Not shocking: The Republicans’ star witness at Trump’s first impeachment was lying

When former special ambassador to Ukraine Kurt Volker appeared to testify before the House in hearings connected to Donald Trump’s first impeachment, Republicans were thrilled. Volker was part of the “three amigos,” who Trump had sent to Ukraine to force out experienced diplomats and see that Rudy Giuliani got all the assistance he needed in extorting the Ukrainian government into pretending to investigate Joe Biden. 

As soon as Volker completed his testimony, it was clearly at odds with that delivered by other witnesses. Volker testified that he never talked about the company Burisma, where Hunter Biden was on the board, in his discussions with Ukrainian officials. He completely omitted any reference to a series of meetings and calls on July 10, 2019, after which then-Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman took his concerns about what was going on to the NSC’s lead counsel. Volkman contradicted the content of text messages he sent on July 19, in which he joined Rudy Giuliani in urging the Ukrainian president to initiate an investigation of Biden. He left out how Burisma and the Bidens factored into a statement Trump wanted from the Ukrainians. And he completely failed to testify about how he had insisted—as text messages showed—that Ukrainian officials had to include both claims that Ukraine had interfered with the U.S. election in 2016, and that Biden had tried to block an investigation into Burisma, if they wanted to “prevent a recurrence” of Trump blocking military aid to the country.

But what really excited the Republicans was the fact that Volker provided them with the Big Talking Point: a claim that there was “no quid pro quo” connecting the request for an investigation into the Bidens and the release of U.S. assistance to Ukraine. In his deposition to the House committee, Volker made it clear: “At no time was I aware of or took part in an effort to urge Ukraine to investigate former vice president Biden.”

But text messages at the time also made it clear this wasn’t true. And calls that CNN released this week while looking into the actions of Giuliani make this one thing exceedingly clear: In his sworn testimony to Congress, former ambassador Kurt Volker was lying his ass off.

As The Washington Post reports, it was Volker’s testimony that Republicans leaned on when they claimed that Trump had been exonerated. 

“Ambassador Volker … confirmed what the President has repeatedly said: there was no quid pro quo,” tweeted Rep. Jim Jordan. 

“Ambassador Volker, you just like took apart their entire case,” said a grateful Rep. Michael Turner during questioning.

In his testimony, Volker didn’t hold back. “At no time was I aware of or knowingly took part in an effort to urge Ukraine to investigate former vice president Biden. As you know from the extensive real-time documentation I have provided, Vice President Biden was not a topic of our discussions.”

How could this be the case when Volker repeatedly texted concerning an investigation into Burisma? The pretense that Volker put forward was that he didn’t know. He didn’t know why Trump wanted an investigation into a particular Ukrainian energy firm as part of his deal. He didn’t know why this was so vital that it could be a factor in allowing an ally to be preyed on by Russian forces.

Volker wasn’t the only one. His former “amigos”—Ambassador Gordon Sondland and Energy Secretary Rick Perry—pushed the same line. Apparently Trump and Giuliani had it out for this one gas company. After that, they all pled blissful ignorance. 

Yeah, but … Volker was on the call when Giuliani said this to one of the Ukrainian president’s top assistants:

“All we need from the President is to say, I’m going to put an honest prosecutor in charge, he’s gonna investigate and dig up the evidence that presently exists, and is there any other evidence about involvement of the 2016 election, and then the Biden thing has to be run out.”

That was just one of several instances where Giuliani explicitly drew the connection between what was being asked of the Ukrainian president with the Bidens. Volker was on that call. Pretending that he didn’t know what he was asking when he asked about Burisma would mean not just acknowledging an astounding ignorance about the country he was supposed to be assisting—past allegations against Burisma had played a key role in both U.S. and U.K. actions in Ukraine—it would mean he wasn’t actually listening to what Giuliani said during their conversations with Ukrainian officials. In Volker’s testimony he claimed that “In referencing Burisma it was clear he was only talking about whether any Ukrainians had acted inappropriately,” which never made any sense at all. It still doesn’t.

The Post suggests that Volker hewed a very narrow line in his testimony and that he “referred specifically to the idea that Biden wasn’t brought up in the text messages he turned over—rather than at all in any conversations.” But that’s attempting to parse things way, way too finely.

It’s clear that when Volker, Sondland, and others mention Burisma in their text messages, that this is shorthand for announcing an investigation into the role Joe and Hunter Biden played in connection to that company. That’s specifically what Giuliani asks for, again and again.

And in his testimony, Volker goes much further than The Post suggests. Volker’s full statement to the committee, apparently in response to a question by Rep. Adam Schiff, was this:

“At no time was I aware of or took part in an effort to urge Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Biden. As you will see from the extensive text messages I am providing, which convey a sense of real-time dialogue with several different actors, Vice President Biden was never a topic of discussion.”

It might be possible to twist that statement so that the last mention of Biden is directed toward the text messages. It’s not possible to do so with the first mention. “At no time was I aware of or took part in an effort to urge Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Biden” is simply a lie. An out and out lie. A lie that was intended to cover Volker’s ass, and which Republicans seized on as justification to exonerate Trump.

It was always clear that Volker was lying when he claimed to not understand the connection between Burisma and Joe Biden. The most recent revelations just underline the extent of that lie.

it may be too late for a do-over of that first impeachment, this time with honest testimony. It’s not too late to charge Kurt Volker for his lies.

There’s a second federal investigation underway looking at Rudy Giuliani’s actions in Ukraine

Even before the 2016 election, Donald Trump and his supporters were pushing back against news that Russia was directly interfering in the U.S. presidential election. Even though Russia had engaged an army of false social media accounts, a network of sites dedicated to generating Trump-favorable false stories, and teams of dedicated hackers digging into documents at the DNC, Trump refused to say a bad word about the land of Vladimir Putin. Instead, Trump and his campaign pushed a conspiracy theory that all the hackers, bots, and Facebook ads didn’t actually come from Russia. Instead, said Trump’s campaign, the U.S. was being taken for a ride by that most powerful of opponents … Ukraine.

Trump and members of his campaign team pushed a completely unsupported idea that the “Cozy Bear” hackers were actually Ukrainians just pretending to be Russian. Then Trump took the whole thing further, insisting that Hillary Clinton’s emails were somehow stored on a “missing server” that was somewhere in Ukraine. That there was no missing server in the first place wasn’t a problem. 

It was all ridiculous. But over the next four years, Trump set out to prove that not only was Ukraine behind the 2016 hacks, they were also hiding criminal activity on the part of Joe Biden and his son. So, with the help of Rudy Giuliani and a cast of seemingly hundreds of eager to help scam artists, Trump spent months making connections with pro-Russian elements in Ukraine and leaning on the Ukrainian government. Those efforts not only earned Trump his first impeachment, it seems they also opened the 2020 election to foreign interference … from Ukraine. By way of Rudy Giuliani.

As The New York Times reports, federal prosecutors are now investigating whether a group of  Ukrainian officials launched a scheme to use Trump to get things they wanted in exchange for false information that Rudy Giuliani could spread in hopes of harming President Joe Biden. Which … yes. Yes, that happened. And it’s already been well-documented by House investigators

It’s been clear for months that Giuliani established ties to both exiled oligarch Dmytro Firtash and corrupt officials like parliament member Andriy Derkach. Firtash, who is also connected with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and employs Trump attorneys Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing, gave Giuliani the indicted Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas to act as his guides to the Ukrainian underworld. With both Trump and Firtash leaning in, Giuliani had no trouble finding plenty of people willing to sign off on statements that smeared Biden—even if some of those same people instantly folded when questioned and admitted that they were just trying to “curry favor” with Trump.

However, Giuliani’s efforts in Ukraine did have some very serious consequences, including giving power to hoodlums who wanted a U.S. ambassador out of the way so they could increase their level of corruption. Giuliani gleefully served that role, helping to demean and dismiss a dedicated career official so that he could get crooks to sign onto his scheme.

Now that Giuliani is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation that has seen his home and office raided, it seems that prosecutors are also looking at the people on the other end of the pipe. Particular attention seems to be focused on Derkach. Derkach has been both named by the intelligence community as an “active Russian agent” and sanctioned by the Treasury Department. He’s also one of Giuliani’s primary sources for claims against Biden and his son, Hunter.

The only person standing up for Derkach appears to be Giuliani, who said in an interview, “I have no reason to believe he is a Russian agent.” He said that after being officially warned that Derkach was … a Russian agent. Which is a pretty important denial for Giuliani.

The federal case against Giuliani seems to center on to what extent he acted as an unregistered foreign agent for Ukrainian elements in lobbying Trump to take actions such as the firing of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. That Giuliani did such a thing as a dupe of corrupt former officials supported by an oligarch who can’t even set foot in his own country for fear of arrest … that’s bad. But if it turns out that Giuliani did this as the knowing partner of someone who had been identified to him as an active agent of Russia … that’s considerably worse.

This investigation is based in the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn, and is apparently running in parallel with the investigation into Giuliani’s activities being based in the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan. Hopefully they’re sharing notes.

House votes to create Jan. 6 commission, but McConnell is doing what he always does—blocking justice

On Wednesday evening, the House authorized the creation of an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the the January 6 assault on the Capitol. In the process, 35 Republican representatives bucked GOP leadership to vote in favor of the commission that will investigate not just events of that day, but just how the nation came to face a violent insurgency and an attack on democracy. 

The overwhelming 252-175 vote in the House came after Republican leaders at first expressed support for the idea of such a commission in the immediate wake of the attack. The actual design for the commission came from a bipartisan agreement of the Homeland Security Committee, and gave Republicans equal representation in the investigation, as well as what amounts to  veto power over any subpoenas. That such a Republican-friendly agreement was reached seemed to surprise Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who initially refused to say whether he would support the deal. Then McCarthy let it be known that he would not whip other Republicans to vote against it. Then he did exactly that.

Now the proposed commission moves to the Senate, where—despite Mitch McConnell’s speech calling January 6 “a disgrace” that happened because Americans were “fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on Earth”—McConnell has already announced that he will oppose it. At the moment, not a single Republican in the Senate has spoken up to support the bill.

Because, when all is said and done, they are all still following the orders of the same man, who is still spreading the same wild falsehoods.”

The commission designed by the House Homeland Security Committee could not be more straightforward or more generous in the power it gives to the minority party. Modeled after the similar body created to investigate 9/11, the commission is “charged with studying the facts and circumstances surrounding the January 6th attack on the Capitol as well as the influencing factors that may have provoked the attack on our democracy.”

The 10-person panel is to be composed, not of political figures, but of individuals with “significant expertise in the areas of law enforcement, civil rights, civil liberties, privacy, intelligence, and cybersecurity.” Anyone currently serving in government is not eligible, and the selections are to be split evenly between majority and minority leadership in the House and Senate. The commission can issue subpoenas, but they must be approved by both the Democratic chair and Republican vice-chair.

In terms of the structure and purpose, the commission created by the House bill is in no way slanted toward a Democratic position. The fact that Democrats have agreed to this structure, despite holding a majority in the House and Senate, is testament to the idea that they simply want to know the truth.

 Which is, of course, the problem. 

Because a lot of Republicans stand to be put in a very, very bad light if the full truth comes out. Not least of all, that man who was the ultimate source of “wild falsehoods.” That’s why Donald Trump used his new web page this week to insist that the strikingly bipartisan commission was a “Democrat trap” and “partisan unfairness.” And Trump provided the talking points by saying that any commission should also investigate every act of violence that Republicans blame on Democrats, even if exactly none of those events threatened to overturn the outcome of the election and destroy our system of government.

Both Republicans and right-wing media immediately picked up on Trump’s theme, with McCarthy issuing a statement saying that he could not support the commission because it would not investigated “political violence” on the left. Which makes all the sense of refusing to vote for a 9/11 commission unless it also covered Vietnam protests. Or the Civil Rights movement. 

There is no connection, nor comparison, between what happened on January 6 and what happened during Black Lives Matter protests following the police murder of George Floyd. No connection except how men like Trump and McCarthy used lies about about the BLM protests to help stir anger among many of the same groups behind the violence on January 6.

When McConnell spoke on February 13, he agreed that “Former President Trump’s actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty” and that “There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day.” McConnell also pushed back against Republicans who had voted in the House or Senate against certifying the election. In fact, as of Tuesday, McConnell had said he was open to voting for the commission.

But, as The New York Times reports, McConnell “reversed” his position and declared his opposition to the commission. McConnell has made it clear that not only will he vote no, he will also insist that other Republicans vote against the commission.

That reversal came “amid pressure from Mr. Trump.” And now McConnell is absolutely toeing the Trump line, voicing the same nonsensical claims that the studiously bipartisan commission would somehow be unfair because it’s not also looking at events totally unrelated to the assault on the Capitol. Previous Trump’s statement, getting the commission passed by the Senate seemed like a given. Now it seems impossible. That change in tone came after both McConnell and McCarthy “joined … Mr. Trump in panning the proposal.”

The man who McConnell explicitly said is “practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day” is being allowed to quash an investigation of those events.  Even in exile, even in defeat, Trump rules the Republicans. And the reason is simple. As Politico notes, Trump is their “cash cow.” 

In a party literally without a platform, and with absolutely no vision for the future, the only means of engaging their voters—and donors—is through fear and anger. No one generates that fear and anger more than Trump. Republicans aren’t just giving in to Trump, they’re selling out. 

Missouri’s three Republican Senate candidates are leading the race to be worse than Trump

At the end of the current term, Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt has said he’ll end his run as the head of the Blunt Family Lobbying Enterprises. Which leaves an opening for a new senator in an increasingly red state that Trump took by over 15% in 2020. 

Back in 2012, Todd Akin led in the polls over Claire McCaskill until his comments about how women rarely get pregnant from "legitimate rape" generated a national firestorm. But that was 2012. It’s clear that a decade later, such a comment wouldn’t make a single Republican turn away. In fact, everything that Akin said could very well be a required Republican “wisdom” by the time the election rolls around.

In any case, the opportunity to slip into Blunt’s extraordinarily lucrative slot has Republicans scrambling out of the woodwork, and Missouri has already lined up three candidates who could not be better examples of a modern major Republican. Seriously. It’s a smorgasbord of choices that make the shrimp buffet at Mar-a-Lago seem insufficiently Trumptastic. Because those choices are: The ex-governor who resigned in the midst of a sex scandal, the attorney general who is suing China over COVID-19, and the guy whose fame entirely rests on waving around an AR-15 while wearing a pink polo shirt.

In the race to the bottom, Missouri has pulled out a really big shovel.

Not every candidate is officially in the running at this point, except that they’re all very much officially in the running when it comes to slapping palms, building up their war chests, and securing their place as the most GD ridiculous choices imaginable. Because in the GQP, candidates are scored on outrageousness.

First up is Eric Greitens. If the name sounds familiar, that’s because Greitens already won the more-ridiculous-than-thou sweepstakes once. In 2016, Greitens jumped into the campaign for Missouri governor, lifting a list of donor names from a charity and knocking down the largest campaign donation in Missouri history—$1.97 million—from a super PAC that had been completely unknown until the moment it wrote that check. That super PAC turned out to be just a cover for another super PAC. And that super PAC turned out to be a front for wealthy Ohio attorney David Langdon, whose primary issues were, of course, blocking a woman’s right to choose and rolling back gay rights. None of this was revealed during the campaign, during which Greitens promised radical transparency while running commercials that featured blowing things up. And shooting things. Then blowing up more things. Really. 

But it wasn’t the multiple investigations into his charity or his extensive resume padding that ultimately brought down Greitens. That came courtesy of a scandal in which the governor admitted to having an extramarital affair with his hairdresser. During this affair he tied her up, blindfolded her, took nude photos, and threatened to reveal the photos if she ever went public. Greitens ended up being investigated by none other than then state attorney general Josh Hawley—showing that Missouri was already primed for a face-off of Republicans in the search for the limits of sanity. The charges against Greitens were eventually dropped after the photos could not be found, but an investigation by the Republican-dominated legislature led to Greitens getting out of Jefferson City just ahead of an impeachment that had been signed on to by three-quarters of each chamber.

The next choice for Republicans seeking a candidate in 2022 is another Eric: Missouri’s current attorney general, Eric Schmitt. Schmitt’s name may also be somewhat familiar to those outside the Show-me State became he was the head of the Republican Attorneys General Association. That would be the Republican Attorneys General Association that worked closely with Trump to undermine the results of the 2020 election. In fact, Schmitt’s name was one of those on the suit that the RAGA sent to the Supreme Court when it challenged the election results in Pennsylvania—an effort the Republican-heavy Court promptly swatted down. Schmitt was also on hand for multiple attempts to overturn Obamacare.

In the last few weeks, Schmitt had resigned his position with RAGA to concentrate on his Senate run. First task: doing something even more outrageous to solidify his position with the frothing Republican base. But what could he do that would be more foolish, more out there, and more slavishly Trump-worshipping than trying to directly intervene in the election? Well, how about launching a stunt lawsuit against China over the COVID-19 pandemic and hurting Asian Americans in the process? Schmitt dropped off his paperwork at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, claiming that Chinese authorities “deceived the public, suppressed information and permitted millions of people to be exposed to the virus.” It’s a suit that’s doing nothing other than allowing Schmitt to say “China virus” in every media appearance—but it is a solid way to harness taxpayer funds and xenophobic hate to bolster his chance in this three-way race.

The third (and for now, final) choice for Republicans is another name that’s been in the news before: Mark McCloskey. You may remember McCloskey for his role in standing behind his wife while they both waved guns at protesters who had the audacity to “walk past his house.” Or you may know this fabulously wealthy ambulance-chasing attorney from his lifetime role of being an absolutely massive a**hole. That includes the time that he smashed bee hives belonging to a Jewish synagogue, which had planned to use the honey for Rosh Hashanah.  (“The children were crying in school,” said Rabbi Susan Talve. “It was part of our curriculum.”) 

When Black Lives Matter protesters dared pass through his gated community on their way to the home of St. Louis’ mayor, McCloskey and his wife Patricia rushed out to turn this into a totally unnecessary confrontation. Though you would never know this from the way McCloskey has been feted on Fox News, or how the couple has become a right-wing symbol of standing their ground … against people who were not on their ground.

Of the three, McCloskey may be the only one who has already kicked out a campaign ad for his senatorial run, and it’s a doozy. “When the angry mob came to destroy my house and kill my family,” McCloskey says at the beginning of the ad, “I took a stand against them.”

Strangely enough, the “angry mob” didn’t destroy any homes, or kill anyone at all on their march through the city. But sure. That’s the kind of talk that earned McCloskey a guest role in several Trump rallies.

But that’s not even the best part of the ad. The best part has to be how America’s most infamous wearer of a too-small pink polo, a personal injury lawyer whose home is a baroque mansion so gaudy that it would make Gaudi scream, is featured in his ad driving a tractor and emerging from a tiny country home. It may seem counter to the intention of this article and site to actually run a Republican candidate’s campaign ad in full but hell … this one deserves to be seen. 

After all, Schitt’s Creek may be over. But with Schmitt, Greitens, and McCloskey, it’s clear that Missouri is really going down the toilet.

Removing Liz Cheney isn’t a turning point for the Republican Party, it’s a post-extinction event

No Democrat loves Liz Cheney. Over the years she has consistently taken positions that were among the most conservative, most regressive, and most aggressive of any Republican in Congress. She is among those most protective of the wealthy, most willing to sacrifice the environment, and most willing to ignore injustice. Looking back at the key votes of this past year, Cheney voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, against the Paycheck Fairness Act, against a bipartisan bill expanding background checks, against the SAFE Banking Act, and against the American Dream Act. She also voted against removing Marjorie Taylor Greene from committees.

In fact, Cheney cast a “No” vote on every single key vote in 2021—except one. That one exception was her vote on Jan. 13 in favor of impeaching Donald Trump for his role in inciting an insurrection against the U.S. Capitol. 

Cheney is, in every way, a perfect example of the kind of Republican that progressives have fought so hard for decades. And that’s exactly why she’s being removed from her post. Because that Republican Party no longer exists.

Cheney got a chance to have her own say in The Washington Post, in which made it clear that her struggle with Donald Trump is on a level that goes beyond policy. “Trump is seeking to unravel critical elements of our constitutional structure that make democracy work—confidence in the result of elections and the rule of law. No other American president has ever done this.”

Cheney also calls out House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who was willing to tell at least a modicum of the truth a week after being forced to flee from the House chamber. “The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters,” McCarthy said on Jan. 13. “He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.” At the time, McCarthy suggested that Trump deserved to be censored by Congress.

Fast forward three months, and McCarthy was not only visiting with Trump at Mar-a-Lago, but defending his actions on Jan. 6.  With each passing week, McCarthy has moved more and more to not just defend Trump, but rewrite the history of the past four years, including the assault on the Capitol. His willingness to surrender any sign of honesty has earned McCarthy a spot that The New York Times described as “an alpha lap-dog inside Mr. Trump’s kennel of acolytes.”

Trump left office in shame, with an approval rating that matched the worst of his term in office and a record number of impeachments attached to his name. Republicans, including McCarthy, might have decided to move away from Trump and champion their agenda with someone else at the head. It might even seem logical that the 56-year-old congressional leader might push himself forward, seizing the opportunity to stand in the spotlight far from Trump’s orange glow.

Except … there is no Republican agenda. Not any more. That Republicans failed to adopt a party platform in 2020 wasn’t just some fluke of Trump’s bungled management. It’s a 20-gigawatt Broadway sign signaling that there is no there there, with a footnote that McCarthy may be the weakest “leader” Congress has ever seen.

That’s not to say that Republicans aren’t trying to pass bills. It’s just that those bills have no real purpose beyond making people angry. Making people angry—on both sides of the political spectrum—isn’t just the modern Republican brand, it’s all that remains of their party of trolls. Their base has no demands other than to be fed lies that make them angry, and to see Republicans taking action that makes everyone else angry.

Which is why they went crawling back to Trump. He knows how to spread nonsense that makes people angry, and that’s all the party is about.

Liz Cheney, with her positions and her ideas is an alien to this party. She’s talking about a turning point in a party that turned to ash years ago. Meanwhile, the Gaetz-Greene-Boebert base of the party, both in and out of Congress, see her as an alien who, rambling about conservative principles, might as well be High Martian.

So they’ll get rid of her. But only after Politico publishes a few editorials about how “Democrats love Cheney” without bothering to quote a single Democrat. Because then Republicans get to be angry at Cheney and convinced they’ve also upset Democrats. That’s their idea of a win these days.

“While embracing or ignoring Trump’s statements might seem attractive to some for fundraising and political purposes,” wrote Cheney in her editorial, “that approach will do profound long-term damage to our party and our country.” But she’s wrong about a critical point here. The tense.

That damage has already been done. 

Giuliani’s home searched, phone seized, as investigators finally get past roadblocks laid by Trump

Multiple sources are reporting that federal investigators executed a search warrant at a Manhattan apartment owned by former mayor, current Trump surrogate, and leader of the effort to overturn the 2020 election, Rudy Giuliani. According to The New York Times, that search is directly connected to an investigation of Giuliani’s actions in Ukraine.

For literally years, Giuliani has been pushing false stories about President Joe Biden, his son Hunter, and actions that were taken in Ukraine during the Obama administration. The stories that Giuliani brought back from Ukraine led directly to the dismissal of a talented ambassador, generated a whole series of congressional investigations, and encouraged Donald Trump to make a phone call to the Ukrainian president that led directly to Trump’s first impeachment

Wednesday, Apr 28, 2021 · 7:08:34 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The New York Times is now reporting that investigators have extended their search to Giuliani’s office, and to the home of Guiliani associate Victoria Toensing, who also worked with Giuliani on several of his efforts to convince former Ukrainian officials to create false charges against Joe Biden or Huntet Biden. Toensing is closely associated with Russian organized crime figure Dmytro Firtash, who was also connected to Parnas and Fruman.

Wednesday, Apr 28, 2021 · 7:13:39 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Rudy Giuliani is not appearing on his 3 pm radio show on 77 WABC today.

— lvl 46 dog-faced pony potus (@thetomzone) April 28, 2021

Wednesday, Apr 28, 2021 · 7:19:42 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

I concur that Rudy Giuliani is in deep trouble

— Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) April 28, 2021

Wednesday, Apr 28, 2021 · 8:10:56 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

A reminder of the legal standard: A federal magistrate judge concluded there was probable cause evidence of a crime or crimes would be present at the residence of Victoria Toensing. https://t.co/U0LJV9G8IX

— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) April 28, 2021

Despite multiple denials, Trump eventually admitted that he sent Giuliani to Ukraine specifically for the purposes of finding—or creating—dirt Trump could use against Biden. In the process, Giuliani worked worked with a pair of scam artists who were arrested trying to leave the country and charged with bribery, conspiracy, and funneling foreign funds into U.S. elections. Considering all this, it’s not surprising that as far back as October of 2019, Giuliani was known to be the subject of a criminal investigation.

What’s amazing is that it’s taken this long for investigators to get around to searching Giuliani’s East Side apartment. But then, as people say, elections matter.

There’s an irony in The New York Times breaking the news that Giuliani is being investigated for his actions in connections with Ukraine, because it was the Times which provided Giuliani with breathless reporting in which they pasted pages of unverified charges made against the Biden family. Some actual investigation by Bloomberg in May of 2019 showed that there really was a scandal, but it didn’t involve Biden. It involved Giuliani and a cohort of pro-Russia Ukrainians working to create a deceptive image of what had happened that was exactly backward from actual events.

Somehow, despite what seemed to be heaps of evidence that ensnared Giuliani into the schemes for which his associates Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas were indicted, Giuliani was left free to wander about the country, spreading lies about the election and heading up the team that generated the second Trump impeachment.

For a guy who once said he was worried about becoming a “laughingstock,” it’s really hard to see how Giuliani could have done much better.

According to reporting both the Times and at CNBC, investigators have been trying to get a search warrant for Giuliani’s residence “for months.” However, those attempts were repeatedly blocked. Now that Trump and former Attorney General Bill Barr aren’t in place to keep the wheels of justice stuck in the mud, it seems that investigators have finally gotten around to not only searching Giuliani’s apartment, but seizing all his electronic devices.

The Wall Street Journal reports that investigators arrived at Giuliani’s place at 6 AM before beginning their search. So expect Fox News to be filled with the same umbrage that greeted a search of Roger Stone’s home before his arrest, and the offices of Michael Cohen, before his arrest. 

The investigation into Giuliani is, as might be expected, directly connected to the cases against Parnas and Fruman. Both of those indictments featured false names to cover what was clearly Giuliani’s involvement. The investigation is expected to extend from illegal lobbying for Ukrainian officials in the United States, to Giuliani’s business dealings in Ukraine, and his involvement in the removal of experienced ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.

The story of Giuliani’s attempt to manufacture dirt on Biden, assist a collection of foreign criminals, and thwart the will of American voters isn’t over. But the lawyer who helped get Trump impeached—twice—may finally be getting his real day in court.

Still more details emerge showing that Matt Gaetz was using his pal Greenberg to pimp young women

The story of Rep. Matt Gaetz is like one of those horror films that generates an extra large jolt of fear by first tossing up something that causes laughter. It’s clear that what Gaetz has done is genuinely criminal, and that the way his crimes were systematically ignored by Republicans at every level in both Florida and Washington, D.C. speaks to an incredible level of hypocrisy and corruption. On the other hand, the details are … ridiculous.

For example, Gaetz has repeatedly put out statements saying that “Rep. Matt Gaetz has never paid for sex.” It turns out this may be true. Technically. Because as Daily Beast reports, records show that Gaetz only paid his friend Joel Greenberg. It was Greenberg who then actually paid for the sex. This is the kind of logic that’s certain to make heads nod on the couches of Fox & Friends. “See? Gaetz was telling the truth.”

But to take this claim and turn the facepalm level to 11, it turns out that Gaetz paid Greenberg $900 using the cash app Venmo. Greenberg then sent cash along to three women, also using Venmo, that totaled $900. And before anyone starts up the Fox-brand coincidence engine, Gaetz included a memo along with his payment saying “hit up ___” where “___” was the name of one of the women involved.

This comes on the same day that Gaetz’s office issued a statement saying the women on his staff thought of him as “a principled and morally grounded leader” and that none of them had witnessed anything other than “the utmost professionalism and respect.” There was no mention of whether Gaetz had provided these women with blindfolds or fireplace pokers on entry into his office.

In an over-the-top op-ed, Gaetz warned that there would be a “drip drip drip” of news coming out about his activities. Somehow, Gaetz seems to think that the more information appears, the more it shows that he is innocent. But at this point, the sheer amount of daily material appearing on Gaetz is more than a little daunting, and it’s not as if all of this is coming through leaks at the FBI or Department of Justice. Gaetz seems to have done almost nothing to hide his activities.

Gaetz defending Trump during Trump’s second impeachment.

And that’s perhaps the most disturbing part of this story. Not what Gaetz did, but that he did it so loudly.  From the sex games he played in the Florida House—where sleeping with interns was a goal and finding virgins scored extra “points”—to the nude videos he has circulated on the flood of the U.S. House, Gaetz was absolutely open with his fellow Republicans. Gaetz walked around preaching family values while apparently jetting off to visit sex workers in the Bahamas, or working with Greenberg to generate fake IDs for underage girls, or paying for those girls to fly to hotels where Gaetz could be “generous” to them with “gifts.” 

No Republican in either Washington or Florida can claim to be surprised about Matt Gaetz. The news that’s drip, drip, dripping out each day isn’t a revelation to them. Gaetz has bragged about these things for years. This is a guy who ran a concerted campaign in favor of revenge porn. And not once was any of it allowed to slow his rise through Republican ranks. Gaetz was passing around nude photos of his conquests on the House floor as other Republicans were lining up behind him as a “leader.”

Whether it was acting as one of Donald Trump’s biggest supporters, voting to overturn the results of the 2020 election, or storming a secure facility with phone cameras running, other Republicans have repeatedly stood behind Gaetz both figuratively and literally, and all the time they knew exactly who he was. There may be staffers now coming forward with horror stories, but it’s been only weeks since congressmen with decades of experience lined up to champion Gaetz.

Gaetz stands in front of two dozen House Republicans after leading them in an invasion of a secure facility in violation of House rules.

PizzaGaetz, FloodGaetz, GaetzGate ... whatever the name, it just keeps getting worse. And it’s not just about Matt Gaetz. It’s about the Republican Party and a culture that regularly ignores misogyny, sexual harassment, and genuine crimes. Because when it comes to abuse of women … that’s what being a Republican is all about.

It certainly explains the difficulty in passing a new version of the Violence Against Women Act. 

In any case, the specifics of this little bit of the story about teenage sex trafficking, buying sex for other Republican officials, and the international “ganjapreneur” story may be about to unwind in the public eye as Greenberg has apparently decided to take a deal in exchange for testimony. As The New York Times reports, Gaetz isn’t involved in all of Greenberg’s charges—such as stalking a political opponent or trying to bribe a federal official—but Gaetz was certainly there for many of the charges that are about to be laid out in great detail.

What’s a good sign that Greenberg’s testimony won’t be good for Gaetz? Maybe this statement from Greenberg’s attorney: “I’m sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today,” said attorney Fritz Scheller. 

Republicans in general shouldn’t be feeling too comfortable. Unfortunately, they are.

When it comes to Joel Greenberg and the trio of women to whom he distributed Gaetz’s funds, there is no direct mention of their age. However, the terms that Greenberg placed in the memos of their payments might give a clue: “Tuition,” “School,” and “School.”

Friday, Apr 9, 2021 · 2:19:44 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

New: @RepMattGaetz has hired white collar criminal defense lawyers Marc Mukasey & Isabelle Kirshner to lead his legal team. Mukasey has a long history in former President Trump’s orbit, and notably defended SEAL Eddie Gallagher, who was acquitted of murder in 2019.

— Garrett Haake (@GarrettHaake) April 9, 2021

John Durham resigning as US Attorney, but won’t let go of pointless ‘investigation’ of Russia probe

John “Bull” Durham announced on Friday afternoon that he is stepping down from his position in the Department of Justice. Presumably this also means an end to his role as special counsel investigating the origins of the Russia investigation. (Note: latest reporting indicates he’s not dropping the probe.)  In the announcement of Durham’s resignation, there is no mention of any further indictments or report upcoming from that investigation.

Durham was appointed by then-Attorney General William Barr in May 2019. The prosecutor had been involved in the investigation of torture and prisoner abuse during the Bush administration, and was directly involved in dismissing every one of the 101 charges on that front. That certainly made him seem an appropriately partisan choice for Barr when seeking someone who would fulfill Donald Trump’s dreams of turning the tables on the Mueller investigation.

But now, after an investigation that lasted months longer than Mueller’s, Durham is leaving with only a single minor indictment against a CIA official who signed off on a single document. Far from proving Trump’s conspiracy theories, Durham seems to have proved that they were conspiracy theories. And now he’s leaving.

Friday, Feb 26, 2021 · 10:38:21 PM +00:00 · Joan McCarter

A clarification in the latest reporting: Durham is not resigning as special counsel, just as the US Attorney in Connecticut. He apparently will still continue doing . . . whatever it is he is doing as special counsel.

Though the spring of 2019 marked the official start of Durham’s investigation, it was clear Barr tapped him for the role months sooner. But almost from the start, Durham’s investigation ran up on the shoals of hard truth. Despite Barr escorting him around the world in an effort to find something that could be turned into evidence behind Trump’s claims, it turned out that allied intelligence services refused to play along. It Italy, Australia, and the U.K., attempts to “prove” that Trump was somehow ensnared into making over 100 contacts with Russian agents were slapped away by officials unwilling to play along.

That was a setback. However, Durham only expanded his scope to look beyond current officials and those directly involved in decisions that led to Trump’s investigation. In fact, he appeared to be digging into unrelated events as an excuse to go after former officials under President Obama.

Still, despite unlimited assistance, Barr’s personal attention, and Trump cheering on the sidelines, Durham’s report never seemed to appear. At first, it seemed as if he intended to have something ready to blow up media attention on Trump’s first impeachment trial. That didn’t happen.

Then all through the summer, Barr hinted that the report was right around the corner. Except it wasn’t.

At the start of September, it seemed that Barr and Durham were still planning a genuine “October surprise.” But then Durham’s longtime assistant left the investigation in mid-September, with language that made it seem as if there was nothing there. Durham soon had his remaining staff looking at the Clinton Foundation for absolutely unspecified reasons because … why not?  However, as actual October arrived, it seemed the real surprise was going to be on Trump

Because there was no Durham report. The single charge levied back in August began to look like the only bullet in Durham’s pop gun. 

Unless there is still some serious information, and more charges, not only is Durham leaving after a fruitless quest into unwarranted claims, this will also mean that Barr repeatedly and seriously overstated the significance of what Durham had uncovered. This is an investigation that was repeatedly put forward as if it had unearthed significant evidence in support of the idea that Trump was unfairly targeted, or that the Mueller investigation took partisan actions. None of that evidence has appeared.

Durham may be resigning, but this might not be the last time he visits the Department of Justice.

Republicans aren’t turning away from Trump’s Big Lie, because confronting the truth is too painful

It’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) time, and Sen. Ted Cruz is knocking them dead—both metaphorically and literally—with jokes about how wearing a mask during a pandemic is “dumb.” But just because Cruz took time out to scoff at the pandemic, make fun of Bernie Sanders’ mittens, and throw in the requisite lies about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez doesn’t mean anyone at the “conservative” conference has taken their eye off the Big Lie. That’s still going strong.

As the Associated Press reports, Republican officials across the nation continue to spread divisiveness and encourage violence by pushing disinformation and conspiracies that mimic, or exceed, the claims that drove the deadly Jan. 6 insurgency. Meanwhile, the vaunted algorithms behind social media are driving the evolution of these conspiracies by selectively elevating the most outrageous—and most threatening—lies. Not only are Republicans failing to condemn the assault on the Capitol; in increasing numbers, they’re supporting it.

Just as anyone could (and many did) predict, the failure to exact any consequence on Republican leaders for their part in the attempted overthrow of the government is turning what happened on Jan. 6 from a one-time tragedy into a practice run.

Not only are state and county Republican officials endorsing the Big Lie about election fraud, many of them are explicitly supporting the violent assault on Jan. 6. At the same time, Republicans in leadership positions who have repudiated either the violence on Jan. 6 or Donald Trump’s lies that made that day possible are finding themselves “sanctioned” by county and state parties, smothered in death threats, and “othered” by a party they help to lead.

Meanwhile, on the eve of CPAC, Donald Trump provided direction to the party he controls about where things are going next. As Politico reports, Trump is assembling much of the same team who saw him through the 2016 election, with Corey Lewandowski to be placed in change of a super PAC aimed at expanding Trump’s “post-presidential political apparatus.”

Notice that this doesn’t seem to be a PAC that’s directly dedicated to the election of any particular candidate. Neither it is a PAC aimed at supporting some particular set of policies. This is a pool of money that will be used to one end: expanding the power and influence of Donald Trump. 

For anyone believing that Trump would quietly sit in his cart for endless rounds of cheating at golf while Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz were pushed into obscurity by a party deeply embarrassed over the end result of Trumpism … that’s not how this is going. Instead, Cruz is front and center at CPAC, Hawley is considered a top contender for the Republican nomination, and rank-and-file Republicans are increasingly ready to treat Jan. 6 like their very own Beer Hall Putsch.

The day after Trump’s second impeachment trial, Sen. Mitch McConnell stood up in the Senate to say this:

“Fellow Americans beat and bloodied our own police. They stormed the Senate floor. They tried to hunt down the Speaker of the House. They built a gallows and chanted about murdering the vice president.

They did this because they had been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on Earth – because he was angry he'd lost an election.

Former President Trump's actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty.”

On Thursday, McConnell said this when asked by Fox News’ Bret Baier whether McConnell would back Trump if he got the nomination.

“The nominee of the party? Absolutely.”

All of this may make it seem as if the question of where the Republican Party goes next has already been decided. Trump has won, McConnell has folded, and every opponent is on the run. However, that’s not quite the case.

Despite bringing out record numbers of Republican voters, Trump’s tactics of racism, misogyny, and plain old fascism also generated an even larger pushback. After his surprise win in 2016, the Republican Party under Trump failed to hold onto the House, failed to hold onto the White House, and failed to hold onto the Senate. His reprehensible statements and divisive actions have done what many thought impossible: getting young Americans to vote in great numbers. They’ve also taken what was one of the biggest Republican strongholds—the suburbs—and turned it into a new source of Democratic Party power.

As columnist Nancy LeTourneau points out, there’s a good reason that Republicans have been unable to capitalize on even record amounts of support: They simply ran out of ideas a long, long time ago. 

For decades now, the central disagreement between Democrats and Republicans has been about the size and role of the federal government. When it comes to domestic politics, the GOP has promoted tax cuts in order to "starve the beast" and deregulation. In that way, Donald Trump fit right in with the classic Republican agenda. 

It could be argued that this was the one achievement of Trump’s whole term in the sense of being conservative in the classical sense. Trump’s tax cut for billionaires was exactly in the wheelhouse of the battle Republicans have been stoking against the programs of FDR’s New Deal for almost a century. Only Trump forgot the bathtub. As in, he gave the billionaires their billions, and went right on expanding the government—particularly in ways that he could use as a club to support his xenophobic agenda, such as granting ever more expansive reach to ICE, or that ultimate example of a modern folly, Trump’s wall along the southern border.

In fact, there’s a good argument to be made that Trump didn’t take over the Republican Party and empty out their last stock of “things to do,” because that store was already empty before he came in. Republicans were already running on the fumes of the things they were against—women, Blacks, gays, and immigrants. Their positive ideas were down to … down to … Surely there was one. Wasn’t there?

It was exactly this factor that allowed Trump to sail in. His willingness to set aside the reedy dog whistles and blow Trump-et blasts of hate really did seem like “speaking the truth” in a Republican Party that had been saying the same things. Only quietly.

So, when CNN reports that more than two dozen members of the House and Senate are unwilling to even admit that the election results were real, and that Joe Biden is the legitimate president of the United States, it should be shocking. But not surprising.

It’s not so much that Trump’s lies reveal him as the emperor who was duped into strutting around naked. It’s that the Republican Party has been without any real “new clothes” for so long, they’re willing to settle for Trump. He is, in their mind, better than fading away into the history book of parties that lost their reason for being. His lies, no matter how vile, energize a base of people, while the drivel coming out of the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Hoover Institution simply don’t.

As LeTourneau says plainly, “Republicans are rejecting democracy because they lost the battle of ideas.” They’ve lost that battle because they’re basically unarmed. Unarmed, that is, except for spreading hate and screaming “freedom” when what they mean is killing people for profit. However, despite appearances and the literal golden ass on worshipful display at CPAC, this doesn’t mean that the fight is over and that all Republicans will not file into line neatly behind Trump.

The number of Republicans who have been openly willing to defy Trump may seem small, and proposals like Mitt Romney’s child payments may seem like outliers, but these small numbers have outsized power. After all, how many times have Democrats mumbled the name “Joe Manchin” in the last month? Republicans already have that problem. Times five. 

Right now, Republicans seem willing to buy into the Big Lie about the election, even at the cost of potentially destroying the nation, because they have nothing else. They’re willing to burn it all down because they realize they’re out of alternatives.

But that willingness to follow Trump is far from a guarantee that their next election, or their next putsch, will be any more successful than the last.

Opening hearing into Jan. 6 by joint Senate committee highlights confusion over intelligence

On Tuesday, a joint oversight hearing in the Senate began investigations into the events of Jan. 6. Testifying were a number of officers and leaders in law enforcement including: former House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving, former Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger, former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, and acting Chief of the Metropolitan Washington D.C. Police Robert Contee. 

The hearing actually opened with moving and disturbing testimony from Police Captain Carneysha Mendoza, who recounted her experiences during the Jan. 6 insurgency. She rushed to the Capitol in response to first signals of the emergency by dealing with a pipe bomb and charging into the fray at the Capitol. She suffered a punishing physical attack that included sustaining lingering chemical burns from armed insurgents.

The opening statements from police leadership showed some significant differences between how these officials viewed their roles on Jan. 6 and the limits of their positions and forces. They were united around the idea that this was “a failure of intelligence,” but not always in the sense that information wasn’t properly relayed. Despite Republican efforts, the outcome of these discussions seems to be focused in a way that can’t be making Republicans happy.

One issue came up as a possible solution to dealing with these events: Washington, D.C. statehood.

Just the opening agreements showed how clumsy the existing structure is when it comes to dealing with … anything, really. Sund indicated that he had to go through the Capitol Police Board—which included Stenger and Irving—to get so much as “a glass of water for his officers on a hot day.” In later testimony, Contee made it clear that Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser lacks the authority of a state governor when it comes to calling in the National Guard. 

Under questioning, a picture built of a lack of intelligence—not always in the lack of communication but in the lack of basic information. Specifically, Sund repeatedly pointed out that the FBI and other agencies did not seem to be taking domestic terrorists seriously.

The two biggest issues that came up were intelligence—especially with Sund repeatedly saying that intelligence agencies failed to cast “a wide enough net” when it came to considering the plans of white supremacist domestic terrorist groups—and the clumsiness of getting more forces assigned to the Capitol because of the divided, multilevel control of forces in and around Washington.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar

Klobuchar opened by asking all to agree that this was a planned and coordinated attack involving white supremacists and extremist groups that represented a real threat to the Capitol. All the former and current police leadership agreed.  

Klobuchar then questioned Sund about the reaction of the Capitol Police to an intelligence report received from the FBI on Jan. 5 warning of potential violence, and that Trump supporters were coming “prepared for war.” Sund variously claimed that it wasn’t reviewed until the evening of Jan. 5, that he never saw the report, and that it was never sent to either the Metro D.C. Police or the sergeants at arms. This report, and the lack of response to the extremely violent language it showcased, came up in much subsequent questioning.

Sund repeatedly defended the idea that he had conducted an “all hands on deck” approach that was “appropriate” based on all past events. However, he also pointed out that he had to run everything past the Capitol Police board (specifically in this case just Stenger and Irving). Sund claimed that he could not request the National Guard without a declaration of emergency from the Capitol Police board.

Questioned about the delay in National Guard response, Sund admitted to frustration. “I don’t know what issues there were at the Pentagon, but I was certainly surprised at the delay.”

Sund finished by saying: “Jan. 6 was a change in the threat we face.” While Stenger noted that while the United States has  greatly expanded intelligence since 9/11, it doesn’t seem efficient at gathering information on internal threats.

Sen. Gary Peters

Peters noted an FBI report carrying a number of expressly violent threats from the Proud Boys and other groups did reach the Capitol Police on Jan. 5, but it didn’t get to operational command. Sund pushed the report off as “raw data” based on “social media posts” that needed to be investigated, something that could not happen given the few hours between the report and events on Jan. 6. 

Sund insisted that the CP “expanded our perimeter” and “coordinated”  based on a Jan. 3 report. Peters went back to Sund’s claims about “military style coordination” and asked what the leaders saw. Sund noted that insurgents “brought climbing gear, they brought explosives, they brought chemical agents.” Sund also indicated that marching toward the Capitol 20 minutes before Trump’s speech ended appeared to be a coordinated movement.

Contee noted that insurgents used hand signals, radios, coordinated use of chemical munitions, and placement of pipe bombs. Both Irving and Stenger agreed it was a coordinated attack.

Contee also noted he was “stunned” by the “tepid response” from the National Guard when the coordinated nature of the attack was clear. He said that Sund was “begging” for the National Guard on a call to the Pentagon, but there was not an immediate “yes.” Instead there was a concern about “optics” and an “exercise to check the boxes.” 

In closing remarks, Peters noted that intelligence agencies are eight months late on a requested report on the threat from domestic terrorism.

Sen. Roy Blunt:

Blunt asked Sund about attempts to secure the National Guard on Jan. 6. Sund said he made a call asking for this assistance at 1:09 PM, but Irving and Stenger didn’t approve it until 2:10 PM. This timing became the focus of much later questioning. 

Irving said first: “I did not take call from Sund as a request.” Then he clarified that he meant the earlier call on Jan. 4. According to Irving, Sund said he had received an “offer” for National Guard forces and that Irving “talked it through” with Sund and Stenger, who “agreed” the “intelligence did not support” using National Guard. Irving says they all decided to “let it go.”

Stenger was asked about what was meant by the National Guard being “on stand by.” It appears neither he nor Sund did anything to keep the Guard in the loop. 

Sund claimed that he asked Irving for Guard assistance at 1:09 PM. Irving said he was on the floor at the time (which appears to be the case) and didn’t recall getting request until 2:10 PM. “I have no phone record of a call from Chief Sund.” He then says he talked to Sund at 1:28 PM, but Sund did not make a request at that time. 

Sen. Rob Portman

Portman requested that they get Sund and Irving’s phone records to deal with the issue. 

Sund admits that Capitol Police were not prepared for a large insurrection or “infiltration” of the Capitol. Portman got both Stenger and Irving to admit that Secret Service has a plan for a similar attacks on the White House, and he wondered why the Capitol Police did not.

Under questioning, Sund admits that all Capitol Police are not outfitted with “hard gear” (helmet, shields, etc.). “Up until Jan. 6, the [seven platoons of “civil disturbance” officers] had been enough” for every previous event. Only four of those platoons had hard gear. Sund said he had ordered riot gear, but it was delayed “because of COVID.”

Contee indicated that in addition to seven platoons with full riot gear, all Metro D.C. police have helmets, protective gloves, gas masks, batons, etc. and all officers have basic civil disturbance training and almost all get additional training. Sund said that such training was “a process being implemented” by Capitol Police.

Portman underlined that officers had not given proper training and didn’t have the necessary equipment. “I appreciate the sacrifice and the bravery of that day, but we owe it to the officers” to fill those needs.

Sen. Patrick Leahy

Leahy acted to cut off claims that the House or Senate were a bottleneck. He asked all of the law enforcement leaders if “the appropriations committee has met your request for salaries and operating expenses in every fiscal year.” Irving: “Yes.” Stenger: “Yes.”

“I happen to think that we have not a failure of inadequate resources,” said Leahy, “but a failure to deploy the resources that we have.”

Leahy points out that when the police were given a warning of armed extremists, they can't then claim that there was no warning of violence. The repeated claims that things were going to be no worse than previous events were not backed up by the intelligence that was received.

Sen. Ron Johnson

Johnson skipped out on asking any questions to instead read a lengthy statement from an anti-Muslim hate group blaming “fake Trump protesters” and “agent provocateurs” for Jan. 6. According to Johnson, all the “real” Trump supporters were “happy” and “in high spirits.” Johnson’s account ended with claims that Capitol Police incited the crowd by firing tear gas after police overreacted to “a tussle.”

So it was all the fault of antifa and the police. Everyone but the Trump supporters, who were all “cheerful” in marching on the Capitol.

Johnson then spent the rest of his time complaining about not getting answers on his conspiracy theories. He made one feint at the end to get Sund to agree that Trump protesters were “pro police,” but Sund noted there were Trump people claiming to be police even as they were pushing through police lines. In terms of wacky highlights, this was it.

Sen. Jacky Rosen

Rosen asked Contee about the report from the FBI on Jan. 5, which also reached the Metro D.C. police late at night by email. Contee’s initial response was much the same as Sund’s: that this was raw data without a suggested response. However, he noted that the Metro police were already prepared for widespread violence in association with Jan. 6. They just weren’t responsible for the Capitol.

Contee also noted that the previous two MAGA rallies in November and December included weapons recovered from several people. “Those were the only rallies were we’ve seen people coming armed,” said Contee. 

Rosen noted that there seemed to be “a breakdown” between the FBI and Capitol Police. But Sund insisted that it wasn’t just the FBI, and it was more than just how the message was delivered. “We need to look at the whole intelligence community and the view that they have on domestic extremists,” said Sund.

Sen. Mark Warner

Warner expressed concern that the “hurdles from the previous administration” slowed and limited to support for Washington and limited its ability to prepare. He brought up Washington, D.C. statehood as a solution for streamlining some of those difficulties.

Warner noted that he talked directly with FBI leadership on Jan. 4 and Jan. 5. “I felt like the FBI felt like they were in better shape in terms of intel,” said Warner. 

Sund said the relationship between Capitol Police and the FBI is “outstanding.” He noted that the FBI was very effective in the aftermath of the events in helping investigate those who invaded the Capitol. And Sund again indicated that the failure was more about the intelligence being gathered rather than what was passed on.

Contee said he wanted more a “whole intelligence approach,” noted that the FBI was a “great partner” for the Metro police.

Warner agreed, noting that Jan. 6 drew the same kind of antigovernment extremists who were on the streets of Charlottesville, but that these groups aren’t “getting the level of serious review” that other threats were. He also noted that these groups have ties to extremist groups overseas, specifically in Europe.

Sen. James Lankford

Lankford was the first to seem more interested in how to twist the information to support some Fox News-worthy narrative. He started by asking Sund to talk at length about a letter from Sund to Nancy Pelosi. Sund said that Pelosi called for his resignation “without a full understanding of what we had gone through and prepared for.”

Lankford then asked about how the pipe bomb was found at the Republican National Committee (RNC). When he was told that an employee at the RNC located the pipe bomb and called it in, Lankford then seemed to take this as proof that the pipe bombs weren’t really “coordinated” with the rest of the attack because the discovery of those bombs at that time was coincidental. (But was it? This certainly seems like a good thing to investigate.)

Lankford also spent some time trying to dismiss the idea that the National Guard was slow to respond. He insisted that it usually takes “multiple days” to approve the National Guard, and insisted that the delays in their approval on Jan. 6 were “typical,” saying that the National Guard was not “the riot police” or “a SWAT team.” Lankford attempted to get Sund to agree that he knew the National Guard was forced to be unarmed, with no drones and no helicopter. Sund denied knowing these restrictions had been put on. Lankford then claimed these “restrictions were put on them by the city of Washington D.C.” without evidence and without asking Contee about this point.

Finally, Lankford spent some time comparing the attack on the Capitol to the “attack on a federal courthouse in Portland” and insinuating that the same forces were involved in both.

Sen. Tom Carper

Carper started off by pointing out that the National Guard is frequently called in to respond quickly to emergencies, and does so. But “the D.C. National Guard operates differently.” Carper also noted that this is one of the reasons he’s worked for years in favor of Washington, D.C. statehood.

Carper gave Contee another opportunity to make it clear that Bowser has no authority to authorize National Guard deployment—that she has to go through an entire chain of requests and approvals. This includes both the Capitol Police board and Pentagon officials.

Carper then asked Contee if having an easier means of calling the National Guard—similar to that given every state—would help to protect the city and federal installations. Contee’s response was an enthusiastic “yes,” and an agreement that this needs to be investigated as part of the response to Jan. 6.

Carper asked Sund why the threat of a “truly devastating attack” was so badly underestimated. Sund pointed back at the FBI and other intelligence agencies for not warning that a coordinated attack across many states was being prepared. Sund indicated that it was not so much “a failure to communicate” but a failure to investigate and focus on domestic extremists.

Sen. Jeff Merkley

Merkley pointed out the level of violence called for in the statement from the FBI, which included white supremacists calling directly to disrupt the certification of the electoral vote “or die.” That report is the same one that was emailed to both Capitol Police and Metro D.C. Police, but not until late in the evening on Jan. 5 and without any warning or flag that would have made its importance obvious.

Merkley spent a good deal of time dealing with specific incidents of Capitol security. That included how the police dealt with what Sund kept describing as “an expanded perimeter” without additional forces to secure that perimeter.  

Stenger noted that there is a drill “once a year” in which there is a test of locking and protecting Congressional chambers, which is something that failed on Jan. 6. He could not say when the last such drill took place.

Sen. Rick Scott

Scott focused on an extremely odd point for his entire time at bat: Why was the National Guard still in Washington? No matter what he was told, or how futile his questions became, Scott wouldn’t move from this issue.

"No one has any reason why we have the National Guard here," said Scott. (Ignoring that little insurgency thing.) Scott kept hammering this point, even when each of those testifying made it clear they had no involvement in maintaining the Guard or information on why they were there.

When told that he should ask the current Capitol Police and sergeant at arms, he seemed genuinely confused. However, he still could not leave this pointless question alone. "I'm flabbergasted that there's no public information why we have all this National Guard here," said Scott. Sund and others tried to point out there had been an insurrection. Scott never seemed to get it. 

Sen. Maggie Hassen

Hassen asked Contee to describe the coordination between Metro police and the National Park Service when it comes to approving permits. Contee agreed that this system needed to be reviewed, especially when it comes to evaluating risks. While the Parks department was still giving out permits, even with the evidence of violence by the same groups in previous appearances, the Washington government had actually suspended mass gathering since March to respect the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hassen expanded the discussion of intelligence beyond the FBI and asked about any communication from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Sund and Contee agreed that no one from DHS attempted to issue a national security event or reach out to Capitol Police with any concerns around Jan. 6.

Sen. Josh Hawley

The idea that Hawley would be questioning law enforcement officials is itself an indictment of the government. However, Hawley made an elaborate point of thanking Capt. Mendoza and other police for their work in "repelling these violent criminal rioters."

For most of his questioning, Hawley remained reasonable. He asked Sund about National Guard activation. Back on the 1:09 PM phone call question, Sund said Irving told him he needed to run a Guard request "up the chain of command." Hawley pondered who this "chain of command" might be. 

Irving again said he didn't recall the phone call, and his phone records do not show a call at that time. Irving claimed that had he gotten such a request, he "would have approved it immediately." Instead, Irving says Sund called him a half hour later and didn't actually make a request until 2:10 PM.

Sund insisted he made request at 1:09 PM. And that his call at 1:22 PM was to "follow up on the status of that request."

Irving said he never consulted "congressional leadership" or waited for their approval. Irving denies seeking approval from Pelosi or McConnell, which likely deflates some theory by Hawley that Pelosi nixed Guard approval.

Sund repeated that Irving was concerned about the "optics" of bringing in National Guard on Jan. 4.  Irving denied this, saying his "issue was with whether the intelligence warranted" calling in Guard. He said again that his understanding was that Sund had "an offer" of troops, but that he, Stenger, and Sund talked about it and agreed to turn it down. Hawley asked what the concern over deploying guard was. Irving says he wasn't concerned about anything but intelligence.

Finally, Hawley asked Klobuchar for an extra minute. When this was granted, Hawley used the time to attack Pelosi for appointing retired Gen. Russel Honoré to conduct an investigation into events on Jan. 6.

Sen. Alex Padilla

Padilla began by asking all the witnesses if the video of events shown during Trump's impeachment was accurate. All agreed that it was.

Sund again said they had no information on the scope of what was coming. No idea that "we would be facing an armed insurrection involving thousands of people."

Padilla asked if the previous MAGA incidents in November and December might have been "trial runs" during which the same groups involved on Jan. 6 could gather intelligence on the limits of police response. Sund agreed this was possible. Padilla made it clear that Donald Trump had had control of those intelligence agencies that were failing to focus on domestic terrorism by white supremacist extremist groups.

Padilla asked about the difference in preparations on Jan. 6 versus protests over the summer, noting hundreds of arrests. However, Sund claimed there were just six arrests during the BLM protests and said preparation on Jan. 6 was far greater. Of course, Sund is limited to the Capitol, not other sites around the city. But clearly preparations on Jan. 6 were nothing like the masses of troops that met some peaceful protests.

Sen. Bill Hagerty

Hagerty wasn’t much interested in anything the witnesses had to say, but, like Johnson, had plenty to say on his own. He started by claiming the Guard presence in summer of 2020 was "necessary following some of the worst rioting in decades."

Hagerty then tried blaming the failure of Guard to appear on Jan. 6 on "backlash" against the use of the Guard to "restore order" in the summer. So … the insurgency was BLM’s fault.

Sund refused to agree, insisting again that he was surprised by how reluctant the Pentagon was to cooperate. Thwarted, Hagerty then went straight to attacking Pelosi and Honoré. And ... that was it. Hagerty couldn't even think of how to fill his time because he had no actual questions.

Sen. Angus King

King refocused on the intelligence failure, but—in contradiction to Sund's statements—kept returning to "a failure of communication." King then turned to asking Sund about how to secure Capitol without "turning it into a fortress."

Sund insisted there was a process to get credible intelligence where it needs to be and again said the failure was in intelligence gathering. He said the Capitol Police well prepared for issues like lone gunmen, etc., but insisted that much of this should be discussed in a closed, classified session.

King asked Sund to expand on the intelligence shortfalls. Sund said even the director of the field office for the FBI gave no hint that there was a coordinated attack planned despite a direct call on Jan 5. The email late on Jan. 5 might have had some alarming language, but there was no hint it was part of a large, multistate plan.

King asked about the process for making assistance requests, calling in the Guard, etc. Sund agreed that the process needs to be streamlined.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema

Sinema asked about the meetings leading up to Jan. 6 and which agencies were involved. Contee detailed a number of meetings that included both Metro D.C. police and Capitol Police.

Contee discussed what he saw as the major mistakes. He said the issue on sharing information, and how it was shared, is a concern. The FBI sent the most frightening information to email boxes at 7 PM on the night before the event. It didn’t raise concerns in earlier calls and did not contact Contee or Sund to bring any concerns to their attention.

Sund emphasized again that the report—which he didn’t even learn about until after he had resigned—was seen as raw data that wasn’t moved forward. He recounted the process for moving information from the FBI, but again emphasized that the letter was sent as raw data without analysis or recommendations on the evening of Jan 5. There wasn’t a high level of attention assigned to it.

Contee confirms that the Metro D.C. Police were aware of the significance of Jan. 6 and that Bowser called up additional units, pulled in forces from the outlying districts, and requested Guard officers to free up additional police forces.

Sen. Ted Cruz

Irony, part two.

Cruz described Jan. 6. as "a terrorist attack" on the Capitol. He then went back to requests from Sund, and Sund's statement that Irving was "concerned about the optics." Sund was asked to describe the conversations at length. Sund said he met with Irving in his office and again said that Irving told him "I didn't like the optics" and told Sund to talk to Stenger. Stenger asked Sund to call National Guard Commander Gen. William J. Walker to prepare. Walker told Sund that the 125 troops being deployed to Washington could be armed and sent to the Capitol quickly. That response seemed to satisfy Irving and Stenger.

Irving said the meeting on Jan. 4 was a phone call. (Sund said it was an in-person meeting.) Irving said it was an "offer" to send in Guard. (Sund said it was a request.) Irving said he can't recall using term "optics." Irving and Stenger said they did contact Pelosi and McConnell on Jan. 6, but only to inform them that there "might" be a request for National Guard assistance.

Cruz joined others in asking for phone records. Cruz was surprisingly subdued and didn't ask any “gotchas.”

Sen. Jon Ossoff

Again, Ossoff and Sund discussed the training and preparation of the Capitol Police. Sund returned to saying that there was no training on how to deal with a mass insurrection. Sund did say that Capitol Police called out “tabletop exercises” in advance of national security events such as the inauguration, but this was not done on Jan. 6.

Sund also said that communication and chain of command “broke down” during Jan. 6 as communications with those on the scene at the Capitol became difficult.

Ossoff asked if procedures exist for dealing with an emergency like an attack on the Capitol without the approval of the Capitol Police board. Short answer: No.

Sund emphasized that Capitol Police are a “consumer” of intelligence and the organization is not configured to collect or analyze intelligence.