The 187 minutes that changed a nation was the focus of the July 21 hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Those were the minutes the committee identified as official silence from a sitting president who apparently spent that time sitting.
Former president Trump was reportedly sitting in the dining room adjacent to the Oval Office watching the carnage he unleashed play out on the screen on Fox News.
Oddly, later Fox News would dispute that their own coverage showed a violent assault on the Capitol orchestrated and sanctioned by a sitting president for the purpose of remaining in power.
I yearned during Trump’s four years in office that he might be silent but was denied again and again — until the times called for a response and we were greeted for the first time with an eerie silence.
However, these 187 minutes of basic silence tell us several things, and none of them good.
First, the former president was watching from his dining room as supporters who believed his lies about a fraudulent election unleashed their anger and violence on those who would deprive him of another four years.
The Jan. 6 insurrection provided ample evidence of why Donald Trump should never, ever be allowed to hold power again.
Second, we cannot help but understand the stone-cold indifference to the people he praised previously — law enforcement and his vice president.
Frankly, that should surprise no one, because the former president appears to lack empathy or compassion, regret, remorse, guilt or shame. Unencumbered by such emotions, traits and capacities, it is no wonder his niece called him “the most dangerous man on earth” and perhaps why he and Putin were such fast friends.
Third, it is important to understand that the silence of Donald Trump was partially because he was a prisoner of his own web of lies.
He had put out the “Big Lie,” knowing, as best we can tell, that it was a lie. He continued to repeat the lie until enough people believed it because they believed him.
Back in 2015, I had a terse conversation with a family member about Trump, and I shared with them my assessment that he was a pathological liar. Nothing in the years following has changed my perception.
Fourth, liars always end up with contradictions because it is harder to keep up with the lies than to tell the truth.
So, Trump set about to undermine the gatekeepers who remembered and sought to expose his lies as the falsehoods they were. He successfully convinced his devoted followers that anything he labeled as “fake news” was in fact not true.
While a strong majority of the U.S. knew that Trump was the one promulgating fake news, his strategy worked for him to neutralize the reporting of his lies and led his followers to more devotedly cling to the lies he was promulgating.
Fifth, on July 21, we heard for the first time that some Secret Service personnel surrounding the vice president feared being assaulted and killed. So, in addition to trying to protect the vice president from harm, they were scrambling to send last words to their families in the event of their deaths.
Sixth, some of Trump’s enablers began texting his Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in alarm. Now we know that Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and other conservative media figures were texting Meadows to get the president to stop his supporters.
Seventh, we now know that Mark Meadows was having “a moment,” which apparently was an emotional shutdown at which point he was unable or unwilling to intercede and urge Trump to speak out in condemnation of the insurrection.
The phrase “187 minutes” should be framed as the shameful betrayal of a sitting president who violated all the oaths he made.
For a president who never seemed at a loss for words, his 187 minutes of silence is deafening. It revealed fully his narcissistic need to rise above being ordinary – a goal he decided could only be achieved by lying and endangering the lives of many.
“187 minutes” should be a powerful bookmark in the history of this nation.
A private practice counselor working with veterans and survivors of trauma. Previously, Chancellor served four churches in Texas for 33 years, then ran a Mental Health Department of Alan B. Polunsky Maximum Security prison which houses death row.