Assistant House speaker: Capitol riot commission needed for ‘truth and accountability’

Assistant House Speaker Katherine Clark said Tuesday that no option is off the table for further addressing former President Donald Trump's role in last month's Capitol riot — including a 9/11-style commission or invoking a constitutional amendment to block Trump from running again.

Though Trump was ultimately acquitted in his impeachment trial by the Senate, Clark (D-Mass.) said she thought a commission would be important in not only getting granular information about the Jan. 6 riot but also in holding Trump accountable. Such a commission could could also consider larger issues like domestic terrorism and its link to racism in the United States, she said.

“I think there will be bipartisan support [for the commission] because Americans understand what is at stake here, and this is the next step to getting to truth and accountability,” Clark said in a POLITICO Playbook Live interview Tuesday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called for a commission similar to the one that probed the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, which left five people dead. The 9/11 Commission took two years to complete and yielded a 561-page report on the 2001 attacks, their origin and recommendations for the future.

The assistant speaker said a commission could take the conversation around the riot, which occurred after Trump delivered an incendiary speech to supporters who later marched to the Capitol, out of the political realm and into the hands of fact-finding experts who would formulate guidance to avoid future attacks.

“This is far more than about a former president,” Clark said, adding that she believed American democracy was in danger. “It was a message to future presidents about what we consider conduct that is worthy of the office of the president of the United States.”

Asked if Democrats might turn to the Constitution's 14th Amendment — which contains language barring individuals who have "engaged in insurrection or rebellion against" the United States from holding certain offices — to bar Trump from holding office again, Clark said "we haven’t taken any of our tools off the table" but that it was too early to know which processes would be used to pursue accountability.

Whether the 14th Amendment could be used against Trump remains an open constitutional debate. The amendment, adopted in 1868 after the emancipation of enslaved Americans, granted citizenship and equal protection to everyone born or naturalized in the U.S., though such rights would take a century or more to be fully realized. But the amendment also contains language — aimed at the time at former Confederate officials — barring individuals who "engaged in insurrection or rebellion against" the United States specifically from serving as a senator, House member or member of the Electoral College.

The amendment makes no specific mention of the office of the presidency but does bar individuals who engaged in insurrection from holding "any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state."

As assistant house speaker, Clark said she has worked with freshman lawmakers to work through the insurrection and its aftermath, including helping them find therapists or set up security systems for their houses.

“Three days into their congressional careers, their very lives were threatened,” she said, adding that people of color in that cohort emphasized the themes of racism that were linked to the insurrection.

Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), Clark said, was told to take off her pin identifying her as a representative while being evacuated from the Capitol. Rochester was hesitant to take it off, fearing that without that identification, she might not be seen by law enforcement as a person needing protection.

“These are the real issues members of Congress are dealing with and processing,” Clark said.

Posted in Uncategorized

Hawley condemns Jan. 6 riot but says Senate trial is ‘kangaroo court’

Sen. Josh Hawley on Thursday condemned the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol but described this week’s Senate impeachment trial proceedings against former President Donald Trump as “a total kangaroo court.”

“You’re not going to get anything but condemnation from me for what happened with those criminals at the Capitol on Jan. 6, but that doesn't make the trial any more legitimate than it is, which is totally illegitimate — no basis in the Constitution,” Hawley (R-Mo.) said in a Fox News interview.

Hawley, who greeted protesters at the Capitol before riots began on Jan. 6 with a raised fist, said those attacks were “horrific.”

“What we're seeing is what we lived through. It’s what my staff lived through,” Hawley said. “The criminals who did it ought to be prosecuted as they are being and ought to be given the full measure of the law.”

When asked if he was acting out of loyalty to Trump, he insisted he was acting on behalf of his voters and the oath he took as a senator.

“The Republican Party — if it belongs to anybody — it belongs to the voters, the people who sent us here,” he said. “That's who I'm accountable to.”

Posted in Uncategorized

Norm Eisen says he was encouraged by GOP support for Trump impeachment trial

The chances of the Senate convicting former President Donald Trump may not be good, but they’re better than they were during his last impeachment trial, according to Norm Eisen, who served as counsel to the Democrats in Trump’s first impeachment.

“It is a very steep hill to climb to get the additional Republicans, and I don’t know that you’ll hold onto all six who voted yesterday,” he said in a POLITICO Playbook Live interview. “But it is six times more than the number of Republican aisle-crossers that we persuaded in the previous impeachment.”

Eisen cast himself as a “congenial optimist,” but said that the chances are also better because more Americans side with conviction in this trial.

“It’s by far the most bipartisan impeachment in American history,” he said.

So far, just six GOP senators appear to be even considering convicting Trump of inciting an insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6, far short of the 17 Republican votes House managers likely need for a conviction.

However, Sen. Bill Cassidy's (R-La.) decision on Tuesday to vote that the impeachment trial against Trump is constitutional came as a surprise and showed that some Republicans may still be making up their minds.

Eisen said on Wednesday that polling shows bipartisan approval for Trump's conviction across the United States.

“We just had 47 percent of Americans who agreed with us that Trump should be convicted at the beginning of the prior impeachment trial. This one, you start with 56-57 percent of Americans — 20 percent of Republicans.”

Eisen said Trump’s attorneys, who are, in his words, offering up “total legal and factual garbage,” will put more pressure on senators to potentially vote to convict.

Bruce Castor Jr. and David Schoen, who are defending Trump in his second impeachment, have been widely criticized for their lackluster presentation Tuesday — including by Republican senators.

“Now, it’s not just Trump who’s on trial,” he said. “After yesterday, the Senate is on trial.”

Posted in Uncategorized

Hirono: Trump’s defense was ‘incompetent’ and ‘pathetic’

Sen. Mazie Hirono said Wednesday that defense lawyers for former President Donald Trump were “incompetent and basically pretty pathetic" in their impeachment arguments on day one of the ongoing Senate trial.

Hirono (D-Hawaii) specifically criticized former President Donald Trump’s defense team, Bruce Castor Jr. and David Schoen, for admitting they changed strategies because the House managers’ presentation was so strong.

"Lawyers don't do that unless you're fantastically talented and good lawyer, and these two were not,” she said.

Hirono said the House managers’ presentation, on the other hand, was very moving for Democratic senators to whom she spoke after the opening of the trial.

“Watching these images, I think all of us were brought to tears,” she said, highlighting the impact of Rep. Jamie Raskin’s (D-Md.) emotional speech about the aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection. “I know I was.”

Hirono said the House managers plan to focus on Trump’s actions during their presentation on Wednesday, presenting Trump's repeated, baseless claims of voter fraud in the aftermath of November's election and in the runup to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

Posted in Uncategorized

Hirono: ‘I don’t have very many questions’ ahead of impeachment trial

Sen. Mazie Hirono said Tuesday that her personal experience at the Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection will inform her decision-making as she takes in the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump.

“Well, frankly, all of us were witnesses to the horrific events of Jan. 6, so I don’t have very many questions,” Hirono (D-Hawaii) said in a CNN interview Tuesday morning. “I think the house managers will bring all of the information and evidence and remind us of the kind of chaos and harm that happened on Jan. 6.”

Trump will face a historic second impeachment trial beginning on Tuesday on a single article of inciting the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. Trump, who delivered an incendiary speech to his supporters hours before the riot, has denied any culpability and his legal team has argued that the impeachment trial is unconstitutional because he is no longer in office.

Before Trump’s first impeachment trial, Hirono said relevant witnesses and documents were needed for a fair trial. She said Tuesday that would not be needed for this week’s trial.

“The evidence in this trial is very different than the first impeachment trial,” she said.

Still, Hirono said if house managers want witnesses in this trial, she will vote for witnesses to be called. She said there are some relevant witnesses who could contribute to the trial, like Capitol police, but she does not believe it would be necessary.

Posted in Uncategorized

Poll: 50 percent support convicting Trump in impeachment trial

Half of Americans polled for a new survey said former President Donald Trump should be convicted in a Senate impeachment trial next week over his incitement of a riot at the U.S. Capitol last month, according to a new poll from Quinnipiac University.

The nationwide survey found that 50 percent of respondents believe Trump should be convicted and 45 percent believe he should not be convicted, with most participants answering along party lines.

Independents polled were split, with 49 percent saying Trump should be convicted and 45 percent saying he should not be convicted. There is wide agreement on conviction within each party: 86 percent of Republicans say Trump should not be convicted, and 86 percent of Democrats say he should.

"The impeachment question is framed by two distinctly different versions of history and offers as vivid an example of the chasm between Republicans and Democrats as you can find," Quinnipiac University Polling Analyst Tim Malloy said in a statement released with the results.

These findings are similar to a separate Monmouth University poll released a few weeks ago, which found that most Americans believe Trump should be impeached and convicted.

The new poll from Quinnipiac University also found that most of those polled (59 percent) do not believe there was widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election, though nearly three-fourths of Republicans surveyed do believe there was widespread fraud.

There was strong agreement among all participants on a few subjects. Most respondents (75 percent) said they are either somewhat or very concerned about extremist violence in the U.S. Almost the same number (74 percent) believe social media platforms should be held responsible for the spread of disinformation. About 70 percent of those polled said U.S. democracy is currently threatened.

Most of the people polled do not think partisan divides were likely to improve. About 4 in 10 Americans expect partisan divisions to worsen, while about one third say they didn’t expect partisanship to change much. Only 20 percent believe partisan divisions would improve.

About 70 percent of those polled say they had not limited social interactions based on differing political beliefs. Democrats were more likely to say they lessened interactions based on political beliefs than independents or Republicans.

The poll included 1,075 participants who were surveyed from Jan. 28 to Feb. 1, with a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3 percentage points.

Posted in Uncategorized