Democratic voters increasingly want ‘fighters.’ Cheney plans to deliver in Jan. 6 hearings

House Democrats have been here before: debating exactly how to handle an unprecedented congressional proceeding involving the most prominent Republican in the country who, once again, committed unconstitutional and potentially unlawful acts. This time around, the sometimes heated discussions surround preparation for next month’s televised hearings on the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol.

During Donald Trump’s first impeachment hearing, Democrats anguished over exactly what angle, tone, and how far to reach, according to what one person involved in those deliberations told The Washington Post.

The difference now as the select committee investigating Jan. 6 plots its next phase is that an old-school rock-ribbed Republican, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, is in the room alongside Democrats, fighting for what she clearly views as an existential battle for her future, her party, and indeed the country.

By all accounts, Cheney—who serves as vice chair of the panel—has led the way in adopting an aggressive prosecutorial posture during the Jan. 6 investigation. Her counterparts say she is the most well-versed, well-read, and prepared member of the panel, and she has leaned heavily on her legal training to inform her approach.

The Daily Kos Elections Team talks about how the MAGA civil war might be hurting the GOP in races across the country on The Downballot podcast

So as the panel debates format, tone, and priorities for the upcoming hearings, Cheney has championed making Trump the focal point while some Democrats have reportedly argued for emphasizing the security and intelligence failures that allowed the MAGA mob to storm the Capitol.

“Cheney has wanted to make sure we keep the focus on Trump and the political effort to overthrow Biden’s majority in the electoral college and to attack the peaceful transfer of power,” a committee member told the Post. In other words, Cheney is focused on Trump’s intentional effort to subvert U.S. democracy rather than the technocratic failures that played out during the attack.

"Rep. Cheney’s view is that security at the Capitol is a critical part of the investigation, but the Capitol didn’t attack itself," explained Cheney spokesperson Jeremy Adler.

Amen: The Capitol didn't attack itself.

The committee is still grappling with multiple questions, such as how much to emphasize the legal significance of its findings and whether to make criminal referrals to the Justice Department (a purely symbolic act); whether to adopt a more prosecutorial tone during the hearings; and whether to make a bid to interview Donald Trump and/or Mike Pence before they conclude their work.

But one person who is crystal clear about the threat Cheney poses to him is Trump himself, who told the Post he views the Wyoming Republican as a bigger rival than Rep. Adam Schiff of California, who led Democrats' first impeachment effort.

“From what people tell me, from what I hear from other congressmen, she’s like a crazed lunatic, she’s worse than anyone else,” he said. “From what I’ve heard, she’s worse than any Democrat.”

That's because Cheney has always known where the bodies were buried, and Trump knows it.

While much about the hearings is yet to be determined, here's what we do know:

  • Committee Chair Bennie Thompson of Mississippi and Cheney will co-lead the hearings, while a third lawmaker joins them depending on the topic.
  • They expect to field eight hearings covering material mined from more than 1,000 interviews and 125,000 records.
  • The panel is considering interviewing witnesses such as top Pence aide Marc Short as well as former Justice Department officials Jeffrey Rosen, who was acting attorney general during Trump's post-election pressure campaign, and Richard Donoghue, Rosen's top deputy.
  • The final hearing is expected to be in September, when the panel will enumerate its key findings and recommend action items aimed at preventing future coup attempts.

In focus groups, Jan. 6 accountability has emerged as an important and motivating issue for some voters. Democrats in particular likely want to see heads roll among GOP officeholders who stoked 2020 conspiracy theories, fomented violence, and worked to overturn the election.

Democratic voters in two other recent focus groups written about by Amy Walter of Cook Political Report expressed a desire for more "fighters" among Democratic lawmakers and candidates, more generally. Walter writes:

When asked to describe Democrats in Congress as an animal, almost all picked docile creatures, or as one man described them, animals that are "slow and arboreal." When asked what kind of animal they wished Democrats would be, they chose "great white shark," and "grizzly bear." Another said she wanted them to be like a hyena, an animal that is "fast, aggressive, assertive, and gets what they want done."

What Democratic voters are effectively describing there is a desire for what Cheney has brought to the Jan. 6 probe, at least in approach and disposition if not her actual politics.

And while the committee has no legal authority to hold Trump and GOP lawmakers criminally liable for the Capitol attack, it is certainly positioned to make a moral judgment about who was responsible for the deadly assault that day.

At the very least, Cheney seems hell-bent on delivering that to the American public.

Questions loom over photos of Mike Pence from Jan. 6

Somewhere out there, there is a photo of former Vice President Mike Pence taken by a White House photographer on Jan. 6. It reportedly depicts him in hiding in a “barren garage” during the attack of the U.S. Capitol.

But when a Jan. 6 defendant recently asked the government to produce that photo to help his defense, U.S. prosecutors said it was not in their possession.

This response has ignited some curiosity around the photos and sparks questions anew about why Pence refused to allow their publication and moreover, who, exactly, may hold the photos today. 

To start at the beginning, last August, the Jan. 6 committee filed its initial request to the National Archives and Records Administration for presidential records tied to the insurrection.

Among its inquiry, the committee specifically asked the Archives for “all photographs, videos, or other media, including any digital timestamps for such media, taken or recorded within the White House on Jan. 6, 2021, or taken of the crowd assembled for the rally on the morning of Jan. 6 and all communication or other documents related to that media.”

Moreover, the committee specifically requested “all photographs, video or other media including digital timestamps for such media” of Mike Pence and any individuals accompanying him on Jan. 6. 

Then in November, journalist Jonathan Karl released his book Betrayal, about the final days of the Trump administration. 

In its pages, Karl described having seen a photograph of Pence taken by an official White House photographer.

The image reportedly depicts Pence, second lady Karen Pence, their daughter Charlotte Pence Bond, and a few of Pence’s staff members taking refuge during the Capitol attack thanks to the quick help of Secret Service agents who whisked them away from danger.

“The photos show Pence in a barren garage. There were no windows and no furniture. This was a loading dock with concrete walls and a concrete floor,” Karl wrote.

When Karl appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, he reiterated what he observed, describing Pence in the photo as standing “in a loading dock in an underground parking garage beneath the Capitol complex. No place to sit, no desk, no chairs, nothing.”

“This is the vice president of the United States and he’s holed up in a basement,” Karl said.

The journalist’s request to publish the pictures was denied by Pence through a spokesperson.

Pence has never denied publicly that the photographs exist. 

Talk of the photos resurfaced on Jan. 4, 2022 when Couy Griffin, founder of Cowboys for Trump, asked a federal judge to compel the government to produce the Pence photos to assist his defense. 

Prosecutors charged Griffin—who also serves as a commissioner for Otero County, New Mexico—with two misdemeanors for breaching Capitol grounds.

Griffin maintains he never entered the Capitol building unlawfully but went to peacefully protest and was effectively swept up into a prohibited area.

He and his accompanying videographer Matt Struck saw an open door at the top of the stairs on the Capitol’s outer deck and went through it, according to a police affidavit.

Griffin then faced the crowd, grabbed a bullhorn, addressed those around him and began leading a group in prayer, the affidavit notes.

In a Facebook video for Cowboys for Trump that has since been removed, authorities say Griffin was heard saying in the clip that he climbed to the top of the Capitol for a “first row seat.”

He was there for over an hour. 

That same video also had Griffin expressing a desire to return to the Capitol for the inauguration of Joe Biden, saying: “You want to say that was a mob? You want to say that was violence? No sir. No ma’am. No we could have a Second Amendment rally on those same steps that we had that rally yesterday. You know, and if we do, then it’s gonna be a sad day, because there’s gonna be blood running out of that building. But at the end of the day, you mark my word, we will plant our flag on the desk of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and Donald J. Trump if it boils down to it.” 

Griffin’s videographer admitted to the FBI that the men may have committed “minor trespassing” on Jan. 6. 

Griffin has a bench trial before Judge Trevor McFadden in Washington, D.C., on March 21.

He insists that the government can only keep its case against him if it can prove that he “entered or remained” in the Capitol or on Capitol grounds while Pence was also present. 

“If such photographs exist, they constitute Brady material in this case. If the journalist’s description of the images is accurate, the former vice president left the Capitol Building, passed through the subterranean tunnel network, and entered the Senate underground garage,” Griffin argued in a motion on Jan. 4. “That garage is not part of the structure of the Capitol Building. It lies between the Capitol Building and the Russell Senate Office building underneath the Senate Foundation.” 

The government responded Tuesday, telling Griffin that Brady material is defined as material in the government’s possession that has some exculpatory or impeachment value.

“The photographs requested by the defendant from the official White House photographer are not in the government’s possession, therefore, they are not considered Brady and the defendant cannot move to compel their production… similarly the defendant’s request for these photographs under Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure 16(A)(1)(E) should be denied as Rule 16 only requires the government to disclose photographs within its possession,” assistant U.S. attorney Matthew Graves wrote. 

Graves rejected Griffin’s contention altogether, too, saying that even under Griffin’s proposed context, Capitol grounds are still prohibited from trespass whether Pence was physically there in the moment or not. 

Andrew Laufer, a civil rights attorney, spelled it out for Daily Kos in an email Tuesday: “The government is required to disclose all exculpatory evidence, things which will assist the defendant with his defense. If the judge determines that the photo of Pence meets the criteria, an order will be issued compelling the Department of Justice to produce it.”

So, this begs a series of questions. 

Do prosecutors have the photos and have opted not to share them with Griffin because they are purportedly irrelevant to his defense?  Would a court order change what prosecutors say?

Or do prosecutors genuinely not have the photos in their possession? If not, who has them? Does the National Archives have them? 

As noted, the Jan. 6 committee asked the Archives to remit such documents as a part of its probe into the Capitol attack, but the exact nature of what has been shared with the committee is not yet clear and a legal fight is still being waged between the committee and the Trump administration over the privilege of presidential records. 

The Archives did not respond to multiple requests for comment Tuesday.

When asked about the photos, a spokesperson for the Jan. 6 committee pointed to the committee’s initial request to the Archives from Aug. 25, only confirming that it made the request for pictures or media of Pence from Jan. 6. 

The White House and the Department of Justice did not respond to requests for comment and a spokesperson for Pence did not immediately respond, either.

It should be noted that Pence has reportedly been willing to cooperate with the Jan. 6 committee thus far and the panel’s chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, told reporters last week that the committee is still deciding on whether it should formally subpoena the former vice president. 

“I think at some point the committee will make a decision whether or not we already know enough about it or if we need to hear from the former vice president on it,” Thompson said last Monday. 

Several of Pence’s senior-most staff have already met with the committee at their request including Pence’s former national security adviser Keith Kellogg, his former chief of staff Marc Short, and onetime press secretary Alyssa Farah. 

That makes Pence’s decision to keep the photos out of view, when Jonathan Karl asked to publish them, all the more curious. 

The photographer was a government employee performing his official duties on Jan 6 — those photos are government property and should have been turned over to the National Archives under the Presidential Records Act. https://t.co/U93AVlUh8c

— Jonathan Karl (@jonkarl) January 18, 2022

Trump insurgents came within seconds of capturing ‘nuclear football’ on Jan. 6

During Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial, video footage of events on Jan. 6 revealed just how close Mike Pence came to falling into the hands of the people who were chanting for his execution. Fourteen minutes after the mob of Trump supporters first breached the Capitol, Secret Service agents led Pence from the Senate chamber and down a flight of stairs. He entered that stairwell just seconds ahead of the arrival of insurgents, some of whom were carrying rope or zip ties. Had those insurgents not been delayed through the actions of Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman, they could easily have been there to capture Pence and take him to the gallows waiting on the lawn outside.

But in addition to Pence, they might have captured something else that would have been especially problematic. For most of us, our electronic devices—phones, tablets, and laptops—are regularly trusted with our most confidential information. That’s one of the things that helps to make these devices our constant companions and among the most vital objects that we own. However, there is still information that’s considered too valuable, too sensitive, to be trusted to any electronic device, and one prime example was in the hands of a military aide who was with Mike Pence as he fled from the Senate. 

That aide was carrying a small satchel, and inside that satchel was a book listing the locations of classified military sites, a description of how to activate and use the Emergency Broadcast System, a “black book” of pre-planned military actions, and a small card that contains the codes necessary to authorize a nuclear strike. That aide was with Pence at the top of the stairs in the video that was shown during the Senate trial.

The Jan. 6 insurgents didn’t just almost get Mike Pence. They almost got the backup copy of the president’s Emergency Satchel. Better know as the “nuclear football.”

As Reuters reports, concern over how close the satchel came to being captured by the Trump horde is calling for a review of just how the vital information is carried and secured. Some form of the football goes back to President Dwight Eisenhower, but it was concerns from President John Kennedy that created the system that’s still followed today. Both the president and vice president are closely pursued by aides who have the current information necessary to respond if the nation were to fall under sudden attack. 

Following the events of Jan. 6, in which one of the footballs almost went into the hands of insurgents calling for the overthrow of the elected government, there’s a concern that this 60-year-old program may be due for some review. This wasn’t the only occasion in the last four years in which the vital information came under threat. An aide carrying the information on a trip to China got into what was described as a “tussle” with a Chinese official while Trump was having lunch with Communist Party leader Xi Jinping. That situation apparently required then chief of staff John Kelly to get into a “physical altercation” to secure the satchel.

Neither situation is particularly reassuring.

Exactly what the Trump mob might have done with the satchel had they taken it and opened it isn’t clear. There are procedures for changing the authorizations codes in the case a football is lost or stolen. However, the book of secure sites and the book of military actions—primarily military actions that the U.S. intends to take in case of an attack on the nation—are extremely sensitive and any data released from those sources could cause serious damage to national security. Had that information been captured, it would have been considered compromised even if the military wasn’t aware of any leaks of the contents. 

Just what changes are being considered to better secure the information are not clear. But just as a start, securing the Capitol against future assaults by ravening mobs of Trump supporters out for blood is a good first step.

Investigators tighten circle around Proud Boys for Jan. 6 violence with two more key arrests

Life comes at you fast sometimes. Just last summer, Zach Rehl led his Philadelphia-based contingent of Proud Boys in a counterprotest to support then-Vice President Mike Pence. This week, he was arrested for helping lead a mob inside the U.S. Capitol that was intent on lynching Pence.

Rehl was one of two Proud Boys arrested by the FBI this week and charged with the most serious federal crimes facing the insurrectionists at the Jan 6 Capitol siege: conspiracy to obstruct the certification of Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory, and to attack Capitol Police officers. Also arrested this week was a Proud Boys leader from North Carolina, Charles Donohoe.

A total of 13 Proud Boys, who played a central role in the ability of the pro-Trump mob to break down police barricades and enter the Capitol building that day, have now been charged in the insurrection. The indictment is similar to one unveiled by prosecutors against two other key Proud Boys figures—Ethan Nordean and Joe Biggs—who played key roles in leading the mob that day.

Last July, Rehl’s Philadelphia Proud Boys group gathered outside a Fraternal Order of Police lodge where Pence was speaking, and a small cluster of protesters had gathered. The men shouted at Black Lives Matter protesters and at a group of women.

Rehl, left, with Biggs on Jan. 6.

Rehl, a 35-year-old Port Richmond man, was among them, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, “drinking beer and chatting with others in the parking lot who were openly carrying a Proud Boys flag.” Among the men they were chatting with were Philadelphia police officers, underscoring the Proud Boys’ cozy relationship with police officers around the country—a relationship that helped feed their smug far-right extremism. Rehl is a veteran and the son of two Philadelphia police officers.

On Jan. 6, their view of Pence had clearly transformed, largely because the vice president had chosen not to try to contest the validation of the Electoral College votes as Donald Trump had urged him to do—which the crowd at Trump’s rally that morning viewed as a betrayal. The mob entering the Capitol was filmed chanting: “Hang Mike Pence!” Pence himself narrowly escaped encountering this mob, it was revealed during Trump’s subsequent impeachment trial.

Rehl, who later turned up in photos in The New Yorker showing Proud Boys trashing the Senate offices of Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, is expected to have his first hearing in federal court in Philadelphia Friday. His indictment makes clear that federal prosecutors are preparing a conspiracy case charging several Proud Boys with conspiracy, including Biggs and Nordean.

According to indictments released in those cases, investigators say that Biggs, 37, of Ormond Beach, Florida, and Nordean, 30, of Auburn, Washington, were equipped with radios and a bullhorn as they led a mob of about 100 men through the streets of Washington and up the Capitol Mall. Several Proud Boys were among the rioters who shattered windows that enabled others to enter the building and attack Capitol Police officers inside.

The Republican Party is destined to get exactly what it deserves: More Donald Trump

Take some time to survey the barren landscape of budding 2024 GOP hopefuls and it's hard to escape the conclusion that Republicans have little choice but to stick with Donald Trump for now.

Following the devastating Jan. 6 riot, GOP lawmakers had the perfect inflection point to part ways with Trump on the most basic of principles—the U.S. commander in chief shouldn't launch an attack on the nation's seat of government and then gleefully watch it unfold. The only Americans who could argue with that logic are dead-to-rights seditionists.

But instead of capitalizing on a golden opportunity, the nation’s three most-powerful elected Republicans melted into a telling puddle of uselessness. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy folded within weeks, rushing down to Mar-a-Lago to kiss Trump's ring. Vice President Mike Pence—the man Trump targeted for physical harm during the insurrection—refused to step forward and take a stand for himself or even his family members, who had joined him at the Capitol on Jan. 6 for certification of the election results. It's honestly impossible to think of anything more pathetic than that. 

But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is running a close second to Pence. After more than a decade of being celebrated by D.C. reporters as the Senate GOP's master puppeteer, McConnell followed his caucus rather than led it on impeachment. Despite putting on a show for corporate donors with a scathing indictment of Trump, McConnell voted to acquit because he didn't have the juice to convince his caucus that protecting a U.S. president who launched an attack on the homeland probably wasn't a great precedent. Senate Republicans have now left Americans to wonder, what on earth could possibly be an impeachable offense?

But yeah, three peas in a pod—Pence, McConnell, and McCarthy—demonstrating the complete moral bankruptcy of the Republican Party and sheer inability of anyone among GOP electeds to demonstrate something that might be mistaken for leadership.

Cue the Tuesday Politico/Morning Consult poll showing 53% of GOP voters would vote for Trump if a primary were held today. The closest second was Pence at just 12%—apparently that's what being a spineless loyalist gets you. That said, no one else even makes double digits at this point. The poll also found that 57% of Republican voters want Trump to play a major role in the GOP going forward. That represents a comeback of sorts for Trump since Jan. 7 when some 40% hoped Trump would play an active role.

What's both striking and problematic about recent polling among Republicans is that while Trump remains the most dominant figure in the GOP, he also divides conservative voters. For instance, while 57% of GOP voters wanted a major role for Trump, 17% favored a minor role for him, and 18% wanted no role for Trump at all. That's a deep split.

The latest Civiqs polling notes a similar phenomenon. Of the 43% of respondents who said they voted for Trump, about two-thirds (28%) said they think of themselves as "Trump supporters" while the other third considers themselves "Republican Party supporters." 

So while Trump is bound to continue his role as a dominant force in the Republican Party, he’s also bound to divide the party amongst itself. 

Who is Donald Trump’s most gutless toady?

The result of the latest Trump impeachment trial was a fait accompli when Mike Pence was pulled from his mother’s womb, saw his shadow, and scurried back home like a frightened baby wallaby for six more weeks of gestation.

The evidence now makes it abundantly clear that Donald Trump incited a riot, delighted in the mayhem, knew Mike Pence was in mortal danger, and not only did nothing to protect his unflinchingly loyal VP after hearing about his potential, you know, murder but actually sought to further incite the rioters by tweeting hateful lies directly at him. 

And what was Pence’s response to all this?

Crickets.

And not cool, genetically engineered murder crickets or anything—just plain old regular crickets.

Senate Republicans acquitted Donald Trump of high crimes and misdemeanors twice. So make them pay: Donate $1 right now to each of the Democratic nominee funds targeting vulnerable Senate Republicans in 2022.

The Washington Post:

[A]fter four years of obedience as vice president, Pence has no plans to condemn Trump or to speak out during the Senate impeachment trial, people close to the former vice president said. He is still operating from a playbook of obsequiousness that became second nature — he never aired his grievances publicly and delivered his often rose-colored counsel to Trump only in private, one-on-one settings.

I wonder if there’s a literal “playbook of obsequiousness,” and if so, does Mother let him read it after bedtime?

Oh, but Pence’s continued public deference to Trump doesn’t mean his feelings weren’t hurt by Trump’s decision to let him be hanged in public so Trump wouldn’t have to give up his extra White House ice cream scoop and unlimited free airplane rides. They were. You’d just never know it from talking to him.

But the rift that emerged between Trump and Pence — after Trump encouraged a frenzied mob that later chanted “Hang Mike Pence!” as it stormed through the Capitol, in search of the then vice president — is unlikely ever to fully heal, people close to Pence said.

One ally described the former vice president as frustrated with what Trump did and said it would forever change his relationship with Trump. This person added, however, that Pence does not share the animus or fury that some of his former aides have for the president.

Do Republicans feel some weird frisson of excitement when Trump brutally attacks or betrays them? Is this something we mere mortals simply can’t understand? Because if any of my bosses had ever treated me this disrespectfully, I’d have immediately FedEx’d them my company-issued gimp costume (without dry-cleaning it first!) and never spoken to them again.

But Republicans keep coming back for more.

Why?

And it’s not just Milquetoast Mike Pence. 

Trump gave out Lindsey Graham’s private cell phone number at a rally, and Graham eventually became his champion.

Trump implied Ted Cruz’s wife was ugly and that his dad had a hand in JFK’s assassination, and Ted became his gracious and loyal servant.

Kevin McCarthy was harassed and nearly killed by Trump’s mob, and Trump refused to lift a finger to protect him. Nevertheless, McCarthy still flew down to Florida three weeks later to kiss his ring.

And despite knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that Trump is the human equivalent of dumpster sushi, Mitch McConnell gladly wolfed down every rancid, mealy bite for years.

It’s inconceivable, but it is what it is. If these guys got into a gruesome clown car accident and you had to Frankenstein them together to confect one historically awful legislator, you’d be hard-pressed to locate a spine or recover a single languorous ball.

So who do you think is the worst? Answer the poll question and find out!

”This guy is a natural. Sometimes I laugh so hard I cry." — BETTE MIDLER on author ALDOUS J. PENNYFARTHING, via TwitterNeed a thorough Trump cleanse? Thanks to Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, Dear F*cking Lunatic, Dear Pr*sident A**clown and Dear F*cking Moron, you can purge the Trump years from your soul sans the existential dread. Only laughs from here on out. Click those links, yo!

Military officials got an ugly surprise from impeachment video of Pence being rushed to safety

Donald Trump made his supporters angry, called them to Washington, D.C., on the day Mike Pence was presiding as Congress certified Trump’s election loss, whipped them up into a vicious mob, and sent them to the U.S. Capitol, enraged at Congress and at Pence. We’ve known that.

This week, thanks to the House impeachment managers, we’ve learned just how close the mob came to Pence—and thanks to Sen. Mike Lee’s bumbling outrage, we’ve learned that Trump knowingly targeted Pence with another tweet immediately after he was moved for his safety. The mob responded to Trump’s effort to aim it at Pence, with his tweet saying “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution” being read through a bullhorn by one of the insurrectionists.

Pence wasn’t rushed to safety alone, though. He was with his family, his security detail … and a military officer carrying the vice president's backup nuclear football. CNN reports that, according to an unnamed defense official, U.S. Strategic Command learned how close the football came to the mob when the impeachment managers played that new video showing Pence’s group rushing down a flight of stairs to a more secure location within the Capitol.

To be clear, the vice president’s nuclear football is a backup, and Trump’s football was secure at the White House, and the officer carrying Pence’s football never lost control of it, and there are a ton of safeguards built in to prevent an accidental nuclear strike. In the actual-nuclear-strike department, having it close to but not in the hands of the mob was not necessarily more dangerous than having it in the hands of Donald Trump for four years.

That said, there were other dangers, the Arms Control Association’s Kingston Reif told CNN: “The risk associated with the insurrectionists getting their hands on Pence's football wasn't that they could have initiated an unauthorized launch. But had they stolen the football and acquired its contents, which include pre-planned nuclear strike options, they could have shared the contents with the world.”

Trump’s malice was such that when he aimed that mob at Pence in his effort to overturn the election results and remain in the White House against the will of the voters, he not only tried to threaten the man who had obsequiously flattered him and done his bidding for four years, he threatened Pence’s family, his Secret Service detail, and both the nuclear football and the officer carrying it. Trump’s only thought was to try to stay in office or, failing that, radically undermine U.S. democracy and delegitimize the new president. He did not care who he put in danger to that end. It’s a lot for Republican senators to ignore. By doing so, they show us who they are.

Thanks to Mike Lee’s odd objection, one thing is now clear: Donald Trump tried to murder Mike Pence

Over the course of their presentation, House impeachment managers showed how Donald Trump groomed his supporters to be outraged, repeatedly encouraged violence, and finally directed them to carry out their assault on the Capitol building in order to interrupt the counting of electoral college votes. The day was full of shocking moments and previously unseen images. The number of moments when enraged insurgents intent on murder came within feet of members of Congress should have been sobering—if not terrifying—to everyone watching in the Senate.

One other thing that came up during the day was a repeated theme of praise for the way that Mike Pence did his job on Jan. 6. That may seem like a strange approach for a Democratic team to take in dealing with the impeachment of a Republican president. But pointing out how Pence stood up to Trump in saying he would certify the results of the count serves two purposes: First, it allows the House managers to showcase that a Republican can, in fact, oppose Trump, providing Pence as a role model for any Republican senators who might think of stepping out of Trump’s fear-shadow.

But the other thing it does is point the finger straight at what might be the most chilling moment of Jan. 6—one that showcases Trump’s absolute malice and depravity. 

The complete story of that moment was split across two presentations on Wednesday. First, as Rep. Stacey Plaskett reviewed the events of that afternoon, there was the footage and diagrams showing just how close the insurrectionists came to capturing Pence. Second, a presentation from Rep. Joaquin Castro showed how Trump’s tweets about Pence came even as people were begging him to stop his supporters. When it’s all put together, it looks like this.

2:10 PM

As insurgents smash their way through the Capitol windows and doors, Donald Trump ignores the violence being seen on every network and tries to make a call to Sen. Tommy Tuberville. Instead, he dials Sen. Mike Lee. At the end of the day on Wednesday, Lee objected to this information and asked that a statement attributed to him be stricken from the record. However, these are the only statements made by Lee that were mentioned anywhere in the House presentation.

Thanks to Lee’s objection, Sen. Tuberville was questioned about the phone call on Wednesday afternoon and told reporters from Politico that he ended the phone call by saying this: “I said ‘Mr. President, they just took the vice president out, I’ve got to go.'” 

2:15 PM

Thanks to Tuberville’s statement, there’s a definitive time stamp on the call. Because Pence was quickly removed from the Senate chamber and taken to another location as the Secret Service and Capitol Police worked to secure an exit route.

2:24 PM

This means that the moment he hung up with Tuberville, Trump knew both that his supporters had entered the Capitol, and that Mike Pence was in danger. Trump’s next action may be his most incredibly depraved of the entire day. Because what he did next was to pull out his phone and enter a tweet that aimed his supporters straight at the fleeing Pence.

At the Capitol, Trump’s tweet was read in real time by the enraged mob, with one of Trump’s supporters even blasting out the tweet over a bullhorn just seconds after it appeared. In response, the crowd takes up a chant of “Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!”

2:26 PM

Two minutes after Trump’s tweet appears, officers take advantage of the distraction provided by Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman to direct Pence and his family down a flight of stairs and out of the building.

No one can say that Donald Trump didn’t take action during those hours following the invasion of the Capitol. Because, on learning that Mike Pence was in peril, Trump acted instantly and decisively … to aim the threat at Pence and his family. Trump went for what he saw as both a chance of revenge at Pence for his refusal to participate in an unconstitutional scheme to “send the votes back” to states, and Trump saw an opportunity to do what he had just tried to gain from Tuberville—a delay in counting the votes. After all, what better way to delay than to have Mike Pence hanging from a gallows on the Capitol lawn?

Thanks to Lee’s objection, Tuberville nailed down the timing of Trump’s call. And thanks to Tuberville, we now know the full sequence of events. And thanks to that sequence we know this: Donald Trump acted quickly and deliberately in an attempt to harm or kill Mike Pence.

CIVIQS poll shows most Republicans are now Trump supporters first, party supporters … not at all

In 2016, Donald Trump infamously said that he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue without losing the support of his fanatical followers. That still appears to be pretty much true as, after refusing to acknowledge the results of a free election, splitting his own party, presiding over the loss of the Senate, and instigating a deadly, violent assault on the Capitol in a bid to interfere with counting electoral votes, the latest CIVIQS results still show Trump holding onto 43% support. 

In fact, if anyone has suffered from Trump’s actions it’s every other Republican official. It doesn’t even seem to matter to what degree they supported Trump in his efforts to topple the elected government. Kevin McCarthy? Way down. Mitch McConnell? Down to a hilarious 11% favorable rating. But the biggest loser may be Mike Pence, who has seen his support among Republicans plummet, putting him at a 33% favorable rating.

All of this can be explained simply enough: Republicans no longer think of themselves as Republicans. By a two to one margin, those who voted for Trump say they consider themselves “a Trump supporter,” not “a Republican.”

The way that these voters attach to Trump rather than anyone else can be seen in another value in the poll. When asked if they believed the election was “stolen,” a jaw-dropping 40% of Americans still said yes, over a week after the assault on the Capitol. But when asked if Republicans who voted against certifying the vote were “protecting democracy,” only 37% agreed. Even when Republicans were doing exactly what Trump asked them to do, they still got lower marks than Trump himself.

There was an interesting split on views of the actual insurgency. Asked if the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol represented “a coup attempt,” 53% of Americans agreed—within a point of those in the poll who said they did not vote for Trump. However, when asked if the attack was “an act of terrorism,” the number rose to 60%. That number indicates that even some of those who voted for Trump were upset over the the sight of a mob prowling the halls of Congress. That number was apparently confirmed by the 62% who agreed that everyone who broke into the Capitol building should be arrested. And still, the guy who instigated the attack is polling far higher than other Republicans.

Finally, a plurality of voters want to see both Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley kicked out of the Senate. In Hawley’s case, that includes at least some voters who went for Trump.

Everything in the poll seems to indicate that Trump voters remain Trump voters, not Republican voters. If there remains a core of non-Trump Republicans, they are vanishingly small. As the GOP tries to separate itself from the angry guy leaving the room, it’s completely unclear how many of those Trump voters are ready to come back into their ranks without Big Orange at the lead. With a 11% favorable rating for McConnell, and a 20% rating for McCarthy … just who is the leader of the Republican Party going into 2021? 

One possible side effect of this deep schism in the Republican Party is that it may make it easier for McConnell and other Republicans to support Trump’s impeachment. To coin a phrase: What do you have to lose?

Republicans ditch Mitch, because Trump is their one true love

Once upon a time, the Republican establishment made a Faustian bargain with the ignorant, racist rabble that makes up the conservative base, and it’s now coming back to bite them. Of the 74 million people who voted for Donald Trump in 2020, a huge chunk of them—the dangerous, conspiracy theory-believing, radicalized populist right—don’t care for Republicans. Their allegiance is to one man: a cult of Trump. 

First and foremost, after everything that has happened—the nearly 400,000 dead from COVID, the Capitol insurrection, the refusal to accept democracy, the bullying and deplorable behavior—the Republican base still loves its Donald Trump. 

Trump’s job approvals are currently at their lowest levels ever in Civiqs polling history—40% approve, while 57% disapprove. Yet most of that drop is among independents. Republicans are, for the most part, holding firm: Trump’s job approval among Republicans was 91-7 on Election Day, and 88-8 today.

And despite that small erosion in job approvals, Trump’s favorability ratings among Republicans is barely budging, from 91% favorable and 7% unfavorable on Election Day, to 90-9 today. Sheesh. 

It’s safe to say that despite his unprecedented assault on American democracy, self-identified Republicans aren’t jumping ship. They are slightly less impressed with the job that he is doing, but that’s all cool! They still think he’s the best. 

Now compare that to Republican sentiment for the Republican Party:

Those same Republicans approved of the GOP by a 82-9 margin on Election Day. Today’s 64-21 margin is a net 30-point drop. Those are Republicans upset that the party, generically, isn’t “fighting” hard enough to upend the results of the election. 

Now look at Mitch McConnell: 

Holy crap! McConnell went from a 70-13 favorable rating among Republicans on Election Day, to just 25-49% favorables today! I’ll do the math for you—that’s an 81-point net drop

As you can see on the graph, the collapse came in two waves—the first after McConnell finally recognized Biden’s victory (after Vladmir Putin had done so and apparently given the go-ahead), and then after the failed insurrection at the Capitol, when McConnell refused to join Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas to contest the Arizona and Pennsylvania electors. 

Meanwhile, who was tops on the insurrectionists’ murder list? Vice President Mike Pence. Let’s look at this numbers: 

Pence’s 91-6% favorability rating on Election Day was in line with Trump’s 91-7. And Republicans mostly stuck with him while Pence humored Trump’s electoral delusions. But the attack on the Capitol was fueled, in large part, with anger at Pence’s refusal to join in a coup attempt while certifying the Electoral College vote. And the reaction was immediate, as you can see from the chart above, down a net 48 points to a 61-24 favorability rating today, 

To summarize:  

Net favorability

(republicans)

Election Day Today change Donald Trump Republican Party Mitch McConnell Mike Pence
+84 +81 -3
+73 +43 -30
+57 -24 -81
+85 +37 -48

Once again, Donald Trump is the favorite thing among Republicans. They barely budged off him. The Republican Party has suffered a steep drop, but not as steep as the second- and third-highest ranked Republicans. The party might still be seen as belonging to Trump himself, limiting the damage. 

McConnell has always been distrusted by Republicans, for reasons that are unfathomable to me. Look at all the Supreme Court seats he stole for the GOP! Perhaps it’s like El Chapo Trap House-style hatred for Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi—when you are on the fringe, you are never going to be happy with what any legislative chamber’s leader can accomplish in our current system. And while McConnell had earned some goodwill among Republicans for his defense of Trump during the first impeachment trial, his refusal to sign on to the election challenges eliminated all of that. 

But McConnell is easy to hate, and Republicans love to hate him. This isn’t the first time he’s been underwater with Republicans in the three years we’ve tracked him: 

Pence, on the other hand, is a reliably conservative Republican stalwart, loyal to a fault to Donald Trump. His Election Day favorables with Republicans actually exceeded Trump’s by a point. His drop in support is directly attributable to his refusal to join the coup attempt.

If Senate Republicans actually provide the votes for conviction, these numbers will be scrambled yet again. Who knows how Trump’s de-platforming will affect his ability to control his party. Will the nascent Lynn Cheney/Lincoln Project faction of the GOP gain traction? The situation is volatile. 

But as of now, the GOP is very much Trump’s Party.