Catalyst in chief: Democrats’ ticktock video of Jan. 6 is a searing indictment of Trump

Most Americans have seen any number of isolated snippets of video from Jan. 6, when a mob of Donald Trump supporters stormed the Capitol complex—rioters in one hall or another, lawmakers ducking for cover, Capitol Police trying to deter Trump's cultists, and the occasional first-hand video of one person's experience that day. 

But watching it all knit together in one chronological video documenting Trump's exhortations and the immediate responsiveness of his cultists is a different—and far more powerful—experience altogether. That's exactly what Democratic impeachment managers presented Tuesday to punctuate their opening arguments that Trump’s culpability is too undeniable and his transgressions too inexcusable by any objective measure to escape punishment.

"We will stop the steal," Trump tells his rallygoers in the opening frames of the video. "And after this, we're going to walk down—and I'll be there with you—we're going to walk down to the Capitol ..."

Cut to source video from the crowd, with multiple people yelling, "Yeah ... Let's take the Capitol!" Another Trumper in the crowd helpfully orients his peers to the Capitol, bellowing, "We are going to the Capitol, where our problems are—it's that direction." 

Text on the video notes that as "Trump continues his speech, a wave of supporters begins marching to the Capitol."

Action-reaction. Trump directs his cultists to the Capitol—they go to the Capitol. Trump tells them to "fight like hell," and they fight like hell. Trump says that when you catch somebody in a fraud, "you're allowed to go by very different rules," and they employ very different rules.

Then Trump sets up his vice president for a fall from grace among his devotees, concluding, "So I hope Mike has the courage to do what he needs to do."

As Trump very well knew, Vice President Mike Pence had already informed him that he didn't have the power to overturn the election results during certification.

On the floors of the House and the Senate, lawmakers are performing their constitutional duties as the Trump's rabid rioters breach the perimeter and soon after start roaming the halls looking for lawmakers. Pence is ushered off the floor of the Senate chamber, as is Speaker Nancy Pelosi from the House chamber. Lawmakers' speeches are abruptly ended as they are informed the mob is now inside the building and the ones who can be are evacuated. 

Action-reaction. Trump sends a tweet criticizing Pence for failing to overturn the election. Chants of "Treason! Treason!" erupt among rioters inside, while "Traitor Pence!" becomes a rallying cry outside the building.

Two hours after the Capitol insurrection began, Trump tweets a video of himself saying, "There’s never been a time like this where such a thing happened, where they could take it away from all of us, from me, from you, from our country. This was a fraudulent election, but we can’t play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace. So go home. We love you. You’re very special. You’ve seen what happens. You see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel. But go home and go home at peace."

Back at the Capitol, angry rioters continue destroying the building, beating police officers, and destroying the equipment they confiscated from various journalists. 

In the end, the video notes, at least seven people lost their lives and more than 140 law enforcement officers suffered physical injuries, not to mention the mental trauma that remains with many others to this day. 

Four hours after the Capitol incursion began, Trump celebrated the lethal havoc that had just unfolded in the heart of our nation’s government. “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long," Trump tweeted. "Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!"

Watch it: 

‘Like a loaded cannon’: House Democrats argue Trump trained murderous mob on U.S. Capitol

House Democrats didn't mince words in the 77-page brief they filed Tuesday arguing for the conviction of Donald Trump on impeachment charges. "He summoned a mob to Washington, exhorted them into a frenzy, and aimed them like a loaded cannon down Pennsylvania Avenue,” wrote the nine Democratic impeachment managers led by Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland.

Trump's actions on Jan. 6, they said, endangered the lives of lawmakers, threatened the peaceful transition of power and line of succession, and damaged U.S. national security. Democrats called those actions a "grievous betrayal of his Oath of Office" that should clearly preclude Trump from ever holding office again.

"To protect our democracy and national security—and to deter any future President who would consider provoking violence in pursuit of power—the Senate should convict President Trump and disqualify him from future federal officeholding," they wrote.

The brief is intended to rebut several arguments Trump's defense team might employ, including the notion that impeachment would violate Trump’s First Amendment rights or that it would be unconstitutional or simply unnecessary to impeach him now that he is no longer in office. 

"The Constitution governs the first day of the President’s term, the last day, and every moment in between. Presidents do not get a free pass to commit high crimes and misdemeanors near the end of their term," write the impeachment managers. Later, they add, "There is no 'January Exception' to impeachment or any other provision of the Constitution."

Democrats also used the characterizations of prominent Republicans to buttress their case, noting that Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney said no president had ever committed a "greater betrayal" of their oath to the Constitution and Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said the mob "was fed lies" and had been "provoked by the president."

The brief also calls upon the words of the rioters themselves to indict Trump. 

Provoked by President Trump’s statements at the rally, many insurrectionists who assaulted the Capitol proudly proclaimed that they were doing President Trump’s bidding. One told police officers that he came as part of a group of “patriots” “at the request of the President." In a livestreamed video from inside the Capitol, another declared that “[o]ur president wants us here. … We wait and take orders from our president." Yet another rioter yelled at police officers, “[w]e were invited here … by the President of the United States!”

The brief lays out a timeline demonstrating how long Trump allowed the murderous siege to go on before addressing his supporters and encouraging them to leave the Capitol. Even within that scripted video address, Democrats note, Trump continued his incitement, saying the election was "stolen from us" and telling the violent insurrectionists, "We love you, you're very special."

"President Trump’s incitement of insurrection requires his conviction and disqualification from future federal officeholding," the Democrats conclude. "This is not a case where elections alone are a sufficient safeguard against future abuse; it is the electoral process itself that President Trump attacked and that must be protected from him and anyone else who would seek to mimic his behavior."

Failure to convict, they add, would only "embolden" future leaders to retain power by any means possible and "suggest that there is not a line a President cannot cross."

Lawyers for Trump were also expected to file a brief Tuesday that will likely steer clear of Trump’s election fraud claims, according to the New York Times.

UPDATE: Trump’s impeachment response has been released. CNN’s Jim Acosta says, “It argues constitution ‘requires that a person actually hold office to be impeached’ and that Trump was exercising his First Amendment right to question election results.”

AG Barr’s Justice Department still trying to deep-six Mueller grand jury materials

Attorney General Bill Barr's Justice Department is going to extraordinary lengths to block House Democrats from seeing the grand jury evidence from the Mueller probe. 

In a Thursday filing, the department's solicitor general urged the Supreme Court to halt a lower court order directing the department to turn over the grand jury materials to the House Judiciary Committee by May 11. The Justice Department argued for the opportunity to complete its appeal of the appeals court ruling to the Supreme Court.

“The government will suffer irreparable harm absent a stay. Once the government discloses the secret grand-jury records, their secrecy will irrevocably be lost,” Solicitor General Noel Francisco wrote. “That is particularly so when, as here, they are disclosed to a congressional committee and its staff.”

Red alert, red alert! Congress might learn the truth about all the stuff that has heretofore been hidden from the public. 

At issue for House Democrats is whether Trump lied in his written testimony to the Mueller team. House Democrats sought access to the information last year as they mulled impeaching Trump. 

Congress is not necessarily granted access to such materials, but a Nixon-era precedent was set when the courts ruled an impeachment investigation a "judicial proceeding." In the current case, both the federal court and the appeals court panel followed that precedent to rule in favor of House Democrats gaining access to the materials. 

Trump’s coronavirus cover-up continues, blocking two more key task force officials from testifying

Donald Trump is denying House Democrats access to two more of his administration's top pandemic task force members. The White House is now prohibiting the head of the Department of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, and the director of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Seem Verma, from testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, according to the Daily Beast.

Last week, the White House also prohibited one of its top coronavirus medical experts from testifying before the House—Dr. Anthony Fauci. But for the moment, Fauci is still scheduled to testify before a GOP-led panel in the Senate.

Laughably, Trump officials have justified the gag orders by saying testifying before Congress was too time-consuming for key pandemic response officials, as if Trump hasn't spent the past month squandering the time of those very same people as he prattled on day after day, peddling misinformation. Fauci even called the briefings "really draining" several weeks ago.

But when Trump was asked Tuesday about the task force gag order, he made clear the move was explicitly political, calling House Democrats "Trump haters."

Just like with impeachment, the default position for the White House now is that everyone on the coronavirus task force must seek permission from White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to testify. In other words, every request by House Democrats is a complete nonstarter.

But the difference now is that Trump is blocking the public from getting information that's literally a matter of life and death. House Democrats have said the hearings are effort to gather information that can help them craft legislation in response to the ongoing public health crisis.

“The fact is that we need to allocate resources for this,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “In order to do that, any appropriations bill must begin in the House. And we have to have the information to act upon.”

Secretary Azar has not provided public testimony on the pandemic for nearly two months. Verma, who runs the government's two most expansive healthcare programs, hasn't given public testimony since the crisis began. 

If impeachment was bad politics for House Democrats, American voters sure don’t know it

Nearly six in 10 Americans say that the U.S. representative in their congressional district deserves to be reelected, the highest level of such sentiment recorded by Gallup since 2012. While only 35% similarly say that most members of Congress deserve reelection (as opposed to their own member), that's also a higher percentage than at any time since 2012.

What bodes so well for Democrats, obviously, is that they currently hold a commanding majority in the House. So when 59% of Americans are happy with the status quo, it redounds to Democrats’ advantage. As Gallup writes, “Democrats have a solid majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the elevated 59% of Americans saying their member of Congress deserves reelection augurs well for their bid to maintain their majority next year.” 

Check out the graph below.