2020 Trump Watch News & Commentary

 

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Shown below is a list of recent news stories reporting on probes of the Trump Administration. The reports are listed in reverse chronological order, and are drawn primarily from news stories relating to investigations and the U.S. Congress) of major claims of wrongdoing by President Trump, his 2016 campaign and the current administration.

Note: Excerpts below are from the authors' words except for subheads and "Editor's notes" such as this.

Andrew Kreig / Justice Integrity Project editor

2020-21

capitol noose shay horse nurphoto via getty

A crowd of Trump supporters surrounded a newly erected set of wooden gallows outside the Capitol Building on Jan. 6. "Hang Mike Pence!" members of the crowd shouted at times about the Republican Vice President who had announced that he could not comply with the president's call to block election certification that day. The wooden gallows near the Capitol Reflecting Pool was just one example of the racist and anti-Semitic imagery on display at the riot. The noose is a racist symbol of the lynching of Black Americans. (Photo by Shay Horse  via NurPhoto / Getty).

 

April 2021

April 20

 

washington post logoWashington Post, Watchdog nixed probes of Secret Service during Trump era, documents show, Carol D. Leonnig, April 20, 2021. Career staff in the agency had proposed investigations to scrutinize the handling of the George Floyd protests outside the White House in Lafayette Square and the spread of coronavirus in the ranks of agents.

secret service logoThe chief federal watchdog for the Secret Service blocked investigations proposed by career staff last year to scrutinize the agency’s handling of the George Floyd protests in Lafayette Square and the spread of the coronavirus in its ranks, according to documents and people with knowledge of his decisions.

Donald Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)Both matters involved decisions by then-President Donald Trump that may have affected actions by the agency.

Joseph Cuffari, the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, rejected his staff’s recommendation to investigate what role the Secret Service played in the forcible clearing of protesters from Lafayette Square on June 1, according to internal documents and two people familiar with his decision, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the discussions.

After the sudden charge by police on the largely peaceful protesters, the Secret Service was able to move Trump to a church at the edge of the park, where the White House staged a photo opportunity for the president.

Cuffari also sought to limit — and then the office ultimately shelved — a probe into whether the Secret Service flouted federal protocols put in place to detect and reduce the spread of the coronavirus within its workforce, according to the records.

Hundreds of Secret Service officers were either infected with the coronavirus or had to quarantine after potential exposure last year as Trump continued to travel and hold campaign events during the pandemic.

DHS investigators argued that both investigations were essential to their office’s duty to hold the department and the Secret Service accountable, according to the people.

April 18

washington post logoWashington Post, Book Review: John Boehner on how Congress became ‘Crazytown,’ Kathy Kiely (Lee Hills chair in free press studies at the Missouri School of Journalism and member of the congressional Standing Committee of Correspondents), April 18, 2021 (print ed.). Most political memoirs these days are staid, buttoned-down affairs, written with an eye on a higher office or a place in history. Leave it to former House speaker John Boehner to drop the airbrush. “I was living in Crazytown,” Boehner writes of leading the House Republicans in the 2000s.

john boehner coverThe 71-year-old Ohio Republican’s autobiography, On the House, is already a talker, even before its publication. It’s got plenty of grist for Washington’s gossip mill — now-it-can-be-told tales and score-settling stories. More important, it’s an insider, as-it-happened account of a disturbing and still-unfinished chapter of American history.

Boehner’s more than three decades in public life coincide with his party’s rise to national majority status during the 1980s and ’90s — powered by Ronald Reagan’s takeover of one end of Pennsylvania Avenue and Newt Gingrich’s of the other — followed by its degeneration into a vehicle for White grievance that, as a clearly dismayed Boehner describes it in this unvarnished account, borders on the psychotic.

“I was living in Crazytown,” Boehner writes of his years leading the House Republicans in the 2000s. The House Republican Conference was “a clown car I was trying to drive.”

His party’s loss of the White House in 2008 only made things worse. “Every second of every day since Barack Obama became president, I was fighting one bats--- idea after another.”

There’s an odd and poignant disconnect between the book’s tone and its unsettling subtext. The voice is warm, engaging, occasionally profane — that of a guy who just plopped down on a bar stool next to you, fortified with a glass of his beloved merlot and an unfiltered Camel (both of which feature prominently in Boehner’s portrait on the cover of the book), to tell you about a bunch of interesting people, most of whom he genuinely likes, and an amazing career that he’s still pinching himself to make sure he really had.

It’s as if Boehner himself hasn’t quite processed the transformation of the sunny “morning in America” Republicans he joined in the 1980s into the dark conspiracy theorists who dog-whistled a mob to the Capitol on Jan. 6.

The former speaker doesn’t equivocate when it comes to laying the blame for that. Donald Trump “incited that bloody insurrection for nothing more than selfish reasons,” Boehner writes, adding, “It was especially sad to see some members of the House and Senate helping him.”

His assessments of other members of what he dubs “the Knucklehead caucus” are, if anything, more withering.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) is the “head lunatic.” Two House conservatives turned senior Trump administration officials, Mick Mulvaney and Mark Meadows, get lumped under the sobriquet “jackass.” Former congressman Steve King (R-Iowa), a leader of the GOP’s anti-immigrant wing, is “an a--hole.” Former michele bachmann w 1representative Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), right, now the dean of the school of government at Regent University, was “a kook” (whom, Boehner confides, he nonetheless steered to the House Intelligence Committee to keep her off the tax-writing Ways and Means panel). The false “birther” theories fomented about Obama by Republicans and conservative talk show hosts were “truly nutty.”

Boehner’s disdain for the ideological purists who took over his party and eventually drove him to resign the speakership and his House seat in 2015 is not exactly breaking news: He called for Trump to resign after the Jan. 6 putsch and rehearsed many of his book’s themes in a lengthy 2017 Politico Magazine interview with Tim Alberta, now with the Atlantic. Still, having his excoriating assessments collected between hard covers makes for a powerful indictment, the more so because Boehner’s book vividly captures the growing horror of a bartender’s kid who evolved from a reflexive Democrat to a Reagan Republican to a tea party whipping boy.

Boehner describes one trip he made to New York to meet with “my longtime friend, Roger Ailes.” He says he pleaded with the then-head of Fox News “to put a leash on some of the crazies he was putting on the air.” In response, he says, Ailes stunned him by sharing a series of complex conspiracy theories involving Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and the financier George Soros, and confiding that he had a “safe room” where the government couldn’t spy on him. “I walked out of the meeting in a daze,” Boehner writes.

Recalling his frantic efforts to round up enough Republicans to approve President George W. Bush’s emergency bailout bill in 2008, as the world teetered on the edge of financial collapse, Boehner says that too many of his colleagues “cared more about what Sean Hannity thought than the secretary of the Treasury.”

djt wind jim watson afp getty

ny times logoNew York Times, One America News Network Stays True to Trump, Rachel Abrams, April 18, 2021. To go by much of the right-wing channel’s reporting, it is almost as if a transfer of power had never taken place. A recent OAN segment said there were “serious doubts about who’s actually president,” and another blamed “anti-Trump extremists” for the Capitol attack.

Months after the inauguration of President Biden, One America News Network, a right-wing cable news channel available in some 35 million households, has continued to broadcast segments questioning the validity of the 2020 presidential election.

“There’s still serious doubts about who’s actually president,” the OAN correspondent Pearson Sharp said in a March 28 report.

That segment was one in a spate of similar reports from a channel that has become a kind of Trump TV for the post-Trump age, an outlet whose reporting has aligned with the former president’s grievances at a time when he is barred from major social media platforms.

Some of OAN’s coverage has not had the full support of the staff. In interviews with 18 current and former OAN newsroom employees, 16 said the channel had broadcast reports that they considered misleading, inaccurate or untrue.

To go by much of OAN’s reporting, it is almost as if a transfer of power had never taken place. The channel did not broadcast live coverage of Mr. Biden’s swearing-in ceremony and Inaugural Address. Into April, news articles on the OAN website consistently referred to Donald J. Trump as “President Trump” and to President Biden as just “Joe Biden” or “Biden.” That practice is not followed by other news organizations, including the OAN competitor Newsmax, a conservative cable channel and news site.

OAN has also promoted the debunked theory that the rioters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 were left-wing agitators. Toward the end of a March 4 news segment that described the attack as the work of “antifa” and “anti-Trump extremists” — and referred to the president as “Beijing Biden” — Mr. Sharp said, “History will show it was the Democrats, and not the Republicans, who called for this violence.” Investigations have found no evidence that people who identify with antifa, a loose collective of antifascist activists, were involved in the Capitol riot.

Charles Herring, the president of Herring Networks, the company that owns OAN, defended the reports casting doubt on the election. “Based on our investigations, voter irregularities clearly took place in the November 2020 election,” he said. “The real question is to what extent.”

Herring Networks was founded by Mr. Herring’s father, the tech entrepreneur Robert Herring, who at age 79 runs OAN with Charles and another son, Robert Jr. About 150 employees work for the channel at its headquarters in San Diego.

washington post logoWashington Post, How the Republican in charge of winning back the Senate is managing Trump — and his own ambitions, Mike DeBonis, April 18, 2021 (print ed.). When Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) handed former president Donald Trump the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s first-ever “Champion for Freedom Award” this month at Trump’s Palm Beach resort, it was a demonstration of Trump’s power inside the GOP, his importance to the party’s quest to win the Senate majority, and Scott’s own complicated role in between.

rick scottThe 68-year-old former businessman and two-term governor, right, rose to the key role of NRSC chairman just two years after winning a us senate logomassively expensive and razor-close race to join the Senate — and four years before a presidential race he is widely seen to be eyeing.

Just months into his tenure, Scott has undertaken a rapid effort to reorient the party committee toward small-dollar digital fundraising, hired some of Trump’s top campaign operatives, made a controversial decision not to support favored candidates in key primaries, and placed himself at the center of much of the group’s communications — to the point that some GOP operatives have privately snickered that NRSC now stands for the “National Rick Scott Committee.”

Scott has also assumed a role as an emissary from the Senate GOP leadership to Trump, who remains locked in a high-stakes feud with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s grip on GOP looms as support falters for independent probe of Capitol riot, Karoun Demirjian, April 18, 2021 (print ed.).Republicans are facing pressure to disavow that it was supporters of former president Donald Trump who attacked the U.S. Capitol.

Congress’s pursuit of an independent investigation into the Jan. 6 insurrection is facing long odds, as bipartisan resolve to hold the perpetrators and instigators accountable erodes, and Republicans face sustained pressure to disavow that it was supporters of former president Donald Trump who attacked the U.S. djt maga hatCapitol.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced late last week that she had drafted a fresh proposal for an outside commission to examine what caused the deadly riot. But in a sign of how delicate the political climate has become, she has yet to share her recommendations with Republican leaders, who shot down her initial approach, labeling it too narrow in scope and too heavily weighted toward Democrats in composition.

“Compromise has been necessary,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to other Democrats, informing them she had begun to share her latest proposal with other Republicans in Congress. “It is my hope that we can reach agreement very soon.”

A spokesman for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) declined to comment on a proposal that the leader had not yet seen, adding that “hopefully the speaker has addressed our basic concerns of equal representation and subpoena authority.”

April 10

mike pence djt side by side

Associated Press, Investigation: ‘Clear the Capitol,’ Pence pleaded, timeline of riot shows, Lisa Mascarfo, Ben Fox and Lolita C. Baldor, April 10, 2021. From a secure room in the Capitol on Jan. 6, as rioters pummeled police and vandalized the building, Vice President Mike Pence tried to assert control. In an urgent phone call to the acting defense secretary, he issued a startling demand.

ap logo“Clear the Capitol,” Pence said.

Elsewhere in the building, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were making a similarly dire appeal to military leaders, asking the Army to deploy the National Guard.

“We need help,” Schumer, D-N.Y., said in desperation, more than an hour after the Senate chamber had been breached.

At the Pentagon, officials were discussing media reports that the mayhem was not confined to Washington and that other state capitals were facing similar violence in what had the makings of a national insurrection.

mark milley army chief of staff“We must establish order,” said Gen. Mark Milley, right, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a call with Pentagon leaders.

But order would not be restored for hours.

These new details about the deadly riot are contained in a previously undisclosed document prepared by the Pentagon for internal use that was obtained by The Associated Press and vetted by current and former government officials.

The timeline adds another layer of understanding about the state of fear and panic while the insurrection played out, and lays bare the inaction by then-President Donald Trump and how that void contributed to a slowed response by the military and law enforcement. It shows that the intelligence missteps, tactical errors and bureaucratic delays were eclipsed by the government’s failure to comprehend the scale and intensity of a violent uprising by its own citizens.

With Trump not engaged, it fell to Pentagon officials, a handful of senior White House aides, the leaders of Congress and the vice president holed up in a secure bunker to manage the chaos.

While the timeline helps to crystalize the frantic character of the crisis, the document, along with hours of sworn testimony, provides only an incomplete picture about how the insurrection could have advanced with such swift and lethal force, interrupting the congressional certification of Joe Biden as president and delaying the peaceful transfer of power, the hallmark of American democracy.

Lawmakers, protected to this day by National Guard troops, will hear from the inspector general of the Capitol Police this coming week.

“Any minute that we lost, I need to know why,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., chair of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, which is investigating the siege, said last month.

The timeline fills in some of those gaps.

At 4:08 p.m. on Jan. 6, as the rioters roamed the Capitol and after they had menacingly called out for Pelosi, D-Calif., and yelled for Pence to be hanged, the christopher miller official.jpgvice president was in a secure location, phoning Christopher Miller, left, the acting defense secretary, and demanding answers.

There had been a highly public rift between Trump and Pence, with Trump furious that his vice president refused to halt the Electoral College certification. Interfering with that process was an act that Pence considered unconstitutional. The Constitution makes clear that the vice president’s role in this joint session of Congress is largely ceremonial.

Pence’s call to Miller lasted only a minute. Pence said the Capitol was not secure and he asked military leaders for a deadline for securing the building, according to the document.

By this point it had already been two hours since the mob overwhelmed Capitol Police unprepared for an insurrection. Rioters broke into the building, seized the Senate and paraded to the House. In their path, they left destruction and debris. Dozens of officers were wounded, some gravely.

Just three days earlier, government leaders had talked about the use of the National Guard. On the afternoon of Jan. 3, as lawmakers were sworn in for the new session of Congress, Miller and Milley gathered with Cabinet members to discuss Jan. 6. They also met with Trump.

In that meeting at the White House, Trump approved the activation of the D.C. National Guard and also told the acting defense secretary to take whatever action needed as events unfolded, according to the information obtained by the AP.

The next day, Jan. 4, the defense officials spoke by phone with Cabinet members, including the acting attorney general, and finalized details of the Guard deployment.

The Guard’s role was limited to traffic intersections and checkpoints around the city, based in part on strict restrictions mandated by district officials. Miller also authorized Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy to deploy, if needed, the D.C. Guard’s emergency reaction force stationed at Joint Base Andrews.

Palmer Report, Opinion: “Clear the Capitol” – Trump busted after military leaders defied Mike Pence’s direct request for help, Bill Palmer, right, April 10, 2021. Today bill palmer report logo headerthe Associated Press bill palmerconfirmed in great detail what had already previously been vaguely reported elsewhere: Vice President Mike Pence directly called U.S. military leaders and instructed them to take control of the Capitol building during the January 6th attack, but they ignored him.

To be clear, the Vice President can’t give a formal order to the military; unless the President is unreachable or indisposed. But as a practical matter, U.S. military would never simply ignore an instruction from the Vice President, unless the President told them to ignore it.ap logoIn other words, this helps confirm that Donald Trump really did order U.S. military leaders to defy Mike Pence’s instructions to come rescue him – and only hours later did the military finally take action. This means that Trump actively worked to protect the insurrectionists inside the Capitol building, which makes him guilty of not just inciting the attack, but conspiring to commit it.

This scandal is just getting started, with hundreds of insurrectionists having been arrested, and some of them cutting plea deals, even as the low level leaders of the attack are now being hit with conspiracy charges. We expect these charges to continue to work their way all the way to the top of the hierarchy – meaning Donald Trump

April 9

 djt virus news conference nyt photo Custom

New disclosures from a U.S. House of Representatives probe reveal how Trump Administration political operatives helped suppress findings from career health officials about the dangers of the coronovirus, thereby helping Trump and his team orchestrate misleading public announcements and imagry, such as the White House news conference last year shown above assembling top health officials (New York Times photo).

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump officials celebrated efforts to change CDC reports on coronavirus, Dan Diamond, April 9, 2021. Even as career government scientists worked to combat the virus, a cadre of Trump appointees was trying to blunt the scientists’ messages, edit their findings and equip the president with alternate talking points, according to material obtained by the House’s select subcommittee on the outbreak.

cdc logo CustomTrump appointees in the Health and Human Services department last year privately touted their efforts to block or alter scientists’ hhs logoreports on the coronavirus to more closely align with then-President Donald Trump’s more optimistic messages about the outbreak, according to newly released documents from congressional investigators.

The documents provide further insight into how senior Trump officials approached last year’s explosion of coronavirus cases in the United States. Even as career government scientists worked to combat the virus, a cadre of Trump appointees were attempting toblunt the scientists’ messages, edit their findings and equip the president with an alternate set of talking points.

Then-science adviser Paul Alexander wrote to then-HHS public affairs chief Michael Caputo, left, on Sept. 9, 2020, touting two examples of where he said officials at michael caputothe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had bowed to his pressure and changed language in their reports, according to an email obtained by the House’s select subcommittee on the coronavirus outbreak.

Pointing to one change — where CDC leaders allegedly changed the opening sentence of a report about spread of the virus among younger people after Alexander pressured them — Alexander wrote to Caputo, calling it a “small victory but a victory nonetheless and yippee!!!”

In the same email, Alexander touted another example of a change to a weekly report from the CDC that he said the agency made in response to his demands. The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports (MMWR), which offer public updates on scientists’ findings, had been considered sacrosanct for decades and scott atlas resized untouchable by political appointees in the past.

Two days later, Alexander appealed to then-White House adviser Scott Atlas, right, to help him dispute an upcoming CDC report on coronavirus-related deaths among young Americans

washington post logoWashington Post, In new book, John Boehner says today’s GOP is unrecognizable to traditional conservatives, Paul Kane, Colby Itkowitz and Aaron Blake, April 9, 2021 (print ed.). John Boehner in a new memoir derides today’s Republican Party as unrecognizable to traditional conservatives like himself, held hostage by both former president Donald Trump and by a conservative media echo chamber that is based on creating “chaos” for its own financial needs.

john boehner coverThe former House speaker said that he was happy to be away from Washington on Jan. 20, 2017, when Trump was sworn in as president and completed his hostile takeover of the party to which the Ohio Republican had dedicated decades of his life.“That was fine by me because I’m not sure I belonged to the Republican Party he created,” Boehner writes in On the House: A Washington Memoir, set to be released Tuesday.

In the epilogue, Boehner flatly states that he is glad to be out of elective politics given the party’s sharp distancing from its onetime heroes.

“I don’t even think I could get elected in today’s Republican Party anyway. I don’t think Ronald Reagan could either,” he writes in the book, a full copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post.

The memoir, coming 5 1/2 years after he left Congress, serves as a rollicking, foul-mouthed recounting of Boehner’s 25 years on Capitol Hill, as well as his thoughts on the past, present and future of the GOP. Although he never held office during the Trump years, Boehner republican elephant logosets the stage for how the Republican Party ended up with the former real estate developer turned reality TV star as its standard-bearer.

Originally finished well before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, as Congress certified President Biden’s victory, Boehner rewrote portions of the book djt hands up mouth open Customto forcefully blame Trump for what he called “a low point for our country” that left him on the verge of tears.“Trump incited that bloody insurrection for nothing more than selfish reasons, perpetuated by the b------- he’d been shoveling since he lost a fair election the previous November. He claimed voter fraud without any evidence,” Boehner writes.

He draws a direct line from anti-establishment lawmakers he dealt with last decade to Republicans in Congress who supported Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election: “The legislative terrorism that I’d witnessed as speaker had now encouraged actual terrorism.

ny times logoNew York Times, How a Defeated Trump Is Making a Muddle of the G.O.P., Jonathan Martin and Nicholas Fandos, April 9, 2021. Former President Trump’s instincts for red-meat political fights over governing have left party leaders in a state of confusion over what they stand for.President Donald Trump officialRepublican lawmakers are passing voting restrictions to pacify right-wing activists still gripped by former President Donald J. Trump’s lie that a largely favorable election was rigged against them. G.O.P. leaders are lashing out in Trumpian fashion at businesses, baseball and the news media to appeal to many of the same conservatives and voters. And debates over the size and scope of government have been overshadowed by the sort of culture war clashes that the tabloid king relished.

This is the party Mr. Trump has remade.

As G.O.P. leaders and donors gather for a party retreat in Palm Beach this weekend, with a side trip to Mar-a-Lago for a reception with Mr. Trump on Saturday night, the former president’s pervasive influence in Republican circles has revealed a party thoroughly animated by a defeated incumbent — a bizarre turn of events in American politics.

djt maga hatBarred from Twitter, quietly disdained by many Republican officials and reduced to receiving supplicants in his tropical exile in Florida, Mr. Trump has found ways to exert an almost gravitational hold on a leaderless party just three months after the assault on the Capitol that his critics hoped would marginalize the man and taint his legacy.

His preference for engaging in red-meat political fights rather than governing and policymaking have left party leaders in a state of confusion over what they stand for, even when it comes to business, which was once the business of Republicanism. Yet his single term has made it vividly clear what the far right stands against — and how it intends to go about waging its fights.

Having, quite literally, abandoned their traditional party platform last year to accommodate Mr. Trump, Republicans have organized themselves around opposition to the perceived excesses of the left and borrowed his scorched-earth tactics as they do battle. Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader, excoriated businesses this week for siding with Democrats on G.O.P.-backed voting restrictions, only to backpedal after seeming to suggest he wanted corporations out of politics entirely.

rnc logoThey are doing relatively little to present counterarguments to President Biden on the coronavirus response, his expansive social welfare proposals or, with the important exception of immigration, most any policy issue. Instead, Republicans are attempting to shift the debate to issues that are more inspiring, and unifying, within their coalition and could help them tar Democrats.

So Republicans have embraced fights over seemingly small-bore issues to make a larger argument: By emphasizing the withdrawal from publication of a handful of racially insensitive Dr. Seuss books; the rights of transgender people; and the willingness of large institutions or corporations like Major League Baseball and Coca-Cola to side with Democrats on voting rights, the right is attempting to portray a nation in the grip of elites obsessed with identity politics.

It’s a strikingly different approach from the last time Democrats had full control of government, in 2009 and 2010, when conservatives harnessed the Great Recession to stoke anger about President Barack Obama and federal spending on their way to sweeping midterm gains. But Mr. Biden, a white political veteran, is not much of a foil for the party’s far-right base and is unlikely to grow more polarizing with the country at large.

Probes Of Trump Associates

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), center, in a 2017 Facebook photo with friends and fellow ardent Trump supporters Roger Stone and Joel Greenberg, the latter a former Florida tax collector now facing trial on multiple federal felony charges alleging sex trafficking.

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), center, in a 2017 Facebook photo with friends and fellow ardent Trump supporters Roger Stone and Joel Greenberg, the latter a former Florida tax collector now facing trial on multiple federal felony charges alleging sex trafficking.

washington post logoWashington Post, Gaetz associate likely to strike plea deal with prosecutors in sex trafficking case, Barbara Liston and Matt Zapotosky, April 9, 2021 (print ed.). An associate of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) who had been charged with sex trafficking of a minor and was suspected of connecting the congressmen to women with whom he could have sex is in plea negotiations to resolve the allegations against him, according to his lawyer and a prosecutor on the case, a potentially ominous sign for Gaetz if the associate ultimately cooperates with prosecutors in a bid for leniency.

joel greenberg seminole county tax collectorJoel Greenberg, right, the former tax collector for Seminole County, Fla., had first been charged last summer in a bare-bones indictment that prosecutors repeatedly superseded to add charges of sex trafficking of a minor, stealing from the tax office and even trying to use fraud to get covid-19 relief money while out on bond. In the course of the investigation into his conduct, people familiar with the matter have said, federal authorities came across evidence that Gaetz might have committed a crime and launched a separate investigation into him.

At a status conference in the case Thursday, federal prosecutor Roger Handberg told a judge he expected the case to end in a plea, though negotiations are ongoing. Fritz Scheller, an attorney for Greenberg, asked the judge to set a deadline of May 15 for the two sides to either reach a deal, or move toward a trial in the summer.

It was not immediately clear how far the negotiations had gotten, or to what extent a plea agreement would require Greenberg to cooperate with investigators. If matt gaetz officialprosecutors were to get Greenberg on their side as a cooperator, it is possible he could help bolster the case against Gaetz, a higher-profile target. A person who pleads guilty in a criminal case can often lessen their potential penalty by providing information that might be helpful to investigators in other matters.

Gaetz, left, known for his fierce allegiance to former president Donald Trump, would boast to people in Florida politics that he met women through Greenberg, and he also showed them videos on his phone of naked or topless women on multiple occasions, including at parties with Greenberg, people familiar with the matter have said.

Greenberg had been a colorful political player in Seminole County, where he unseated a longtime incumbent in the race for tax collector, won a political battle to allow his deputies to carry guns on the job and flaunted his connections to prominent Republicans.

A 2019 photograph that Greenberg posted on Twitter shows him with Gaetz at the White House. He also posted a picture in 2017 of him with Gaetz and Roger Stone, another well-known Trump political ally.

Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL), shown at left above, mocked coronavirus prevention measures last year by wearing a gas mask last year on Capitol Hill.Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL), shown at left above, mocked coronavirus prevention measures last year by wearing a gas mask last year on Capitol Hill.

ny times logoNew York Times, Another aide to Matt Gaetz is said to have quit amid an intensifying Justice Department investigation, Nicholas Fandos and Catie Edmondson, April 9, 2021 (print ed.). A second senior aide to Representative Matt Gaetz quit amid a widening Justice Department inquiry. A second senior aide to Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, abruptly quit in recent days as the congressman tries to fend off a Justice Department sex trafficking investigation and mounting public scrutiny, according to three people familiar with the decision.

The aide, Devin Murphy, resigned as Mr. Gaetz’s legislative director on Friday. He told associates that he was interested in writing bills, not working at TMZ — equating the work that Mr. Gaetz’s aides were now handling to the tabloid publication, according to one of the people, who all asked not to be identified discussing a sensitive personnel matter.

His departure last week came hours after Mr. Gaetz’s communications director, Luke Ball, also resigned. They were among the most senior members of the congressman’s staff in Washington and their exits suggest that even as he vows to remain in the House, Mr. Gaetz may be facing a hollowing-out of his support team.

Mr. Murphy, who had worked for Mr. Gaetz since he came to Congress in 2017, declined to comment on Thursday, but his LinkedIn page recorded that he left his position this month. The congressman’s office also declined to comment. One of the people who confirmed Mr. Murphy’s departure said the parting had not been contentious.

Mr. Gaetz faced another setback on Thursday when lawyers for the government and a key ally ensnared in the scandal, Joel Greenberg, said in court that he was likely to plead guilty, indicating he could cooperate with investigators. The Justice Department is scrutinizing whether Mr. Greenberg and Mr. Gaetz ran afoul of federal sex trafficking laws by paying women for sex and having sex with a 17-year-old girl in exchange for something of value.

With few outside allies coming to his defense, Mr. Gaetz’s office issued a statement on Thursday from women who work for him extolling his respect for them. It was signed simply “The Women of the Office of U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz,” without any named signatories.

“Congressman Gaetz has always been a principled and morally grounded leader,” it said. “At no time has any one of us experienced or witnessed anything less than the utmost professionalism and respect. No hint of impropriety. No ounce of untruthfulness.”

Citing media reports about the Justice Department inquiry, the statement said the women “uniformly reject these allegations as false.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: House Republican Adam Kinzinger stomps on Matt Gaetz, Bill Palmer, April 8, 2021. If the Republican Party were still functioning on any level, it would have called on Congressman Matt Gaetz to resign last week, so it could argue to voters in the middle that it took swift action against him. Instead the House Republican leadership has spent the past week hemming and hawing and trying to pretend Gaetz didn’t exist. Now that the details of the scandal have gotten even uglier, the GOP has missed its opportunity to score any points.

bill palmer report logo headerBut even as the Republican leadership continues to act like none of this is happening, House Republican Adam Kinzinger is now calling for adam kinzinger headshotMatt Gaetz to resign. Kinzinger is notable in that he also voted to impeach Trump, and has taken other stands against his party.

We’re not surprised that Kinzinger, right, is doing this; he appears to have decided awhile ago that he’s just going to do whatever he wants, and he doesn’t care what Republican leadership thinks of him. But it’s truly embarrassing for the Republican Party that Kinzinger is calling for Matt Gaetz’s ouster before anyone in the Republican leadership is.

washington post logoWashington Post, Manhattan district attorney seizes evidence from Trump executive’s former daughter-in-law, Shayna Jacobs and David A. Fahrenthold, April 9, 2021 (print ed.). The move by District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. appears to be the latest sign that Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg has become a key focus of the criminal probe into Donald Trump’s financial dealings.

Investigators from the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, acting on a grand jury subpoena, took possession of financial records Thursday morning from the apartment of Jennifer Weisselberg, the former daughter-in-law of a top Trump Organization officer.

allen weisselberg croppedJennifer Weisselberg was married to Barry Weisselberg — the son of Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, right, — from 2004 to 2018. She has previously said that she had seven boxes of financial records from both her ex-husband and his father, some of which were obtained through divorce litigation. On Thursday, she loaded three boxes and a laptop computer onto a valet cart and wheeled them from her building to a black Jeep with dark-tinted windows that was waiting outside.

In Trump probe, Manhattan district attorney puts pressure on his longtime chief financial officer

The move by District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. appears to be the latest sign that Allen Weisselberg, the company’s highest-ranking corporate officer who is not a member of the Trump family, is a key focus of the ongoing criminal probe into former president Donald Trump’s financial dealings.

The subpoena, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post, ordered Jennifer Weisselberg to produce all of the records she possesses for her ex-husband’s bank accounts and credit cards plus his statements of net worth and tax filings. Barry Weisselberg is a Trump Organization employee and manages an ice rink for the company in Manhattan’s Central Park. The subpoena asks specifically for records related to the Trump Organization and Wollman Rink.

“My knowledge of the documents and my voice connect the flow of money from various banks and from personal finances that bleed directly into the Trump Organization,” she said in an interview Thursday. Investigators, she added, now have her ex-husband’s 2019 and 2020 statements of net worth, his tax returns and copies of Wollman Rink checks from private events that she claims were deposited incorrectly.

She has said previously that the documents that were in her possession showed transactions in bank accounts controlled by Barry and Allen Weisselberg jointly.

Manhattan prosecutor hires forensic accounting experts as Trump criminal probe escalates

Vance (D) and New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) — running parallel investigations — have inquired about whether Allen Weisselberg or his son received untaxed benefits from the Trump Organization. Jennifer Weisselberg has previously said, for example, that her family received free use of Trump Organization apartments in Manhattan. Tax experts say that, in some instances, free housing must be counted as “income” for tax purposes. Jennifer Weisselberg has said it was not in this case.

“Jennifer is committed to cooperating with prosecutors, and turning over any documents in her possession that might be helpful,” said Duncan Levin, an attorney for Jennifer Weisselberg. A former prosecutor in the district attorney’s office, Levin has also represented Harvey Weinstein and Seagram’s heiress Clare Bronfman. “At this point,” he added, “she’s given them everything they’ve asked for. But we’re continuing to review documents, and may have supplemental documents to give” later.

washington post logoWashington Post, Video shows Texas GOP official seeking ‘army’ of volunteers to monitor polls in mostly Black and Hispanic Houston precincts, Teo Armus and Derek Hawkins, April 9, 2021 (print ed.). In a leaked video of a recent presentation, a man who identifies himself as a GOP official in Harris County, Tex., says the party needs 10,000 Republicans for an “election integrity brigade” in Houston.

republican elephant logoThen he pulls up a map of the area’s voting precincts and points to Houston’s dense, racially diverse urban core, saying the party specifically needed volunteers with “the confidence and courage to come down here,” adding, “this is where the fraud is occurring.”

texas mapThe official cites widespread vote fraud, which has not been documented in Texas, as driving the need for an “army” of poll watchers to monitor voters at every precinct in the county.

Now the government accountability group Common Cause Texas — which published the footage Thursday — is raising the alarm that such an effort could instead serve to intimidate and suppress voters in metro Houston.

“It’s very clear that we’re talking about recruiting people from the predominantly Anglo parts of town to go to Black and Brown neighborhoods,” Anthony Gutierrez, the group’s executive director, told The Washington Post.

“This is a role that’s supposed to do nothing but stand at a poll site and observe,” he added. So “why is he suggesting someone needs to be ‘courageous’?” Gutierrez asked.

ny times logobrian kemp 2019 CustomNew York Times, How Brian Kemp Is Rebounding Against Trump’s Wrath, Lisa Lerer and Reid J. Epstein, April 8, 2021. Gov. Brian Kemp, right, resisted Donald Trump’s demand to overturn Georgia’s election results. He’s embraced the new voting bill as a way to rebuild his standing.

 

April 8

Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL), shown at left above, mocked coronavirus prevention measures last year by wearing a gas mask last year on Capitol Hill.Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL), shown at left above, mocked coronavirus prevention measures last year by wearing a gas mask last year on Capitol Hill.

Proof via Substack, Investigation: Six Compelling Pieces of Evidence Suggesting Matt Gaetz Was Concerned About Insurrection Planning, Not Sex Trafficking, seth abramson headshotWhen He Sought a Blanket Pardon From Trump, Seth Abramson, left, April 7, 2021. The NYT's theory of Gaetz's unprecedented proposal—taken, the paper concedes, from "Trump associates"—doesn't add up.

seth abramson proof logoAnd it may hide Gaetz's darker motives.Yesterday (April 6), the New York Times issued a stunning report alleging that Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), arguably former president Donald Trump’s most sycophantic congressional ally, asked the then-president for an unprecedented “blanket pardon” in the waning days of the Trump presidency. But behind this excellent reporting by the Times lies a significant journalistic error.

washington post logoWashington Post, Manhattan district attorney seizes evidence from Trump executive’s former daughter-in-law, Shayna Jacobs and David A. Fahrenthold, April 8, 2021. The move by District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. appears to be the latest sign that Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg has become a key focus of the criminal probe into Donald Trump’s financial dealings.

Investigators from the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, acting on a grand jury subpoena, took possession of financial records Thursday morning from the apartment of Jennifer Weisselberg, the former daughter-in-law of a top Trump Organization officer.

allen weisselberg croppedJennifer Weisselberg was married to Barry Weisselberg — the son of Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, right, — from 2004 to 2018. She has previously said that she had seven boxes of financial records from both her ex-husband and his father, some of which were obtained through divorce litigation. On Thursday, she loaded three boxes and a laptop computer onto a valet cart and wheeled them from her building to a black Jeep with dark-tinted windows that was waiting outside.

In Trump probe, Manhattan district attorney puts pressure on his longtime chief financial officer

The move by District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. appears to be the latest sign that Allen Weisselberg, the company’s highest-ranking corporate officer who is not a member of the Trump family, is a key focus of the ongoing criminal probe into former president Donald Trump’s financial dealings.

The subpoena, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post, ordered Jennifer Weisselberg to produce all of the records she possesses for her ex-husband’s bank accounts and credit cards plus his statements of net worth and tax filings. Barry Weisselberg is a Trump Organization employee and manages an ice rink for the company in Manhattan’s Central Park. The subpoena asks specifically for records related to the Trump Organization and Wollman Rink.

“My knowledge of the documents and my voice connect the flow of money from various banks and from personal finances that bleed directly into the Trump Organization,” she said in an interview Thursday. Investigators, she added, now have her ex-husband’s 2019 and 2020 statements of net worth, his tax returns and copies of Wollman Rink checks from private events that she claims were deposited incorrectly.

She has said previously that the documents that were in her possession showed transactions in bank accounts controlled by Barry and Allen Weisselberg jointly.

Manhattan prosecutor hires forensic accounting experts as Trump criminal probe escalates

Vance (D) and New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) — running parallel investigations — have inquired about whether Allen Weisselberg or his son received untaxed benefits from the Trump Organization. Jennifer Weisselberg has previously said, for example, that her family received free use of Trump Organization apartments in Manhattan. Tax experts say that, in some instances, free housing must be counted as “income” for tax purposes. Jennifer Weisselberg has said it was not in this case.

“Jennifer is committed to cooperating with prosecutors, and turning over any documents in her possession that might be helpful,” said Duncan Levin, an attorney for Jennifer Weisselberg. A former prosecutor in the district attorney’s office, Levin has also represented Harvey Weinstein and Seagram’s heiress Clare Bronfman. “At this point,” he added, “she’s given them everything they’ve asked for. But we’re continuing to review documents, and may have supplemental documents to give” later.

April 4

Mediaite, Trump Biographer Says ‘Needy’ Former President Is Entering His ‘Fat Elvis’ Period, Josh Feldman, April 4, 2021. CNN’s Jim Acosta mocked former djt golf shirt march 14 2021President Donald Trump on Sunday over his very on-brand Easter messages and recent role as a wedding crasher.

In statements over the weekend, Trump made his usual complaints and false claims about the election, appended with brief “Happy Easter” messages.

Acosta brought on Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio to talk about the former president being a “wedding crasher” using occasions like wedding (illustrated by a photo at right on March 14) and Easter Sunday to “air his grievances.”

D’Antonio said Trump is basically an aging comedian recycling old material, telling Acosta, “We have to suffer through the same nonsense over and over again. And as you said, you do hate to hear it, because at least technically speaking he’s a former president.”

At one point Acosta brought up what several former presidents have done in their post-presidency’s, to ask if Trump is filling his need of “they like me, they really, really like me.”

D’Antonio said Trump is “very needy” and the wedding video showed him “really begging for people to applaud.”

April 3

Proof via Substack, Investigation: A Comprehensive Guide to Those Responsible for the January 6 Insurrection, Seth Abramson, left, April 3, 2021 (excerpted below to about one-fourth published length). This primer also explains, in seth abramson headshotdetail, how and seth abramson proof logowhy the attack on the Capitol occurred.

The Department of Justice calls the FBI investigation into the January 6 assault on the United States Capitol one of the largest criminal probes in American history. One of the reasons the investigation is so historically vast and complex is that it encompasses five discrete yet overlapping classes of potential criminal defendants.

This article details those five classes, establishes the key intersections between each, identifies a small number of key events in the lead-up to the insurrection, and presents an overarching narrative—confirmed by both testimonial and documentary evidence—of how the insurrection occurred.

The Five Classes of Insurrectionists

Paramilitaries: The Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, Boogaloo Bois, QAnoners, and 8kun (an online community of trolls) all had a significant presence at the Capitol on January 6, as well as a patchwork of lesser-known entities that included smaller white supremacist organizations, militias, independently operating trolls from the internet, and heterogeneous breeds of conspiracy theorist.

Grassroots Organizations: This category includes at least six grassroots organizations (Stop the Steal, Women for Trump, Latinos for Trump, Students for Trump, Jericho March, and Women for America First, this last an outgrowth of Women for Trump) as well as a number of pro-Trump PACs or nonprofits (among them Save America PAC, America First Policies, and the Council for National Policy) that were involved in planning, funding, promoting, and/or coordinating the events of January 6.

The Trump Campaign: Officially, the 2020 Trump campaign began dissolving shortly after the 2020 election, but a sufficient number of loyalists and dead-enders remained to seek to assist Trump in overturning the November election. Many of these individuals had longstanding ties to the Trump family, the Trump administration, or a past Trump political campaign.

Independent Agitators and Enablers: Trump’s brand of personal and professional corruption has always attracted a bizarre swarm of persons that includes dissolute grifters, deranged ideologues, and foreign agents—essentially, unscrupulous but sufficiently well-resourced people who see in Trump a means of advancing their fringe designs with relative impunity.

Members of Congress: Trump’s GOP allies in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives did not directly participate in the January 6 insurrection, but nevertheless issued public rhetoric and engaged in actions in their official capacity as members of Congress that helped inspire the false belief that the 2020 election had been stolen—and that with sufficient pressure on Congress on and before January 6, the election result might be overturned. Many individuals listed below attended pre-January 6 strategy sessions with the president and his top advisers, while other spoke at Stop the Steal events and (in a few rare instances) arguably directly incited violence with their irresponsible rhetoric.

Seth Abramson, shown above left and at right, is founder of Proof and is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who teaches digital journalism, seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionlegal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the Ph.D. program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include a Trump trilogy: Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump (2020); Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump's International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy (2019); and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018).

April 2

washington post logoWashington Post, Oath Keepers founder, associates exchanged 19 calls from start of Jan. 6 riot through breach, prosecutors allege, Spencer S. Hsu, April 2, 2021 (print ed.). An new indictment adds two more people to a conspiracy case that now has 12 defendants. Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes has not been charged.

Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, his deputy and three members who guarded Roger Stone exchanged nearly 20 phone calls over three hours on Jan. 6, coinciding with the first assault on police barricades protecting the U.S. Capitol and spanning the time the three members breached the building, prosecutors charged Thursday.

In a new indictment adding previously charged Stone guards Joshua James, 33, of Arab, Ala., and Roberto Minuta, 36, of Prosper, Tex., to an Oath Keepers conspiracy case that now has 12 defendants, prosecutors bluntly laid a path to Rhodes and a person they said he put in charge of his group’s operations that day.

Prosecutors identified that individual only as “Person 10.” Rhodes in interviews has said he tapped a former Army explosives expert and Blackwater contractor nicknamed “Whip” as on-the-ground team leader.

Neither Rhodes nor Person 10, who has not been publicly identified, has been charged or accused of wrongdoing. Efforts by The Washington Post to reach a person matching Rhodes’s description of “Whip” were unsuccessful. The 12 co-defendants face charges of conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding, which carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

James, Minuta and two others have not entered pleas, while eight have pleaded not guilty.

April 1

ny times logoNew York Times, N.Y. Seeks Trump Insider’s Records, in Apparent Bid to Gain Cooperation, Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum, Jonah E. Bromwich and Maggie Haberman, April 1, 2021 (print ed.). State prosecutors in Manhattan subpoenaed the personal bank records of the Trump Organization’s longtime C.F.O. and are scrutinizing gifts he received from the former president.

allen weisselberg croppedState prosecutors in Manhattan investigating former President Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization have subpoenaed the personal bank records of the company’s chief financial officer and are questioning gifts he and his family received from Mr. Trump, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

In recent weeks, the prosecutors have trained their focus on the executive, Allen H. Weisselberg, in what appears to be a determined effort to gain his cooperation. Mr. Weisselberg, who has not been accused of wrongdoing, has overseen the Trump Organization’s finances for decades and may hold the key to any possible criminal case in New York against the former president and his family business.

Prosecutors working for the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., are examining, among other things, whether Mr. Trump and the company falsely manipulated property values to obtain loans and tax benefits.

It is unclear whether Mr. Weisselberg would cooperate with the investigation and neither his lawyer, Mary E. Mulligan, nor Mr. Vance’s office would comment. But if a review of his personal finances were to uncover possible wrongdoing, prosecutors could then use that information to press Mr. Weisselberg to guide them through the inner workings of the company. The 73-year-old accountant began his career working for Mr. Trump’s father.

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Oath Keepers Stormed the Capitol in Stolen Golf Carts: Indictment, Rachel Olding, April 1, 2021. As they prepared to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6, members of the Oath Keepers militia “prepared themselves for battle” by donning ballistic vests, goggles, helmets, radios and camo gear, prosecutors say. But some members picked unusual vehicles to transport them to the battlefront: stolen golf carts.

In a superseding indictment that accuses several Oath Keepers of conspiring together to breach the Capitol, prosecutors say Robert Minuta, Joshua James, and other militia members swerved around police cars as they rode two stolen buggies towards the Capitol.

“Patriots are storming the Capitol building, there’s violence against patriots by the D.C. police; so we’re en route in a grand theft auto golf cart to the Capitol building right now,” Minuta said, according to the indictment. “It’s literally going down right now.... fucking war in the street.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Four killed, including child, in shooting at Southern California office building, police say, Meghann Cuniff and Teo Armus, April 1, 2021 (print ed.). Police in Orange, Calif., said one additional victim was in critical condition. A suspect was taken into custody.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: What the hardworking women at massage businesses do for the people who know them best, Arthur Tam, April 1, 2021 (print ed.). Arthur Tam is a journalist based in the United States and a former editor at Time Out Hong Kong and Cedar Hong Kong.

As a teenager, I frequently complained about muscle aches. My mother’s immediate instinct was to set up weekly appointments for me to see Alice — a plump, middle-aged Taiwanese acupressurist and qi gong practitioner with bearlike strength and a full head of grey hair. Her long, peppery locks, I was told, were the result of years of lending her qi — her life force — to heal others.

I didn’t believe much in this Chinese philosophy of qi transfer, but nevertheless, Alice worked her magic on me. When she first pressed her hands deep into my muscles, I felt an initial jolt of pain. But then the pain turned into relief and my spirit revitalized. In borrowing some of her strength, I regained mine. Afterward, Alice would sometimes put me in a rice vinegar steam bath to soothe my body and flush out any remaining toxins from my muscles. I ended up smelling like a pickle, but the results were worth it.

Alice was a true entrepreneur. She started her business in her home in the San Gabriel Valley in California, and operated it there until her clientele grew. She became so sought after that she moved her practice into an office space and was able to afford a house for her nephews, who had come to the United States to study. Her own son would go into the family trade and take on additional clients his mother didn’t have time for. It was the American dream: a grandmother transcending her limited English to use her knowledge and experience in a way that benefited herself, her family and her community.

That’s what I want people to think about when they contemplate Asian-owned massage businesses and Asian massage workers. And that’s why when I read about the Atlanta spa shootings and learned about the identity of the victims, I felt the anguish of a crucial connection severed.

Like Alice, these hardworking women, matriarchs and providers, channeled their immigrant grit and determination in their unglamorous workplace.

But that wasn’t the story that initially emerged in the media, in part because the alleged killer spoke about his motivation before all of his victims’ families had been informed and their names released to the public. Because the alleged shooter described himself as having a “sex addiction” and described the businesses he targeted as a source of temptation, too many people assumed that the businesses he targeted were vice-ridden dens.

While it is true that two of the spas were targeted in police prostitution stings, the last such arrest happened in 2013. Jumping to the conclusion that Asian-owned spas provide cover for sex work not only ignores studies that suggest workers are sexually victimized by customers, but reflects the double standards immigrants face all too often.

 

March 2021

March 30

 

djt virus news conference nyt photo Custom

This photo from last year shows President Trump at center, with Vice President Pence and Dr. Deborah Birx directly behind, leading a news conference about the virus and touting the administration's efforts to curtail it and keep workplaces, schools and other venues open.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump officials say coronavirus response was worse than known, Dan Diamond, March 30, 2021 (print ed.). 'That’s what bothers me every day’: Birx and others admit failures that hampered the White House response.

Several top doctors in the Trump administration offered their most pointed and direct criticism of the government response to coronavirus last year, with one of them arguing that hundreds of thousands of covid-19 deaths could have been prevented.

CNNThey also admitted their own missteps as part of a CNN special that aired Sunday night, saying that some Trump administration statements the White House fiercely defended last year were misleading or outright falsehoods.

“When we said there were millions of tests available, there weren’t, right?” said Brett Giroir, who served as the nation’s coronavirus testing czar, referencing the administration’s repeated claims in March 2020 that anyone who sought a coronavirus test could get one. “There were components of the test available, but not the full meal deal.”

“People really believed in the White House that testing was driving cases, rather than testing was a way for us to stop cases,” said Deborah Birx, who served as White House coronavirus coordinator. Birx also said that most of the virus-related deaths in the United States after the first 100,000 in the spring surge could have been prevented with a more robust response. “That’s what bothers me every day,” she said.

deborah birx djt white house photo croppedCNN’s special with Giroir, Birx (shown at right speaking last year at a White House news conference flanked by Trump and fellow advisor Anthony Fauci) and four other senior physicians was pitched as a tell-all with former Trump officials, who are increasingly speaking out about what went wrong after more than 400,000 people in the United States died with the virus during the Trump administration. An additional 130,000-plus have died of covid-19 since President Biden’s inauguration, according to data compiled by The Washington Post

scott atlas resized But the finger-pointing and portrayals of some episodes prompted critics to say that former Trump administration officials who managed the pandemic response have turned to a new project: managing their legacies. Shown above left, Trump advisor Scott Atlas, who minimized dangers from the virus and advocated the economic and political advantages of keeping businesses and schools open.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Matt Gaetz Is Said to Be Investigated Over Possible Sexual Relationship With a Girl, 17, Michael S. Schmidt and Katie Benner, March 30, 2021. An inquiry into the Florida congressman was opened in the final months of the Trump administration, people briefed on it said.

matt gaetz o CustomRepresentative Matt Gaetz, right, Republican of Florida and a close ally of former President Donald J. Trump, is being investigated by the Justice Department over whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel with him, according to three people briefed on the matter.

Investigators are examining whether Mr. Gaetz violated federal sex trafficking laws, the people said. A variety of federal statutes make it illegal to induce someone under 18 to travel over state lines to engage in sex in exchange for money or something of value. The Justice Department regularly prosecutes such cases, and offenders often receive severe sentences.

Justice Department log circularIt was not clear how Mr. Gaetz met the girl, believed to be 17 at the time of encounters about two years ago that investigators are scrutinizing, according to two of the people.

The investigation was opened in the final months of the Trump administration under Attorney General William P. Barr, below right,l the two people said. Given Mr. Gaetz’s national profile, senior Justice Department officials in Washington — including some appointed by Mr. Trump — william barr new owere notified of the investigation, the people said.

The three people said that the examination of Mr. Gaetz, 38, is part of a broader investigation into a political ally of his, a local official in Florida named Joel Greenberg, who was indicted last summer on an array of charges, including sex trafficking of a child and financially supporting people in exchange for sex, at least one of whom was an underage girl.

Mr. Greenberg, who has since resigned his post as tax collector in Seminole County, north of Orlando, visited the White House with Mr. Gaetz in 2019, according to a photograph that Mr. Greenberg posted on Twitter.

No charges have been brought against Mr. Gaetz, and the extent of his criminal exposure is unclear.

republican elephant logoMr. Gaetz said in an interview that his lawyers had been in touch with the Justice Department and that they were told he was the subject, not the target, of an investigation. “I only know that it has to do with women,” Mr. Gaetz said. “I have a suspicion that someone is trying to recategorize my generosity to ex-girlfriends as something more untoward.”

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment, as did a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Central Florida.

Mr. Greenberg pleaded not guilty last year and was sent to jail this month for violating the terms of his bail. He is scheduled to go on trial in June in Orlando.

A frequent presence on Fox News and other conservative media, Mr. Gaetz has recently mused with confidants about quitting elected politics and taking a full-time job with the conservative television channel Newsmax or another network, according to a person familiar with the conversations. Axios first reported on Tuesday that Mr. Gaetz was considering leaving Congress.

Matt Gaetz, center, Roger Stone, left, and Joel Greenberg in a 2017 Facebook photo.

Mr. Greenberg maintained ties to controversial figures who have supported Mr. Trump, an examination of court records, social media posts and far-right websites showed. A website run by a member of the far-right group the Proud Boys and a network of fake social media accounts linked to Mr. Trump’s longtime political adviser Roger J. Stone Jr. have promoted false accusations about Mr. Greenberg’s rivals similar to rumors that prosecutors accused Mr. Greenberg of secretly trying to spread.

It was not clear how Mr. Greenberg (shown at right in the photo adjoining) knew either Mr. Gaetz (shown at center) or Mr. Stone (shown at left). He posted a selfie with both in 2017 (shown at left), tweeting, “Great catching up.” The following year, Mr. Gaetz  expressed support for Mr. Greenberg’s successful bid for local office, predicting he would someday make a great member of Congress.

On Capitol Hill, Mr. Gaetz has embraced the role of villain to the left as much as he has served as one of Mr. Trump’s staunchest defenders and enablers, often with theatrical flair. He wore a gas mask on the House floor last year in the early days of the pandemic, insisting he was demonstrating concern for public safety amid accusations he was mocking the seriousness of the spread of the coronavirus.

Mr. Gaetz was first elected to Congress in 2016. As a member of the Florida State Legislature and the scion of a Republican political family, he had initially backed former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida in the Republican presidential primary that year before hitching his political fortunes to Mr. Trump.

It paid off. He won a seat in Congress representing part of the Florida Panhandle, and as one of Mr. Trump’s most flamboyant supporters on Capitol Hill and on cable television, his profile skyrocketed.

Mr. Gaetz invited a right-wing Holocaust skeptic to the State of the Union address in 2018, and attended an event last year where he said the Proud Boys had provided security, though he has distanced himself from the group on his podcast. When Democrats moved in 2019 to impeach Mr. Trump for the first time, Mr. Gaetz and a phalanx of Republicans following him barged past Capitol Police into the secure rooms of the House Intelligence Committee to briefly break up the investigation into the president.

After Mr. Trump’s defeat last year, Mr. Gaetz once again rallied to his side, defending the president’s baseless claims of widespread election fraud. Mr. Gaetz helped organize efforts among lawmakers to challenge President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory during Congress’s certification of it on Jan. 6 that was disrupted for hours by a pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol. Mr. Gaetz later traveled to Wyoming to hold a rally against Representative Liz Cheney, a Republican leader who had voted to impeach Mr. Trump for inciting the riot.

In 2017, Mr. Gaetz was the only member of Congress to vote against a law that gave the federal government more power and money to fight human trafficking.

“Voters in Northwest Florida did not send me to Washington to go and create more federal government,” Mr. Gaetz said in a local television interview at the time. “If anything, we should be abolishing a lot of the agencies at the federal level.”

Mr. Gaetz’s personal life has gained attention before. Last summer, he announced that he had a son, Nestor Galban, 19, though Mr. Gaetz said he was not Mr. Galban’s biological father, nor had he adopted him. Mr. Galban had been 12 when they met and had come to the United States from Cuba; Mr. Gaetz was at the time dating Mr. Galban’s sister.

“He is a part of my family story,” Mr. Gaetz told People magazine in June. “My work with Nestor, our family, no element of my public service could compare to the joy that our family has brought me.”

Mr. Gaetz proposed to his girlfriend, Ginger Luckey, at Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club on Dec. 30.

It was unclear how investigators in the Greenberg case began examining Mr. Gaetz’s conduct. Last June, federal prosecutors secured an indictment against Mr. Greenberg, accusing him of stalking a political rival.

Around that time, federal authorities seized Mr. Greenberg’s phone and laptop, according to court records. They discovered evidence that Mr. Greenberg, whose job responsibilities included issuing licenses, was creating fake identification cards for himself and a teenage girl, and was experimenting with holograms used on permits for concealed firearms, according to court documents.

Two months later, he was indicted on the sex trafficking charge. From May to November 2017, prosecutors said, Mr. Greenberg targeted the girl, who was between 14 and 17, saying he “recruited” and “solicited” her for sex acts in exchange for unspecified perks or favors.

Mr. Greenberg worked in advertising before running successfully at the age of 31 in 2016 for tax collector in Seminole County.

Within days of taking office, he fired three employees who had supported his predecessor and began spending more than $1.5 million in taxpayer money on personal expenses, including guns, ammunition, body armor and a drone, as well as on computers for his own cryptocurrency venture, a county audit later revealed.

The following year, according to The Orlando Sentinel, Mr. Greenberg posted a photograph of himself on social media with Milo Yiannopoulos, a right-wing personality who has a history of making racist remarks. The newspaper also detailed Mr. Greenberg’s own misogynist and anti-Muslim comments on Facebook.

In his bid for re-election, Mr. Greenberg turned in late 2019 to clandestine tactics to undermine a possible rival, according to court papers. Prosecutors said he sent an anonymous letter to the school where one potential candidate worked that made unfounded accusations of sexual misconduct with a student and making similar claims on a fake Facebook account.

As the primary race intensified last summer, similar messaging began appearing on fake social media accounts that have been tied to Mr. Stone.

“Watch out Seminole county,” said someone named April Goad on Facebook, warning Floridians “don’t open your door” to the rival candidate, according to Graphika, a company that specializes in analyzing social media.

The post linked to an article about the rival published on Central Florida Post, a website controlled by Mr. Stone’s associates that had written favorable articles about Mr. Greenberg. The website was founded by a member of the Proud Boys who has been linked to security providers for Mr. Stone on Jan. 6 in Washington in the lead-up to the insurrection at the Capitol.

Mr. Greenberg’s re-election efforts quickly evaporated when he was first indicted last June, and he resigned a day later.

Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting. Kitty Bennett and Susan C. Beachy contributed research.

Michael S. Schmidt is a Washington correspondent covering national security and federal investigations. He was part of two teams that won Pulitzer Prizes in 2018 — one for reporting on workplace sexual harassment and the other for coverage of President Trump and his campaign’s ties to Russia. @NYTMike

Katie Benner covers the Justice Department. She was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for public service for reporting on workplace sexual harassment issues. @ktbenner

Axios, Investigation: Rep. Matt Gaetz eyes early retirement from Congress to take job at Newsmax, Alayna Treene, March 30, 2021. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) has axios logoprivately told confidants he's seriously considering not seeking re-election and possibly leaving Congress early for a job at Newsmax, three sources with direct knowledge of the talks tell Axios.

Why it matters: Gaetz is a provocative figure on the right who's attracted attention by being a fierce defender of former President Trump. The Republican also represents a politically potent district on the Florida panhandle.

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What we’re hearing: Gaetz has told some of his allies he’s interested in becoming a media personality, and floated taking a role at Newsmax.

One of the sources said Gaetz has had early conversations with the network about what a position could look like.

The backdrop: Many Republicans turned to the network after Fox News called Arizona early for President Biden.

Some critics now say Fox is not conservative enough for their tastes, providing an opening for Newsmax and the One America News Network (OANN).

Gaetz has previously toyed with the idea of running for higher office.

Between the lines: Gaetz, 38, went to Florida State University and received a law degree from the College of William and Mary. He served in the Florida House before being elected to Congress in 2016.

While the party out of power tends to gain seats in midterm elections — creating the possibility of Republicans' taking control of the House in 2022 — a prominent spot in the media could give Gaetz a platform for a future national political role.

Former Fox executives and contributors were among Trump's many senior advisers, including Bill Shine, John Bolton and Larry Kudlow.

Trump has stoked speculation he may seek a second and final term in 2024.

For the record: Gaetz and his spokesman did not immediately respond to several requests for comment.

donald trump apprentice color nbc

Reuters via Yahoo News, Trump must face 'Apprentice' contestant's defamation lawsuit -NY court, Jonathan Stempel, March 30, 2021. New York state's highest court on Tuesday cleared the way for a former contestant on "The Apprentice" to sue Donald Trump for defamation, after the former U.S. president called her a liar for accusing him of sexual assault.

summer zervosTrump (shown above in a publicity photo for the show) had argued before leaving the White House on Jan. 20 that Summer Zervos (shown in a file photo) could not pursue her case because a sitting president could not be sued, but the state Court of Appeals said in a brief order that "the issues presented have become moot."

Zervos' case will now return to a Manhattan trial court, where her lawyers may have an opportunity to question Trump under oath. The case had been on hold during Trump's appeal.

"Now a private citizen, the defendant has no further excuse to delay justice for Ms. Zervos, and we are eager to get back to the trial court and prove her claims," Beth Wilkinson, a lawyer for Zervos, said in an email.

Lawyers for Trump did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Zervos came forward during the 2016 presidential campaign with accusations that Trump subjected her to unwanted kissing and groping after she sought career advice in 2007, two years after her appearance on his reality television show.

She sued Trump in January 2017 after he branded such allegations by women "lies" and retweeted a post calling Zervos' claims a "hoax."

Zervos has sought a retraction or an apology, plus compensatory damages and punitive damages.

Trump has denied Zervos' claims, and called her case politically motivated.

Former Elle magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll is also suing Trump for defamation, after he denied having raped her in the Bergdorf Goodman department store in Manhattan in the mid-1990s.

Trump has also denied claims by several other women of improper sexual conduct.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion, Dominion lawsuit outs Fox News’ disinformation campaign, Erik Wemple, March 30, 2021. Fox News commonly boasts about it fabulous ratings, its huge audience. In this suit from a voting firm, the network's reach is a liability.

fox news logo SmallBack in December, Dominion Voting Systems warned Fox News and other spreaders of election-related conspiracy theories that lawsuits were imminent. For reasons that remain murky, the voting-machine company became a target for those seeking to convince the American public that the presidential election had been stolen from then-President Trump.

dominion voting systemsWith the help of lawyer Sidney Powell and longtime Trump attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani, Fox hosts laundered bogus claims that Dominion had flipped votes from Joe Biden to Trump; that “kickbacks” had been provided to officials in states that used Dominion systems; and that Dominion was owned by voting outfit Smartmatic, a company that has already sued Fox News over election coverage.

In pushing back against Dominion’s threat, a Fox News spokeswoman “pointed to” a pair stories that the network had done on this matter: One was an interview by host Eric Shawn with a Dominion executive who stated that the company’s voting machines hadn’t been involved with fraud and that claims to the contrary were false; the other was the high-profile segment in which host Tucker Carlson said that Powell hadn’t mustered evidence for her allegations.

When asked about a torrent of disinformation, in other words, Fox News highlighted two stories that told the truth. “You can’t get away from defamation by saying the truth in the morning and then lying through your teeth in the afternoon. That doesn’t cut it,” said Stephen Shackelford, a Dominion attorney, on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” Sunday.

Now Dominion — company that provided voting machines in 28 states — has followed through with its suit against Fox News, and it is shoving the Carlson-Shawn segments right down the network’s throat. The segments don’t mitigate the network’s culpability, argues the filing. To the contrary: “some of the strongest evidence proving Fox knew it was spreading lies about Dominion came from the Fox on-air talent who declined to endorse and amplify those lies,” reads the complaint.

 djt hands up mouth open CustomWayne Madsen Report, Opinion; Trump and GOP leaders guilty of "social murder?" Wayne Madsen, left, March 30, 2021. Dr. Deborah Birx, Donald wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallTrump's one-time official Covid-19 death enumerator and White House pandemic response coordinator, told CNN in a recent interview that she believes Trump is responsible for the deaths of 450,000 of the total 550,000 U.S. deaths from the pandemic.

There is a growing belief among legal experts that whether Trump is responsible for 450,000 virus deaths, or half that number, or the total of 550,000, he should face a trial for his negligence as president.

March 25

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sweeping changes to Georgia elections signed into law, Mark Niesse, March 26, 2021 (print ed.). Absentee and runoff voting targeted after 2020 elections. Gov. Brian Kemp quickly signed a vast rewrite of Georgia’s election rules into law Thursday, imposing voter ID requirements, limiting drop boxes and allowing state takeovers of local elections after last year’s close presidential race.

brian kemp 2019 CustomKemp, right, finalized the bill just over an hour after it cleared the General Assembly, leaving no doubt about its fate amid public pressure against voting restrictions.

Republican lawmakers pushed the legislation through both the House and Senate over the objections of Democratic lawmakers. The legislation passed along party lines in both chambers, with votes of 34-20 in the Senate and 100-75 in the House.

Protesters outside the Capitol said the bill would disenfranchise voters, calling it “Jim Crow 2.0.” Supporters of the measure, Senate Bill 202, argued it would protect election integrity.

“Significant reforms to our state elections were needed. There’s no doubt there were many alarming issues with how the election was handled, and those problems, understandably, led to a crisis of confidence in the ballot box here in Georgia,” Kemp said after signing the bill.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosThe elections overhaul in a state with a history of voting rights struggles came after the first victory by Democrat in a presidential election since 1992. Then in January, Democrats won two runoffs for the U.S. Senate, giving them the majority.

Opponents of the bill said it would create obstacles for voting, especially on absentee ballots and in runoffs.

Absentee voters would be required to submit driver’s license numbers or other documentation under a new process for checking their identity, replacing signature matching processes. Over 200,000 Georgia voters lack a driver’s license or state ID number, meaning they would need to submit additional proof of their identities.

In addition, there would as little as one week of early voting before runoffs, down from the current three-week early voting period. The bill calls for runoffs to be held four weeks after general elections, leaving little time for early voting.

“It is unbelievable that there are still some people trying to stop people from voting today. You are changing the rules, cutting the voting hours, and making it more difficult for people to vote,” said state Rep. Erica Thomas, a Democrat from Austell. “Too many people fought, bled and died for our right to vote.”

Proof via Substack, Investigative Commentary, A January 6 Secret Service Scandal Is Brewing, Seth Abramson, March 25, 2021. Evidence of a seditious conspiracy involving officials who remain in the Secret Service is growing as the Secret Service's role in the insurrection comes under new scrutiny.

CNN, DEA agent says he was wrongly fired and is now under investigation for being at Capitol during insurrection, Adrienne Winston, March 25, 2021. New video appears to show CNNattack on slain officer during Capitol riot.

A US Drug Enforcement Administration agent suspended for being at the US Capitol during the January 6 insurrection said Tuesday that he has since been fired from the agency and is now "the subject of a criminal investigation," even though he claims he "never even stepped foot on the stairs of the Capitol building."

Mark Ibrahim said in an interview with Fox News that after the attack on the Capitol he "got on a flight back to LA. I had my badge and gun taken away from me. I was escorted off the premises to my apartment like a criminal, and I was fired after being suspended for two months, for performance issues."
"Now, I'm actually the subject of a criminal investigation," he told the network.

The Justice Department declined to comment on Ibrahim's assertion that he is under investigation, and Ibrahim's attorney, Darren Richie, declined to provide further information to CNN.

The DEA said in a statement to CNN that per agency policy, it "cannot comment on specific personnel matters" protected by privacy laws.

Ibrahim's firing adds to a growing list of consequences facing people who were present at the US Capitol on January 6 when a pro-Trump mob stormed the building in an attack that left five dead. The government has charged nearly 300 others in connection to the insurrection. The rioters were attempting to stop the Senate from counting the electoral votes to confirm Joe Biden's presidential win.
Ibrahim, who said he is now taking "legal action against the DEA" said in the interview that he was at the Capitol on January 6 because a "friend I served in Iraq with asked me to help him get there for documentation purposes and we were just spectators."

"When the crowd began to be hostile toward law enforcement, me being law enforcement myself, I started to document everything and, via my friend, we handed everything over to the FBI so those criminals could face justice," he said.

His lawyer previously said Ibrahim was at the Capitol to enjoy "an important day in history" and that "Mr. Ibrahim was not part of, affiliated with nor participatory in any trespass or violent acts and vehemently denounces them."

March 22

djt jan 6 twitter

Donald Trump rouses supporters in a speech outside the White House just prior to the mob's assault on the U.S. Capitol, which contained elected members of Congress giving final certification of November election results on Jan. 6, 2021 in advance of President-elect Joe Biden's planned Inaugution.

washington post logoWashington Post, The rioter next door: How the Dallas suburbs spawned domestic extremists, Annie Gowen, March 22, 2021 (print ed.). The FBI voiced concern that radical ideologies are going mainstream in Texas.

FBI logoHope for Trump's return is fervent in Frisco and across the north Dallas suburbs, an area of rapid growth and rapidly increasing diversity. Nineteen local residents have been charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, according to federal authorities, one of the largest numbers in any place in the country.

Many of the rioters came from the "mainstream of society," according to the FBI's Dallas field office, including three real estate agents, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, an oilman and an actor who once appeared on the popular television show "Friday Night Lights." They were driven by a "salad bowl of grievances," the FBI said, including anger over the presidential election, white-supremacist ideology and the discredited extremist ideology QAnon, which holds that Trump will save the world from a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles.

Their groundless claims are being fed by conservative politicians and from the pulpits of large, powerful evangelical churches with teachings that verge on white nationalism, both motivated by fear that they are losing a largely White, conservative enclave that views these changes with suspicion.

More arrests are coming, and North Texas remains a focus for investigators who expect to charge as many as 400 people from across the country in the attack on the Capitol.

Proof via Substack, Investigation: The Five Must-See Insurrection Videos, Seth Abramson, left, March 21, 2021. The next wave of January 6 arrests is seth abramson headshotcoming. These damning videos highlight the actions of several people who orchestrated many of the events of that horrible day.

Thus far, over 320 Trumpists have been arrested for their actions on January 6, 2021, and the DOJ says that more than 100 additional arrests are coming. But what many of us are most anxiously awaiting is not more arrests of lower-middle-class and middle-class Donald Trump supporters—though the massive video archive published by ProPublica confirms that many of these richly deserve indictment and incarceration—but rather the as-yet unaccountable elites who orchestrated the events of January 6.

seth abramson proof logoFor instance, we’ve yet to see what sort of accountability, legal or professional, awaits politicians like Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), or Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), all of whom helped strategize and/or incite the events of January 6.

Likewise, one wonders what will become of those civilians who allegedly organized and/or funded many of the events of January 6, among them staunch GOP allies like Julie Jenkins Fancelli, Bianca Gracia, Caroline Wren, Cindy Chafian, Hannah Salem, Maggie Mulvaney, Arina Grossu, Kyle Jane Kremer, Amy Kremer, Rose Tennet and—most critically—Stop the Steal organizers Ali Alexander, Roger Stone and Alex Jones.

And of course America still waits eagerly for the first signs of justice for the Trumps themselves, along with their closest allies and advisers, a list of insurrection-adjacent figures that includes Trump himself, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Lara Trump, Ivanka Trump, Trump Jr. girlfriend and Trump adviser Kimberly Guilfoyle, Katrina Pierson, Corey Lewandowski, Peter Navarro, Rudy Giuliani, Michael Lindell, Sidney Powell, and Michael Flynn. We know, by and large, what these men and women did on and before January 6; what we don’t know is why the FBI has apparently yet to speak with any of them or seize and search their electronic devices. We don’t know why we are told to cheer the arrests of Trumpist peons even as the powerful, wealthy, and/or influential people who guided their conduct are ignored by federal law enforcement.

As we await the next round of January 6 indictments—hoping that, in the coming weeks and months, we can track advances in the work of the FBI and DOJ by tracing the “operations level” of the defendants they indict (e.g., it is a hopeful sign that more and more conspiracy charges against members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers have been unveiled lately)—here, below, are five videos every American should watch.

 

michael sherwin pool sarah silbiger

Then-Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Michael Sherwin speaks on Jan. 12 at a Justice Department press conference about the Jan. 6 pro-Trump insurrection stage at the U.S. Capitol. He amplified his remarks in a CBS "60 Minutes" interview on March 21, 2021 (pool photo by the Associated Press).

ny times logoNew York Times, Evidence in Capitol Attack Most Likely Supports Sedition Charges, Prosecutor Says, Katie Benner, March 22, 2021 (print ed.). “I personally believe the evidence is trending toward that, and probably meets those elements,” said Michael Sherwin, who had led the Justice Department’s inquiry into the riot.

Evidence the government obtained in the investigation into the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol most likely meets the bar necessary to charge some of the suspects with sedition, Michael R. Sherwin, the federal prosecutor who had been leading the Justice Department’s inquiry, said in an interview that aired on Sunday.

The department has rarely brought charges of sedition, the crime of conspiring to overthrow the government.

But in an interview with “60 Minutes,” Mr. Sherwin said prosecutors had evidence that most likely proved such a charge.

“I personally believe the evidence is trending toward that, and probably meets those elements,” Mr. Sherwin said. “I believe the facts do support those charges. And I think that, as we go forward, more facts will support that.”

The last time federal prosecutors brought a sedition case was 2010, when they accused members of a Michigan militia of plotting to provoke an armed conflict with the government. They were ultimately acquitted, and the judge in the case said the Justice Department had not adequately proved that the defendants had entered a “concrete agreement to forcibly oppose the United States government.”

The statute on seditious conspiracy also says that people who conspire to “oppose by force the authority” of the government or use force “to prevent, hinder or delay the execution of any law of the United States” can be charged with sedition.

The government has charged some defendants in the Jan. 6 case with conspiring to derail the final certification of President Biden’s electoral victory.

Mr. Sherwin witnessed the crime as it unfolded. After he dressed in his running clothes and entered the crowd at the rally near the White House, he observed a “carnival environment” of people listening to speeches and selling T-shirts and snacks.

“I noticed there were some people in tactical gear. They were tacked up with Kevlar vests. They had the military helmets on,” he said in the “60 Minutes” interview. “Those individuals, I noticed, left the speeches early.”

“Where it was initially pro-Trump, it digressed to anti-government, anti-Congress, anti-institutional,” Mr. Sherwin said. “And then I eventually saw people climbing the scaffolding. The scaffolding was being set up for the inauguration. When I saw people climbing up the scaffolding, hanging from it, hanging flags, I was like, ‘This is going bad fast.’”

From the start, Mr. Sherwin oversaw the investigation as the acting U.S. attorney in Washington, a role that he ceded to a new interim leader in early March. He stepped down from leading the investigation on Friday and returned to Miami, where he had been a line prosecutor.

Mr. Sherwin told “60 Minutes” that the government had charged more than 400 people. Among them are hundreds accused of trespassing and more than 100 accused of assaulting officers, including Brian D. Sicknick, the Capitol Police officer who died after fighting with rioters.

Mr. Sicknick and two other officers were sprayed with an unidentified chemical agent that one of the assailants said was used to repel bears.

A medical examiner has not determined how Officer Sicknick died, Mr. Sherwin said, so two suspects were charged with assaulting an officer instead of murder. But that could change, he said.

“If evidence directly relates that chemical to his death,” Mr. Sherwin said, “in that scenario, correct, that’s a murder case.”

Mr. Sherwin said that only about 10 percent of the cases so far dealt with more complicated conspiracies planned and executed by far-right extremists — including members of the Oath Keepers, the Three Percenters and the Proud Boys — to organize, come to Washington and breach the Capitol.

He reiterated assertions he made shortly after the attack that prosecutors were examining the conduct of former President Donald J. Trump, who had told his supporters to attend the rally on Jan. 6 and egged them on with baseless claims that he had won the election.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: What Is ‘Sedition’? It Has a Complicated History, Jennifer Schuessler, Jan. 7, 2021. As a mob stormed the Capitol, the word “sedition” was on many people’s lips. Its force is clear, but its echoes across U.S. history are more complex.

March 20

Capitol Riot, Insurrection

jeffrey mckellop fbi photo

A video still from a police officer's bodycam shows who the FBI says is Jeffrey McKellop assaulting an officer with a flagpole on Jan 6. (FBI)

washington post logoWashington Post, Former Green Beret charged in riot threw a flagpole at an officer like a spear, FBI says, Alex Horton, March 20, 2021 (print ed.).  The former Special Forces soldier, who served four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, faces six charges.

A former Army Special Forces soldier charged with a half-dozen crimes stemming from the Capitol riot threw a flagpole at a police officer like a spear and assaulted three other officers, according to the FBI and court documents.

Jeffrey McKellop, 55, who was arrested Wednesday, is among more than 30 veterans charged in the Jan. 6 incident but appears to be the first so far who served in Special Operations, according to service records analyzed by The Washington Post.

McKellop, of Augusta County, Va., faces six charges, among them assaulting a police officer with a deadly or dangerous weapon. He did not enter a plea on Thursday. His attorneys Greg Hunter and Seth Peritz declined to comment on his case.

The former soldier served two enlistments for a total of 22 years, according to his Army service record. His second enlistment, from 1993 to 2010, included time as a mechanic and a Special Forces communications sergeant. The role includes overseeing radios and other communications vital to small team Green Beret missions.

 

Trump Team Troubles

Mark Meadows

Palmer Report, Opinion: We told you Trump stooge Mark Meadows was screwed, Bill Palmer, left, March 20, 2021. Last week a new phone recording surfaced bill palmerwhich captured Donald Trump pressuring another Georgia official to alter the results of the 2020 election. During that call, Trump mentioned that his White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows was behind the whole thing, and that Meadows had even traveled to Georgia to meddle in the process. From this, Palmer Report deduced that Meadows was going to be in serious legal trouble.

Sure enough, Reuters is now reporting that the Fulton County District Attorney is indeed investigating Meadows, right, as part of her case into the Georgia election fraud. This is a big deal, because the DA recently hired a racketeering expert and has already begun putting the case in front of a grand jury, meaning serious criminal charges are coming down the pike.

bill palmer report logo headerLast week Palmer Report predicted that the District Attorney would end up pressuring Mark Meadows to flip on Donald Trump. Now we’re more convinced than ever that this is the route the DA will take. Will Meadows end up cutting a deal? We’ll see. Meadows seemed bizarrely loyal to Trump while he was White House Chief of Staff. But is Meadows loyal enough to go to prison for Trump?

 

mar a lago aerial Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club partially closed after staff infected with coronavirus, David A. Fahrenthold, Josh Dawsey and Lori Rozsa, March 20, 2021 (print ed.). Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida has been partially closed after some of its employees were infected with the coronavirus, according to an email sent to club members Friday afternoon.

“As some of our staff have recently tested positive for COVID-19, we will be temporarily suspending service at the Beach Club and à la carte Dining Room,” club management said, according to an email obtained by The Washington Post.

“Banquet and Event services remain open,” the email said.

The Trump Organization declined to say how many workers were affected. The Palm Beach club — which includes the former president’s home as well as restaurants and banquet facilities — has dozens of employees during the winter season.

“Out of an abundance of caution we have quarantined some of the workers and partially closed a section of the club for a short period of time,” a spokeswoman for the Trump Organization said in a statement to The Post.

Lee Lipton, a member at the club, said he received a phone call Friday saying his dinner reservations were canceled for Friday and Saturday nights. “But they said the car show was going on Sunday, and the hotel rooms are fine,” he said.

The partial closure of the club was first reported by the Associated Press.

Palm Beach County, which includes the club, still requires that all guests wear masks, except while “actively consuming food and beverage.”

djt golf shirt march 14 2021Last weekend, Mar-a-Lago hosted two large fundraisers for a charity called Big Dog Ranch Rescue, including one event at which Trump appeared, praising the group.

Photos from those events show that few attendees were wearing masks. Trump, who had covid-19 in the fall and was vaccinated earlier this year, also did not wear a mask. [Trump is shown at the event on March 14 at right, without his usual tan makeup.]

Two people familiar with the club said that Mar-a-Lago waiters wore masks during the events. A spokesperson for the charity declined to comment about the event.

washington post logoWashington Post, Bannon battling prosecutors who won’t dismiss his case after Trump’s pardon, Shayna Jacobs, March 20, 2021 (print ed.). Stephen K. Bannon, the firebrand political strategist and ex-confidant to former president Donald Trump, is fighting to get his federal fraud case formally dismissed over the strong objection of prosecutors, who have argued that his full pardon does not mean his indictment must be wiped from the record.

Bannon, who helped engineer Trump’s 2016 election win before briefly serving as a White House adviser, asked a judge late Thursday to follow others in New York and elsewhere who outright dismissed cases after Trump issued pardons. To support his bid, Bannon cited the post-pardon dismissals of charges against Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser accused of lying about his contacts with Russian officials, and rapper Lil’ Wayne, who was facing gun charges in Florida.

March 19

 

 

This is the current state of Trump's 757 at Stewart Airport in Orange County, NY: 1 engine broken, the other wrapped (CNN Screenshot).

This is the current state of Trump's 757 in Orange County, NY: 1 engine broken, the other wrapped (CNN Screenshot).

CNN, Investigation: Glory days of Trump's gold-plated 757 seem far away as plane sits idle at a sleepy airport, Kate Bennett and Pete Muntean, March 19, CNN2021. Donald Trump's personal Boeing 757 was always the crown jewel of his wealth -- the ultimate sign that he had made it.

He's used it as a backdrop for sleek photo shoots, campaign rallies, VIP tours, for shots of him eating his Big Macs and KFC, plated, with a knife and fork. Trump loved to show it off -- the customized cream-colored leather seats, gilded bathrooms, the seat buckles layered in 24-karat gold.

But today it sits idle on an airport ramp in Orange County, New York, about 60 miles north of Manhattan.

One engine is missing parts. The other is shrink-wrapped in plastic. The cost to fix and get it flyable could reach well into the high six-figures, a price-tag Trump doesn't appear to be dealing with right now. Though the current state of his finances aren't public, the Covid-19 pandemic has taken a toll on the hospitality industry home to so many of his businesses.

Flight records accessed by CNN show the 757 hasn't been flown at all since Inauguration Day, when Trump's use of Air Force One ended, leaving him to less showy modes of transport.

A representative for the Trump Organization did not immediately return CNN's request for comment as to why the plane is not being used, nor has been fixed -- and whether or not Trump intends to get it in flying shape anytime soon.

A CNN camera crew saw Trump's plane parked on a fenced-off tarmac at the small upstate New York airport on Wednesday, about an hour and a half drive from Trump Tower. The choice to leave it outside at a northeastern airport, exposed to the elements, has baffled aviation experts who spoke with CNN. They note that it's just a few hours' flight to warmer, more arid climes.

Snow, rain, and moisture can lead to metal corrosion of the airframe and the engines -- hard to detect, and, in severe cases, catastrophic. Large airplanes are typically stored for long stretches of time in the desert southwest, where the dry climate makes corrosion nearly impossible.

Trump's 757 is seen at Stewart Airport in New York in March 2021. The right engine wrapped in plastic, while the left engine appears to be removed.

Trump rarely, if ever, admits to losing power. With the 757 apparently out of commission, Trump is left with his much smaller corporate jet, at least for now. According to flight data, Trump's 1997 Cessna 750 Citation X has been in semi-regular rotation for the last few months, often flying between Palm Beach International Airport and LaGuardia Airport in New York.

It was this plane Trump flew on when he made his first post-presidency trip back to Manhattan earlier this month. "The small jet isn't his favorite," says a former White House official who frequently flew with Trump on both planes. With just eight seats, the Citation such as the one Trump is using is a tighter squeeze and far less luxe than the 757.

"It also doesn't have his name on the outside," the source said, noting the gigantic Trump name that the 757 bears across its front section. The Citation does have a small Trump family crest on the fuselage. That's a downgrade for a man who likes to paint his surname on just about everything he owns, from hotels to bottles of wine.

Plane as campaign draw

When Donald Trump bought the used Boeing 757 airplane in 2010 from the late Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen, it swiftly became his favorite toy, as he liked to tell friends. Though it was already almost twenty years old, for the next decade, Trump lauded his plane. He was picky about who got to fly on it, where they would sit and how they could move about, says another frequent flier. None of the regular travelers were willing to speak on the record for fear of retribution.

When he hit the campaign trail in earnest, the 757, aka "Trump Force One," became as much a promotional ploy as billboards or TV ads. Look how successful I am-- was the message Trump was sending to voters, sometimes parking it behind the stage at his rallies.

Trump's flash-and-cash boasting worked all the way to the White House, with many of his supporters lured by the informercial-like, almost hypnotic reel of planes, limos, homes, glamorous women, gold, and quasi-celebrity. His gilded, high-flying brand may be the most valuable thing he owns. The New York Times found his personal brand strategy to be "the most successful part of the Trump business," as part of their September review of Trump tax returns.

A money suck

But, like many Trump accoutrements crafted for the purpose of marketing, the reality of the giant jet was different behind the scenes. It was a money suck, a plane past its prime with decaying mechanics and exorbitant storage fees.

"Flying that thing was so expensive," says the former senior official. "I don't think people realized that just to get it up in the air and make one stop was literally tens of thousands of dollars."

The cost to fly a Boeing 757 is about $15,000 to $18,000 per hour, according to CNN aviation analyst David Soucie. But that's when the plane can actually fly. Trump's 757 is nowhere near flight ready, according to an experienced pilot who saw it this week. The source declined to be identified.

"It's an older engine and parts availability is becoming a challenge so operating costs go up significantly," says Soucie. "Most airlines are retiring the 757 since more cost-effective models are now available."

Before Trump purchased it from Paul Allen, the plane served as a commercial airliner in Mexico in the 1990s, according to a 2016 Times story on the plane.

The pricey extravagance of the jet may now be too much for Trump's finances to handle. His net worth has taken a tumble over the last few years. Trump is personally liable for debts and loans totaling $421 million, according to the New York Times reporting. Most of that debt comes due in the next four years. Some of his best-known business ventures report losing millions, if not tens of millions, of dollars year after year, according to the Times. That includes golf courses that have racked up at least $315 million in losses over the past two decades. The Trump Organization did not respond to requests for comment.

A Bloomberg News report this week estimates that Trump's net worth has fallen by $700 million since February 2016, from $3 billion to $2.3 billion.

Trump could use money in his political action committees to pay for the plane upgrades, or other expenses, experts say. "PACs are often used as slush funds," said Paul S. Ryan, an expert on campaign finance and a top lawyer at Common Cause, a good governance non-profit.

"Campaign finance law doesn't require PAC money to be used for political purposes, leaving open the possibility that Trump could use PAC funds to pay for private plane repairs."

The disclosures for Trump's newest PACs aren't due for some time, so it's unclear if he has spent any of that money on maintaining the plane.

But he has used campaign money in the past for travel. When running for president in 2016, for example, Trump used his campaign funds to pay travel expenses to a Trump-owned entity called Tag Air. In all, he spent $8.7 million with Tag Air in that cycle, according to a CNN tally at the time.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Broke Donald Trump can’t even afford to get his plane fixed, Bill Palmer, March 19, 2021. Even while Donald Trump was in office, it was fairly clear that the money he was pilfering from taxpayers was merely being used to make interest payments on his debts, and that he had no actual cash President Donald Trump officialon hand at any given time. Now that Trump is out of office, we’re seeing more reports that Trump’s struggling businesses are indeed all upside down. Now it turns out things are really bad for Trump.

bill palmer report logo headerYou know his prized 757 jumbo jet with the “Trump” logo on the side that he loved to fly around in during the 2016 campaign? It’s now sitting in disrepair somewhere outside of New York City, according to CNN. How bad off is the plane? One of the engines is missing parts. In other words, Trump can’t even afford to pay to get it fixed.

This could help explain why Trump insisted on leaving Washington DC a few hours before the end of his presidential term. This allowed him to fly down to Mar-a-Lago on Air Force One. If Trump had waited until noon to leave DC that day, he’d no longer have been president, and he’d have needed to provide his own transportation to Florida. That would have been a problem, considering he’s so broke that his personal airplane is in pieces.

 

 

March 10

 

capitol weare the storm flyer resized

Organizers for the Jan. 6 terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol used as one of their tools the flyer above, distributed widely by partner organizations. See the commentary by Mark Karlin, the founder of BuzzFlash.com: Trump Didn't Just Incite Sedition on January 6. He Aided and Abetted Ongoing Insurrection, Jan. 19, 2021.

seth abramson headshotseth abramson proof logoProof via Substack, Investigation: "Here Is the Twelve-Point Plan Donald Trump Had for January 6," Seth Abramson, shown at left, (best-selling author, attorney, Harfvard Law grad, professor), March 10, 2021 (subscription required). "It's time we started talking about the former president's game plan for the armed insurrection of January 6, as all its details are now public — and they're terrifying."

 

 

djt michael cohen

Palmer Report, Opinion: New York prosecutors make major move against Donald Trump; only a “matter of how many days” until he’s indicted, Bill Palmer, March 10, 2021. It’s been widely documented that the Manhattan District Attorney’s office has met with Michael Cohen several times in the criminal case against Donald Trump. In fact large chunks of the New York criminal investigation grew out of the testimony and evidence that Cohen provided during his congressional testimony. Now things appear to have turned a corner.

bill palmer report logo headerCohen met again with the Manhattan DA’s office today, for the seventh time, according to Reuters. The fact that prosecutors are meeting with Cohen over and over again tells us two things. First, it means that they find Cohen to be highly credible, or else they wouldn’t keep going back to him. Second, it points to prosecutors repeatedly uncovering new evidence, and then going back to Cohen each time for guidance on how it fits together.

Notably, this is the first known instance of Manhattan prosecutors meeting with Michael Cohen since they acquired Donald Trump’s tax returns from his accounting firm two weeks ago. This also comes after multiple major media outlets recently reported that prosecutors are looking to squeeze Trump CFO Allen Weisselberg into flipping on Donald Trump and his family. So this meeting with Cohen, within the context of all of the above, has to be seen as a major move against Trump.

John Dean, a key witness in the Watergate scandal, tweeted this in response to the news: “From personal experience as a key witness I assure you that you do not visit a prosecutor’s office 7 times if they are not planning to indict those about whom you have knowledge. It is only a matter of how many days until DA Vance indicts Donald & Co.”

March 9

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden’s Justice Dept. already has split from Trump. Merrick Garland will go even further, Matt Zapotosky, March 9, 2021 (print ed.). Biden nominees Monaco, Gupta face Senate confirmation hearing for high-level Justice Dept. posts.

For nearly two months, the Justice Department has quietly rolled back several Trump-era policies and shifted position in civil cases, moves that officials see as relatively noncontroversial returns to previous ways of doing business.

merrick garlandNow, with federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland, right, set to take over as attorney general, the thornier work begins.

Garland, who is expected to be confirmed by the Senate this week, will inherit a Justice Department damaged by President Donald Trump’s efforts to use its power to benefit his friends and hurt his enemies. He’ll inherit a department overseeing several high-profile Justice Department log circularpolitical cases, the outcomes of which probably will leave wide swaths of the country unhappy. And he’ll inherit a department that has for the past four years vigorously implemented Trump’s conservative agenda — instituting an aggressive charging policy and reviving use of the federal death penalty.

Garland, analysts say, will have to improve morale and restore the traditional barriers between his agency and the White House on criminal matters, while shepherding the department’s leftward policy shift that seemed to begin immediately after President Biden took office.

Garland said at his confirmation hearing that his first briefing would focus on the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol and the criminal cases that have emanated from it. Prosecutors have charged more than 300 people in connection with the mayhem, authorities have said, and have been working their way up from those who entered to building to those who might have planned or orchestrated the violence that day.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Here comes Merrick Garland! Bill Palmer, right, March 9, 2021. How afraid are Senate Republicans of Attorney General Merrick Garland? bill palmerThey’ve been using every procedural move in the book to drag out his confirmation process for as long as possible. There was literally nothing President Biden or the Democrats could have done to get Garland confirmed any sooner. But now the Republicans are all out of tricks, and as was always going to be the case, Garland is about to be confirmed.

bill palmer report logo headerThe full Senate is holding a cloture vote on the Garland nomination later today, meaning he’s inches away from his inevitable confirmation. This brings up two equally important issues. The first is what new shoes will drop at the Department of Justice once Garland is officially in place. There are likely federal criminal cases ready to go against everyone from Rudy Giuliani to Donald Trump, waiting for Garland to greenlight them, revise them, or whatever the case may be. We couldn’t begin to guess precisely what day they’ll happen on, but there will be indictments.

republican elephant logoThe second issue at hand is precisely why the Republicans worked so hard to drag out the Merrick Garland nomination for so long. Is it simply that they were trying to delay the federal prosecution of Donald Trump, because it’ll be embarrassing for the GOP? Or do some of these Republicans fear that the DOJ is about to hit them with criminal charges as well? There has to be a reason so many Senate Republicans are suddenly announcing that they’re not seeking reelection. We’ll see.

 

Britain's Prince Harry, his wife Meghan, center, interviewed by Oprah Winfrey for a broadcast airing on March 7, 2021 (screenshot).

Britain's Prince Harry, his wife Meghan, center, interviewed by Oprah Winfrey for a CBS broadcast that aired on March 7, 2021 (screenshot).

washington post logoWashington Post, Meghan and Harry interview has Britain abuzz; critics howl in outrage, Karla Adam, March 9, 2021 (print ed.). Any doubt that Oprah Winfrey's interview with Meghan and Prince Harry was overhyped was quickly put to rest on Monday morning, as Brits caught up with highlights from CBS's two-hour "tell-all" event.

The morning news was filled with the interview highlights about suicidal thoughts, alleged racism within the royal family and the fact that, at one point, Prince Charles stopped taking calls from Harry.

British broadcaster ITV said: “Harry and Meghan loaded up a plane and dropped bomb after heavy bomb on Buckingham Palace in their Oprah interview.”

A review in the Daily Telegraph said: “Sussexes deliver enough bombshells to sink a flotilla.”

Peter Hunt, the BBC’s former royal correspondent, said, “The claim of racism is one that will endure. No Palace spin can erase it from the collective memory.”

In his piece for the Spectator magazine, Hunt added that “the only person to emerge relatively unscathed is the Queen — apart from the minor matter that she is the head of the family that has been subjected to such a battering in this broadcast.”

 wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Harry-Meghan tribulations rooted in assassination of Diana, Wayne Madsen (shown at left, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallcommentator, author and former Navy intelligence officer), March 9, 2021. When Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, says she was scared of the royal threats, believe her.

The trials and tribulations of Harry Windsor and Meghan Markle, while serving up fare for the tabloid-format cable "news" channels, does conjure up memories of the death of Harry's mother, Lady Diana, the former Princess of Wales, Diana's contentious divorce from Charles, the Prince of Wales, Harry's alleged father and heir to the British throne.

This editor investigated Diana's August 31, 1997 death in the weeks after it occurred, traveling to London, Paris and the scene of her death at the Pont d'Alma tunnel, and one of her favorite holiday retreats, the French Riviera. Diana's death was triggered by her planned marriage to Dodi al-Fayad, a Muslim, an act that would have placed their potential Muslim offspring -- future step-siblings of Princes William and Harry -- in the royal line of succession

seth abramson proof logoProof via Substack, Analysis: The Trump-Brazil Scandal: Did Donald Trump "Attend" the January 5 War Council From the White House? Seth Abramson, March 9, 2021. Possibility emerges that one of the oddest social media typos in recent U.S. history wasn't a typo—and that the January 5 meeting was in part a Trump-Brazil summit focused on insurrection.

washington post logoWashington Post, Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was in direct contact with rioters before and during Capitol breach, U.S. alleges, Spencer S. Hsu, March 9, 2021. U.S. prosecutors alleged Monday that Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was in direct contact before, during and immediately after the Jan. 6 Capitol breach with members since charged with plotting to prevent Congress from confirming the results of the 2020 presidential election.

In a late-night court filing, prosecutors alleged Rhodes directed Oath Keepers to rally during the riot to the southeast steps of the Capitol, after which several members forcibly entered the east side of the building.

Prosecutors said they had recovered a chat called “DC OP: Jan 6 21” on the encrypted Signal messaging app that “shows that individuals, including those alleged to have conspired with [others], were actively planning to use force and violence.”

Prosecutors said chat participants included Rhodes — identified only as “Person One” in the filing but whom prosecutors named in earlier court papers — and two charged Oath Keepers members, Jessica Watkins, 38, an Ohio leader; and Kelly Meggs, 52, of Florida.

U.S. authorities have charged Watkins, Meggs and seven other individuals who appear to be members or associates of the right-wing anti-government group, alleging a wider conspiracy to obstruct Congress amid rioting that led to five deaths and assaults on about 140 police officers. Charges have been brought against more than 300 defendants, but to date prosecutors led by the U.S. attorney’s office for Washington have not publicly charged anyone other than alleged rioters themselves.

In the court filing, prosecutors said Rhodes, Watkins, Meggs and “regional Oath Keeper leaders from multiple states across the country” discussed plans in the chat for members and affiliates to come to Washington for events on Jan. 5 and 6 to “provide security to speakers and VIPs.”

Prosecutors said they found “no discussion of forcibly entering the Capitol until January 6.”

jacob chansley

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘QAnon Shaman’ stays in jail as judge slams his arguments: ‘So frivolous as to insult the Court’s intelligence,’ Katie Shepherd, March 9, 2021 (print ed.). Jacob Anthony Chansley, often referred to as the “QAnon Shaman” who donned horns and red-white-and-blue face paint to storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 (as shown above), has spent nearly two months pleading with a judge — and with the public in high-profile interviews — to let him go free.

He said on “60 Minutes+” last week that the Capitol riots were “not an attack on this country,” while his attorney has argued that he was actually a peaceful protester and wasn’t really armed when he was filmed storming the building with a spear.

U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth, left, was not impressed.

royce lamberth 2009On Monday, Lamberth denied Chansley’s motion for release in a scathing memorandum that rejected his arguments as “meritless,” “mistaken” and “so frivolous as to insult the Court’s intelligence.” The judge said that Chansley was too dangerous to release and continues to pose a threat to the public.

“The statements defendant has made to the public from jail show that defendant does not fully appreciate the severity of the allegations against him,” Lamberth wrote. “To the contrary, he believes that he — not the American people or members of Congress — was the victim on January 6th.”

Chansley is charged with violently entering the Capitol, among other felony charges, and prosecutors have urged the court to keep him in jail. Chansley’s attorney, Albert Watkins, did not immediately return a request for comment late Monday.

jacob chansley shaman costume and mugThe 33-year-old Phoenix resident (shown at right in his costume and in a mug shot) quickly became one of the most recognizable people charged in the Capitol riot, in part because of the eccentric costume he wore while sitting in Vice President Mike Pence’s chair. His connection to QAnon, an extremist ideology that spreads a sprawling set of false claims, has also highlighted the movement’s role in the Jan. 6 riot.

He made headlines soon after his arrest when he asked to be fed only organic foods, citing his obscure religious beliefs, and begged to be released after Watkins said he lost 20 pounds in jail. Watkins also made a public plea for a pardon from President Donald Trump, which was ignored. Chansley has filed multiple motions for release before his trial, but none have succeeded.

Last week, he made another public appeal on “60 Minutes+,” without permission from the jail, the U.S. Marshals Service or the court — a move that led Lamberth to scold him and his attorney in a hearing on Friday.

On Monday, Lamberth, a fiery presence in D.C. courts appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1987, eviscerated the alleged rioter’s claims one by one.

March 6

Reuters, Exclusive: Georgia prosecutor probing Trump taps leading racketeering attorney, Linda So, March 6, 2021. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has enlisted the help of Atlanta lawyer John Floyd, who wrote a national guide on prosecuting state racketeering cases. Floyd was hired recently to “provide help as needed” on matters involving racketeering, including the Trump investigation and other cases, said the source, who has direct knowledge of the situation.

djt march 2020 CustomThe move bolsters the team investigating Trump as Willis prepares to issue subpoenas for evidence on whether the former president and his allies broke the law in their campaign to pressure state officials to reverse his Georgia election loss. Willis has said that her office would examine potential charges including “solicitation of election fraud, the making of false statements to state and local governmental bodies, conspiracy, racketeering” among other possible violations.

A representative for Trump did not respond to requests for comment.

georgia mapFloyd’s appointment signals that racketeering could feature prominently in the investigation. It’s an area of law where Willis has extensive experience -- including a high-profile Atlanta case where she won racketeering convictions of 11 public educators for a scheme to cheat on standardized tests.

The investigation of Trump focuses in part on his phone call to Georgia’s secretary of state, asking the secretary to “find” the votes needed to overturn Trump’s election loss, based on false voter-fraud claims.

Willis - a Democrat who in January became the county’s first Black woman district attorney - will have to navigate a fraught political landscape. She faces pressure from Democrats in Atlanta and nationally to pursue an aggressive prosecution, along with scrutiny from Republicans in a state historically dominated by that party.

Floyd declined to comment when asked about the appointment but spoke to Reuters about his past experiences working with Willis.

In 2014, when Willis was an assistant district attorney in Atlanta, Floyd was brought in as a special prosecutor for the racketeering case that grew out of the schools cheating scandal.

“It was very much a team effort,” Floyd said of working with Willis.

The cheating case could provide clues to her strategy for investigating Trump, legal experts say, while stressing that the probe is still in its early stages.

If she pursues racketeering charges, Willis will need to prove a pattern of corruption by Trump, alone or with his allies, aimed at overturning the election results to stay in power. While racketeering is typically pursued by prosecutors in cases involving such crimes as murder, kidnapping, and bribery, the Georgia statute defines racketeering more broadly to include false statements made to state officials.

The federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) was originally passed in 1970 to help tie Mafia bosses to the crimes of their underlings by allowing prosecutors to argue they conspired together in a “criminal enterprise.” Over the years, however, its reach has grown to include businesses and other organizations as enterprises subject to the law.

Willis specifically listed racketeering and lying to public officials in detailing the possible crimes her office intended to investigate in a Feb. 10 letter to four Republican state officials, asking them to preserve records related to the case.

“That letter was really a signal to the public that she was going after a number of possibilities,” said Clark Cunningham, a Georgia State University law professor.

Georgia lawyers familiar with the state RICO law said Willis may be considering whether it would apply to alleged false statements made by Trump and his allies as they sought to influence state officials to reverse his election loss.

“It’s not a stretch to see where she’s taking this,” said Cathy Cox, the dean of Mercer University’s law school in Macon, Georgia and a former Georgia secretary of state. “If Donald Trump engaged in two or more acts that involve false statements - that were made knowingly and willfully in an attempt to falsify material fact, like the election results - then you can piece together a violation of the racketeering act.”

Racketeering, a felony in Georgia, can carry stiff penalties including up to 20 years in prison and a hefty fine. “There are not a lot of people who avoid serving prison time on a racketeering offense,” said Cox.

In a Jan. 2 phone call, Trump urged Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a fellow Republican, to “find” just enough votes to allow him to win. In the hour-long call, Trump repeated false voter-fraud claims, insisting he won Georgia by a landslide and that Democrat Joe Biden received thousands of votes from people who were out-of-state, unregistered, or dead. Trump made another phone call in late December to Georgia’s chief elections investigator, urging the official to “find the fraud.”

brian kemp CustomOn Dec. 5, Trump called the state’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp, left, to urge him to hold a special session of the legislature to overturn the election results. Three days later, Trump called Georgia’s Republican attorney general, Chris Carr, warning him not to interfere with a Texas lawsuit that challenged the election results in Georgia and other states.

Carr stated publicly that he opposed the Texas lawsuit. The offices of Kemp and Carr did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Willis’ office has indicated it is also examining efforts to influence the election by Trump’s allies, including a November phone call made by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham to Raffensperger to discuss mail-in ballots; false election fraud claims made by Trump’s then personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, in testimony at state legislative hearings; and the abrupt removal of Byung J. “BJay” Pak, a U.S. attorney in Georgia who angered Trump by not doing enough to investigate his unfounded fraud claims.

Legal experts say prosecutors could use the pattern of false statements in a pressure campaign to build a RICO case, but that Willis would face the burden of proving Trump knew his fraud allegations were false. In a trial, Trump could argue that he did not deliberately break the law because he truly believed he had been cheated, said Kurt Kastorf, an Atlanta attorney and former U.S. Justice Department prosecutor.

“Trump’s lawyers could reasonably point to portions of the call with the Secretary of State where Trump seems to be making clear that the reason they need to do something is because there is fraud in the election,” he said. “Prosecutors would need to respond with evidence that this asserted reason is insincere.”
CONSPIRACY TO CHEAT

As an assistant district attorney in Atlanta, Willis employed the state’s racketeering statute in the complex test-cheating case - leading to a six-month trial, the longest in Georgia history.

Willis led a team of prosecutors in laying out the case that educators had operated a criminal enterprise within the public school system in a conspiracy to cheat, winning convictions in April 2015. Willis and her team walked jurors through months of testimony in the intricate case, which accused 12 former teachers, principals and administrators of inflating scores on standardized tests to secure promotions and cash bonuses. Eleven were convicted; some got prison time.

“I’ve worked on some pretty intense cases over the years,” said Floyd, the RICO expert. “But as far as duration and complexity, that would be hard to match.”

As a private attorney, Floyd is widely respected in legal circles for his expertise and experience litigating complex RICO cases. In addition to the cheating case, he helped convict a former sheriff of Georgia’s DeKalb County for ordering the murder of his elected successor. Floyd successfully defended the conviction, which included racketeering offenses, all the way to Georgia’s Supreme Court.

Anti-racketeering laws are a powerful tool for prosecutors, but building a successful case requires meeting a complex set of legal requirements, according to Floyd, who wrote the book, “RICO State by State: A Guide to Litigation Under the State Racketeering Statutes.”

In 1985, he joined the Atlanta law firm Bondurant Mixson & Elmore LLP, where he still works. Prior to joining the firm, Floyd clerked for a federal judge where he was introduced to RICO cases. “I worked on a few of them there, and my interest grew,” Floyd said

 

March 4

washington post logoWashington Post, D.C. Guard chief says ‘unusual’ restrictions slowed deployment of backup during Capitol riot, Paul Sonne, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett, March 4, 2021 (print ed.). The commanding general of the D.C. National Guard told lawmakers Wednesday how restrictions the Pentagon placed on him in the run-up to the Capitol riot prevented him from more quickly sending forces to help quell the violence.

william walker resized proofMaj. Gen. William J. Walker, right, said he did not receive approval to change the D.C. Guard’s mission and send his forces to the Capitol on Jan. 6 until three hours and 19 minutes after he first received an emotional call from the Capitol Police chief requesting urgent backup.

Walker described the Pentagon’s restrictions as “unusual,” noting that he did not have such limitations last summer, when the D.C. Guard was tasked with responding to local racial-justice protests after the killing of George Floyd.

Walker, who previously detailed the restrictions placed on him ahead of Jan. 6 in an interview with The Washington Post, told lawmakers that had he not been operating under those limitations, he could have sent about 150 soldiers to the Capitol hours earlier — and got them there within 20 minutes of being asked.

“I believe that number could have made a difference,” Walker said during Wednesday’s hearing before the Senate’s Rules Committee and its Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “We could have helped extend the perimeter and helped push back the crowd.”

In addition to Walker, city officials and Capitol Police leaders have asserted that they were frustrated by a slow Defense Department response as the Capitol was breached. Defense officials have countered that the city requested only minimal assistance from the Guard in the run-up to the Jan. 6 riot event and tried to limit the military presence in the city, while the Capitol Police requested no military assistance ahead of the event, even though the Pentagon specifically asked whether it was necessary.

Robert G. Salesses, the Pentagon’s acting assistant secretary for homeland defense and global security, testified that defense officials’ tight control over the response to the Capitol — and reluctance to issue quick approvals — was shaped by controversy they faced in responding to civil unrest surrounding racial-justice protests last year.

“There was a lot of things that happened in the spring that the department was criticized for,” he said.

Much of the hearing focused on how long it took the Pentagon to give the members of the D.C. Guard who were already deployed that day a new mission and send them to the Capitol.

Though the acting defense secretary called up the full D.C. Guard shortly after 3 p.m. in response to the riot, he did not give the members of the D.C. Guard who were already deployed that day a new mission and send them to the Capitol until 4:32 p.m., Salesses said. He acknowledged, however, that the D.C. Guard did not receive that change in assignment until 5:08 p.m., more than half an hour later.

roy blunt official Small“How is that possible?” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), right, asked incredulously, noting the time gap.

“I think that’s an issue,” Salesses said, offering no explanation.

The Guard arrived at the premises at 5:20 p.m.

The absence of Pentagon officials responsible for making decisions on Jan. 6 at Wednesday’s hearing irritated committee members, including some who expressed concern that the Department of Defense sent Salesses to testify even though he was not one of the key decision-makers that day.

 

william walker resized proof

Proof via Substack, Commentary: Annotated Testimony of William J. Walker (shown above), Commanding General of the D.C. National Guard, Seth Abramson, left, March 3, 2021. Before the Senate Homeland seth abramson headshotSecurity and Governmental Affairs and Senate Rules and Administration Committees, opening statement—focused on the January 6 insurrection.

I was sickened by the violence and destruction I witnessed that fateful day and the physical and mental harm that came to the U.S. Capitol Police officers and MPD [the Metropolitan Police Department of D.C.], some of whom I met with later that evening and I could see the injuries they sustained. It is my hope that my recollection of events and presentation of the facts as I know them will help your Committees in its investigation and prevent such tragic events from ever occurring again.

seth abramson proof logoFirst, I think it is critical to understand what the D.C. National Guard’s mission was on January 6, to include what civilian agency we were supporting and how requests for support of other civilian authorities were handled.

On December 31, 2020, the D.C. National Guard [PROOF annotation: later “DCNG”] received written requests from District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser and her Director of D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency Dr. Christopher Rodriguez. The requests sought D.C. National Guard support for traffic control and crowd management for planned demonstrations in DC from January 5 through [January] 6.

After conducting mission analysis to support the District request, I sent a letter to then Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy, dated January 1, requesting approval. I received approval in a letter dated January 5 from Secretary McCarthy granting support of the MPD with 340 total personnel to include 40 personnel assigned to a Quick Reaction Force.

{PROOF annotation: Note that it took four days before Trump’s Pentagon to respond to the Democratic leadership of D.C., meaning that the District got “approval” for National Guard assistance on one of the very two days it had urgently asked for help on—January 5. Not only did this approval come too late for January 5 aid, it left under 24 hours for aid for January 6 to be readied.}

The DCNG provides support to MPD, the U.S. Park Police, U.S. Secret Service and other District and federal law enforcement agencies in response to planned rallies, marches, protests and other large scale first amendment activity on a routine basis.

A standard component of such support is the stand up of an offsite Quick Reaction Force (QRF), an element of guardsmen held in reserve equipped with civil disturbance response equipment (helmets, shields, batons, etc.) and postured to quickly respond to an urgent and immediate need for assistance by civilian authorities. The Secretary of the Army’s Jan. 5th letter withheld authority for me to employ the Quick Reaction Force....

{PROOF annotation: It is now clear that when Capitol Police issued an urgent request for help on January 6, there was absolutely no chance help would be forthcoming in any timely fashion—not because of delays on January 6, though there were many—but primarily because of the actions Trump’s Pentagon had taken prior to January 6 in taking so long to respond to Democratic officials in the District and then denying them the sort of aid those officials had every reason to expect. Media’s exclusive focus on January 6 itself continues to be misplaced; so much of what happened on January 6 was inevitable based on what had happened prior to January 6. In particular, the fact that Trump had installed loyalists Kash Patel and Ezra-Cohen Watnick immediately after learning he’d lost the November 2020 election, and that these two men were essentially controlling Trump defense secretary Chris Miller in the days before the insurrection, according to Vanity Fair, have produced a significant concern that Trump and his agents coordinated the Pentagon’s refusal of Democratic officials’ urgent pleas both before and during the insurrection.}

steve sund recroppedImmediately after the 1:49PM call with Chief [Steven] Sund (right), I alerted the Army Senior Leadership of the request. The approval for Chief Sund’s request would eventually come from the Acting Secretary of Defense and be relayed to me by Army Senior Leaders at 5:08PM—3 hours and 19 minutes later. We already had Guardsmen on buses ready to move to the Capitol. Consequently, at 5:20PM—in under 20 minutes—the District of Columbia National Guard arrived at the Capitol. We helped to re-establish the security perimeter at the east side of the Capitol to facilitate the resumption of the Joint Session of Congress.

{PROOF annotation: This is stunning. Commander Walker is saying that had he received approval from the Pentagon at 1:49PM on January 6, he could have had Guardsmen at the Capitol by somewhere between 2:05PM and 2:08PM—in time to quell the worst of the insurrection—but instead he heard nothing from Miller, Patel, and Cohen-Watnick, the Trump Pentagon power center, until 5:08PM. Meanwhile, the boss of Mssrs. Miller, Patel, and Cohen-Watnick, was gleefully watching events from the White House and refusing to contact his men at the Pentagon. There is no chance that Miller, Patel, and Cohen-Watnick would have missed the clear signal from (at the very least) Trump’s silence, if not some White House communication we don’t yet know about: don’t do anything until I tell you. By the time the Pentagon acted, Trump had issued public statements about wanting the insurrectionists to leave the Capitol grounds. It was only then that his men at the Pentagon responded to the urgent pleas for aid from the Capitol.}

Seth Abramson, shown above and at right, is founder of Proof and is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who teaches digital journalism, seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionlegal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the Ph.D. program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include a Trump trilogy: Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump (2020); Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump's International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy (2019); and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018).

March 1

ny times logoNew York Times, Prosecutors Investigating Trump Focus on His Finance Chief, Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum and Maggie Haberman, March 1, 2021. State prosecutors in Manhattan who are investigating former President Donald J. Trump and his family business are sharpening their focus on the company’s long-serving chief financial officer, asking witnesses questions about his dealings at the company, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

allen weisselberg croppedThe increased focus on the executive, Allen H. Weisselberg, right, could step up pressure on him to cooperate with the investigation if the prosecutors unearth evidence of wrongdoing on his part. He has served as the Trump Organization’s financial gatekeeper for more than two decades and could be a vital source of information for the government about the inner workings of the company.

In recent weeks, the prosecutors working for the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., have been interviewing witnesses who know Mr. Weisselberg and have asked at least one witness about Mr. Weisselberg’s sons, Barry and Jack Weisselberg, according to two of the people with knowledge of the matter.

Barry Weisselberg has been the property manager of Trump Wollman Rink in Central Park, and Jack works at Ladder Capital, one of Mr. Trump’s biggest lenders.

The district attorney’s office has not accused Mr. Weisselberg or his sons of any wrongdoing, and there is no indication that the sons are a focus of the investigation.

If the prosecutors were to secure Allen Weisselberg’s cooperation, it might provide a significant boost to the long-running investigation and deliver a blow to Mr. Trump, who has long depended on Mr. Weisselberg’s unflinching loyalty.

 djt cpac 2021 cspan

 Donald Trump at CPAC on Feb. 28 in Orlando, Florida. Photo: Courtesy of C-SPAN.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump rules out third party as he moves to firm up control of GOP, David Weigel and Michael Scherer, March 1, 2021 (print ed.). Making his first speech since leaving the White House, former president Donald Trump hinted he was contemplating another run in 2024.

Former president Donald Trump declared Sunday that he is considering a presidential run in 2024, has ruled out forming a third party and will devote himself to building up Republican efforts to take on Democrats and others he claimed have targeted his movement.

The address before an ebullient crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference marked Trump’s first political speech since leaving the White House. It was staged as a public declaration of Trump’s intention to play a dominant political role in controlling the GOP through the 2022 election — and to potentially set himself up for a third campaign for the White House.

“We began it together four years ago, and it is far from being over,” Trump said of the political journey launched by his 2016 campaign. “Let there be no doubt we will be victorious, and America will be stronger and greater than ever before.”

republican elephant logoTrump’s speech came as he has been putting the finishing touches on a new political structure that he intends to use to cement his dominance over the GOP.

“We are not starting new parties,” he said. “We have the Republican Party. It is going to unite and be stronger than ever before.”

Trump also launched an expected attack on President Biden, echoing many of the themes of the Republican’s winning 2016 presidential campaign and its losing sequel in 2020. He alleged that Biden had “the most disastrous first month of any president in modern history,” before attacking the president for his position on border security policy, his erasure of Trump executive orders and his energy policies.

He predicted withering Democratic losses in the 2022 midterms and a Democratic loss of the White House four years from now, prompting a standing ovation and chants of “USA!” and “Four more years!”

He repeated his false claims about the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, which Biden won.

 

February 2021 Update

Feb. 26

washington post logoWashington Post, Riot defendants facing jail have regrets. Judges aren’t buying it, Rachel Weiner and Spencer S. Hsu, Feb. 27, 2021 (print ed.). For many accused of trying to block Congress from confirming the winner of the U.S. presidential election on Jan. 6, arrest was a reality check. Now they are getting another.

As defendants charged in the Capitol siege have been coming through court, some have been shifting blame onto former president Donald Trump, downplaying their actions or expressing remorse. But federal judges — particularly those who work a few blocks from the Capitol — aren’t buying it.

One judge called a defendant’s claim of civil disobedience “detached from reality.” Another verbally smacked down an attorney who tried to use QAnon — the sprawling set of false claims that have coalesced into an extremist ideology — to explain his client shouting “Kill them all!” Other judges have been giving defendants civics lessons on how democracy works.

beryl howellU.S. District Judge Beryl Howell, left, the chief federal jurist for the District of Columbia, responded incredulously to one defense attorney who said his client believed Trump requested his unlawful conduct. She said that if a president could authorize overturning an election he would be no different from “a king or a dictator,” and “that is not how we operate here.”

When the attorney added that the man, the accused leader of a Proud Boys group, had been “chastened rather than emboldened” by the federal charges and that his anti-government “fever has broken,” Howell clapped back.

“Essentially, that’s what your argument is, saying, ‘Whoops,’ now?” Howell asked. “Has he expressed any remorse or rejection of his membership in the Proud Boys, a gang of nationalist individuals? Does he reject the fantasy the election was stolen? Does he regret the positions that animated the mob on January 6th? Is there anything on the record about any of those things?”

“Whoops” is, essentially, what many of the accused are now saying.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump is building a political operation to cement his hold on the GOP, Josh Dawsey and Michael Scherer, Feb. 27, 2021. Ahead of his first major post-White House address at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the former president is making plans to launch a super PAC, has begun endorsing candidates and is plotting a possible 2024 run.

Any lingering doubts about Donald Trump’s primacy in the Republican Party have been settled in recent weeks by the parade of petitioners he has welcomed to his Florida social club.

republican elephant logoThe party chairwoman, the top two House Republicans, the senior senator from South Carolina and a coterie of other former aides and advisers have all made appearances at Mar-a-Lago, offering their counsel and seeking the favor of a former president who many believe controls the short-term fortunes of GOP candidates up and down the ballot — and has made it clear he plans to use that power.

Over meals and many Diet Cokes, Trump has already started building his post-White House political operation and cementing his role as the party’s de facto leader. He has begun to formalize a structure of political advisers around him and made plans to start a new super PAC — capable of raising donations of any size — to support candidates he favors. His team is looking to formalize a process for vetting endorsement prospects, assessing what candidates have said and done for Trump in the past.

He has also discussed drafting a new “America First” agenda — like the 1994 “Contract with America,” but focused on issues such as border security and trade — to steer the party’s direction, according to Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.).

“He is going to be very involved,” Graham said.

Trump’s politics hurt his businesses. Will he sell as he looks to a potential 2024 campaign?

It’s not just about shaping the GOP from the sidelines. Trump is keenly focused on his long-term political comeback, quizzing allies about how to launch a 2024 bid and who his most formidable challengers would be, advisers said.

To the relief of party strategists, the former president has abandoned for now talk of starting a third party, according to several people, who, like others interviewed for this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations.

He has begun intervening to pick favorites in GOP primaries, endorsing on Friday a former aide challenging a House member who voted for his impeachment. But he is not planning to go up against every Republican who defied him, they said. “What’s the point of a civil war in a party you basically control?” joked one Republican operative close to Trump.

Feb. 24

couy griffin facebook

In a now-deleted Facebook post, New Mexico county official Couy Griffin, above, predicted of Inauguration Day at the Capitol, “blood will run out of the building.”

washington post logoWashington Post, FBI alert on possible ‘war’ on Congress reached police on eve of attack, deepening questions, Beth Reinhard and Matt Zapotosky, Feb. 24, 2021 (print ed.).  A joint hearing by two Senate committees spotlighted the stark warnings issued before the Jan. 6 riot.

Around 7 p.m. on Jan. 5, less than 24 hours before an angry mob overran the U.S. Capitol, an FBI bulletin warning that extremists were calling for violent attacks on Congress landed in an email inbox used by the D.C. police department. That same evening, a member of the Capitol Police received the same memo.

FBI logoBut the alert was not flagged for top officials at either agency, according to congressional testimony Tuesday — deepening questions about the breakdowns that contributed to massive security failures on Jan. 6.

steve sund recroppedBoth acting D.C. police chief Robert J. Contee III and former Capitol Police chief Steven Sund, left, said the intelligence community at large failed to detect key information about the intentions of the attackers and adequately communicate what was known in the run-up to the Capitol riot.

“I would certainly think that something as violent as an insurrection at the Capitol would warrant a phone call or something,” Contee told lawmakers.

Sund cast the Capitol Police as a “consumer” of intelligence from 18 federal agencies.

“If they were finding efforts that this was a coordinated attack, that had been coordinated among numerous states for some time in advance of this, that’s the information that would have been extremely helpful to us,” Sund said, adding, “That type of information could have given us sufficient, advance warning to prep, plan for an attack such as what we saw.”

But Tuesday’s joint hearing by two Senate committees also spotlighted the stark warnings that were issued before Congress met in a joint session to formalize President Biden’s victory.

 

Former Trump 2016 Campaign CEO and White House advisor Steve Bannon after his arrest last August 21 on a fugitive Chinese billionaire's yacht, portrayed in the background.

Former Trump 2016 Campaign CEO and White House advisor Steve Bannon after his arrest last August 21 on a fugitive Chinese billionaire's yacht, portrayed in the background. President Trump pardoned Bannon from federal charges alleging that he profited from a scheme to bilk pro-Trump donors hoping to build a "Wall" at the U.S.-Mexico border with private funds.

 wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Key indicators that January 6 was an attempted coup d'etat, Wayne Madsen (left, author of 18 books, former Navy intelligence officer and wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallNSA analyst), Feb. 24,2021. The history of modern political era coups and coup plots provides a great deal of insight in forming a conclusion that what occurred at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 was no mere "riot" or protest "gone wild."

Recent disclosures in federal charging documents of insurrection participants and leaders, as well as the feeble attempt by the Capitol's three top law enforcement officials -- who either resigned or were fired after the melée -- to blame others for the lack of security all point to a coordinated operation involving the Trump White House, the political leadership of the Pentagon, far right extremist groups, and last, but not least, GOP Congressional insiders, including Senators and U.S. Representatives and their staffs.

It can also be ascertained what sort of post-constitutional government Donald Trump and his collaborators planned to form after eliminating the legislative branch of the federal government as a threat.

What is being largely missed by the corporate media is the fact that former and, reportedly, current Trump political adviser Steve Bannon is in league with far-right fascist parties around the world that seek to oust existing democratic governments and replace them with far-right regimes. Bannon's efforts are being financially supported by Rebekah Mercer, the deep-pocketed billionaire daughter of hedge fund mogul and major alt-right media financier Robert Mercer; exiled Chinese billionaire and would-be fascist warlord of a post-Communist Chinese state, Guo Wengui; and right-wing, anti-Pope Francis elements of the fascist Roman Catholic order Opus Dei.

washington post logoWashington Post, Major Trump backer Rebekah Mercer orchestrates Parler’s second act, Rachel Lerman, Feb. 24, 2021. The daughter of a major Republican donor is a founding investor of the social media network, where she reportedly is pulling strings.

When social media website Parler’s founding CEO John Matze was pushed out last month, it was at the direction of a quiet but powerful political megadonor backing the right-leaning site.

parler logoRebekah Mercer, right, the 47-year-old daughter of major Republican donor Robert Mercer, is a founding investor of Parler. She increasingly pulls the strings at the company, according to people familiar with the company who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private business matters. She holds the majority stake in Parler and rebekah mercercontrolled two of three board seats as of early February — a board to which she recently appointed allies.

The social media company started garnering a name for itself last year as a friendly gathering spot for Republican politicians and pundits turned off by fact-checking and moderation on sites like Facebook and Twitter. But Parler, which publicly extolled itself as a free-speech-focused network with minimal rules, became a breeding ground for conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election. The site was knocked offline shortly after the riot at the U.S. Capitol for its alleged role in allowing the rioters to plan and egg each other on.

Now Mercer, who is credited with helping get Donald Trump elected president in 2016, is working to revive the site. It came back online last week with her new handpicked CEO, former tea party patriots leader, Mark Meckler, at the helm. It’s the latest in a long line of maneuvers by the Mercer family to create an alternative media industry that pushes a version of the news that fits with their right-wing, populist political agenda — while keeping a low profile themselves.

Palmer Report, Opinion: They’re either lying, or they were in on it, Bill Palmer, right, Feb. 24, 2021. We all knew that a ton of deranged Trump supporters would be outside the Capitol on January bill palmer6th. Everyone paying attention to the news cycle knew it. Anyone reading Trump’s tweets knew it.

bill palmer report logo headerWe just expected it not to go anywhere, because we presumed that law enforcement leaders would prepare for it, in which case the invasion never would have happened. It would have merely been a bunch of angry goons yelling stupid things outside the building, and nothing more.

During Tuesday’s congressional hearings, we kept hearing from law enforcement leaders who claim they had no idea Trump’s goons were going to be outside the Capitol on January 6th. But any law enforcement leader who says they didn’t see it coming is lying – or in on it.

Part of the reason these kinds of congressional hearings take place is that they force the people involved in the scandal to publicly stake themselves to a position on what happened, which can then point criminal investigators in the right direction when it comes to uncovering what really happened. The law enforcement leaders who are currently playing dumb are the ones who have something to hide.

ny times logoNew York Times, Retired N.Y.P.D. Officer Who Guarded City Hall Charged in Capitol Riot, Jonah E. Bromwich, Feb. 23, 2021. Thomas Webster turned himself in on charges that he assaulted a Washington police officer with a flagpole during the Jan. 6 attack on Congress.

A retired New York police officer who once was part of the security detail at City Hall was charged on Tuesday with assaulting a police officer with a metal flagpole during the pro-Trump riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

thomas webster resized headshotThe former officer, Thomas Webster, shown in an FBI photo, served in a New York Police Department unit that provided security for the mayor, Gracie Mansion and City Hall, according to a law enforcement official. He retired from the force in 2011.

Mr. Webster, 54, a former Marine, surrendered to the F.B.I. on Monday and was charged with six counts relating to the attack on an officer from the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., and his participation in the violent attempt to stop Congress from certifying the presidential election results.

A federal prosecutor said there were videos of Mr. Webster attacking the Washington officer, first with a metal flagpole that earlier had flown a Marine Corps flag, and then with his bare hands.

According to court documents, after the officer wrestled the flagpole away from Mr. Webster, the former Marine tackled the officer, pinned him to the ground, straddled him and attempted to rip off his face shield and gas mask — an attack that left the officer unable to breathe.

“These videos shock the conscience,” the prosecutor, Benjamin A. Gianforti, said. He said Mr. Webster had shown an utter lack of compassion and had pursued the officer he attacked “like a junkyard dog.” The government did not immediately identify the officer.

washington post logoWashington Post, Life amid the ruins of QAnon: ‘I wanted my family back,’ Greg Jaffe and Jose A. Del Real, Feb. 24, 2021 (print ed.). An epidemic of conspiracy, fanned by social media and self-serving politicians, is tearing families apart.

She bought ammunition, camping gear, a water purifier and boxes of canned food. Then, Tyler’s mother started wearing a holstered pistol around the house, convinced that 10 days of unrest and mass power outages were coming.

The chaos would culminate, she assured her son, in former president Donald Trump’s triumphant return to power on March 4, the original Inauguration Day before the passage of the 20th Amendment in 1932.

Tyler, 24, had been living with his mother an hour north of Minneapolis since he graduated college in 2019. The paranoia and fear that had engulfed his home had become unbearable in the months since Trump began to falsely claim that the 2020 election had been stolen from him.

ny times logoNew York Times, Behind Nashville Bombing, a Conspiracy Theorist Stewing Over Government, Steve Cavendish, Neil MacFarquhar, Jamie McGee and Adam Goldman, Feb. 24, 2021.  Anthony Warner, who was obsessed with an outlandish tale about lizard aliens and other plots, had been planning the Christmas Day bombing for months.

Mr. Warner, the authorities said, drove his booby-trapped white recreational vehicle to Second Avenue North in the pre-dawn hours. The detonation damaged some 50 buildings, collapsing a few and shearing the antique brick facades off others that will require years and tens of millions of dollars to restore. Two months later, the blast area remains a confused, desolate patchwork of boarded-up buildings, cyclone fencing and uneven reconstruction efforts.

The explosion, in front of an AT&T hub, crippled cellular, internet and cable service across several states for two days and underscored the vulnerability of such common yet unprotected facilities.

Though Mr. Warner’s motive remains shrouded in mystery, false information and outlandish tales had poisoned his mind, apparently driving him to spectacular violence. This mind-set has become alarmingly familiar to law enforcement officials now reckoning with the destructive force of conspiracy theories that mutate endlessly online and played a role in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Mr. Warner, who was 63 when he died, was not among the angry QAnon followers who came to believe the unlikely theory that Donald J. Trump would hold onto power by defeating a satanic cabal. He was a computer specialist with a deep distrust of government, according to his own writings and to those who knew him. A loner, he had made at least one female friend feel manipulated and frightened. And he had cultivated a bizarre obsession with shape-shifting alien lizards and a dense thicket of other peculiar ideas.

Feb. 22

  supreme court Custom

djt resized joe biden

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court refuses to hear GOP challenge in light of Trump’s election loss in Pennsylvania, Robert Barnes, Feb. 22, 2021. The Supreme Court on Monday turned away Republican challenges to the presidential elections results in Pennsylvania, refusing to take up a months-long dispute over extending the deadline in that state for receiving mail-in ballots.

pennsylvania map major citiesIt was part of a purge of sorts. The high court formally dismissed a range of suits filed by Donald Trump and his allies in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia and Arizona — all states won by Democrat Joe Biden. The court’s intent in most of those had been signaled when Democratic-Republican Campaign logosit refused to expedite consideration of them before Biden was inaugurated as president.

The case about deadlines for receiving mail-in ballots was different, though. Three justices — Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch — said it deserved the court’s attention, even though the number of votes at issue would not call into question Biden’s victory.

“A decision in these cases would not have any implications regarding the 2020 election,” Alito wrote. “But a decision would provide invaluable wisconsin map with largest cities Customguidance for future elections.”

It takes the votes of four justices to accept a case for review. Although changing election rules because of the pandemic has been a theme of Republican challenges in the wake of Trump’s defeat, the rest of the conservative majority was silent.

Neither Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. nor two of the three justices nominated by Trump signed on to dissents from Thomas and Alito. Besides Gorsuch, Trump chose Justices Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.

The issue is whether state courts or other officials have the right to change voting procedures set by the legislature where federal elections are at stake. In extending the right to a mail-in ballot to all voters, Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled legislature said the ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on election day to be counted.

But the state’s Democrats challenged that. Citing the pandemic and concerns about the Postal Service’s ability to deliver mail on time, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court extended the receipt deadline until three days after the election. It cited a provision in the state constitution promising fair elections.

In a pre-election challenge, the Supreme Court was deadlocked, meaning the extension applied. In the end, it affected fewer than 10,000 votes, and Biden won by about 80,000.

But the question of who decides voting procedures has become an important one for Republicans, who control more of the state’s legislatures.

Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh all endorsed a view that the Constitution’s command that the “legislature” design the rules of elections means that state courts and agencies do not have a free hand in making changes to state laws. They say federal courts have a role in overseeing the state court decisions.

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court again rejects Trump’s bid to shield tax returns, other records from Manhattan prosecutor, Robert Barnes, Feb. 22, 2021. The Supreme Court on Monday rejected former president Donald Trump’s last-chance effort to keep his private financial records from the Manhattan district attorney, ending a long and drawn-out legal battle.

After a four-month delay, the court denied Trump’s motion in a one-sentence order with no recorded dissents.

District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. has won every stage of the legal fight — including the first round at the Supreme Court — but has yet to receive the records he says are necessary for a grand jury investigation into whether the president’s companies violated state law.

irs logoVance responded to the court decision with a three-word tweet: “The work continues.”

The current fight is a follow-up to last summer’s decision by the high court that the president is not immune from a criminal investigation while he holds office.

“No citizen, not even the president, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority in that 7 to 2 decision.

But the justices said Trump could challenge the specific subpoena, as every citizen may, for being overbroad or issued in bad faith.

Supreme Court says Manhattan prosecutor may pursue Trump’s financial records, denies Congress access for now

A district judge and a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in New York found neither was the case.

Trump’s complaints “amount to generic objections that the subpoena is wide-ranging in nature,” the unanimous 2nd Circuit panel wrote. “Again, even if the subpoena is broad, the complaint does not adequately allege that it is overbroad. Complex financial and corporate investigations are broad by default.”

Similarly, the panel said, “we hold that none of the president’s allegations, taken together or separately, are sufficient to raise a plausible inference that the subpoena was issued out of malice or an intent to harass.”

Vance is seeking eight years of the former president’s tax returns and related documents as part of his investigation into alleged hush-money payments made ahead of the 2016 election to two women who said they had affairs with Trump years before. Trump denies the claims.

Investigators want to determine whether efforts were made to conceal the payments on tax documents by labeling them as legal expenses.

But Vance says there are other aspects of the investigation that have not been publicly disclosed. Court filings by the prosecutors suggest the investigation is looking into other allegations of impropriety, perhaps involving tax and insurance fraud.

djt handwave file

Proof via Substack, Investigative Commentary: Leading Republican Candidate for Governor of Virginia Met with Insurrectionists and Discussed Armed Rebellion the Day Before the January 6 seth abramson headshotInsurrection, Seth Abramson, left, Feb. 22, 2021 (republished from subscription site with permission). Recorded discussion included consideration of Donald Trump raising a personal army of more than a million combat veterans to help him retain control of the White House.

In the Republican gubernatorial primary in Virginia, State Senator Amanda Chase, below right, has a healthy lead of 7% over her nearest competitor. The bad news for Chase is that just 48 hours ago she lost a lawsuit seeking to compel the Republican Party of Virginia to hold a conventional primary rather than—as the party is now considering, and has until Tuesday to decide upon—a state “convention” at which the party’s 2021 gubernatorial candidate would be selected by a committee of just 72 party members.

Chase, who has been called “controversial” by local media, even “the Donald Trump of Virginia politics” by one source, certainly has reason to fear that her party’s leaders, as opposed to amanda chase resizedVirginia’s Trumpist voter base, might not select her to be their standard bearer for the November 2, 2021 gubernatorial election.

And it now appears that there’s very good reason for Virginia’s Republican leaders not to do so.

A no-longer-publicly-available social media thread allegedly depicting a January 5, 2021 Facebook Live event involving Chase and several infamous insurrectionists is now getting renewed attention. In the video (originally posted on a Facebook page that Facebook on January 8 suspended for 60 days) Chase speaks with Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers, and Joshua Macias, head of Vets for Trump. CNN notes that the FBI is investigating many of Rhodes’ associates in the Oath Keepers, and has arrested some of them in a plot detailed by the Wall Street Journal as involving gassing all of Congress to death in the tunnels beneath the United States Capitol. As for Macias, he was arrested on gun charges during the counting of seth abramson proof logovotes in Philadelphia and was later charged with felony election interference in November of 2020.

At one point in the video, with Senator Chase sitting between them, Macias and Rhodes have the following incredible exchange (made all the more harrowing because it comes just hours before Insurrection Day):

MACIAS: “…[t]he most well-trained—crucible-trained—combat veterans this world has ever seen….there are veterans out there that are well-trained, that can immediate [sic] president be brought in as a special group and be utilized—in any way, shape or form—at his [the president’s] disposal. And we have a million just in Vets for Trump right now, standing at the ready, let alone those within one degree of separation, and the six million that didn’t even vote before [in 2016], that now voted in the 2016 [sic] election. So here we sit [on January 5] at a precipice of change, where we have the community that’s ready to step in, do what is needed, we have those that are—the president has all the power and the authority to do so—and he has all the backing of “we the people” and the 80 million that voted for him.

RHODES: In fact, us veterans, until age 65, under federal statute, still are subject to being called up as a militia. It goes from 17 to 45 if you’re not a veteran; if you’re a veteran, because of our prior experience and training, it goes to age 65. He could call us up right now as a militia—

MACIAS: Right now!

RHODES: —and put us to work.

MACIAS: And he has the ability—with special groups—that he can pull them in in other ways as well, and we can intake all of them, and place them wherever he needs it. So he has, standing at the ready, well-trained—crucible-trained—veteran volunteers that are at the ready right now.

At another point in his comments, Macias spreads anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about George Soros controlling the U.S. criminal justice system and opines that “the Communists have taken over so many places in our country.” At several points in the Vets for Trump leader’s diatribe, Senator Chase visibly nods.

Less than two weeks later, Macias would, alongside Latinos for Trump—whose leader Bianca Gracia not only also appears in the January 5 video alongside Chase, Rhodes, and Macias, but had also appeared at the Stop the Steal/Rally to Save America that day—seek a Temporary Restraining Order in federal court in Texas to try to keep Joe Biden from being inaugurated. {Note: Other speakers at the January 5 rally included Roger Stone and Alex Jones, both of whom say—see the prior articles in Proof on this subject—that they were in touch with Trump or the White House in the days leading up to the insurrection.}

djt maga hatSenator Chase attended the January 6 Stop the Steal/March to Save America event that incited the armed insurrection that day, and indeed recorded a video from the event in which she confirmed that “everyone” at the event was a Trump supporter and that there were “no counter-protestors”—a statement that, as of February 21, 2021, 58% of Trump voters disagree with (they claim, instead, per a USA Today poll, that it was “mostly an antifa-inspired attack that only involved a few Trump supporters”). In fact, New York Times cell phone tracking data confirms that the same group that attended the Trump rally at the White House Ellipse, which Chase denominated in her video as composed wholly of Trump supporters, thereafter stormed the Capitol.

Chase’s personal Facebook page, which has not yet been suspended by Facebook, includes the January 6 video but not the January 5 video of her discussion with several insurrectionists. In the January 6 video, which Chase closes with the words “stay tuned”, she can be seen wearing a lanyard around her neck that is attached to some sort of identification badge or access pass whose contents can’t readily be determined.

The New York Times calls Amanda Chase a Trump loyalist; Chase has called herself “Trump in heels.” Now that Chase’s hob-knobbing with insurrectionists to discuss—among other matters, like anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and false claims of a Communist takeover in the United States—armed insurrection is publicly known, it becomes a key question in American politics whether Trump will publicly endorse her. Per the Times, Chase called the January 6 insurrectionists “patriots” and “was still arguing with less than a week left in Mr. Trump’s presidency that he could yet be inaugurated for a second term.” At stake, therefore, in Virginia right now is whether Trump plans to make an active play to get insurrectionists into positions of power in America.

Seth Abramson, shown above and at right, is founder of Proof and is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who teaches digital journalism, seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionlegal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the Ph.D. program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include a Trump trilogy: Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump (2020); Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump's International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy (2019); and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018).

 

Feb. 20

New York Magazine, Commentary: An Ex-KGB Agent Says Trump Was a Russian Asset Since 1987. Does it Matter? Jonathan Chait, Feb. 20, 2021. In 2018, I became either famous or notorious — depending on your point of view — for writing a story speculating that Russia had secret leverage over Trump (which turned out to be correct). The story’s most controversial suggestion was that it was plausible, though hardly certain, that Russia’s influence over Trump might even date back as far as 1987.

I conceded it was probably just a coincidence that Trump came back from his trip to Russia and started spouting themes that happened to dovetail closely with Russia’s geopolitical goal of splitting the United States from its allies. But there was a reasonable chance — I loosely pegged it at 10 or 20 percent — that the Soviets had planted some of these thoughts, which he had never expressed before the trip, in his head.

If I had to guess today, I’d put the odds higher, perhaps over 50 percent. One reason for my higher confidence is that Trump has continued to fuel suspicion by taking anomalously pro-Russian positions. He met with Putin in Helsinki, appearing strangely submissive, and spouted Putin’s propaganda on a number of topics including the ridiculous possibility of a joint Russian-American cybersecurity unit. (Russia, of course, committed the gravest cyber-hack in American history not long ago, making Trump’s idea even more self-defeating in retrospect than it was at the time.) He seemed to go out of his way to alienate American allies and blow up cooperation every time they met during his tenure.

A second reason is that reporter Craig Unger, left, got a former KGB spy to confirm on the record that Russian intelligence had been working Trump for decades. In his new book, “American craig unger twitterKompromat,” Unger interviewed Yuri Shvets, who told him that the KGB manipulated Trump with simple flattery. “In terms of his personality, the guy is not a complicated cookie,” he said, “his most important characteristics being low intellect coupled with hyperinflated vanity. This makes him a dream for an experienced recruiter.”

craig unger resized american kompromatThat’s quite similar to what I suggested in my story:

Russian intelligence gains influence in foreign countries by operating subtly and patiently. It exerts different gradations of leverage over different kinds of people, and uses a basic tool kit of blackmail that involves the exploitation of greed, stupidity, ego, and sexual appetite. All of which are traits Trump has in abundance.

This is what intelligence experts mean when they describe Trump as a Russian “asset.” It’s not the same as being an agent. An asset is somebody who can be manipulated, as opposed to somebody who is consciously and secretly working on your behalf.

Shvets told Unger that the KGB cultivated Trump as an American leader, and persuaded him to run his ad attacking American alliances. “The ad was assessed by the active measures directorate as one of the most successful KGB operations at that time,” he said, “It was a big thing — to have three major American newspapers publish KGB soundbites.”

To be clear, while Shvets is a credible source, his testimony isn’t dispositive. There are any number of possible motives for a former Soviet spy turned critic of Russia’s regime to manufacture an indictment of Trump. But the story he tells is almost exactly the possibility I sketched out. And it fits the known facts about how Russian intelligence works and what Trump has done pretty tightly.

One thing I have changed my mind on since my story ran is the effect any this would have on the American public even if it were proven.

If something like the most sinister plausible story turned out to be true, how much would it matter? Probably not that much. Don’t get me wrong: Russia having secret channels of leverage over an American president isn’t good. I have merely come to think that even if we could have confirmed the worst, to the point that even Trump’s supporters could no longer deny it, it wouldn’t have changed very much. Trump wouldn’t have been forced to resign, and his Republican supporters would not have had to repudiate him. The controversy would have simply receded into the vast landscape of partisan talking points — one more thing liberals mock Trump over, and conservatives complain about the media for covering instead of Nancy Pelosi’s freezer or antifa or the latest campus outrage.

One reason I think that is because a great deal of incriminating information was confirmed and very little in fact changed as a result. In 2018, Buzzfeed reported, and the next year Robert Mueller confirmed, explosive details of a Russian kompromat operation. During the campaign, Russia had been dangling a Moscow building deal that stood to give hundreds of millions of dollars in profit to Trump, at no risk. Not only did he stand to gain this windfall, but he was lying in public at the time about his dealings with Russia, which gave Vladimir Putin additional leverage over him. (Russia could expose Trump’s lies at any time if he did something to displease Moscow.)

Mueller even testified that this arrangement gave Russia blackmail leverage over Trump. But by the time these facts had passed from the realm of the mysterious to the confirmed, they had become uninteresting.

We don’t know what other sources of leverage Russia had, or how far back it went. Ultimately, whatever value Trump offered to Russia was compromised by his incompetence and limited ability to grasp firm control even of his own government’s foreign policy. It was not just the fabled “deep state” that undermined Trump. Even his own handpicked appointees constantly undermined him, especially on Russia. Whatever leverage Putin had was limited to a single individual, which meant there was nobody Trump could find to run the State Department, National Security Agency, and so on who shared his idiosyncratic Russophilia.

Feb. 15

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Potential Next Steps On 1/6 Probes

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s acquittal widens GOP divide, Amy B Wang, Feb. 15, 2021 (print ed.). Republicans continued to diverge on what the future of their party should be, with a chasm widening between those who want nothing to do with the former president and those who openly embrace him.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden is winning GOP support for his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan. Just not in Washington, Griff Witte, Feb. 15, 2021 (print ed.). GOP mayors and governors say the spending is urgently needed to help struggling cities and states.

ny times logoNew York Times, First They Guarded Roger Stone. Then They Joined the Capitol Attack, Christiaan Triebert, Ben Decker, Derek Watkins, Arielle Ray and Stella Cooper, Feb. 15, 2021 (print ed.). We combed through hundreds of videos and photos and drew on research from an online monitoring group to track the six men who protected Mr. Stone.

donald trump money palmer report Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Donations for a voter fraud probe shed light on how baseless claims led to hundreds of millions in gifts, Shawn Boburg and Jon Swaine, Feb. 15, 2021. The Trump campaign and the Republican Party collected $255 million in two months, saying the money would support legal challenges to an election marred by fraud. Financier Fred Eshelman gave $2.5 million to True the Vote, a group seeking to press the case in court. Now he wants his money back.

Like many Trump supporters, conservative donor Fred Eshelman awoke the day after the presidential election with the suspicion that something wasn’t right. His candidate’s apparent lead in key battleground states had evaporated overnight.

The next day, the North Carolina financier and his advisers reached out to a small conservative nonprofit group in Texas that was seeking to expose voter fraud. After a 20-minute talk with the group’s president, their first-ever conversation, Eshelman was sold.

“I’m in for 2,” he told the president of True the Vote, according to court documents and interviews with Eshelman and others.

“$200,000?” one of his advisers on the call asked.

“$2 million,” Eshelman responded.

Over the next 12 days, Eshelman came to regret his donation and to doubt conspiracy theories of rampant illegal voting, according to court records and interviews.

The story behind the Eshelman donation — detailed in previously unreported court filings and exclusive interviews with those involved — provides new insights into the frenetic days after the election, when baseless claims led donors to give hundreds of millions of dollars to reverse President Biden’s victory.

Trump’s campaign and the Republican Party collected $255 million in two months, saying the money would support legal challenges to an election marred by fraud. Trump’s staunchest allies in Congress also raised money off those false allegations, as did pro-Trump lawyers seeking to overturn the election results — and even some of their witnesses.

True the Vote was one of several conservative “election integrity” groups that sought to press the case in court. Though its lawsuits drew less attention than those brought by the Trump campaign, True the Vote nonetheless sought to raise more than $7 million for its investigation of the 2020 election.

Documents that have surfaced in Eshelman’s litigation, along with interviews, show how True the Vote’s private assurances that it was on the cusp of revealing illegal election schemes repeatedly fizzled as the group’s focus shifted from one allegation to the next. The nonprofit sought to coordinate its efforts with a coalition of Trump’s allies, including Trump attorney Jay Sekulow and Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), the documents show.

Eshelman has alleged in two lawsuits — one in federal court has been withdrawn and the other is ongoing in a Texas state court — that True the Vote did not spend his $2 million gift and a subsequent $500,000 donation as it said it would. Eshelman also alleges that True the Vote directed much of his money to people or businesses connected to the group’s president, Catherine Engelbrecht.

 

Potential Next Steps On 1/6 Probes

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Could Trump be disqualified through other means? Jennifer Rubin, Feb. 15, 2021. Having witnessed the unflinching partisanship of Senate Republicans, the American people have two avenues left to hold the disgraced former president accountable for inciting insurrection.

Both Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who whiffed when presented with the chance to disqualify former president Donald Trump, recognized that criminal prosecution is still in the cards. Cheney noted in an interview recently that a “massive criminal investigation” was underway that could provide answers as to the extent of his involvement. McConnell practically invited a prosecutor with the spine he lacks to take on the case. “President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he was in office, as an ordinary citizen, unless the statute of limitations has run. … Didn’t get away with anything yet,” he said.

The benefit of a criminal trial is that witnesses can be subpoenaed (e.g., former vice president Mike Pence). House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) under penalty of perjury could be required to recall his conversation pleading for help. The venue of the trial, Washington, might be favorable to the prosecution. Lawyers who behaved as defense counsel did in the impeachment would be held in contempt. The jury will not be “fixed” in advance.

Beyond a criminal prosecution (and an investigation in Georgia is already underway into Trump’s alleged effort to intimidate the Georgia secretary of state), there is another means of holding him accountable. Democrats could bring a bill or a concurrent resolution (which cannot be filibustered) to affirm that, according to the 14th Amendment, Section 3, the former president is ineligible to hold office. That provision states that someone who engaged in “insurrection” or had “given aid or comfort” to those who did cannot hold federal office. That Civil War provision prohibited Confederate officials and military officers from serving in the Union unless granted a reprieve by a two-thirds vote.

McConnell has already confirmed on the floor that the former president was responsible for a violent insurrection. While there is scant precedent, it is almost certainly true that the presidency from which he would be disqualified is covered by “any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State” in Section 3. (It would be bizarre if one could be excluded from running for the House but not the presidency.)

Congress could go even further and, as one lawyer exploring this avenue told me, “expressly authorize the Attorney General to bring an action to enforce Section Three against President Trump before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals (or a three-judge federal district court panel) and allow for immediate and expedited appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

tom kean lee hamilton

washington post logoWashington Post, 9/11 commission leaders call for bipartisan probe into Capitol attack, Dan Balz, Feb. 15, 2021 (print ed.). A traumatic moment for the country will not quickly fade, nor should it, not after an attack on the symbol of democracy and democracy itself.

Saturday’s 57-to-43 vote brought an end to Congress’s formal effort to hold former president Donald Trump accountable for the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. But that traumatic moment for the country will not quickly fade, nor should it, not after an attack on the symbol of democracy and democracy itself.

The Senate vote left multiple questions still to be answered, including some that the president’s legal team deflected during the trial. Chief among them: Exactly what did Trump know as the attacks were unfolding, and why he didn’t he do anything to protect Vice President Mike Pence or order immediate reinforcements to the beleaguered law enforcement officers at the Capitol? Trump could yet face judgment in court, whether criminal or civil, but the full story of what happened and how it happened remains untold.

One vehicle for fact finding that could lead to protecting the Capitol, those who work there and the democratic institutions they are sworn to defend is the kind of commission that Tom Kean, above left, the former Republican governor of New Jersey, and Lee Hamilton, above right, the former Democratic House member from Indiana, headed after 9/11 and now are advocating to investigate the Jan. 6 events.

On Friday, Kean and Hamilton sent a letter to President Biden and to the bipartisan leaders in the House and Senate urging the establishment of a commission that would be both independent and bipartisan. In a time of partisanship and, among most Republicans tribal loyalty to Trump, it will be a challenge to assemble a group that meets those criteria, but the two leaders say it is, nonetheless, essential to try.

In the letter, the two wrote, “The shocking and tragic assault of Jan. 6th on the U.S. Capitol requires thorough investigation, to ensure that the American people learn the truth of what happened that day. An investigation should establish a single narrative and set of facts to identify how the Capitol was left vulnerable, as well as corrective actions to make the institution safe again.”

Neither Kean nor Hamilton sought to make a direct comparison with the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and those of Jan. 6. But as Kean put it in an interview: The Capitol attack “was a wound to democracy itself. . . . If the people we elect cannot be safe when they’re trying to do their work, then the country’s in trouble and will remain in trouble, and we’ve got to therefore get to the bottom of it.”

The police officer Eugene Goodman is shown also holding off the pro-Trump mob on Jan. 6 (Photo by Igor Bobic of HuffPost via Storyful).

The police officer Eugene Goodman is shown also holding off the pro-Trump mob on Jan. 6 (Photo by Igor Bobic of HuffPost via Storyful).

ny times logoNew York Times, Calls Grow for Commission to Investigate Capitol Riot, Emily Cochrane, Feb. 15, 2021 (print ed.). Lawmakers are increasingly pushing for a 9/11-style panel that would examine failures and make recommendations. It could also be a final chance for Congress to hold Donald J. Trump to account.

Lawmakers fresh off the impeachment acquittal of former President Donald J. Trump are issuing growing calls for a bipartisan commission to investigate the administrative and law enforcement failures that led to the mob attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6 and recommend changes to prevent another siege.

Such a commission appears to be the primary remaining option for Congress to try to hold Mr. Trump to account for his role in the assault. Top lawmakers have quashed the idea of a post-impeachment censure of the former president, and the possibility of barring him from future office under the 14th Amendment, which prohibits any official involved in “insurrection or rebellion” from holding office, seems remote.

madeleine dean oLawmakers in both parties have called for a commission modeled on the bipartisan panel established after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Representative Madeleine Dean, right, Democrat of Pennsylvania and an impeachment manager, described it on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday as “an impartial commission, not guided by politics, filled with people who would stand up to the courage of their conviction.”

President George W. Bush signed a law establishing the 9/11 Commission in 2002, mandated to investigate what caused the attack and what might have stopped it, and to outline how to prevent a similar attack. After a 20-month investigation, the commission offered three dozen recommendations for how to reshape intelligence coordination and congressional oversight.

“We need a 9/11 Commission to find out what happened and make sure it never happens again, and I want to make sure that the Capitol footprint can be better defended next time,” Senator Lindsey Graham, left, Republican of South Carolina, said on “Fox News Sunday.”

In the House, rank-and-file lawmakers in both parties have introduced legislation that would establish a commission, with some Democrats proposing a broader examination of the federal government’s response to domestic terrorism and violent extremism.

Nancy Pelosi “We will have an after-action review,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, left, told reporters late last month. “There will be a commission.” She has since been briefed repeatedly by retired Gen. Russel L. Honoré, who has been tapped to examine security on Capitol Hill, which remains surrounded by fences lined with razor wire and under the watch of National Guard troops.

“In the near future, Congress needs to smartly transition to a more sustainable security presence,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, said in late January. “Keeping the Capitol safe cannot and will not require huge numbers of uniformed troops and vast systems of emergency fencing to remain in place forever.”

Democrats, who abruptly dropped what had been a successful demand for witnesses during the final day of the trial on Saturday, framed a possible commission on Sunday as a way to not only understand the failures that had led to the breach of the Capitol but also to underscore Mr. Trump’s role in the events.

chris coons o“There’s still more evidence that the American people need and deserve to hear,” Senator Chris Coons, right, Democrat of Delaware, said on “This Week,” adding that a commission would “make sure that we secure the Capitol going forward and lay bare the record of just how responsible” Mr. Trump was for the attack.

Before the impeachment proceedings, there had been discussion of a bipartisan censure resolution in lieu of a trial. But lawmakers quickly abandoned the idea as the trial moved forward, in part because Democrats had demanded stronger language than what Republicans were comfortable with. Asked about the chances for a resolution intended to keep Mr. Trump from running for office again, Senator John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 2 Republican, said, “I don’t think that’ll go anywhere.”

“Every senator has had the opportunity to express his or her views,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, who had been involved in the discussions.

Ms. Pelosi, speaking a news conference on Saturday, declared such a resolution to be “a slap in the face of the Constitution.”

“We censure people for using stationery for the wrong purpose,” she said. “We don’t censure people for inciting insurrection that kills people in the Capitol.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Chaos before Trump’s acquittal: Inside Democrats’ 11th-hour witness dilemma, Mike DeBonis and Tom Hamburger, Feb. 14, 2021 (print ed.). House impeachment managers backed away from a final push to call witnesses and extend the trial of former president Donald Trump, but not before exposing long-simmering tensions among Democrats over how aggressively to hold him accountable.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: 9 witnesses who would give important testimony at Trump’s impeachment trial, Aaron Blake, Feb. 14, 2021 (print ed.). Trump won't testify in his impeachment trial; Former president Donald Trump's lawyers on Feb. 4 rejected a request from Democrats for Trump to testify at his impeachment trial.

The second impeachment trial of Donald Trump might include witnesses after all. Shortly after the trial began Saturday, lead House impeachment manager Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said he would like to subpoena Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.).

Beutler, who was one of 10 House Republicans to vote to impeach Trump last month, confirmed overnight that Trump declined House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) request to more forcefully call off his supporters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.

“When McCarthy finally reached the president on Jan. 6 and asked him to publicly and forcefully call off the riot, the president initially repeated the falsehood that it was antifa that had breached the Capitol,” Beutler said. “McCarthy refuted that and told the president that these were Trump supporters. That’s when, according to McCarthy, the president said, ‘Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.’”

For more than a week, it has been reported that it was unlikely the trial would include any witnesses. It’s still not clear that it will. Witnesses are subject to votes of the Senate, and Trump’s team has threatened to call many witnesses in response. Trump lawyer Michael van der Veen angrily responded to Raskin’s call by suggesting he would need depositions of more than 100 people. He mentioned House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Vice President Harris specifically.

But with the prospect of witnesses suddenly very real, it’s worth going through who could shed light.

1. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler
2. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.)
3. The Capitol rioters who cited Trump
4. The Trump aides involved in planning the rally

Media News

Columbia Journalism Review, Opinion: Thread Man: Seth Abramson’s viral meta-journalism unreality, Lyz Lenz, Published eletronically on Feb. 11, 2021, with a dateline of Feb. 15). For four years, America has been ruled by the tyranny of tweets, and the news media has been tangled in threads. Twitter threads are a way for journalists to gather information and to promote their work; Virginia Heffernan wrote in Politico that they have become the “literary form of the Trump era.”

One of the most prominent Twitter-thread stars is Seth Abramson, who came to the fore around 2017, as the American press was choking on news about Russian interference in the presidential election.

Every story was cloaked in subterfuge: The hacking of the Democratic National Committee. That time Ivanka Trump sat in Vladimir Putin’s chair. When Donald Trump grabbed an interpreter’s notes and crumpled them up. The Miss Universe pageant. Cable news anchors sputtered out names: Maria Butina, George Papadopoulos, Paul Manafort. What did it all mean? If the frenzy of scoops presented a vast evidence board of clues and suspects, we needed someone to connect all the pieces into some kind of meta-narrative.

Enter Abramson, on Twitter, arguing that out in the open was all the proof required to see the truth about our wildest fears and hopes: crimes had been committed, and the evidence was already being reported on by major media outlets. He was the man uniquely capable of pulling the loose threads together.

Lyz Lenz is a writer based in Iowa. Her writing has appeared in Pacific Standard, Marie Claire, Jezebel, and the Washington Post.

Twitter, @SethAbramson via Twitter response to CJR. Seth Abramson—author, professor, lawyer, investigative reporter—responded on Feb. 15 to the article excerpted above with an extended Twitter thread describing the piece as defamatory and biased. That 31-part Twitter thread's top few items are excerpted below.

Abramson, shown at right in a photo showing the cover of one of his three recent books about Donald Trump, also rebuked New York Times White House reporter Maggie Haberman for retweeting the CJR piece, also as excerpted below. Additionally, he published on Feb. 18 via Substack a lengthy overview of the changing media industry, entitled, Twelve Things You Need to Know About Metajournalism. This previewed a book on the topic planned for publication in 2022.

·
Feb 15:

(THREAD) On February 11, CJR published a piece on me by Lyz Lenz (@LyzL. It [CJR] had been informed in writing months earlier—before Lenz began her work—that Lenz felt malice toward me. I requested a different interviewer. The request was ignored. This is the story of what came next.
·
1/ I tell this story not just because it's shocking, but for three other reasons. Columbia University wishes for me to itemize my complaints with the piece—having already declared it will make no changes to it—and I see no reason why I should do so privately rather than publicly.

2/ Second, what happened to me at the hands of CJR—defamation—has happened to many other independent journalists at the hands of other media outlets. Right now there is a needless war between Old Media and New Media, and Old Media is fighting dirty. It has to stop, and right now.

3/ Third—and this is impossible to explain fully if you've never had a major-media hit-piece about you filled almost exclusively with provable lies go viral—it's traumatic and scary and one of the worst things to happen in the life of those it happens to. Folks need to know this.

4/ The bulk of this thread hereafter will be screenshots of my response to the Office of the General Counsel at Columbia University. I apologize in advance that the text will be small. You will need to (a) read it on a desktop computer, and (b) click on the image to enlarge it.

5/ If you want to know what really lies behind the hit-pieces you see in major media that convince you to unfollow someone or never again respect them, please read this thread. You will understand that these publications are lying to you about their standards and their practices.

6/ Those who want to know my personal and professional background—which includes being a journalism professor, a lawyer, and someone who's been in journalism as a practitioner for 27 years—can read my bio below to get a better sense of my view/experience.

7/ Before we get to the screenshots, I want to close this part of the thread by saying that this thread will cost this feed thousands of subscribers. That's how it works. I'm willing to pay the price for telling the truth about a hit-piece many in major media gleefully retweeted.

8/ Now to the letter....

Feb. 14

Proof via Substack, Investigative Commentary: Some Say the Criminal Justice System Will Save Us From Trump — But Can It? Seth Abramson, left, Feb. 14, 2021. The "New Big Lie" is a bait-and-switch involving the indictment of Donald Trump.
seth abramson headshot

Having spent nearly a decade working in state and federal criminal justice systems — including as a criminal investigator in the federal justice system in D.C. and a criminal defense attorney in Massachusetts and New Hampshire — I have as many opinions as everyone else about what our justice system is equipped to handle and what it is not.

Right now we have many D.C. politicians, particularly powerful Republicans like Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), telling us the appropriate forum for disqualifying a politician from future office is the federal criminal justice system. They sagely aver that if we will just accept that the proper jurisdiction for litigating a President of the United States inciting armed insurrection against the government in the waning days of his administration is the federal courthouse in D.C. — not, say, the chambers of Congress—all will be well. America will be rid of the scourge of Trump.

Except, per usual, they’re lying. But this lie is far more pernicious than many realize.

seth abramson proof logoFirst, understand while our justice systems can indict, prosecute, and incarcerate citizens for countless statutory crimes, they struggle to do so in a timely fashion — sometimes at all — if a defendant is rich, particularly if he’s also powerful and famous. There are many reasons for this, perhaps foremost among them that prosecutors in the United States are not apolitical. In fact, for reasons passing understanding, we created state and federal justice systems in which the most politically oriented prosecutors flourish — those who avoid pushing cases that are or may become politically unpopular, corner a defendant with powerful allies, or lead to a precedent that disadvantages the already advantaged.

Donald Trump is almost the Platonic case of a prospective federal defendant who, if disposed of in the same way any of the rest of us would be, could destroy not just the professional futures but also the personal lives of anyone who takes him on. Why should an ambitious prosecutor hoping to leverage that career track into some future political office take the risk of becoming a pariah to about half of the voters they may ultimately need to rely upon? Why risk losing a high-profile case someone above you in the hierarchy believes should have been won, and therefore losing your job rather than being vaulted even higher into the ranks of high-visibility public servants? And why do any of this when the very scions of public service you most wish to impress — the folks who work in D.C. and, in that group, particularly those in the White House — have already publicly decided not to pursue any action against Donald Trump, even a slam-dunk campaign finance case in which he remains an unindicted co-conspirator?

Second, the simple fact is that our criminal justice systems have no authority at all to bar someone from future office. Their only option, instead, is to incarcerate people for such a long period of time that they will die before they can run for office again. Is this what McConnell and Rubio would have us think they believe may happen here? That Trump — a seventy-something with no prior record; enough money to delay any case almost indefinitely through frivolous legal action (and a track record of always doing so successfully); at least 74 million supporters who wanted him to be the most powerful man in America not 120 days ago, many of whom (more than half) think he’s currently America’s rightful president; and access to legions of domestic terrorists likely to threaten and perhaps harm any prosecutor who juror who takes any adverse action against him—is going to be not just indicted and prosecuted and caged but for so long his political career will be effectively over? At a moment his popularity within the Republican Party remains well over 70%?

It won’t happen. It would be a miracle surpassing human understanding — and defying hundreds of years of history within the federal justice system—if, in prospective cases in Washington and Georgia, Trump were to be charged at all, let alone successfully prosecuted and then imprisoned. America has no track record of incarcerating a man of Trump’s notoriety, stature, and authority, let alone in a way that incapacitates him for a long period of time. Even the friends of men as powerful as Trump — think Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, or Steve Bannon — consider themselves immune from any long-term consequences for their actions; history has proven their presumption to be correct.

Donald Trump has recourses no other federal defendant would have, for instance to convincingly claiming that any prosecution of him is “political,” or having legions of powerful Republicans with ready access to the media saying as much at all hours of the day; he has civilian supporters he can effortlessly marshal to so intimidate any federal prosecutors, investigators, law enforcement officials, judges, or juries pursuing him as to make successfully convicting him (let alone caging him) so distant a possibility that only the most devout left-wing wish-casters can fathom it. Do I wish it were otherwise? Have I argued daily for years that it should be otherwise? Did I and millions of others work in the justice system at various points in our lives in part as an effort to ensure that all defendants are treated fairly, no matter their resources? Yes, yes, and again yes. Which is why I can report that anyone in D.C. now claiming that Trump will be dealt with properly by our legal system is lying to you. Our system isn’t equipped to do it.

Third, we must understand that the only reason men like McConnell and Rubio are pointing toward federal courts in D.C. and Georgia, or the state courts in New York, as the appropriate venues for disposing of Trump post-impeachment, is because they want to (a) distract us, (b) move the goalposts of accountability, (c) remove themselves from responsibility for whatever happens.

Per the Constitution, the body with the power to disqualify an elected official from holding future office is Congress — not the federal courts. We find this power enshrined, in both of its two instances frustratingly vaguely, in both the Impeachment Clause and Section 3 of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In the former case, the disqualification vote requires only a majority of members of Congress, but it remains unclear whether this vote can be taken, during an impeachment proceeding, whether or not the respondent in such a proceeding is convicted. While the issue hasn’t been litigated in the past, to date both Democrats and Republicans have seemed to presume that you can’t be disqualified from future office until you’ve been convicted of having committed malfeasance in your present (or recent) office. It’s an argument that doesn’t explain why the vote threshold required is different in the two instances, or for that matter why senators are allowed to use whatever standard of proof they wish in either of the two inquiries.

Even though we know the Constitution is silent on the standard of proof in an impeachment proceeding, politicians have — perhaps to better protect themselves—decided a senator can’t deem the bar for conviction to be higher than the bar for disqualification from future office.

Seth Abramson, shown above and at right, is founder of Proof and is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who teaches digital journalism, seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionlegal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the Ph.D. program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include a Trump trilogy: Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump (2020); Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump's International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy (2019); and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018).

Feb. 10

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 More On Trump Trial

 

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capitol noose shay horse nurphoto via getty

A crowd of Trump supporters surrounded a newly erected set of wooden gallows outside the Capitol Building on Jan. 6. "Hang Mike Pence!" members of the crowd shouted at times about the Republican Vice President who had announced that he could not comply with the president's call to block election certification that day. The wooden gallows near the Capitol Reflecting Pool was just one example of the racist and anti-Semitic imagery on display at the riot. The noose is a racist symbol of the lynching of Black Americans. (Photo by Shay Horse  via NurPhoto / Getty).

ny times logoNew York Times, Senate Votes to Allow Trump Impeachment Trial to Proceed, Peter Baker, Feb. 10, 2021 (print ed.). Trial of Former President Is Found Constitutional, With 6 G.O.P. Votes, Senate Votes to Proceed With Trump’s 2nd Impeachment Trial.

The Senate voted on Tuesday to proceed with the impeachment trial of former President Donald J. Trump, rejecting his defense team’s claim that it would be unconstitutional to prosecute a president after leaving office. But the final tally signaled that his Republican allies could muster enough support to potentially block the two-thirds necessary for conviction.

The 56-to-44 vote, with six Republicans joining all 50 Democrats, paved the way for the House Democrats trying the case to formally open their arguments on Wednesday afternoon as they seek to prove that Mr. Trump incited an insurrection by encouraging supporters who stormed the Capitol last month and disrupted the counting of Electoral College votes.

But the 44 Republicans who agreed with Mr. Trump’s claim that a former president cannot be subject to an impeachment trial seemed to all but guarantee that he would have the 34 votes he needs on the final verdict to avoid conviction. To succeed, the House managers would need to persuade at least 11 Republican senators to find Mr. Trump guilty in a trial that they have deemed unconstitutional.

The vote came after House managers, arguing to proceed with the trial, presented the Senate with a vivid and graphic sequence of footage of Mr. Trump’s backers assaulting the Capitol last month.

american flag upside down distressThe managers wasted no time moving immediately to their most powerful evidence: the explicit visual record of the deadly Capitol siege that threatened the lives of former Vice President Mike Pence and members of both houses of Congress juxtaposed against Mr. Trump’s own words encouraging members of the mob at a rally beforehand.

The scenes of mayhem and violence — punctuated by expletives rarely heard on the floor of the Senate — highlighted the drama of the trial in gut-punching fashion for the senators who lived through the events barely a month ago and now sit as quasi-jurors. On the screens, they saw enraged extremists storming barricades, beating police officers, setting up a gallows and yelling, “Take the building,” “Fight for Trump” and “Pence is a traitor! Traitor Pence!”

jamie raskin feb 10 resized senate“You ask what a high crime and misdemeanor is under our Constitution,” Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland, right, the leader of the House Democrats prosecuting the case, told the senators after playing the video. “That’s a high crime and misdemeanor. If that’s not an impeachable offense, then there’s no such thing.”

Mr. Trump’s lawyers responded by arguing that his words at the rally on Jan. 6 constituted free speech akin to typical political language and hardly incited the violence. They characterized the impeachment as yet another partisan attack driven by animus that will set a precedent for political retribution as power changes with each election.

“The political pendulum will shift one day,” Bruce L. Castor Jr., the lawyer leading off for the former president, told the Senate. “This chamber and the chamber across the way will change one day and partisan impeachments will become commonplace.”

The second trial of Mr. Trump opened in the crime scene itself, the same chamber occupied on Jan. 6 by the mob that forced senators to evacuate in the middle of counting the Electoral College votes ratifying President Biden’s victory.

Never before has a president been tried by the Senate twice, much less after his term has expired, but Mr. Trump’s accusers argue that his actions in his final days in power were so egregious and threatening to democracy that he must be held accountable.

“What you experienced that day, what we experienced that day, what our country experienced that day, is the framers’ worst nightmare come to life,” Representative Joe Neguse, Democrat of Colorado and another impeachment manager, told the senators. “Presidents can’t inflame insurrection in their final weeks and then walk away like nothing happened.”

Even though Mr. Trump can no longer be removed from office, conviction would stand as a statement of repudiation for history and permit the senators to bar him from running for federal office again.

The managers maintained that there must be no “January exception” for presidents to escape repercussions through impeachment on their way out of office and cited a series of writings by the nation’s framers as well as contemporary conservative scholars.

 ny times logoNew York Times, What to Watch For on Day 2 of Trump’s Impeachment Trial, Zach Montague, Feb. 10, 2021. House Democrats will make their case for convicting former President Trump in what could be an exceptionally short impeachment trial. Senators narrowly voted on Tuesday to move ahead with the trial, an indication that Mr. Trump is likely to be acquitted. Here’s what to expect today.

House Democrats will lay out the case for convicting former President Donald J. Trump on Wednesday as the Senate forges ahead with what could well become the fastest presidential impeachment trial in history.

After a compact debate on Tuesday over the constitutionality of the proceeding, senators narrowly voted to move ahead with the trial to decide whether Mr. Trump is guilty of inciting a deadly mob of his supporters to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6.

The central question facing lawmakers on Tuesday was whether a former president could be tried by the Senate for high crimes and misdemeanors. By a 56-to-44 vote, senators found that the body did have jurisdiction to do so.

The Senate will convene again at noon Wednesday.

How quickly will this go?

Under the rules agreed to by both sides, the prosecution and defense each have up to 16 hours to present their cases.

jamin raskin american university Custom 2Both the House managers, led by Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland, right, and Mr. Trump’s defense lawyers will be limited to eight hours on any given day of the trial.

Neither side is expected to fully use the allotted time, as both parties appear eager to conclude the proceedings as quickly as possible, particularly given that Mr. Trump seems headed toward an all but certain acquittal.

This was reflected in the latest draft of the trial rules, which has senators scheduled to meet for a rare Sunday session if no verdict has been reached before then. The trial had already been set to continue into the weekend after Mr. Trump’s lawyers withdrew a request to break on Friday evening in observance of the Jewish Sabbath.

Mr. Trump’s first impeachment trial, last year, lasted only 21 days, but his second could move even faster.

Wednesday’s arguments may very well establish the pace for the rest of the proceedings.

How will House prosecutors connect the dots?

House prosecutors set the tone for their opening arguments on Tuesday by sharing an arresting video montage of the violence at the Capitol last month, laying out a chronological account of the rampage as it unfolded.

The 13-minute clip showed scenes of brutality and mayhem, laced with profanities, forcing some television networks to add content warnings and many of those present in the chamber to relive the assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6 as they met to affirm President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s election victory.

The House managers appear to have at least two goals: dredging up vivid and emotional memories from that day, and hammering home their point that Mr. Trump was personally responsible for igniting the violence. 

jamie raskin feb 10 resized senate

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Jamie Raskin won the impeachment trial before it began, Jennifer Rubin, Feb. 9, 2021. Raskin, above, delivers emotional jennifer rubin new headshotrecollection of Capitol attack. “Winning” the impeachment trial means removing any reasonable doubt in the minds of Americans that President Donald Trump incited a riot, that he let it continue in desperate attempt to keep power and that Republicans simply do not care. The House impeachment managers did a masterful job on all points in their opening arguments on Tuesday.

Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.), the lead House manager, demolished the notion that presidents get a free pass to commit high crimes in the waning days of their terms. On its face, Raskin explained, it’s absurd to argue that “conduct that would be a high crime and misdemeanor in your first year as president and your second year as president and your third year as president and for the vast majority of your fourth year as president, you can suddenly do in your last few weeks in office without facing any constitutional accountability at all,” he said, adding that it would have been the Founders’ “worst nightmare.”

Let’s not forget that the only reason the impeachment, which the House voted on before Trump left office, was not sent to trial immediately was because then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his fellow Republicans stalled. They break the hypocrisy meter by turning around and claiming that the Senate, therefore, cannot try Trump now.

Beyond conclusively establishing the trial’s constitutionality, Raskin brought back to life the horrifying hours of Jan. 6 when insurrectionists, hyped-up on Trumpian fury, assaulted the Capitol. The Post reported: “Almost every senatorial eye in the chamber was glued to the screens as lead House manager Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) played a 13-minute video depicting the events of Jan. 6 to introduce the impeachment case against [former president Donald Trump] — with a few notable exceptions.” It was obvious why Republican Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Rick Scott (Fla.), and Rand Paul (Ky.) cravenly averted their gaze: The scenes were so disturbing as to render their defense of the former president a moral abomination.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trial begins with clash over proceedings’ constitutionality, John Wagner, Colby Itkowitz and Felicia Sonmez, Feb. 10, 2021 (print ed.). Senators hear debate over trying a former president.

  • Raskin, overcome with emotion, pleads: ‘People died that day. Senators, this cannot be our future'
  • Trump ‘sided with the insurrectionists,’ Rep. Cicilline says
  • Rep. Neguse says Jan. 6 was ‘the framers’ worst nightmare come to life’
  • Rep. Neguse cites historical precedents, views of conservative legal scholars
  • As video of Capitol riot played, some GOP senators turned away
  • Constitutional expert quoted by Trump’s attorneys says his views are ‘misrepresented’

 

djt handwave file

ny times logoNew York Times, Meandering Performance by Defense Lawyers Enrages Trump, Maggie Haberman, Feb. 10, 2021 (print ed.) The former president was particularly angry at Bruce L. Castor Jr., one of his lawyers, for acknowledging the effectiveness of the House Democrats’ presentation.

On the first day of his second impeachment trial, former President Donald J. Trump was mostly hidden from view on Tuesday at Mar-a-Lago, his private club in Palm Beach, Fla., moving from the new office that aides set up to his private quarters outside the main building.

bruce castorMr. Trump was said to have meetings that were put on his calendar to coincide with his defense team’s presentation and keep him occupied. But he still managed to catch his two lawyers, Bruce L. Castor Jr., right, and David I. Schoen, on television — and he did not like what he saw, according to two people briefed on his reaction.

Mr. Castor, the first to speak, delivered a rambling, almost somnambulant defense of the former president for nearly an hour. Mr. Trump, who often leaves the television on in the background even when he is holding meetings, was furious, people familiar with his reaction said.

On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the angriest, Mr. Trump “was an eight,” one person familiar with his reaction said.

And while he was heartened that his other lawyer, Mr. Schoen, gave a more spirited performance, Mr. Trump ended the day frustrated and irate, the people familiar with his reaction said.

Unlike his first Senate impeachment trial, just over a year ago, Mr. Trump has no Twitter feed to do what he believes he does better than anyone else — defend himself — and to dangle threats of retaliation over the heads of Republican senators who serve on the impeachment jury.

So the former president was forced to rely on a traditional method of defense — lawyers in the well of the Senate chamber, and allies spreading word about their plans to defend him against the charge of “incitement of insurrection” for his role in the deadly assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6 by a mob of supporters.

In the lead-up to the trial this week, Mr. Trump’s allies and advisers said he seemed to be taking his second impeachment more or less in stride, preoccupied with his golf game and his struggling business, and trying to ignore what was happening in Washington.

But the fact that he struggled to retain a full team of lawyers for the trial was a source of concern to some of his aides. None of the lawyers from the first impeachment trial who defended Mr. Trump returned for the second round. And most of the team he initially hired abruptly parted ways with him days before the trial began.

capitol peter stager

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Why Democrats must make the full case against Trump, Megan McArdle, right, Feb. 10, 2021 (print ed.). If Donald Trump directly megan mcardlecaused the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6 (shown above), then Democrats need to prove it.

To be clear, I believe Trump deserves to be convicted of grave crimes against the republic and barred from ever again running for office. But I also believe that asserting these things will not suffice; Americans need to see all the evidence. And I’m worried that Democrats won’t supply enough of it.

Citizens need testimony and documentation that painstakingly lays out the theory of the case: how Trump planned to claim fraud well before the election and how he followed through afterward, using false statements and frivolous lawsuits to deceive his followers into believing that he hadn’t really lost; how his political team helped bring the angriest and most extreme of those followers to D.C. on the day the results were being certified and whipped the crowd into a rage; how Trump himself then pointed that mob at Congress; and how the president both demonstrated and magnified his complicity by refusing to intervene for long hours as his supporters rampaged through the U.S. Capitol.

Yet as I write, opening arguments have begun in Trump’s Senate trial, and Democrats aren’t even sure whether they’re going to call witnesses.

Despite the gravity of the charges, already the situation looks similar to what happened in Trump’s first Senate trial: Democrats accuse Trump of outrage after outrage, and Republicans call this a frivolous political witch hunt, until finally proceedings end in a mostly party-line vote that Trump will use to claim persecution. The only difference is that this time a few more brave Republicans may vote to convict.

Why, then, do I think that meticulous case must nonetheless be made, even if it takes weeks and means losing momentum for other items on the Biden agenda?

djt maga hatOne reason is to put the powerful people who colluded with Trump on the record, under penalty of perjury. People who made baseless claims of election fraud, or helped assemble that volatile mob on the day of the certification, are more responsible for what happened than the deluded fanatics who followed their lead; they should be more accountable. Force them to acknowledge what they did, or let history record their refusal to do so.

More important is to lay out the entire case before the large number of Americans who haven’t understood exactly how the events of Jan. 6 unfolded or how much Trump and his allies did to foment that insurrection. That is, those Americans who support impeachment, but weakly, should be left in no doubt that they are on the right side. And Republicans who support Trump, but weakly, should be given every chance to change their minds.

ny times logoNew York Times, Georgia Prosecutors Open Criminal Investigation of Trump Call, Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim, Feb. 10, 2021. Prosecutors are investigating former President Trump’s January phone call to the Georgia secretary of state asking him to “find” votes.

georgia mapProsecutors in Fulton County have initiated a criminal investigation into former President Donald J. Trump’s attempts to overturn Georgia’s election results, including a phone call he made to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in which Mr. Trump pressured him to “find” enough votes to help him reverse his loss.

brad raffenspergerOn Wednesday, Fani Willis, the recently elected Democratic prosecutor in Fulton County, sent a letter to numerous officials in state government, including Mr. Raffensperger, left, requesting that they preserve documents related to Mr. Trump’s call, according to a state official with knowledge of the letter. The letter explicitly stated that the request was part of a criminal investigation, said the official, who insisted on anonymity to discuss internal matters.

The inquiry comes as Mr. Trump faces a second impeachment trial in Washington this week, on a charge of “incitement of insurrection” for his role in stirring up the mob that attacked the Capitol on Jan 6. The violence that day followed weeks of false claims by the former president that election fraud deprived him of victory, including in Georgia, where he lost by about 12,000 votes.

For two months after Joseph R. Biden Jr. was declared the winner, Mr. Trump relentlessly attacked election officials in Georgia, including Mr. Raffensperger and the Republican governor, Brian Kemp, claiming they were not doing enough to uncover instances of voting fraud that might change the outcome. In addition to the phone call to Mr. Raffensperger, he also called Gov. Brian Kemp in early December and pressured him to call a special legislative session to overturn his election loss. Later that month, Mr. Trump called a state investigator and pressed the official to “find the fraud,” according to those with knowledge of the call.

The inquiry makes Georgia the second state after New York where Mr. Trump faces a criminal investigation. And it comes in a jurisdiction where potential jurors are unlikely to be hospitable to the former president; Fulton County encompasses most of Atlanta and overwhelmingly supported President Biden in the November election.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Bars Trump From Receiving Intelligence Briefings, Citing ‘Erratic Behavior,’ David E. Sanger, Updated Feb. 10, 2021. President Biden said there was “no need” for former President Donald J. Trump to get the briefings, traditionally given to ex-presidents as a courtesy and to keep them informed if their advice is needed.

joe biden flag profile uncredited palmerPresident Biden said on Friday that he would bar his predecessor, Donald J. Trump, from receiving intelligence briefings traditionally given to former presidents, saying that Mr. Trump could not be trusted because of his “erratic behavior” even before the Jan. 6 attack on the CIA LogoCapitol.

The move was the first time that a former president had been cut out of the briefings, which are provided partly as a courtesy and partly for the moments when a sitting president reaches out for advice. Currently, the briefings are offered on a regular basis to Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Mr. Biden, speaking to Norah O’Donnell of CBS News, said Mr. Trump’s behavior worried him “unrelated to the insurrection” that gave rise to the second impeachment of Mr. Trump.


“I just think that there is no need for him to have the intelligence briefings,” Mr. Biden said.

Adam Schiff“What value is giving him an intelligence briefing?” Mr. Biden added. “What impact does he have at all, other than the fact he might slip and say something?”

The White House said this week that it had been reviewing whether the former president, whose impeachment trial in the Senate begins on Tuesday, should receive the briefings. The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Adam B. Schiff, left, said last month, just before Mr. Biden’s inauguration, that Mr. Trump’s access to any classified information should be cut off.

“There is no circumstance in which this president should get another intelligence briefing, not now and not in the future,” said Mr. Schiff, Democrat of California, who was the House manager for Mr. Trump’s first impeachment trial, a year ago.

More On Trump Trial

"Stop the Steal" organizer Ali Alexander, center, and his co-organizer, Infowars radio host, Alex Jones, to his right.

Proof via Substack, Investigative Commentary: Solving the Biggest Mystery of January 6, Seth Abramson, left, Feb. 10, 2021. Unraveling contacts between the seth abramson headshotWhite House and three Stop the Steal coordinators is the key to the House managers' case. But it appears that no one is looking into it.

The Mystery

seth abramson proof logoTeam Trump wanted Stop the Steal to tell the mob on January 6 that Trump was going to the Capitol, even though Team Trump knew that wasn’t true. And Trump told the mob directly that he was going to the Capitol during his January 6 speech, even though he knew that wasn’t true.

And the result of these actions is that the Stop the Steal organizers of the March to Save America told thousands and thousands of people that it was okay to trespass on the Capitol grounds because Trump would be joining them there. In other words, it was lies by Team Trump, including those very close to him and possibly the man himself, that not only brought the mob to D.C. but go the mob to trespass on the Capitol grounds.

We have no idea if the FBI has spoken to Kimberly Guilfoyle, and Ali Alexander is currently in hiding. Meanwhile, we know that the third Stop the Steal organizer, Roger Stone, below left, somehow had enough concern about the march that after raising money for “protective equipment” for the Proud Boys and Oath roger stone hands waving no credit from stone cold CustomKeepers who would on January 6 be marching to the Capitol, Stone declined (after being asked, he said, though he does not say by whom) to lead the march. And indeed he never went to the Capitol.

This leaves open the distinct possibility that Stone knew, perhaps even from Trump himself—the two men speak by phone regularly—that Trump was lying to the Stop the Steal organizers in order to swell and encourage and embolden the mob that he knew would head to the Capitol on January 6.

This would explain the now-ubiquitous, universal major-media reporting confirming that Trump was thrilled as he watched the insurrection from the White House.

Why does all this matter? Because we learned during Day 1 of the impeachment trial that a part of Trump’s defense will be that the breach of the Capitol was pre-planned. But now we have evidence that Team Trump was part of that planning — through both lies, omissions, and disinformation about Trump’s January 6 movements. Do the House managers have sufficient information in their hands to make this argument? I hope so.

The Twist

On the evening of Day 1 of Trump’s second impeachment trial, the director of Jason Rink’s Stop the Steal documentary, Paul Escandon—the documentary is simply called “The Steal”—contacted this writer to say that in fact the Stop the Steal organizers never believed Trump was coming to their event at the Capitol (see tweets below). So now we have a battle of potential federal witnesses: Paul Escandon says one thing, Alex Jones and Ali Alexander seem to say another, and two witnesses who could clarify things — Roger Stone and Kimberly Guilfoyle — are not, it seems, in contact with the FBI. So what’s going on here, exactly? This is the key mystery in the federal case of the century and it’s not clear that anyone is tracking down answers.

So Team Trump wanted Stop the Steal to tell the mob on January 6 that Trump was going to the Capitol, even though Team Trump knew that wasn’t true. And Trump told the mob directly that he was going to the Capitol during his January 6 speech, even though he knew that wasn’t true. And the result of these actions is that the Stop the Steal organizers of the March to Save America told thousands and thousands of people that it was okay to trespass on the Capitol grounds because Trump would be joining them there. In other words, it was lies by Team Trump, including those very close to him and possibly the man himself, that not only brought the mob to D.C. but go the mob to trespass on the Capitol grounds.

We have no idea if the FBI has spoken to Kimberly Guilfoyle, and Ali Alexander is currently in hiding. Meanwhile, we know that the third Stop the Steal organizer, Roger Stone, somehow had enough concern about the march that after raising money for “protective equipment” for the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers who would on January 6 be marching to the Capitol, Stone declined (after being asked, he said, though he does not say by whom) to lead the march. And indeed he never went to the Capitol.

This leaves open the distinct possibility that Stone knew, perhaps even from Trump himself—the two men speak by phone regularly—that Trump was lying to the Stop the Steal organizers in order to swell and encourage and embolden the mob that he knew would head to the Capitol on January 6.
This would explain the now-ubiquitous, universal major-media reporting confirming that Trump was thrilled as he watched the insurrection from the White House.

Seth Abramson, shown above and at right, is founder of Proof and is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who teaches digital journalism, seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionlegal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the Ph.D. program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include a Trump trilogy: Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump (2020); Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump's International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy (2019); and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018).

Feb. 9

capitol weare the storm flyer resized

Sample promo, entitled #WeAreTheStorm, for the pro-Trump riots that killed five on Jan. 6 in the effort to halt the U.S. presidential election certification.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s impeachment trial will tackle constitutional questions, Ann E. Marimow and Tom Hamburger, Feb. 9, 2021.  His attorneys’ arguments in the trial beginning today are expected to revolve around a First Amendment defense of his fiery speech before the violent Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and a challenge to the legality of putting a former president on trial.

The arguments by opposing lawyers in the Senate impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump this week are expected to revolve largely around a pair of constitutional questions: A First Amendment defense of his fiery speech ahead of the violent Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and a challenge to the legality of putting a former president on trial.

Trump is the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice, and the only one to be tried in the Senate after leaving office. While an impeachment proceeding is distinct from a typical criminal trial, with a different set of rules, Trump’s case will feature broad legal questions about whether his actions violate the Constitution.

Most legal scholars who have studied the issue think post-presidential impeachment and conviction are allowed based on history and past practice in Congress. “The overwhelming scholarly consensus supports this argument,” said Steve Vladeck, a constitutional law professor at the University of Texas School of Law.

A prominent conservative lawyer added political and legal heft to the Democrats’ argument that Trump can be tried in the Senate even after he has left office. The assertion from Republican lawyer Charles J. Cooper in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece published Sunday undercuts the central argument embraced by most GOP lawmakers that it is unconstitutional to convene the Senate trial because Trump is no longer president.

Proof via Substack, Investigative Analysis: A Comprehensive Analysis of Trump's January 6 "Incitement to Insurrection" Speech: Part III, Seth Abramson, Feb. 8, 2021. This breakdown of one of the most dangerous presidential addresses in American history confirms the need for a Senate conviction and rigorous criminal investigation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: The Senate must convict Donald Trump, Editorial Board, Feb. 9, 2021 (print ed.). The Senate will begin considering Tuesday whether to convict Donald Trump following the House’s unprecedented second impeachment of the former president. Mr. Trump’s lawyers, as well as many Republicans, deny that the proceedings are legitimate. They are wrong. The Senate must hold its trial, and the right vote is for conviction.

The House was able to impeach Mr. Trump quickly in the final days of his presidency because he betrayed the nation on live television. The House impeachment managers’ brief is damning, even though it reveals little that was not already in the public record.

After Mr. Trump lost the Nov. 3 presidential election, he conducted a persistent campaign of lies alleging that Joe Biden’s victory was fraudulent. His campaign escalated after he failed in court; he suggested Senate Republicans should “fight to the death.” He asked supporters to descend on Washington on Jan. 6, the day Congress was to count electoral votes. Some of those supporters responded by planning to attack the Capitol.

On the morning of Jan. 6, Mr. Trump instructed the crowd to go to the Capitol and warned, “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” Supporters screamed, “Take the Capitol right now!” That is what they did after Mr. Trump stopped speaking. Mr. Trump watched as a mob chanting, “Hang Mike Pence” stormed the building, resulting in multiple deaths, the interruption of the electoral vote counting and the desecration of the nation’s seat of government. Some in the mob reported that they were following Mr. Trump’s directions. Mr. Trump eventually issued meek statements designed as much to justify the mob’s rage as to pacify it.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers claim that the former president was just exercising his First Amendment rights. But public officials are accountable for the things they say; Mr. Trump would have fired any member of his Cabinet who had, say, publicly denounced him. Mr. Trump is responsible for whipping extremists into a frenzy with lies, encouraging violence and directing those extremists to the chambers in which members of Congress were overseeing the transfer of power. He betrayed his oath to faithfully execute his duties and defend the Constitution; indeed, he disrupted the core operations of the constitutional system.

Many Republicans avoid saying much about Jan. 6, instead claiming that the Senate cannot try to convict Mr. Trump after he has left office. This is a convenient but faulty interpretation. The Constitution contemplates two potential punishments for impeached officials: removal and barring from further service. If former officials could not be impeached and convicted, those facing impeachment could resign quickly and avoid being blacklisted. Historically, Congress has avoided this nonsensical view. What’s more, the House impeached Mr. Trump while he was still in office, and the Constitution states unambiguously that “the Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments.”

Senators must not hide behind fig-leaf arguments. They should listen to the nearly 400 congressional staffers who wrote them a letter about the trauma they endured on Jan. 6, begging them to convict Mr. Trump. And they should think about the precedent they set. As the House managers put it, “Failure to convict would embolden future leaders to attempt to retain power by any and all means — and would suggest that there is no line a President cannot cross.”

Feb. 8

washington post logoWashington Post, As impeachment trial nears, court documents cite Trump’s rage-fueling rhetoric, Rosalind S. Helderman, Rachel Weiner and Spencer S. Hsu, Feb. 8, 2021 (print ed.). Evidence to bolster the Democratic case has already emerged in federal criminal cases filed against more than 185 people so far in the aftermath of the insurrection.

Storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 was no spur-of-the-moment decision for Jessica Marie Watkins, an Ohio bartender and founder of a small, self-styled militia, federal prosecutors allege.

In documents charging her with conspiracy and other crimes for her role in the insurrection, they say she began planning such an operation shortly after President Donald Trump lost the November election, ultimately helping recruit and allegedly helping lead dozens of people who took violent action to try to stop congressional certification of the electoral college vote last month.

In text messages cited in court documents, Watkins was clear about why she was heading to Washington. “Trump wants all able bodied patriots to come,” she wrote to one of her alleged co-conspirators on Dec. 29, eight days before prosecutors say they invaded the building.

The question of what exactly motivated Watkins and other alleged rioters — and when their plans took shape — will be among the central questions of Trump’s impeachment trial this week, when the Senate will consider whether to convict the former president on charges that he incited the crowd to attack the Capitol.

The nine House impeachment managers leading Trump’s prosecution made clear in an 80-page brief filed last week that they will argue that his role in inspiring the crowd to action began long before the 70-minute speech he gave that day.

They assert that the violence was virtually inevitable after Trump spent months falsely claiming that the election had been stolen from him.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live updates: Trump attorneys call Senate trial over deadly Capitol riot a ‘brazen political act’ by Democrats, John Wagner and Paulina Firozi, Feb. 8, 2021. Attorneys for Donald Trump asked the Senate to dismiss the impeachment case against him in a brief filed Monday that contends the Constitution does not permit a trial of a former president and accuses Democrats of a “hunger for this political theater.”

President Biden, who returned to Washington from Delaware on Monday morning, plans to take a virtual tour of a professional football stadium in Arizona that has been turned into a mass coronavirus vaccination site as he continues to focus on combating the pandemic.

Here’s what to know:

  • Rep. Ron Wright (R-Tex.) has died after contracting covid-19. In a statement, Wright’s office said the 67-year-old lawmaker, who had been battling cancer, will be “remembered as a constitutional conservative.”
  • Two in 3 Americans approve of Biden’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a poll by ABC News-Ipsos that also shows widespread support for his efforts to pass a relief bill.

Filmmaker, libertarian, and avid Ron Paul supporter Jason Rink, left, working with

Filmmaker, libertarian, and avid Ron Paul supporter Jason Rink, left, working with "Stop the Steal" organizer Ali Alexander (Screenshot).

Proof, Investigative Commentary: Trump Told Stop the Steal Organizers He Would Speak at the Front of the Capitol After His January 6 Speech at the Ellipse, seth abramson headshotSeth Abramson, left, Feb. 8, 2021. New revelations about Trump's schedule for January 6 confirm that the White House was indispensable to the events that led to an armed assault on the U.S. Capitol.

In November 2020, filmmaker, libertarian, and avid Ron Paul supporter Jason Rink produced a short video romanticizing the then-nascent post-election Stop the Steal movement led by convicted felon and far-right activist Ali Alexander.

seth abramson proof logoAlexander quickly sent Rink his thanks for the short, and afterward the two continued their conversation via email, with Rink agreeing to go to Georgia to produce a one-day documentary on Alexander’s operation. That one day expanded into several days, and eventually into a feature-length documentary, The Steal, that Rink hopes to release by mid-2021. {Note: Ali Alexander claims to have planned the pre-breach events of January 6 along with three Trump Congressional allies: Reps. Mo Brooks, Paul Gosar, and Andy Biggs.}

A trailer of The Steal—a still from which tops this article—reveals that Jason Rink’s weeks of shadowing Alexander, whom he now calls a “friend”, involved him also getting substantial footage of the pre-insurrection activities of Trump adviser and Stop the Steal organizer (as well as “Stop the roger stone hands waving no credit from stone cold CustomSteal” phrase-coiner) Roger Stone, left, in addition to footage of conspiracy theorist, InfoWars host, and third Stop the Steal organizer Alex Jones. It appears, too, that insurrectionist and far-right activist Nick Fuentes, often referred to as a white supremacist, is featured in Rink’s documentary.

Following the insurrection, Rink conducted a January 13, 2021 podcast interview with fellow libertarian Tatiana Moroz, during which chat he made the following striking statement (see 34:10 in this video; emphasis supplied):

“I was actually right at the front of the breach [of the Capitol] because I left Trump’s speech like 15 minutes into it [approximately 12:13 PM on January 6] because I was helping to set up a stage that was permitted [had received a permit to be erected] on the other side [the front] of the Capitol. And so I walked over early....[and] when I got to the Capitol, I actually have a little video clip, when people started first coming up to the gates and people started jumping over the fence to get onto the Capitol lawn. And it was kind of, like, regular angry MAGA people trying to get to the Capitol steps, is what I saw. And there was very little security out front of there. Surprisingly little.”

Those who haven’t been tracking the shocking statements made by Ali Alexander, Roger Stone, and Alex Jones on January 6 and January 7 may not immediately see why Rink’s statement is so striking, so I’ll unpack it in five steps

Feb. 6

djt looking up

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s access to sensitive briefings will be determined by intelligence officials, White House clarifies, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Feb. 6, 2021. The statement clarifies comments from President Biden to "CBS Evening News" expressing reluctance about making the briefings available to his predecessor.

The White House on Saturday said President Biden’s comment that his predecessor should not receive intelligence briefings was not a final decision on the matter, which will instead be resolved by intelligence officials.

Biden made his views known during an appearance on “CBS Evening News” with Norah O’Donnell. Asked whether former president Donald Trump should receive the briefings, as is customary for ex-presidents, Biden said, “I think not.”

“What value is giving him an intelligence briefing?” Biden said in a portion of the interview aired Friday. “What impact does he have at all, other than the fact he might slip and say something?” (See previous story: New York Times, Biden Bars Trump From Receiving Intelligence Briefings, Citing ‘Erratic Behavior,’ David E. Sanger.)

Biden has the unilateral authority to deny intelligence access to anyone he chooses, and his remarks seemed to suggest he considered Trump enough of a risk to do so. But his aides said he would leave that decision to his intelligence team.

“The president was expressing his concern about former president Trump receiving access to sensitive intelligence, but he also has deep trust in his own intelligence team to make a determination about how to provide intelligence information if at any point the former president Trump requests a briefing,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement issued Saturday.

Former presidents do not receive the same classified daily briefing as a sitting commander in chief. Still, their briefings are typically delivered by current intelligence officers — partly out of respect and convention and partly to prepare them if their advice is solicited or if they’re representing the administration abroad.

The response made clear that Biden’s concerns go beyond the events of Jan. 6, which are core to the Senate impeachment trial set to begin in a few days. As president, Trump selectively revealed highly classified information to attack his adversaries, gain political advantage and impress or intimidate foreign governments, in some cases jeopardizing U.S. intelligence capabilities.

Proof, Investigative Commentary:  If You Love America, You Want Donald Trump Convicted. Here's Why, Seth Abramson, below left, Feb. 5, 2021. Far more is at stake now than the fate of a single political party or former president.

seth abramson headshotSome on both the left and right of American politics say that the main reason not to hold a trial of Donald Trump isn’t some fraudulent constitutional dodge cooked up by Trump, his lawyers, and Congressional Republicans — namely the canard, rejected by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, that the Senate can’t convict former presidents — but rather that an acquittal would signal our acquiescence to insurrection.

I don’t know what sort of backwards thinking this country’s intelligentsia has come to that it would embrace the paradox that upholding American rule of law undermines it; that way lies madness.

seth abramson proof logoIndeed, the very fact that an acquittal would signal the country’s acquiescence to insurrection is the reason to hold a trial. Nations hold trials as much to hold themselves accountable to their first principles as to hold defendants accountable.

american flag upside down distressThe jury in Trump’s upcoming trial is ostensibly the senators of the 117th Congress, but in fact it’s you, me, and every patriotic American. A conviction of Donald Trump for incitement to insurrection would be a vote by all of us to continue moving toward the America we wish to become, away from a dark period in our history of which so many of us are deeply ashamed.

By comparison, an acquittal would open the door to a return to that darkness in 2024, in the form of an embossed invitation for Trump to run for president again and to undoubtedly sow insurrection again.

Those in media today, and it is far too many, whose focus of late has not been on the future of our country but the daily political “horserace” that pays their salaries — and who, in inconsequence, have spent each hour of each day telling us that the verdict in this trial has already been determined — should be ashamed of themselves. And they should be shamed in the eyes of the tens of millions of Americans who understand that convicting Donald Trump of the most grave crime against an Oath of Office that any American president has ever committed is not a game, but a national imperative.

Seth Abramson, shown above and at right, is founder of Proof and is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who teaches digital journalism, seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionlegal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the Ph.D. program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include a Trump trilogy: Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump (2020); Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump's International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy (2019); and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018).

 From left, Roy Cohn and Donald Trump attend the Trump Tower opening in New York on Oct. 1, 1983 (Sonia Moskowitz / Getty Images).

NBC News, Opinion: David L. Marcus Trump may survive impeachment. But like my cousin Roy Cohn, he's lost New York's respect, David L. Marcus (author and NBC News logodjt roy cohn tuxedos sundance film sonia moskowtizjournalist), Feb. 6, 2021. New York remembers my cousin not as a master of the universe, but as a lonely and discredited figure. That should be a warning to his favorite apprentice.

Donald Trump spent the last four years at the center of the world. Holed up in Florida, he is about to face down the Senate in a historic second impeachment trial. He probably won't be convicted, and he remains beloved by his rabid fan base. But he's surely lost forever the chance to get what he really craved: respect in the boardrooms, clubrooms and newsrooms of Manhattan.

As a New York Daily News cover phrased it, "DON'T COME BACK!"

In the past few months, Trump suffered humiliating defeats from voters, judges, social media gatekeepers and even PGA tournament organizers. But surely the hometown rejection stings. He loved to show off his gilded triplex penthouse atop Trump Tower; he drew energy from the paparazzi who tailed him on Fifth Avenue; he gloried in seeing his name on hotels and residential buildings in elite neighborhoods.

I know this because I had a front-row seat to observe Trump during his dizzying ascent in the 1970s and 1980s. As a college student and then a young journalist, I spent time with Roy Marcus Cohn, the fixer who mentored Trump. Roy was my father’s cousin, so I saw the Cohn-Trump bullying and corner-cutting.

As I watched Trump with Cohn at parties in Manhattan and the Hamptons, I realized that their intense friendship was forged out of their common resentment of New Yorkers who seemed more successful, more established, more accepted.

Trump and Cohn grew up in the city’s outer boroughs, their faces pressed against the window of society, hoping to join in.

Trump and Cohn grew up in the city’s outer boroughs, their faces pressed against the window of society, hoping to join in. Later, Trump would spin fables about his real estate prowess, like his $1.2 billion Taj Mahal casino, “the eighth wonder of the world” (until it went bankrupt). But deep down, he knew he was just an heir from a Queens family that owned undistinguished housing complexes. Cohn was born in the Bronx, raised by a mother who yearned for approval in Manhattan.

I understand. I spent my early childhood in East Harlem, while friends and relatives lived in glitzy neighborhoods, tantalizingly close by. New Yorkers know that the span of a few blocks means a world of difference in status.

Cohn wasn't much of a lawyer, but he was an unrelenting connector and charlatan. He introduced Trump to the tax-evading owners of Studio 54, the corrupt politicians who eased zoning restrictions, the Mafia bosses who allegedly ensured a steady supply of concrete for Trump Tower during a strike.

Trump shows no signs of having learned from his most important apprenticeship. In 1986, Roy Cohn was dying of AIDS complications in his 33-room townhouse off Park Avenue. One powerful New Yorker after another deserted him — including Donald Trump.

Today, New York remembers my cousin not as a master of the universe, but as a broken, lonely figure who was disbarred and discredited. That should be a warning to his favorite apprentice.

NBC News, Opinion: David L. Marcus Trump may survive impeachment. But like my cousin Roy Cohn, he's lost New York's respect, David L. Marcus (author and journalist), Feb. 6, 2021. New York remembers my cousin not as a master of the universe, but as a lonely and discredited figure. That should be a warning to his favorite apprentice.

Donald Trump spent the last four years at the center of the world. Holed up in Florida, he is about to face down the Senate in a historic second impeachment trial. He probably won't be convicted, and he remains beloved by his rabid fan base. But he's surely lost forever the chance to get what he really craved: respect in the boardrooms, clubrooms and newsrooms of Manhattan.

As a New York Daily News cover phrased it, "DON'T COME BACK!"

In the past few months, Trump suffered humiliating defeats from voters, judges, social media gatekeepers and even PGA tournament organizers. But surely the hometown rejection stings. He loved to show off his gilded triplex penthouse atop Trump Tower; he drew energy from the paparazzi who tailed him on Fifth Avenue; he gloried in seeing his name on hotels and residential buildings in elite neighborhoods.

I know this because I had a front-row seat to observe Trump during his dizzying ascent in the 1970s and 1980s. As a college student and then a young journalist, I spent time with Roy Marcus Cohn, the fixer who mentored Trump. Roy was my father’s cousin, so I saw the Cohn-Trump bullying and corner-cutting.

As I watched Trump with Cohn at parties in Manhattan and the Hamptons, I realized that their intense friendship was forged out of their common resentment of New Yorkers who seemed more successful, more established, more accepted.

Trump and Cohn grew up in the city’s outer boroughs, their faces pressed against the window of society, hoping to join in.

Trump and Cohn grew up in the city’s outer boroughs, their faces pressed against the window of society, hoping to join in. Later, Trump would spin fables about his real estate prowess, like his $1.2 billion Taj Mahal casino, “the eighth wonder of the world” (until it went bankrupt). But deep down, he knew he was just an heir from a Queens family that owned undistinguished housing complexes. Cohn was born in the Bronx, raised by a mother who yearned for approval in Manhattan.

I understand. I spent my early childhood in East Harlem, while friends and relatives lived in glitzy neighborhoods, tantalizingly close by. New Yorkers know that the span of a few blocks means a world of difference in status.

Cohn wasn't much of a lawyer, but he was an unrelenting connector and charlatan. He introduced Trump to the tax-evading owners of Studio 54, the corrupt politicians who eased zoning restrictions, the Mafia bosses who allegedly ensured a steady supply of concrete for Trump Tower during a strike.

Trump shows no signs of having learned from his most important apprenticeship. In 1986, Roy Cohn was dying of AIDS complications in his 33-room townhouse off Park Avenue. One powerful New Yorker after another deserted him — including Donald Trump.

Today, New York remembers my cousin not as a master of the universe, but as a broken, lonely figure who was disbarred and discredited. That should be a warning to his favorite apprentice.

Feb. 5

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Bars Trump From Receiving Intelligence Briefings, Citing ‘Erratic Behavior,’ David E. Sanger, Feb. 5, 2021. Mr. Biden said there was “no need” for former President Donald J. Trump to get the briefings, traditionally given to ex-presidents as a courtesy and to keep them informed if their advice is needed.

President Biden said on Friday that he would bar his predecessor, Donald J. Trump, from receiving intelligence briefings traditionally given to former presidents, saying that Mr. Trump could not be trusted because of his “erratic behavior” even before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

The move was the first time that a former president had been cut out of the briefings, which are provided partly as a courtesy and partly for the moments when a sitting president reaches out for advice. Currently, the briefings are offered on a regular basis to Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Mr. Biden, speaking to Norah O’Donnell of CBS News, said Mr. Trump’s behavior worried him “unrelated to the insurrection” that gave rise to the second impeachment of Mr. Trump.


“I just think that there is no need for him to have the intelligence briefings,” Mr. Biden said.

“What value is giving him an intelligence briefing?” Mr. Biden added. “What impact does he have at all, other than the fact he might slip and say something?”

The White House said this week that it had been reviewing whether the former president, whose impeachment trial in the Senate begins on Tuesday, should receive the briefings. The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Adam B. Schiff, said last month, just before Mr. Biden’s inauguration, that Mr. Trump’s access to any classified information should be cut off.

“There is no circumstance in which this president should get another intelligence briefing, not now and not in the future,” said Mr. Schiff, Democrat of California, who was the House manager for Mr. Trump’s first impeachment trial, a year ago.

Feb. 4

Top Headlines

 

Trump Impeachment, Election Claims, Fund-raising, Riots

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, McCarthy moves to keep House GOP intact, with protection for Cheney, Greene, Mike DeBonis and Paul Kane, Feb. 4, 2021 (print ed.). Kevin McCarthyThe top House Republican leader moved Wednesday to keep his splintering party intact — declining to take concrete action against a freshman lawmaker whose extremist rhetoric prompted widespread outrage, while also moving to protect a senior party leader who faced calls for her ouster after backing Donald Trump’s impeachment.

The moves from Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), right, reflected the delicate path the GOP is blazing through the post-Trump political landscape as it seeks to regain power in Washington.

U.S. House logoOn one hand, the party needs to regain its appeal with traditional Republicans — a wing of the party exemplified by Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), right, the No. 3 House GOP leader and daughter of a former vice president who trashed Trump’s conduct surrounding the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. After McCarthy argued strongly on Cheney’s behalf in a private meeting Wednesday evening, liz cheney oRepublicans voted 145 to 61 to reject a call for her resignation backed by Trump loyalists.

On the other hand, the GOP risks losing the support of Trump’s most fervent supporters, many of whom increasingly subscribe to outlandish, baseless claims — such as those espoused by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who is facing a Democratic-led vote Thursday on whether to expel her from committee assignments.

While McCarthy on Wednesday condemned Greene’s comments questioning the veracity of school shootings, encouraging political violence and promulgating anti-Semitic falsehoods, he said he would not bow to demands that she be removed from her committees. Instead, he accused Democrats of pursuing a “partisan power grab” by seeking to control the minority party’s internal decision-making.

Trump friend and

Trump friend and "Stop the Steal" organizer Roger Stone, center, displays a "White Power" sign with a group of Proud Boys whom he had hired as a personal security force to accompany him while he attended a 2018 Republican conference ini Oregon, according to an Oregon news report and the Snopes fact-checking site.

Proof, Investigative Commentary: Federal Prosecutors Appear to Be Closing In on Roger Stone, Seth Abramson, below left, Feb. 4, 2021. New federal cases suggest Stone is an unindicted co-conspirator who will eventually face arrest—bringing the insurrection investigation directly to Trump's doorstep.

seth abramson headshotDuring the Robert Mueller investigation, the Office of the Special Counsel found that Donald Trump was using his old friend and campaign adviser Roger Stone as a regular sounding board even during those periods he said he wasn’t.

At Stone’s subsequent trial, prosecutors presented significant evidence that Stone lied to Congress about his communications with Trump, and that indeed “protecting” Trump was Stone’s primary goal in committing a rash of federal felonies. Those felonies eventually landed Stone with a federal prison sentence—which Trump quickly commuted before pardoning the Florida man with whom he’d had so many secret conversations. The clear impression left on the American people at the time was that the content of Stone and Trump’s conversations was so illicit that it was both worth Stone going to prison to protect and Trump delivering to his longtime ally a corrupt commutation and pardon to obscure.

seth abramson proof logoAll of which is to say that, now that Trump is no longer president and can no longer issue corrupt commutations and pardons to hide illicit conversations with advisers, Roger Stone is the top “get” for federal prosecutors who’d like to know what Donald Trump was saying telephonically to his top allies in the run-up to Insurrection Day. Proof has already discussed at length the role that Stone had in the planning of the January 6 insurrection—including an update that revealed that, a week before the armed assault on the Capitol, Stone recorded a video seeking money for “protective equipment” for the January 6 events—so the question of whether Stone was providing updates to Trump about these preparations is of paramount importance to federal investigators.

This article discusses new developments that suggest Roger Stone is now a target of federal prosecutors, but may not be indicted in time for information gleaned from Stone to be of use in Trump’s rapidly approaching second impeachment trial, which begins on February 9.

Seth Abramson, shown above and at right, is founder of Proof and is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who teaches digital journalism, seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionlegal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the Ph.D. program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include a Trump trilogy: Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump (2020); Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump's International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy (2019); and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018).

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Were the Capitol Riot Suspects Trained Militants? What the Arrests Show, Jennifer Valentino-DeVries, Grace Ashford, Denise Lu, Eleanor Lutz, Alex Leeds Matthews and Karen Yourish, Feb. 4, 2021. Our review of federal cases suggests that many of those in the mob were not organized, but some groups, like the Proud Boys, came prepared for battle.

In the weeks since the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, federal prosecutors have announced criminal charges against more than 175 people — less than a quarter of those involved in the melee, but enough to provide a rough portrait of the mob and the sprawling investigation into its actions.

At least 21 of those charged so far had ties to militant groups and militias, according to court documents and other records. At least 22 said they were current or former members of the military. More than a dozen were clear supporters of the conspiracy theory QAnon. But a majority expressed few organizing principles, outside a fervent belief in the false assertion that President Donald J. Trump had won re-election.

The accused came from at least 39 states, as far away as Hawaii. At least three were state or local officials, and three were police officers. Some were business owners; others were unemployed or made their living as conservative social media personalities. Many made comments alluding to revolution and violence, while others said the protests had been largely peaceful.

A New York Times review of federal cases through the end of January suggests that many of those in the horde were likely disorganized, but some groups and individuals came to the events of Jan. 6 trained and prepared for battle. The early charges set the stage for those to come as the Justice Department promises to prosecute even those accused of misdemeanor trespass and also devotes resources to more serious crimes, like conspiracy and homicide.

Prosecutors have said some of the people involved in the riot could face charges of seditious conspiracy, which requires proof that rioters planned to use force to oppose the authority of the United States government or to hinder the execution of its laws. Such cases are complex because they require evidence not only of planning but also intent, and no such charges have yet been filed.

washington post logoWashington Post, Politics Updates: Impeachment manager asks Trump to testify, John Wagner and Felicia Sonmez, Feb. 4, 2021. Members call for new laws to fight domestic terrorism as experts warn it will plague the country for the next ’10 to 20 years’; Senate Committee advances Biden nominees Rouse marcia fudge oand Fudge (right); Pence to join Heritage Foundation, organization announces; Pelosi says Trump impeachment trial ‘will honor the Constitution by establishing justice..

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the lead House impeachment manager, asked former president Donald Trump on Thursday to provide testimony under oath “either before or during” his Senate trial scheduled for next week. In a letter, Raskin asked for testimony about Trump’s conduct on Jan. 6, when a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol in a deadly assault.

In other news:

During his first major foreign policy speech, President Biden on Thursday announced an end to U.S. support for offensive operations in Yemen and a freeze on troop redeployments from Germany. The announcements are part of an address at the State Department signaled a desire to strengthen alliances and reengage with multinational institutions.

 

More On U.S. Riots, Terrorism, Impeachment

 

 FBI suspects Nicholas Ochs, left, a founder of Hawaii’s chapter of the Proud Boys and Nicholas DeCarlo, a 30-year-old Texas man, pose in front of the slogan

FBI suspects Nicholas Ochs, left, a founder of Hawaii’s chapter of the Proud Boys and Nicholas DeCarlo, a 30-year-old Texas man, pose in front of the slogan "Murder the Media" written on a Capitol doorway during the pro-Trump insurrection riot in Washington, DC on Jan. 6, 2021 (photo via FBI). 

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Department Unveils Further Charges in Capitol Riot, Katie Benner and Alan Feuer, Feb. 4, 2021 (print ed.). Two men were charged with conspiracy and another with leading a mob of 100 people who stormed the building on Jan. 6.

The Justice Department continued building cases on Wednesday against people accused of storming the Capitol, arresting a leader of the far-right group the Proud Boys and charging two men with conspiracy in an effort to block certification of President Biden’s victory in the election.

Ethan Nordean, the self-described “sergeant of arms” of the Seattle chapter of the Proud Boys, was arrested on Wednesday morning, federal prosecutors said. He had been under investigation for more than a week after prosecutors named him in court papers as a chief organizer of a mob of about 100 other members of the group that marched through Washington on Jan. 6, ending at the Capitol building.

Separately, Nicholas DeCarlo, a 30-year-old Texas man, and Nicholas Ochs, a founder of Hawaii’s chapter of the Proud Boys, were charged with conspiring with one another and unnamed co-conspirators to stop the certification of Mr. Biden’s Electoral College win as part of last month’s riot at the Capitol, according to the indictment.

The case against Mr. DeCarlo and Mr. Ochs was announced by John C. Demers, the head of the Justice Department’s national security division, the U.S. attorney in Washington and the F.B.I.’s Washington field office.

Justice Department log circularTheir indictments highlighted the government’s effort to bring more serious charges against some of the scores of people who were initially charged with lesser crimes after the attack. The two men had earlier been charged with unlawful entry and obstructing an official proceeding.

Mr. DeCarlo and Mr. Ochs were charged in an indictment with conspiring with others to create a plan to stop Congress, raising money online to fund travel to Washington to carry out their plan, crossing state lines to obstruct Congress and forcibly storming the Capitol building.

Combined with the separate charges against Mr. Nordean, the indictment against Mr. Ochs and Mr. DeCarlo also underscored the increasingly prominent role that the Proud Boys is accused of playing in the assault.

Leaders of the Proud Boys have sought to distance themselves from the riots, even as federal investigators scrutinize them as they seek to determine the full scope of the group’s involvement.

In the indictment against Mr. DeCarlo and Mr. Ochs, prosecutors said the men carved the words “MURDER THE MEDIA” into the Capitol’s Memorial Door.

The case is part of a strike force created by Michael R. Sherwin, the U.S. attorney in Washington, to examine violent actions that targeted members of the news media, the Justice Department said. Mr. Sherwin said at a recent news conference that it was “the height of hypocrisy” to attack journalists while invoking the First Amendment to justify illegally entering the Capitol.

Mr. DeCarlo was also seen in photos taken inside the Capitol during the riots wearing a shirt and hat that said “MT Media,” which investigators said stands for “Murder the Media.”

Prosecutors say that Mr. Nordean, carrying a bullhorn, led a 100-person mob and entered the Capitol with another top-ranking Proud Boys leader, Joseph Biggs, who is also facing charges in connection with the attack.

just security logo

Just Security, Movie at the Ellipse: A Study in Fascist Propaganda, Jason Stanley, Feb. 4, 2021. Scholars on the Nazis and anti-Semitism have seen this before.

On January 6, Trump supporters gathered at a rally at Washington DC’s Ellipse Park, regaled by various figures from Trump world, including Donald Trump Jr. and Rudy Giuliani. Directly following Giuliani’s speech, the organizers played a video. To a scholar of fascist propaganda, well-versed in the history of the National Socialist’s pioneering use of videos in political propaganda, it was clear, watching it, what dangers it portended. In it, we see themes and tactics that history warns pose a violent threat to liberal democracy. Given the aims of fascist propaganda – to incite and mobilize – the events that followed were predictable.

Before decoding what the video presents, it is important to take a step back and discuss the structure of fascist ideology and how it can mobilize its most strident supporters to take violent actions.

I. The Fascist Framework

Increasingly central to Trumpism is the QAnon conspiracy theory, which, as many commentators have now pointed out, closely resembles Nazi anti-Semitic myths. QAnon is just the most obvious manifestation of the increasing parallels between Trumpism and Hitler’s framework itself. Indeed, several contemporary fascist and white supremacist movements find similar roots in the framework Hitler developed, even if they did not culminate in such extreme actions as the Nazis.

Fascist thought

Chapter 2 of Mein Kampf, Hitler’s first and most famous book, is entitled “Years of Study and Suffering in Vienna.” In it, he documents what he describes as his gradual realization that behind the various institutions of power were the Jews. His enlightenment supposedly begins with the entertainment industry, where he remarks that “[t]he fact that nine tenths of all literary filth, artistic trash, and theatrical idiocy can be set to the account of a people, constituting hardly one hundredth of all the country’s inhabitants, could simply not be talked away; it was plain truth.” But it was, Hitler writes, when he “recognized the Jew as the leader of the Social Democracy” that “the scales fell from [his] eyes.” Hitler describes a growing sense, foundational to the ideology the book delineates, the ideology of Nazism, that Jews were controlling the apparatus of the state, both as important party politicians in the Social Democratic Party, and as operators behind the scenes of the press and other institutions.

In Nazi ideology, Jews are represented by an unholy alliance between Jewish capitalists and Jewish communists. The goal of the Jewish plot is to destroy national states, replacing them by a world government run by Jews. This diabolical Jewish plot involves destroying the character of individual nations, by flooding them with immigrants, and empowering minority populations. Hitler describes the German loss in World War I as part of this plan, a “stab in the back” of the German people by Jewish traitors seeking the ruin of the nation. In Nazi ideology, liberal democracy is represented as a corruption, a mask for this takeover by a global elite. Hitler reveals his true attitude toward liberalism in Mein Kampf, when he writes (in the characteristically sexist terms of Nazi ideology):

Like the woman, whose psychic state is determined less by grounds of abstract reason than by an identifiable emotional longing for a force which will complement her nature, and who, consequently, would rather bow to a strong man than dominate a weakling, likewise the masses love a commander more than a petitioner…

Fascism is a patriarchal cult of the leader, who promises national restoration in the face of supposed humiliation by a treacherous and power-hungry global elite, who have encouraged minorities to destabilize the social order as part of their plan to dominate the “true nation,” and fold them into a global world government. The fascist leader is the father of his nation, in a very real sense like the father in a traditional patriarchal family. He mobilizes the masses by reminding them of what they supposedly have lost, and who it is that is responsible for that loss – the figures who control democracy itself, the elite; Nazi ideology is a species of fascism in which this global elite are Jews.

The future promised by the fascist leader is one in which there are plentiful blue collar jobs, reflecting the manly ideals of hard work and strength. In Nazi propaganda, many white collar jobs, the domain of Jews – running department stores, banking – were for the idle. And the fascist nation’s heart and soul is the military – as Hitler writes, “[w]hat the German people owes to the army can be briefly summed up in a single word, to wit: everything.” The fascist future is a kind of restoration of a glorious past, but a modern version – replete with awesome technology that glorifies the nation to the world. The German V-2 rocket was a characteristic representation of Nazi might. The fascist future is, in the famous description of Jeffrey Herf, a kind of reactionary modernism.

Politico, Biden White House: We can't release Trump's visitor logs, Natasha Bertrand, Feb. 4, 2021 (print ed.). The records could reveal a lot about the ex-president's time in office. But, for now, they're controlled by the National Archives.

democratic donkey logoThe Biden White House said it cannot unilaterally release visitor logs from the Trump White House, amid questions about whether anyone who participated in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol visited the former president in the days leading up to it.

“Under the Presidential Records Act, all Trump White House visitor logs are under the control and legal custody of the National Archives and Records Administration, and cannot be unilaterally released by the Biden White House,” a White House spokesperson said on Wednesday, following inquiries from reporters during a press briefing the day before.

The Presidential Records Act, which requires a sitting president to preserve and ultimately make public all records relating to the performance of their official duties, was passed 42 years ago in response to President Richard Nixon’s attempts to hide the White House tapes that led to his downfall. The law makes presidential records available to the public via the Freedom of Information Act beginning five years after the end of an administration.

The National Archives defines presidential records as any documentary materials “created or received” by the president, their immediate staff or anyone in the Executive Office of the President “whose function is to advise or assist the President” in the course of carrying out official duties.

The Trump White House said in April 2017 that it would not release the names of the president's guests, arguing that it was a matter of national security. Former President Barack Obama also sought to keep some of the visitor records secret during his tenure, but ultimately he voluntarily released roughly six million such records by the end of his time in office.

The visitor logs have come under renewed scrutiny following the Jan. 6 attack by Trump supporters on the Capitol complex which left five people dead, including Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick. Some Democrats have raised questions about potential coordination between some of the insurrectionists and elected Republican officials. They have pointed to guided tours of the building that occurred the day before the attack and have demanded an investigation.

One lawyer told POLITICO late last year that the Biden administration would not have “carte blanche” access to Trump administration records and would be required to make a request to NARA to locate a particular record.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Misogynistic ‘Dating Coach’ Who Was Charged in the Capitol Riot, Sarah Maslin Nir, Feb. 4, 2021. Samuel Fisher left a long trail of videos and social media posts that reflect the views of a fringe faction of disgruntled men who became fixated on President Donald J. Trump.

For $150, Brad Holiday’s customers could purchase and download a package of dating tips and tricks he called his “Attraction Accelerator.” The batch of files featured advice from Mr. Holiday, a self-styled Manhattan dating coach, about things like the best facial serums and pickup lines, and his thoughts on the viciousness of the opposite sex.

But tucked between videos denigrating women and reviews of height-boosting shoes were other guides: how to defeat Communists, expose what he claimed were government pedophilia cabals, and properly wield a Glock.

samuel fisher timesOn Jan. 20, F.B.I. agents arrested the man, whose real name is Samuel Fisher (left, shown in a photo via the FBI), outside his apartment on the Upper East Side in connection with his involvement in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Stashed in his Chevrolet Tahoe, parked on East 88th Street, investigators found a shotgun, machetes and more than a thousand rounds of ammunition, according to court records.

Like many of the roughly 175 people arrested after the riot, Mr. Fisher left a trail of social media posts about his exploits. “People died,” but it was great, Mr. Fisher wrote online after the attack, according to court records. “Seeing cops literally run … was the coolest thing ive ever seen in my life.”

After his arrest, Mr. Fisher was ordered held without bail, according to Tamara Giwa, a federal public defender appointed to his case. Court records show he is to be moved to Washington to face charges of disorderly conduct and unlawful entry.

ny times logoNew York Times, No, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did not make up her experience during the Capitol riots, Maggie Astor, Feb. 4, 2021.  Since Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the New York Democrat, took to Instagram Live on Monday to describe what the Jan. 6 riot was like from inside the Capitol complex, critics have claimed that she wasn’t where she said she was, or that she couldn’t have experienced what she described from her location.

These claims are false.

While Ms. Ocasio-Cortez was not in the main, domed Capitol building when the rioters breached it, she never said she was. She accurately described being in the Cannon House Office Building, which is part of the Capitol complex and is connected to the main building by tunnels.

alexandra ocasio cortes instagram attack croppedIn her livestream, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, right, recalled hiding in a bathroom and thinking she was going to die as unknown people entered her office and shouted, “Where is she?” They turned out to be Capitol Police officers who had not clearly identified themselves, and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said so on Instagram. She did not claim that they were rioters — only that, from her hiding spot, she initially thought they were.

During the riot, reporters wrote on Twitter that the Cannon building was being evacuated because of credible threats, and that Capitol Police officers were running through the hallways and entering offices just as Ms. Ocasio-Cortez described.

The false claims about her statements have spread widely online, much of the backlash stemming from an article on the conservative RedState blog and a livestream from the right-wing commentator Steven Crowder. On Thursday, Representative Nancy Mace, Republican of South Carolina, tweeted, “I’m two doors down from @aoc and no insurrectionists stormed our hallway.”

But Ms. Ocasio-Cortez never said insurrectionists had stormed that hallway, and Ms. Mace herself has described being frightened enough to barricade her own door.

“As the Capitol complex was stormed and people were being killed, none of us knew in the moment what areas were compromised,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez tweeted in response to Ms. Mace’s post. (A spokeswoman for Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said the lawmaker had no additional comment.)

Others have corroborated Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s account and confirmed that the Cannon building was threatened, even though the rioters did not ultimately breach it.

Ari Rabin-Havt, a deputy manager for Senator Bernie Sanders’s 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted that he was in the Capitol tunnels during the attack. As Mr. Rabin-Havt moved toward the Cannon building, he wrote, members of a SWAT team yelled at him to find a hiding place.

And Representative Katie Porter, Democrat of California, said on MSNBC that after the Cannon building was evacuated, she and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez sheltered in Ms. Porter’s office in another building. She said Ms. Ocasio-Cortez was clearly terrified, opening closets to try to find hiding places and wishing aloud that she had worn flats instead of heels in case she had to run.

Legal Schnauzer, Opinion: Ali Alexander apparently finds life on the run gets expensive, so he has set up a P.O. Box at a UPS store in Forth Worth, TX, to accept donations from supporters, Roger Shuler, Feb. 4, 2021. Ali (Akbar) Alexander, right, the right-wing extremist who organized a pro-Trump rally that turned into an ali akbar alexander schnauzer smileassault on the U.S. Capitol, is on the run from federal authorities.

But like any good Republican, he is still trying to raise money. From a report at the Fort Worth Star Telegram, by Kaley Johnson and Nichole Manna:

A man with Fort Worth ties who helped organize the rally that preceded the Capitol riot is asking supporters to send him money to a UPS box on Golden Triangle Boulevard after he was banned from major social media platforms.

Ali Alexander, 35, was a leader of the 2020 “Stop the Steal” movement, which spread false claims about fraud in the 2020 presidential election. Alexander attended Fossil Ridge High School and has lived in Fort Worth, but his whereabouts following the Capitol riot are unknown.

The day before the Jan. 6 riot, Alexander was captured on video leading chants outside the U.S. Capitol, including one in which he raised his fist and yelled, “Victory or death!” He has been linked to far-right extremists and key figures in the storming of the U.S. Capitol.

Alexander's attorney is Baron Coleman, and an amateur sleuth might wonder if the FBI is monitoring communications to and from Coleman's office in Montgomery, AL. Now, it looks like agents also have a lead in Fort Worth, TX:

In a video posted to his social media, he said he “was the person who came up with the Jan. 6 idea” along with three congressmen.

“We four schemed up a maximum pressure on Congress while they were voting,” he says in the video, which was deleted from his social media but reposted on Twitter.

In interviews before the Jan. 6 “March to Save America” rally, Alexander pushed the idea that the right-wing movement was fighting against a common enemy that wanted to kill and enslave its followers. He suggested the solution was to fight — “to punch the left in the nose,” “do brave acts,” and “have vengeance if we have traitors,” according to interviews tracked and collected by Media Matters.

He coordinated planning for the rally with Caroline Wren, a Trump fundraiser, according to the Wall Street Journal. He also continues to sell merchandise on Gumroad, including mugs and T-shirts with his face on them.

In November, Alexander attended election protests in Austin alongside radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and claimed to have organized the armed protest in Maricopa County, Arizona, where volunteers were counting votes on Nov. 5.

Alexander’s accounts on PayPal and Venmo have been suspended, as well as his Twitter. He has been banned from Facebook, where he was one of the organizers of the “Stop the Steal” Facebook group, according to Politico.

Living on the lam apparently can get expensive, so Alexander is trying to drum up cash:

A donation campaign on the Christian crowdfunding site GiveSendGo asks for money for the “protection and team” for Ali. On Jan. 15, a post signed by Alexander said he could no longer access the GiveSendGo donations, and instead asked people to mail checks to the UPS store in Fort Worth.

A spokeswoman said UPS is investigating and will work with local agencies if needed.

“The UPS Store condemns the violence at the U.S. Capitol,” a statement from UPS said. “We provide business services for many thousands of customers across the country, but have no direct affiliation with those businesses and are not privy to their interests. However, The UPS Store strictly abides by all local, state and federal laws and regulations, and our customers must do the same to maintain their service.”

The Fort Worth connection of Alexander’s fundraiser was first publicized Monday on Twitter by author and political activist Don Winslow.

We have written extensively about Alexander's work in Alabama's GOP swamp, his ties to right-wing money men Robert Mercer and Foster Friess, and even his connections to the one and only Karl Rove.

 

 

January

Jan. 29

ny times logoNew York Times, McCarthy Seeks Thaw With Trump as G.O.P. Rallies Behind Former President, Maggie Haberman, Jan. 29, 2021 (print ed.). The top House Republican sought to present a united front after saying Mr. Trump bore responsibility for the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

kevin mccarthyTwo weeks after Representative Kevin McCarthy, left, the top House Republican, enraged Donald J. Trump by saying that he considered the former president responsible for the violent mob attack at the Capitol, the two men met on Thursday for what aides described as a “good and cordial” meeting, and sought to present a united front.

The meeting at Mr. Trump’s private club in Palm Beach, Fla., came two weeks after Mr. McCarthy, in a speech on the House floor, said that the former president “bears responsibility” for the events of Jan. 6, when a throng of his supporters stormed the Capitol after a rally in which Mr. Trump urged them to “fight like hell” against his election defeat.

It was the latest evidence that top Republicans, many of whom harshly criticized Mr. Trump after the assault, have quickly swung back into line behind him and are courting his support as he faces a second impeachment trial.

republican elephant logoWhile Mr. McCarthy, Republican of California, voted against the impeachment article, Mr. Trump was infuriated by the speech that he delivered just before doing so, advisers said.

Aides to both men have been trying to broker a thaw between the two ever since, even as Mr. Trump has targeted other Republicans who criticized him more harshly for his role in the Capitol breach and voted in favor of impeaching him. They included Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 Republican, who joined nine others in the party who voted in support of impeaching Mr. Trump on a charge of “incitement of insurrection.”

U.S. Capitol Riot, Insurrection Probes

 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California (Screengrab on Jan. 8, 2021, two days after the Trump mob attacked the Capitol to prevent certification of national presidential voting).

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California (Screengrab on Jan. 8, 2021, two days after the Trump mob attacked the Capitol to prevent certification of national presidential voting).

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: As Senate prepares speedy impeachment trial, some urge slower approach, Paul Kane, Jan. 29, 2021 (print ed.). A small, vocal group wants Democrats to bolster their case for a conviction.

The Senate is hurtling toward an impeachment trial that will accomplish almost nothing by design and likely leave everyone with a bitter aftertaste.

Democratic voters will be furious that GOP senators refused to hold former president Donald Trump accountable for his role in encouraging supporters to march to the Capitol on Jan. 6. Republicans will be upset that congressional Democrats went through with an impeachment trial three weeks after Trump left the White House.

And independent voters, more focused on the health and economic crises fueled by the coronavirus pandemic, will wonder why Congress prioritized an impeachment process at all.

Mitchell_McConnellThat’s the almost inevitable outcome of the Senate trial crafted by Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), particularly after McConnell, right, and 44 other Republicans stuck by Trump’s side in an initial procedural vote.

With House managers now facing an almost impossible task in reaching 67 total votes to convict, some Trump critics are now debating whether to even hold the trial.

tim kaineSen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) has been the most outspoken on this front, calling for the Senate to approve a resolution censuring Trump instead. Though Kaine, right, would vote to convict Trump, he said he believes that time might be better spent focusing on moving pandemic relief legislation.

But a vast majority of Democrats have signaled that they support the emerging Schumer-McConnell approach of a shortened impeachment trial that skips some of the phases that produced a three-week trial of Trump last year.

sheldon whitehouse“I think the sooner we get on to solving covid and solving climate, the better. So I think if this gets drawn out too much, it doesn’t help anybody,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), one of the more liberal members of the caucus, said Wednesday.

It’s a stunning reversal for a Democratic caucus that cried out for witnesses and documents during last year’s trial, focused on Trump’s attempt to force Ukrainian officials to announce an investigation into the Biden family.

They didn’t have the majority during that trial, so McConnell could muscle through his wishes. Now, with 50 members of Schumer’s caucus, plus a handful of Republicans who voted against Trump in Tuesday’s proxy vote, Democrats have a working majority to actually call witnesses and subpoena documents.

A small but vocal group would like to at least give that a try, given the severity of events in a riot that left five people dead, including a Capitol Police officer who died after engaging with the mob, and at least 140 officers injured, some quite seriously.

Mitchell_McConnell“We just had one of the most terrifying incidents in American history that put in question the viability of our democracy,” Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), right, told Politico on Wednesday. “How much time do you think we should spend on that?”

Coons is a close Biden ally who wants to quickly move on to the new president’s agenda. Yet at the same time, he is angry about how angus kingmany senators are prepared to move past the Jan. 6 attack in a speedy trial.

“There’s still evidence that we need,” Sen. Angus King (Maine), left, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, said Wednesday of Trump’s Jan. 6 actions. “The evidence that I’m particularly interested in is: What did he know about the intention of that crowd when he was addressing them? What did he have in the way of intelligence that may or may not have put him on notice that this was a dangerous situation? And then secondly, what I am interested in is, what did he do that afternoon when it was unfolding?”

  djt as chosen one

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: ‘The Capitol Insurrection Was as Christian Nationalist as It Gets,’ Thomas B. Edsall, Jan. 29, 2021 (print ed.). Religious resentment has become a potent recruiting tool for the hard right.

It’s impossible to understand the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol without addressing the movement that has come to be known as Christian nationalism.

 

pennsylvania map major cities

ny times logoNew York Times, Why Pennsylvania G.O.P. Leaders Are All-In for Trump More Than Ever, Trip Gabriel, Jan. 29, 2021 (print ed.). Pennsylvania Republican leaders have made loyalty to the defeated ex-president the key criteria that would-be candidates must demonstrate.

As a second impeachment trial for Donald J. Trump approaches next month, Republicans in states across the country are lining up behind the former president with unwavering support.

republican elephant logoPerhaps no state has demonstrated its fealty as tenaciously as Pennsylvania, where Republican officials have gone to extraordinary lengths to keep Trumpism at the center of their message as they bolster the president’s false claims of a “stolen” election.

Eight of nine Republicans in Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation voted to throw out their state’s own electoral votes for President Biden on Jan. 6, just hours after a mob had stormed the Capitol.

A majority of Republicans in the state legislature had endorsed that effort.

And one House member from the state, Scott Perry, was instrumental in promoting a plan in which Mr. Trump would fire the acting attorney general in an effort to stay in office.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden administration halts effort to install Trump loyalists on Pentagon advisory boards, Dan Lamothe, Jan. 29, 2021 (print ed.). The Biden administration has halted an effort to install several Trump loyalists on Defense Department advisory boards, Pentagon officials said Wednesday, as the new administration considers a series of unusual appointments that were made in the waning days of the Trump administration.

david bossie gage skidmoreAt least temporarily, the decision affects appointees that include Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie (shown at right in a Gage Skidmore photo), both of whom served as campaign managers for former president Donald Trump. They were named to the Defense Business Board in December, as the Trump administration also abruptly dismissed other members with a form letter from what historically had been a nonpartisan panel advising the defense secretary.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is weighing his options, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Wednesday night.

“The Secretary, as you would expect, is reviewing current policies in place across the Department to determine if any changes are necessary, to include the advisory boards,” Kirby said in a statement. “No final decisions have been made with respect to board Department of Defense Sealmembership. But we will make the information available should that change.”

A senior defense official familiar with the halt, first reported by Politico, said Wednesday night that several appointees the Trump administration named had not yet completed their paperwork to join a board.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said the halt affects the processing of all new appointments and renewals, and that related financial and security reviews have been put on hiatus.

republican elephant logoNeither Lewandowski nor Bossie had been sworn in on the business board yet. But others on the boards also serve at the pleasure of the defense secretary, allowing Austin to oust anyone with whom he is not comfortable.

In one effort in December, eight appointments were announced to the Defense Policy Board, including former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R.-Ga.), former Republican congressman J. Randy Forbes of Virginia, and Scott O’Grady, a former fighter pilot who became famous after getting shot down over Bosnia and in recent months insisted falsely that Trump beat President Biden “in a landslide.”

ronna mcdaniel djt Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, RNC chair Ronna McDaniel is steering a GOP that has to reckon with Trump and his legacy, Josh Dawsey and Manuel Roig-Franzia, Jan. 29, 2021. Caught between the party’s warring factions, McDaniel, above, one of the longest-serving GOP chairs in history, faces no “easy task.”

In the months and, perhaps, years to come, McDaniel, now 47 and one of the longest-serving GOP chairs in history, faces the unenviable task of steering a Republican Party that will have to reckon with Trump and the divisive and uncivil legacy of Trumpism. She heads a party that has lost the House, the Senate and the White House under her leadership and is riven by infighting over whether she should defend Trump more forcefully — or at all.

Over the past four years, McDaniel has grown so close to Trump that some Republicans feared her judgment could be impaired by friendship, even as his presidency was imploding and the prospect of him becoming a disruptive force for the party in his post-presidency seemed certain.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Trump from beyond the grave, Robert Harrington, right, Jan. 29, 2021. By now it ought to be a commonplace that the death of irony is robert harringtnn portraitinversely proportional to the rise of hypocrisy. Keep in mind it wasn’t all that long ago that “The Squad” (also known as “AOC plus 3”) was regarded as radical. That was because they believed in really radical stuff, like universal healthcare and racial equality and dreadful things like that.

With the gun-packing Marjorie Taylor Greene’s past coming back to haunt her — videos of her menacing David Hogg, trying to get Ilan Omar and Rashida Tlaib to retake their Congressional oaths on a Bible instead of a Qu’ran, advocating the murder of Democrats on Facebook, etc. — the word “radical” has now been redefined.

bill palmer report logo headerBut it has a Republican redefinition, and that makes this particular stripe of radicalism somehow okay. Well, maybe not okay, but just not as bad and a whole lot mellower — at least in the unique perspective of current Republican leadership. It didn’t stop them from giving Greene a coveted spot on the House Education Committee. You read that right. Education. Of America’s youth. Meanwhile Republicans are still blushing — all the way to the bank.

marjorie taylor greene headshotGreene, right, came out swinging (of course). It’s part of the new Republican playbook: when caught doing something shameful, play the victim. CNN, according to Greene, is “fake news” because they quoted her past Facebook posts and showed a video of her harassing David Hogg.

Think of Marjorie Taylor Greene and her QAnon-believing colleague Lauren Boebert as mini-Trumps, the inevitable consequence of the one-term loser’s toxic tenure. Think of Republican response as tacit approval of their antics, in lockstep with Trump’s acquittal last year and his coming acquittal this year.

This is why Donald Trump and many of his followers must go to prison. Nothing short of a stiff sentence will do, preferably prison for the rest of his life. Failing that Trumpism will thrive and flourish and poison the American government to the point that America will become unrecognisable in a few short years.

wayne madesen report logo

 Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: Trump fascism in the U.S. will get worse before it is defeated, Wayne Madsen, left, Jan. 29, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small2021. Donald Trump's fascist reconstruct, formerly known as the Republican Grand Old Party of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower, now inherently represents white minority rule in the United States.

The Republican Party of Trump is only ensured political power into the near future, with its minority of voter support, because of constitutionally-guaranteed Senate seats that grant sparsely-populated North Dakota, Wyoming, and Idaho as much strength in the djt smiling fileSenate as California, New York, and Illinois. In addition, GOP gerrymandering has given the Trump Republicans far more seats in the House of Representatives than their actual electoral strength would provide if congressional districts were drawn cleanly.

The Trump Republicans are facing an eventual and certain political demise. To discover what eventually happens to a party whose strength comes from a rapidly-dwindling minority, one only has to look at minority-ruled South Africa, Rhodesia, South-West Africa, and the often overlooked Portuguese colonies of Mozambique and Angola to understand what will eventually befall the Trump Republicans.

Before it takes its final dying breath, Trump Republicanism will lash out in dramatically racist and violent ways, continuing what it attempted during the past year in state houses in Lansing and Richmond and at the U.S. Capitol.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-FBI lawyer avoids prison after admitting he doctored email in investigation of Trump’s 2016 campaign, Matt Zapotosky, Jan. 29, 2021. The former FBI lawyer who admitted to doctoring an email that other officials relied upon to justify secret surveillance of a former Trump campaign adviser was sentenced Friday to 12 months of probation, with no time behind bars.

kevin clinesmithProsecutors had asked that Kevin Clinesmith, 38, right, spend several months in prison for his crime, while Clinesmith’s attorneys said probation would be more appropriate.

Clinesmith pleaded guilty last summer to altering an email that one of his colleagues used in preparing an application to surreptitiously monitor former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page during the bureau’s 2016 investigation of Russia’s election interference.

Justice Department logoU.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg said that Clinesmith’s conduct had undermined the integrity of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which approved the FBI’s flawed applications to surveil Page. “Courts all over the country rely on representations from the government, and expect them to be correct,” Boasberg said.

But Boasberg also said he agreed with a prior finding by the Justice Department Inspector General that Clinesmith and other FBI officials’ actions were not motivated by political bias, and he believed Clinesmith’s contention that he thought, genuinely but wrongly, the information he was inserting into the email was accurate. On top of his probation sentence, Boasberg ordered Clinesmith to perform 400 hours of community service.

The case against Clinesmith is the first and only criminal allegation to arise from U.S. Attorney John Durham’s review of the FBI’s Russia case, and it has become a political lightning rod.

FBI logoClinesmith’s lawyers have argued his altering the email was a mistake meant to save Clinesmith time and personal embarrassment. But former president Donald Trump and his political allies have highlighted the case as part of their allegations that the bureau was biased and seeking to undermine Trump with the investigation that explored possible ties between Russia and his campaign. The case was ultimately taken over by robert mueller full face filespecial counsel Robert S. Mueller III, left.

Clinesmith said in a lengthy statement in court that he took “full responsibility” for what he termed a “lapse in judgment.”

“I let the FBI, Department of Justice, my colleagues, the public, and my family down. I also let myself down,” he said, adding later, “Please do not let my error reflect on those who continue to serve our country.”

In arguing that Clinesmith deserved to go to prison, Durham’s team highlighted anti-Trump texts Clinesmith had sent and argued that it was “plausible that his strong political views and/or personal dislike of [Trump] made him more willing to engage in the fraudulent and unethical conduct to which he has pled guilty.” Clinesmith was suspended for two weeks over the messages.

“While it is impossible to know with certainty how those views may have affected his offense conduct, the defendant plainly has shown that he did not discharge his important responsibilities at the FBI with the professionalism, integrity, and objectivity required of such a sensitive job position,” prosecutors wrote.

Prosecutor Anthony Scarpelli said in court that Clinesmith’s conduct was “more egregious” than that of George Papadopoulos, whose offhand remark in a London bar in May 2016 helped trigger the Russia investigation and who later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. He was sentenced to 14 days in prison.

Federal sentencing guidelines in Clinesmith’s case called for a penalty of anywhere from zero to six months in prison, though the U.S. Probation Office recommended a term of probation, according to court filings.

Justin Shur, justin shurleft, Clinesmith’s lawyer, argued that probation was appropriate. C

The basic facts of the case are not in dispute, though prosecutors and defense attorneys seem to disagree on what motivated Clinesmith and how sinister his actions were. Clinesmith was an FBI attorney helping investigators on the Russia investigation, and in June 2017, he was asked to clarify whether Page carter page pbs screenshotwas ever a source for the CIA. That was important because the FBI — with approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court — had been surveilling Page as a possible agent of a foreign government, and was applying for permission to keep that surveillance going.

If Page was a CIA source, though, that would have to be disclosed to the court, as it would raise significant questions about whether he should be tracked as a possible foreign agent.

Page had provided information to the CIA as “operational contact,” and when Clinesmith sought clarity, a CIA liaison told him as much, using jargon and pointing to documents that made his role clear. But, according to Clinesmith’s lawyers, Clinesmith believed Page was not a direct source, but rather, a subsource of the agency.

In the wake of the Justice Department inspector general’s findings about Clinesmith, along with other significant errors in the applications to surveil Page, lawmakers have questioned whether the FBI should maintain its authority under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Under pressure from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the bureau has vowed and implemented reforms. Clinesmith apologized in court for imposing that “additional burden” on his john durham o portrait 2 croppedformer colleagues.

Durham’s investigation is ongoing, though it is unclear who beyond Clinesmith, if anyone, might face criminal exposure, or what public findings it may ultimately produce. In his final months as Trump’s attorney general, William P. Barr appointed Durham, right, as a special counsel, giving him extra legal and political protection from being relieved of his assignment in the Biden administration.

Former President Donald J. Trump’s Seven Springs family estate in Westchester County, N.Y., is one focus of an investigation by New York’s attorney general (New York Times photo by Tony Cenicola).

Former President Donald J. Trump’s Seven Springs family estate in Westchester County, N.Y., is one focus of an investigation by New York’s attorney general (New York Times photo by Tony Cenicola).

ny times logoNew York Times, Legal Pressure on Trump Increases With Judge’s Order in Fraud Inquiry, Ed Shanahan and William K. Rashbaum, Jan. 29, 2021. The order, answering a demand for documents by New York’s attorney general, rejected a bid to shield the records with attorney-client privilege.

A New York judge on Friday increased pressure on former President Donald J. Trump’s family business and several associates, ordering them to give state investigators documents in a civil inquiry into whether the company misstated assets to get bank loans and tax benefits.

It was the second blow that the judge, Arthur F. Engoron of State Supreme Court in Manhattan, had dealt to Mr. Trump’s company in recent weeks.

In December, he ordered the company, the Trump Organization, to produce records that its lawyers had tried to shield, including some related to a letitia james o headshotWestchester County, N.Y., property that is among those being scrutinized by the New York State attorney general, Letitia James, left.

On Friday, Judge Engoron went further, saying that even more documents, as well as communications with a law firm hired by the Trump Organization, had to be handed over to Ms. James’s office. In doing so, he rejected the lawyers’ claim that the documents at issue were covered by attorney-client privilege.

The ruling was a fresh reminder that Mr. Trump — who left office about a week ago under the cloud of impeachment and is headed for a Senate trial on a charge of “incitement of insurrection” after his supporters stormed the Capitol in a violent rampage — faces significant legal jeopardy as a private citizen.

The most serious threats confronting the former president include a criminal investigation by the Manhattan district attorney and the civil inquiry by the djt michael cohenattorney general into possible fraud in Mr. Trump’s business dealings before he was elected.

Ms. James’s investigation began in March 2019, after Michael D. Cohen, right, the former president’s onetime lawyer, told Congress that Mr. Trump had inflated his assets in financial statements to secure bank loans and understated them elsewhere to reduce his tax bill.

Investigators in Ms. James’s office have focused their attention on an array of transactions, including a financial restructuring of the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago in 2010 that resulted in the Fortress Credit Corporation forgiving debt worth more than $100 million.

Ms. James’s office has said in court documents that the Trump Organization — Mr. Trump’s main business vehicle — had thwarted efforts to determine how that money was reflected in its tax filings, and whether it was declared as income, as the law typically requires.

An analysis of Mr. Trump’s financial records by The New York Times found that he had avoided federal income tax on almost all of the forgiven debt.

Ms. James’s office is also examining whether the Trump Organization used inflated appraisals when it received large tax breaks after promising to conserve land where its development efforts faltered, including at its Seven Springs estate in Westchester County.

 

Jan. 26

Steve Bannon at a 2013 Tea Party Rally (Photo via C-SPAN)

Steve Bannon at a 2013 Tea Party Rally (Photo via C-SPAN)

Wayne Madsen Report, Commentary: The battle against fascism and a looming World War III, Wayne Madsen, right, Jan. 26, 2021. The threat of international wayne madsen screen shotfascism is now so great, the world's democracies must declare total war on the leadership, militias, political constructs, and infrastructure of global fascism.

On January 25, the House of Commons in Canada got the ball rolling by unanimously voting for a motion put forth by the New Democratic Party (NDP) that canadian flagdeclares the pro-Donald Trump Proud Boys a terrorist organization and bans it from operating on Canadian soil.

The U.S. government should awake to the dangers of the global fascist movement.

Two overseas organizations that involve Americans, The Movement and The Base, should be squeezed politically and financially by the Biden administration. The Movement, which is headquartered in Brussels and is Steve Bannon's fledgling Fascist International, has managed to secure funding guo wen gui 2017from exiled Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui, left -- who has replaced Robert and Rebekah Mercer as Bannon's primary sugar daddy -- and moneyed interests in the Roman Catholic Church that are affiliated with the fascist religious order Opus Dei.

Guo has provided Bannon with media platforms, including a television network, that are being used to rally the extreme right around the United States and the world. Guo was granted political asylum by the Trump administration after China issued a warrant for his arrest for epoch timesseveral counts of financial fraud in China.

Guo and Bannon have linked their media efforts with those of the religious cult Falun Gong, which publishes the pro-Trump and far-right conspiracy newspaper Epoch Times. Bannon's strategy is to infiltrate existing political parties with far-right activists. So far, Bannon's ploy has seen success with the Republican Party, especially its state-level party organizations in Arizona, Oregon, Maine, Texas, and Hawaii that have been largely taken over by conspiracy theorists touting Qanon inanity.

Proof via Substack, Investigation: January 5 Meeting at Trump International Hotel Could Hold the Key to the January 6 Insurrection, Seth Abramson, Jan. 26, seth abramson proof logo2021. The night before the insurrection, a large group of Trump family and advisers held an urgent meeting with January 6 organizers at the president's private residence in DC.

Well after dark on January 5, 2021 — just 15 hours before an insurrection against the United States government incited by the President of the United States — Nebraska Republican Charles W. Herbster, at the time the National Chairman of the Agriculture and Rural Advisory Committee for the Trump administration, attended a private meeting of Trump family members, Trump administration officials, Trump campaign advisers, January 6 organizers, and at least one member of the United States Senate at Trump International Hotel in Washington.

In attendance at the large and only recently uncovered meeting, conducted “in the private residence of the President” at his hotel, were, according to Herbster’s account, the following individuals (Note: Donald Trump’s presence at the meeting, either in person or via speakerphone, as yet remains unclear, so his name is temporarily absent from this listing):

  • Donald Trump Jr., eldest son of the president
  • Eric Trump, second-eldest son of the president
  • Michael Flynn, former National Security Advisor to the president
  • Peter Navarro, Assistant to the President, Director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, and National Defense Production Act Policy Coordinator
  • Corey Lewandowski, 2016 Trump campaign manager
  • David Bossie, 2016 Trump deputy campaign manager
  • Adam Piper, executive director of the Republican Attorneys General Association
  • Tommy Tuberville, United States senator from the State of Alabama

According to research by political strategist and regular CNN, MSNBC, The Hill, CBS, and Fox News contributor Cheri Jacobus, Txtwire CEO Daniel Beck claims he was at the January 5 meeting also, and that additional attendees at the gathering included the following three people:

  • Rudy Giuliani, personal attorney to the President of the United States
  • Kimberly Guilfoyle, girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr.
  • Michael Lindell, Trump donor and MyPillow CEO

In a Facebook post, Beck claims that there were “fifteen of us [who] spent the evening [January 5]” at Trump International Hotel in DC, a statement that tracks with the nine attendees listed by Herbster, the additional three referenced by Beck himself, and a photograph Beck took on January 5 in which he appears outside the hotel with an unidentified woman and three unidentified men, two wearing red “Make America Great Again” caps:

Guilfoyle’s presence at the meeting is critical given that Stop the Steal coordinator Ali Alexander claims he received a call from Guilfoyle during the evening of January 5 — when she would have been with Trump’s family and advisers at Trump International. As for Tuberville, he now claims, contrary to the statements of Herbster and Beck, that he was never at the Trump International Hotel on January 5.

An Instagram photograph from January 5, taken at Trump International Hotel in DC, appears to show Senator Tuberville on-site, as described by both Beck and Herbster:

In Charles Herbster’s Facebook post detailing the meeting — a post that looks forward with anger and trepidation to the upcoming January 6 certification of Joe Biden’s electoral victory, and has since been hidden and reposted, along with all photos of the Trump family on Herbster’s Facebook account posted from December 2020 through January 2021 — the Nebraska Republican writes of the “battles and blood” that in the past have been required to “protect our way of life”, as well as his own decision “[not to] choose the easy path” but instead “fight” the “widespread voter fraud that happened on November 3.”

Herbster is, as of January 26, not yet speaking to media about January 5, nor about Senator Tuberville’s contrary account of the events of that evening in DC.

Seth Abramson, shown at right, founder of Proof, is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who teaches digital journalism, seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionlegal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the Ph.D. program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include a Trump trilogy: Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump (2020); Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump's International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy (2019); and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018).

Palmer Report, Opinion: Removing Louis DeJoy, Rob Partridge, Jan. 26, 2021. Dr. Benjamin Franklin established America’s postal service in 1775, operating out of a small storefront that still exists on Market Street in Philadelphia. Time-honored and highly popular, the USPS oath remains: “Neither rain, nor sleet, nor dark of night shall stay these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

bill palmer report logo headerWith the Trump campaign staring at a likely presidential election loss, could it be that a sinister Roger Stone inspired heist was planned focused on derailing the USPS?

What if a mere 3% of the mail could be delayed by a month or more – especially in ‘blue’ cities such as Philadelphia, Detroit, Milwaukee and Atlanta? In that case the mail-in ballot option driven by COVID-19, and utilized far more by Democratic Party and Independent voters, might be muted. Voting center deadlines for mail arrival would pass with millions of such votes rendered ineligible to be counted under state laws. A mere 3%.

The problem with that plan might have emerged when Louis DeJoy was appointed as Postmaster General and used a sledgehammer on the USPS rather than a scalpel. High speed sorting machines were disabled and thousands of the ubiquitous blue mail boxes were removed from local street corners. Thousands of veterans saw their needed medicines delayed. Millions of Social Security check deliveries were late. Everyone noticed, Congress got involved, and small but important corrections were forced just in time.

The House and Senate must subpoena Mr. DeJoy at the earliest possible date to investigate his role in that debacle. Concurrently, the entirety of the Trump-appointed Postal Board of Governors must resign, so that a new Board can be appointed, and quickly relieve Mr. DeJoy of his post.

 

Jan. 25

Proof via Substack, Investigation: The Fingerprints of Top Trump Adviser Roger Stone Are All Over the January 6 Insurrection, Seth Abramson, Jan. 26, 2021. seth abramson proof logoStone says he wasn't involved, but the evidence suggests he's lying — yet again.

Roger Stone’s fingerprints are all over the January 6 insurrection.

And the fact that no Trump friend, ally, or adviser granted clemency by the former president was more attentively aided by him — Trump first commuted Stone’s 40-month prison sentence in July 2020, then later pardoned him — raises the question of whether Trump needed Stone both out of prison and beholden to him as part of the president’s own plans: specifically, a scheme to overturn the November 2020 election.

The evidence that has emerged since January 6 — discussed at length here, and fully sourced via major-media investigative reporting — suggests that’s just what happened.

Trump would have known in advance of his commutation of Roger Stone’s prison sentence in July 2020 exactly what Stone would start doing thereafter, as Stone had coined the phrase “Stop the Steal” in the lead-up to the 2016 election, declaring at the time that “If this election is close, THEY WILL STEAL IT” (emphasis in original, both here and in every all-caps quotation that appears hereafter). Stone’s 2016 “Stop the Steal” effort was a massive fundraising scam that would see its echo in Trump’s 2020 post-election Save America PAC, an “election defense” fund that raised hundreds of millions of dollars via hundreds of November and December emails to frustrated Trump voters.

While we don’t know where the money Stone needlessly raised in 2016 went, we do know that virtually none of the hundreds of millions raised by Trump in 2020 via his Save America PAC went to election defense. The most recent assessment puts the percentage of the money raised that went to Trump lawsuits at under 10%. The rest went to either the RNC or, to a far greater degree, a political fund that Trump can now draw from in the future for almost any purpose, including domestic and international travel self-declared by the man himself as being for “political” purposes.

Roger Stone’s “Stop the Steal” tagline was picked up, during Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign, by a man he describes as a “good friend”, far-right activist Ali Alexander. Stone, at the time, was under the scrutiny of the federal justice system and was constricted in his political activities.

Beginning in midsummer 2020, however — just in time for the start of the 2020 general election — Stone was unleashed, thanks to Trump, thereafter conjoining his efforts with Alexander’s even as the latter bolstered his ties with a group with which Roger Stone has been associated: the Proud Boys, a far-right neofascist “club” for men.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel has gone so far as to call the infamous white supremacist organization “affiliated with” Roger Stone, and vice versa. This is significant, given that blaze orange-hatted Proud Boys were, per the Wall Street Journal, at the forefront of the breach of the Capitol on January 6.

Seth Abramson, shown at right, founder of Proof, is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who teaches digital journalism, seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionlegal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the Ph.D. program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include a Trump trilogy: Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump (2020); Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump's International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy (2019); and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018).

Jan. 24

Top Stories

 

U.S. Politics, Elections

 

 Top Stories

capitol ties

A heavily disguised rioter invades the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 as part of the pro-Trump "Stop the Steal" protest carrying plastic "ties," which are normally used by law enforcers and terrorists to bind the wrists of suspects or, in the case of terrorists, hostages.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Pennsylvania Lawmaker Played Key Role in Trump’s Plot to Oust Acting Attorney General, Katie Benner and Catie Edmondson, Jan. 23, 2021 (print ed.).  The congressman’s involvement underlined how far the former president was willing to go to overturn the election, and Democratic lawmakers are beginning to call for investigations into those efforts.

When Representative Scott Perry joined his colleagues in a monthslong campaign to undermine the results of the presidential election, promoting “Stop the Steal” events and supporting an attempt to overturn millions of legally cast votes, he often took a back seat to higher-profile loyalists in President Donald J. scott perryTrump’s orbit.

But Mr. Perry, left, an outspoken Pennsylvania Republican, played a significant role in the crisis that played out at the top of the Justice Department this month, when Mr. Trump considered firing the acting attorney general and backed down only after top department officials threatened to resign en masse.

It was Mr. Perry, a member of the hard-line Freedom Caucus, who first made Mr. Trump aware that a relatively obscure Justice Department official, Jeffrey jeffrey clark oClark, right, the acting chief of the civil division, was sympathetic to Mr. Trump’s view that the election had been stolen, according to former administration officials who spoke with Mr. Clark and Mr. Trump.

Mr. Perry introduced the president to Mr. Clark, whose openness to conspiracy theories about election fraud presented Mr. Trump with a welcome change from the acting attorney general, Jeffrey A. Rosen, who stood by the results of the election and had repeatedly resisted the president’s efforts to undo them.

republican elephant logoMr. Perry’s previously unreported role, and the quiet discussions between Mr. Trump and Mr. Clark that followed, underlined how much the former president was willing to use the government to subvert the election, turning to more junior and relatively unknown figures for help as ranking Republicans and cabinet members rebuffed him.

Mr. Perry’s involvement is also likely to heighten scrutiny of House Republicans who continue to advance Mr. Trump’s false and thoroughly debunked claims of election fraud, even after President Biden’s inauguration this week and as Congress prepares for an impeachment trial that will examine whether such talk incited the Capitol riot.

Background:

 Justice Department logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump and Justice Dept. Lawyer Said to Have Plotted to Oust Acting Attorney General, Katie Benner, Jan. 23, 2021 (print ed.). Trying to find another avenue to push his baseless election claims, Donald Trump considered installing a loyalist, and had the men make their cases to him.

The Justice Department’s top leaders listened in stunned silence this month: One of their peers, they were told, had devised a plan with President Donald J. jeffrey rosenTrump to oust Jeffrey A. Rosen, right, as acting attorney general and wield the department’s power to force Georgia state lawmakers to overturn its presidential election results.

Palmer Report, Opinion: House Republican Scott Perry in deep trouble for role in Trump’s DOJ election criminal scandal: Report, Bill Palmer,  Jan. 23, 2021. The thing about criminal conspiracies is that once they’re finally caught onto, they have a way of continuing to unravel.

Last night we all learned that prior to January 6th, Donald Trump had criminally conspired with DOJ official Jeffrey Clark to try to overthrow the election. Now it turns out that plot included a certain House Republican. bill palmer report logo headerIt was House Republican Scott Perry who played matchmaker between Trump and Clark, letting Trump know that Clark was potentially open to conspiring with him, according to an expose tonight from the New York Times.

 

garret miller with flag us court photo1

A man identified by federal authorities as Garret Miller is shown in the photos filed the photo above and below right in U.S. District Court as part of an indictment alleging that he threated to assassinate a member of Congress and a Capitol Hill policeman. 

ny times logoNew York Times, A Texas man who stormed the Capitol threatened to assassinate Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Michael Levenson, Jan. 24, garret miller photo facebook us district court2021 (print ed.). Garret Miller, right, who was among those who stormed the Capitol, also threatened the officer who fatally shot a Trump supporter, saying he would “hug his neck with a nice rope,” prosecutors said.

A Trump supporter who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 threatened on social media to assassinate Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (shown below in a file photo) that day and also threatened the Capitol Police officer who fatally shot a woman as she tried to enter the Speaker’s Lobby, federal prosecutors alexandria ocasio cortez resized yoho speech july 23 2020 house tv via apsaid.

The man, Garret Miller, 34, of Richardson, Texas, was arrested on Wednesday and charged with, among other things, threats, knowingly entering a restricted building and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, according to a criminal complaint.

Surveillance video from inside the Capitol, a selfie and a video posted by Mr. Miller and comments he made on social media showed that he had been part of a crowd that had pushed past the police to enter the Capitol, disrupting Congress as it was certifying President Donald J. Trump’s loss to Joseph R. Biden Jr., the complaint states.

 

capitol guns drawn

Police with guns drawn watch as rioters and vandals break into the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite) (Source: J. Scott Applewhite/AP).

brian sicknickA California woman was warned and then fatally shot as she and others in the mob shattered glass and tried to crawl up and through the hole in the door to enter the chamber where congressional members and staff had huddled for safety during the rampage. Dying also were four others, including Brian D. Sicknick, above, a Capitol Hill police officer murdered while trying to protect government workers during the pro-Trump insurrection. President Trump failed to order federal flags flown at half-mast in his honor, although House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did so over the flags she controls at the Capitol.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: A Lunge, Then a Gunshot: Inside the Deadly Capitol Shooting, Adam Goldman and Shaila Dewan, Jan. 24, 2021 (print ed.).  At a crucial moment in the Jan. 6 riot, as the mob closed in on lawmakers, a Capitol Police lieutenant fatally shot a woman vaulting through a window. Videos taken of the episode, legal documents and witness accounts point to a dire set of circumstances and an officer left to confront a mob.

During the four-and-a-half-hour attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, one of the moments when the mob came closest to the lawmakers they were pursuing took place just after 2:30 p.m.

On one side of a set of antique wood and glass doors were dozens of lawmakers and their aides trying to evacuate the House chamber.

On the other were rioters yelling “Stop the steal” as they hammered the panes with a flagpole, a helmet and even a bare fist.

ashli babbittIn between was a Capitol Police lieutenant, scrambling to pile tables and chairs into a makeshift barricade. He had 31 rounds for his service weapon, and he has told others that he feared he might need them all.

At the height of the standoff, a woman named Ashli Babbitt, right, tried to vault through a window. The lieutenant, his weapon already extended, pulled the trigger once, killing her in a confrontation that was captured on video and widely viewed around the world. (Excerpt continued below in section "Capitol Riot Followups.")

ny times logoNew York Times, How Democrats Planned for Doomsday Scenarios, Alexander Burns, Jan. 24, 2021. The organized left anticipated former President Donald Trump’s postelection schemes, including his attempt to claim a win he had not achieved.

The video call was announced on short notice, but more than 900 people quickly joined: a coalition of union officials and racial justice organizers, civil rights lawyers and campaign strategists, pulled together in a matter of hours after the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill.

They convened to craft a plan for answering the onslaught on American democracy, and they soon reached a few key decisions. They would stay off the streets for the moment and hold back from mass demonstrations that could be exposed to an armed mob goaded on by President Donald J. Trump.

They would use careful language. In a presentation, Anat Shenker-Osorio, a liberal messaging guru, urged against calling the attack a “coup,” warning that the word could make Mr. Trump sound far stronger than he was — or even imply that a pro-Trump militia had seized power.

And they would demand stern punishment for Mr. Trump and his party: Republicans at every level of government who incited the mob “must be removed or resign,” read one version of the group’s intended message, contained in Ms. Shenker-Osorio’s presentation and reviewed by The New York Times.

The meeting was no lucky feat of emergency organizing, nor was the highly disciplined and united front that emerged from it.

Instead, it was a climactic event in a long season of planning and coordination by progressives, aimed largely at a challenge with no American precedent: defending the outcome of a free election from a president bent on overturning it.

By the time rioters ransacked the Capitol, the machinery of the left had already been primed to respond — prepared by months spent sketching out doomsday scenarios and mapping out responses, by countless hours of training exercises and reams of opinion research.

Interviews with nearly two dozen leaders involved in the effort, and a review of several hundred pages of planning documents, polling presentations and legal memorandums, revealed an uncommon — and previously unreported — degree of collaboration among progressive groups that often struggle to work so closely together because of competition over political turf, funding and conflicting ideological priorities.

For the organizers of the effort, it represents both a good-news story — Mr. Trump was thwarted — and an ominous sign that such exhaustive efforts were required to protect election results that were not all that close.

For the most part, the organized left anticipated Mr. Trump’s postelection schemes, including his premature attempt to claim a victory he had not achieved, his pressure campaigns targeting Republican election administrators and county officials and his incitement of far-right violence, strategy documents show.

 

U.S. Politics, Elections

washington post logoPresident Donald Trump officialWashington Post, Trump jumps into a divisive battle over the Republican Party — with a threat to start a ‘MAGA Party,’ Josh Dawsey and Michael Scherer, Jan. 24, 2021 (print ed.). Former president Donald Trump threw himself back into politics this weekend by publicly endorsing a devoted and divisive acolyte in Arizona who has embraced his false election conspiracy theories and entertained the creation of a new "MAGA Party."

In a recorded phone call, Trump offered his “complete and total endorsement” for another term for Arizona state party chairwoman Kelli Ward, a lightning rod who has sparred with the state’s Republican governor, been condemned by the business community and overseen a recent flight in party registrations. She narrowly won reelection, by a margin of 51.5 percent to 48.5 percent, marking Trump’s first victory in a promised battle to maintain political relevance and influence after losing the 2020 election.

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

washington post logoWashington Post, Virginia moves toward banning capital punishment, in a shift for prolific death penalty state, Laura Vozzella and Gregory S. Schneider, Jan. 24, 2021 (print ed.). Virginia, which carried out its first execution in 1608 and put colonists to death for such infractions as stealing grapes and killing chickens, has been the nation’s most prolific death penalty state over the past four centuries.

Virginia, a state that has executed more prisoners than any other in the country, appears poised to eliminate the death penalty — a seismic shift for the state legislature, which just five years ago looked to the electric chair and secret pharmaceutical deals to keep the ultimate punishment alive.

ralph northam file headshotThe former capital of the Confederacy would become the first Southern state to abolish capital punishment if a bill on track to pass the Senate gets out of the House and over to the desk of Gov. Ralph Northam (D), right, who has promised to sign it.

A ban in Virginia could help sweep in change across the South, according to experts who say racial disparities in the death penalty’s application have roots in the region’s history of slavery and Jim Crow segregation.

“Just as Confederate monuments are being dismantled, this vestige of Confederate law is also facing dismantling,” said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. “That historical context is a central part of the repeal. And repeal offers a real opportunity for racial healing.”

As recently as last year, as Democrats took full control in Richmond for the first time in a generation and ushered in vast changes on many fronts, efforts to ban or restrict the death penalty sputtered.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept., FBI debate not charging some Capitol rioters, Devlin Barrett and Spencer S. Hsu, Jan. 24, 2021 (print ed.). Law enforcement officials are considering forgoing charges against those who went into the building but are not linked to violence, threats or destruction.

Federal law enforcement officials are privately debating whether they should decline to charge some of the individuals who stormed the U.S. Capitol this month — a politically loaded proposition but one alert to the practical concern that hundreds of such cases could swamp the local courthouse.

The internal discussions are in their early stages, and no decisions have been reached about whether to forgo charging some of those who illegally entered the Capitol on Jan. 6, according to multiple people familiar with the discussions.

Justice Department officials have promised a relentless effort to identify and arrest those who stormed the Capitol that day, but internally there is robust back-and-forth about whether charging them all is the best course of action. That debate comes at a time when officials are keenly sensitive that the credibility of the Justice Department and the FBI are at stake in such decisions, given the apparent security and intelligence failures that preceded the riot, these people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss legal deliberations.

washington post logoWashington Post, Union chief says 38 Capitol Police employees have tested positive for coronavirus since Jan. 6 riot, Tom Jackman, Jan. 24, 2021 (print ed.). Since the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, 38 U.S. Capitol Police employees have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the head of the officers’ union said Saturday. Cases are also climbing among members of the D.C. National Guard stationed around the Capitol.

Meantime, the Justice Department said five more people have been arrested in the Capitol riot, including a county jail guard from New Jersey who took an “emergency holiday” from work to travel to Washington and a Federal Aviation Administration employee from California who is a QAnon follower, court records stated.

In another development, two police officers from rural Virginia who had admitted their participation in the Capitol siege were suspended without pay by their department after a search warrant affidavit disclosed that one told a friend on Jan. 10: “I’m going to war . . . DC on the 20th for sure.”

The head of the labor committee for the Capitol Police officers’ Fraternal Order of Police chapter, Gus Papathanasiou, said he had been told by the police chief’s office that 38 employees tested positive for the virus. He said there was no breakdown on how many were officers at the Capitol on Jan. 6, but he noted that most civilian employees in the department telework and would not have been there during the riot.

 
Capitol Riot Fallout

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: A Lunge, Then a Gunshot: Inside the Deadly Capitol Shooting, Adam Goldman and Shaila Dewan, Jan. 24, 2021 (print ed.).   (Continued from above). At the height of the standoff, a woman named Ashli Babbitt, right, tried to vault through a window. The lieutenant, his weapon already extended, pulled ashli babbittthe trigger once, killing her in a confrontation that was captured on video and widely viewed around the world. (Excerpt continued below in section "Capitol Riot Followups.")

At least three investigations into the security response on Jan. 6 are underway, and officials have not provided the full details of Ms. Babbitt’s death.

But videos taken of the episode, legal documents and witness accounts point to a dire set of circumstances and an officer left to confront a mob. The officer, a lieutenant who has not been publicly named, has been placed on administrative leave while his actions are reviewed by federal authorities.

The use of deadly force by officers is considered legally justified if they have an “objectively reasonable” fear of serious, imminent harm to themselves or others. Several policing experts said that video of the encounter was not enough for them to offer an opinion on the shooting. But interviews with two people with direct knowledge of the officer’s account suggest he will make the case that he acted to protect lawmakers from harm.

“I could look them in the eyes,” said Representative Jim McGovern, Democrat of Massachusetts, who had been presiding in the speaker’s chair and was one of the last to leave as the mob attempted to break through the doors. “I mean, that’s how close they were.”

He added: “I don’t even know what would have happened had they breached that area.”

Ms. Babbitt’s husband, Aaron, told a Fox affiliate on the day of the riot that he had seen his wife die on the news.

“She didn’t have any weapons on her, I don’t know why she had to die in the People’s House,” he said, adding, “She was voicing her opinion and she got killed for it.”

He did not respond to an email requesting comment. One of Ms. Babbitt’s brothers, reached by phone, declined to comment.

Ms. Babbitt was one of five people who lost their lives at the Capitol that day. A Capitol Police officer was overpowered and beaten by rioters. A Georgia woman appeared to have been killed in a crush of fellow rioters. One man had a stroke, and another a heart attack.

The lieutenant had heard on the news that Trump supporters like Ms. Babbitt would be converging on Washington, according to his account. But the first time the protests were discussed at work came only when he arrived early that morning; according to his account, he had been given no advance planning to counter a violent riot or an invasion of the building.

That afternoon both the House and the Senate were in session, with hundreds of lawmakers debating challenges to the certification of the Electoral College vote when the mob fought its way past lines of Capitol Police officers outside and forced their way into the building. Some said they merely wanted to halt the proceedings while others carried weapons, climbing gear and zip ties that could be used as restraints.

The crowd was peppered with far-right nationalists, military veterans and militia members, and adherents of a dangerous conspiracy. Rioters hurled invectives at police officers and called them traitors while threatening to kill former Vice President Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House.

The lieutenant, a veteran officer, was regularly assigned to the Speaker’s Lobby, an enclosed hallway and waiting area in the inner sanctum of the Capitol where access is highly restricted. The lobby runs directly behind the House chamber and is lined with portraits of the House’s past leaders. It is bound by two sets of old wooden doors with windows, one on the Democratic side and one on the Republican side.

 

Jan. 23

Top Stories


Top Stories

Justice Department logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump and Justice Dept. Lawyer Said to Have Plotted to Oust Acting Attorney General, Katie Benner, Jan. 23, 2021 (print ed.). Trying to find another avenue to push his baseless election claims, Donald Trump considered installing a loyalist, and had the men make their cases to him.

The Justice Department’s top leaders listened in stunned silence this month: One of their peers, they were told, had devised a plan with President Donald J. jeffrey rosenTrump to oust Jeffrey A. Rosen, right, as acting attorney general and wield the department’s power to force Georgia state lawmakers to overturn its presidential election results.

The unassuming lawyer who worked on the plan, Jeffrey Clark, left, had been devising ways to cast doubt on the election results and to bolster Mr. Trump’s continuing legal battles and the pressure on Georgia politicians. Because Mr. Rosen had refused the president’s entreaties to jeffrey clark ocarry out those plans, Mr. Trump was about to decide whether to fire Mr. Rosen and replace him with Mr. Clark.

The department officials, convened on a conference call, then asked each other: What will you do if Mr. Rosen is dismissed?

The answer was unanimous. They would resign.

Their informal pact ultimately helped persuade Mr. Trump to keep Mr. Rosen in place, calculating that a furor over mass resignations at the top of the Justice Department would eclipse any attention on his baseless accusations of voter fraud. Mr. Trump’s decision came only after Mr. Rosen and Mr. Clark made their competing cases to him in a bizarre White House meeting that two officials compared with an episode of Mr. Trump’s reality show “The Apprentice,” albeit one that could prompt a constitutional crisis.

georgia mapThe previously unknown chapter was the culmination of the president’s long-running effort to batter the Justice Department into advancing his personal agenda. He also pressed Mr. Rosen to appoint special counsels, including one who would look into Dominion Voting Systems, a maker of election equipment that Mr. Trump’s allies had falsely said was working with Venezuela to flip votes from Mr. Trump to Joseph R. Biden Jr.

dominion voting systemsThis account of the department’s final days under Mr. Trump’s leadership is based on interviews with four former Trump administration officials who asked not to be named because of fear of retaliation.

Mr. Clark said that this account contained inaccuracies but did not specify, adding that he could not discuss any conversations with Mr. Trump or Justice Department lawyers. “Senior Justice Department lawyers, not uncommonly, provide legal advice to the White House as part of our duties,” he said. “All my official communications were consistent with law.”

nancy pelosi chuck schumer cropped jan 8 2019 screengrab

 washington post logoWashington Post, Senate reaches deal to start Trump’s trial Feb. 9, Mike DeBonis, Jan. 23, 2021 (print ed.). The majority leader said the wait would allow the Senate to make further progress on President Biden’s nominations and his $2 trillion pandemic relief proposal.

The impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump will begin Feb. 9 under a deal reached Friday by top Senate leaders — delaying by two weeks the us senate logohigh-stakes proceedings over whether Trump incited the violent Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

The agreement was made by Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), above left, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), right, following a standoff over the timing of the trial, which could permanently bar Trump from holding public office.

mitch mcconnellThe House on Jan. 13 passed a sole impeachment article, alleging “incitement of insurrection.” House leaders could have forced the Senate to begin the trial immediately by transmitting the papers across the Capitol. But a delay serves the former and current presidents: Trump has struggled to assemble a legal team and muster a defense, and President Biden needs the Senate to confirm most of his Cabinet appointees.

McConnell pushed Thursday for a three-week delay, but Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), above right, on Friday morning announced their intention to deliver the impeachment papers Monday — setting up a trial as soon as Tuesday. Later in the day, Biden publicly called for a delay, saying, “the more time we have to get up and running to meet these crises, the better.”

Announcing the two-week timetable Friday, Schumer said the wait would allow the Senate to make further progress on Biden’s nominations and his $2 trillion pandemic relief proposal — the centerpiece of his early legislative agenda — before shifting to Trump.

“We all want to put this awful chapter in our nation’s history behind us, but healing and unity will only come if there is truth and accountability, and that is what this trial will provide,” he said.

Palmer Report, Opinion: House Republican Scott Perry in deep trouble for role in Trump’s DOJ election criminal scandal: Report, Bill Palmer, right, Jan. 23, 2021. The bill palmerthing about criminal conspiracies is that once they’re finally caught onto, they have a way of continuing to unravel. Last night we all learned that prior to January 6th, Donald Trump had criminally conspired with DOJ official Jeffrey Clark to try to overthrow the election. Now it turns out that plot included a certain House Republican.

bill palmer report logo headerIt was House Republican Scott Perry who played matchmaker between Trump and Clark, letting Trump know that Clark was potentially open to conspiring with him, according to an expose tonight from the New York Times. We’ve seen various House Republicans play various roles in Trump’s election overthrow plot with various degrees of criminal culpability, but this takes the cake.

scott perryScott Perry, right, knowingly entered into a criminal conspiracy to commit election fraud with Donald Trump and Jeffrey Clark. Perry and Clark republican elephant logoare both looking at federal prison time over this, and because Trump has already left office, it’s too late for him to pardon them.

Our guess is that either Perry or Clark can get a generous plea deal by flipping on everyone else involved. We’ll see which of the two of them has the sense to cut a deal first. In any case, Perry’s career in the U.S. House of Representatives surely won’t last long after this.

ny times logoNew York Times, White House Orders Assessment on Violent Extremism in the U.S., Julian E. Barnes and Hailey Fuchs, Jan. 23, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden on Friday ordered the director of national intelligence to work with the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the threat from domestic violent extremism, a sign of how seriously the new administration is taking the issue in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

The request comes only days after Avril D. Haines, the newly installed director of national intelligence, pledged to members of Congress during her confirmation hearing that she would help with just such an assessment.

FBI logoThe new intelligence work began as people charged in the mob attack on the Capitol by supporters of former President Donald J. Trump continued to appear in court. On Friday, a federal magistrate judge in Dayton, Ohio ordered Donovan Crowl, an accused rioter linked to the far-right group the Oath Keepers, detained until his trial, citing the safety of the community.

Domestic terrorism and violent groups are a thorny issue for intelligence agencies like the C.I.A., which are limited to tracking attempts by foreign governments or organizations to influence extremist groups in America. The F.B.I. and Department of Homeland Security have more leeway to investigate domestic groups and homegrown terrorism.

But Friday’s order will have practical as well as symbolic import. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said the assessment would help Mr. Biden hone his policies aimed at curbing violent extremism in the United States.

“This assessment will draw on the analysis from across the government and, as appropriate, nongovernmental organizations,” Ms. Psaki said. “The key point here is that we want fact-based analysis upon which we can shape policy.”

In recent years, some parts of the intelligence community have been working to increase their focus on the threat of domestic terrorism, particularly by doing more to track growing foreign influence operations on domestic groups. The C.I.A. also has officers in its counterterrorism section who specialize in tracking racially-motivated violent extremists overseas.

The order for the evaluation from the intelligence community comes as judges continue to deny bail for suspects in the Capitol riot.

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP opposition to stimulus relief intensifies, Erica Werner, Seung Min Kim and Jeff Stein, Jan. 23, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden may find he can get a big plan or a bipartisan plan — but not both.

President Biden’s pitch for bipartisan unity to defeat the coronavirus and resurrect the economy is crashing into a partisan buzz saw on Capitol Hill, where Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on ground rules for running the Senate — let alone pass a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill.

Biden’s relief package is being declared dead on arrival by senior Senate Republicans, some of whom say there has been little, if any, outreach from the Biden team to get their support. Liberals are demanding the president abandon attempts to make a bipartisan deal altogether and instead ram the massive legislation through without GOP votes. And outside groups are turning up the pressure for Biden and the Democrats who control Congress to enact economic relief quickly, even if it means cutting Republicans out of the deal.

In the face of these competing pressures, Biden may discover he can get a big covid-19 stimulus bill or a bipartisan deal — but not both. The path Biden chooses with his first major piece of legislation could set the tone for the remainder of his first term in office, revealing whether he can make good on his promise to unify Congress and the country.

elizabeth warren o purple“It’s important that Democrats deliver for America. If the best path to that is to do it in a way that can bring Republicans along, I’m all in favor of that,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), right, said. “But if Republicans want to cut back to the point that we’re not delivering what needs to be done, then we need to be prepared to fight them. Our job is to deliver for the American people.”

Publicly, top aides insist Biden is serious about wanting a bipartisan deal on the relief bill. They say this should be achievable given the magnitude of the economic and health-care crisis besetting the nation a year after the pandemic began, with more than 412,000 dead and the economy newly shedding jobs. Some Democrats have expressed optimism that GOP frustration with how the Trump administration ended could convince some Republicans to be more open to a fresh start with a Democratic president, especially since longtime lawmakers know Biden from his decades in the Senate and as vice president.

 

U.S. Politics, Governing

World Crisis Radio, Opinion: Majority of Americans Want Trump Convicted and Barred Forever from Holding Federal Office, Webster G. Tarpley, right, Jan. 24, webster tarpley 20072021. Majority of Americans Want Trump Convicted and Barred Forever from Holding Federal Office; Zero Tolerance Here for Fascist Coup d’État and Dictatorship; Some GOP Intrigues Want Trump Gone.

In Spirit of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Hundred Days, Biden Launches 30 Executive Orders and Actions to Defeat Pandemic and Worsening Economic Conjuncture; On Friday, Biden Established $15 Minimum Wage for Federal Workers and Contractors, Plus More Money for Food Stamps and Meals for School Kids;
16 Senators Set to Meet with Biden’s Top Economist Deese; Goal Must Be Full $2 Trillion Pandemic Relief and Stimulus Bill;

1% Wall Street Sales Tax on Turnover of Stocks, Bonds and Derivatives, plus 0% Century Bonds Bought by Fed Are Key to Financing Recovery and Reconstruction Programs;

Trump Economy’s Farewell Week Came with 900,000 New Jobless, Exposing Once Again the Catastrophe of Trump’s Policies; This is Worst Labor Market in Recent US History, Far Worse than the 700,000 per Month Faced by Obama-Biden in 2009 Depression; GOP Lunatic Fringe in Flux After Q Fails to Deliver Stormy Putsch; Some Groups Turn Against Trump;

Merchants of Death: US Exceeds Death Toll of World War II under Trump; British Count Under Johnson Exceeds Civilians Killed in World War II.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden administration weighs turning over Trump tax returns to House Democrats, Spencer S. Hsu, Jan. 23, 2021 (print ed.).  House Democrats have renewed their long-stalled demand for Donald Trump’s federal tax records, but the Biden administration has not decided whether it will drop its predecessor’s objections and release the Treasury Department records to investigators, Justice Department attorneys told a federal judge Friday.

U.S. District Judge Trevor N. McFadden declined Friday to lift a stay on a pending House lawsuit. Instead, the judge agreed to give Treasury and Justice Department officials two weeks to report back to him, acknowledging that President Biden’s team was just settling in after the inauguration this week.

trevor mcFadden CustomMcFadden, left, also kept in place an order requiring the government to give the former president’s lawyers 72 hours’ notice before releasing his tax return information to allow them to file a request to block the release.

Separation-of-powers issues that have slowed the case “may fall out” now that Trump is no longer in office, the judge noted.

“It would be a former president trying to stop a political branch, rather than one branch suing another. At least that’s my instinct,” said McFadden, a 2017 Trump appointee to the federal bench in Washington.

House General Counsel Douglas N. Letter agreed, saying, “We’re not dealing with a president anymore. We’re dealing with a former president.”

 

Jan. 22

Top Stories

 

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Signs Executive Orders for Covid Response, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Jan. 22, 2021 (print ed.). Biden rolls out ‘full-scale, wartime’ coronavirus strategy, including requiring masks on some planes, trains and buses.

joe biden kamala harrisPresident Biden, pledging a “full-scale wartime effort” to combat the coronavirus pandemic, signed a string of executive orders and presidential directives on Thursday aimed at combating the worst public health crisis in a century, including new requirements for masks on interstate planes, trains and buses and for international travelers to quarantine after arriving in the United States.

“History is going to measure whether we are up to the task,” Mr. Biden declared in an appearance in the State Dining Room of the White House, with Vice President Kamala Harris and Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, his chief Covid-19 medical adviser, by his side.

With thousands of Americans dying every day from Covid-19, a national death toll that exceeds 400,000 and a new, more infectious variant of the virus spreading quickly, the pandemic poses the most pressing challenge of Mr. Biden’s early days in office. How he handles it will set the tone for how Americans view his administration going forward, as Mr. Biden himself acknowledged.

In a 200-page document released earlier Thursday called “National Strategy for the Covid-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness,” the new administration outlines the kind of centralized federal response that Democrats have long demanded and that President Donald J. Trump refused.

Calls for unity were already fraying a day into the new administration. On Capitol Hill, Representative Steve Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican, accused the Biden team of offering “old Washington spin.” And the new president took a shot at his predecessor, saying, “For the past year we couldn’t rely on the federal government to act with the urgency and focus and coordination that we needed, and we have seen the tragic cost of that failure.”

washington post logoWashington Post, In first full day in office, Biden faces multiple crises, Ashley Parker and Matt Viser, Jan. 22, 2021 (print ed.). The president spoke in somber tones as he unveiled a covid-19 plan, comparing the situation to a war and warned that deaths could top 500,000 next month.

President Biden raced Thursday to show he was addressing the array of crises awaiting him on his first day in office, issuing executive orders aimed at combating the coronavirus and preparing measures to take on the struggling economy and other problems.

Biden and his team found themselves immediately on what the president called a “wartime” footing, describing fighting the coronavirus as “a national emergency.” Against an already calamitous backdrop of a pandemic that has left more than 408,000 Americans dead, an additional 900,000 people filed new unemployment claims last week, underlining a devastated job market.

In remarks in the White House State Dining Room, Biden outlined a new national strategy for combating the virus, signing 10 executive orders and other documents to streamline the federal government response, move toward reopening schools and businesses, ensure safer travel, and increase vaccinations, among other goals.

He called on Americans to “mask up” for the next 100 days, saying that doing so could save more than 50,000 lives. Biden’s tone was notably sober, contrasting not only with former president Donald Trump’s rhetoric, which was often full of superlatives and grand promises, but also with the tone of other presidents on many occasions.

“Let me be very clear: Things are going to continue to get worse before they get better,” Biden said, adding that the death toll would probably top 500,000 next month. “And let me be equally clear: We will get through this. We will defeat this pandemic.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Senate Strikes Deal to Delay Trump’s Impeachment Trial for 2 Weeks, Staff reports, Jan. 22, 2021. The House still plans to deliver the charge against former President Trump on Monday, but the Senate would then pause until the week of Feb. 8.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump and Justice Dept. Lawyer Said to Have Plotted to Oust Acting Attorney General, Katie Benner, Jan. 22, 2021. ETTrying to find another avenue to push his baseless election claims, Donald Trump considered installing a loyalist, and had the men make their cases to him.

The Justice Department’s top leaders listened in stunned silence this month: One of their peers, they were told, had devised a plan with President Donald J. Trump to oust Jeffrey A. Rosen as acting attorney general and wield the department’s power to force Georgia state lawmakers to overturn its presidential election results.

The unassuming lawyer who worked on the plan, Jeffrey Clark, had been devising ways to cast doubt on the election results and to bolster Mr. Trump’s continuing legal battles and the pressure on Georgia politicians. Because Mr. Rosen had refused the president’s entreaties to carry out those plans, Mr. Trump was about to decide whether to fire Mr. Rosen and replace him with Mr. Clark.

The department officials, convened on a conference call, then asked each other: What will you do if Mr. Rosen is dismissed?

The answer was unanimous. They would resign.

Their informal pact ultimately helped persuade Mr. Trump to keep Mr. Rosen in place, calculating that a furor over mass resignations at the top of the Justice Department would eclipse any attention on his baseless accusations of voter fraud. Mr. Trump’s decision came only after Mr. Rosen and Mr. Clark made their competing cases to him in a bizarre White House meeting that two officials compared with an episode of Mr. Trump’s reality show “The Apprentice,” albeit one that could prompt a constitutional crisis.

The previously unknown chapter was the culmination of the president’s long-running effort to batter the Justice Department into advancing his personal agenda. He also pressed Mr. Rosen to appoint special counsels, including one who would look into Dominion Voting Systems, a maker of election equipment that Mr. Trump’s allies had falsely said was working with Venezuela to flip votes from Mr. Trump to Joseph R. Biden Jr.

This account of the department’s final days under Mr. Trump’s leadership is based on interviews with four former Trump administration officials who asked not to be named because of fear of retaliation.

Mr. Clark said that this account contained inaccuracies but did not specify, adding that he could not discuss any conversations with Mr. Trump or Justice Department lawyers. “Senior Justice Department lawyers, not uncommonly, provide legal advice to the White House as part of our duties,” he said. “All my official communications were consistent with law.”

Bloomberg, Organizers of Trump Rally Had Been on Campaign’s Payroll, Bill Allison, Jan. 22, 2021. Former President Donald Trump’s campaign paid more than $2.7 million over two years to individuals and firms that organized the Jan. 6 rally that led to rioters storming the U.S. Capitol, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The payments, which span Trump’s re-election campaign, show an ongoing financial relationship between the rally’s organizers and Trump’s political operation. They were all made through Nov. 23, the most recent date covered by Federal Election Commission filings, which is before the rally was publicly announced.

Eight paid Trump campaign officials were named on the permit issued on by the National Park Service for the rally, including Maggie Mulvaney, the niece of Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s former chief of staff who resigned his position as special envoy to Northern Ireland after the riot. Maggie Mulvaney was paid $138,000 by the campaign through Nov. 23.

After the rally, in which the president encouraged them to march on the Capitol, Trump supporters stormed the building, disrupting the count of Electoral College votes in an event that ultimately killed five people. Lawmakers and Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding over what is normally a ceremonial event, were forced to flee.

President Joe Biden was blamed for firing the White House chief usher on his first day on the job, but his predecessor actually did the deed -- apparently to spite the incoming first family.

Donald and Melania Trump sent White House ushers home early on Inauguration Day in one of their last acts in a tense presidential transition, a well-placed official not associated with the Biden team told the National Journal.

"The Trumps sent the butlers home when they left so there would be no one to help the Bidens when they arrived," the official said. "So petty."
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Other knowledgable sources confirmed to the Journal that chief usher Timothy Harleth, a former executive of Trump Hotels hired by Melania Trump, was summarily fired by the outgoing president and first lady -- and not by the Bidens, as was widely reported afterward.

Harleth was already gone by the time Joe and Jill Biden arrived at the White House on Wednesday afternoon, leaving no one in place to open the doors for their inaugural entry and leading to an awkward pause.

"It's a big protocol breach for the president to ever stand in front of a closed door at the White House," said a veteran White House social expert. "That may be why there was nobody to open the doors to the Bidens. You couldn't expect the Biden staff to know to do that. Doors are opened and closed by ushers. There are rules about all these things and everyone has their job."

The rest of the usher staff was back on the job Thursday, but Harleth -- considered to be a Trump loyalist -- was not expected to be retained by the Bidens for long.

A Trump campaign adviser said the campaign had no role in organizing, operating or paying for the rally. No campaign staff worked on it, said the adviser, who asked not to be named. He added that any employees or contractors who worked on the event did not do so at the campaign’s direction.

Megan Powers, listed as one of two operations managers on the permit, was paid $290,000 by the Trump campaign from February 2019 through the most recent filing period. She served as director of operations for Trump’s campaign.

Caroline Wren, a top GOP fundraiser who was listed on the permit as an adviser to the rally and Ronald Holden, the backstage manager, were also paid by the campaign.

The biggest recipient of campaign funds according to the report, was Event Strategies Inc., which was paid more than $1.7 million by Trump’s campaign and joint fundraising committee. The firm’s owners, Justin Caporale and Tim Unes, served as rally production manager and stage manager, respectively.

Women for America First, the nonprofit organization that requested the permit on Nov. 24, originally for an event to be held on Jan. 23, had a financial relationship with America First Policies, the pro-Trump nonprofit formed to advance his agenda shortly after he took office, according to the report. America First Policies made a $25,000 grant to Women for America First in 2019, its most recent tax return shows.

ny times logoNew York Times, White House Orders Assessment on Violent Extremism in the U.S., Julian E. Barnes and Hailey Fuchs, Jan. 22, 2021. President Biden on Friday ordered the director of national intelligence to work with the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the threat from domestic violent extremism, a sign of how seriously the new administration is taking the issue in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

The request comes only days after Avril D. Haines, the newly installed director of national intelligence, pledged to members of Congress during her confirmation hearing that she would help with just such an assessment.

The new intelligence work began as people charged in the mob attack on the Capitol by supporters of former President Donald J. Trump continued to appear in court. On Friday, a federal magistrate judge in Dayton, Ohio ordered Donovan Crowl, an accused rioter linked to the far-right group the Oath Keepers, detained until his trial, citing the safety of the community.

Domestic terrorism and violent groups are a thorny issue for intelligence agencies like the C.I.A., which are limited to tracking attempts by foreign governments or organizations to influence extremist groups in America. The F.B.I. and Department of Homeland Security have more leeway to investigate domestic groups and homegrown terrorism.

But Friday’s order will have practical as well as symbolic import. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said the assessment would help Mr. Biden hone his policies aimed at curbing violent extremism in the United States.

“This assessment will draw on the analysis from across the government and, as appropriate, nongovernmental organizations,” Ms. Psaki said. “The key point here is that we want fact-based analysis upon which we can shape policy.”

In recent years, some parts of the intelligence community have been working to increase their focus on the threat of domestic terrorism, particularly by doing more to track growing foreign influence operations on domestic groups. The C.I.A. also has officers in its counterterrorism section who specialize in tracking racially-motivated violent extremists overseas.

The order for the evaluation from the intelligence community comes as judges continue to deny bail for suspects in the Capitol riot.

washington post logoWashington Post, To fight impeachment, Trump turns to ‘Butch’ Bowers, a S.C. lawyer at a small firm who has defended state Republicans, Michael Kranish and Josh Dawsey, Jan. 22, 2021. When Republican politicians in South Carolina have faced possible impeachment, ethics charges or other serious accusations, they have often turned to Karl S. “Butch” Bowers Jr., a lawyer with a military background, taciturn demeanor and a small office near the State House in Columbia.

Now Bowers is taking on his biggest case yet: defending former president Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial, this time against a charge that he incited a mob to attack the U.S. Capitol.

The longtime GOP attorney is little known outside of South Carolina and has no powerhouse law firm behind him. Colleagues say he is better known for behind-the-scenes negotiations than courtroom oratory.

In Bowers, Trump is getting a seasoned lawyer at a time when prominent Washington litigators have little interest in working for the former president — and a measured figure who offers a sharp contrast to attorneys Rudolph W. Giuliani and Sidney Powell, who spent the past several months unspooling wild conspiracy theories that the election was rigged.

“When I was threatened with the specter of impeachment, he was able and professional,” said former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford, recalling how Bowers successfully fought off efforts to remove him from office. “From his vantage point, it is a good business decision. It substantially raises your profile on a national and international basis.”

In addition to his work for Sanford, Bowers defended then-South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley during an ethics investigation, and he played a key role in the campaigns of some of the state’s most prominent Republican politicians. His law office is in a small white building that also houses the firm of current Gov. Henry McMaster.

“He is the first call that every Republican campaign makes for a legal team,” said South Carolina political consultant Tim Pearson, who has worked alongside Bowers on gubernatorial campaigns and shares office space with him. “It doesn’t surprise me he is willing to do the work. He is a lawyer’s lawyer in the sense that I think he believes that everybody deserves representation.”

Bowers did not respond to a request for comment.

Bowers, 55, a graduate of Tulane Law School, was recommended to Trump by Sen. Lindsey O. Graham, the South Carolina Republican, who said that he expects that Trump might bring on other lawyers.

 

U.S. Transfer of Power

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP pushes for delay in impeachment trial to give Trump time to craft defense, Mike DeBonis and Seung Min Kim, Jan. 22, 2021 (print ed.). Senate Republicans on Thursday pushed to delay the impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump for at least three weeks because he is struggling to recruit a legal team and assemble a defense against the accusation that he incited the deadly Jan. 6 invasion of the Capitol.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) floated postponing the start of the trial until mid-February, telling colleagues that Trump deserved more time to prepare his case and file briefs with the Senate. A conviction could bar Trump from public office in the future.

The proposal came as a key Trump ally, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), disclosed that the former president had secured a lead defense counsel for the trial: Butch Bowers, a Columbia, S.C., attorney known for his prominent role in litigating political and election matters for North and South Carolina Republicans.

Palmer Report, Opinion: To the victor belong the spoils, Robert Harrington, right, Jan. 22, 2021. We will be dissecting the ironies of this election for years. I, for one, robert harringtnn portraitplan to put my own scalpel to good use. Beginning in any old random place, how about the irony that the former toxic president (Trump) employed another former toxic president (Andrew Jackson) as his mascot? The slogan that ushered in the Jacksonian era, “to the victor belong the spoils,” is now being used against Trump with the same scorched earth relentlessness of one ancient Egyptian pharaoh erasing another.

bill palmer report logo headerTrump’s own use of the presidency was exclusively twofold, his self glorification and as the ultimate tool of revenge. As he set about to erase the legacy of President Barack Obama with a little man’s zeal he soon realized it was easier said than done. Trump’s goal was to exact vengeance on a man (a black man, no less) who frustrated and ultimately humiliated his efforts to prove Obama wasn’t born in the United States. (That racist lie became so toxic to Trump that it was even largely abandoned by all but his most zealous followers.)

On his first day in office Joe Biden signed 15 executive orders — a new record. The orders range from rescinding Trump’s Muslim ban to rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement to dismantling the declaration of a national emergency used to justify funding for of a wall on the US-Mexico border. In rapid succession much of the Trump legacy was wiped out in a single day. Such was the impermanent sand upon which it was built.

The Republican response was predictable. Sean Hannity claims it’s hypocrisy to call for unity then to turn around and make such a “disunifying” assault on the legacy of Donald Trump. In other words, Hannity is inventing rules to keep our President from doing the job the American people elected him to do. Sorry, Sean, but it doesn’t work that way.

Besides, “to the victor belong the spoils.” That’s straight from Andy Jackson. By the way, Jackson’s portrait was removed from the Oval Office. The victor also gets that power, too.

 

Trump Watch

djt looking up

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump steps out of the White House and into a company in crisis, David A. Fahrenthold and Jonathan O'Connell, Jan. 22, 2012 (print ed.). New financial disclosures show the depth of his financial problems, compounded by his role in the Capitol riot. Donald Trump returns to his company this week as it faces a deepening crisis, with key properties bleeding revenue and its bankers, lawyers and customers fleeing the company.

djt march 2020 CustomFinancial disclosure forms, filed by the former president as he left office, revealed that his hotels, resorts and other properties had lost more than $120 million in revenue last year, as the pandemic forced long-term closures and kept customers home.

Those losses were worst in the places where Trump could least afford it: His Washington hotel, which has a $170 million loan outstanding, saw revenue drop more than 60 percent. His Doral resort in Miami — also carrying a huge debt load — saw a 44 percent drop.

On Thursday, the company’s troubles grew: One of its banks and one of its law firms said they would cut their ties with the Trump Organization. They are the latest in a string of vendors and customers who severed their relationships with the company after Jan. 6, when a mob of Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol directly after he addressed them at a rally.

New York Times, Can Someone Please Open the Door? Annie Karni and Katie Rogers, Jan. 22, 2021 (print ed.). The Bidens waited for an awkward moment in front of a closed door when they arrived at their new residence, a protocol breach that turned out to be a small but curious bit of disarray.

It was the culminating moment of a transfer of power: President Biden and the first lady, Jill Biden, walked up the driveway to their new home on Wednesday, ascended the steps to the North Portico, waved to the crowd as a military band played “Hail to the Chief,” turned to head inside — and came face-to-face with a closed door.

As the world watched and a small crowd of Biden family members came up behind them, the first couple waited.

Was the president supposed to open the pair of big wooden doors himself? Had former President Donald J. Trump, who had left eight hours earlier, locked him out?

Soon enough the doors were swung open, and the Bidens entered. The awkward moment had lasted only a handful of seconds — about 10, if you time it — but it did not go unnoticed in Washington.

“There was a protocol breach when the front doors were not held open for the first family as they arrived at the North Portico,” said Lea Berman, who served as a White House social secretary for President George W. Bush.

The breach turned out to be a small but curious bit of disarray in the chaotic two-and-a-half months between Election Day and Inauguration Day. Nothing was normal in the transition from the Trump to the Biden administration, and turning over the White House to new occupants was no exception.

Palmer Report, 'So petty': Donald and Melania Trump fired chief usher before leaving White House to spite Bidens, Travis Gettys, January 22, 2021.

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Civil Rights

Palmer Report, Opinion: Turns out Trump screwed up Paul Manafort’s pardon, Bill Palmer, Jan. 21, 2021. Right around the time Trump began issuing his first post-election pardons, Palmer Report pointed out that it probably wouldn’t be that difficult for the post-Trump DOJ to work around the pardons. After all, broad or preemptive pardons are legally flimsy, and Trump’s team of legal advisers were mostly idiots.

bill palmer report logo headerSure enough, Andrew Weissman, who helped bring the original criminal case against Paul Manafort as part of the Mueller probe, is now revealing that Trump’s pardon of Manafort is indeed written poorly and easily worked around. Weissman explained that the pardon only covered the crimes that Manafort was convicted of, not the additional crimes that Manafort confessed to during his brief cooperation phase.

As Rachel Maddow noted on air tonight, even though Manafort’s pardon was issued weeks ago, Weissman waited until after Trump left office to point out the mistake, so that Trump couldn’t go back and fix it. This means the DOJ can indeed bring criminal charges against Manafort and steer him back toward prison. We’re guessing Manafort isn’t the only pardon that Trump screwed up.

ny times logoNew York Times, For Prosecutors, Trump’s Clemency Decisions Were a ‘Kick in the Teeth,’ Eric Lipton, Jan. 22, 2021 (print ed.). Commutations in high-profile Medicare fraud cases have elicited anger among those who spent years pursuing complex prosecutions.

It was New Year’s Eve, and dance music was pulsating from the backyard of a multimillion-dollar home here co-owned by Philip Esformes, a former nursing home executive who orchestrated one of the biggest Medicare frauds in United States history.

Just days after being granted clemency by President Donald J. Trump and released after serving four years of his 20-year sentence, Mr. Esformes was under a disco ball celebrating his daughter’s wedding.

Not far away, in Hialeah, Fla., Judith Negron, 49, who had been convicted in a separate scheme to siphon off hundreds of millions of dollars in fraudulent Medicare payments, was also at home for the holidays instead of in federal prison. Thanks to a commutation by Mr. Trump, she had been released after serving eight years of a 35-year sentence and was relieved of any remaining obligation to pay her share of $87 million in court-ordered restitution.

This was hardly the outcome that Paul E. Pelletier expected when he and a team of other top Justice Department prosecutors and federal investigators set out to expose what Mr. Esformes and Ms. Negron had done.

After years of painstaking work and millions of dollars spent to investigate and prosecute the cases, the remainders of the sentences being served by the two convicted felons — participants in a type of fraud that costs taxpayers billions of dollars — had been wiped away by the stroke of a presidential pen.

In explaining his decisions, Mr. Trump said that Ms. Negron was a “wife and mother” and had dedicated her time in prison to “improving her life and the lives of her fellow inmates.” Mr. Esformes, he said, spent his time in prison “devoted to prayer and repentance and is in declining health,” and others had raised claims of misconduct by prosecutors in his case.

The presidential rationales did not hold much weight with those who had sought to hold Mr. Esformes and Ms. Negron accountable.

“It is an incredible kick in the teeth to the agents and prosecutors who toil away every day under very difficult circumstances to achieve justice and some restitution to the taxpayers from the billions of dollars that has literally been stolen from them,” Mr. Pelletier said.

His frustration is shared by many current and former Justice Department officials who spent years working on these cases, considered two of the most important taken up in the nationwide effort to combat widespread Medicare fraud.

“It is disheartening, demoralizing,” said Wifredo A. Ferrer, a former United States attorney for the Southern District of Florida, speaking generally about presidential commutations in Medicare fraud cases. “We are doing these cases to control health care costs and save lives and make sure legitimate health care centers don’t have to compete with the crooks.”

White House Advisor Mercedes Schlapp and her husband, prominent attorney and Trump defender Matt Schlapp flank U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh

White House Advisor Mercedes Schlapp and her husband, prominent Trump ally Matt Schlapp flank U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Axios, Trump ally Matt Schlapp got $750k in unsuccessful pardon push, Lachlan Markay, Jan 22, 2021. The lobbying firm run by Trump ally Matt Schlapp brought in $750,000 in the final two weeks of 2020 from a former top Trump fundraiser and convicted fraudster who retained Schlapp to lobby — unsuccessfully — for a presidential pardon.

Why it matters: The substantial sum that the former fundraiser, Georgia's Parker "Pete" Petit, paid to Schlapp's Cove Strategies shows how valuable connections to Donald Trump were in his final days in office for wealthy felons seeking clemency from the outgoing president.

What's new: Lobbying disclosure records filed on Thursday said Schlapp, a close informal Trump adviser, worked on a "request for a pardon and other public policy issues relating to criminal justice."

The disclosure filing, which covered the last two weeks of 2020, said that Schlapp had contacted just one government office on Petit's behalf: the Executive Office of the President.
Petit was not on the list of the nearly 150 pardons and commutations that the White House released during Trump's final days in office.
Schlapp didn't respond to inquiries about the other policy work he reported performing on the account.

The backstory: Petit, a former Atlanta health care executive, co-chaired the Trump campaign's 2016 fundraising operation in Georgia.

A federal court convicted him of securities fraud in November. The charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Be smart: A host of federal convicts retained lobbyists to try to win clemency from Trump in his final days. But even the most lucrative lobbying contracts didn't guarantee success.

Jan. 20

julian assange screenshot arrest (Ruptly)

London police arresting the bearded WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (screenshot from Ruptly video).

Information Clearing House, No Pardons For Edward Snowden Or Julian Assange, Kevin Gosztola, Jan. 20, 2021. Although several long shot campaigns were mounted, President Donald Trump did not pardon any whistleblowers who were indicted or prosecuted under the United States Espionage Act. He also declined to pardon the only journalist ever to be indicted under the World War I-era law.

djt on wikileaksWikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, right, were not offered clemency because Trump "did not want to anger Senate Republicans who will soon determine whether he's convicted during his Senate trial."

"Multiple GOP lawmakers had sent messages through aides that they felt strongly about not granting clemency to Assange or Snowden," according to CNN.

NSA whistleblower Reality Winner, who was the first to be prosecuted under the Espionage Act under Trump, and former CIA officer John Kiriakou pursued pardons. They were effectively denied as well.

wikileaks logo2On January 17, the New York Times reported that an associate of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani told Kiriakou a pardon would cost him $2 million.

"I laughed. Two million bucks—are you out of your mind?" Kiriakou told the Times. "Even if I had two million bucks, I wouldn't spend it to recover a $700,000 pension."

The report exposed a sliver of the corruption around pardons in the final days of the Trump presidency, as "several people with connections" to Trump apparently "accepted large sums of money" in return for clemency.

Kiriakou, right, said Trump was not the only president in history to encourage this kind of behavior. "Certainly, Bill Clinton did at the end of his administration well. john kiriakouBut this just highlights how the pardon process in the United States is broken."

Throughout the past three months, prominent supporters of Assange, like Pamela Anderson and Glenn Greenwald, were frequent guests on Fox News during primetime in order to communicate the case for a pardon directly to Trump.

A few Republicans in Congress, like Senator Rand Paul and Representative Matt Gaetz, crafted a partisan pitch for pardoning Snowden that went something like Democratic allies, such as former director of national intelligence James Clapper, persecuted him.

“He revealed that James Clapper, the highest-ranking, most powerful spy in the world, was spying on Americans and lied to us about it,” Paul declared. “So I think what Snowden, right, did was a service to the American people and he ought to be pardoned.”

Edward SnowdenBut Snowden did not have millions of dollars to pay off Trump nor was he ever going to do Trump any political favors.

Snowden responded, "Reports that Trump has let himself be bullied out of pardoning Assange, mistakenly believing Senate Republicans won't vote to impeach him if he caves. Once he's out of power, they're going to vote to impeach him anyway. Which, well—that's one way to be remembered."

"Trump will either be remembered as the first president since JFK, who from his first to last day in office was hated by the NSA, CIA, and FBI, or as the one who caved to pressure at the very last moment," Snowden further suggested.

He constantly bashed the "deep state" during his campaign and presidency, but whenever he needed to challenge national security institutions and stand up to their apparatchiks in the Republican Party, he showed there was nothing behind it.

"[The rhetoric] ended up not really serving anybody," Kiriakou contended.

Which is not to say the pardon campaigns by Assange, Snowden, Winner, Kiriakou, and others were a waste of time. Nobody would have predicted President Barack Obama would commute U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning's sentence in 2017 during the final days of his administration.

Assange, who was indicted under Trump, will remain in Belmarsh, a high-security prison in London where COVID-19 has recently spread through his unit. reality winner mug CustomThe Biden Justice Department is expected to pursue an appeal of a British court’s decision to deny the U.S. government's extradition request against Assange.

With a newborn, Snowden and his wife, Lindsay Mills, will remain in Moscow. They will live in exile at least until Snowden can return and defend his whistleblowing acts in a courtroom in the Eastern District of Virginia. (Significant reform is necessary for that to happen.)

Winner, shown at right in prison garb, will be able to leave Federal Medical Center Carswell and go to a halfway house as early as November 2021. However, she also must worry about COVID-19 outbreaks at Carswell.

Because Kiriakou completed his sentence several years ago, his circumstances are far less dire. He still would like to reclaim his pension.

In the end, a president who built up a brand of standing up to the so-called swamp did not want to take any heat for pardoning individuals loathed by the very establishment that despises him. He was spineless and weak.

Trump risked a scandal over pardons for his son-in-law or any one of his cronies. He was not willing to take the same risk for Assange, Snowden, or Kiriakou.

"No president wants to really be involved in a controversy. Donald Trump [was] no different," Kiriakou concluded.

Jan. 19

Below, National Guardsman arrive and then rest in a Senate building on their first evening of deployment to protect the Capitol against pro-Trump mobs.

Top Headlines

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 capitol national guard

 

Top Stories

djt i dont take responsibility at all

President Trump in remarks on the coronavirus last May.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Year of Coronavirus Devastation: How the U.S. Ensured Its Own Failure, Sarah Mervosh, Mike Baker, Patricia Mazzei and Mark Walker, Jan. 19, 2021 (print ed.). The Trump administration largely delegated responsibility for controlling the virus and reopening the economy to governors, fracturing the U.S. response. As the country hurtles toward 400,000 deaths, interviews with more than 100 health, political and community leaders offer a picture of what went wrong.

The path to beating the coronavirus was clear, but Kelley Vollmar had never felt so helpless.

As the top health official in Missouri’s Jefferson County, Ms. Vollmar knew a mandate requiring people to wear masks could help save lives. She pressed the governor’s office to issue a statewide order, and hospital leaders were making a similar push. Even the White House, at a time when President Trump was sometimes mocking people who wore masks, was privately urging the Republican governor to impose a mandate.

mike parsonStill, Gov. Mike Parson, right, resisted, and in the suburbs of St. Louis, Ms. Vollmar found herself under attack. A member of the county health board called her a liar. The sheriff announced that he would not enforce a local mandate. After anti-mask activists posted her address online, Ms. Vollmar installed a security system at her home.

“This past year, everything that we’ve done has been questioned,” said Ms. Vollmar, whose own mother, 77, died from complications of the coronavirus in December. “It feels like the Lorax from the old Dr. Seuss story: I’m here to save the trees, and nobody is listening.”

For nearly the entire pandemic, political polarization and a rejection of science have stymied the United States’ ability to control the coronavirus. That has been clearest and most damaging at the federal level, where Mr. Trump claimed that the virus would “disappear,” clashed with his top scientists and, in a pivotal failure, abdicated responsibility for a pandemic that required a national effort to defeat it, handing key decisions over to states under the assumption that they would take on the fight and get the country back to business.

But governors and local officials who were left in charge of the crisis squandered the little momentum the country had as they sidelined health experts, ignored warnings from their own advisers and, in some cases, stocked their advisory committees with more business representatives than doctors.

washington post logoWashington Post, Most Americans say pandemic is out of control, despite Trump’s assertions, Post-ABC poll finds, Amy Goldstein and Emily Guskin, Jan. 19, 2021. As President Trump is leaving office, just over 1 in 10 Americans say the coronavirus pandemic in the United States is mostly under control, despite the departing president’s assertions that record case levels are exaggerations, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The nationwide survey shows that large majorities of people of all political affiliations say they think the deadly virus, which arrived in the country nearly a year ago, is only somewhat under control or not at all controlled.

About 1 in 5 Republicans say they think the pandemic is at least mostly under control, with fewer than 1 in 20 regarding it as completely controlled, the survey finds. Democrats are more than twice as likely as those identifying with the GOP to say they perceive the virus as not at all under control.

Overall, the survey also shows interest among a majority of Americans in getting a coronavirus inoculation now that the government is allowing two manufacturers’ vaccines for emergency use. Forty percent say they definitely will get a shot once it becomes available to them and another 23 percent say they probably will. Still, partisan differences exist on vaccine attitudes, too, with about half of Democrats saying they definitely will get vaccinated, compared with about one-quarter of Republicans.

washington post logolloyd austin resized uniform fileWashington Post, Transition Live Updates: Senate holding five confirmation hearings ahead of inauguration, John Wagner, Jan. 19, 2021. At confirmation hearing for Haines, Sen. Rubio focuses on threat from rising China; Sen. Warner takes aim at Trump’s attacks on intelligence us senate logoagencies; Sen. Portman revisits past criticism of Mayorkas at start of Homeland nominee’s confirmation hearing; America doesn’t need inaugural balls. But there’s something lost when they disappear.

Confirmation hearings are being held Tuesday for Avril Haines as director of national intelligence, Alejandro Mayorkas as homeland security secretary, Antony Blinken as secretary of state, Janet L. Yellen as treasury secretary and Lloyd J. Austin III, above right, as defense secretary.

washington post logoWashington Post, Yellen to urge lawmakers to ‘act big’ on stimulus relief at Senate confirmation hearing, Erica Werner and Jeff Stein, Jan. 19, 2021. Janet Yellen, President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for treasury secretary, urged lawmakers Tuesday to “act big" on economic relief for the coronavirus pandemic as she appeared before a Senate committee for her confirmation hearing.

janet yellen o“I think there is a consensus now: Without further action, we risk a longer, more painful recession now — and long-term scarring of the economy later,” Yellen, right, said in written testimony submitted to the Senate Finance Committee ahead of the hearing.

She faced immediate pushback from Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), who used his opening statement to slam the Biden relief plan as a “laundry list of liberal structural economic reforms” that would not be appropriate to enact.

Yellen, 74, spent years as a professor before entering politics as head of President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers in the late 1990s. She chaired the Federal Reserve from 2014 to 2018, playing a key role in the economic recovery from the Great Recession with a studied approach that helped push down the unemployment rate over time. President Trump broke with tradition when he opted not to reappoint her to the top Fed job.

She was the first woman to chair the Fed and will become the first female treasury secretary if confirmed by the Senate. She would replace Trump’s treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin.

ny times logoNew York Times, McConnell, Weighing Impeachment, Says Capitol Mob Was ‘Provoked’ by Trump, Nicholas Fandos, Jan. 19, 2021. Senator Mitch McConnell said the mob that stormed the Capitol “was fed lies,” referring to attempts by President Trump to overturn the election based on bogus claims of voter fraud. The president is expected to issue dozens of pardons.

mitch mcconnellSenator Mitch McConnell, right, the Republican leader, said on Tuesday that the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 had been “provoked by the president and other powerful people,” stating publicly for the first time that he holds President Trump at least partly responsible for the assault.

“The mob was fed lies,” Mr. McConnell said, referring to attempts by Mr. Trump to overturn the election based on bogus claims of voter fraud. “They were provoked by the president and other powerful people. And they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government which they did not like.”

Mr. McConnell made the remarks on his last full day as majority leader, speaking on the eve of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s inauguration and as the Senate was bracing to receive a single article of impeachment from the House charging Mr. Trump with “incitement of insurrection.”

The Kentucky Republican has indicated privately that he believes that Mr. Trump committed impeachable offenses, but he has said he has yet to decide whether to vote to convict the president, and many senators in his party are awaiting a sign from Mr. McConnell before making their own judgments. It would take 17 Republicans joining all 50 Democrats to find the president guilty, which would allow the Senate to hold a second vote to disqualify Mr. Trump from public office in the future.

Mr. McConnell’s remarks came hours before he was set to meet face to face with his Democratic counterpart, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, to work out a set of rules for the trial and the coming Senate session, when the chamber will be split 50-50 between the parties. Democrats will hold control because Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will have the power to break Senate ties, but Mr. Schumer will need at least some cooperation from Mr. McConnell to run the chamber and get things done.

Sen. Josh Hawley, a first-term Missouri Republican, gives a fist salute to the pro-Trump mob outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 (photo by Francis Chung).

Sen. Josh Hawley, a first-term Missouri Republican, gives a fist salute to the pro-Trump mob outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 (photo by Francis Chung).

washington post logoWashington Post, Lawmakers who objected to election results have been cut off from 20 of their 30 biggest corporate PAC donors, Douglas MacMillan and
Jena McGregor, Jan. 19, 2021. U.S. executives continue to grapple with political bloodshed and its ripple effects on the corporate landscape.

djt biden resized smilesThe 147 Republican lawmakers who opposed certification of the presidential election this month have lost the support of many of their largest corporate backers — but not all of them.

The Washington Post contacted the 30 companies that gave the most money to election-objecting lawmakers’ campaigns through political action committees. Two-thirds, or 20 of the firms, said they have pledged to suspend some or all payments from their PACs.

Meanwhile, nine companies said only that they would review their political giving or did not commit to take any action as a result of this month’s events. One other top donor did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

American FlagThe split between company responses shows how U.S. executives are still grappling with the recent political bloodshed and its ripple effects across the corporate landscape. The attempted insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6 led to calls for companies and wealthy donors to disavow support for lawmakers who continue to propagate dangerous myths about the election and has prompted a broader rethinking of the role of PAC giving among the nation’s top companies.

The 30 corporate PACs that donated the most money to the 147 election objectors gave them a total of $36 million from 2015 to 2020, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks campaign finance and lobbying records. Of that amount, nearly att logo$26 million came from companies that now say they have suspended donations. About $10 million came from companies that have not committed to any changes to PAC contributions.

comcast logoSome of the strongest repudiations of the Republican lawmakers came from AT&T, Comcast, Honeywell, PricewaterhouseCoopers, General Electric, KPMG and Verizon. These firms all said they would suspend donations to members of Congress who voted against certifying Joe Biden as president.

 pentagon dc skyline dod photo

ny times logoNew York Times, Pentagon Accelerates Efforts to Root Out Far-Right Extremism in the Ranks, Eric Schmitt, Jennifer Steinhauer and Helene Cooper, Jan. 19, 2021 (print ed.). The examination is a change of direction for the Pentagon after the F.B.I. identified at least six suspects with military links involved in the Capitol siege. Federal officials are also vetting thousands of National Guard troops arriving in Washington to help secure the inauguration.

The Pentagon is intensifying efforts to identify and combat white supremacy and other far-right extremism in its ranks as federal investigators seek to determine how many military personnel and veterans joined the violent assault on the Capitol.

Department of Defense SealIn the days since a pro-Trump mob breached the Capitol on Jan. 6, senior leaders of the 2.1 million active-duty and reserve troops have been grappling with fears that former or current service members will be found among the horde.

The F.B.I. investigation into the Capitol siege, still in its very early stages, has identified at least six suspects with military links out of the more than 100 people who have been taken into federal custody or the larger number still under investigation. They include a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel from Texas, an Army officer from North Carolina and an Army reservist from New Jersey. Another person with military service was shot and killed in the assault.

The military’s examination of its ranks marks a new urgency for the Pentagon, which has a history of downplaying the rise of white nationalism and right-wing activism, even as Germany and other countries are finding a deep strain embedded in their armed forces.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Trump administration bailed out prominent anti-vaccine groups during a pandemic, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Aaron Gregg, Jan. 18, 2021. Five groups got more than $850,000 in PPP loans to help small businesses through the pandemic.

Five prominent anti-vaccine organizations that have been known to spread misleading information about the coronavirus received more than $850,000 in loans from the federal Paycheck Protection Program, raising questions about why the government is giving money to groups actively opposing its agenda and seeking to undermine public health during a critical period.

Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)The groups that received the loans are The National Vaccine Information Center, Mercola Com Health Resources LLC, Informed Consent Action Network, Children’s Health Defense Co., and the Tenpenny Integrative Medical Center, according to the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a U.K.-based advocacy group that fights misinformation, which conducted the research using public documents. The group relied on data released in early December by the Small Business Administration in response to a lawsuit from The Washington Post and other news organizations.

Several of the Facebook pages of these organizations have by penalized by the social network, including being prohibited from buying advertising, for pushing misinformation about covid-19.

Vaccines are largely considered safe and effective, and clinical trials for both Moderna and Pfizer vaccines did not raise serious safety concerns. But many Americans hold skeptical attitudes about vaccination, attitudes public health experts have said are attributable in part to misinformation. Nearly 40% of Americans say they definitely or probably would not get the vaccine, according to a December survey by Pew Research Center. Certain groups, including Republicans and Black Americans, are even more skeptical, Pew found.

 

U.S. Transfer of Power

mike lindell screengrab

washington post logoWashington Post, Dominion Voting threatens MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell with lawsuit over ‘false and conspiratorial’ claims, Hannah Knowles and Emma Brown, Jan. 19, 2021 (print ed.). The election technology company has warned Lindell, a major Republican donor who promoted baseless claims of a rigged vote, of “imminent” litigation.

Lawyers for election technology company Dominion Voting Systems have warned prominent Trump ally and MyPillow chief executive Mike Lindell of “imminent” litigation over “false and conspiratorial” claims that the firm somehow rigged the 2020 election against President Trump, demanding in letters late last year and this month that Lindell make a public apology.

dominion voting systemsMore than 150 people — including Kelli Ward, the staunchly pro-Trump chair of the Arizona GOP — were sent cease-and-desist notices and warnings to preserve documents in a recent wave of letters to those who provided affidavits in election lawsuits, according to Hamilton Place Strategies, a communications firm representing Dominion that shared copies of letters and a list of recipients Monday. Dominion also sent a follow-up retraction demand to Rudolph W. Giuliani, the Trump lawyer at the forefront of the president’s fruitless efforts to overturn the election in court.

Lindell, a major Republican donor who has touted his relationship with the president, has made frequent appearances on right-wing media to promote baseless claims — rejected by court after court — of a rigged election. Last week, The Washington Post’s Jabin Botsford photographed parts of notes Lindell carried as he went to meet with Trump, capturing phrases such as “election issues” and “martial law if necessary.” He told The Post that the notes were written by a lawyer that he refused to identify.

Lindell said on Monday that he welcomes a lawsuit. “Could they do it tomorrow? Could they do it today?” he told a reporter. Almost shouting over the phone, he suggested a lawsuit would help him show “the American people” the evidence supporting his claims, but shared only a copy of a post alleging foreign hacking that appears to no longer be online.

 

Capitol Riot Fallout

 capitol peter stager

In one scene from the Capitol riot, an Arkansas man, Peter Francis Stager (shown at center in a screengrab, the man with a beard and holding a flag), was arrested last week on charges of beating a Capitol Hill policeman being stomped by the mob.

washington post logoWashington Post, Texas man at Capitol riot allegedly threatened to kill his kids if they turned him in: ‘Traitors get shot,’ Jaclyn Peiser, Jan. 19, 2021. Two days after Guy Reffitt joined the rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, federal officials said, he returned home to Wylie, Tex., and proudly told his family of his escapade. But by Jan. 11, when Reffitt learned the FBI was on to him, he changed his tune, according to an affidavit.

“If you turn me in, you’re a traitor and you know what happens to traitors … traitors get shot,” Reffitt, 48, said to his son and daughter, according to his wife, who recounted the conversation to the FBI, which did not name the relatives.

FBI logoOn Saturday, the FBI caught up to him. Reffitt, an oil worker with ties to self-styled militia and right-wing extremist groups, was arrested and charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly threatening his family and unlawful entry into the Capitol.

Reffitt is one of more than 100 individuals who have been charged with breaching the Capitol earlier this month. In recent days, the FBI has arrested several with alleged connections to extremist groups, signaling the investigation into the violence at the Capitol is homing in on people who were more prepared, organized and encouraged violence, The Washington Post reported.

Robert Gieswein, a 24-year-old charged on Saturday with assaulting police, civil disorder and obstruction of police and government, is allegedly linked to three extremist groups: the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and Three Percenters. Jessica Watkins, a 38-year-old bartender and Army veteran who was arrested on Saturday, founded the “Ohio State Regular Militia,” a unit of the Oath Keepers, the FBI said.

Reffitt’s wife told federal agents that her husband is also a member of the Three Percenters, a right-wing movement founded on the false belief that only 3 percent of colonists fought the British during the Revolutionary War.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The numbers are in on Trump’s removal from Twitter, Patricia Lee, Jan. 19, 2021. The Washington Post recently indicated a massive drop twitter bird Customin misinformation on Social Media since the termination of Donald Trumps social media accounts. According to research firm Zignal Labs the number of tweets discussing election fraud after his account loss dropped 73%.

bill palmer report logo headerBut did one man post 73% of all misinformation? No. What dropped was tweets discussing election fraud, not Trump tweets. We need to know how Twitter works to harness its power; as it stands Democrats (you, me, all of us) are responsible for a large part of disseminating misinformation. How? Easy.

When you “LIKE” tweets, you give them relevance. When you “SHARE” tweets, you give them heightened relevance. When you “COMMENT” on tweets, you give them yet more relevance.

donald trump twitterWhen you “SHARE and COMMENT” you commit the ultimate in moving info up the ladder.

The worst news agencies base success on pissing you off to get a reaction, and when you give them one, they make more lures just like those that worked before, including Trump coverage. Eyeballs sell ads and any reaction is proof of eyeballs.

That’s it. That’s how it works. If it gets no reaction it gets no repeat.

Algorithm doesn’t care why you commented, shared or liked; it just knows you did. Republicans play this game well; they use us to get their word out.
Bonus for the bad guys? It keeps anything the Democrats have to say well buried too.

It’s tempting to react, but the way to keep Republicans out of the news cycle is never share or answer to any GOP crap that news agencies post. Because of that 73% in misinformation, we were responsible for disseminating a shameful portion of it.

The only ineffective tweet is an ignored one. Related story: Daily Beast, Twitter Deletes 70,000+ QAnon Accounts in Post-Trump Clean-Up, Jamie Ross, Jan. 12, 2021.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. files conspiracy charge against Oath Keeper leader in alleged plot against the Capitol, Spencer S. Hsu and Devlin Barrett, Jan. 19, 2021. U.S. authorities have leveled the first conspiracy charge against an apparent leader of an extremist group in the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol, arresting an alleged Oath Keeper who is accused of plotting to disrupt the electoral vote confirmation of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory and proposing further assaults on state capitols.

Thomas Edward Caldwell, 65, of Clarke County, Va., was taken into custody before 7 a.m. on four federal counts, including conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States in the attack on the Capitol. The conspiracy charge is reserved for offenses interfering with or obstructing the lawful operation of government.

A charging affidavit says he helped organize a group of eight to 10 individuals, including self-styled Ohio militia members apprehended Sunday, who wore helmets and military-style gear and were seen moving purposefully toward the top of the Capitol steps and leading the move against police lines.

Caldwell sent the message, the affidavit said, to Jessica Watkins, a 38-year-old U.S. Army veteran who was arrested late Sunday. Federal authorities accused her of breaching the Capitol with other members of the “Ohio State Regular Militia,” a group she founded in 2019.

Caldwell’s arrest comes as the Justice Department has charged more than 100 people in the two weeks following the riot. This weekend the FBI arrested several people with alleged ties to the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys and Three Percenters, which charging documents suggest were among the more prepared, organized and determined groups in the larger mass of rioters.

washington post logoWashington Post, FBI moves on alleged members of extremist groups Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, Devlin Barrett and Spencer S. Hsu, Jan. 19, 2021 (print ed.). Trump supporter arrested near Capitol for carrying gun; woman charged with impersonating police.

A heavy-metal guitarist, the alleged leader of a Colorado paramilitary training group and two self-styled militia members from Ohio have been charged with taking part in the riot at the Capitol last week, as the FBI ratchets up its investigation into the role extremist groups played in storming the building.

FBI logoJon Schaffer, an Indiana musician, turned himself in to the FBI on Sunday afternoon, officials said. On Jan. 6, Schaffer was photographed inside the Capitol, wearing a hat that said “Oath Keepers Lifetime Member.” Schaffer founded Iced Earth, a heavy-metal band, and music fans quickly recognized him as the FBI circulated wanted posters with his face on them.

Schaffer was charged with six counts, including engaging in an act of physical violence. Authorities said Schaffer was among the rioters who targeted U.S. Capitol Police with bear spray.

Also charged in a court filing made public Sunday was Robert Gieswein, 24, of Cripple Creek, Colo. Court papers say that Gieswein is affiliated with an Oath Keepers-related extremist group called the Three Percenters, and that he assaulted federal officers outside the Capitol with bear spray and a baseball bat; “encouraged other rioters as they broke a window of the Capitol building; entered … and then charged through the Capitol building.”

Gieswein runs a private paramilitary training group called the Woodland Wild Dogs, and a patch for that group was visible on a tactical vest he wore during the attack on Congress, an FBI affidavit said.

Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: Libertarian terrorism, Wayne Madsen, below left, Jan. 19, 2021. The temporary seizure of the U.S. Capitol by far-right supporters of Donald wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallTrump should serve as the political death knell for the libertarian ideological base of "Trumpism."

wayne madesen report logoLibertarians have never achieved serious political rule mainly because they and their philosophy cannot exist in the real world of governance.

The Libertarian Party represents nothing more than parlor room discourse by political party rejects. Libertarians have only achieved political power by nesting themselves inside established political parties having a record of electoral success and governance. This has been the case with Donald Trump, Newt Gingrich, Rand Paul, and Paul's father, Ron Paul, the latter running for President on the Libertarian Party ticket in 1988 before becoming a Republican and being elected to the U.S. House.

Political lunatics like Grover Norquist, who wants to shrink the size of government to where it can be drowned in a bathtub, and Steve Bannon, who advocates beheading government officials and putting their heads on pikes at the White House gates, have no place in serious matters of governance and legislating.

klete keller fbi photo

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘I Let You Down’: Klete Keller’s Path From Olympics to Capitol Riot, Karen Crouse, Jan. 19, 2021 (print ed.). Jan. 6 wasn’t Keller’s first election protest in Washington. But as he makes tearful apologies and faces federal charges, even his closest confidants aren’t sure why he was there at all.

Of the dozens of people now facing charges and possible prison sentences for invading the Capitol, only a handful have drawn more attention than Klete Keller (shown above, center), a three-time Olympian who won two gold medals as a relay teammate of Michael Phelps.

Yet within days after he was spotted in videos of the pro-Trump crowds that assaulted the Capitol, friends and former teammates of Keller, 38, turned him in to the F.B.I. Strangers demanded that he go to prison. And prominent voices called for him to be stripped of his Olympic medals.

To those who know Keller best, it was nothing less than bizarre to see a man who had once stood atop an Olympic medals podium with his hand over his heart during the national anthem — the personification, in that moment, of American greatness and success — acting as a part of a mob bent on disrupting the United States’ democracy. But they could not say they were surprised.

ny times logoNew York Times, Pennsylvania woman accused of taking Nancy Pelosi’s laptop turns herself in to the police, Katie Benner, Jan. 19, 2021 (print ed.). Riley June Williams, a Pennsylvania woman accused by federal law enforcement of taking a laptop from the office of Speaker Nancy Pelosi during the assault on the Capitol this month, turned herself in to the local police on Monday.

riley june williamsMs. Williams, 22, right, was seen on video taking “a laptop computer or hard drive” from the office of Ms. Pelosi, Democrat of California, according to a complaint filed by the Justice Department on Sunday. The authorities accused her of unlawful entry, disrupting the conduct of government business and disorderly conduct.

A former boyfriend of Ms. Williams contacted the F.B.I. to identify her in videos recorded during the attack. According to the court filing, he told the F.B.I. that she had intended to sell the laptop to a friend in Russia, who hoped to sell it to Russia’s foreign intelligence service. He also told the F.B.I. that the sale had fallen through.

Michael R. Sherwin, the U.S. attorney in Washington, has said that the break-in posed a national security risk because rioters had stolen computers, hard drives and files from the offices of lawmakers.

Ms. Williams can also be seen on video directing crowds up a staircase inside the Capitol, yelling, “Upstairs, upstairs, upstairs,” according to the court filing.

Local law enforcement agents in Harrisburg, Pa., told the F.B.I. that Ms. Williams’s father had told them he drove with her to Washington to protest the election results, and that they returned to Pennsylvania together after splitting up during the day.

Her mother told local law enforcement officers that she had since fled, and the police discovered that after the attack she had changed her telephone number and deleted what seemed to be her social media accounts, the F.B.I. said in the court filing.

ali akbar alexander stop the steal

Legal Schnauzer, Opinion: Stop the Steal leader Ali (Akbar) Alexander ratchets up violent images in his rhetoric, speaking of stabbing "motherfu--ers" and making life hell for adversaries, Roger Shuler, Jan. 19, 2021. Is Ali (Akbar) Alexander (shown above), who has been in hiding since organizing the protest that turned into an assault on the U.S. Capitol, a warped and dangerous guy?

A video he reportedly released on Jan. 10 (see above) should erase any doubts. Reports Roger Sollenberger at Salon, under the headline "Stop the Steal denied inciting violence: Now its leader wants to "bring hell" to his enemies: 'I pray that I'm the tool to stab these motherf**kers,'" Ali Alexander says in a new video:

In the aftermath of the [Jan. 6] attack on Congress, Ali Alexander, chief organizer of the "Stop the Steal" election conspiracy movement, rejected any blame for the unprecedented political violence that flowed naturally from his event in Washington.

"I didn't incite anything," Alexander claimed in a video shared to Twitter. "I didn't do anything."

Hours after the riot, Alexander said bluntly: "I do not denounce this."

It's a common refrain for Alexander, a convicted felon who shed his given name Ali Akbar years ago while trying to establish himself as a Muslim face in Tea Party circles.

For the last two months, since the election, Alexander has popped up at "Stop the Steal" rallies around the country, peddling lies and conspiracy theories and telling people he was prepared to die for the cause — denying that he endorsed violence while walking his rally crowds right up to the edge of insurrection. But two days after he shrugged off allegations that he played a central role in the unprecedented political crime last week, with authorities apparently on his trail and his Twitter account suspended, Alexander live-streamed his open embrace and endorsement of political violence.

"Rest assured in this," he says at one point in the 24-minute monologue. "The lord says vengeance is his, and I pray that I am the tool to stab these motherfuckers."

Alexander then descends into otherworldly babble:

At another point in the video — which Alexander appears to have streamed sitting under a dome light in a vehicle moving through the night — the self-styled provocateur, who trades on his association with larger-than-life right-wing personalities such as Alex Jones and Roger Stone, teases viewers that the next step will be violent on a biblical scale.

"When I do unleash the plan, I will unleash ..." Alexander says, then closes his mouth and stares at the camera for seven seconds. He continues: "I will unleash a legion of angels to bring hell to my enemies."

(Alexander often sews talk of "hexes" and mystical beings and QAnon and other fantasy lore into his rambling sermons. At one point in Sunday's video he plunged into the QAnon universe: "The nation is imperiled. They are trying to rape your children. They are closing our churches and keeping us from the sacrament so that they can open a gateway to hell.")

Does anyone have a clue what that means? There is no doubting the use of violent imagery.

The open invocation of violence marks a clear shift from just two days prior, when the co-founder of the original "Stop the Steal" movement pushed back on the firestorm of blame, saying he would not "take an iota of blame that does not belong to me." But while Alexander moves about freely, some of his mo brooks oconnections at the federal level do not have that luxury — such as Republican congressmen Mo Brooks of Alabama and Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar, left, both of Arizona, who Alexander has said collaborated with some of his efforts in Washington.

"We four schemed up putting maximum pressure on Congress while they were voting," Alexander said in a video posted before the riot.

paul gosarAlexander did an interview with Alex Jones, spouting open threats as authorities across the country pour resources into bringing Capitol attackers to justice and heading off what some people believe is an inevitable second attack.

Officials across the government are still reeling from the catastrophic security failure to assess and prepare for the event, widely publicized on social media, where scores of domestic terrorists came tactically equipped to take hostages, fight riot police and hunt down elected officials. Some of the invaders chanted "Hang Mike Pence" while a noose swung from a makeshift gallows outside one of the world's iconic symbols of democracy.

Now law enforcement is racing against those same groups as they settle on the next target, with President-elect Joe Biden's Inauguration on Jan. 20 being a top choice: "That is the next date on the calendar that the Pro-Trump and other nationalist crowds will potentially converge on the Capitol again," read one message posted to a white supremacist Telegram channel, according to The Washington Post.

What could lie ahead? That question is, and should be, unsettling:

To avoid repeating the Jan. 6 disaster, in which five people were killed, including two Capitol Police officers — one from injuries at the scene and another taking his own life days later — Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy has said that the military will surround the Capitol with unscalable fencing. Upwards of 6,000 National Guard troops are also deploying to help secure the city ahead of the inauguration.

Twitter has also taken precautions, purging bots and accounts that peddle dangerous conspiracy theories. The company permanently suspended Alexander's account on Sunday evening, citing his influence on last week's mayhem and fears that he would use the platform to inspire and organize more violence. In Sunday night's video — which he managed to share via Twitter's broadcast app Periscope, which gave him the boot on Tuesday — Alexander framed the move among others as an act of violence.

"The fact that they keep crawling me out of here to drag my dead body through the streets is very sick and sadistic, but here we are," he said in the video.

"But I want to tell you, please share my GiveSendGo link — I need to raise that $40,000 immediately." (GiveSendGo is a Christian fundraising site that doubles as safe harbor for extremists no longer welcome on other more mainstream platforms — Alexander, for instance, has been banned from PayPal, Venmo and CashApp, but maintains a GiveSendGo. His monetized YouTube page is also still active.)

Alexander then declares that he is so committed to the cause that he will never go back to his previous life as a political consultant — unless he doesn't get that $40,000 in the next week, in which case, he says, he will disappear entirely. The money, he says, is for "security."

 

Trump Pardon Market

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Prepares Pardon Wave for Final Hours, Maggie Haberman, Kenneth P. Vogel and Dana Rubinstein, Jan. 19, 2021 (print ed.). Among those under consideration for grants of clemency are the former New York Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver and the rapper Lil Wayne.

Those under consideration include such disparate figures as Sheldon Silver, the disgraced former New York Assembly speaker, and the rapper Lil Wayne, who pleaded guilty last month to a gun charge. Rudolph W. Giuliani says he does not expect one, and Stephen K. Bannon’s chances seem to have dimmed. Mixed in among the big names, low-level drug offenders are under consideration.

 

Trump Watch

washington post logoWashington Post, Attorney Roberta Kaplan is about to make Trump’s life extremely difficult, Karen Heller, Jan. 19, 2021 (print ed.). On the other side of Donald Trump’s turbulent presidency, the lawyers are waiting.

Leaving aside his Senate impeachment trial, mounting government investigations include a civil probe by New York Attorney General Letitia James, right, a criminal letitia james o headshotprobe by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., and a federal probe by acting U.S. Attorney for D.C. Michael Sherwin that may include Trump’s role in the catastrophic storming of the U.S. Capitol this month.

But already pending for the soon-to-be South Florida retiree is a trio of lawsuits that allege defamation, fraud and more fraud — all of which are helmed by one attorney.

Roberta Kaplan’s clients include writer E. Jean Carroll, left, who filed a defamation case after Trump claimed she was “totally lying” about her e jean carrollallegation that he raped her a quarter-century ago in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room, and niece Mary L. Trump, who claims that Trump and two of his siblings deprived her of an inheritance worth millions.

“I became the go-to person to sue the president,” says Kaplan, 54, with considerable relish.

She is in many ways the ideal legal adversary to take on Trump. Kaplan is a brash and original strategist, with neither a gift for patience nor silence, a crusader for underdogs who has won almost every legal accolade imaginable. Kaplan, says New York Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in an email, “has been indispensable in the fight against the cancer of hate and division that Trump spent four years exacerbating.”

Before the presidency, Trump was often as engaged in legal tussles as he was in real estate, suing and threatening to sue his way out of financial trouble. With a return to private life, “his terror is that he will no longer be protected by the office and will have to deal with these lawsuits,” says his niece. Trump faces the prospect of spending considerable time in the role of defendant. Kaplan says she will seek to depose him in all three cases. Trump’s lawyers did not respond to requests for comment on the cases in this story.

washington post logoWashington Post, Melania Trump spends her last days in the White House focused on her future, while her husband rages about the past, Mary Jordan, Jan. 19, 2021 (print ed.). In her final days as first lady, Melania Trump has largely stayed away from the West Wing. While her husband spends his time there in anger — though aides said his dark mood has lightened since he began planning a rousing military send-off for himself — she has shown no sign of any disappointment for how the president’s era is ending.

Melania Trump Twitter photoInstead, she has been busying herself with finding a new school for Barron in Florida and working on her own farewell video message to the country, which she released Monday.

melania trump i really dont care jacket twitterSeveral people who have been in touch with Melania Trump said she is aware of the intense criticism both she and her husband have gotten since the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot, but that unlike her spouse she appears completely unfazed. They said she would have been happy to attend President-elect Joe Biden’s swearing-in ceremony, as every outgoing president and first lady have for the past 152 years.

But rather than dwell on what could have been, she focuses on what she has control over: choreographing her own exit, trying to cement her legacy as a first lady who devoted much time to renovations of the White House, and making plans to continue her “Be Best” initiative. Quietly, she has also been working with Chief Usher Timothy Harleth to facilitate the move-in of the Bidens.

 

Jan. 18

washington post logoWashington Post, Attorney Roberta Kaplan is about to make Trump’s life extremely difficult, Karen Heller, Jan. 18, 2021. On the other side of Donald Trump’s turbulent presidency, the lawyers are waiting.

Leaving aside his Senate impeachment trial, mounting government investigations include a civil probe by New York Attorney General Letitia James, right, a criminal letitia james o headshotprobe by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., and a federal probe by acting U.S. Attorney for D.C. Michael Sherwin that may include Trump’s role in the catastrophic storming of the U.S. Capitol this month.

But already pending for the soon-to-be South Florida retiree is a trio of lawsuits that allege defamation, fraud and more fraud — all of which are helmed by one attorney.

Roberta Kaplan’s clients include writer E. Jean Carroll, left, who filed a defamation case after Trump claimed she was “totally lying” about her e jean carrollallegation that he raped her a quarter-century ago in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room, and niece Mary L. Trump, who claims that Trump and two of his siblings deprived her of an inheritance worth millions.

“I became the go-to person to sue the president,” says Kaplan, 54, with considerable relish.

She is in many ways the ideal legal adversary to take on Trump. Kaplan is a brash and original strategist, with neither a gift for patience nor silence, a crusader for underdogs who has won almost every legal accolade imaginable. Kaplan, says New York Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in an email, “has been indispensable in the fight against the cancer of hate and division that Trump spent four years exacerbating.”

Before the presidency, Trump was often as engaged in legal tussles as he was in real estate, suing and threatening to sue his way out of financial trouble. With a return to private life, “his terror is that he will no longer be protected by the office and will have to deal with these lawsuits,” says his niece. Trump faces the prospect of spending considerable time in the role of defendant. Kaplan says she will seek to depose him in all three cases. Trump’s lawyers did not respond to requests for comment on the cases in this story.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Prospect of Pardons in Final Days Fuels Market to Buy Access to Trump, Michael S. Schmidt and Kenneth P. Vogel, Jan. 18, 2021 (print ed.). President Trump’s allies have collected tens of thousands of dollars — and potentially much more — from people seeking pardons. The brisk market reflects the access peddling that has defined his presidency as well as his unorthodox approach to exercising unchecked clemency powers.

As President Trump prepares to leave office in days, a lucrative market for pardons is coming to a head, with some of his allies collecting fees from wealthy felons or their associates to push the White House for clemency, according to documents and interviews with more than three dozen lobbyists and lawyers.

The brisk market for pardons reflects the access peddling that has defined Mr. Trump’s presidency as well as his unorthodox approach to exercising unchecked presidential clemency powers. Pardons and commutations are intended to show mercy to deserving recipients, but Mr. Trump has used many of them to reward personal or political allies.

The pardon lobbying heated up as it became clear that Mr. Trump had no recourse for challenging his election defeat, lobbyists and lawyers say.

john kiriakouA onetime top adviser to the Trump campaign was paid $50,000 to help seek a pardon for John Kiriakou, right, a former C.I.A. officer convicted of illegally disclosing classified information, and agreed to a $50,000 bonus if the president granted it, according to a copy of an agreement.

And Mr. Kiriakou was separately told that Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani could help him secure a pardon for $2 million. Mr. Kiriakou rejected the offer, but an associate, fearing that Mr. Giuliani was illegally selling pardons, alerted the F.B.I. Mr. Giuliani challenged this characterization.

After Mr. Trump’s impeachment for inciting his supporters before the deadly riot at the Capitol, and with Republican leaders turning on him, the pardon power remains one of the last and most likely outlets for quick unilateral action by an increasingly isolated, erratic president. He has suggested to aides he wants to take the extraordinary and unprecedented step of pardoning himself, though it was not clear whether he had broached the topic since the rampage.

Legal scholars and some pardon lawyers shudder at the prospect of such moves, as well as the specter of Mr. Trump’s friends and allies offering to pursue pardons for others in exchange for cash.

“This kind of off-books influence peddling, special-privilege system denies consideration to the hundreds of ordinary people who have obediently lined up as required by Justice Department rules, and is a basic violation of the longstanding effort to make this process at least look fair,” said Margaret Love, who ran the Justice Department’s clemency process from 1990 until 1997 as the United States pardon attorney.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s bizarre endgame, Bill Palmer, Jan. 18, 2021. With barely forty-eight hours left in his failed presidency, what is Donald Trump even doing? Surely he doesn’t know, because his endgame moves are looking more and more incoherent, pointless, and frankly just plain weird.

bill palmer report logo headerAt one point this weekend, Trump leaked that he was considering hiring Rudy Giuliani as his impeachment trial lawyer. Then at a later point this weekend, Trump had his lone remaining spokesman announce that he hadn’t yet decided on an impeachment trial lawyer. This comes after reports last week that Trump had cut off Giuliani entirely. At this point Trump appears to simply be indecisive and confused.

Trump is still installing his most inept loyal stooges in positions where they’ll surely be fired the minute President Biden takes office. What’s the strategy here? There doesn’t appear to be one. Perhaps it’s Trump’s way of trying to get them a pension or something. But there is, clearly, no master plan here.

Trump is also whining, through his spokesman, that the only reason he hasn’t done more to condemn political violence is that he’s lost his social media accounts. In reality, the one message that Trump would be able to get out on social media (and the mainstream media) would be if he did properly condemn violence. It’s all odd, and small.

Donald Trump will pardon a boatload of terrible people, many of them also named Trump, and he’ll perhaps make some last ditch grab for narcissistic attention on his way out the door. This is all shaping up to quite a stupid ending for him, even by his standards. If anything is left up his sleeve, it’s a pair of twos. Stay vigilant. Trump has lost. It’s just a matter of how he wants to finish losing.

 

Jan. 16

ny times logoNew York Times, Capitol Police Investigating Whether Lawmakers Gave Tours Before Riot, Staff reports, Jan. 16, 2021 (print ed.). The police are looking into whether members of Congress inappropriately gave visitors access. The F.B.I. is investigating 37 in a police officer’s death.Vice President Mike Pence, occupying a leadership void, called Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to offer his congratulations and assistance. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said House managers were preparing to take their impeachment charge to trial in the Senate, but offered no timeline. 

  • Josh Hawley, who led Senate efforts to overturn the election results, is being targeted by a super PAC. Here’s the latest.
  • Pence, occupying a leadership void, calls Harris to offer assistance — as Trump plans his Inauguration Day getaway.New
  • The F.B.I. is investigating 37 in the killing of a Capitol Police officer by a pro-Trump mob.New
  • Pelosi says impeachment managers are preparing for Senate trial, but declines to offer timeline.
  • Federal watchdogs open a far-reaching investigation into failures in the lead-up to the Capitol riot.
  • As Washington and several states brace for unrest, Biden reveals his vaccine and economic plans.
  • Here are the highlights of Biden’s $1.9 trillion ‘American Rescue Plan.’
  • A Republican senator from Oklahoma apologizes to Black constituents for seeking to disenfranchise them.

washington post logoWashington Post, Rioters storming Capitol came dangerously close to Pence, Ashley Parker, Carol D. Leonnig, Paul Kane and Emma Brown, Jan. 16, 2021 (print ed.). About one minute after the vice president was hustled out of the Senate chamber and into a nearby room, members of the pro-Trump mob arrived at the top of a nearby landing.

mike pence leftThe violent mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 came perilously close to Vice President Pence, left, who was not evacuated from the Senate chamber for about 14 minutes after the Capitol Police reported an initial attempted breach of the complex — enough time for the marauders to rush inside the building and approach his location, according to law enforcement officials and video footage from that day.

Secret Service officers eventually spirited Pence to a room off the Senate floor with his wife and daughter after rioters began to pour into the Capitol, many loudly denouncing the vice president as a traitor as they marched through the first floor below the Senate chamber.

About one minute after Pence was hustled out of the chamber, a group charged up the stairs to a second-floor landing in the Senate, chasing a Capitol Police officer who drew them away from the Senate.

CNN,  Fact Check: Analysis: The 15 most notable lies of Donald Trump's presidency, Daniel Dale, Jan. 16, 2021. The lies that could define Trump's legacy. Trying to pick the most notable lies from Donald Trump's presidency is like trying to pick the most notable pieces of junk from the town dump. There's just so much ugly garbage to sift through before you can make a decision.

But I'm qualified for the dirty job. I fact checked every word uttered by this President from his inauguration day in January 2017 until September 2020 -- when the daily number of lies got so unmanageably high that I had to start taking a pass on some of his remarks to preserve my health.

Trump got even worse after November 3. Since then, he has spent the final months of what has been a wildly dishonest presidency on a relentless and dangerous lying spree about the election he lost.

As the country grapples with the deadly consequences of this deception, I've selected the 15 Trump lies that stand out to me from his four years in power -- for their importance, for their egregiousness, for their absurdity, or for what they say about the man.

  • The most telling lie: It didn't rain on his inauguration
  • The most dangerous lie: The coronavirus was under control
  • The most alarming lie saga: Sharpiegate
  • The most ridiculous subject of a lie: The Boy Scouts
  • The ugliest smear lie: Rep. Ilhan Omar supports al Qaeda
  • The most boring serial lie: The trade deficit with China used to be $500 billion
  • The most entertaining lie shtick: The burly crying men who had never cried before
  • The most traditional big lie: Trump didn't know about the payment to Stormy Daniels
  • The biggest lie by omission: Trump ended family separation
  • The lie he fled: He got Veterans Choice
  • My personal favorite lie: Trump was once named Michigan's Man of the Year
  • The most depressing lie: Trump won the election

Palmer Report, Opinion: Josh Hawley’s big event just got evicted from Loews Hotels, Bill Palmer, Jan. 16, 2021. In the days since he helped incite a domestic terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol, Republican Senator Josh Hawley has ceased tweeting, and seems to be trying to keep himself out of the mainstream media – perhaps in the hope that the public will forget what he did.

But Hawley isn’t letting the attack get in the way of his desire to fundraise. He had a big fundraiser scheduled for next month at a Loews Hotel property. Not anymore. Loews (no relation to hardware store Lowe’s) just released this statement:

“We are horrified and opposed to the events at the Capitol and all who supported and incited the actions. In light of those events and for the safety of our guests and team members, we have informed the host of the Feb. fundraiser that it will no longer be held at Loews Hotels.”

They didn’t mention Josh Hawley by name, but they didn’t have to. It’s his fundraiser. He might try to host it somewhere else, but he may have trouble finding a suitable venue who wants the controversy. This comes even as numerous major corporations have cut off PAC donations to Hawley and the other House and Senate Republicans who refused to certify the Electoral College results. If Hawley keeps getting hit in the fundraising wallet, he may not be a viable candidate for reelection.

 

Jan. 15

capitol mob

washington post logoWashington Post, Rioters wanted to ‘capture and assassinate’ lawmakers, prosecutors say. Note left by ‘QAnon Shaman’ is evidence, Teo Armus, Jan. 15, 2021 (print ed.). As federal law enforcement officers sift through evidence tied to the attack on the U.S. Capitol, they have tried to determine what compelled rioters to force their way into the building. Namely, did any of them plan to kill or capture lawmakers or their staffers?

Officials now say they have found clues to that question from one of the mob’s most distinctive figures: Jacob Anthony Chansley, shown in the Capitol at center above, the shirtless, tattooed man often referred to as “QAnon Shaman,” who stood out in a headdress made of coyote skin and buffalo horns.

FBI logoIn a court filing late on Thursday, federal prosecutors in Phoenix wrote that “strong evidence, including Chansley’s own words and actions at the Capitol, supports that the intent of the Capitol rioters was to capture and assassinate elected officials in the United States government.”

The 18-page memo, which asked a judge to keep Chansley detained before his trial, said the 33-year-old Arizona man left an ominous note for Vice President Pence at his desk in the Senate chamber: “It’s only a matter of time, justice is coming.”

Pence and his family had just ducked into a hideaway less than 100 feet from that landing, according to three people familiar with his whereabouts, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation. If the pro-Trump mob had arrived seconds earlier, the attackers would have been in eyesight of the vice president as he was rushed across a reception hall into the office.

washington post logoWashington Post, Far-right groups make plans for protests and assaults before and after Inauguration Day, Shane Harris, Souad Mekhennet and Razzan Nakhlawi, Jan. 15, 2021 (print ed.). President Trump’s incitement of his supporters before their attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6 has galvanized a nationwide extremist movement and fueled those determined to disrupt the transfer of power to President-elect Joe Biden and violently challenge the legitimacy of the election for months — and possibly years, according to U.S. officials and independent experts.

U.S. officials have warned authorities nationwide to be on alert for potential acts of violence at state capitols, as well as a possible second attack on the Capitol or on the White House. Law enforcement authorities have said extremists might use firearms and explosives and are monitoring online calls to rally in cities nationwide beginning Sunday. Security at the inaugural ceremony in Washington on Wednesday probably will be the most intense ever.

At the center of the amorphous but increasingly motivated extremist movement sits the current president, now twice impeached, deprived of his social media megaphones but still exerting a powerful influence over his followers who take his baseless claims of election fraud as an article of faith.

washington post logoWashington Post, Poll finds clear opposition to riot, support to bar Trump from serving again, Scott Clement, Emily Guskin and Dan Balz, Jan. 15, 2021 (print ed.). The vast majority of Americans say they oppose the actions of the rioters who stormed and ransacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, while smaller majorities say President Trump bears responsibility for the attack and that he should be removed from office and disqualified from serving again, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

djt hands up mouth open CustomEven as the findings are sharply partisan, over half of Americans — and 1 in 8 Republicans — say Trump should be criminally charged for his role in the attacks.

The president also comes in for broad criticism over his repeated and baseless assertions that the November election was rigged and tainted by widespread fraud. By a margin of more than 2 to 1, Americans say the president has acted irresponsibly in his statements and actions since the election.

Nonetheless, the president continues to enjoy strong support from Republicans, among whom a clear majority agree with his false claims about what happened in November, oppose his removal from office and believe Republican elected officials should continue to follow his lead in the future.

 

U.S. Investigative Reports

steve bannon trump

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Commentary: Foreign involvement in U.S. coup attempt a certainty, Wayne Madsen, Jan. 15, 2021. Foreign involvement in the January 6 coup attempt by pro-Trump insurrectionists who stormed and occupied the U.S. Capitol assuredly had foreign involvement and financial support based on Donald Trump's pre-coup dealings with his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, shown above left.

In the weeks prior to the failed putsch, Bannon returned to his role as Trump's adviser, according to various news reports. Bannon, who was federally-indicted last year for fraud involving a charitable organization, may have been fishing for a Trump pardon, but it is Bannon's close connections with several foreign fascist political parties and leaders, including exiled Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui, that should be raising eyebrows at the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.

Greg Palast, Insider: White House was Warned March was Illegal, Greg Palast, Jan. 15, 2021. Trump’s Call to March Broke Organizer's Promise to DC Police. Before Donald Trump exhorted the Jan. 6 rally to march on the Capitol, the White House had been warned by the rally sponsor that there was no permit for a march, that DC Metro Police were promised there would be no march, and that such an unplanned march was dangerous. (Continued below.)

mike lindell anderson cooper aug 18 2020

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump is reportedly plotting something deranged with MyPillow guy Mike Lindell, Bill Palmer, Jan. 15, 2021. There are just five days to go until Donald Trump is out of office and no longer our problem. He’s already announced his plans to leave office on the morning of January 20th, so he knows it’s over. And while Mike Pence has thus far been unwilling to do the right thing and remove Trump, he still has the 25th Amendment in his back pocket as a way of keeping Trump in line.

bill palmer report logo headerAll that said, Donald Trump met in the Oval Office today with MyPillow guy Mike Lindell (shown above in a CNN screenshot with host Anderson Cooper), and Lindell was apparently careless enough with his notes that the Washington Post was able to photograph them:

Lindell’s notes include ideas about invoking “martial law” and “emergency powers” while installing lunatics like Sidney Powell in unspecified positions, and reshuffling the CIA. To be clear, none of these things are realistically possible. This list is the kind of things Trump wishes he pull off, when in reality he’s reduced to urging random clueless idiots to storm buildings.

But this list in Lindell’s hand, and the fact that he took it to Donald Trump, means that Lindell apparently has gone full insurrectionist. At this point the Feds need to detain and question Lindell immediately. And Mike Pence should take this Trump-Lindell meeting as a sign that he needs to invoke the 25th Amendment after all.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: A pillow salesman apparently has some ideas about declaring martial law, Philip Bump, Jan. 15, 2021. The galaxy of individuals who have orbited President Trump over the past five years is not lacking for unusual characters. Few, though, have had quite the same trajectory as businessman Michael Lindell.

Lindell is the CEO of the company My Pillow, which, as you might expect, makes pillows. His company advertises heavily on Fox News, often with spots featuring Lindell himself. A major Republican donor, he participated in an event centered on manufacturing early in Trump’s administration. Since then, he’s returned to the White House regularly and has touted his close relationship with the president. That includes an effort last August to get Trump to endorse a supposed coronavirus treatment in which Lindell had a financial stake. (Trump did not do so.)

Since Trump lost the 2020 presidential election, Lindell has been a fervent champion of the utterly baseless claim that the election was somehow stolen from Trump.

At about 3 p.m., he was escorted into the West Wing. The subject of his visit? If notes Lindell was holding while he waited to enter were any indication, he wanted to discuss his thoughts on how Trump might finagle those “4 more years” Lindell had promised his Facebook followers.

The Washington Post’s Jabin Botsford captured an image of the notes Lindell was carrying with him as he went to meet with Trump. Only half of the page can be seen, but even that tells a lot.

The CEO of MyPillow has a strategy for shuffling around administration staffers to gather up the evidence of electoral fraud he thinks exists — and to use military resources in an effort to keep Trump in power, or, as he apparently puts it, to protect the Constitution.

It’s hard to characterize how bizarre and outrageous this is. From Lindell having a platform in any media to hype his allegations to his being invited into the inner sanctum of American power to apparently argue to the president or his team that there’s a path to rejecting the legitimate election of President-elect Joe Biden? There aren’t sufficient adjectives to explore how far from normal — or reality — this is.djt michael cohen disloyal

ap logoAssociated Press, NY prosecutors interview Michael Cohen about Trump finances, Jim Mustian and Michael R. Sisak, Jan. 15, 2021. New York prosecutors conducted an hourslong interview Thursday of Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney (shown above with his best-selling memoir, Disloyal), asking a range of questions about Trump’s business dealings, according to three people familiar with the meeting.

The interview focused in part on Trump’s relationship with Deutsche Bank, his biggest and longest standing creditor, according to the three people, who weren’t authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.

The interview, at least the second of Cohen by the Manhattan district attorney’s office, comes amid a long-running grand jury investigation into Trump’s business dealings. District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. has been waging a protracted legal battle to get access to the president’s tax records.

The New York investigation is one of several legal entanglements that are likely to intensify as Trump loses power — and any immunity from prosecution he might have as a sitting president — as he departs the White House.

The Manhattan-based grand jury has been continuing its work despite the coronavirus pandemic, which has curtailed many court operations.

The Republican president also faces a civil investigation, led by New York Attorney General Letitia James into whether Trump’s company lied about the value of its assets to get loans or tax benefits. Cohen also is cooperating with that inquiry., including $125 million to finance the purchase and renovation of his Doral golf resort in 2012, according to previous disclosures.

ny times logoNew York Times, Atlanta Prosecutor Appears to Move Closer to Trump Inquiry, Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim, Jan. 15, 2021. The Fulton County district attorney is weighing an inquiry into possible election interference and is said to be considering hiring an outside counsel.

georgia map 2Prosecutors in Georgia appear increasingly likely to open a criminal investigation of President Trump over his attempts to overturn the results of the state’s 2020 election, an inquiry into offenses that would be beyond his federal pardon power.

The new Fulton County district attorney, Fani Willis, is already weighing whether to proceed, and among the options she is considering is the hiring of a special assistant from outside to oversee the investigation, according to people familiar with her office’s deliberations.

At the same time, David Worley, the lone Democrat on Georgia’s five-member election board, said this week that he would ask the board to make a referral to the Fulton County district attorney by next month. Among the matters he will ask prosecutors to investigate is a phone call Mr. Trump made in which he pressured Georgia’s secretary of state to overturn the state’s election results.

Capitol Riot Fallout

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump’s Inevitable End, Michelle Goldberg, right, Jan. 15, 2021 (print ed.). Finally the world agrees that Trump is exactly the man his michelle goldberg thumbfiercest critics said he was. But has the reckoning come too late?

The House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment report quotes, at length, the speech that Donald Trump gave to his devotees on Jan. 6 before many of them stormed the Capitol, baying for execution.

“We’ve got to get rid of the weak congresspeople, the ones that aren’t any good, the Liz Cheneys of the world, we got to get rid of them,” said President Trump. He urged his minions to march down Pennsylvania Avenue to the place where Congress was meeting to certify the election he lost: “Because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong.”

liz cheney resizedA week later, Representative Cheney, right, the third-highest-ranking Republican in the House, would vote to get rid of him, joining nine of her fellow Republicans in backing impeachment. “The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” she said in a statement, adding, “There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”

Trump now becomes the first president in American history to be impeached twice. Half of all presidential impeachments since the Republic began have been impeachments of Trump. This latest impeachment is different than the first, and not just because it was bipartisan. It culminates a week in which Trump has finally faced the broad social pariahdom he’s always deserved.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘It looked like a medieval battle scene’: How battered D.C. police made a stand against the Capitol mob, Peter Hermann, Jan. 15, 2021 (print ed.). D.C. officers describe being battered by flagpoles, beaten with their own clubs and choked by bear spray as they defended the U.S. Capitol.

Blinded by smoke and choking on gas and bear spray, stripped of his radio and badge, D.C. police officer Michael Fanone and his battered colleagues fought to push back rioters trying to force their way into an entrance to the U.S. Capitol.

The officers had been at it for hours, unaware that others in the mob had already breached the building through different entrances. For them, the West Terrace doors — which open into a tunnel-like hallway allowing access to an area under the Rotunda — represented the last stand before the Capitol fell.

“Dig in!” Fanone yelled, his voice cracking, as he and others were being struck with their own clubs and shields, ripped from their hands by rioters. “We got to get these doors shut.”

An officer since 9/11, the 40-year-old Fanone, who has four daughters, had been working a crime-suppression detail in another part of the District on Jan. 6. He and his partner sped to the Capitol when dispatchers broadcast an urgent citywide emergency call.

“They were overthrowing the Capitol, the seat of democracy, and I f---ing went,” Fanone said.

ny times logoNew York Times, The F.B.I. is investigating 37 in the killing of a Capitol Police officer by a pro-Trump mob, Eileen Sullivan and Adam Goldman, Jan. 15, 2021.  The F.B.I. is investigating 37 people related to the killing of Officer Brian Sicknick, the Capitol Police officer who died after being injured during the pro-Trump riot on Jan. 6, according to an F.B.I. memo sent to the private sector and others on Friday. The Times obtained a copy of the report.

brian sicknickFBI logoMr. Sicknick, shown at right, was struck with a fire extinguisher as a violent mob flooded the halls of Congress, according to two law enforcement officials. Lawmakers hid under their desks from violent protesters after President Trump encouraged them during a rally to head to the Capitol. Mr. Sicknick died in the hospital where he was getting treatment for his injuries.

Fourteen other Capitol Police officers were injured in the mob last week, the memo said.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Trump threatens the President of the United States, Robert Harrington, right, Jan. 15, 2021. With such an embarrassment of riches from which to robert harringtnn portraitchoose, if you still want yet another insight into how broken and delusional Donald Trump is, try this latest on for size: he threatened the President of the United States. Here’s what he said: “The 25th Amendment is of zero risk to me, but will come back to haunt Joe Biden and the Biden administration. As the expression goes, be careful what you wish for.”

Let me see if I have this right. Donald Trump, who colluded with the Russians to get elected, obstructed justice at least ten times (in reality more like a hundred), violated dozens of emoluments clauses, withheld military aid to Ukraine because the President of Ukraine refused to announce an investigation into Joe Biden’s son, recently incited a vicious, destructive riot on the nation’s Capitol in which five people died, has nothing to fear from the 25th Amendment. But watch out Joseph “Wild Joe” Biden!

bill palmer report logo headerI don’t know about you, but I’m reasonably convinced that we don’t need to worry about Joe Biden doing anything sufficiently shocking or illegal to cause his cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment. But if I wanted an opinion about it, the last person I’d ask would be a twice-impeached, one-term loser like Donald Trump. Let’s just say I’m not worried that Joe Biden will try to whip his supporters into a frenzy and get them to attack a federal government building, or something.

The good news is with this second impeachment we have an actual shot at convicting this criminal monster. Such a conviction (which, if it happens at all, will almost certainly occur after he’s left office), will have many dividends. For one he could be barred from ever holding public office again. He could also lose his pension and his Secret Service detail, and, best of all, any evidence adduced during the impeachment can and will be used in a court of law. So Trump’s impeachment certainly won’t help him stay out of prison, and if ever anyone ever deserved to go to prison, it’s Donald J. Trump.

Incidentally, in case you noticed, I referred above to Joe Biden as “President of the United States.” I am not tempting fate, I’m just making an observation. Trump may be president de jure, but Biden is President de facto. Biden has begun the work — on coronavirus, on fashioning his cabinet, on unifying Americans and making policy moving forward — and for that reason Biden is the true leader of the country. Trump doesn’t come close and he never has, and even some of the Republican mollusks in the Congress and the Senate are finally coming round to that point of view. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

Greg Palast, Insider: White House was Warned March was Illegal, Greg Palast, Jan. 15, 2021. Trump’s Call to March Broke Organizer's Promise to DC Police.  (Continued from above.)

Before Donald Trump exhorted the Jan. 6 rally to march on the Capitol, the White House had been warned by the rally sponsor that there was no permit for a march, that DC Metro Police were promised there would be no march, and that such an unplanned march was dangerous.

As a result, the Metro police were stunned, undermanned and unprepared for Trump’s surprise launch of thousands of his enraged Trump supporters, some armed, on the Capitol.

“I mean, it was shocking. It’s something we advocated against doing for exactly the reasons that ended up playing themselves out,” said a high-level source inside Women for America First, the organization that held the permit for the rally. They spoke to this reporter on condition of anonymity.
Even more damning, the march Trump set in motion was led and promoted by ultra-right, violence-threatening extremist Ali Alexander, head of Stop the Steal. The Palast Investigative Team filmed Alexander, only weeks before the riot, exhorting a crowd:

“Either they take Trump …[or] we’ll light the whole sh*t on fire!”

The White House had been warned about Alexander and his dangerous plan to move on the Capitol. The leaders of Woman for America First sent several frantic, angry text messages to the White House warning that such a march was both illegal and dangerous. “When Ali was putting up things about the Capitol on the sixth, [we were] screen-shotting that, sending it to people both at Parks and at the White House, a couple of times, like ‘WTF’!,” an organizer source said.

One series of texts between the sponsors apparently sent two days before the rally reads, “Did you see that Ali’s website says we are marching at 1.” The reply: “We’ve just had to up our numbers with the NPS [National Park Service] and we can’t say anyone is marching.”

Women for America First founders Amy and Kylie Jane Kremer, who have had a well-reported feud with Alexander and Alex Jones, the far-right radio host with whom Alexander had teamed to lead the march. It is credible that the Kremers would have tried to prevent their sworn enemy from using their rally to launch a march which would leave the group on the hook for violation of their permit.

The Kremers have been feted by the president, and so has Alexander. That gave Alexander access to the front of the rally where Trump would speak. “Ali was running amok in the VIP section–it was disgusting–saying we’re going to go to the Capitol. What the f***! We’re not doing a march to the Capitol! What a terrible idea to try to move that number of people all the way to the Capitol,” the source said.

The insider claims that Woman for America First was quite worried that they had no marshals to keep the crowd in line. “We did advocate against [the march] for all kinds of reasons. So, excuse me, it’s not a big stretch to say when you have a bunch of people heading that way, it’s going to be a problem.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Abandon Trump? Deep in the Party Ranks, the MAGA Mind-Set Prevails, Lisa Lerer and Reid J. Epstein, Jan. 15, 2021 (print ed.). As President Trump prepares to exit the White House, his ideas continue to exert a gravitational pull among grass-roots Republican officials.

As Mr. Trump prepares to exit the White House and face a second impeachment trial in the Senate, his ideas continue to exert a gravitational pull in Republican circles across the country. The falsehoods, white nationalism and baseless conspiracy theories he peddled for four years have become ingrained at the grass-roots level of the party, embraced by activists, local leaders and elected officials even as a handful of Republicans in Congress break with the president in the final hour.

Interviews with more than 40 Republican state and local leaders conducted after the siege at the Capitol show that a vocal wing of the party maintains an almost-religious devotion to the president, and that these supporters don’t hold him responsible for the mob violence last week. The opposition to him emerging among some Republicans has only bolstered their support of him.

Jan. 13

Top Headlines

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: House poised to impeach Trump for ‘incitement of insurrection,’ John Wagner, Jan. 13, 2021. Democratic effort to impeach Trump a second time takes dramatic turn. A lone Black officer faced down a mob at the Capitol. Meet Eugene Goodman; Analysis: How experts define the deadly mob attack at the U.S. Capitol; Pelosi calls for Trump’s immediate removal, promotes Cheney’s support for impeachment

U.S. House logoThe House is poised to impeach President Trump for a second time as it meets Wednesday to consider an article charging him with “incitement of insurrection” for his role in last week’s takeover of the Capitol by a violent pro-Trump mob. At least several Republicans plan to support the resolution.

liz cheney resizedAn hour before the House was scheduled to convene, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) went on Twitter to call for Trump’s immediate removal and to promote the position of Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), right, the No. 3 Republican in the chamber, who supports impeachment.

“Donald Trump’s incitement of a deadly insurrection against the U.S. Capitol is without precedent in our nation’s history and an egregious violation of his oath of office," Pelosi tweeted. “Fulfilling our oath to defend our Constitution requires that we act to remove him from office immediately.”

She attached a statement made by Cheney on Tuesday saying, “The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of attack.”

 Acting District of Columbia U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin on Jan. 12, 2021 (Pool photo by Sarah Silbiger)

Acting District of Columbia U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin on Jan. 12, 2021 (Pool photo by Sarah Silbiger).

ny times logoNew York Times, Prosecutors are weighing sedition and conspiracy charges and expect to arrest ‘hundreds’ tied to Capitol riot, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Jan. 13, 2021 (print ed.). The top federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., said on Tuesday that more than 70 people tied to the Capitol riot had been charged with crimes and that he expected that number to rise into the hundreds, with prosecutors looking at charging some rioters with sedition and conspiracy.

Michael Sherwin, the acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, said at a news conference that the federal investigation was unprecedented in its scope, with the entire Capitol grounds being “essentially, a crime scene.” He cautioned that the investigations would take months or longer.

Mr. Sherwin said investigators had identified at least 170 people who they believe committed a wide range of crimes on the Capitol grounds, with brian sicknickprosecutors looking at charges ranging from trespassing to felony murder. At least four people died during the riots — some of medical emergencies — and a fifth, Brian D. Sicknick, right, a U.S. Capitol Police officer, died the next day from injuries he sustained during the mayhem.

“We’re looking at significant felony cases tied to sedition and conspiracy,” Mr. Sherwin said, adding that he had assembled a team of national security and public corruption prosecutors specifically to pursue sedition charges against people who had committed “the most heinous acts” on the Capitol grounds last week.

Justice Department log circularSteven D’Antuono, the head of the F.B.I.’s Washington Field Office, defended the agency at the news conference after reports that F.B.I. officials in Virginia had warned about a threat of violence the day before the riots. The Washington Post had reported that the warning had mentioned people sharing a map of tunnels and an online thread in which people said people should be “ready for war.”

Mr. D’Antuono indicated that the information had quickly been shared with other law enforcement agencies and he said other intelligence had led the authorities to disrupt the travel of several people who had planned to attend the rally. He also noted that Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys group known for brawling at protests, had been arrested shortly after arriving in Washington for the event.

The F.B.I. is working around the clock on the investigation, and the agency has already received 100,000 pieces of digital media, Mr. D’Antuono said. He added that agents would identify and pursue anyone who had committed a crime at the Capitol that day, even if they had left Washington.

“Agents from our local field offices will be knocking on your door,” he said.

In addition to pursuing possible charges of seditious conspiracy, which is defined as an effort by two or more people to overthrow the government or use force to hinder its operations, investigators are also prioritizing investigations into attacks against police officers, theft of confidential information from the Capitol and attacks against reporters. Related developments:

  • F.B.I. report is said to have warned of plans for violence at the Capitol.
  • House Democrats have been briefed on active security threats.
  • Chicago man charged with threatening President-elect Biden.
  • ‘The Michigan Capitol is not safe,’ the state’s attorney general warns.
  • New York City weighs ending contracts with the Trump Organization.
  • In first public appearance since the Capitol siege, Trump expresses no contrition for inciting the mob.
  • Three lawmakers have tested positive for Covid-19 in the days since the riot.
  • Schumer calls for those involved in Capitol riots to be placed on no-fly lists.

ny times logoNew York Times, Distracted by Political Crisis, U.S. Sets Record for Virus Deaths, Mike Ives and staff reports, Jan. 13, 2021. More than 4,400 people in the country died of the coronavirus on Tuesday, the day before lawmakers were set to charge President Trump with inciting last week’s violence at the Capitol.

  • Facing new outbreaks, China puts more than 22 million under lockdown.
  • Results are expected soon with Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine, though production lags.
  • Indonesia’s president receives a Chinese-made vaccine that produced disappointing trial results.
  • Japan extends a state of emergency, and other news from around the world.
  • A South Korea church leader receives a suspended prison term after virus fallout.
  • Elders’ Covid deaths create a cultural crisis for Native Americans.
  • The death of a Miami doctor who received a coronavirus vaccine is being investigated.

As America slogs through this grimmest of winters, there is no relief in the daily tabulations of coronavirus-related deaths: More than 4,400 were reported across the United States on Tuesday, according to a New York Times database, a number once unimaginable.

Yet even as Covid-19 touches thousands of families, the nation is distracted by the political crisis gripping Washington in the last days of the Trump administration.

Tuesday’s death count, which set another daily record, represented at least 1,597 more people than those killed in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The U.S. death toll, already the world’s highest by a wide margin, is now about 20,000 shy of 400,000 — only a month after the country crossed the 300,000 threshold, a figure greater than the number of Americans who died fighting in World War II.

But much of the nation’s attention is focused on the fallout from the Capitol siege, prompted in part by President Trump’s efforts to prevent Congress from certifying Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory in the November election.

ny times logoNew York Times, Pence Reached His Limit With Trump. It Wasn’t Pretty, Peter Baker, Maggie Haberman and Annie Karni, Jan. 13, 2021 (print ed.). After four years of tongue-biting silence, Vice President Mike Pence would not yield to President Trump’s intense pressure to overturn the election.

For Vice President Mike Pence, the moment of truth had arrived. After three years and 11 months of navigating the treacherous waters of President Trump’s ego, after all the tongue-biting, pride-swallowing moments where he employed strategic silence or florid flattery to stay in his boss’s good graces, there he was being cursed by the president.

Mr. Trump was enraged that Mr. Pence was refusing to try to overturn the election. In a series of meetings, the president had pressed relentlessly, alternately cajoling and browbeating him. Finally, just before Mr. Pence headed to the Capitol to oversee the electoral vote count last Wednesday, Mr. Trump called the vice president’s residence to push one last time.

“You can either go down in history as a patriot,” Mr. Trump told him, according to two people briefed on the conversation, “or you can go down in history as a pussy.”

The blowup between the nation’s two highest elected officials then played out in dramatic fashion as the president publicly excoriated the vice president at an incendiary rally and sent agitated supporters to the Capitol where they stormed the building — some of them chanting “Hang Mike Pence.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Pentagon to Arm National Guard Troops for Inauguration, Helene Cooper and Adam Goldman, Jan. 13, 2021 (print ed.).  About 15,000 members are expected to be deployed in Washington, D.C. Those stationed around the Capitol will carry weapons, officials said.

National Guard troops who are flooding into Washington to secure the Capitol for Inauguration Day will be armed, the Army secretary, Ryan McCarthy, has decided, Defense Department officials said Tuesday.

The armed troops will be responsible for security around the Capitol building complex, the officials said.

As up to 15,000 troops continued to arrive in Washington from all over the country, Defense Department officials had been weighing whether to deploy them with arms. Mr. McCarthy has decided that at the very least those around the Capitol building will carry weapons, said the officials, who confirmed the decision on the condition of anonymity.

Mr. McCarthy’s decision came after a meeting with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California. Ms. Pelosi, according to congressional staff members, demanded that the Pentagon take a more muscular posture after a mob, egged on by President Trump last week, breached the Capitol.

Pentagon officials say they are deeply worried about protests that are planned for the inauguration of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. next week. About 16 groups — some of them saying they will be armed and most of them made up of hard-line supporters of Mr. Trump — have registered to stage protests in Washington, officials said.

One Defense Department official said law enforcement agencies are planning for a range of outcomes, including a worse-case scenario in which people with firearms try to attack dignitaries, “suicide-type aircraft” try to fly into the capital’s restricted airspace and even remote-controlled drones that could be used to attack the crowd.

ny times logoNew York Times, House Votes 223-205 to Call on Pence to Strip Trump of Powers Rejection All but Ensures Impeachment Vote, Staff and wire reports, Jan. 13, 2021 (print ed.). Democrats proceeded with the resolution even after Vice President Mike Pence ruled out the option, and they warned of an impeachment vote on Wednesday. Five House Republicans said they would vote for impeachment. There had “never been a greater betrayal,” Liz Cheney said. Catch up on political news.

Lawmakers adopted a resolution that would compel Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment after President Trump incited a mob attack on the Capitol last week. In a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier in the evening, Mr. Pence rejected the effort.

ny times logoNew York Times, These are the Republicans who said they support impeaching President Trump, John Eligon, Jan. 13, 2021. As the House prepared to move forward with an impeachment proceeding, a small number of Republicans said they support the effort. The vote is set to come exactly one week after the United States Capitol was breached by an angry mob of Trump loyalists.

republican elephant logoIn 2019, not a single Republican voted in favor of impeachment. House Republican leaders have said they would not formally lobby members of the party against voting to impeach the president this time, and these are the Republicans who have said that they intend to vote for impeachment.

Representative John Katko. Representative John Katko of New York was the first Republican to publicly announce that he would back the impeachment proceedings. A former federal prosecutor, Mr. Katko said he looked at the facts of the siege, which began as lawmakers were working to certify the presidential election results.

“It cannot be ignored that President Trump encouraged this insurrection — both on social media ahead of Jan. 6, and in his speech that day,” Mr. Katko said in a statement. “By deliberately promoting baseless theories suggesting the election was somehow stolen, the president created a combustible environment of misinformation, disenfranchisement, and division. When this manifested in violent acts on Jan. 6, he refused to promptly and forcefully call it off, putting countless lives in danger.”

washington post logoWashington Post, New York City terminates its contracts with Trump’s company, David A. Fahrenthold, Jan. 13, 2021. New York City is terminating its contracts with President Trump’s company to run a carousel, two ice rinks and a golf course in city parks, Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said Wednesday — calling it a reaction to Trump’s encouragement of a mob that ransacked the U.S. Capitol.

“The President incited a rebellion against the United States government that killed five people and threatened to derail the constitutional transfer of power,” de Blasio said in a written statement. “The City of New York will not be associated with those unforgivable acts in any shape, way or form.”

That decision — which will cut off the Trump Organization from businesses that bring in $17 million per year in revenue — makes New York the latest business partner to cut ties with Trump’s company. Trump still owns his company from the White House, and his actions as president now seem to have made it a pariah, cut off by even longtime partners.

Since Wednesday’s riot at the Capitol, the company has lost two of its banks, its e-commerce vendor and two of its real-estate brokers. The company also lost its chance to host the prestigious PGA Championship golf tournament in 2022, and lost its hopes of hosting another major golf tournament in Scotland.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Georgia, Trump’s Attacks on Election Still Haunt Republicans, Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim, Jan. 13, 2021 (print ed.). State officials face harassment and threats, and a district attorney is weighing an inquiry into President Trump’s actions.

The impeachment charge that House Democrats have filed against President Trump stems from his role in inciting a mob to attack the U.S. Capitol last week. But included in the resolution is another element of Mr. Trump’s behavior that is also drawing condemnation as an abuse of presidential power: His pressure campaign to persuade Georgia officials to overturn his electoral loss in the state.

georgia mapBefore inspiring a throng of supporters to attack the Capitol, Mr. Trump had previously sought to “subvert and obstruct” the results of his failed re-election effort, a draft article of impeachment released Monday reads, citing in particular the president’s extraordinary intervention in Georgia.

Even if Democrats’ second effort to remove the president from office fails or fades, Mr. Trump’s efforts to subvert the will of Georgia’s voters will continue to resonate, both for the president and for politicians in Georgia. State elections officials continue to face harassment and death threats. A number of Georgia Republicans are now blaming Mr. Trump’s baseless accusations of election fraud for the losses by the state’s two Republican senators this month.

And in Atlanta, the Fulton County district attorney is weighing whether to start a criminal investigation into Mr. Trump for a phone call to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which the president exhorted him to “find” the votes that would deliver Mr. Trump victory.

That call was part of a much broader push by Mr. Trump and his allies to subvert Georgia’s election results. The effort played out over two months and in the end was based on allegations of fraud that were consistently debunked by his fellow Republicans charged with overseeing the state’s election.

Gabriel Sterling, one of the most outspoken of those officials, said in an interview this week that the president’s effort was both inappropriate and crude.

“There was never an overarching strategy,” Mr. Sterling said, adding: “It was a series of tactical moves in an attempt to get a different outcome here. The president shouldn’t be trying to do things to put his thumb on the scale. I don’t care if it’s a Republican or a Democrat, no president should do that.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump Is Blowing Apart the G.O.P. God Bless Him, Thomas L. Friedman, right, Jan. 13, 2021 (print ed.). There still will be a place for tom friedman twitterprincipled Republicans.

When all the facts come out about the treasonous attack on the U.S. Capitol inspired by President Trump, impeaching him three times won’t feel sufficient. Consider this Washington Post headline from Monday: “Video Shows Capitol Mob Dragging Police Officer Down Stairs. One Rioter Beat the Officer With a Pole Flying the U.S. Flag.”

That said, while I want Trump out — and I don’t mind him being silenced at such a tense time — I’m not sure I want him permanently off Twitter and Facebook. There’s important work that I need Trump to perform in his post-presidency, and I need him to have proper megaphones to do it. It’s to blow apart this Republican Party.

My No. 1 wish for America today is for this Republican Party to fracture, splitting off the principled Republicans from the unprincipled Republicans and Trump republican elephant logocultists. That would be a blessing for America for two reasons.

First, because it could actually end the gridlock in Congress and enable us to do some big things on infrastructure, education and health care that would help ALL Americans — not the least those in Trump’s camp, who are there precisely because they feel ignored, humiliated and left behind.

If just a few principled center-right Republicans, like Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski, abandoned this G.O.P. or were simply willing to work with a center-left Biden team, the Problem Solvers Caucus in the House and like-minded members in the Senate — the people who got the recent stimulus bill passed — would become stronger than ever. That’s how we start to dial down the madness coursing through our nation and get us back to seeing each other as fellow citizens, not enemies.

 

Jan. 12

Top Headlines

 
Capitol Riot Responses

 

Capitol Riot Commentaries

 

U.S. 2021 Elections, Politics

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime 

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: FBI report warned of ‘war’ at Capitol, contradicting claims there was no sign of looming violence, Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky, Jan. 12, 2021. The internal FBI warning, reviewed by The Washington Post, is the starkest evidence yet of the sizable intelligence failure that preceded the mayhem caused by President Trump’s supporters on Jan. 6.

A day before rioters stormed Congress, an FBI office in Virginia issued an explicit internal warning that extremists were preparing to travel to Washington to commit violence and “war,” according to an internal document reviewed by The Washington Post that contradicts a senior official’s declaration the bureau had no intelligence indicating anyone at last week’s pro-Trump protest planned to do harm.

FBI logoA situational information report approved for release the day before the U.S. Capitol riot painted a dire portrait of dangerous plans, including individuals sharing a map of the complex’s tunnels, and possible rally points for would-be conspirators to meet up in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and South Carolina and head in groups to Washington.

“As of 5 January 2021, FBI Norfolk received information indicating calls for violence in response to ‘unlawful lockdowns’ to begin on 6 January 2021 in Washington. D.C.,” the document says. “An online thread discussed specific calls for violence to include stating ‘Be ready to fight. Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in, and blood from their BLM and Pantifa slave soldiers being spilled. Get violent. Stop calling this a march, or rally, or a protest. Go there ready for war. We get our President or we die. NOTHING else will achieve this goal.”

BLM is likely a reference to the Black Lives Matter movement for racial justice. Pantifa is a derogatory term for antifa, a far-left anti-fascist movement whose adherents sometimes engage in violent clashes with right-wing extremists.

Yet even with that information in hand, the report’s unidentified author expressed concern that the FBI might be encroaching on free speech rights.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: On Eve of House Vote, McConnell Is Said to Be Pleased About Effort to Impeach Trump, Staff Reports, Jan. 12, 2021. Senator Mitch McConnell is said to believe that the impeachment effort will make it easier to purge President Trump from the party. And Representative Kevin McCarthy has asked other Republicans whether he should call on Mr. Trump to resign in the aftermath of the Capitol siege.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Mitch McConnell just threw Donald Trump all the way under the bus, Bill Palmer, Jan. 12, 2021. Mitch McConnell is still trying to force mitch mcconnellDonald Trump’s impeachment trial to take place after January 20th, so it ends up being the Democrats’ problem instead of being his problem. But now McConnell is basically coming out in favor of impeaching Trump.

bill palmer report logo headerMcConnell, right, is leaking to the New York Times today that he believes Trump has committed impeachable offenses, and that he’s “pleased” Trump is being impeached, because it’ll help rid the Republican Party of Trump going forward. This is remarkable, because it means McConnell is basically telling Republican Senators to go ahead and convict Trump once the impeachment trial happens, so that Trump can’t run again in 2024.

Now we’ll see if Mitch McConnell relents and allows Trump’s Senate impeachment trial to take place before January 20th. But either way, McConnell has clearly decided to throw Trump all the way under the bus, in the selfish hope of salvaging what’s left of his Republican Party. McConnell can never be trusted to do the right thing, but he can always be trusted to do whatever he thinks is personally best for himself.

 

 

capitol ties

eric munchelEric Gavelek Munchel, right, the Tennessee man suspected of being Zip Tie Guy shown above, was later arrested by the F.B.I. (Metro Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tenn./AP). The rioter, above at center, heavily disguised, invaded the U.S. Capitol as part of the pro-Trump "Stop the Steal" protest carrying plastic "ties," which are normally used by law enforcers to bind the wrists of suspects but which are used also by terrorists to subdue hostage victims.

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: Trumpist masculinity reaches its high water mark with Zip Tie Guy suspect, Monica Hesse, Jan. 12, 2021. In one of the more terrifying images of last week, a man believed to be Eric Munchel, wearing dark fatigues and a face-obscuring black gaiter, climbed over a railing in the Senate Gallery.

He wore a Taser holstered to his hip and gripped a bunch of zip-tie handcuffs in one hand. While his fellow raiders were busy “scratching their balls” in Nancy Pelosi’s office or literally pooping on the Capitol’s floors, Zip Tie Guy had the mien of someone who had breached the complex with an actual nefarious plan involving hostages or worse.

The man suspected of being Zip Tie Guy was unmasked over the weekend by the Internet, then arrested by the FBI: Munchel, 30, has been charged with violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. On Sunday, the FBI released more images, allegedly of Munchel, that had been captured throughout the day of Jan. 6.

In several, he was accompanied by a graying 57-year-old woman. And this is the point at which the portrait of Munchel became fuller, because this is the point at which it became a working theory that Zip Tie Guy had brought his mom to the revolution.

In a security camera image from earlier that afternoon, a pair of tourists, believed to be Munchel and mom, left their Hyatt hotel with matching cups of coffee in hand as if setting off for a long day at the Smithsonian. In a cellphone clip a few hours later, he ushers her up the stairs inside the Capitol, one hand steering her shoulder as they went about their illegal siege.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: House Plans Vote to Demand That Pence Seize Power From Trump, Staff reports, Jan. 12, 2021. The House is poised to vote this evening to formally call on Vice President Mike Pence to strip President Trump of power by invoking the 25th Amendment. If Mr. Pence refuses to act, an impeachment vote is expected Wednesday.

U.S. House logoHere’s the latest from Washington. The House is poised to vote Tuesday evening to formally call on Vice President Mike Pence to strip President Trump of his duties by invoking the 25th Amendment. The vote comes a day after House Democrats introduced an article of impeachment charging the president for his role in inciting a violent mob of his supporters to storm the Capitol, where rioters ransacked the seat of American government and killed a Capitol Police officer.

djt march 2020 CustomThe motion on Monday set off a high-stakes standoff between two branches of government, as House Democrats pressured Mr. Pence to intervene.

Republicans on Monday objected to unanimously passing the resolution, which asked the vice president to declare Mr. Trump “incapable of executing the duties of his office and to immediately exercise powers as acting president.”

Mr. Trump also met with Mr. Pence on Monday for the first time since their falling out last week over the president’s effort to overturn the election and the mob assault, which had put the vice president in danger. The two talked for an hour or more in the Oval Office in what amounted to a fraught peace summit meeting with the remainder of the Trump presidency at stake.

ny times logoNew York Times, Capitol Riot Live Updates: Fallout Continues as Trump Finds Himself Increasingly Besieged, Staff reports, Jan. 12, 2021. Businesses, institutions and cabinet members are cutting ties with the president as Washington and state capitols are bracing for renewed threats leading up to Inauguration Day.

  • In the wake of the Capitol attack, the president is spurned and abandoned.
  • Did mixing a riot with a pandemic yield a superspreader event?
  • Enhanced security measures for the inauguration are starting earlier than planned.
  • Trump Organization faces an urgent reckoning as businesses break away.
  • Trump loyalists in Congress fanned flames before Capitol riot.

A president who famously demands loyalty has found himself increasingly cut off. Even New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick, who publicly supported Mr. Trump when he ran for office, has spurned him, turning down the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, because of the “tragic events of last week” a reference to the deadly riot.

Schools have stripped Mr. Trump of honorary degrees. The P.G.A. of America announced it would no longer hold a major tournament at Mr. Trump’s New Jersey golf club. Mr. Trump’s primary lender for two decades, Deutsche Bank, said it has decided not to do business with Mr. Trump or his company in the future, according to a person familiar with the bank’s thinking. Twitter has permanently suspended Mr. Trump’s account, while Facebook barred him at least through the end of his term on Jan. 20.

chad wolfChad F. Wolf, right, the acting secretary for the Homeland Security Department, stepped down from his position on Monday. The department includes the Secret Service, which is leading inauguration security.

Mr. Wolf told employees of the Department of Homeland Security he would be stepping down in part because of court rulings that invalidated some of the Trump administration’s immigration policies, citing the likelihood that Mr. Wolf was unlawfully appointed to lead the agency. He did not address the Capitol riot in his letter.

White House officials, including several members of the cabinet, have resigned, saying they were deeply troubled by the deadly siege. Prominent Republicans have threatened to leave the party or called on Mr. Trump to resign.

Scores of the president’s supporters who participated in the Capitol riot are the subject of a nationwide manhunt, according to law enforcement officials. The Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation are pursuing more than 150 suspects for prosecution, a number that is almost certain to grow, an official said.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Chuck Schumer pushes no fly list for Trump insurrectionists, Bill Palmer, right, Jan. 12, 2021. Over the weekend a number of viral videos bill palmershowed Trump insurrectionists being blocked from air travel, which some observers mistakenly interpreted as some kind of no fly list. But in reality it appeared those individuals were simply blocked from air travel due to refusing to wear a mask.

bill palmer report logo headerNow incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is indeed calling for all the insurrectionists who breached or entered the Capitol to be placed on the no fly list. This would prevent them from being able to travel back to Washington DC to participate in more such attacks. It would also help facilitate the arrests of those insurrectionists who are still at large and haven’t yet been tracked down by law enforcement.

Now it’s up to the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies to decide whether they’re willing to go along with what Leader Schumer is calling for. There are longstanding questions about whether we should have a no fly list. But if we’re going to have one, these Capitol insurrectionists are the very first people who should be on it. 

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump lashes out at social media sites as Democrats plan to ramp up scrutiny, Tony Romm, Jan. 12, 2021. House Democrats are planning to look into social media’s role in Capitol riot as part of a broad disinformation inquiry.

President Trump lashed out at Silicon Valley on Tuesday in his first public comments since Twitter banned him from the site, stressing the industry had done a “horrible thing for our country and to our country.”

The president told reporters that the social media sites had made a “catastrophic mistake” and acted in a politically “divisive” manner after punishing him for comments the companies said threatened to incite violence. And Trump defended his speech in front of a mob last week that later stormed the U.S. Capitol in a violent, failed insurrection that left lawmakers on lockdown, stressing even its controversial parts were “totally appropriate.”

Trump’s renewed attacks come as House Democrats plan to ramp up their scrutiny of Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. Party lawmakers in recent days have faulted tech giants for acting too slowly to stop Trump’s online rhetoric from precipitating real-world chaos.

washington post logoWashington Post, The remarkable rift between Trump and Pence, Josh Dawsey and Ashley Parker, Jan. 12, 2021. The rupture is a startling capstone to a relationship long defined by Pence’s loyalty and subservience.

Mike PenceVice President Pence, right, was in hiding from a violent mob of Trump supporters in the Capitol last Wednesday when the presidential tweet attacking him posted.

“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!” President Trump wrote at 2:24 p.m.

republican elephant logoTrump never called him that day or in the days following to make sure Pence was okay — or to discuss a governmental response to the deadly riots the president incited.

The remarkable break between the two men — played out over a tense few days as the country convulsed from a riot spurred on by the president — is a startling capstone to a relationship long defined by Pence’s loyalty and subservience. The vice president who once spent hours a day with Trump, defended some of his most incendiary comments and was careful to not speak ill of him — even to his own closest advisers — now seems to be largely estranged from him.

Pence has committed to attending the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris, even though Trump is not going. The vice president has begun telling staff goodbye, posing for pictures and having sentimental moments with key aides in his Executive Office suite.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: An Epiphany Moment’ for Corporate Political Donors May Have Arrived, Andrew Ross Sorkin, Jan. 12, 2021. As companies put donations to candidates on hold, they should reassess political giving entirely, making the halt permanent.

As companies from Coca-Cola to Amazon to Citigroup appear to be tripping over each other to declare that they are “pausing” or “reassessing” donations to citigroup logoRepublicans who sought to overturn the election — and, in some cases, suspending giving to both parties — they might want to look at a company that didn’t say anything.

That company is IBM. It didn’t need to issue a mea culpa for a simple reason. It doesn’t donate to candidates on either side of the aisle — at all, ever.

IBM is one of only a handful of large companies in the United States that is not involved in direct political giving to candidates. It has no political action committee, or PAC. Even when it gives money to trade groups, it restricts its money from being funneled to candidates.

It was a policy put in place more than a century ago by Thomas J. Watson, the founding father of the modern IBM.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: The width and depthness of Trump's coup, Wayne Madsen, left, Jan. 12, 2021. We are just now learning that the storming of wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallthe Capitol may have involved Republican members of the House of Representatives, who were in cahoots with twenty or more U.S. Capitol Police officers, including one who committed suicide, two who have been suspended, and one who has been arrested.

Investigations of police involvement have spread to the Anne Arundel County (Maryland) Police Department, the North Miami Beach Police Department, the Minneapolis Police Department, Arkansas State Police, and the Chicago Police Department.

wayne madesen report logoNewly-elected 25-year old North Carolina Republican Representative Madison Cawthorn told the Trump rally at the Ellipse, "Call your congressman and feel free, you can lightly threaten them and say, you know what, if you don’t start supporting election integrity, I’m coming after you, Madison Cawthorn is coming after you, everybody’s coming after you.”

There are calls in North Carolina for Cawthorn's resignation. Cawthorn has an affectation for Nazis and Adolf Hitler. In a 2017 Instagram posting, Cawthorn had his photograph taken at Hitler's Alpine lair, the Eagle’s Nest, in Berchtesgaden, Germany. Cawthorn also referred to Hitler as "the Führer" in his posting. Cawthorn denies he is a Nazi, but his affiliation with neo-Nazi organizations is common knowledge.

It is increasingly appearing that the January 6 storming of the Capitol was a re-enactment of the 1933 burning by the Nazis of the Reichstag.

ny times logoNew York Times, State Capitols ‘on High Alert,’ Fearing More Violence, Neil MacFarquhar and Mike Baker, Jan. 12, 2021 (print ed.). Officials are bracing for any spillover from last week’s violent assault on the U.S. Capitol. State legislatures already have become targets. It was opening day of the 2021 legislative session, and the perimeter of the Georgia State Capitol on Monday was bristling with state police officers in full camouflage gear, most of them carrying tactical rifles.

On the other side of the country, in Olympia, Wash., dozens of National Guard troops in riot gear and shields formed a phalanx behind a temporary fence. Facing them in the pouring rain was a small group of demonstrators, some also wearing military fatigues and carrying weapons. “Honor your oath!” they shouted. “Fight for freedom every day!”

And in Idaho, Ammon Bundy, an antigovernment activist who once led his supporters in the occupation of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon, showed up outside the statehouse in Boise with members of his organization carrying “wanted” posters for Gov. Brad Little and others on charges of “treason” and “sedition.”

Gone is a large measure of the bonhomie that usually accompanies the annual start of the legislative season, replaced by marked unease over the possibility of armed attacks and gaps in security around statehouses that have long prided themselves on being open to constituents.

georgia map 2“Between Covid and the idea that there are people who are armed and making threats and are serious, it was definitely not your normal beginning of session,” said Senator Jennifer A. Jordan, a Democratic legislator in Georgia who watched the police officers assembled outside the State Capitol in Atlanta on Monday from her office window. “Usually folks are happy, talking to each other, and it did not have that feel.”

Dozens of state capitols will be on alert in the coming days, following calls among a mix of antigovernment organizations for actions in all 50 states on Jan. 17. Some of them come from far-right organizations that harbor a broad antigovernment agenda and have already been protesting state Covid-19 lockdowns since last spring. The F.B.I. this week sent a warning to local law enforcement agencies about the potential for armed protests in all 50 states.

In a video news conference on Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California said that “everybody is on high alert” for protests in Sacramento in the days ahead.

 

 

Capitol Riot Responses

ali alexander resized greg palast

"Stop the Steal" Republican operative Ali Alexander, top right, is shown with two others in revelations excerpted below by investigative reporter Greg Palast in his story: Why did the Georgia GOP Team up with a riot instigator?

Palmer Report, Opinion: House Republican Mo Brooks implicates Trump White House after he’s accused of inciting Capitol attack, Bill Palmer, Jan. 12, 2021.  Ali Alexander, one of the organizers of the January 6th pro-Trump rally that turned into a domestic terrorist attack, claimed yesterday that he worked in advance with three House Republicans including Mo Brooks to plot the entire thing. This comes even as the House is moving to censure Brooks for his overall role in the day’s events, and after the Washington DC Attorney General announced that Brooks is under investigation for inciting violence.

bill palmer report logo headerIn response, Mo Brooks is pushing back and insisting that it was the Trump White House who plotted the rally. In a statement, Brooks cites his own phone records and says that “on Tuesday morning, January 5, I had a telephone call with Brian Jack, White House Political Director. He asked me to speak at the Trump rally the next day.”

mo brooks oIn effect, Congressman Mo Brooks, right, is trying to reduce his own criminal culpability in the attack by implicating the Trump White House in the debacle. He’s not quite yelling “Trump made me do it” but he’s coming close. At this point it sounds like Brooks is just trying to figure out how to avoid prison time over this.

Answering questions from reporters for the first time since the violence at the Capitol on Wednesday, Mr. Trump sidestepped questions about his culpability in the deadly riot that shook the nation’s long tradition of peaceful transfers of power.

“People thought what I said was totally appropriate,” Mr. Trump told reporters at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, en route to Alamo, Texas, where he was set to visit the wall along the Mexican border. Instead, Mr. Trump claimed that protests against racial injustice over the summer were “the real problem.”

“If you look at what other people have said, politicians at a high level about the riots during the summer, the horrible riots in Portland and Seattle and various other places, that was a real problem,” he said.

Mr. Trump’s defiance came despite near universal condemnation of his role in stoking the assault on the Capitol, including from within his own administration and some of his closest allies on Capitol Hill.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Lauren Boebert just got called to the carpet, Bill Palmer, Jan. 12, 2021. House Republican Lauren Boebert has only been in Congress for a few days, and she’s already causing demonstrable harm to the country. Even as Donald Trump’s domestic terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol was playing lauren boebertout, and the terrorists were roaming the halls looking for high value targets, Boebert, right, was busy tweeting changes to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s location.

bill palmer report logo headerSenator Brian Schatz is now calling out Boebert for this, tweeting that “We were specifically instructed by those protecting us not to tell anyone, including our family, where exactly we were, for reasons that remain obvious.”

Congressman Eric Swalwell took things even further, tweeting this: “So were we in the House. Lauren Boebert was told by the Sergeant of Arms in the chamber to not make any social media posts. It was said repeatedly. She defied it because she is more closely aligned with the terrorists than the patriots.”

It’s difficult to imagine that this will play out well for Lauren Boebert. She had already painted herself as a deranged QAnon conspiracy theorist before the attack, which now makes her a pariah. Now corporate donations to insurrectionists like Boebert are being withdrawn. We imagine she’ll face a much better financed Republican primary challenger in 2022. Boebert has been in Congress a week and she already has no political future, and now she could face criminal liability. She’d do well to resign now and just go home.

washington post logoWashington Post, Six hours of paralysis: Inside Trump’s failure to act after a mob stormed the Capitol, Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey and Philip Rucker, Jan. 12, 2021 (print ed.). As senators and House members trapped inside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday begged for immediate help, they struggled to get through to the president, who — safely ensconced in the West Wing — was too busy watching fiery television images of the crisis.

Hiding from the rioters in a secret location away from the Capitol, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) appealed to Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) phoned Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter.

And Kellyanne Conway, a longtime Trump confidante and former White House senior adviser, called an aide who she knew was standing at the president’s side.

But as senators and House members trapped inside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday begged for immediate help during the siege, they struggled to get through to the president, who — safely ensconced in the West Wing — was too busy watching fiery TV images of the crisis unfolding around them to act or even bother to hear their pleas.

“He was hard to reach, and you know why? Because it was live TV,” said one close Trump adviser. “If it’s TiVo, he just hits pause and takes the calls. If it’s live TV, he watches it, and he was just watching it all unfold.”

Even as he did so, Trump did not move to act. And the message from those around him — that he needed to call off the angry mob he had egged on just hours earlier, or lives could be lost — was one to which he was not initially receptive.

“It took him awhile to appreciate the gravity of the situation,” Graham said in an interview. “The president saw these people as allies in his journey and sympathetic to the idea that the election was stolen.”

Trump ultimately — and begrudgingly — urged his supporters to “go home in peace.” But the six hours between when the Capitol was breached shortly before 2 p.m. Wednesday afternoon and when it was finally declared secure around 8 p.m. that evening reveal a president paralyzed — more passive viewer than resolute leader, repeatedly failing to perform even the basic duties of his job.

washington post logoWashington Post, Several Capitol police officers suspended, more than a dozen under investigation over actions related to rally and riot, Aaron C. Davis, Rebecca Tan and Beth Reinhard, Jan. 12, 2021. Several U.S. Capitol Police officers have been suspended and more than a dozen others are under investigation for suspected involvement with or inappropriate support for the demonstration last week that turned into a deadly riot at the Capitol, according to members of Congress, police officials and staff members briefed on the developments.

Eight separate investigations have been launched into the actions of Capitol officers, according to one congressional aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the status of the internal review.

In one of the cases, officers had posted what Capitol Police investigators found to be messages showing support for the rally on Wednesday that preceded the attack on the complex, including touting President Trump’s baseless contention that the election had been stolen through voter fraud, the aide said.

Investigators in another instance found that a Capitol officer had posted “inappropriate” images of President-elect Joe Biden on a social media account. The steve sund recroppedaide declined to describe the photographs.

The scrutiny of the Capitol Police comes amid intensifying recriminations over why the complex was insufficiently protected when thousands of Trump supporters converged on Washington to protest the congressional action to certify Biden’s win.

On Sunday, former Capitol police chief Steven Sund, who resigned after the attack, told The Washington Post in an interview that congressional security officials rebuffed his efforts to put the D.C. National Guard on standby before the joint session.

washington post logoWashington Post, State capitals face threat of armed protests, FBI warns, Tim Craig, Holly Bailey and Matt Zapotosky, Jan. 12, 2021. The FBI warned Monday that armed far-right extremist groups are planning to march on state capitals this weekend, triggering a rush to fortify government buildings amid concerns that the violence that erupted at the U.S. Capitol last week could spread throughout the country.

The memo is something of a raw intelligence product, compiling information gathered by the bureau and several other government agencies, an official said. Some of it is unverified, and the threat is likely to differ significantly from place to place, though the memo said there were plans in all 50 state capitals, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the bulletin is considered a law enforcement document not authorized for wide public release.

But the data points it highlights for law enforcement are nonetheless troubling — including that there was information suggesting people might storm government offices, or stage an uprising were President Trump to be removed from office, the official said.

 

Capitol Riot Commentaries

ny times logoNew York Times, How White Evangelical Christians Fused With Trump Extremism, Elizabeth Dias and Ruth Graham, Jan. 12, 2021. A mix of grievance and religious fervor has turbocharged the support among Trump loyalists, many of whom see themselves as participants in a holy war.

Before self-proclaimed members of the far-right group the Proud Boys marched toward the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, they stopped to kneel in the street and prayed in the name of Jesus.

djt as chosen oneThe group, whose participants have espoused misogynistic and anti-immigrant views, prayed for God to bring “reformation and revival.” They gave thanks for “the wonderful nation we’ve all been blessed to be in.” They asked God for the restoration of their “value systems,” and for the “courage and strength to both represent you and represent our culture well.” And they invoked the divine protection for what was to come.

Then they rose. Their leader declared into a bullhorn that the media must “get the hell out of my way.” And then they moved toward the Capitol.

The presence of Christian rituals, symbols and language was unmistakable on Wednesday in Washington. There was a mock campaign banner, “Jesus 2020,” in blue and red; an “Armor of God” patch on a man’s fatigues; a white cross declaring “Trump won” in all capitals. All of this was interspersed with allusions to QAnon conspiracy theories, Confederate flags and anti-Semitic T-shirts.

The blend of cultural references, and the people who brought them, made clear a phenomenon that has been brewing for years now: that the most extreme corners of support for Mr. Trump have become inextricable from some parts of white evangelical power in America. Rather than completely separate strands of support, these groups have become increasingly blended together.

This potent mix of grievance and religious fervor has turbocharged the support among a wide swath of Trump loyalists, many of whom describe themselves as participants in a kind of holy war, according to interviews. And many, who are swimming in falsehoods about the presidential election and now the riot itself, said the aftermath of Wednesday’s event has only fueled a deeper sense of victimhood and being misunderstood.

Like many Republicans in Congress, some evangelical leaders who have been most supportive of Mr. Trump distanced themselves and their faith from the rioters. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Dallas, called the violence “anarchy.” The siege on the Capitol “has absolutely nothing to do with Christianity,” he said. “Our support of President Trump was based on his policies.”

But critics said it was too late to try to separate the white conservative Christian culture that helped push Mr. Trump to power from last week’s violence in Washington.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: This Putsch Was Decades in the Making, Paul Krugman, right, Jan. 12, 2021. G.O.P. cynics have been coddling crazies for a long paul krugmantime. One striking aspect of the Capitol Hill putsch was that none of the rioters’ grievances had any basis in reality.

No, the election wasn’t stolen — there is no evidence of significant electoral fraud. No, Democrats aren’t part of a satanic pedophile conspiracy. No, they aren’t radical Marxists — even the party’s progressive wing would be considered only moderately left of center in any other Western democracy.

So all the rage is based on lies. But what’s almost as striking as the fantasies of the rioters is how few leading Republicans have been willing, despite the violence and desecration, to tell the MAGA mob that their conspiracy theories are false.

kevin mccarthyBear in mind that Kevin McCarthy, left, the House minority leader, and two-thirds of his colleagues voted against accepting the Electoral College results even after the riot. (McCarthy then shamelessly decried “division,” saying that “we must call on our better angels.”)

Or consider the behavior of leading Republicans who aren’t usually considered extremists. On Sunday Senator Rob Portman declared that we need to “restore confidence in the integrity of our electoral system.” Portman isn’t stupid; he has to know that the only reason so many people doubt the election results is that members of his party deliberately fomented that doubt. But he’s still keeping up the pretense.

For a long time Republican elites imagined that they could exploit racism and conspiracy theorizing while remaining focused on a plutocratic agenda. But with the rise first of the Tea Party, then of Donald Trump, the cynics found that the crazies were actually in control, and that they wanted to destroy democracy, not cut tax rates on capital gains.

The G.O.P. has reached the culmination of its long journey away from democracy, and it’s hard to see how it can ever be redeemed.

 

Jan. 11

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Top Headlines

 

U.S. Politics, Elections

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Media News

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: House Democrats introduce article of impeachment as GOP blocks measure to invoke 25th Amendment, John Wagner and Paulina Firozi, Jan. 11, 2021. House Democrats formally introduced an article of impeachment against President Trump, charging him with “incitement of insurrection” for his role in the takeover of the U.S. Capitol last week by a violent pro-Trump mob. The House could vote as early as Wednesday. Other headlines:

  • Bowser tells Americans to stay home for inauguration
  • Republican former lawmakers urge Trump’s impeachment
  • Timothy Blodgett sworn in to serve as House sergeant-at-arms

U.S. House logoIn a brief session Monday, House Republicans blocked a measure calling on Vice President Pence and the Cabinet to remove Trump under the 25th Amendment, a move that ensures a vote in the full House.

Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), below left, had a stark message to Americans on Monday: Do not attend Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration in Washington.

muriel bowser CustomWith the combined threats both of spreading the coronavirus in a city that reached its highest average daily new case rate ever on Monday, and of violence from those who reject the election result, Bowser said, Americans who would ordinarily flock to Washington should stay home.

The right-wing groups threatening to mass before and during the inauguration are different from the protesters the city normally welcomes, Bowser said. “People coming to demonstrate peacefully are very different from the people who stormed the Capitol,” she said.

When a reporter asked if she was scared of what might happen Jan. 20, Bowser said: “If I’m scared of anything, it’s for our democracy. Because we have … factions in our country that are armed and dangerous.”

In an effort to make the city inhospitable to guests, Bowser said she would also “likely” extend the mandated closure of indoor dining through Jan. 24 in the interest of public safety around the inauguration. The ban was implemented in December to address rising coronavirus cases and was set to end Jan. 15.

Bowser said she would decide Tuesday. She said she will be briefed by the FBI daily on threats to the city.

washington post logoWashington Post, Video shows mob dragging a police officer down stairs. One rioter beat the officer with an American flag pole, Katie Shepherd, Jan. 11, 2021. As a mob of pro-Trump rioters attacked the Capitol on Wednesday, one man in a white hat and backpack grabbed a police officer by the helmet, dragging the officer down the stairs. Soon, other rioters kicked and punched the officer, and one man even bashed the prone figure repeatedly with a pole flying an American flag.

The shocking violence against an outnumbered officer is shown in a video first aired by CNN on Sunday. It swiftly went viral, garnering more than 1.6 million views on Twitter by early Monday.

The Capitol mob: A raging collection of grievances and disillusionment

The officer seen in the video, as well as in other photos and videos of the moment that later surfaced on social media, has not been officially identified. The extent of the injuries the officer suffered in the attack is not clear. D.C. Metropolitan Police and U.S. Capitol Police did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the video late Sunday.

The video adds a new layer of evidence documenting the violence that pro-Trump rioters unleashed during the attempted insurrection at the Capitol, where overrun police tried to protect the federal building. One U.S. Capitol Police officer, Brian D. Sicknick, suffered injures in the incident and later died, and more than 50 other police officers were hurt. One rioter was fatally shot by police, and three other people died following medical emergencies.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Law enforcement individual arrested in relation to U.S. Capitol attack, multiple others suspended, Bill Palmer, Jan. 11, 2021. Over the past week it’s become increasingly clear that the bumbling idiots who invaded the U.S. Capitol Building must have had some kind of inside help from law enforcement. Sure enough, that’s now playing out.

bill palmer report logo headerCongressman Tim Ryan has announced that two Capitol Police officers have been suspended, one for giving directions to the domestic terrorist invaders, the other for taking selfies with them. Another ten or more Capitol Police officers are under investigation. Most importantly, as relayed by CNN, one unidentified “law enforcement individual” has been arrested.

It’s not yet been revealed whether this law enforcement individual is a member of the Capitol Police. It could also theoretically have been an off duty police officer who traveled to DC and participated in the attack. In any case, it’s becoming more clear by the minute that Trump’s idiot terrorists had help from law enforcement – and that those law enforcement personnel are going to pay for it.

washington post logoWashington Post, Outgoing chief says security officials impeded efforts to call in National Guard, Carol D. Leonnig, Aaron C. Davis, Peter Hermann and Karoun Demirjian, Jan. 11, 2021. Even as rioters violently overran his forces, outgoing Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund said in an exclusive interview, the sergeants at arms for the House and Senate took more than an hour to approve his request.

Two days before Congress was set to formalize President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund was growing increasingly worried about the size of the pro-Trump crowds expected to stream into Washington in protest.

steve sund recroppedTo be on the safe side, Sund, left, asked House and Senate security officials for permission to request that the D.C. National Guard be placed on standby in case he needed quick backup.

But, Sund said Sunday, they turned him down.

In his first interview since pro-Trump rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol last week, Sund, who has since resigned his post, said his supervisors were reluctant to take formal steps to put the Guard on call even as police intelligence suggested that the crowd President Trump had invited to Washington to protest his defeat probably would be much larger than earlier demonstrations.

House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving said he wasn’t comfortable with the “optics” of formally declaring an emergency ahead of the demonstration, Sund said. Meanwhile, Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger suggested that Sund should informally seek out his Guard contacts, asking them to “lean forward” and be on alert in case Capitol Police needed their help.

Stenger declined Sunday to comment when a reporter visited his Virginia home. “I really don’t want to talk about it,” he said.

It was the first of six times Sund’s request for help was rejected or delayed, he said. Two days later on Wednesday afternoon, his forces already in the midst of crisis, Sund said he pleaded for help five more times as a scene far more dire than he had ever imagined unfolded on the historic Capitol grounds.

An army of 8,000 pro-Trump demonstrators streamed down Pennsylvania Avenue after hearing Trump speak near the White House. Sund’s outer perimeter on the Capitol’s west side was breached within 15 minutes. With 1,400 Capitol Police officers on duty, his forces were quickly overrun.

 wayne madesen report logoWayne Madsen Report (WMR), Analysis: Coup attempt dissection yields police and military involvement, Wayne Madsen (Political commentator, left, author of 18 wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallbooks, former Navy intelligence officer and Department of Defense National Security Agency analyst), Jan. 11, 2021.

christopher miller official.jpgIt is becoming painfully clear that the January 6 coup attempt against the Congress involved on- and off-duty police from Washington and around the country, as well as active duty and reserve military personnel going up the chain of command to the acting Secretary of Defense, retired Army General Christopher Miller, right.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden looks at whether Senate can tackle impeachment and his agenda simultaneously, Annie Linskey, Jan. 11, 2021. President-elect Joe Biden said Monday he is consulting with Senate leaders and the chamber’s parliamentarian about whether the Senate can “bifurcate” its schedule, so it can move forward simultaneously with impeaching President Trump and enacting Biden’s agenda, including a multitrillion-dollar coronavirus relief plan.

joe biden oBiden’s comments, made Monday just after he received his second dose of the coronavirus vaccine at a Delaware hospital, revealed his most detailed thinking to date about the threat that congressional Democrats’ impeachment efforts could overshadow the early days of his us senate logopresidency.

The remarks also affirmed that the president-elect wants Congress to focus on improving the response to the virus and bolstering the struggling economy ahead of rebuking Trump for his role in inciting a deadly mob that briefly took control of the U.S. Capitol building last week.

“My priority, first and foremost, is the stimulus bill,” Biden said Monday, “and secondly to begin to rebuild the economy.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Up to 15,000 National Guard members could be deployed in D.C. during inauguration, Dan Lamothe, Jan. 11, 2021. Up to 15,000 National Guard members could be deployed in Washington during the presidential inauguration, senior defense officials said Monday, part of a rapidly expanding response following a deadly insurrection at the Capitol last week.

Army Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, said in a call with reporters that about 6,000 guardsmen from six states already are in the nation’s capital, and that the military response will expand to about 10,000 by the weekend.

Hokanson said the numbers will be determined by the requirements that federal agencies have for support. The National Guard will bring their weapons to Washington and carry them based on discussions with the FBI, police and other agencies.

“Obviously, we’re very concerned that we want our individuals to have the right to self-defense," the general said. “And so, that will be an ongoing conversation, and if the senior leadership determines that that’s the right posture to be in, then that is something that we will do.”

The shift comes after the Defense Department carved out a narrow role ahead of a protest against President Trump’s election loss on Wednesday. Trump directed thousands of people to the Capitol afterward, some of whom began storming the building and attacking Capitol Police officers, including one who later died.

Just 340 D.C. National Guard members had been activated ahead of the riot, and none were posted outside the Capitol. Instead, they were assigned to traffic duty in other parts of the city, because the Capitol Police and the Pentagon had not worked out a plan in the event of a crisis at the home of Congress.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live updates: Acting homeland security secretary Wolf to step down, nine days ahead of Biden inauguration, Colby Itkowitz, John Wagner, Paulina Firozi, Felicia Sonmez and Nick Miroff, Jan. 11, 2021. What we know about Trump’s possible second impeachment; Some House Democrats hope to impeach President Trump for a second time for high crimes and misdemeanors. Here is what that accelerated process might entail.

chad wolfActing homeland security secretary Chad Wolf, right, is stepping down, nine days ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration and amid widespread fears about security in the aftermath of the mob attack on the Capitol last week.

us dhs big eagle logo4In Congress, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Monday that the House will move forward with impeaching President Trump for a second time if Vice President Pence does not seek to remove him under the 25th Amendment by Wednesday.

Her threat came shortly after House Democrats formally introduced an article of impeachment against Trump, charging him with “incitement of insurrection” for his role in the takeover of the U.S. Capitol by a violent pro-Trump mob on Wednesday. Democrats say that measure already has 218 co-sponsors, enough to guarantee passage.

ny times logoNew York Times, Talk Radio Giant Tells Hosts to Stop ‘Stolen Elections’ Rhetoric: Live Updates, Tiffany Hsu, Jan. 11, 2021. The talk radio network that airs mark levin resized cpacDan Bongino and Mark Levin, right, warned staff to stop ‘dog-whistle talk.’

  • Parler accuses Amazon of breaking antitrust law in suspending hosting services.
  • Government watchdog warns of $3.6 billion in potentially fraudulent P.P.P. loans.
  • Ford, citing the pandemic, will stop making cars in Brazil and shut three factories.
  • The government settled with a company accused of using stored photos to create facial recognition databases.

Cumulus Media, a talk radio company with a roster of popular right-wing personalities including Dan Bongino, Mark Levin and Ben Shapiro, has warned its hosts to steer clear of misinformation about election fraud.

Brian Philips, an executive vice president of Cumulus, sent the stern memo on Wednesday, the same day that a pro-Trump mob rampaged through the halls of Congress. Addressed to employees working in the company’s programming and talent divisions, including those at its syndication arm, Westwood One, the memo’s first section appeared in bold typeface, with many words capitalized for emphasis.

“We need to help induce national calm NOW,” the memo began.

“Cumulus and Westwood One will not tolerate any suggestion that the election has not ended,” it continued. “The election has resolved, there are no alternate acceptable ‘paths.’ Please inform your staffs that we have ZERO TOLERANCE for any suggestion otherwise. If you transgress this policy, you can expect to separate from the company immediately. There will be no dog-whistle talk about ‘stolen elections,’ ‘civil wars’ or any other language that infers violent public disobedience is warranted, ever.”

The memo, which was first reported by Inside Music Media, underlined a statement at the end of the paragraph: “Through all of our communication channels, including social, we will work to urge restoration of PEACE AND ORDER.”

Cumulus did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Mr. Levin, who has attacked Democrats and many Republicans who have not supported Mr. Trump, has tweeted about a “massive fraud perpetrated against the president” and promoted the Jan. 6 demonstration in the days leading up to it. On the Wednesday episode of his radio show, Mr. Levin, who also hosts a Fox News program on Sunday nights, criticized those who stormed the Capitol, but defended “people who are peacefully protesting” against “a stolen election” — a characterization that has been repeatedly debunked as false.

Mr. Bongino, a former Secret Service agent and a current Fox News contributor, is also an investor in Parler, a social media app popular with Trump supporters. In an appearance on Fox News on Monday, Mr. Bongino fulminated against the suspension of Parler by major technology companies, referring to “tech tyrants,” “tech totalitarians” and “the communists at Apple and Amazon and Google.”

Mr. Bongino, who hosts a podcast and has a popular Facebook page, has raised questions about “irregularities” in the 2020 election. On an episode of his podcast in November, he said, referring to the election, “Ladies and gentlemen, these claims that there are no evidence of fraud are utterly absurd.”

Cumulus owns and operates 416 stations across 86 markets, including WMAL in Washington, WNBM in New York and KABC in Los Angeles.

— — — — —

ny times logoNew York Times, Parler accuses Amazon of breaking antitrust law in suspending hosting services, Jan. 11, 2021. Hours after it went offline on Monday, the social media start-up Parler filed a lawsuit in federal court accusing Amazon of violating antitrust law and asking for a temporary restraining order to prevent the tech giant from blocking access to cloud computing services.

parler logoAmazon told Parler over the weekend that it would shut off service because “a steady increase in violent content” on the site showed that the company did not have a reliable process to prevent it from violating Amazon’s terms of service. Amazon said it would ensure Parler’s data was preserved so that it could migrate to a new hosting provider.

Before Parler went dark, technologists also raced to scrape publicly available data from the app, as part of a broader effort to identify those who helped organize and participated in the riot at the Capitol last week.

Millions of people have turned to Parler since the November election and after Twitter and Facebook barred President Trump after the Capitol riot. Apple and Google both kicked Parler out of their app stores last week, though users who already had downloaded the app could still use it. But the app relied on amazon logo smallAmazon’s cloud computing technology to work.

Parler’s complaint was dated Sunday, before Amazon suspended Parler. But the suit was not filed with the court until Monday.

In the suit, filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, Parler accused Amazon of terminating, not just suspending, its account — and said it should have received 30 days’ notice. It also argued that Amazon violated antitrust law by conspiring with Twitter, a major Amazon customer, to boot Parler just as it was gaining broader appeal. It said it had 12 million users, and “expects to add millions more this week given its growth the last few days.”

Parler did not provide direct evidence showing that Amazon and Twitter coordinated the response. Instead, it pointed to a December news release announcing a multiyear strategic partnership between Amazon and Twitter, and it made references to Twitter’s own challenges policing its content.

Parler said losing Amazon’s services would be a “death knell,” though other platforms popular with the far right and conspiracy theorists, like Gab and 8chan, have recovered after being terminated by hosting providers.

David J. Groesbeck, a sole practitioner intellectual property lawyer in Olympia, Wash., filed the suit for Parler. Amazon did not respond to an immediate request for comment.

djt nancy pelosi

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Impeachment Live: House Vows to Move Swiftly on Impeachment if Pence Refuses to Act, Staff Reports, Jan. 11, 2021. The House plans to introduce a resolution today calling on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment and strip President Trump of power.

Leading Democrats have suggested impeachment could move forward on a remarkably quick timetable, charging Mr. Trump by midweek. Here’s the latest.

U.S. House logoThe House on Monday plans to introduce a resolution calling on Vice President Mike Pence and the cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment and strip President Trump of the powers of his office.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi escalated the pressure on Mr. Pence in a letter to colleagues on Sunday, calling on him to respond “within 24 hours” and indicated she expected a Tuesday vote on the resolution. Democrats planned to try to pass the resolution by unanimous consent on Monday, but it is expected to fail.

Next, she said, the House would bring an impeachment case to the floor. Though she did not specify how quickly it would move, leading Democrats have suggested they could press forward on a remarkably quick timetable, charging Mr. Trump by midweek with “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

“In protecting our Constitution and our democracy, we will act with urgency, because this president represents an imminent threat to both,” she wrote in the letter. “As the days go by, the horror of the ongoing assault on our democracy perpetrated by this president is intensified and so is the immediate need for action.”

Ms. Pelosi’s actions in effect gave Mr. Pence, who is said to be opposed to the idea, an ultimatum: use his power under the Constitution to force Mr. Trump Mike Penceout by declaring him unable to discharge his duties, or make him the first president in American history to be impeached twice.

With few Democrats hopeful Mr. Pence would act, Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the party’s No. 3, said the House could vote to impeach Mr. Trump by Wednesday, one week before Inauguration Day. Lawmakers were put on notice to return to Washington, and their leaders consulted with the Federal Air Marshal Service and law enforcement on how to safely move them back into a Capitol that was ransacked in a shocking security failure less than a week ago.

“If we are the people’s house, let’s do the people’s work and let’s vote to impeach this president,” Mr. Clyburn said on “Fox News Sunday.” “The Senate will decide later what to do with that impeachment.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Parler, a Chosen App of Trump Fans, Has Become a Test of Free Speech, Jack Nicas and Davey Alba, Updated Jan. 11, 2021. The app has renewed a debate about who holds power over online speech after tech giants yanked their support for it. Parler went dark early on Monday.

From the start, John Matze had positioned Parler as a “free speech” social network where people could mostly say whatever they wanted. It was a bet that had recently paid off big as millions of President Trump’s supporters, fed up with what they deemed censorship on Facebook and Twitter, flocked to Parler parler logoinstead.

On the app, which had become a top download on Apple’s App Store, discussions over politics had ramped up. But so had conspiracy theories that falsely said the election had been stolen from Mr. Trump, with users urging aggressive demonstrations last week when Congress met to certify the election of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Those calls for violence soon came back to haunt Mr. Matze, 27, a software engineer from Las Vegas and Parler’s chief executive. By Saturday night, Apple and Google had removed Parler from their app stores and Amazon said it would no longer host the site on its computing services, saying it had not sufficiently policed posts that incited violence and crime.

amazon logo smallEarly on Monday morning, just after midnight on the West Coast, Parler appeared to have gone offline.

Those moves had set off a furious effort to keep Parler up. Mr. Matze said on Sunday that he was racing to save the data of Parler’s roughly 15 million users from Amazon’s computers. He was also calling company after company to find one willing to support Parler with google logo customhundreds of computer servers.

“I believe Amazon, Google, Apple worked together to try and ensure they don’t have competition,” Mr. Matze said on Parler late Saturday. “They will NOT win! We are the worlds last hope for free speech and free information.” He said the app would probably shut down “for up to a week as we rebuild from scratch.”

 

U.S. Politics, Elections

Palmer Report, Opinion: Why Donald Trump needs to go to prison, Robert Harrington, right, Jan. 11, 2021. It’s what the Times of India is calling the Coup Klux Klan. robert harringtnn portraitViolent white supremacists, some intent on kidnapping or physically harming members of Congress, took over the Capitol building in Washington DC while lawmakers shivered in the gallery in terror.

bill palmer report logo headerProtesters carried dozens of flex cuffs — handcuffs made of zip ties — intent on arresting members of Congress and holding them hostage. Protesters were even heard to speak of hanging some of them. Many in the DC Police and the National Guard virtually stepped aside and let them in.

This was nothing less than an attempted coup d’etat by Donald Trump and the MAGA-hat-wearing white supremacist cretins known as his base. This is why Donald Trump must go to prison for the rest of his life. At least, that’s what I think. And I present that case to you in the form of a victim impact statement.

djt prison palmer reportI hasten to add, I don’t mean to claim any special victim significance for myself. I am simply an average American claiming my share of the evil that Donald Trump has visited on every average American. To be sure, some Americans have had a greater share of Donald Trump’s evil than others. They deserve their day of justice even more than I. I’ve taken it upon myself to speak for some of them because some of them cannot speak at all. Because some of them are dead.

But I am outraged by what Donald Trump has done to the land of my birth, how he has dragged its reputation through the mud of racism and cheapened its message of freedom, how hundreds of thousands of Americans have died because of him. For example, by the time he leaves office, more than 400,000 Americans will lie dead of coronavirus thanks to Donald Trump. They are dead because Donald Trump refused to take any serious steps against the global pandemic.

But as if that were not enough, on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, five people died and the sanctity of the nation’s Capitol building was violated thanks to Trump.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Politics Live: Wall Street Banks Halt Political Donations After Capitol Riot, Staff Reports, Jan. 11, 2021. A flurry of companies have since reviewed political giving via their corporate political action committees. Here’s the latest on business.

Big businesses often donate to both political parties and say that their support is tied to narrow issues of specific interest to their industries. That became increasingly fraught last week, after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol and some Republican lawmakers tried to overturn Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s win in the presidential election.

A flurry of companies have since reviewed political giving via their corporate political action committees, according to the DealBook newsletter.

Some big banks are pausing all political donations:

    • Goldman Sachs is freezing donations through its PAC and will conduct “a thorough assessment of how people acted during this period,” a spokesman, Jake Siewert, told DealBook.
    • JPMorgan Chase is halting donations through its PAC for six months. “There will be plenty of time for campaigning later,” said Peter Scher, the bank’s head of corporate responsibility.
    • citigroup logoCitigroup is postponing all campaign contributions for a quarter. “We want you to be assured that we will not support candidates who do not respect the rule of law,” Candi Wolff, the bank’s head of government affairs, wrote in an internal memo.

Other banks, including Bank of America and Wells Fargo, said they would review their corporate contribution strategy.

Some companies are pausing donations to specific politicians. Marriott said it would pause donations from its PAC “to those who voted against certification of the election,” a spokeswoman told DealBook. She did not say how long the break would last or how the hotel operator would decide when to resume.

Blue Cross Blue Shield, Boston Scientific and Commerce Bancshares are taking a similar, targeted approach to donation freezes. The newsletter Popular Information is tracking the responses of these and other companies that donated to lawmakers who challenged the election result.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Republicans who aren’t willing to act against sedition are complicit, Jennifer Rubin, right, Jan. 11, 2021. Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) jennifer rubin new headshotand NBC’s Chuck Todd had this exchange on “Meet the Press” on Sunday about the consequences Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) should face for fomenting the deadly mob that breached the Capitol last week:

TOOMEY: "Look, I think the — they’re going to have a lot of soul searching to do. And the problem is they were complicit in the big lie, this lie that Donald Trump won the election in a landslide and it was all stolen. They compounded that with this notion that, somehow, this could all be reversed in the final moments of the congressional proceedings. So that’s going to be, that’s going to haunt them for a very long time."

pat toomeyThis is President Trump’s first impeachment all over again. “Yes, bad things were done,” Republicans such as Toomey acknowledged. “But let voters decide.”

No. Toomey, left, was elected. He has the constitutional obligations to try to remove a president who subverts democracy. He has an obligation under the Constitution to, in appropriate circumstances, expel members by a two-thirds vote. He cannot shirk his duties as he did in acquitting Trump the first time.

Why have impeachment and expulsion in the Constitution if the answer is: “Let the voters decide"? For goodness’ sake, he is not even running for reelection in 2022. I find it unfathomable that he remains so timid.

It is this sort of weakness — the failure to repudiate Trump years ago; the refusal to dump him in 2020; the silence, if not active support to overthrow the election — that defines the “good” Republicans. Not good enough. Inaction is complicity. Inaction allows Trump and lawmakers to escape accountability for their heinous actions.

ny times logoNew York Times, Stripped of Twitter, Trump Faces a New Challenge: How to Get Attention, Maggie Haberman, Jan. 11, 2021 (print ed.). President Trump became a celebrity through television, but Twitter had given him a singular outlet for expressing himself as he is, unfiltered by the norms of the presidency.

His public persona was a product of television for decades.

twitter bird CustomThrough “The Apprentice,” he built a fantasy version of himself as a tough-minded chief executive of a global business empire and a self-made billionaire. His wrestling match-style rallies helped him dominate television during the 2016 presidential campaign. Ever attuned to how he was playing and the power of ratings, he personally chose which anchors he wanted to interview him, and persuaded hosts to allow him to simply phone into their Sunday shows.

But as his campaign played out and his presidency began, Donald J. Trump, the master of the small screen, evolved gradually into a different character, @realdonaldtrump, whose itchy Twitter finger became many things at once: an agenda-setter for the day’s coverage, a weapon against his rivals, a way of firing aides and cabinet secretaries, a grenade he could throw at Republican lawmakers who had crossed him and reporters whose coverage he hated, a window into his psyche, and most of all, an unfiltered pipeline to his supporters.

Now, his Twitter account yanked away from him permanently, President Trump faces the challenge, for both his remaining days in the White House and in a post-presidency, of how to thrust himself into the conversation on his own terms.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump has assured the worst possible outcome for himself, Bill Palmer, Jan. 11, 2021. This is like Watergate, if Richard Nixon bill palmertried to have Gerald Ford killed in an attempt at remaining in power. Unlike Trump, Nixon had enough of a small fraction of decency in the end – or maybe just enough pragmatism – to pack up and leave when it was over.

bill palmer report logo headerNixon got to carve out a life outside of politics after he left office, specifically because he left office peacefully. By leaving peacefully, Nixon was able to finagle a federal pardon, and move on with his life. Of course Nixon wasn’t facing state level charges that were going to send him to prison anyway, like Trump is.

But still, even Nixon didn’t incite a terrorist attack on the Capitol building with Ford in it, in one last ridiculous attempt at somehow magically remaining in power. Trump has assured an absolutely horrible outcome for himself, and no semblance of a life after this.

It’s no longer simply a matter of whether Trump can beat the financial fraud charges during his criminal trial in New York. Even if Trump were to somehow pull that off, what does his life look like? He’s lost Twitter, meaning he can’t reach his base. Society is turning against his supporters by the minute. He’s even forced a number of prominent Republicans to cut him off, when they were hoping not to have to. Trump even lost a major golf tournament today, just to rub it in.

Donald Trump has ensured that the rest of his life will consist of criminal trials, financial destruction, ostracizing, and prison. He’s already miserable, impotent, lost, cut off, hobbled. He’ll likely never have another enjoyable day in his life. He spent four years trying to destroy America, and when he learned he wouldn’t get to do it for another four years, he opted to destroy himself.

Jan. 9

Trump Removal Pressures

djt nancy pelosi

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump faces mounting demands to leave office or face impeachment, Seung Min Kim, Josh Dawsey, Mike DeBonis and Tom Hamburger, Jan. 9, 2021 (print ed.). President Trump faces mounting pressure for his immediate ouster after he incited Wednesday’s violent siege at the Capitol — an increasingly louder drumbeat chastising his actions that threatens not only to prematurely end his waning tenure but to put him in legal jeopardy once he leaves office.

democratic donkey logoIn Congress, a growing cadre of House Democrats is pushing to rapidly impeach Trump a second time before he is scheduled to leave office on Jan. 20. They are preparing to introduce articles charging him with inciting an insurrection and having “gravely endangered the security of the United States” and its institutions.

In public, Trump has come as close as he is likely to get to admitting he lost the election, acknowledging that there will be a transfer of power and confirming Friday that he will not attend President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. But in private, the president has tried to rationalize his actions, saying he wanted only to encourage a large protest that would garner news coverage and rattle members of Congress — not for his supporters to actually storm the Capitol in the worst breach of its security since the War of 1812.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden stimulus plan includes checks, jobless aid, Jeff Stein, Erica Werner and Mike DeBonis, Jan. 9, 2021 (print ed.). President-elect Joe Biden said Friday he is assembling a multitrillion-dollar relief package that would boost stimulus payments for Americans to $2,000, extend unemployment insurance and send billions of dollars in aid to city and state governments, moving swiftly to address the nation’s deteriorating economic condition and the rampaging pandemic.

joe biden twitterThe package will also include billions of dollars to improve vaccine distribution and tens of millions of dollars for schools, as well as rent forbearance and assistance to small businesses, especially those in low-income communities, Biden said at a news conference in Wilmington, Del.

“We need to provide more immediate relief for families and businesses now,” Biden said.

“The price tag will be high,” he said, adding, “The overwhelming consensus among leading economists left, right and center is that in order to keep the economy from collapsing this year, getting much, much worse, we should be investing significant amounts of money right now.”

Biden said he would lay out the package in more detail next week. It would build on some $4 trillion in economic assistance Congress has already devoted to battling the devastating pandemic, including a $900 billion package President Trump signed into law last month.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live U.S. Political Update: Democrats Lay Groundwork for Impeaching Trump Again, Staff Reports, Jan. 9, 2021. ‘I Want Him Out’: Murkowski Is First G.O.P. Senator to Call for Removal.

House Democrats intend to introduce an article of impeachment on Monday charging President Trump with “willfully inciting violence against the government of the United States.” President-elect Joe Biden prioritizes the economy, saying there is a “a dire, dire need to act now.”

  • Furious Democrats, backed by a handful of Republicans, pressured President Trump to leave office after a violent mob attack on the Capitol this week.
  • Senator Lisa Murkowski suggested she may leave the Republican Party if it continued to align itself with Mr. Trump.
  • But the president struck a defiant tone. Behind closed doors, he made clear that he would not resign. Here’s the latest from Washington.
  • Biden pledges action to address the economy and the pandemic.
  • Pelosi asked the Pentagon about preventing Trump from using the nuclear codes.
  • A judge has blocked Trump’s sweeping restrictions on asylum applications.
  • Trump's suspension from Twitter caps an online revolt against him.

washington post logoWashington Post, McConnell memo outlines how Senate would conduct second trial for Trump if House impeaches, Seung Min Kim, Jan. 9, 2021 (print ed.). Based on the Senate schedule and timelines, the proceedings would occur after the president leaves office.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump held Senators hostage in the Capitol while calling them and demanding the election be overturned, Bill Palmer, right, Jan. 9, bill palmer2021 (12:03 a.m.). We all saw Donald Trump incite the domestic terrorist attack on the United States Capitol Building. And it’s since been revealed that Trump refused to sign off on the mayor’s request that the DC National Guard be sent in to retake the Capitol. But now things have taken an even darker turn.

bill palmer report logo headerCNN is reporting that while the Capitol was under siege by Trump-terrorists, and while Trump was refusing to sign off on sending the National Guard, he called at least one Senator on the phone and demanded that the election results be overturned. CNN is reporting that Trump tried to call Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville and instead reached Republican Senator Mike Lee, making his demand.

This means that if the timeline of events as we understand it is indeed accurate, Donald Trump was holding members of Congress hostage in the basement while calling them and making demands. This is way beyond merely inciting the attack, or even refusing to do anything to put it down. This is some kind of ransom situation. Trump allowed the Vice President, every Senator, and every House member to remain held hostage and in danger of violence, while he made demands. This is one of the ugliest crimes in American history – and Trump will never get out of prison.

washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter permanently suspends Trump’s account, Nitasha Tiku and Tony Romm, Jan. 9, 2021 (print ed.). “Despite our efforts to serve the public conversation, as Trump’s megaphone, we helped fuel the deadly events of January 6th,” the employees wrote.

Hundreds of Twitter employees demanded in a letter written this week that the company’s leaders permanently suspend Donald Trump’s Twitter account because of his actions surrounding the storming of the U.S. Capitol Tuesday, calling the company’s response insufficient.

twitter bird CustomIn an internal letter addressed to chief executive Jack Dorsey and his top executives viewed by The Washington Post, roughly 350 Twitter employees asked for a clear account of the company’s decision-making process regarding the President’s tweets the day that a pro-Trump mob breached the U.S. Capitol. Employees also requested an investigation into the past several years of corporate actions that led to Twitter’s role in the insurrection.

donald trump twitter“Despite our efforts to serve the public conversation, as Trump’s megaphone, we helped fuel the deadly events of January 6th,” the employees wrote. “We request an investigation into how our public policy decisions led to the amplification of serious anti-democratic threats. We must learn from our mistakes in order to avoid causing future harm.”

“We play an unprecedented role in civil society and the world’s eyes are upon us. Our decisions this week will cement our place in history, for better or worse,” the added.

In a statement, Twitter spokesperson Brandon Borrman wrote, “Twitter encourages an open dialogue between our leadership and employees, and we welcome our employees expressing their thoughts and concerns in whichever manner feels right to them.”

Twitter on Wednesday initially labeled Trump’s tweets about the election as disputed. But a subsequent video from the president — calling for calm while continuing to peddle disinformation — prompted the company to step up its enforcement actions.

Twitter ultimately locked the president out of his account for the first time, requiring him to delete his offending tweets — then wait 12 hours — in order to regain access. That came Thursday morning, and Trump issued his first public comments on the site later that night. Twitter said it would suspend Trump permanently if he continues to break its rules, putting users at risk.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump pressured Ga. elections investigator in a separate call that experts say could amount to obstruction, Amy Gardner, Jan. 9, 2021
More than a week before he urged the Georgia secretary of state to overturn the election results, the president urged the state’s chief elections fraud investigator to “find the fraud.

 ali alexander resized greg palast

"Stop the Steal" Republican operative Ali Alexander, top right, is shown with two others in revelations excerpted below by investigative reporter Greg Palast.

GregPalast.com, Investigation: Why did the Georgia GOP Team up with a riot instigator? Greg Palast, Jan. 8-9, 2021. “WE’LL LIGHT THE WHOLE SH*T ON FIRE!”

The star of the GOP’s get-out-the-vote door-knocking program in the Georgia Senate run-off, standing next to Alex Jones, was blasting his threat through a georgia map 2megaphone in front of the Governor’s home. “We’ll light the whole sh*t on fire!”GOP Operative: “We’ll light the whole sh*t on fire!”

Ali Alexander’s threat in December would become all too real when he repeated his performance on January 6 in Washington, DC.

In the U.S. Capitol that day, looking over the scene of screams, tear gas, and mayhem, Alexander said, “I warned you this would happen.”

Yes, he did. Nevertheless, the Georgia Republican Party’s Metro Atlanta Field Director Kevin Mason was more than happy to team up with Alexander. With his huge reach within the Alt-Right, Alexander could bring in a swarm of volunteers for the door-knocking campaign they desperately needed to hold back the looming Democratic victory in the US Senate run-offs.

republican elephant logoThe far-right celebrity was the magnet to draw scores of young enthusiasts to a January 3 training session at the DoubleTree Hotel in Roswell, an Atlanta suburb. The Palast Investigative Fund’s photojournalist, Zach D. Roberts, a specialist in white-fringe violence who’d been tracking Alexander’s pitch for mayhem across the nation, signed up.

Roberts, who joined up through Alexander’s website, StopTheSteal.US, was quite surprised to receive instructions, not from the right-wing group, but from Daniel George of the National Republican Senate Committee.

Why would the GOP team up with Alexander, a leader of the Stop the Steal extremists, especially after his well-broadcast warning of violence? The threat was not out of character. There are widely circulated films of Alexander with Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes. And there is a video chat with Alexander yucking it up with a right-wing jokester holding up a giant flag with a Nazi Swastika flag.

That is, if “Alexander” is his real name. He adopted it after his reported conviction for a felony crime under the name “Ali Akbar.” [See 2012 column excerpted immediately below.]

Alexander is a shapeshifter, sometimes the eye-swiveling crazy, sometimes the dapper guest for Alt-Right podcasts. We cannot link to his most incendiary outlets such as WildProtest.com because they’ve been taken down for inciting violence.

In Georgia, with Alex Jones and Nick Fuentes, a known white nationalist, Alexander hid nothing of his hopes for Washington on January 6. “Either they take Trump, prove that they won or they’re not going to hand them back the country again. We’ll light the whole sh*t on fire!”

To fire up its base, the GOP is apparently willing to cavort with the violence-threatening fringe. The Grand Old Party dismissed Alexander’s warnings. And they also forgot John Kennedy’s warning that “Those who ride the tail of the tiger soon end up inside.”

greg palast logo

Greg Palast (Rolling Stone, Guardian, BBC), shown above, is the author of The New York Times bestsellers, "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy" and "Billionaires & Ballot Bandits," out as major motion non-fiction movie: "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: The Case of the Stolen Election," available on Amazon and Amazon Prime.

 ali akbar mugshot

Crooks and Liars, The National Bloggers Club And Their Super PAC Friends, Matt Osborne, Co-authored with Alex Brant-Zawadzki and Bill Schmalfeldt, Research assistance by Melissa Brewer, Sept. 12, 2012. Ali Akbar, now President of the National Bloggers Club, is one of the conservative blogosphere's most infamous characters. He began his campaign of notoriety with a crime spree in 2006, blazing a six-year trail of fraud. That's him up there, in the mug shots.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump just screwed himself even worse than you think, Bill Palmer, Jan. 9, 2021. If Donald Trump had behaved during the transition period, he probably could have convinced the judge in his New York criminal trial to let him serve house arrest at Mar-a-Lago, perhaps even let him out on bail completely, while awaiting trial. But now that he’s a documented domestic terrorist threat, the odds of his pretrial incarceration just went up.

bill palmer report logo headerI’d like to thank Donald Trump for doing more to destroy Trumpism this week than I ever could have done on my own. I’d like believe i’ve certainly put a dent in Trump these past four years, but he just took a sledgehammer to his own cause.

Donald Trump’s subreddit has just been banned from Reddit. Do you know how badly you have to screw up in life to get banned from Reddit? YouTube has permanently banned Steve Bannon.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump just got kicked off Twitter for the THIRD time tonight, Bill Palmer, Jan. 8, 2021. Shortly after Donald Trump got permanently banned from Twitter tonight, he tried rogue tweeting from the @POTUS account, which is supposed to be for government use. That only lasted about thirty seconds before Twitter cracked down, deleting his rant. Now it’s happened again on another account.

bill palmer report logo headerTwitter has now permanently suspended Donald Trump’s official campaign Twitter account @TeamTrump after he and/or his handlers used it to post the same rant that Twitter had just removed from the @POTUS account. That’s right, Trump has now been kicked off Twitter for the third time tonight.

At this rate Donald Trump’s next move will be to create a new account called “Ronald Trump” and hope that Twitter doesn’t figure out it’s also him. Trump is the dumbest villain of all time, and he’s getting dumber as the night goes on.

washington post logoWashington Post, Voting machine firm Dominion sues pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, seeking more than $1.3 billion in defamation claim, Emma Brown, Jan. 9, 2021 (print ed.). Dominion Voting Systems on Friday filed a defamation lawsuit against lawyer Sidney Powell, demanding more than $1.3 billion in damages for havoc it says Powell has caused by spreading “wild” and “demonstrably false” allegations, including that Dominion played a central role in a fantastical scheme to steal the 2020 election from President Trump.

For weeks, Powell has claimed that Dominion was established with communist money in Venezuela to enable ballot-stuffing and other vote manipulation, and that those abilities were harnessed to rig the election for former vice president Joe Biden.

dominion voting systemsIn a 124-page complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Dominion said its reputation and resale value have been deeply damaged by a “viral disinformation campaign” that Powell mounted “to financially enrich herself, to raise her public profile, and to ingratiate herself to Donald Trump.” The defendants named in the lawsuit include Powell, her law firm and Defending the Republic, the organization she set up to solicit donations to support her election-related litigation.

In an interview, Dominion CEO John Poulos said the lawsuit aims to clear his company’s name through a full airing of the facts about the 2020 election.

lin wood gage skidmorePoulos said he would like the case to go to trial rather than settle. “We feel that it’s important for the entire electoral process,” he said. “The allegations, I know they were lobbed against us . . . but the impacts go so far beyond us.”

Powell did not immediately respond to a request for comment. L. Lin Wood, left, a lawyer who has worked alongside Powell on post-election lawsuits and who says he is representating her in connection to defamation matters, called the lawsuit an attempt “to censor speech or try to intimidate people from telling the truth.”

 

Deaths From Pro-Trump Riot

brian sicknick

ny times logoNew York Times, He Dreamed of Being a Police Officer, Then Was Killed by a Pro-Trump Mob, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Tracey Tully, Jan. 9, 2021 (print ed.). The death of Brian Sicknick, above, a veteran and experienced officer, amplified the tragedy of the riots and undermined President Trump’s pro-police claims.

Brian Sicknick followed his Air National Guard unit to Saudi Arabia, Kyrgyzstan and a military base in his home state of New Jersey, all in the hopes of one day wearing a police uniform. It was a wish fulfilled more than 10 years ago when he joined the police department tasked with protecting the U.S. Capitol.

Then on Wednesday, pro-Trump rioters attacked that citadel of democracy, overpowered Mr. Sicknick, 42, and struck him in the head with a fire extinguisher, according to two law enforcement officials. With a bloody gash in his head, Mr. Sicknick was rushed to the hospital and placed on life support. He died on Thursday evening.

“Brian is a hero,” his brother Ken Sicknick said. “That is what we would like people to remember.”

The death of Officer Sicknick amplified the nation’s grief in the wake of the shocking attack on the Capitol by rioters, inflamed by President Trump’s calls to stop Congress from counting electoral votes and officially declaring Joseph R. Biden Jr. the winner of November’s election. One of those rioters, Ashli Babbitt, also died in the melee, shot by a police officer as she tried to push her way into the heavily protected Speaker’s Lobby, just outside the House chamber.

In all, five have died since the riot began, though three of them were not killed by hostile action. But the beating of an officer brought waves of condolences from lawmakers in both parties still reeling from the event. It also exposed one of the many contradictions of the Trump presidency in his final weeks in the Oval Office. A president who campaigned as a “law and order” candidate, boasting about his relationships with police unions and demonizing those protesting racist policing, incited a riot that led to the death of a member of the law enforcement community.

“It’s a bunch of” nonsense, William J. Bratton, the former New York City police commissioner, said of Mr. Trump’s pledges to the police, though he used a stronger word. “It was a misappropriation of the term ‘law and order.’”

Justice Department officials said during a news conference on Friday that they were investigating the circumstances of Mr. Sicknick’s death, but would not say whether it was a federal murder investigation. One official said that “felony murder is always in play,” but that investigators needed to complete their work.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. Capitol police officer dies after engaging rioters, Peter Hermann, Jan. 9, 2021 (print ed.). Officer Brian D. Sicknick, below right, brian sicknickcollapsed after returning to his division office and was rushed to a hospital, where officials said he died Thursday night.

On Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) ordered flags at the U.S. Capitol to be flown at half-staff.

“The violent and deadly act of insurrection targeting the Capitol, our temple of American Democracy, and its workers was a profound tragedy and stain on our nation’s history. But because of the heroism of our first responders and the determination of the Congress, we were not, and we will never be, diverted from our duty to the Constitution and the American people,” Pelosi said in a statement.

capitol ties

An as-yet unidentified rioter, center, heavily disguised, invades the U.S. Capitol as part of the pro-Trump "Stop the Steal" protest carrying plastic "ties," which are normally used by law enforcers to bind the wrists of suspects but which are used also by terrorists to subdue hostage victims.

washington post logoWashington Post, FBI focuses on whether some rioters intended to harm lawmakers or take hostages, Devlin Barrett, Spencer S. Hsu and Matt Zapotosky, Jan. 9, 2021 (print ed.). FBI agents are trying to determine whether some who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday intended to do more than cause havoc and disrupt the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, and they are sifting through evidence to see whether anyone wanted to kill or capture lawmakers or their staffers, according to people familiar with the investigation.

Dozens have been arrested, and Friday, officials announced charges against an Arkansas man photographed in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office chair with a foot on her desk. But investigators also are working to determine the motivations and larger goals, if any, of those who had weapons or other gear suggesting they planned to do physical harm.

FBI logoSome rioters, for instance, were photographed carrying zip ties, a plastic version of handcuffs, and one man was arrested allegedly carrying a pistol on the Capitol grounds.

“We’re not looking at this as a grand conspiracy, but we are interested in learning what people would do with things like zip ties,” said a law enforcement official, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the investigation.

No photos or videos that have surfaced so far suggest any of the individuals with zip ties tried to take hostages. One possibility being pursued by investigators is that some who burst into the building may be current or former law enforcement officers, or current and former military personnel, people familiar with the investigation said.

Some who participated in the larger pro-Trump protest this week do work in law enforcement.

Chris West, the sheriff of Canadian County in Oklahoma, for example, held a news conference Friday to dispute that he was the person pictured on social media who claimed he was inside the Capitol, according to a Fox affiliate there. West told reporters that though he did come to rally in D.C. as an “individual” and Trump supporter, he never set foot in the Capitol building and thought he was walking from Liberty Square in the direction of the Capitol when the violence began.

A sheriff in Bexar County, Tex., meanwhile, told reporters that one of his lieutenants ­— Roxanne Mathai ­— was under investigation after her Facebook posts appeared to show she was at the Capitol, according to a local ABC station. Mathai has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

rnc logoMany of the initial charges have been for unlawful entry, but authorities also found suspected pipe bombs outside the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee, and they arrested the owner of a truck they said was spotted nearby with 11 molotov cocktails inside. The FBI is still searching for the person who left the suspected pipe bombs.

Adding to the investigation’s urgency, Twitter on Friday noted that plans for future armed protests have begun circulating online, including a proposed second attack on the U.S. Capitol and assaults on state government buildings Jan. 17.

Officials cautioned that there may be a variety of motives among those who broke into Congress, and they said that a key part of their investigation is determining whether any individuals or groups had planned in advance or were coordinating in the moment to commit violence against individual politicians. Others may simply have been caught up in the moment and committed rash, unplanned crimes, officials said.

capitol mob

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), The anatomy of a fascist military-police coup in the United States, Wayne Madsen, left, Jan. 8, 2021. This editor worked for several wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallyears out of the U.S. Capitol complex, attending press conferences, covering hearings, and interviewing members, and got to know almost every nook and cranny.

On January 6, 2021 – truly a date that will live in infamy – armed marauders believing conspiracy theories were able to enter the U.S. Capitol unimpeded by Capitol police.

wayne madesen report logoThe reason was simple. They were aided and abetted in an attempted coup d’etat against the United States by top law enforcement officials of the U.S. Capitol, far-right Republican members of the Senate and House of Representatives, the Department of Defense, the Washington Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), elements within the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Park Service and Police, Secret Service, and state-level offices.

The conspiracy to do exactly what was done on January 6 was advertised on social media, from Gab and Parler to Facebook and Instagram.

USA Today via Yahoo News, Florida man photographed carrying Speaker's lectern in Capitol riot arrested by federal marshal, Rich McKay, Jan. 9, 2021. A usa today logoFlorida man photographed carrying U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's lectern from the House of Representative chambers during the riot at the U.S. Capitol was arrested late Friday, according to jail records.

Adam Christian Johnson, 36, of Parrish, Florida, was arrested on a federal warrant and booked into the Pinellas County jail Friday night, the records said. No bond was allowed.

Following the storming of the Capitol on Wednesday, where lawmakers had gathered to certify the election of President-elect Joe Biden, the FBI had asked the public for help identifying participants, given the proliferation of images of the riots on the internet.

Five people died in the riot, including a Capitol Hill police officer.

Johnson was one of those identified on social media and was identified by the Bradenton Herald as being from Parrish, a community about 25 miles (40 km) south of Tampa.

In addition to the arrest of Johnson, there were at least 13 people facing criminal charges in U.S. District Court in connection to the riot, and at least another 40 people were facing lesser charges in the District of Columbia Superior Court, a local venue.

Many of those individuals were arraigned on Thursday and released, with an order from the judge not to return to Washington unless it is for court appearances or meetings with their attorneys.

They included Cleveland Meredith, who was charged with threatening Pelosi as well as possession of an unregistered firearm and unregistered ammunition, and Richard Barnett, the Gravette, Arkansas, man who was photographed sitting at Pelosi's desk and is also known as Bigo.

USA Today, Fact check: Claims of electoral fraud in Rome, dubbed 'ItalyGate,' are baseless, Camille Caldera, Jan. 8, 2021. The claim: Votes were switched usa today logofrom Trump to Biden at the U.S. Embassy in Rome. At 3:41 a.m. on Jan. 7, Vice President Mike Pence confirmed that President-elect Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump — an act that marked the formal end of the presidential race, per USA Today.

Nonetheless, some internet users have continued to levy baseless claims about electoral fraud. This week, there were multiple videos posted to Facebook that alleged the vote count was changed in Rome.

Pages like Conversation Controversy and Trump Train News Media shared a 52-minute video in which Maria Strollo Zack explains the theory, dubbed "ItalyGate."

"The theft of the election was orchestrated in the Rome Embassy, on the second floor of Via Veneto, by an employee, Stefano Serafini, foreign service officer of over 20 years," she said. "Stefano Serafini coordinated with a General Claudio Graziano."

"General Graziano is on the board of Leonardo — the defense contractor, Leonardo SPA," Strollo Zack continued. "Leonardo used their military satellite uplink to load the software and transfer it over to change the votes from Trump to Biden."

"ItalyGate" has quickly spread to around the internet. The three videos have amassed a combined 100,000 views and 7,000 shares on Facebook. An interview of Strollo Zack on America Can We Talk? on YouTube has also garnered over 400,000 views.

Conversation Controversy, Strollo Zack, American Can We Talk? have not responded to requests from USA TODAY for comment. Trump Train News Media told USA Today that they are not responsible for the content, since it was sent to the page to share.

Johnson told USA Today that "it’s clear from Italian newspapers this is going on," though he provided no proof.

The claims in both videos on "ItalyGate" are baseless. They are also easily contradicted by statements from multiple federal officials who have found no proof of electoral fraud.

On Nov. 12, a national coalition of election security officials announced that "there is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised," per USA Today.

washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter warns of new plans for violence, brewing again on social media, as reason for Trump ban, Craig Timberg and Drew Harwell, Jan. 9, 2021. The company described a looming “secondary attack” on the U.S. Capitol and state government facilities next weekend.


Biden Transition

 washington post logoWashington Post, Biden, who ran on unity, now leads a party furious at GOP, Annie Linskey, Jan. 9, 2021 (print ed.). President-elect Joe Biden, who campaigned on a promise to reach out to Republicans and unite the country, found himself Friday leading a party angrily bent on impeaching President Trump, forcing the resignation of GOP senators and making Republicans pay for their baseless challenge to the election results.

joe biden 2020 button CustomBiden, speaking to reporters in Wilmington, Del., essentially offered a divided response, calling some Republicans “shameful” and praising others for their “enormous integrity.” He said his goal of bipartisanship is, if anything, more achievable after Wednesday’s assault on the Capitol, citing Republicans like Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who he said has talked to him in disgust about the rioters.

“I think it makes my job easier,” Biden said. “We must unify the country.”

He sidestepped questions about a growing drive by House Democrats to impeach Trump, but he strongly suggested that Congress’s time would be better spent tackling his agenda. “What the Congress decides to do is for them to decide,” Biden said. “But they’re going to have to be ready to hit the ground running.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Here’s who objected to certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, Karen Yourish, Larry Buchanan and Denise Lu. Here are the eight senators and 139 representatives who voted to sustain one or both objections.

washington post logoWashington Post, Chart: Who Joe Biden is picking to fill his White House and Cabinet, Staff reports, Jan. 8, 2020. One of President-elect Joe Biden’s very first tasks will be filling the top positions in his White House and Cabinet. In contrast to President Trump’s notably White and male Cabinet, Biden has promised to be “a president for all Americans” and build a Cabinet that reflects its diversity.

joe biden kamala harrisIn making his selections Biden (shown at right with Vice President Election Kamala Harris) is looking to appease factions of the Democratic Party from moderates to progressives and longtime allies to newer faces. Cabinet positions — with the exception of the vice president and White House chief of staff — will also require approval from a Republican Senate, unless Democrats can win two Senate race runoffs in early January.

Once confirmed, they will be instrumental in carrying out his goals and setting the tenor his presidency. We’re tracking the people who Biden has already named and the top contenders for unfilled roles.

  • Washington Post, Biden still planning to be sworn in on the steps of U.S. Capitol two weeks after mob attack, Emily Davies and Matt Viser, Jan. 9, 2021. 

 

More On U.S. Elections, Politics

ronna mcdaniel djt Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, In Capital, a G.O.P. Crisis. At the R.N.C. Meeting, a Trump Celebration, Jonathan Martin, Jan. 9, 2021 (print ed.). Party members at a gathering of the Republican National Committee endorsed President Trump to lead the party forward, despite turmoil in Washington.

In Washington, Republicans were dealing with a burgeoning crisis in their ranks, with high-profile resignations and bitter infighting over how to deal with an erratic and isolated president. But at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting on Friday, most party members were operating in a parallel universe.

rnc logoIn a chandelier-adorned ballroom at the seaside Ritz-Carlton here, there was no mention of President Trump’s disruption of the coronavirus relief package or his phone call to the Georgia secretary of state demanding that he help steal the election, both of which contributed to Republicans’ losing control of the Senate.

And while the R.N.C. chair, Ronna McDaniel (shown above with Trump in separate file photos), condemned the attack on the Capitol, neither she nor any other speaker so much as publicly hinted at Mr. Trump’s role in inciting a mob assault on America’s seat of government.

Even as the president faces a possible second impeachment proceeding, this collective exercise in gaze aversion was not the most striking part of the meeting. More revealing was the reason for the silence from the stage: Party members, one after another, said in interviews that the president did not bear any blame for the violence at the Capitol and indicated that they wanted him to continue to play a leading role in the party.

“I surely embrace President Trump,” said Michele Fiore, the committeewoman from Nevada, where Republicans have lost two Senate races and the governorship since 2016. Ms. Fiore, who was sporting a Trump-emblazoned vest, said the president was “absolutely” a positive force in the party.

The fealty to Mr. Trump was made plain on Friday when the state chairs and the committeemen and women who make up the R.N.C.’s governing board unanimously re-elected Ms. McDaniel, Mr. Trump’s handpicked chair. They also reappointed her co-chair, Tommy Hicks, who was first appointed to his post because of his friendship with the president’s eldest son.

Mr. Trump is the first president since Herbert Hoover to preside over the loss of the White House, the House and the Senate in a single term and will be the first since Andrew Johnson to boycott his successor’s inauguration. That hasn’t yet fazed the Republican rank and file.

“This room, they’re in denial, and that’s on the record,” Bill Palatucci, a committeeman from New Jersey, said during a break in the Friday session, acknowledging the “damage done to the country” and the Republican “brand” this week.

But Mr. Palatucci was a lonely voice of dissent, at least in public.

 

Sen. Josh Hawley, a first-term Missouri Republican, gives a fist salute to the pro-Trump mob outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 (photo by Francis Chung).

Sen. Josh Hawley, a first-term Missouri Republican, gives a fist salute to the pro-Trump mob outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 (photo by Francis Chung).

ny times logoNew York Times, Senator Josh Hawley, who drew condemnation for challenging the election results, defended his decision, Catie Edmondson Jan. 9, 2021 (print ed.). The day after Josh Hawley became the first Republican senator to say he would indulge President Trump’s demand that lawmakers try to overturn the election, a reporter asked if he thought the gambit would make him unpopular with his colleagues.

“More than I already am?” he retorted.

Even before Mr. Hawley lodged what was certain to be a futile objection to Congress’s certification of the results, the 41-year-old senator — regarded as a rising Republican star who could one day run for president — was far from the chamber’s most popular lawmaker.

His insistence on pressing the challenge after a violent mob egged on by Mr. Trump stormed the Capitol to protest President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory, endangering the entire Congress and the vice president in a day of terror that left at least five people dead, has earned him pariah status in Washington.

But while Mr. Hawley’s role in the riot may have left him shunned — at least for now — in official circles, it may only have improved his stock with his party’s djt maga hatbase in his home state, which remains deeply loyal to Mr. Trump.

His fellow Republicans in the Senate lined up to blame Mr. Hawley for the riot. The editorial boards of major newspapers in Missouri accused him of having “blood on his hands” and called on him to resign. His publisher canceled his book deal and his erstwhile mentor called his efforts to get Mr. Hawley elected to the Senate “the biggest mistake I’ve ever made.”

“But for him, it wouldn’t have happened,” former Senator John C. Danforth of Missouri, the Republican elder statesman, told The Kansas City Star of his former protégé’s role in the riot.

Mr. Hawley has remained defiant, arguing Wednesday evening that the electoral count in Congress was the proper venue to debate his concerns about fraud in the balloting, though he never made a specific charge of wrongdoing.

republican elephant logo“I will never apologize for giving voice to the millions of Missourians and Americans who have concerns about the integrity of our elections,” Mr. Hawley said in a statement. “That’s my job, and I will keep doing it.”

But many Republicans dismissed his effort as grandstanding intended to further his own political ambitions. Some Democratic senators demanded his resignation. And on Friday, Mr. Biden said that Mr. Hawley and Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, were part of “the big lie” that had animated Mr. Trump’s refusal to concede, invoking Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Germany’s minister of propaganda.

djt march 2020 Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Legacy: Voters Who Reject Democracy and Any Politics but Their Own, Trip Gabriel, Jan. 9, 2021. Interviews with voters this week show that President Trump’s subversion of democratic values will have enduring influence within the Republican Party.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Parler Pitched Itself as Twitter Without Rules. Not Anymore, Apple and Google Said, Jack Nicas, Updated Jan. 9, 2021. Google and Apple told Parler, a social network popular with far-right conservatives, that it must better police its users if it wants a place in their app stores.

parler logoParler is one of the hottest apps in the world, a social network that has attracted millions of far-right conservatives over the past year with its hands-off approach to policing users’ posts. And with the news that President Trump had been kicked off Twitter and Facebook, Parler was the odds-on bet to be his next soapbox.

But just as it has been gaining new clout, Parler is now suddenly faced with an existential crisis.

apple logo rainbowOn Friday, Apple told the company that it had to step up its policing of the conversation on its app — undercutting its flagship feature — or lose its platform on iPhones. Several hours later, Google suspended Parler from the Play Store, the main way to download apps on Android devices, until it better polices its app.

In an email to Parler, Apple said it had received complaints that people used the Parler app, which mimics Twitter, to plan Wednesday’s deadly riot in Washington. Apple said it had determined that Parler was not “removing content that encourages illegal activity and poses a serious risk to the health and safety of users.”

google logo customA day earlier, John Matze, Parler’s chief executive, had said in an interview with The Times about Wednesday’s melee that he didn’t “feel responsible for any of this and neither should the platform, considering we’re a neutral town square that just adheres to the law.”

In its letter, Apple referenced his stance and added, “We want to be clear that Parler is in fact responsible for all the user generated content present on your service and for ensuring that this content meets App Store requirements for the safety and protection of our users.”

Apple gave Parler 24 hours to comply before the app would be removed from Apple’s App Store.

Google said in a statement that it had pulled the app because Parler was not enforcing its own moderation policies, despite a recent reminder from Google, and because of continued posts on the app that sought to incite violence.

DJT lisa murkowski

Palmer Report, Opinion: This is a game changer, Bill Palmer, Jan. 9, 2021. Timing is bill palmera funny thing. When Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, above right, called for Donald Trump’s resignation today and threatened to leave the Republican Party over him, we were all instinctively expecting Trump to fire back at her on Twitter. Murkowski surely knew it was coming, and didn’t care.

bill palmer report logo headerBut then the bombshell dropped last night, squarely on Donald Trump’s head. After he was temporarily suspended from Twitter but then misbehaved again after getting his account back, Trump got banned from Twitter entirely – permanently. There are a lot of implications here. One of them is that he never got a chance to fire back at Murkowski. And now he’ll never get to tweet mean retaliatory things about another politician again.

This means that if some Republican Senator wants to unload on Donald Trump going forward, there will be no easy or immediate way for Trump to fire back in retaliation. If Trump can’t harm them in this way, it should make it easier for Republicans to attack Trump whenever they want. Even if some of them only do it for self-serving or backside-covering reasons, the path still just got a lot easier for them.

This is a potential game changer. Any Republican coward who’s spent four years wanting to lash out at Trump, but has been too fearful of retaliation, now gets to take free pot shots at Trump. Let the games begin, if any of these cowards want to play.

 

Jan. 8

BREAKING: Twitter permanently suspends President Trump’s account. The company said it took the action due to the ”risk of further incitement of violence.” This story will be updated.

washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter permanently suspends Trump’s account, Nitasha Tiku and Tony Romm, Jan. 8, 2021. “Despite our efforts to serve the public conversation, as Trump’s megaphone, we helped fuel the deadly events of January 6th,” the employees wrote.

Hundreds of Twitter employees demanded in a letter written this week that the company’s leaders permanently suspend Donald Trump’s Twitter account because of his actions surrounding the storming of the U.S. Capitol Tuesday, calling the company’s response insufficient.

twitter bird CustomIn an internal letter addressed to chief executive Jack Dorsey and his top executives viewed by The Washington Post, roughly 350 Twitter employees asked for a clear account of the company’s decision-making process regarding the President’s tweets the day that a pro-Trump mob breached the U.S. Capitol. Employees also requested an investigation into the past several years of corporate actions that led to Twitter’s role in the insurrection.

donald trump twitter“Despite our efforts to serve the public conversation, as Trump’s megaphone, we helped fuel the deadly events of January 6th,” the employees wrote. “We request an investigation into how our public policy decisions led to the amplification of serious anti-democratic threats. We must learn from our mistakes in order to avoid causing future harm.”

“We play an unprecedented role in civil society and the world’s eyes are upon us. Our decisions this week will cement our place in history, for better or worse,” the added.

In a statement, Twitter spokesperson Brandon Borrman wrote, “Twitter encourages an open dialogue between our leadership and employees, and we welcome our employees expressing their thoughts and concerns in whichever manner feels right to them.”

Letter to Jack Dorsey from Twitter employees asking to permanently suspend Donald Trump’s account

Twitter on Wednesday initially labeled Trump’s tweets about the election as disputed. But a subsequent video from the president — calling for calm while continuing to peddle disinformation — prompted the company to step up its enforcement actions. Twitter ultimately locked the president out of his account for the first time, requiring him to delete his offending tweets — then wait 12 hours — in order to regain access. That came Thursday morning, and Trump issued his first public comments on the site later that night. Twitter said it would suspend Trump permanently if he continues to break its rules, putting users at risk.

 

capitol guns drawn

Police with guns drawn watch as rioters and vandals break into the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) (Source: J. Scott Applewhite/AP); Separately, Fox News reported that an unidentified shooting victim, a California woman, was evacuated from the Capitol to a hospital in critical condition and died after being shot during unidentified circumstances, with at least three other dead during the attempted insurrection at the Capitol.

Trump Removal Pressures?

 

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Trump Removal Pressures

djt looking up

washington post logoWashington Post, Calls grow to remove Trump as he acknowledges ‘new administration,’ Anne Gearan and Mike DeBonis, Jan. 8, 2021 (print ed.). President Trump promised a smooth transition in a video message posted on Twitter Thursday night, saying that his supporters had pursued post-election challenges in good faith, but “now tempers must be cooled and calm restored.”

Trump’s comments are the closest he has come to acknowledging his loss, and they follow escalating calls for his removal, coming hours after the nation’s top congressional Democrats demanded he be removed from office for his role in the deadly sacking of the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.

nancy pelosi chuck schumer cropped jan 8 2019 screengrab

wsj logoWall Street Journal, Schumer, Pelosi Call for Trump’s Removal After Capitol Riot, Staff Report, Jan. 8, 2021 (print ed.). President for first time directly condemns rioters; transportation secretary resigns and head of Capitol Police says he plans to step down.

Democratic congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer (shown above in a file photo) called for President Trump to be removed from office while several top administration officials resigned, a day after the Capitol was stormed by rioters encouraged by the president to try to block Congress from certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s election win.

The head of the Capitol Police said late Thursday he planned to resign, after lawmakers demanded accountability from officials responsible for the security of the complex and launched investigations into why police were quickly overwhelmed, letting rioters roam through the building and forcing Congress to delay its count of states’ results. The Capitol Police said some officers were hospitalized as a result of the melee, but that there were no deaths to date. Earlier, a union official had said that an officer had died.

betsy devos oBreaking News: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, right, submitted her resignation to President Trump on Thursday night, saying the Capitol riot was an inflection point for her.

The Justice Department said 15 criminal complaints would be filed by the end of the day in connection with the riot, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation is seeking the public’s help in identifying more suspects.

Amid bipartisan criticism, Mr. Trump for the first time directly condemned the perpetrators and struck a conciliatory tone. In a video posted on Twitter, Mr. Trump said the people who stormed the Capitol “do not represent our country” and that lawbreakers “will pay.” He also said he would assist in the Biden transition process, and didn’t repeat his charges of election fraud.

“We have just been through an intense election and emotions are high. But now, tempers must be cooled and calm restored,” he said. “My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth orderly and seamless transition of power. This moment calls for healing and reconciliation.”

The developments highlighted the alarm Wednesday’s riot set off and the belief among many lawmakers from both parties that Mr. Trump provoked it and didn’t condemn the actions strongly enough once the protests turned violent.

“What happened at the U.S. Capitol yesterday was an insurrection against the United States, incited by the president,” said Mr. Schumer, the Senate minority leader from New York. Mr. Schumer’s description echoed comments from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) who called the rioting a “failed insurrection” Wednesday night.

Mr. Trump remained in the White House on Thursday. He privately awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to golfers Annika Sorenstam and Gary Player and gave one posthumously to Babe Zaharias.

elaine chao oTransportation Secretary Elaine Chao, left, said Thursday that she was quitting her post, citing the “entirely avoidable” storming of the Capitol building. Ms. Chao is married to Mr. McConnell. Mick Mulvaney, the U.S. special envoy for Northern Ireland and the former White House chief of staff, quit as well. He told CNBC: “I can’t stay here. Not after yesterday.”

Former Attorney General William Barr, who resigned just before Christmas, said that Mr. Trump’s conduct on Wednesday was a “betrayal of his office and supporters.”

A number of White House officials had resigned Wednesday. Among them were Matthew Pottinger, the deputy national security adviser, and Stephanie Grisham, chief of staff and press secretary to first lady Melania Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. Capitol police officer dies after engaging rioters, Peter Hermann, Jan. 8, 2021. Officer Brian D. Sicknick collapsed after returning to his division office and was rushed to a hospital, where officials said he died Thursday night.

A U.S. Capitol Police officer who was injured amid Wednesday’s takeover of the Capitol died Thursday night, according to a statement from his department.

The officer was identified as Brian D. Sicknick.

The Capitol Police said in the statement that Sicknick was injured “while physically engaging with protesters.” He collapsed after returning to his division office and was rushed to a hospital, where officials said he died at 9:30 p.m. Thursday.

Police did not provide details of how Sicknick was injured and the cause of death was pending Friday morning. It is considered a line-of-duty death and is being investigated by the D.C. police department’s homicide unit.

On Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) ordered flags at the U.S. Capitol to be flown at half-staff.

“The violent and deadly act of insurrection targeting the Capitol, our temple of American Democracy, and its workers was a profound tragedy and stain on our nation’s history. But because of the heroism of our first responders and the determination of the Congress, we were not, and we will never be, diverted from our duty to the Constitution and the American people,” Pelosi said in a statement.

 Sidney Powell, right, and Jenna Ellis

Trump attorneys Jenna Ellis, left, and Sidney Powell conduct a press conference with Trump counsel Rudy Giuliani before Trump fired Powell.

washington post logoWashington Post, Voting machine firm Dominion sues pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, seeking more than $1.3 billion in defamation claim, Emma Brown, Jan. 8, 2021. Dominion Voting Systems on Friday filed a defamation lawsuit against lawyer Sidney Powell, demanding more than $1.3 billion in damages for havoc it says Powell has caused by spreading “wild” and “demonstrably false” allegations, including that Dominion played a central role in a fantastical scheme to steal the 2020 election from President Trump.

For weeks, Powell has claimed that Dominion was established with communist money in Venezuela to enable ballot-stuffing and other vote manipulation, and that those abilities were harnessed to rig the election for former vice president Joe Biden.

dominion voting systemsIn a 124-page complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Dominion said its reputation and resale value have been deeply damaged by a “viral disinformation campaign” that Powell mounted “to financially enrich herself, to raise her public profile, and to ingratiate herself to Donald Trump.” The defendants named in the lawsuit include Powell, her law firm and Defending the Republic, the organization she set up to solicit donations to support her election-related litigation.

In an interview, Dominion CEO John Poulos said the lawsuit aims to clear his company’s name through a full airing of the facts about the 2020 election.

lin wood gage skidmorePoulos said he would like the case to go to trial rather than settle. “We feel that it’s important for the entire electoral process,” he said. “The allegations, I know they were lobbed against us . . . but the impacts go so far beyond us.”

Powell did not immediately respond to a request for comment. L. Lin Wood, left, a lawyer who has worked alongside Powell on post-election lawsuits and who says he is representating her in connection to defamation matters, called the lawsuit an attempt “to censor speech or try to intimidate people from telling the truth.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump just got a police officer murdered, Bill Palmer, right,Jan. 8, 2021. The first four known deaths stemming from the domestic bill palmerterrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol Building were all pro-Trump people who were either violently invading the building, or who died of medical issues during the fracas. But now CNN and others are confirming that a Capitol Police officer has also died as a result of the attack.

bill palmer report logo headerBecause Donald Trump knowingly and specifically incited this domestic terrorist attack, he’s already looking at a number of potential felony charges. That could now include conspiracy to commit homicide. In general, if someone is murdered as the result of a felony conspiracy, all participants in that felony conspiracy are considered guilty of that murder, whether they were directly responsible for that death or not.

Our condolences go out to the loved ones of the deceased police officer. It’s particularly jarring that Donald Trump and his supporters spent all these years chanting things like “Law and order” and “Blue lives matter,” but in the end, Trump incited them to murder a police officer.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Everything is happening at once now, Bill Palmer, Jan. 8, 2021. By the time today is over, it’s likely that either Donald Trump will have been removed via the 25th Amendment or Donald Trump’s second impeachment will be underway. You’re welcome to place your own odds on which one you think it’ll be. As the day goes on, even more of Trump’s top people will likely resign in protest of him.

bill palmer report logo headerToday will also bring us one step closer to Donald Trump being criminally charged on a federal level – which as recently as the start of this week seemed like a 50-50 proposition at best, but is now nearly a given. At this rate the DOJ and New York State may end up fighting each other to decide who gets to put Trump on trial first.

All of this happens even as President-elect Joe Biden comes another day closer to becoming President Joe Biden. He just announced his Attorney General, Merrick Garland, who now becomes the person who will oversee those federal charges against Trump.

Everything is happening at once right now. It’s difficult to predict how each day will play out or what controversy we’ll face in any given hour. But here’s what we do know: on January 20th this will be over. After that we’ll still have plenty of problems, and it’ll be a new kind of normal, and we’ll have to find our footing in it. But this depraved “President Trump” era is twelve days from being behind us.

ABC News via Yahoo News, Capitol police officer dies from injuries suffered during riots, Jack Date and Mark Osborne, Jan. 7, 2021 (11:57 p.m.). A U.S. Capitol abc news logoPolice officer has died following injuries suffered in the violent siege on the building Wednesday, according to a press release from the department.

The death is the fifth connected to the riots, which saw swarms of pro-Donald Trump protesters overwhelm police barricades, surge into the Capitol and force lawmakers to go into hiding.

The officer, identified as Brian D. Sicknick, died at 9:30 p.m. Thursday evening, police said.

"Officer Sicknick was responding to the riots on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol and was injured while physically engaging with protesters," USCP [U.S. Capitol Police] said in a statement. "He returned to his division office and collapsed. He was taken to a local hospital where he succumbed to his injuries. The death of Officer Sicknick will be investigated by the Metropolitan Police Department's Homicide Branch, the USCP, and our federal partners."

Sicknick had been with the department, most recently as part of the first responder unit, since 2008.

Three people died of medical emergencies, while a 35-year-old woman, Ashli Babbitt, was shot and killed by Capitol police while trying to enter a broken window into the House Chamber.

Law enforcement said more than 50 Capitol police and Metropolitan police officers suffered injuries in the rioting, and "several USCP officers have been hospitalized with serious injuries."

"These individuals actively attacked United States Capitol Police Officers and other uniformed law enforcement officers with metal pipes, discharged chemical irritants, and took up other weapons against our officers," the USCP said in a statement. "They were determined to enter into the Capitol Building by causing great damage."

A U.S. Capitol Police officer has died following injuries suffered in the violent siege on the building Wednesday, according to a press release from the department.

The death is the fifth connected to the riots, which saw swarms of pro-Donald Trump protesters overwhelm police barricades, surge into the Capitol and force lawmakers to go into hiding.

"Officer Sicknick was responding to the riots on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol and was injured while physically engaging with protesters," USCP said in a statement. "He returned to his division office and collapsed. He was taken to a local hospital where he succumbed to his injuries. The death of Officer Sicknick will be investigated by the Metropolitan Police Department's Homicide Branch, the USCP, and our federal partners."

Sicknick had been with the department, most recently as part of the first responder unit, since 2008.

Three people died of medical emergencies, while a 35-year-old woman, Ashli Babbitt, was shot and killed by Capitol police while trying to enter a broken window into the House Chamber.

Law enforcement said more than 50 Capitol police and Metropolitan police officers suffered injuries in the rioting, and "several USCP officers have been hospitalized with serious injuries."

"These individuals actively attacked United States Capitol Police Officers and other uniformed law enforcement officers with metal pipes, discharged chemical irritants, and took up other weapons against our officers," the USCP said in a statement. "They were determined to enter into the Capitol Building by causing great damage."

djt nancy pelosi

Palmer Report, Opinion: Speaker Nancy Pelosi just threw down the gauntlet against Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, right, Jan. 7, 2021. This morning, incoming Senate bill palmerMajority Leader Chuck Schumer called on Mike Pence and the cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment and immediately remove Donald Trump from office. This afternoon, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi threw down the gauntlet.

During a speech, Pelosi demanded that Pence invoke the 25th Amendment. She also threatened to impeach Trump if Pence doesn’t bill palmer report logo headerimmediately do so. It’s not clear what impeachment would even look like with just 12 days left in Trump’s term; impeachment is a complex multi-step process that goes through committees. It’s also unclear whether Mitch McConnell, who still controls the Senate for several more days, would be willing to go along with a fast track impeachment.

But Pelosi’s mere threat to introduce articles of impeachment against Trump does serve to place a lot more pressure on Mike Pence to move forward with the 25th Amendment. Pence is still under the illusion that he has some kind of political future after this. If he concludes that he has to move against Trump in order to preserve his own future viability, he just might do it. So the mounting pressure on him matters.

washington post logoWashington Post, After inciting mob attack, Trump retreats in rage. Then, grudgingly, he admits his loss, Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey, Jan. 8, 2021 (print ed.). President Trump spent more than 24 hours after instigating a mob to violently storm the Capitol trying to escape reality.

Cloistered in the White House, Trump raged uncontrollably about perceived acts of betrayal. He tuned out advisers who pleaded with him to act responsibly. He was uninterested in trying to repair what he had wrought. And he continued to insist he had won the election, even as his own vice president certified the fact that he had not.

Only after darkness fell in Washington on Thursday, after the Capitol had been besieged by death and destruction and a growing chorus of lawmakers had called for his immediate removal from office, did Trump grudgingly accept his fate.

“Now Congress has certified the results,” Trump said in a video recorded in the White House’s Diplomatic Reception Room late Thursday afternoon. “A new administration will be inaugurated on January 20th. My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power. This moment calls for healing and reconciliation.”

This was not a concession so much as a grudging acknowledgment that his presidency would end. Trump did not talk of winners and losers, nor did he utter the word “concede,” but it was the closest he seemed willing to go.

Some of his advisers had pleaded with him to give this kind of speech in November, after it was clear he had lost. Those appeals only intensified this week. During his 2-minute, 41-second speech, Trump read from a script that he agreed to only after a pressure campaign from Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, legal counsel Pat Cipollone and members of his family, officials said.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump posts new video, admits it’s over for him, sounds afraid of going to prison for terrorist attack, Bill Palmer, Jan. 7, 2021. As today has gone on, Donald Trump has found himself cornered. Calls for the 25th Amendment are now coming from the top levels of Congress, as well as from inside the White House. The Feds have revealed they’re probing Trump’s actions yesterday on a criminal level. Now Trump is waving one heck of a white flag.

bill palmer report logo headerTrump has apparently regained use of his Twitter account long enough to post a two-plus minute video. In it, he directly condemned the people who attacked the U.S. Capitol and called for them to be prosecuted. He also promised an orderly transition to President Biden, along with a lot of other fluffy and conciliatory language You can watch it here:

So what’s really going on? Donald Trump very much sounds like he’s now afraid of being removed from office via the 25th Amendment, sent to prison for inciting the terrorist attack, or both. He clearly didn’t write these words. But he was willing to read them, which means he understands that he’s now trying to hang onto what very little he has left. His presidency is over. His life as he knows it is over. He’s earmarked for prison and bankruptcy.

Of course Donald Trump can’t be trusted. But this video reveals that Trump is on the ropes and he’s scared. He’s essentially begging not to be prematurely ousted, and begging not to spend the rest of his life in prison. It’s too little too late; Trump must still be ousted immediately via the 25th or impeachment. But it’s good to see Trump cowering like this.

djt impeachment graphic

washington post logoWashington Post, After chaos, calls for Trump’s removal, Rosalind S. Helderman, Karoun Demirjian, Seung Min Kim and Mike DeBonis, Jan. 8, 2021 (print ed.). President Trump was ensconced in the White House residence Wednesday night and into Thursday morning, raging about perceived betrayals, as an array of top aides weighed resigning and some senior administration officials began conversations about invoking the 25th Amendment — an extraordinary measure that would remove the president before Trump’s term expires on Jan. 20.

A deep, simmering unease coursed through the administration over the president’s refusal to accept his election loss and his role in inciting a mob to storm the Capitol, disrupting the peaceful transfer of power to President-elect Joe Biden. One administration official described Trump’s behavior Wednesday as that of “a total monster,” while another said the situation was “insane” and “beyond the pale.”

Fearful that Trump could take actions resulting in further violence and death if he remains in office even for a few days, senior administration officials were discussing Wednesday night whether the Cabinet might invoke the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to force him out, said a person involved in the conversations.

A former senior administration official briefed on the talks confirmed that preliminary discussions of the 25th Amendment were underway, although this person cautioned that they were informal and that there was no indication of an immediate plan of action. Both of these people, like some others interviewed for this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the matter.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump pledges ‘orderly transition’ early Thursday, John Wagner and Marisa Iati, Jan. 8, 2021 (print ed.). Scalise says both parties need to ‘tone down the rhetoric.’

djt march 2020 CustomPresident Trump pledged an “orderly transition” in a statement issued early Thursday, shortly after Vice President Pence announced Joe Biden as the winner of the presidential election at the end of a joint session of Congress that was disrupted for hours by a violent throng of Trump supporters.

Trump’s statement stopped short of conceding or congratulating Biden, who plans to address the nation Thursday and introduce his nominees for several top Justice Department posts. Congress completed its work after rejecting Republican challenges to electoral college results in Arizona and Pennsylvania. In othern news:

mick mulvaney omb SmallMick Mulvaney, left, Trump’s former acting chief of staff, said Thursday he is resigning from his current post as a special envoy to Northern Ireland in the wake of the “international travesty” that took place at the Capitol on Wednesday. During an appearance on CNBC, Mulvaney said Trump is “not the same as he was eight months ago” and suggested the violence at the Capitol could have been avoided if Trump had pledged an orderly transition weeks ago.

“Those who choose to stay, and I have talked with some of them, are choosing to stay because they’re worried the president might put someone worse in,” Mulvaney said.

He argued that Trump is behaving differently now than he did during Mulvaney’s tenure as his acting chief of staff.

Newly elected Republican Rep. Nancy Mace (S.C.) said Wednesday’s siege on the Capitol erased what she views as Trump’s accomplishments. “Everything that he’s worked for … all of that, his entire legacy, was wiped out yesterday,” Mace told CNN on Thursday, four days after being sworn into office.

Mace said she sent her children home from D.C. on Monday after seeing concerning social media discussion of plans for the rally. She place partial blame for Wednesday’s violence on Trump and some of her colleagues in Congress. “When you speak like that, when you incite this kind of violence, rhetoric has real consequences,” Mace said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump banned from Facebook indefinitely, CEO Mark Zuckerberg says, Tony Romm and Elizabeth Dwoskin, Jan. 8, 2021 (print ed.).  The move follows temporary bans of Trump’s accounts by both Twitter and Facebook.

facebook logoFacebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said Thursday the social media giant is banning President Trump indefinitely, marking a dramatic escalation between Silicon Valley and the White House after Trump weaponized the web to help stoke a riot at the U.S. Capitol.

“We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great,” Zuckerberg wrote. "Therefore, we are extending the block we have placed on his Facebook and Instagram accounts indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete.”

Facebook’s suspension marked the most aggressive penalty that any social media company has meted out to Trump over his four-year term, a period in which he has repeatedly peddled falsehoods, attacked critics and spread divisive rhetoric online. Twitter on Wednesday evening suspended Trump for 12 hours, but the company’s blockade lifted Thursday morning — and the president had not yet tweeted.

The tech giants each took the rare aggressive steps after a violent mob stormed the House and Senate Wednesday, forcing lawmakers into a lockdown and briefly interrupting their formal process to certify Joseph Biden as the next president of the United States. In failing to act until after the deadly riot occurred, Facebook, Twitter and Google-owned YouTube have faced sharp criticism saying they should have done more, and sooner, to stop Trump from helping provoke the situation.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Is Said to Have Discussed Pardoning Himself, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman, Jan. 8, 2021 (print ed.). President Trump has suggested to aides he wants to pardon himself in the final days of his presidency, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions, a move that would mark one of the most extraordinary and untested uses of presidential power in American history.

In several conversations since Election Day, Mr. Trump has told advisers that he is considering giving himself a pardon and, in other instances, asked whether he should and what the effect would be on him legally and politically, according to the two people. It was not clear whether he had broached the topic since he incited his supporters on Wednesday to march on the Capitol, where some stormed the building in a mob attack.

Mr. Trump has shown signs that his level of interest in pardoning himself goes beyond idle musings. He has long maintained he has the power to pardon himself, and his polling of aides’ views is typically a sign that he is preparing to follow through on his aims. He has also become increasingly convinced that his perceived enemies will use the levers of law enforcement to target him after he leaves office.

No president has pardoned himself, so the legitimacy of prospective self-clemency has never been tested in the justice system, and legal scholars are divided about whether the courts would recognize it. But they agree a presidential self-pardon could create a dangerous new precedent for presidents to unilaterally declare they are above the law and to insulate themselves from being held accountable for any crimes they committed in office.

The discussions occurred in recent weeks, and it was not clear whether he has brought it up since he incited supporters to march on the Capitol, where some stormed the site.

 

Jan. 7

Trump Removal Pressures?

 

Other Top Headlines

 

More On Trump's Mob Riot

 

Trump Removal Pressures?

djt looking up

wsj logoWall Street Journal, Schumer, Pelosi Call for Trump’s Removal After Capitol Riot, Staff Report, Jan. 7, 2021. President for first time directly condemns rioters; transportation secretary resigns and head of Capitol Police says he plans to step down.

Democratic congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer called for President Trump to be removed from office while several top administration officials resigned, a day after the Capitol was stormed by rioters encouraged by the president to try to block Congress from certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s election win.

The head of the Capitol Police said late Thursday he planned to resign, after lawmakers demanded accountability from officials responsible for the security of the complex and launched investigations into why police were quickly overwhelmed, letting rioters roam through the building and forcing Congress to delay its count of states’ results. The Capitol Police said some officers were hospitalized as a result of the melee, but that there were no deaths to date. Earlier, a union official had said that an officer had died.

betsy devos oBreaking News: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, right, submitted her resignation to President Trump on Thursday night, saying the Capitol riot was an inflection point for her.

The Justice Department said 15 criminal complaints would be filed by the end of the day in connection with the riot, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation is seeking the public’s help in identifying more suspects.

Amid bipartisan criticism, Mr. Trump for the first time directly condemned the perpetrators and struck a conciliatory tone. In a video posted on Twitter, Mr. Trump said the people who stormed the Capitol “do not represent our country” and that lawbreakers “will pay.” He also said he would assist in the Biden transition process, and didn’t repeat his charges of election fraud.

“We have just been through an intense election and emotions are high. But now, tempers must be cooled and calm restored,” he said. “My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth orderly and seamless transition of power. This moment calls for healing and reconciliation.”

The developments highlighted the alarm Wednesday’s riot set off and the belief among many lawmakers from both parties that Mr. Trump provoked it and didn’t condemn the actions strongly enough once the protests turned violent.

“What happened at the U.S. Capitol yesterday was an insurrection against the United States, incited by the president,” said Mr. Schumer, the Senate minority leader from New York. Mr. Schumer’s description echoed comments from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) who called the rioting a “failed insurrection” Wednesday night.

Mr. Trump remained in the White House on Thursday. He privately awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to golfers Annika Sorenstam and Gary Player and gave one posthumously to Babe Zaharias.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said Thursday that she was quitting her post, citing the “entirely avoidable” storming of the Capitol building. Ms. Chao is married to Mr. McConnell. Mick Mulvaney, the U.S. special envoy for Northern Ireland and the former White House chief of staff, quit as well. He told CNBC: “I can’t stay here. Not after yesterday.”

Former Attorney General William Barr, who resigned just before Christmas, said that Mr. Trump’s conduct on Wednesday was a “betrayal of his office and supporters.”

A number of White House officials had resigned Wednesday. Among them were Matthew Pottinger, the deputy national security adviser, and Stephanie Grisham, chief of staff and press secretary to first lady Melania Trump.

djt nancy pelosi

Palmer Report, Opinion: Speaker Nancy Pelosi just threw down the gauntlet against Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, right, Jan. 7, 2021. This morning, incoming Senate bill palmerMajority Leader Chuck Schumer called on Mike Pence and the cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment and immediately remove Donald Trump from office. This afternoon, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi threw down the gauntlet.

During a speech, Pelosi demanded that Pence invoke the 25th Amendment. She also threatened to impeach Trump if Pence doesn’t bill palmer report logo headerimmediately do so. It’s not clear what impeachment would even look like with just 12 days left in Trump’s term; impeachment is a complex multi-step process that goes through committees. It’s also unclear whether Mitch McConnell, who still controls the Senate for several more days, would be willing to go along with a fast track impeachment.

But Pelosi’s mere threat to introduce articles of impeachment against Trump does serve to place a lot more pressure on Mike Pence to move forward with the 25th Amendment. Pence is still under the illusion that he has some kind of political future after this. If he concludes that he has to move against Trump in order to preserve his own future viability, he just might do it. So the mounting pressure on him matters.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump posts new video, admits it’s over for him, sounds afraid of going to prison for terrorist attack, Bill Palmer, Jan. 7, 2021. As today has gone on, Donald Trump has found himself cornered. Calls for the 25th Amendment are now coming from the top levels of Congress, as well as from inside the White House. The Feds have revealed they’re probing Trump’s actions yesterday on a criminal level. Now Trump is waving one heck of a white flag.

bill palmer report logo headerTrump has apparently regained use of his Twitter account long enough to post a two-plus minute video. In it, he directly condemned the people who attacked the U.S. Capitol and called for them to be prosecuted. He also promised an orderly transition to President Biden, along with a lot of other fluffy and conciliatory language You can watch it here:

So what’s really going on? Donald Trump very much sounds like he’s now afraid of being removed from office via the 25th Amendment, sent to prison for inciting the terrorist attack, or both. He clearly didn’t write these words. But he was willing to read them, which means he understands that he’s now trying to hang onto what very little he has left. His presidency is over. His life as he knows it is over. He’s earmarked for prison and bankruptcy.

Of course Donald Trump can’t be trusted. But this video reveals that Trump is on the ropes and he’s scared. He’s essentially begging not to be prematurely ousted, and begging not to spend the rest of his life in prison. It’s too little too late; Trump must still be ousted immediately via the 25th or impeachment. But it’s good to see Trump cowering like this.

wsj logoWall Street Journal, Editorial: The Disgrace on Capitol Hill, Editorial Page, Jan. 7, 2021 (print ed.). Republicans objecting to state electors should stop and certify Joe Biden’s election by acclamation. Fueled by lies about a stolen election, protesters overran police and stormed America’s seat of government on Wednesday, forcing a lockdown of the U.S. Capitol and a 6 p.m. city curfew. This sounds like a dispatch from some foreign correspondent in an unfortunate land. Instead it was President Trump’s parting gift to Washington, and the country, for denying him a second term.

Wednesday’s joint session of Congress was supposed to be a ritual of American democracy, memorializing Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. As lawmakers met, Mr. Trump was speaking at a “Save America March,” where he vowed never to concede. “We’re going to the Capitol,” he urged the crowd, to ted cruz o“try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.”

There the protesters marched — and then some. After Rep. Paul Gosar and Sen. Ted Cruz, right, objected to the counting of Arizona’s 11 electors, the two chambers retired to consider it. The Senate debate lasted less than an hour. Rioters breached the building, and the Vice President was suddenly whisked from the floor. In the House, lawmakers said they were given gas masks and told to lie on the floor. A woman was shot and killed, and police officers were injured.

What a disgrace. The trespassers should be arrested, and the maskless ones can probably be identified long after the fact. Where was the police presence in Washington? Once the mob was inside, the call went out for backup from Virginia and Maryland, and the National Guard was activated. But it’s a scandal that the U.S. Capitol wasn’t better protected on such a significant day. 

nancy pelosi mask

Raw Story, Democrats' impeachment probe of Trump for Capitol riots could take just two days: report, Matthew Chapman, Jan. 7, 2021. On Thursday, CNN reported that if House Democrats move forward with proposals to impeach outgoing President Donald Trump for his role in provoking the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, the articles could be approved within just two days.

"One option Democrats are exploring: offering articles of impeachment through a privileged resolution," reported Manu Raju, Lauren Fox, and Phil Mattingly. "That would allow the chamber to move ahead with a vote to impeach Trump within two days, skip hearings, approving an organizing resolution, an investigation and moving straight to a vote. Top Democrats in both chambers seem to embrace this approach."

Pelosi Says House May Seek Impeachment if Cabinet Doesn’t Act: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), shown above, has made clear impeachment is on the table if Vice President Mike Pence and Cabinet members do not move expeditiously to strip Trump of power under the 25th Amendment. The Democratic caucus will hold a conference call at noon on Friday discussing the matter.

Even if the impeachment moves forward quickly, there is no guarantee that the Senate, which was recently won by Democrats but which is currently still led by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), will put conviction to a vote soon, or that any significant number of Republicans have a desire to remove Trump from office in this manner.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Federal prosecutors are now probing Donald Trump for yesterday’s U.S. Capitol attack, Bill Palmer, Jan. 7, 2021. When President-elect Joe Biden announced Merrick Garland as his pick for Attorney General today, it was a reminder that the Department of Justice is now just thirteen days away from no longer being under Donald Trump’s control. Now federal prosecutors are letting it be known that Trump’s role is already being probed in yesterday’s domestic terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol.

bill palmer report logo headerThis news, coming from CNN this evening, isn’t surprising. Trump clearly incited yesterday’s attack with several tweets and speeches, specifically directing his supporters to show up at a certain place and time to try to prevent Congress from carrying out its duty of certifying the election. The clear cut evidence provided by Trump himself, and the public outrage over what happened yesterday, all but ensures that the DOJ will criminally charge Trump for the incident once he’s out of office. So why not get the jump now?

This comes even as the news is leaking that Trump is planning to try to pardon himself on his way out of office. That’s expected, and not overly concerning. Most legal experts believe the courts will throw out any self-pardon. And because Trump has committed so many kinds of felonies in office, he’d have to make his self-pardon overly broad, which would make it even more constitutionally flimsy.

washington post logoWashington Post, After chaos, calls for Trump’s removal, Rosalind S. Helderman, Karoun Demirjian, Seung Min Kim and Mike DeBonis, Jan. 7, 2021.  President Trump was ensconced in the White House residence Wednesday night and into Thursday morning, raging about perceived betrayals, as an array of top aides weighed resigning and some senior administration officials began conversations about invoking the 25th Amendment — an extraordinary measure that would remove the president before Trump’s term expires on Jan. 20.

A deep, simmering unease coursed through the administration over the president’s refusal to accept his election loss and his role in inciting a mob to storm the Capitol, disrupting the peaceful transfer of power to President-elect Joe Biden. One administration official described Trump’s behavior Wednesday as that of “a total monster,” while another said the situation was “insane” and “beyond the pale.”

Fearful that Trump could take actions resulting in further violence and death if he remains in office even for a few days, senior administration officials were discussing Wednesday night whether the Cabinet might invoke the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to force him out, said a person involved in the conversations.

A former senior administration official briefed on the talks confirmed that preliminary discussions of the 25th Amendment were underway, although this person cautioned that they were informal and that there was no indication of an immediate plan of action. Both of these people, like some others interviewed for this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the matter.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live updates: Trump pledges ‘orderly transition’ early Thursday, John Wagner and Marisa Iati, Jan. 7, 2021. Scalise says both parties need to ‘tone down the rhetoric.’

djt march 2020 CustomPresident Trump pledged an “orderly transition” in a statement issued early Thursday, shortly after Vice President Pence announced Joe Biden as the winner of the presidential election at the end of a joint session of Congress that was disrupted for hours by a violent throng of Trump supporters.

Trump’s statement stopped short of conceding or congratulating Biden, who plans to address the nation Thursday and introduce his nominees for several top Justice Department posts. Congress completed its work after rejecting Republican challenges to electoral college results in Arizona and Pennsylvania. In othern news:

mick mulvaney omb SmallMick Mulvaney, left, Trump’s former acting chief of staff, said Thursday he is resigning from his current post as a special envoy to Northern Ireland in the wake of the “international travesty” that took place at the Capitol on Wednesday. During an appearance on CNBC, Mulvaney said Trump is “not the same as he was eight months ago” and suggested the violence at the Capitol could have been avoided if Trump had pledged an orderly transition weeks ago.

“Those who choose to stay, and I have talked with some of them, are choosing to stay because they’re worried the president might put someone worse in,” Mulvaney said.

He argued that Trump is behaving differently now than he did during Mulvaney’s tenure as his acting chief of staff.

Newly elected Republican Rep. Nancy Mace (S.C.) said Wednesday’s siege on the Capitol erased what she views as Trump’s accomplishments. “Everything that he’s worked for … all of that, his entire legacy, was wiped out yesterday,” Mace told CNN on Thursday, four days after being sworn into office.

Mace said she sent her children home from D.C. on Monday after seeing concerning social media discussion of plans for the rally. She place partial blame for Wednesday’s violence on Trump and some of her colleagues in Congress. “When you speak like that, when you incite this kind of violence, rhetoric has real consequences,” Mace said.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Federal prosecutors are now probing Donald Trump for yesterday’s U.S. Capitol attack, Bill Palmer, Jan. 7, 2021. When President-elect Joe Biden announced Merrick Garland as his pick for Attorney General today, it was a reminder that the Department of Justice is now just thirteen days away from no longer being under Donald Trump’s control. Now federal prosecutors are letting it be known that Trump’s role is already being probed in yesterday’s domestic terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol.

bill palmer report logo headerThis news, coming from CNN this evening, isn’t surprising. Trump clearly incited yesterday’s attack with several tweets and speeches, specifically directing his supporters to show up at a certain place and time to try to prevent Congress from carrying out its duty of certifying the election. The clear cut evidence provided by Trump himself, and the public outrage over what happened yesterday, all but ensures that the DOJ will criminally charge Trump for the incident once he’s out of office. So why not get the jump now?

This comes even as the news is leaking that Trump is planning to try to pardon himself on his way out of office. That’s expected, and not overly concerning. Most legal experts believe the courts will throw out any self-pardon. And because Trump has committed so many kinds of felonies in office, he’d have to make his self-pardon overly broad, which would make it even more constitutionally flimsy.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump banned from Facebook indefinitely, CEO Mark Zuckerberg says, Tony Romm and Elizabeth Dwoskin, Jan. 7, 2021.  The move follows temporary bans of Trump’s accounts by both Twitter and Facebook.

facebook logoFacebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said Thursday the social media giant is banning President Trump indefinitely, marking a dramatic escalation between Silicon Valley and the White House after Trump weaponized the web to help stoke a riot at the U.S. Capitol.

“We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great,” Zuckerberg wrote. "Therefore, we are extending the block we have placed on his Facebook and Instagram accounts indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete.”

donald trump twitterFacebook’s suspension marked the most aggressive penalty that any social media company has meted out to Trump over his four-year term, a period in which he has repeatedly peddled falsehoods, attacked critics and spread divisive rhetoric online. Twitter on Wednesday evening suspended Trump for 12 hours, but the company’s blockade lifted Thursday morning — and the president had not yet tweeted.

The tech giants each took the rare aggressive steps after a violent mob stormed the House and Senate Wednesday, forcing lawmakers into a lockdown and briefly interrupting their formal process to certify Joseph Biden as the next president of the United States. In failing to act until after the deadly riot occurred, Facebook, Twitter and Google-owned YouTube have faced sharp criticism saying they should have done more, and sooner, to stop Trump from helping provoke the situation.

washington post logoWashington Post, After issuing a call to arms on stage at protest, Trump balked at decrying rioting, Anne Gearan and Josh Dawsey, Jan. 7, 2021 (print ed.). The president told followers to never accept defeat. Violence followed.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Is Said to Have Discussed Pardoning Himself, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman, Jan. 7, 2021. President Trump has suggested to aides he wants to pardon himself in the final days of his presidency, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions, a move that would mark one of the most extraordinary and untested uses of presidential power in American history.

In several conversations since Election Day, Mr. Trump has told advisers that he is considering giving himself a pardon and, in other instances, asked whether he should and what the effect would be on him legally and politically, according to the two people. It was not clear whether he had broached the topic since he incited his supporters on Wednesday to march on the Capitol, where some stormed the building in a mob attack.

Mr. Trump has shown signs that his level of interest in pardoning himself goes beyond idle musings. He has long maintained he has the power to pardon himself, and his polling of aides’ views is typically a sign that he is preparing to follow through on his aims. He has also become increasingly convinced that his perceived enemies will use the levers of law enforcement to target him after he leaves office.

No president has pardoned himself, so the legitimacy of prospective self-clemency has never been tested in the justice system, and legal scholars are divided about whether the courts would recognize it. But they agree a presidential self-pardon could create a dangerous new precedent for presidents to unilaterally declare they are above the law and to insulate themselves from being held accountable for any crimes they committed in office.

The discussions occurred in recent weeks, and it was not clear whether he has brought it up since he incited supporters to march on the Capitol, where some stormed the site.

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: De-Trumpification must be carried out with a heavy club, Wayne Madsen, left, Jan. 7, 2021. The insurrection mounted wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallagainst the U.S. Congress -- at Trump's instigation -- was only the tip of the iceberg of a widespread and premeditated coup planned against constitutional government.

A "civil war" on January 6 was not only planned but marketed. As marauding Trump forces vandalized, looted, and terrorized Congress on the very day that the traditional Electoral Vote count was to officially declare that Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris the President-elect and Vice President-elect of the United States, other Trump terrorist gangs were assaulting state capitol buildings around the United States, including in Oregon, Washington state, California, Georgia, and a dozen other states.

Members of Georgia militia and the Ku Klux Klan entered the Georgia State Capitol building in Atlanta and were searching for the office of Secretary of State Michigan thugs yell State Sen. Dayna PolehankiBrad Raffensperger, another target of Trump insurrectionist death threats.The Governor's Mansion in Olympia, Washington was stormed by Trump mobs.

Make no mistake about it, the May 14 storming of the Michigan State Capitol building by pro-Trump armed protesters was a dry run for Trump's ultimate coup target: the U.S. Congress.

Protester, at right, at Michigan's State Capitol on April 30, 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: President Trump has committed treason, Dana Milbank, right, Jan. 7, 2021 (print ed.). President Trump broke any number of laws and dana milbank Customnorms during his ruinous four-year reign. He just added one more on the way out: treason.

He lost the House in 2018. He lost the presidency in November. He lost the Senate on Tuesday. And on Wednesday, with nothing left to lose, he rallied a violent mob to attack the U.S. Capitol in hopes of pressuring lawmakers to toss out the election results, ignore the will of the people, and install him as president for another term.

Trump fomented a deadly insurrection against the U.S. Congress to prevent a duly-elected president from taking office. Treason is not a word to be used lightly, but that is its textbook definition.

“We will not take it anymore, and that’s what this is all about,” he told a sea of MAGA fans and Proud Boys on the Ellipse outside the White House at noon. From behind bulletproof glass, he told them: “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

Earlier, Trump ally Rudy Giuliani had proposed, to the same crowd, a “trial by combat” to resolve Trump’s election complaints. And Donald Trump Jr. delivered a political threat to lawmakers who don’t vote to reject the election results: “We’re coming for you.”

Trump instructed his supporters to march to the Capitol — “and I’ll be there with you” — to “demand that Congress do the right thing” and not count the electoral votes of swing states he lost. “You’ll never take back our country with weakness, you have to show strength and you have to be strong,” he admonished them, with CYA instructions to make themselves heard “peacefully and patriotically.”

Palmer Report, Opinion; Now that the smoke is clearing…, Bill Palmer, Jan. 7, 2021. Yesterday will go down as one of the dumbest days in American history. bill palmerThe President of the United States incited a domestic terrorist attack against the U.S. Capitol, got a number of people killed, and got himself suspended from every major social media platform in the process.

But now that the smoke is clearing, yesterday was also quietly a landmark day for American progress. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were certified as the next President and Vice President of the United States. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff were confirmed winners in the Georgia runoffs, giving the Democrats control of the Senate.

bill palmer report logo headerWe’re also now probably looking at Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Mark Warner, Senate Oversight Committee Chair Gary Peters, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin, Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders, Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden. That’s right, the Republicans won’t be able to hold a single bogus House or Senate committee hearing for the next couple years.

This is everything we’ve spent the past four years fighting for – and now we’ve got it. The Biden-Harris administration will be able to move full steam ahead on all fronts and not only begin repairing the damage to the country, but carve out a truly beneficial American agenda.

We always knew that Donald Trump would go out ugly. We never knew precisely what it would look like, only that it would be odious in one way or another. It’s now crucial that we move forward with tools like the 25th Amendment and/or a fast track impeachment this week to try to push Trump out the door before January 20th. But one way or the other, he’ll be gone by that day.

Donald Trump’s life is over. Mitch McConnell’s relevance is over. We’re two weeks from not having to deal with either one of them politically going forward. The smoke is going to continue to clear, and it’s going to be a brand new day.

ted cruz beard

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump, Hawley and Cruz will each wear the scarlet ‘S’ of a seditionist, George F. Will, right, Jan. 7, 2021 (print ed.). The three george f willrepulsive architects of Wednesday’s heartbreaking spectacle — mobs desecrating the Republic’s noblest building and preventing the completion of a constitutional process — must be named and forevermore shunned. They are Donald Trump, and Sens. Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz (shown above in a file photo).

Trump lit the fuse for the riot in the weeks before the election, with his successful effort to delegitimize the election in the eyes of his supporters. But Wednesday’s explosion required the help of Hawley (R-Mo.) and Cruz (R-Tex.).

josh hawley missouriHawley, left, announced his intention to object to the certification of some states’ electoral votes, for no better reason than that there has been an avalanche of “allegations” of election irregularities, allegations fomented by the loser of the election. By doing so, Hawley turned what should have been a perfunctory episode in our civic liturgy of post-election civility into a synthetic drama. He turned this moment into the focus of the hitherto unfocused fury that Trump had been stoking for many weeks.

And Cruz, by organizing support for Hawley among other Republican senators and senators-elect gave Hawley’s grotesque self-promotion an ersatz cloak of larger purpose. Shortly before the mob breached the Senate chamber, Cruz stood on the Senate floor. With his characteristic unctuousness, he regretted the existence of what he and kindred spirits have not only done nothing to refute but have themselves nurtured — a pandemic of suspicions that the election was “rigged.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Appeasement Got Us Where We Are, Paul Krugman, right,Jan. 7, 2021. So, is it finally OK to use the F-word? One shouldn’t use the paul krugmanterm “fascist” lightly. It isn’t a catchall for “people you disagree with.” It isn’t even a synonym for “bad political actors.” Mitch McConnell’s brand of politics has, in my view, greatly damaged America; but cynical legislative maneuvers aren’t the same thing as threatening and encouraging violence, and I wouldn’t call McConnell a fascist.

Donald Trump, however, is indeed a fascist — an authoritarian willing to use violence to achieve his racial nationalist goals. So are many of his supporters. If you had any doubts about that, Wednesday’s attack on Congress should have ended them.

And if history teaches us one lesson about dealing with fascists, it is the futility of appeasement. Giving in to fascists doesn’t pacify them, it just encourages them to go further.

So why have so many public figures — who should have known what Trump and his movement were — tried, again and again, to placate them by giving in to their demands? Why are they still doing it even now?

Consider a few milestones on the way to the sacking of the Capitol.

One big step happened in February, when every Republican senator other than Mitt Romney voted against convicting the president on impeachment charges despite clear evidence of his guilt. Susan Collins famously justified her vote by hoping that Trump had “learned his lesson.” What he actually learned was that he could abuse his power with impunity.

Another big step came in the spring, when armed protesters, with Trump’s encouragement, menaced Michigan authorities over Covid-19 restrictions. That dress rehearsal for this week’s violence drew some tut-tutting from Republican politicians, but no serious pushback. Indeed, one of the leaders in these events, Meshawn Maddock — who was also involved in Wednesday’s rioting — is in line to become co-chair of the Michigan G.O.P.

Again, the lesson was clear: Right-wing activists can get away with threatening elected officials, even when this includes brandishing weapons in public spaces.

Then came Trump’s unprecedented refusal to accept electoral defeat. Many Republicans joined him in trying to reject the will of the voters — almost two-thirds of House Republicans voted against accepting Pennsylvania’s electors after the Trumpist riot.

ny times logoNew York Times, Did the Capitol Attack Break the President’s Spell? Either the beginning of the end for Trump, or America, Michelle Goldberg, Jan. 7, 2021. It was probably always going to come to this. Donald Trump has been telling us for years that he would not accept an electoral defeat. He has cheered violence and threatened insurrection.

On Tuesday he tweeted that Democrats and Republicans who weren’t cooperating in his coup attempt should look “at the thousands of people pouring into D.C. They won’t stand for a landslide election victory to be stolen.” He urged his supporters to mass on the capital, tweeting, “Be there, will be wild!” They took him seriously and literally.

The day after Georgia elected its first Black senator — the pastor, no less, of Martin Luther King Jr.’s church — and its first Jewish senator, an insurgent marched through the halls of Congress with a Confederate banner. Someone set up a noose outside. Someone brought zip-tie handcuffs. Lest there be any doubt about their intentions, a few of the marauders wore T-shirts that said “MAGA Civil War, Jan. 6, 2021.”

If you saw Wednesday’s scenes in any other country — vandals scaling walls and breaking windows, parading around the legislature with enemy flags and making themselves at home in quickly abandoned governmental offices — it would be obvious enough that some sort of putsch was underway.

Jan. 4, 2021

djt handwave file

washington post logoWashington Post, Exclusive: ‘I just want to find 11,780 votes’: In extraordinary hour-long call, Trump pressures Georgia secretary of state to recalculate the vote in his favor, Amy Gardner, Jan. 4, 2021 (print ed.). President Trump urged fellow Republican Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, to “find” enough votes to overturn his defeat in an extraordinary one-hour phone call Saturday that election experts said raised legal questions.

The Washington Post obtained a recording of the conversation in which Trump alternately berated Raffensperger, tried to flatter him, begged him to act and threatened him with vague criminal consequences if the secretary of state refused to pursue his false claims, at one point warning that Raffensperger was taking “a big risk.”

brad raffenspergerThroughout the call, Raffensperger, right, and his office’s general counsel rejected Trump’s assertions, explaining that the president is relying on debunked conspiracy theories and that President-elect Joe Biden’s 11,779-vote victory in Georgia was fair and accurate.

Trump dismissed their arguments. “The people of Georgia are angry, the people in the country are angry,” he said. “And there’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, um, that you’ve recalculated.”

Raffensperger responded: “Well, Mr. President, the challenge that you have is, the data you have is wrong.”

At another point, Trump said: “So look. All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state.”

  • Listen to the full Jan. 2 phone call. This audio has been edited to remove the name of an individual about whom the president makes unsubstantiated allegations. (Obtained by The Washington Post)

The rambling and at times incoherent conversation offered a remarkable glimpse of how consumed and desperate the president remains about his loss, President Trump on Time Magazine's cover Feb. 27, 2017unwilling or unable to let the matter go and still believing he can reverse the results in enough battleground states to remain in office.

“There’s no way I lost Georgia,” Trump said, a phrase he repeated again and again on the call. “There’s no way. We won by hundreds of thousands of votes.”

Several of his allies were on the line as he spoke, including White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and conservative lawyer Cleta Mitchell, a prominent GOP attorney whose involvement with Trump’s efforts had not been previously known.

In a statement, Mitchell said Raffensperger’s office “has made many statements over the past two months that are simply not correct and everyone involved with the efforts on behalf of the President’s election challenge has said the same thing: show us your records on which you rely to make these statements that our numbers are wrong.”

 Sidney Powell, right, and Jenna Ellis

Trump attorneys Jenna Ellis, left, and Sidney Powell conduct a press conference with Trump counsel Rudy Giuliani before Trump fired Powell.

washington post logoWashington Post, Business leaders urge Congress to certify Biden win, Josh Dawsey, Jan. 4, 2021. Almost 200 of the country’s top business leaders urged Congress to certify the electoral results for President-elect Joe Biden in a letter Monday, arguing that “attempts to thwart or delay this process run counter to the essential tenets of our democracy.”

The letter marked the business community’s most significant push yet to ensure President Trump’s efforts to overturn the November election are unsuccessful. Signers included a wide array of executives of Fortune 500 companies, from the leaders of banks, airlines, investment firms, pharmaceutical companies, professional sports leagues, real estate conglomerates, top law firms and media companies.

“The presidential election has been decided and it is time for the country to move forward,” the letter reviewed by The Washington Post said. “ … The incoming Biden administration faces the urgent tasks of defeating covid-19 and restoring the livelihoods of millions of Americans who have lost jobs and businesses during the pandemic.”

Many of the leaders have previously been wary of getting publicly involved in politics, and some have been supportive of the president. Kathryn Wylde, the president and chief executive of the Partnership for New York City, which organized the letter, said questioning the national election was causing long-term damage to the country and that important issues such as vaccine distribution and high unemployment needed more focus.

The partnership — the major advocacy and political influence arm for the business community in New York — counts many of the city’s top firms as its members. Among the signers included leaders of Goldman Sachs, Microsoft, Pfizer, the National Basketball Association, Mastercard, Blackstone Group, BlackRock, Lyft, Deloitte, Warby Parker, Moody’s, WeWork, Ernst & Young, JetBlue, MetLife, Condé Nast, the Carlyle Group, Hearst, American Express, Saks Fifth Avenue, Price Waterhouse Cooper and Deutsche Bank, along with 150 more.

Others who signed include some of New York’s top private equity and real estate figures including Henry Kravis, Rob Speyer, William Rudin and Laurence Fink.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: All 10 living former defense secretaries: Involving the military in election disputes would cross into dangerous territory, Ashton Carter,ashton carter dod right, Dick Cheney, William Cohen, Mark Esper, Robert Gates, Chuck Hagel, James Mattis, Leon Panetta, William Perry and Donald Rumsfeld, Jan. 4, 2021 (print ed.). As former secretaries of defense, we hold a common view of the solemn obligations of the U.S. armed forces and the Defense Department. Each of us swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. We did not swear it to an individual or a party.

Department of Defense SealAmerican elections and the peaceful transfers of power that result are hallmarks of our democracy. With one singular and tragic exception that cost the lives of more Americans than all of our other wars combined, the United States has had an unbroken record of such transitions since 1789, including in times of partisan strife, war, epidemics and economic depression. This year should be no exception.

Our elections have occurred. Recounts and audits have been conducted. Appropriate challenges have been addressed by the courts. Governors have certified the results. And the electoral college has voted. The time for questioning the results has passed; the time for the formal counting of the electoral college votes, as prescribed in the Constitution and statute, has arrived.

As senior Defense Department leaders have noted, “there’s no role for the U.S. military in determining the outcome of a U.S. election.” Efforts to involve the U.S. armed forces in resolving election disputes would take us into dangerous, unlawful and unconstitutional territory. Civilian and military officials who direct or carry out such measures would be accountable, including potentially facing criminal penalties, for the grave consequences of their actions on our republic.

  lin wood djt march 2020

Crooks and Liars, Commentary: Lin Wood Is Having A Real Time Mental Breakdown On Twitter, Red Painter, Jan. 4, 2021. Lizard people, child rape, kidnapping, guns, blackmail and extortion are just a few of the topics Lin Wood was tweeting about at 2am on Monday morning. Trump attorney Lin Wood (shown above in the Oval Office last May) went on a very unhinged rant on Twitter this morning. That this man is not being evaluated at a hospital for his serious mental health issues is shocking.

I am not saying that jokingly. Nothing about this is funny.

In fact, it is downright scary that this man (a) has a platform on numerous social media sites and (b) many Trump supporters actually believe him!

Here are some screengrabs.

"I believe Chief Justice John Roberts & a multitude of powerful individuals worldwide are being blackmailed in a horrendous scheme involving rape & murder of children captured on videotape. I have the key to the files containing the video. I have also shared this inormation." [2:11AM, 1/4/21]....

ny times logoNew York Times, British Judge Blocks Assange’s Extradition to U.S., Citing Mental Health, Elian Peltier and Megan Specia, Jan. 4, 2021. Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder who is jailed in Britain, had been indicted in the United States on 17 charges of violating the Espionage Act.

A British judge ruled on Monday that the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, shown below, cannot be extradited to the United States to face trial on charges of violating the Espionage Act, saying he would be at extreme risk of suicide.

julian assange facts wikileaks CustomThe decision in the high-profile case grants Mr. Assange a major victory against the U.S. authorities who charged him over his role in obtaining and publishing secret military and diplomatic documents related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rights groups and advocates applauded the ruling, but many expressed concern about the rationale for the decision. The judge focused on Mr. Assange’s mental health issues, but rejected the defense argument that the charges were an attack on press freedom and were politically motivated.

Mr. Assange, 49, who was present at Monday’s hearing and wearing a face mask, was indicted in 2019 on 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act and conspiring to hack government computers in 2010 and 2011. If found guilty on all counts, he could face a sentence of up to 175 years in prison.

The judge, Vanessa Baraitser of Westminster Magistrates’ Court, said in Monday’s ruling that she was satisfied that the American authorities had brought forth the case “in good faith,” and that Mr. Assange’s actions went beyond simply encouraging a journalist. But she said there was evidence of a risk to Mr. Assange’s health if he were to face trial in the United States, noting that she found “Mr. Assange’s risk of committing suicide, if an extradition order were to be made, to be substantial.”

United Kingdom flagShe ruled that the extradition should be refused because “it would be unjust and oppressive by reason of Mr. Assange’s mental condition,” pointing to conditions he would most likely be held under in the United States.

The ruling on Monday at the Central Criminal Court in London, known as the Old Bailey, was a major turning point in a legal struggle that has spanned more than a decade. But that battle is likely to drag on for at least several months, as U.S. prosecutors indicated they would appeal the decision. The authorities have two weeks to file an appeal.

A crowd of supporters gathered outside the courthouse in central London erupted in cheers when the verdict was delivered on Monday.

Craig Murray former UK Ambassador“Today, we are swept away by our joy at the fact that Julian will shortly be with us,” Craig Murray, left, a former British diplomat and rights activist who has been documenting the hearing, told reporters outside the courthouse, noting that Mr. Assange’s defense team would be requesting bail while the appeal was underway. He said while he was “delighted we have seen some humanity,” the ruling on mental health grounds was an “excuse to deliver justice.”

Rights groups also applauded the denial of the extradition request, but some expressed concerns about the substance of the ruling. Among them was Rebecca Vincent, the director of international campaigns for Reporters Without Borders.

Jan. 3

ny times logoNew York Times, Pence Welcomes Bid to Overturn Biden’s Election as Republican Senators Join, Luke Broadwater, Jan. 3, 2021 (print ed.). The group, led by Ted Cruz of Texas, right, said that they would object to the outcome of the November vote, defying the results of the electoral process.

ted cruz oVice President Mike Pence signaled support on Saturday for a futile Republican bid to overturn the election in Congress next week, after 11 Republican senators and senators-elect said that they would vote to reject President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory when the House and Senate meet to formally certify it.

The announcement by the senators — and Mr. Pence’s move to endorse it — reflected a groundswell among Republicans to defy the unambiguous results of the election and indulge President Trump’s attempts to remain in power with false claims of voting fraud.

Every state in the country has certified the election results after verifying their accuracy, many following postelection audits or hand counts. Judges across the country, and a Supreme Court with a conservative majority, have rejected nearly 60 attempts by Mr. Trump and his allies to challenge the results.

mike pence o SmallAnd neither Mr. Pence, left, nor any of the senators who said they would vote to invalidate the election has made a specific allegation of fraud, instead offering vague suggestions that some wrongdoing might have occurred and asserting that many of their supporters believe that it has.

The senators’ opposition to certifying Mr. Biden’s election will not change the outcome. But it guarantees that what would normally be a perfunctory session on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to ratify the results of the presidential election will instead become a partisan brawl, in which Republicans amplify specious claims of widespread election rigging that have been debunked and dismissed for weeks even as Mr. Trump has stoked them.

The spectacle promises to set a caustic backdrop for Mr. Biden’s inauguration in the coming weeks and reflects the polarized politics on Capitol Hill that will be among his greatest challenges.

It will also pose a political dilemma for Republicans, forcing them to choose between accepting the results of a democratic election — even if it means angering supporters who dislike the outcome and could punish them at the polls — and joining their colleagues in displaying unflinching loyalty to Mr. Trump, who has demanded in increasingly angry fashion that they back his bid to cling to the presidency.

The conundrum is especially acute for Mr. Pence, who as president of the Senate has the task of presiding over Wednesday’s proceedings and declaring Mr. Biden the winner, but has his own future political aspirations to consider as well. On Friday, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by House Republicans to pressure Mr. Pence to do otherwise, and instead unilaterally overturn the results.

ron johnson oIn a joint statement on Saturday, the Senate Republicans — including seven senators and four who are to be sworn in on Sunday — called for a 10-day audit of election returns in “disputed states,” and said they would vote to reject the electors from those states until one was completed. They did not elaborate on which states.

The group is led by Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and includes Senators Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, right, James Lankford of Oklahoma, Steve Daines of Montana, John Kennedy of Louisiana, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Mike Braun of Indiana, and Senators-elect Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Roger Marshall of Kansas, Bill Hagerty of Tennessee and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama.

Related stories:

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump loyalists in the Senate vow to challenge Biden’s victory, Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey, Jan. 3, 2021 (print ed.). The drama at the Capitol is set to punctuate a momentous week in politics that will delineate power at the dawn of the Biden presidency.

A last-ditch effort by President Trump and his allies to overturn the election thrust Washington into chaos Saturday as a growing coalition of Republican senators announced plans to rebel against Senate leaders by seeking to block formal certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

The push to subvert the vote is all but certain to fail when Congress gathers in joint session Wednesday to count electoral college votes already certified by each state. Still, Trump is continuing to press Republican lawmakers to support his baseless claims of election fraud while calling on thousands of supporters to fill the streets of the nation’s capital on Wednesday in mass protest of his defeat.

Jan. 3

Breitbart, President Trump to Address ‘Stop the Steal’ Protesters on White House Lawn on January 6, Matthew Boyle, Jan. 3, 2021. President Donald Trump breitbart logoand a list of other high-profile speakers will address “Stop the Steal” protesters on Wednesday, Jan. 6, ahead of an effort by some congressional Republicans to challenge the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral college victory, Breitbart News has learned.

Thousands of Trump supporters are expected to gather in Washington, DC, for the occasion, and members of Trump’s team have been brought in to help organize the event which is officially being hosted by Women for America First.

The main event will happen on the Ellipsis at the White House—informally called “the President’s Lawn”—a source familiar with the organizational efforts said. The president tweeted Sunday morning that he will be there on Wednesday.

The president is expected to deliver remarks beginning at around 11 a.m. He will cap off an event at which several other high-profile names, including his eldest son Donald Trump, Jr., Kimberly Guilfoyle, Amy Kremer, Rudy Giuliani, Katrina Pierson, Boris Ephsteyn, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, Diamond and Silk, Georgia State Rep. Vernon Jones, Roger Stone, Benny Johnson, Scott Presler, Bernie Kerik, and Ali Alexander are all among those expected to speak, per a source involved in the matter.

Many of these speakers, and others, will also speak on Tuesday, Jan. 5—the day before the official festivities—at an event at Freedom Plaza in downtown Washington, DC. But the main event is on Wednesday, at the Ellipsis at the White House.

The doors for the White House Ellipsis event will open at 7 a.m. on Wednesday, and while event-goers will not need to formally enter White House grounds through a White House gate there will be Secret Service checkpoints on the way in. Technically, event-goers do not need to register or have tickets, but are being encouraged to RSVP on the website MarchtoSaveAmerica.com.

The official program will begin around 9 a.m., and again will be capped by Trump’s speech beginning around 11 a.m. When the president finishes his remarks, organizers then will lead a march up to the U.S. Capitol where they are expected to arrive around 1 p.m.—the time during which the new Congress, which is being sworn in on Sunday, will consider certification of the electoral college results.

More than a hundred House Republicans are expected to challenge the certification of the electoral college results, and they will be joined by at least a dozen Senate Republicans. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) was the first one to announce he would join House GOP challenges last week, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) led an effort this weekend of 11 more Senate Republicans to join the cause.

With numbers like this, the effort is by far the most serious in modern history to challenge, via the process of Congress certifying the electoral college results, an election. There have been other attempts, like after Trump’s win in 2016 in early 2017 some House Democrats tried to challenge the results but did not get a senator on board with their challenge. Also, in early 2005, some House Democrats joined with then-Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to challenge then-President George W. Bush’s re-election. That effort failed, as vast majorities in both chambers of Congress rejected it.

This effort is similarly expected to fail, as the Democrats control the U.S. House so despite the impressive showing of more than 100 House Republicans siding with Trump he will fall short of a majority in that chamber. Similarly, some Senate Republicans—ranging from Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) to Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) to Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) and even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—have said they recognize Biden as the legitimate president-elect and will not go along with this effort.

Therefore, given that the Senate GOP majority is tight—currently 52 members, which may change depending on what happens in Tuesday’s runoff elections in Georgia where Sens. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) and David Perdue (R-GA) face Democrats Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff respectively—there are already not enough votes for Trump to even get a majority in the GOP-controlled Senate.

Nonetheless, the success of those cheering this challenge on in getting as many members of Congress as they have gotten on board this fight—even if it is doomed to fail no matter what—is remarkable. It also resembles the anger and fury of the GOP base in the wake of the Nov. 3 contest, and signals that Trump base voters are seeking fighters in the future for the party. But it is also a tough balancing act for GOP leaders, as they seek to show the base they are willing to fight but also attempt to move forward with the reality of an incoming Biden administration that is fast-approaching in just a couple weeks.

The U.S. Senate has not started holding hearings for Biden’s cabinet picks, and may not start until after the inauguration. A large part of what will determine Biden’s administration post selections’ fates looms in Georgia on Tuesday, as those runoffs will ascertain which party controls the U.S. Senate for the foreseeable future and could mean the difference between some of Biden’s selections getting confirmed or not.

But the energy on the right as evidenced by the thousands of Trump supporters who months after the election will still descend on Washington, DC, this week is something Republicans will seek to harness in the future as they go into battle with the incoming Biden administration and as they seek to retake the House majority in 2022 after winning unexpected gains in the 2020 congressional elections.

Ultimately, too, this will all culminate in the 2024 White House battle, with what is expected to be a huge field of potential contenders bidding for their shot at Trump’s mantle, assuming he doesn’t run again which is no foregone conclusion.

Dec. 18

Southern Poverty Law Center, "Hatewatch" Opinion: Law Firm Tied to Far-Right Fringe Registers Stop the Steal LLC in Alabama, Michael Edison Hayden, Dec. 18, 2020. A law firm associated with activists on the far-right fringe registered the Limited Liability Company (LLC) Stop the Steal in Montgomery, Alabama, in November, state records show. “Stop the Steal” is the name of a nationwide protest movement focused on overturning President-elect Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 election based upon unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud.

George Coleman of the law firm Baron Coleman registered the Stop the Steal LLC in Montgomery on Nov. 13. Far-right activist Ali Alexander, 35, the self-described “National Organizer” for the Stop the Steal, told Hatewatch over text that Baron Coleman represents him. Alexander promoted Stop the Steal events to Twitter soon after it became apparent that Trump lost the 2020 election and has done so persistently ever since. Baron Coleman registered the LLC one day before protesters associated with Ali’s Stop the Steal movement descended on Washington D.C. The event gave way to violent clashes between Stop the Steal supporters and counterprotesters.

Hatewatch has so far been unable to determine what the LLC does, but it borrows from a brand name first associated with Roger Stone Jr. A former adviser to Donald Trump and a convicted felon, Stone first launched Stop the Steal during the 2016 election as a group of poll watchers tasked with disputing Democratic votes in urban, multiracial areas. Like the current iteration of Stop the Steal, Stone gathered the group together under the auspices of fighting voter fraud, as Hatewatch has reported. Hatewatch reached out to Stone by phone and email, but he did not respond.

Baron Coleman also represents Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes in his defamation lawsuit against Southern Poverty Law Center, which is based upon its designation of them as a hate group. Alexander and lawyers for Baron Coleman appeared with McInnes outside the center’s headquarters in Montgomery on Feb. 4, 2019, when he announced that suit. Alexander told Hatewatch over text that Baron Coleman advised him in responding to Hatewatch’s request for comment.

“[Baron Coleman] advised me to tell you not to contact me while I’m representing a client suing y’all. Conflict of interest. Thanks!” Alexander wrote.

Alexander does not appear to be an attorney, so it is unclear what he meant by representing. Alexander is a far-right operative linked to a number of political smear campaigns and is known for posting disinformation to Twitter. One example of that behavior includes a sustained campaign he created promoting the unsubstantiated claim that Biden is “sick” and suffers from some form of otherwise unreported, degenerative illness. Mother Jones reported that Alexander is a convicted felon. Hatewatch obtained records showing Alexander entered a guilty plea on charges of “debit card abuse” in Tarrant County, Texas, in April 2008. He went by the name “Ali Akbar” at that time.

Hatewatch followed up with another text, but Alexander did not respond. Hatewatch was therefore unable to ask him about the LLC.

Baron Coleman sent Hatewatch the following comment:

I received your request for comment and don’t have much I can add. As you know any conversations between my clients and me are privileged.

Stop the Steal, LLC, is an Alabama limited liability company I organized for clients of mine. I’m afraid I’m limited by my professional duties to defer to my clients – owners of the privilege – on whether they would like to add anything more.

I appreciate you reaching out. If you can think of anything else I can help you with, please don’t hesitate to contact me at your convenience. I’ll do my best to answer anything that isn’t privileged.

Sincerely,

Baron Coleman

Stone appeared with Alexander in the trailer of an apparent film about Stop the Steal activism, which was published to Twitter on Dec. 9. The trailer also featured an appearance by white nationalist live-streamer Nick Fuentes and anti-immigrant pundit and VDARE contributor Michelle Malkin, among other activists who are promoting the falsehood that Trump won the 2020 election.

Proud Boys have also turned up at Alexander’s events. At a Stop the Steal-linked event on Dec. 12, members of the hate group reportedly took down two Black Lives Matter banners from two historic Black churches in Washington, D.C., and destroyed them. The Washington Post reported that police were investigating the incidents on hate crime charge

Dec. 8

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: A decade of wringing money and power out of conservative victimhood nears its apex, Philip Bump, Dec. 8, 2020. Ali Alexander is a right-wing personality who has worked with a rogue’s gallery of notorious characters in that world: Alex Jones, Roger Stone, Jacob Wohl, Laura Loomer, you name it.

A decade ago, he was flitting around on the fringes of the conservative movement where his past legal troubles contributed to scrutiny of his efforts to raise funds for an online publishing venture. Now, he identifies himself as “national organizer” for “Stop the Steal,” an organization which adopts the tagline of President Trump’s ploy to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Alexander’s group isn’t linked to the Trump campaign. Instead, as CNN reported last week, his “Stop the Steal” website solicits contributions that aren’t bound by nonprofit rules or constraints and which, at least in its initial iteration, went straight to him. In a brief encounter at a rally focused on the election results, CNN’s Drew Griffin asked Alexander how much he was getting from the effort.

“Zero,” Alexander insisted. He then accused Griffin of being a racist for his past reporting.

You don't need to read between the lines much to understand that there's a distinct possibility that Alexander, after years of building his name through right-wing agitation, might similarly see an opportunity in Trump's effort to throw out the results of the 2020 contest. You might suspect that Alexander's more virulent rhetoric has, at a minimum, multiple motivations. If bolstering concerns about the election is lucrative, why draw a line on how far you're willing to go to bolster those concerns?

It’s not insignificant that Alexander’s emergence coincided with the rise of the tea party movement during President Barack Obama’s first term in office. For all of the legitimate energy that the movement fostered, there was also a lot of grifting — financial and political — associated with the effort. A number of groups emerged to fundraise off the energy of the movement and amplified concerns about the future of the country, not all of them legitimate. The passion of supporters could be easy to parlay into money and political support, something which Trump himself explored with his overt flirtations with the movement in his brief consideration of a 2012 run.

Kelli Ward is another person who rose within Republican politics through the tea party movement. After winning a seat in the Arizona state Senate in 2012, she twice tried to earn the party’s nomination for a seat in the U.S. Senate, without success. She, too, has embraced the fringes of right-wing, including demonstrating support for rancher Cliven Bundy during his standoff with federal officials in 2014 and joining Loomer for an event last year.

Ward is now the head of the Republican Party in Arizona. She’s been outspoken in her criticism of Gov. Doug Ducey (R) since he certified the results of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the state. When Ducey explained in a series of tweets why he was legally bound to do so, Ward told him to “STHU” — to shut up.

Ward, too, has an interest in boosting the idea that the election was stolen. Much of the most vocal part of her party believes Trump’s rhetoric on the matter and sees nefarious efforts playing a role in the results. That doesn’t mean that her position is insincere; like many Republicans, she may in fact believe the baseless claims that rampant fraud occurred. But that doesn’t mean that fighting against Ducey on the point isn’t politically useful.

Jan. 2

 

djt biden smiles

cnn logoCNN, Federal judge throws out Gohmert lawsuit asking Pence to interfere in Electoral College count, Dan Berman, Updated Jan. 2, 2021. A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit from Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas and several Arizona Republicans seeking to force Vice President Mike Pence to help throw the election to President Donald Trump next week when Congress meets to count the Electoral College votes.

Judge Jeremy Kernodle of the Eastern District of Texas said on Friday that Gohmert, below left, and the others lacked standing to sue.

louis gohmertGohmert's suit was part of the desperate and extraordinary GOP attempt to overturn the presidential election using baseless and unproven allegations of mass voter fraud and charging that multiple states that President-elect Joe Biden won illegally changed their voting rules due to the pandemic. Those arguments have failed dozens of times in state and federal courts over the past two months.

Gohmert and a slate of would-be Trump electors from Arizona had said only Pence could decide what electoral votes count -- a remarkable argument suggesting vice presidents can directly determine who wins a presidential election, regardless of the results.

 

lin wood djt march 2020

Palmer Report, Opinion: Trump world hits panic button after Donald Trump lawyer Lin Wood violently threatens Mike Pence, Bill Palmer, Jan. 1, 2021 (11:30 p.m. EST). Donald Trump has a long and strange history of hiring new lawyers who are so profoundly deranged, they end up making Trump’s existing deranged lawyers uncomfortable. We saw this when Trump had Sidney Powell filing court cases so absurd, Rudy Giuliani arbitrarily announced that Powell didn’t work for Trump.

bill palmer report logo headerNow we’re seeing a whole new round of this lunacy, but even worse. Trump is now conspiring with attorney Lin Wood (shown above at the White House in a file photo), who tweeted his expectation today that Mike Pence, below right, will “face execution by firing squad.”

Even as we wait to see whether Wood gets arrested over this apparent threat on Pence’s life, Trump’s other election lawyer Jenna Ellis mike pence o Small– a deranged lunatic in her own right – just tweeted “To be clear: I do not support the statements from Attorney Lin Wood. I support the rule of law and the U.S. Constitution.”

When you consider that Ellis has spent the past two months trying to illegally overturn the election in Trump’s favor, it’s not clear what laws she supposedly believes in. But it is clear that she’s worried about getting caught up in the criminal hole that Lin Wood is digging for himself right now.

We have a feeling that either Ellis (shown below) or Wood will no longer be Trump’s lawyer by the end of the weekend, as they can’t both be on the same legal team after this. Then again, at this rate, Wood is about to need a lawyer of his own. Trump’s endgame is getting more pointlessly deranged by the hour.

Sidney Powell, right, and Jenna Ellis

Trump attorneys Jenna Ellis, left, and Sidney Powell conduct a press conference with Trump counsel Rudy Giuliani before Trump fired Powell.

ny times logoNew York Times, Senate Overrides Trump’s Veto of Defense Bill, Dealing a Legislative Blow, Catie Edmondson, Jan. 2, 2021 (print ed.). The 81-to-13 vote, the last vote expected in this Congress, is the first time lawmakers have overridden one of Mr. Trump’s vetoes. It reflected the sweeping popularity of a measure that authorizes a pay raise for the nation’s military and amounted to an extraordinary reprimand delivered to Mr. Trump in the final weeks of his presidency.

The margin surpassed the two-thirds majority needed to force enactment of the bill over Mr. Trump’s objections. The House passed the legislation on Monday, also mustering the two-thirds majority required.

Mr. Trump, making good on a monthslong series of threats, vetoed the bipartisan legislation last week, citing a shifting list of reasons including his objection to a provision directing the military to strip the names of Confederate leaders from bases. He also demanded that the bill include the repeal of a legal shield for social media companies that he has tangled with, a significant legislative change that Republicans and Democrats alike have said is irrelevant to legislation that dictates military policy.

Those objections infuriated lawmakers, who had labored for months to put together a bipartisan bill. They had prided themselves on passing the military bill each year for 60 years, and lawmakers in Mr. Trump’s own party ultimately moved to mow over his concerns and advance the legislation.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump is destroying the Republican Party in real time, Bill Palmer, right,Jan. 1, 2021. Donald Trump’s approval rating is down eight bill palmerpoints since he lost the election, largely due to his sore loser antics, and it’ll drop further as his antics grow more embarrassing.

bill palmer report logo headerI’d rather Trump just pack up and leave quietly. But if he insists on going out this embarrassingly, at least he’s destroying the viability of a lot of his fellow bad people on his way out. His overall drop in popularity is going to convince a lot of people in the middle not to vote Republican next time. And his ongoing attacks on the Republicans will convince a chunk of his base not to vote Republican next time. The real losers here are, deservedly, the Republicans who let Trump get this far.

If this weren’t such an embarrassment to the country, it would almost be funny watching Trump-aligned clowns like Pence, Pompeo, Hawley, Cotton, and Sasse all scrambling to figure out which side of the no-win scenario they want to be on as Trump makes his exit. They’d all love to run for president in 2024, but they’re destroying their viability just by taking any position on Trump during his downfall.

Jan. 1

lin wood djt march 2020

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s lawyer Lin Wood goes on violent tirade about Mike Pence, Bill Palmer, Jan. 1, 2021. Donald Trump’s election lawyer Lin Wood (shown above at the White House and at right in a Gage Skidmore photo) is now tweeting about Mike Pence facing “execution by firing squad.” So if Wood gets arrested for making threats against the sitting Vice President of the United States, will Trump pardon him for it? This Trump endgame is all so pointless and so stupid.

bill palmer report logo headerFor reference, this is the same Lin Wood who keeps urging Republican voters in Georgia to boycott next week’s Senate runoff races, on the grounds that the runoff is somehow null and void because Trump secretly won Georgia to begin with.

Wood is an obvious crackpot who’s so far gone, he arguably makes Trump’s other lawyers like Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell look lin wood gage skidmorementally stable in comparison. The only reason we’re even writing about Wood is that, best anyone can tell, he’s actively representing Trump as a client while carrying on about these deranged conspiracies and pushing these violent threats.

Lin Wood should obviously be arrested immediately. But then what? Each time one of Trump’s crackpot election lawyers flames out, he manages to find an even crazier one who’s willing to spew even wackier and more irrelevant conspiracy theories. This is all obviously having no impact whatsoever on the fact that Trump lost and will be leaving office on January 20th. But this all keeps getting more dangerous for the Republican Party.

Dec. 31

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Officials Say Covid-19 Vaccination Effort Has Lagged; 14 Million Doses Shipped, 2.6 Million Injected, Rebecca Robbins, Updated Dec. 31, 2020, Dec. 31, 2020 (print ed.). Federal health officials acknowledged that only a fraction of the doses shipped had been administered. The number falls far short of the government’s goal of 20 million people vaccinated against Covid-19 by the end of this year.

“We know that it should be better, and we’re working hard to make it better,” said Moncef Slaoui, a leader of the federal effort to accelerate vaccine development and distribution.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Trump is inciting chaos on Jan. 6, both in and outside the Capitol, Editorial Board, Dec. 31, 2020 (print ed.). January 6, the day Congress meets in a joint session to accept the results of the presidential election, should be a testament to America’s enduring democracy. Yet it may become a demonstration of its poor health. President Trump, along with craven enablers such as Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), is seeking to upend what should be solemn but largely perfunctory proceedings to ratify the victory of President-elect Joe Biden. The result could be a shameless show of support by numerous congressional Republicans for erasing the votes of millions of Americans — and, perhaps, mayhem incited by the president in the streets of D.C.

“Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!,” Mr. Trump tweeted earlier this month in an appeal to his supporters to come to the capital to buttress his campaign to overturn the election results. He followed up Sunday, “See you in Washington, DC, on January 6th. Don’t miss it. Information to follow!” And again on Wednesday, “JANUARY SIXTH, SEE YOU IN DC!”

That the president is actively seeking to incite street protests is a matter of more than a little concern to D.C. officials who — based on the behavior of some of Mr. Trump’s supporters at two previous rallies — fear there could be violence. While daytime demonstrations were largely peaceful on Nov. 14 and Dec. 12, destruction and bloodshed broke out when night came.

djt looking up

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump has yet to accept the election results months after Republicans said he would, JM Rieger, Dec. 31, 2020. The Republican Party continues refusing to accept the election results even as state and federal investigations have found little or no voter fraud and as Trump has lost 59 of 60 election lawsuits filed by his campaign and political allies, including two filed at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Among the roughly three dozen congressional Republicans who have publicly acknowledged Biden’s win, many waited days or weeks after the election was called before doing so. It was a stark departure from the public congratulations that many of those same Republicans gave to then-President-elect Trump in the hours and days after the 2016 election was called.

That so many elected Republicans still refuse to accept the election’s outcome is perhaps not surprising, given how many Trump supporters falsely think that Biden did not legitimately win the election.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump calls for Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a fellow Republican, to resign, John Wagner, Dec. 31, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump on Wednesday called for Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp to resign, escalating his criticism of a fellow Republican who has refused to intervene in the state’s presidential election or embrace Trump’s baseless claims of widespread fraud.

brian kemp 2019 Custom“@BrianKempGA should resign from office,” Trump said in a tweet. “He is an obstructionist who refuses to admit that we won Georgia, BIG!”

“Also won the other Swing States,” Trump claimed, continuing a series of false claims he has made since President-elect Joe Biden was projected as the winner nationally.

Trump’s latest criticism of Kemp, shown at right, came in a tweet that urged his supporters to watch a broadcast of a Senate hearing in Atlanta on purported election irregularities.

ny times logoNew York Times, Plan to Challenge Election Results Exposes Rift Among Republicans, Catie Edmondson, Jan. 1, 2021 (print ed.). After Senator Josh Hawley said he would object to the Electoral College votes on Jan. 6, Senator Ben Sasse rebuked the effort as a “dangerous ploy.”

Senator Ben Sasse on Thursday condemned a drive by his Republican colleagues in Congress to challenge the results of the 2020 election, rebuking the effort as a “dangerous ploy” led by lawmakers who are “playing with fire.”

ben sasse o croppedIn a blistering open letter to his constituents, Mr. Sasse of Nebraska, left, became the first Republican senator to publicly condemn a decision by Senator Josh Hawley to challenge President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory, saying it was intended to “disenfranchise millions of Americans.”

“Let’s be clear what is happening here: We have a bunch of ambitious politicians who think there’s a quick way to tap into the president’s populist base without doing any real, long-term damage,” Mr. Sasse wrote. “But they’re wrong — and this issue is bigger than anyone’s personal ambitions. Adults don’t point a loaded gun at the heart of legitimate self-government.”

josh hawley missouriMr. Sasse’s scathing remarks came a day after Mr. Hawley, right, Republican of Missouri, announced that he would object to Congress’s certification of the Electoral College results on Jan. 6, the final procedural step in affirming Mr. Biden’s victory.

Mr. Hawley’s move ensures that the process, usually a formality, will force up-or-down votes on the House and Senate floors, requiring lawmakers to either show loyalty to President Trump and object to the results or protect the sanctity of the electoral process.

There is almost no chance that the effort, led by Mr. Hawley in the Senate and a small group of Republican lawmakers in the House, will succeed in reversing the outcome. But Mr. Hawley’s decision to challenge the results is forcing a test of how far the Republican Party is willing to go to back Mr. Trump’s false claims.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, has discouraged lawmakers from objecting to the results, and on Thursday, he told members of his conference on a private call that he considered his vote on Jan. 6 the most consequential one he would ever cast, according to two people familiar with the discussion.

Mr. McConnell did not explicitly say how he would vote, and made clear he was not trying to sway senators to vote one way or another, the people said. But he framed the vote to certify the election results as a critical moment to defend the backbone of the electoral system and invoked votes he had taken on wars and impeachment to underscore its significance.

djt maga hatEven some of Mr. Trump’s usual allies have called his efforts to cling to power unseemly.

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board called it a “kamikaze mission” this week and said “Republicans should be embarrassed by Mr. Trump’s Electoral College hustle.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump has yet to accept the election results months after Republicans said he would, JM Rieger, Jan.1, 2021 (print ed). The Republican Party continues refusing to accept the election results even as state and federal investigations have found little or no voter fraud and as Trump has lost 59 of 60 election lawsuits filed by his campaign and political allies, including two filed at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosAmong the roughly three dozen congressional Republicans who have publicly acknowledged Biden’s win, many waited days or weeks after the election was called before doing so. It was a stark departure from the public congratulations that many of those same Republicans gave to then-President-elect Trump in the hours and days after the 2016 election was called.

That so many elected Republicans still refuse to accept the election’s outcome is perhaps not surprising, given how many Trump supporters falsely think that Biden did not legitimately win the election.

Mediaite,140 GOP House Members Expected to Challenge Electoral College Vote: CNN, Leia Idliby, Dec. 31, 2020. At least 140 House Republicans are reportedly planning to vote against confirming the electoral votes that would verify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, according to CNN.

republican elephant logoDespite no evidence of systemic voter fraud, two Republican members of the House told CNN that their colleagues will attempt to block the count of the Electoral College’s votes on Jan. 6, according to a report from Jake Tapper.

Although President Donald Trump has lost the election, and his House supporters have essentially no chance of changing the result, the motion will delay Biden’s confirmation by a couple of hours.

Trump and his colleagues and allies have spent almost two months working to overturn the election, making baseless claims of election fraud without any legal luck.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had reportedly warned fellow Republican senators not to attempt to challenge Biden’s victory, as he’s nervous the turmoil could lose the GOP Georgia’s two Senate seats.

djt i dont take responsibility at all

Strategic Culture Foundation, Investigative Commentary: Terrorism: A Menace From the Right-Wing and Allied wayne madsen screen shotFundamentalists, Wayne Madsen, right, syndicated columnist, autor of 18 books and former U.S. Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst, Dec. 31, 2020.

att logoOn early Christmas morning a vehicle bomb exploded in downtown Nashville, Tennessee. The target was the AT&T metropolitan area network hub “Batman” building, a 33-story structure – the tallest building in Tennessee – which resembles the fictional cape crusader’s cowl.

The bomber turned out to be a 63-year-old white man. Anthony Quinn Warren, who blew himself up in the terrorist attack, apparently subscribed to the babble from the pro-Donald Trump “Qanon” group of far-right conspiracy advocates who believe that Fifth Generation (5G) wireless communications networks are linked to both the