We begin with The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson who frames the importance of the upcoming midterm elections:
In four short weeks, the nation faces the most important midterm elections of my lifetime. This year, the choice is between our democracy as we know it — messy, incremental, often frustrating — and a hard-edged performative populism fueled by resentment, misogyny and racism. To have any hope of building a better future, we must make a stand here.
It is hard for me to write those words because one of the first things I was taught as a young journalist was to be wary of superlatives. But the truth is plain — and painful: Democrats must keep control of at least one chamber of Congress, and preferably both, because the Republican Party has become a danger to the American experiment.
More analysis of the midterms from Jeet Heer at The Nation:
[E]ven before the election, it’s clear that MAGA will be in charge of the GOP. This will be even truer if the GOP sweeps the midterms. [...]
Imagine an entire Congress dominated by this faction. It’s a recipe for more government shutdowns, more meaningless investigations like the Benghazi hearings, more spurious impeachments like the 1999 war against Bill Clinton. It also promises that in 2024, secretaries of state like Marchant (if he wins) will thwart the will of the people.
At The New York Times, Jamelle Bouie warns of what happens when election deniers “let their freak flag fly”:
Here’s a prediction: If Donald Trump is on the ballot in 2024, there is little reason to think that the United States will have a smooth and uncomplicated presidential election.
Just the opposite, of course. Republican candidates for governor and secretary of state who are aligned with Trump have promised, repeatedly and in public, to subvert any election result that doesn’t favor the former president if he runs again.
Meanwhile, over at The Daily Beast, Kelly Weill analyzes disinformation attempts by Peter Theil:
In the past, much of the network has been limited to news websites. But as the 2022 election season comes to a head, some of those publications have ventured into print.
Illinois residents may not have subscribed to newspapers with titles like the Chicago City Wire or the DuPage Policy Journal. But they’ve arrived on doorsteps across the state, with front-page headlines like“It’s going to be literally the end of days” and “No more boys and girls? Pritzker family leads push to replace ‘myth’ of biology.”
The papers, many of which attack Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker, are imprints of LGIS, a company Timpone launched with Florida-based Republican strategist Dan Proft. Proft, who did not return a request for comment, runs the “People Who Play By The Rules” political action committee.
On a final note, in case you missed it, here are highlights from yesterday’s Ohio debate between Tim Ryan and J.D. Vance:
We begin today’s roundup with a preview of this week's pivotal hearing from the January 6th Committee:
More than 500 days removed from the violent attack on the US Capitol, the committee investigating it is ready to show its work. The House select committee will hold its first public hearing this week, on June 9 at 8 p.m. ET. Sources told CNN this hearing will be a broad overview of the panel's 10-month investigation and set the stage for subsequent hearings, which are expected to cover certain topics or themes. While the setup of the hearings has been a work in progress and evolving, sources note, the presentations will likely feature video clips from January 6, as well as some of the roughly 1,000 interviews the committee has conducted behind closed doors.
With their control of Congress hanging in the balance, Democrats plan to use made-for-television moments and a carefully choreographed rollout of revelations over the course of six hearings to remind the public of the magnitude of Mr. Trump’s effort to overturn the election, and to persuade voters that the coming midterm elections are a chance to hold Republicans accountable for it.
It is an uphill battle at a time when polls show that voters’ attention is focused elsewhere, including on inflation, rising coronavirus cases and record-high gas prices. But Democrats argue the hearings will give them a platform for making a broader case about why they deserve to stay in power.
A staffer for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign instructed Republicans planning to cast electoral college votes for Trump in Georgia despite Joe Biden’s victory to operate in “complete secrecy,” an email obtained by The Washington Post shows.
“I must ask for your complete discretion in this process,” wrote Robert Sinners, the campaign’s election operations director for Georgia, the day before the 16 Republicans gathered at the Georgia Capitol to sign certificates declaring themselves duly elected. “Your duties are imperative to ensure the end result — a win in Georgia for President Trump — but will be hampered unless we have complete secrecy and discretion.”
Two days after the 2020 election Donald Trump Jr. sent Meadows a text laying out strategies to ensure his father stayed in office regardless of who actually won, according to CNN. Team Trump went on to pursue the tactics he referenced, including filing lawsuits to challenge election results, demanding recounts, promoting bogus “alternate electors,” and blocking Congress’s certification of a Biden win on January 6, 2021.
“It’s very simple,” Trump Jr. texted to Meadows, “We have multiple paths We control them all.”
In the seventeen months since the insurrection, Cohen said, a unit of some nine hundred analysts had picked up on a number of disturbing patterns. “Anti-government militia, hard-core white supremacists, and even people more from the anarchist movement have come together,” he said. Their goals are explicit: “assassination of elected officials, and violent activities to resist government activities, or programs.”
The ideological hardening was predictable, and predicted, after the attack on the Capitol, according to Elizabeth Neumann, who served as the D.H.S.’s Assistant Secretary for Counterterrorism and Threat Prevention during the Trump Administration. “On January 6th, we had neo-Nazis hanging out with a bunch of otherwise just maga people,” Neumann said, in an interview. “That’s an opportunity to recruit.”
On a final note, don’t miss this in-depth piece by Jennifer Senior at The Atlantic on Steve Bannon’s continuing assault on our democracy:
Bannon started War Room in October 2019, initially to fight Donald Trump’s first impeachment; in January 2020, the show morphed into War Room: Pandemic. But over time, the show became a guided tour through Bannon’s gallery of obsessions: the stolen election, the Biden-family syndicate, the invaders at the southern border, the evil Chinese Communist Party, the stolen election, draconian COVID mandates, the folly of Modern Monetary Theory, the stolen election.
Of course, evil has always taken root under different circumstances. But we can’t push aside that we are witnessing a barbaric effort to redraw borders by brutal force and erase national identity and self-determination with no room for compromise. [...]
Hitler’s rise and aggressions were enabled by the inability to confront him early on. The crocodile ate appeasers one by one. The price to put a stop to his global ambitions was devastating. We can’t afford to repeat the same mistakes that were made eight decades ago. “Never again” means acting before it’s too late. “Never again” means stopping the aggressor before it can cause more death and destruction. “Never again” means not letting fear paralyze us.
Here’s Eliot Cohen’s take on The Atlantic on the way forward:
A broader world order is at stake; so too is a narrower European order. Putin has made no secret of his bitter opposition to NATO and to the independence of former Soviet republics, and it should be expected that after reducing Ukraine, he would attempt something of a similar nature (if with less intensity) in the Baltic states. He has brought war in its starkest form back to a continent that has thrived largely in its absence for nearly three generations. And his war is a threat, too, to the integrity and self-confidence of the world’s liberal democracies, battered as they have been by internal disputes and backsliding abroad.
“That was my awakening, in the moment where that nuclear alert became the most real for me,” [Cynthia Lazaroff, disarmament activist and documentarian] told me on the phone from Hawaii last week. When I asked her how she feels about the looming threat to which she has dedicated her life zooming back into popular conversation, she insisted we should be concerned about nuclear weapons all the time, not just because of recent international conflict the threat had always been pressing. “Nuclear weapons, just by their existence, and by statistics — if we don’t eliminate them, as long as we have them, they’re very likely to be used by accident, miscalculation, or mistake,” she said.
Masha Gessen at The New Yorker on the new Putin symbol of violence:
The new Russian politics of aggression now has a symbol: the letter “Z.” The symbol does not appear to have been conceived in the Kremlin. Rather, it seems to have come to prominence organically, to satisfy some need for an expression of national unity in a time of war—even if Russia continues to claim that there is no war.
Trump, of course, was impeached the first time for pressuring Zelenskyy to smear Biden, and his motive was primarily to gain an advantage over his opponent. But he also had clearly absorbed Putin’s idea that Ukraine was a corrupt and undeserving of sovereignty. Trump regularly flummoxed his staff by insisting Ukraine was “horrible, corrupt people,” and “wasn’t a ‘real country,’ that it had always been a part of Russia, and that it was ‘totally corrupt,’” the Washington Postreported. (The element of Russian propaganda here is not the claim that corruption exists in Ukraine, which is true, but the premise that this somehow destroys its claim to sovereignty or justifies subjugation to its far more corrupt neighbor.)
By the end of Trump’s presidency, the distinction between his agenda in Ukraine and the Russian agenda in Ukraine was difficult to discern. In the aftermath of the first impeachment, Rudy Giuliani inherited Manafort’s role as a liaison to the pro-Russian elements in Ukraine’s polity. In his travels through the country, Giuliani linked up with Party of Regions apparatchiks, as well as known Russian intelligence agents, ginning up business proposals and allegations to fling against Biden. Trump’s agents, Russian agents, and pro-Russian Ukrainian apparatchiks were speaking in almost indistinguishable terms.
And on a final note, on International Women’s Day, here is an excellent piece by law professor Melissa Murray on Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson:
Much has been made in recent days of the racial and gender diversity that President Biden’s choice of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson would add to the Supreme Court. But there has been surprisingly little discussion of the fact that she would join Justice Amy Coney Barrett as the court’s second working mother. [...]
Will Judge Jackson’s status as a working mother be similarly deployed as the confirmation process takes shape? While Democrats have touted her sterling qualifications and the historic nature of her nomination as the first Black woman to the court, few have leaned into her identity as a mother, as the Republicans did with Justice Barrett. [...]
Whatever the reason, discussion of Judge Jackson’s bona fides as a working mother has been notably absent among Democrats, who have been focusing on the consequential nature of her nomination. But critically, those qualities have also made her a target of the right. Already, Republican leaders have sniped about Mr. Biden’s pledge to nominate a Black woman, ignoring — or, in the case of Tucker Carlson, challenging — her superlative credentials and record of public service. It will surely get worse as the confirmation process begins in earnest.
We begin today’s roundup with Joel Mathis at The Week who urges Democrats to not let Donald Trump and the GOP get away with trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election:
Trump is plainly, openlyweaponizing his baseas a threat against any official who might try to hold him accountable for his (alleged) financial and constitutional misdeeds — he even dangled future presidential pardonsas a reward for the Jan. 6 defendants, offering an incentive to followers who might be inclined to commit mayhem in the service of his ambitions. He's not much hiding his real aims anymore: On Sunday, Trump put out a statement that (among other things) grumbled that then-Vice President Mike Pence should have "changed the outcome" of the 2020 election. It's not hard to see where all of this is going.
So what are Democrats going to do about it?
It's not clear.
[...] The only real choice is for Democrats to walk and chew gum at the same time. They have to do kitchen table issues and keep Jan. 6 at the forefront of the conversation.
Matt Lewis at The Daily Beast explores Trump’s claim that he would pardon the insurrectionists:
"If I run and if I win, we will treat [the Capitol rioters] from January 6 fairly. We will treat them fairly," Trump declared at a rally in Texas on Saturday night. "And if it requires pardons, we will give them pardons. Because they are being treated so unfairly." [...] Watergate, in hindsight, was a botched “third-rate burglary,” that turned into an attempted White House coverup. Trump’s presidency, in contrast, involved numerous impeachable offenses, two actual impeachments, several serious attempts to strong-arm officials into “overturning” the 2020 election, and (lest we forget) the denouement: the incitement of an attempted insurrection.
At Business Insider, Grace Panetta explores how a governor could help Trump steal an election in the future:
A bipartisan group of lawmakers is trying to reform a 135-year-old law to save future elections from being stolen by their own colleagues. But if their well-intentioned attempts prove successful, they may inadvertently create a pathway for a less discussed but more urgent threat: a rogue governor in a swing state like Georgia single-handedly undermining the democratic process. [...]
The proposed reforms to the ECA are designed to prevent the executive branch and Congress from undermining elections, as Trump and dozens of Republican members of Congress tried to do by raising objections to results at the state level in Arizona and Pennsylvania, and pressuring former Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the ratification of then-candidate Joe Biden's Electoral College victory, leading to the January 6 insurrection.
However, the suggested changes to the law would do little to constrain the power of state and local governments. By overseeing vote counting and certifying election results before they are sent to Congress for ratification, these levels of government arguably have as much power, if not more, than Congress and a sitting president to steal an election.
The New York Timesreports on just how brazen Trump was in trying to overturn the election:
Six weeks after Election Day, with his hold on power slipping, President Donald J. Trump directed his lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to make a remarkable call. Mr. Trump wanted him to ask the Department of Homeland Security if it could legally take control of voting machines in key swing states, three people familiar with the matter said.
When the National Archives and Records Administration handed over a trove of documents to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, some of the Trump White House records had been ripped up and then taped back together, according to three people familiar with the records.
Former president Donald Trump was known inside the White House for his unusual and potentially unlawful habit of tearing presidential records into shreds and tossing them on the floor — creating a headache for records management analysts who meticulously used Scotch tape to piece together fragments of paper that were sometimes as small as confetti, as Politico reported in 2018.
We begin today’s roundup with analysis of the Biden administration’s strategy on both protecting voting rights and addressing the undemcoratic and archance filibuster:
President Joe Biden is traveling to Atlanta on Tuesday to deliver a major speech on voting rights, looking to turn up the heat on reluctant senators as Democrats face pressure to pass two pieces of pending legislation opposed by nearly all Republicans on Capitol Hill. [...]
"The next few days, when these bills come to a vote, will mark a turning point in this nation. Will we choose democracy over autocracy, light over shadow, justice over injustice? I know where I stand," Biden will say, according to an excerpt of his remarks released by the White House. "I will not yield. I will not flinch. I will defend your right to vote and our democracy against all enemies foreign and domestic. And so the question is where will the institution of United States Senate stand?"
Democrats plan to vote sometime over the next week to scale back the filibuster so it would not apply to voting-related legislation. But it's not clear whether they have the votes for this either; Manchin said last week that he would prefer to get some Republican buy-in for that change.
On Sunday he said he might support making the tactic more "painful" by requiring senators to keep talking on the Senate floor.
Biden, who spent 36 years in the Senate, long supported the filibuster but has grown more open to changing it as Republicans have blocked several of his major initiatives over the past year.
Herman Wolf makes the argument that the filibuster doesn’t even apply to voting rights legislation, which he says is governed by the Elections Clause of Article 1 Section 4 of the Constitution:
A mere procedural rule should not be able to add a supermajority precondition to consideration or passage of proposed electoral legislation. That would amount to allowing that rule to become a de facto amendment of the Constitution. Throughout the Constitution and our history—indeed in every democracy—legislative outcomes are based on majority rule. When a supermajority is deemed necessary, it is specifically provided for, as with treaties, amendments, and impeachment convictions in our country. A supermajority prerequisite to consideration of all legislation is especially anomalous and, in fact, astonishing, given the framers’ intense hostility to supermajorities and to the minority rule they produce.
In an interview with The Daily Beast, Lindell says he’s bleeding cash at a rate of a million dollars a month to support a host of groups and right-wing activists.
To add to the bill, the staunch Trump ally says he is shelling out $250,000 a month for a new election-conspiracy group, Cause of America. What makes this Lindell creation unique is that the group is fronted by two women who were in attendance at the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Lindell’s hefty monthly burn rate and the addition of a new group to his portfolio of prolific “Big Lie” activism shows that, months after Arizona’s $6 million audit circus failed to provide much more than embarrassing headlines, there’s still plenty of money available for conservative activists bent on re-litigating the 2020 election with bizarre voter-fraud and election-rigging allegations.
With House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy backing the ousting of Rep. Liz Cheney from House GOP leadership because she acknowledges the reality that the election was not stolen, the Republican Party confirms again that it and the Donald Trump brand are one and the same. We begin today’s roundup with Allan Smith and Sahil Kapur at NBC News on the Republican Party’s choice to tether itself to Donald Trump and his delusions about the election:
The calculation is that the party will be better off in the midterm elections embracing Trump than running from him, even if it means further alienating the kind of suburban voters who handed Democrats victories in 2018 and 2020. [...]
Republicans plan to remove Cheney as chair of the House Republican Conference, the No. 3 position in House GOP leadership, in a move to demote the highest-ranking Republican who voted to impeach Trump early this year. She has vocally criticized Trump's "big lie" that the election last year was stolen.
Ayers warned that efforts to exile Cheney — the highest-ranking Republican woman in Washington and the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney — could further antagonize suburban voters, particularly college-educated women, who ditched the party because of their opposition to Trump.
But while Cheney continues to speak the truth about Trump’s election fantasies and his role in the Capitol attack, McCarthy went to Florida soon after the insurrection to see a politically finished Trump and “resurrected him politically back to life.”
“He basically made the decision when he went to Mar-a-Lago that he was not going to be a leader of the Republican Party,” Kinzinger told the press club. “… I don’t consider him to be speaking on behalf of the Republican Party anymore because he gave his voting card, gave his proxy card, to Donald Trump.” Kinzinger called the attempt to oust Cheney “ludicrous” and said that, after Jan. 6, “the person that should have their leadership challenged is Kevin McCarthy.”
And as Max Boot at The Washington Post points out, if you think Republicans in DC are out of touch with reality, the GOP at the state level is far worse:
Since this is a column, not an encyclopedia, I can only begin to scratch the surface of grass-roots Republican derangement and extremism. I can mention only in passing that Republicans in the Michigan House of Representatives recently heard testimonyon vaccine passports from Naomi Wolf, who has become notorious for spreading covid-19 lies. That the Michigan state Republican chairman referred to Democrats as “witches” and speculated about the assassination of pro-impeachment Republicans. That one of the leading GOP candidates for governor of Virginia called the mob that stormed the Capitol “patriots.” That GOP state legislators around the country have praised the constitutional provision that enslaved people would count as only three-fifths of a person in determining congressional representation. And, worst of all, that GOP-controlled state legislatures are passing legislation to restrict voting in order, ostensibly, to combat election fraud (which is nearly nonexistent and completely inconsequential).
Meanwhile, at The Nation, John Nichols takes a close look at Cheney’s soon-to-be replacement — Rep. Elise Stefanik, and points out she’s actually been less a loyal vote for Trump than the person she is going to replace:
Consider the FiveThirtyEight “Tracking Congress in the Age of Trump” tally of how often members of Congress voted with or against the former president. Cheney scored a striking 92.9 Trump loyalty rating. That was higher than Trump pitchmen such as Florida Republican Matt Gaetz (85 percent) and Ohio Republican Jim Jordan (88 percent). Cheney even rated above Alabama Republican Mo Brooks (88.6 percent), who actually appeared at the January 6 rally where the incitement of insurrection occurred.
What of Stefanik? She rated just 77.7 percent on the Trump loyalty scale.
On a final note, don’t miss Eugene Robinson’s analysis of the GOP leadership shakeup:
The greatest threat to our nation’s future is not covid-19 or the rise of China or even the existential challenge of climate change. It is the Republican Party’s attempt to seize and hold power by offering voters the seductive choice of rejecting inconvenient facts and basic logic.
For the American experiment and people to survive, much less prosper, this iteration of the GOP must fail.
The blind-loyalty-even-to-dishonest-insanity Republican litmus test that is about to cost Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) her leadership job is only the most acute manifestation of the party’s decline into utter irresponsibility. It’s bad enough that those who want to remain in good standing must embrace the “big lie”about purported fraud in the 2020 election. But the requirement doesn’t stop there. On issue after issue, Republicans are cynically adopting a kind of pre-Enlightenment insistence on the primacy of belief over evidence.
We begin today’s roundup with Michelle Goldberg’s take at The New York Times on how to hold Donald Trump accountable:
To Raskin, a former constitutional law professor, this is no comfort. “You’ve got to rewind to pre-Trump days,” he said. “Politicians should not be telling prosecutors who to prosecute.” Impeachment was a way for our political system to defend itself, and it failed. “We had an opportunity to deal with the clear and present danger that is Donald Trump in a bipartisan way through our constitutional system,” he said. “The Republican Party could not join the effort in sufficient numbers to make it completely successful, so now they are either going to have to fight him internally, or, more likely, they will become an autocratic political party that really does operate like a religious cult.”
This is true. But if we cannot restore pre-Trump norms, McConnell has at least stripped away some of the taboo about prosecuting a former president. In addition to the investigations of Trump’s business practices in New York, prosecutors in Georgia have opened a criminal investigation into his attempts to subvert the election there. Washington’s attorney general is reportedly considering charging Trump with violating a District of Columbia law against provoking violence. Joe Biden’s Justice Department could look into the countless federal crimes Trump appeared to commit in office.
Decisions to pursue charges shouldn’t be made by politicians, but they shouldn’t be blocked by them, either.
What’s become evident is that Republican members of Congress fear not only the indignity of losing a primary; some have come to fear the potential for violence among their constituents. Rather than persuade, resist, or prosecute such people, they placate them. To do so, they bow in the direction of Palm Beach.
No parade of witnesses could have changed the minds of senators voting to save their own seats rather than to defend the republic. The only way to concentrate their minds is for the rest of us to mobilize and defeat them at the polls for their craven failure to serve their country. Many Republicans may still be beguiled by Trump, but they are a far remove from the majority of Americans.
Politico gives us new polling on how Trumpism and the Republican Party are one and the same:
Republican voters got over any misgivings they had about Trump’s role on Jan. 6 very quickly.Fifty-nine percent of Republican voters said they want Trump to play a major role in their party going forward.That’s up 18 percentage points from a Morning Consult poll conducted on Jan. 7, and an increase of 9 points from a follow-up poll on Jan. 25, before the impeachment trial began.
Another piece of evidence: While Trump’s overall favorability rating is an abysmal 34% in our latest poll, 81% of Republican respondents gave him positive marks. Trump was at 77% approval among Republicans on Jan. 7 and 74% on Jan. 25.
Meanwhile, Eugene Robinson uses his column to refocus on the Biden presidency:
The time has come to leave the sins and wickedness of the 45th president to the criminal justice system — and to turn attention and energy to the challenges and opportunities that face the 46th. Allowing ourselves to be held captive by the past four years serves no one except a certain self-obsessed ex-president. Better to spend that energy where it can make an actual difference.
One month ago, staffers for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi piled office furniture against a door, sculpting a makeshift barrier of desks, chairs, and tables. They crouched silent and motionless like statues as they heard the mob pounding on that door and raiding the office of the speaker of the House, bellowing, “Where’s Nancy?” In the chamber nearby, other representatives wore gas masks as they quietly sheltered on the floor. Outside, chaos reigned. A noose swayed in the wind. A sign read, “Off with their heads. Stop the steal.”
On Jan. 6, our Capitol and our democracy were attacked with impunity. A month later, our nation has failed to address the gravity of what transpired.
Time doesn’t and shouldn’t heal all wounds, especially not ones that plunged so deep into the heart of our democracy. Every day since the insurrection has delivered one horrific revelation after the next. Five people died. More than 100 police officers were injured, with some engaging in hand-to-hand combat with insurrectionists. Two police officers later committed suicide (another turned in her gun, afraid of what she might do to herself). Whoever planted bombs at the RNC and DNC is still at large.
What came across initially as a riot of opportunity has, through charging documents filed by the federal government, revealed itself to be a menagerie of genuine assassination attempts, QAnon craziness, military cosplay, and internet trolls brought to life.
It was not—as the insurrectionists want the judges presiding over their cases to believe—an earnest attempt to save the country.
It was an uprising of the duped.
The idea of two Americas has long existed in our political discourse, from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s invocation of the phrase in the 1960s to refer to the “daily ugliness” of social inequality to presidential candidate John Edwards’ 2004 focus on the wealth gap in modern society. Those fractures exist to this day, but there’s another fissure in our nation, too.
There are indeed two Americas today: one grounded on the firm foundation of reality and another in the supple quicksand of delusion, led deeper into it by America’s pied piper of lies, Donald J. Trump. There is the America that recognizes that in the midst of a pandemic, we had the most secure and transparent election in American history. And then there is the America that was fed the Big Lie, devouring it with the famished appetite of those who consume Breitbart, Alex Jones, and other substance-free junk “news” sources.
It’s no surprise that there was such an appetite for such a vile claim. After all, what we saw transpire at the Capitol was the culmination of years of a reality show presidency defined by concocting “alternative facts” for political gain. That Donald Trump’s term would end with a QAnon shaman chanting on the Senate floor while men with zip ties hunted down lawmakers is both the most outlandish and most appropriate ending to a presidency vignetted with scenes of the unfathomable.
These are the same people who sandwich diagrams of the “microchip in the Bill Gates vaccine” between photos of smiling grandkids and saccharine Minion memes on Facebook. They were friends and family radicalized in plain sight, with social media companies peeking through a blindfold of blamelessness to check on clicks and ad revenue.
They were the Pennsylvania mother of eight who used a battering ram to break windows and gain entry to the Capitol. The Florida stay-at-home dad of five who smiled and waved at the camera as he paraded off with Speaker Pelosi’s lectern. The Texas realtor who charted a private plane to storm the Capitol and livestreamed herself among the chaos: “We just stormed the Capital [sic]. It was one of the best days of my life!" (She also pitched her realtor services mid-insurrection.) The Beverly Hills salon owner who flew to Washington, “put on her Chanel boots and a Louis Vuitton sweater,” picked up a bullhorn and urged the mob to bring weapons into the building: “We need weapons. We need strong, angry patriots to help our boys …”
Those “boys”—the predominately white, male crowd that led the attack—included the Proud Boys, a group that was labeled a terrorist organization by Canada this week and was advised by Trump three and half months earlier to “stand back and stand by.” Those “boys” and others prowled the halls of Congress, growling for the whereabouts of the vice president and America’s most powerful woman while Pelosi’s own colleague, newly minted QAnon Rep. Lauren Boebert, livetweeted Pelosi’s movements from the House floor.
One of the most frustrating aspects of this dark chapter in American history isn’t just that our nation’s Capitol was breached for the first time since 1812, but that the perpetrators were so effortlessly able to commit that atrocity with impunity. We watched in stunned disbelief as they marauded through the hallowed halls of the Capitol building. Later, they streamed out, cloaked in racial and political privilege, beaming and empowered—validated in a sick belief that their desecration of our nation’s most symbolic spot was somehow a valiant act of honor.
Some arrests were made that day, but privilege and security failures ensured that almost all migrated back to their corners of America—back to big cities and small towns alike—gushing with pride. They gave interviews to local news stations, with many defending their actions, defiant in their sedition and innocently proclaiming that they were simply following Trump’s call for action. And the most audacious aspect of it all is that these insurrectionists who so victimized our democracy have been proclaiming themselves the victims: lamenting one-star Google and Yelp reviews for their businesses, pouting that friends and family are treating them differently now, and lambasting their addition to no-fly lists. How dare the consequences of their own actions cast a shadow upon the brilliant light of their “revolution.”
But the fact remains that out of the thousands who rioted in Washington on Jan. 6 at Trump’s direction, out of the hundreds who actually broke into the Capitol, and out of the dozens who were seriously plotting more violent ends, only a fraction of them will ultimately feel the weight of justice. Some have been arrested. Some have been fired. But for most, life goes on. Insurrectionist one day, neighbor the next.
And for Donald Trump, the chief instigator of it all, an impeachment from the House, yes, but little chance of accountability in the Senate. Almost all Republican senators are sure to vote against convicting Trump on the single article of insurrection. Senators like Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who raised his fist in solidarity with the mob, may not sympathize directly with the insurrectionists, but surely he realizes that those same people who held spear-tipped Trump flags on the Capitol steps hold the key to any future in the Republican Party. “Unity,” they say, precludes accountability.
Most Americans learn of Abraham Lincoln’s “house divided” speech in school, but many do not realize that Lincoln warned not of a breakup of the country but of what happens when an immoral but powerful idea (then slavery) takes hold across the land: “A house divided against itself cannot stand … I do not expect the Union to be dissolved—I do not expect the house to fall—but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.”
We cannot let America become encompassed by an ethos that at worst embraces insurrection and at best regards it with a shrug. We cannot accept as a value in our society the rejection of the rule of law, of ethical norms, and of reason. When dangerous fringe ideas are no longer fringe but are so woven into the fabric of acceptability that their adherents are applauded by half of the Republican House caucus with applause echoing to the rafters, that is the nauseating sound and anthem of America’s decline.
Above those rafters atop the Capitol dome is perched a magnificent statue: the Statue of Freedom. She is armed for battle but stands perpetually in a position of peace, wearing a starred helmet and holding a sheathed sword at her side. She stands upon a globe bearing the phrase E Pluribus Unum. A slave, Philip Reid, worked on the masterpiece. Purchased for $1,200, he was finally a free man by the time it was lifted into place in 1863. Surely he could never fathom that the flag of the Confederacy would proudly be flown in her shadow 158 years later.
The statue’s gaze looks east. Below her eyes are the doors of the East gate that were breached in the battle between reason and delusion. Ahead, the rising sun. And a decision point for our country.
We begin today’s roundup with analysis by John Cassidy in The New Yorker on the need for accountability in the wake of the domestic terror attack on Capitol Hill:
Despite all the outrage sparked by last week’s riot, Trump still has grounds for believing that he won’t receive any immediate sanctions for openly inciting an insurrection. It’s conceivable that he could be punished further down the road, but even that is far from certain. Repeating a tragic pattern that has been evident since he launched his first Presidential bid, in 2015, the American political system is proving too weak and divided to deal with the threat he poses. [...]
What’s required is a way to punish Trump for his sedition, make sure he can’t run for President again, and deprive him of the oxygen he so craves. The permanent ban by Twitter goes a long way toward meeting the third goal, but the first two are arguably even more important.
In other democracies, a leader who tried to overthrow an election result and incited a violent insurrection might well be cooling his heels in prison by now. In this country, the job of policing the President falls largely on the legislative branch. For four years, it has failed dismally to carry out this task. Even after the unprecedented events of last week, it’s far from clear that Congress will prove up to the task now. But this time, surely, and for the sake of American democracy, Trump must be held accountable.
Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, passed in the aftermath of the Civil War, bars Trump from holding another federal office if he is found to have “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against” the Constitution of the United States. The finding could be accomplished by a simple majority vote of both houses, in contrast to the requirement in impeachment proceedings that the Senate vote to convict by a two-thirds majority. Congress would simply need to declare that Trump engaged in an act of “insurrection or rebellion” by encouraging the attack on the Capitol. Under the 14th Amendment, Trump could run for the White House again only if he were able to persuade a future Congress to, “by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.”
After everything that has happened over the past week, it is easy to imagine that Trump has written himself out of contention for any public office. But that is not the case. Trump is still plotting, still scheming, still campaigning—as was amply illustrated by his planned trip on Tuesday to Alamo, Tex., to highlight his crusade to erect a wall on the border between the US and Mexico.
To imagine that Trump will fade away after January 20 requires the denial of everything Americans know about the president’s massive ego, his aversion to being seen as a loser, and his determination to avenge his defeat in the 2020 election. That is why former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich and others have focused on the importance not merely of holding Trump to account for past actions but of assuring that he does not extend the threat to the republic by positioning himself as a president-in-exile after he leaves office. “We must,” says Reich, “ensure that Donald Trump can never hold public office again.”
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.
And Republican elites have, with few exceptions, accepted their new subservient status.
The Washington Post editorial board lays out the ideas being floating relating to impeachment, including delaying the trial or creating a blue-ribbon trial:
So far, much of the conversation has been about finding a way to suitably punish Mr. Trump. That is essential. But the goal must also be to provide maximum accountability with a minimum of harm to the Biden administration.
On a final note, The New York Times in its call for impeachment also calls for accountability for Trump’s enablers:
Mr. Trump may not have called directly for this behavior, but there is no question that he encouraged it and then refused for hours to condemn it, even as the whole world watched in horror. When he finally asked for rioters to stop and go home, he continued to claim the election had been stolen. [...]
ultimately, there can be no republic if leaders foment a violent overthrow of the government if they lose an election.
Mr. Trump is not the only person at fault. Many Republican lawmakers riled up his supporters for weeks with false claims of election rigging and continued to object to the electoral vote even after the attack. The 14th Amendment bars from office any federal or state lawmaker who has “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” or given “aid or comfort” to those who have. Congressional leaders will need to reckon with which of their colleagues require censure for their actions, and perhaps even expulsion.
[I]f the Democratic impeachment managers’ presentations on Wednesday were meant to appeal to the Senate’s sense of constitutional responsibility, Thursday’s were designed as an evidence-packed pre-rebuttal to what senators may hear from the White House when Trump’s defense team outlines their case in the coming days. [...]
Intent on packing as much evidence as possible into the 24 hours of floor time, spread over three days, that they have been allotted to make their case, Democrats leveraged their video privileges for a novel purpose: turning senators’ own words from the last impeachment against them.
Michelle Cottle at The New York Times dives into the constitutional arguments made yesterday and highlight’s the Democrats’ preparedness:
Their preparedness is impressive. Even Representative Matt Gaetz, the devoted Trump cheerleader from Florida, observed earlier this week that, thus far, the Democrats’ presentation looked as though it was “cable news” while the president’s defense team’s looked like “an eighth-grade book report.” [...]
Significant time was devoted to anticipating — and shooting down — the defenses that Team Trump is likely to offer, including the president’s unsubstantiated claims about the Biden family’s corruption and the nutty conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine rather than Russia that hacked the 2016 election.
Gail Collins looks at how the founding fathers would have viewed Donald Trump’s misconduct:
Schiff elevated the saga with a lot of American history. He mentioned the founding fathers 28 times in the first 15 minutes. On this front, it doesn’t seem as if he’s going to get much competition. Earlier, when Republicans had a chance to talk, the founders only came up a handful of times, once in a quote from Chuck Schumer.
For much of our modern history Republicans have tended to be the ones continually quoting the founding fathers, usually in regard to the dangers of an over-powerful federal government. Now the tables have turned. Clearly Mitch McConnell and his minions need to come up with some early American heroes who wouldn’t have seen a problem with a president who tries to make secret deals with a foreign power in order to enhance his chances for re-election.
The GOP threat to also call former vice president Joe Biden or his son Hunter Biden as witnesses is a big bluff, and Democrats should call them on it. Republicans control the Senate, which means they have subpoena power. They could have summoned the Bidens to testify at a committee hearing whenever they chose. They don’t really want the Bidens’ testimony, which they know would be irrelevant to Trump’s conduct. They’re just in desperate search of a talking point. [...]
I’m realistic. I know that Republicans have the votes to acquit Trump regardless of the evidence, if that’s what they decide to do. But the House impeachment managers’ skillful presentation of their case has made it much less politically attractive for GOP senators — especially those with tough reelection races — to say they won’t even cast their eyes upon evidence that’s being presented to them on a silver platter.
At The Atlantic, Kim Wehle argues the Democrats should add Chief Justice Roberts to their trial strategy:
the Constitution would not have specifically instructed the chief justice to preside if his only role were to sit quietly and do nothing. As the lawyer Martin London credibly argued in Time earlier this week, Roberts has the power and duty to make judgments about the conduct of the trial. [...]
In early proceedings, Roberts made it clear that he will not exercise that power unbidden. Nothing, however, prevents the House managers from making motions—either orally or in writing—to force the chief justice to take a stronger hand in the proceedings. And the Democrats have nothing to lose by trying.
Ryan Cooper at The Week explains the necessity of holding Trump accountable:
[T]he Constitution is still the law of the land, and impeachment is the process we have for dealing with a criminal president. As Schiff argues, Trump will certainly take acquittal as a license to further undermine American democracy. He "has shown no willingness to be constrained by the rule of law and has demonstrated that he will continue to abuse his power and obstruct investigations into himself causing further damage to the pillars of our democracy if he is not held accountable," Schiff said.
And it is a fairly short step from using U.S. taxpayer money to blackmail a foreign country to simply rigging the 2020 vote outright.
On a final note, John Cassidy pens another must-read piece on the cowardice of Republicans to stand up for democracy:
Much has been made of the concessions that a group of Republican moderates, including Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Mitt Romney, elicited from McConnell on how the trial would be conducted. However, McConnell merely agreed that evidence collected in the House is admissible here and that both sides would have three days rather than two to present their cases. The only potentially significant climbdown came when he agreed to another vote on calling witnesses after the first stages of the trial have been completed.
But this concession will matter only if, between now and next week, at least four Republican senators summon the will to break with Trump on an issue he cares about more than anything—his own survival. “This is a moment, I think, of reckoning, not just for the country and for the rule of law and for the Constitution. It’s a very specific day of reckoning for the Republican senators who took this oath, and for the Republican Party generally,” Conway said in his CNN interview. “Are they going to stand for lies instead of truth? Are they going to stand for gaslighting instead of reality? Are they going to just do the bidding of this one man and put his interests over those of the country? That’s what this is about.”