Ahead of the first hearing of the January 6 Select Committee I had the opportunity, due to my more than 40 years in law enforcement, to share my thoughts as part of a panel discussion about what had happened on that terrible day, and what I expected to come from the hearings.
I shared that I felt bewildered that so many citizens who purport to support democracy would attempt to overturn an election. That so many elected officials, including some county sheriffs and others in positions of power, had urged their supporters to do so.
After watching the first eight hearings of the committee these last two months, I am no longer bewildered.
I am outraged. As every American should be.
The January 6 Select Committee has done a remarkable job sharing its findings about the attack on the Capitol itself, and the months-long criminal conspiracy that led up to it. They have exposed the truth for the world to see, former President Donald Trump and his MAGA allies attempted to overturn the results of a free, fair, safe and secure election they knew they had lost through a multi-pronged scheme that included lying to their own supporters while bilking them out of millions of dollars in the process.
Even if the conspiracy had ended there, in cheating hard working Americans out of their hard-earned wages through outright lies about election lawsuits and allegations of fraud, it would have represented an egregious violation of the public trust by all involved.
But it didn’t end there, of course. The plot culminated in a violent attack on the Capitol that left over 100 police officers injured, many beaten and bloodied with career ending injuries.
So far, Mr. Trump and his enablers, both in the White House and Congress, have escaped accountability under the law.
The news that the FBI seized documents from Trump’s home in Mar-a-Lago this week shows that there is a serious case unfolding against the former president.
I served more than 40 years in law enforcement, including 15 as Dane County, Wisconsin Sheriff, and served as president of the National Sheriffs Association, which represents more than 3,000 sheriffs nationwide. I know how investigations work; I’ve seen prosecutors build out cases. And my advice to Mr. Trump and his co-conspirators after watching these hearings is straightforward: Lawyer up. Prepare to accept responsibility. Accountability is coming.
I swore an oath to uphold the United States Constitution, as all law enforcement members do. It’s sometimes hard to put into words what that means, how that sticks with you. But here’s what I know: Former President Trump swore an oath to defend and uphold the Constitution, too. That oath makes the unprecedented, egregious and illegal actions he took that had the effect of undermining our democracy unforgivable. He used the office of the presidency to manipulate, pressure and browbeat his subordinates into breaking the law for his own personal gain. He had help from members of Congress and staff in his White House and, as committee vice chair Liz Cheney has shared with us, he’s still trying to cover up his actions through witness intimidation.
Thankfully, the Justice Department has expanded its probe into the events of January 6, issuing subpoenas in multiple states.
Ensuring accountability and that no president ever abuses the office in this manner again is essential. That requires letting the committee finish its work and allowing the Justice Department to complete their own investigation unimpeded.
That is the only way to stop the ongoing efforts by many Trump Republicans, including here in Wisconsin, from sabotaging future elections by changing state laws, threatening state officials and packing election administration offices so that they can have the final say over election results – even when they lose.
Members of law enforcement held the line for all of us on Jan. 6, 2021. May we all honor them, including those we lost as a result, through our commitment to seeing that justice is done and this never happens again.
David Mahoney served as the sheriff of Dane County, Wisconsin for four terms and worked for 41 years in law enforcement before retiring in 2021. This essay was first published by the Wisconsin Examiner.