Point 1: If you’re watching the hearings today, consider and remember this: Let’s give these guys credit. They’re conservatives. Trump appointees. But they held the line. They refused to play ball under a lot of pressure. But authorizing law enforcement investigations of palpably absurd stories is itself really, really bad. That’s the basis of the great majority of law enforcement corruption: standing up bogus investigations to impugn the reputations or otherwise hurt people. That’s really bad on many, many fronts. In the situation in which these guys found themselves I think there’s a good argument that they went with the least bad option. But that option is itself really, really bad.
Point 2: One of the things we’re seeing today is this effort to stock new unknown loyalists into the executive departments after it was already clear the President had lost and that it was a lame duck administration. We’ve known a lot of this story. But we found out significantly more today. The only time this happens in normal situations is that you sometimes have caretaker appointees come in because the top appointee leaves before the President’s last day in office. Sometimes it’s simply to burnish someones future resume. They can say they were “acting such and such” for a brief time. Not great maybe but essentially no harm. But it doesn’t work like this. When they were already only in a caretaker role they were restocking the departments to further the coup.
But here’s another point. It wasn’t only at DOJ. There was something very similar happening at the Pentagon. Those new appointees don’t seem to have played direct roles in the coup as it played, though I think that’s still an open question. But it sure seemed like they might at the time. At the end of the day coups almost always come down to control of the armed forces.