they complete this plan in 2024, they will win in 2024 where they failed in 2020.

The January 6 hearing is clearly important for the country to understand what happened that day and why it happened, and I know you think so, but many Republicans don’t. They call the proceedings an attempt to divide. And so I’m wondering if you think they’re more likely to lead to closure or further fuel this rift that you say is destroying our democracy?

Well, when I turned in my speech to the discussion of the two political parties in the United States, the most important words for me … were the words that the two political parties in America are the political guardians of our democracy. That is why I went on to say that both sides must end this one war for democracy, and suggested that the Republican Party must begin this reconciliation.

We cannot allow any political party in America to behave like the Republican Party after the 2020 election. As long as this continues, we will have an unstable democratic order in the United States and we will always fight for American democracy. As I said further in my speech, America’s war for democracy is not a war that America can win.

If two political parties are going to literally fight for democracy in America, then this is a war that is endless and destructive for the United States of America. And in this country there is no person who can disagree with this. They may argue about whether, as Republicans continue to do, the former president’s activities in the party in 2020 threatened democracy. It’s stupid to even suggest that. But they can’t argue about the abstract point, the conceptual point that I’ve outlined, which is that if the two sides can’t agree on an orderly transfer of power in the United States, then this war will continue, and as long as it continues, we don’t have a democracy in the United States. .

Do you think that the January 6 hearings that are taking place right now can really kind of break through and encourage politicians to perhaps start defending their position on this issue?

Well, you know, I’m a former judge and lawyer, and to the best of my knowledge, I’ve never said a word about politics in public. So consider me cynical about politics and all politicians. Do I think that maybe these rumors can get through to some of the American patriots who are now our political leaders? I hope with all my heart and soul that the hearings will break through to these political leaders.

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