Here’s what J. Michael Luttig says that must happen to end a “war for democracy”: NPR

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

Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images

hide caption

enable / disable caption

Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images

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

Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images

During the 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 uprising, “Donald Trump, his allies and supporters of him are a clear and present danger to American democracy.”

Luttig said the United States was at a similar crossroads to what the country faced during the civil war and said America needs help.

Luttig was appointed to the federal bench by George HW Bush and has worked in both the Bush and Reagan administrations. In his written testimony, he stated that the United States is in a “war” for the nation’s democracy and that “only the party that instigated this war can end it”, calling on the Republican Party to initiate a reconciliation process.

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

Luttig spoke to NPR All things considered on the likelihood of Republican Party members starting these conversations in good faith, the pro-Trump candidates currently running for office, and whether the committee hearings on January 6 can help bridge the gap.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Highlights of the interview

Do you think there is a significant constituency within your party, the Republican Party, willing to have good faith conversations about this? And if so, where are they?

Since the day I testified, no, there aren’t any, and there haven’t been any for these two years. I’m not a politician, I don’t do politics, but that’s what I propose to happen. And it is with my fervent hope that at least a certain number of our elected leaders will hear the words I spoke on Thursday and understand what I said, namely that they have an obligation, a high obligation, that they undertake with an oath to act in the best interest. of America and Americans contrary 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 the lie that there was election fraud in 2020. How trust is built in our democracy, in the idea that we can get to a place best in our country when there are people at these important high levels denying the 2020 election results?

You don’t and you can’t, which is why I testified on Thursday that the former president and his party are now a clear and present danger to American democracy. And I specifically argued with the fact, if so, that the former president and the Republican Party resigned after the 2020 election and accepted the results. But as I told the select committee on Thursday, that’s not what happened.

To this day, the former president and the Republican Party have insisted – and persist in the claim – that the 2020 elections were stolen, and not only that, but they are committed to carrying out the same project in 2024 that they attempted in 2020. But their every intention is that if they execute that plan in 2024 they will win in 2024 where they failed in 2020.

The January 6 hearings are 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 hearings an effort to divide. And so I wonder if you think they are more likely to lead to closure or further fuel this divide that you say is destroying our democracy?

Well, when I delivered my statement to the discussion of the two political parties in the United States, the most important words to me … were that the two political parties in America are the political guardians of our democracy. That is why I went on to say that it is imperative that both sides end this war for democracy and suggesting that it was the obligation of the Republican Party to initiate that reconciliation.

We cannot have any political party in America that behaves like the Republican Party since the 2020 election. As long as this continues, we will have an unstable democratic order in the United States and we will forever fight for American democracy. As I went on to say in my statement, the war for American democracy is not a war that America can win.

If the two political parties are literally fighting for American democracy, this is a never-ending war and it is destructive for the United States of America. And there is no person in this country who can disagree with this. They can discuss whether, as Republicans have continued to do, the former president’s 2020 activities in the party have threatened democracy. They are foolish to even suggest it. But they cannot argue on the abstract point, the conceptual point I made, which is if the two sides cannot accept the orderly transfer of power to the United States, then the war will continue, and as long as it continues we have no democracy in the United States.

Do you think the January 6 hearings underway right now could actually break through and encourage politicians to perhaps start taking a stand on this issue?

Well, you know I’m a former judge and a lawyer, and as far as I know, I’ve never publicly said a single word of politics. So consider me cynical about politics and all politicians. Do I think maybe these hearings can break through some American patriots who are currently our political leaders? I hope with all my heart and soul that the hearings break through against those political leaders.