Morning Digest: GOP tries to boost Oregon Democrat disdained by national party

The Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from the Daily Kos Elections team.

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

OR-05: A new super PAC called Health Equity Now has launched what appears to be an attempt by Republicans to meddle in Tuesday's Democratic primary in Oregon's competitive 5th District. The group is airing ads designed to boost 2022 nominee Jamie McLeod-Skinner, who is not her national party's preferred candidate.

The Associated Press, citing data from AdImpact, says that the PAC has reserved $350,000 for an ad campaign that began Wednesday. Its commercial declares that McLeod-Skinner is "putting progressive values into action" and says she backs Medicare for All. The spot does not mention state Rep. Janelle Bynum, who has the support of the DCCC, or the Republican they're both hoping to unseat, freshman Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer.

Health Equity Now does not need to disclose its donors until after the primary, but there's a very good reason to think that Republicans are behind the effort: According to Inside Elections' Jacob Rubashkin, the PAC is using a media buyer that only works for Republicans. In past races, new outfits looking to cause trouble in primaries have often given away their true partisan affiliation through their choice of media firms.

Bynum's camp responded to the development by telling the AP it "certainly looks like there are ties to Republicans." McLeod-Skinner didn't address whether the GOP might be helping her, however, but signaled her agreement with the ad's themes.

"While I’ve never heard of this group and don’t support undisclosed money in our elections," she said in a statement, "it’s absolutely true that I believe everyone should have high-quality, affordable physical and mental healthcare." McLeod-Skinner's own ads, however, have not focused on Medicare for All but rather on abortion and corruption.

While McLeod-Skinner lost to Chavez-DeRemer by a close 52-48 margin in what was a hairy year for Oregon Democrats, her intra-party detractors do not want to give her the chance to avenge that defeat.

Axios reported last year that unnamed party leaders believed that Bynum, who previously defeated Chavez-DeRemer in legislative races in both 2016 and 2018, would be "a more business-friendly candidate better positioned to win swing voters" than McLeod-Skinner.

McLeod-Skinner later was the subject of stories from the Oregon Capitol Chronicle and Willamette Week featuring allegations that she had mistreated her staff, both during previous bids for office and as the city manager for the small Oregon community of Phoenix.

Mainstream Democrats PAC, a group funded by LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, has aired ads based around these accusations, including a report that "McLeod-Skinner's driver texted, 'I'm scared she's gonna hit me.'" The candidate has denied the allegations.

Bynum has received outside help herself: Mainstream Democrats and 314 Action have spent a total of $1.2 million to propel her to victory on Tuesday, while Health Equity Now is the first third-party group that's taking action to boost McLeod-Skinner.

Bynum's campaign also enjoys a financial advantage. The state representative outspent McLeod-Skinner $383,000 to $196,000 during the month of April, and Bynum had a $340,000 to $191,000 cash advantage going into the final weeks of the race.

McLeod-Skinner, however, is hoping her own messaging, as well as her name recognition from her last bid, can overcome that deficit. She began airing commercials last week attacking Bynum's voting record in the legislature, including one highlighting that Bynum "was the only vote against giving rape survivors more time to seek justice against their rapists." Regarding that vote, Bynum argued at the time, "It's not popular to protect the accused but it is our job."

The 5th District, which is based in Portland's southern suburbs and central Oregon, favored Joe Biden 53-44 in 2020, but both parties are preparing for a difficult general election. Chavez-DeRemer, who has no primary opposition, had $1.9 million stockpiled as of May 1.


UT-Sen: Rep. John Curtis' allies at the super PAC Conservative Values for Utah have publicized an early May internal poll from Guidant that shows him leading Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs, who has Donald Trump's endorsement, by a wide 41-15 margin in the June 25 Republican primary.

Two self-funding candidates, former state House Speaker Brad Wilson and businessman Jason Walton, respectively clock in at 9% and 2%, while the remaining 33% are undecided. This is the first poll we've seen of the primary to replace retiring Sen. Mitt Romney since the April 27 GOP convention, which shrunk the number of contenders from 10 to four.


CA-16: The California Democratic Party endorsed Assemblyman Evan Low on Tuesday over former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo in the all-Democratic general election for this open seat. The party previously backed Rep. Anna Eshoo at its November convention only for her to announce her retirement days later, and it had not issued a new endorsement until now.

CO-03: The Colorado Republican Party has endorsed former state Rep. Ron Hanks, an underfunded election conspiracy theorist, in the six-way June 25 primary for the open 3rd District. The move came one day after the GOP backed former state Rep. Janak Joshi's longshot campaign in the swingy 8th District over the national party favorite, state Rep. Gabe Evans.

In a statement, the party trashed two of Hanks' intra-party rivals, attorney Jeff Hurd and state Board of Education member Stephen Varela. Among other things, it took issue with Hurd for launching a primary challenge to incumbent Lauren Boebert before she decided to run in the more conservative 4th District rather than defend the more competitive 3rd District in western Colorado. (The party is supporting Boebert in her new race.)

It also charged that Hurd had refused to commit to voting for Donald Trump and attacked him for gaining a place on the primary ballot by collecting signatures rather than competing at last month's party convention. It further alluded unhappily to the $200,000 that Americans for Prosperity, a tea party-era group that's now toxic in MAGA world, has spent to help Hurd so far.

Varela, by contrast, won the convention that Hurd skipped, but the party still has grievances to air against him. Its statement alluded to a February story in the Denver Post reporting that Varela was under federal investigation for allegedly misspending his union's money when he led a chapter of the American Federation of Government Employees. It also highlighted an earlier report from 9News noting that Varela had changed his party affiliations 18 times since 2011.

Varela responded by arguing that the party was unwittingly helping the same national Democrats who spent millions last cycle in an unsuccessful attempt to boost Hanks, whom they viewed as a weak potential nominee, in the GOP primary to take on Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet. (Wealthy businessman Joe O'Dea won the nod but lost badly to Bennet anyway.) Democrats, however, have made no similar effort to promote Hanks so far this year.

MI-08: EMILYs List has endorsed state Sen. Kristen McDonald Rivet in the Aug. 6 Democratic primary for this competitive open seat. McDonald Rivet's main intra-party rival appears to be businessman Matt Collier, who served as mayor of Flint three decades ago. State Board of Education President Pamela Pugh is also running, but she's struggled to raise money.

MI-13: Staffers for Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett officially recommended that she disqualify former state Sen. Adam Hollier from the August Democratic primary ballot on the grounds that he failed to turn in the requisite 1,000 valid signatures from voters.

In a report released Thursday, Garrett's team determined that Hollier submitted only 863 acceptable signatures, concluding that the remaining 690 were not usable.

The Detroit Free Press' Clara Hendrickson says that state law requires that this staff report must be made public at least two business days before Garrett makes a decision. Hendrickson adds that "those who disagree" with the clerk's determination may contest it with Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson or in court.

Hollier is seeking a rematch against freshman Rep. Shri Thanedar following his close 28-24 loss two years ago, when the safely blue 13th District was open. Thanedar sought to foreclose a second go-round, though, by announcing last month that he was challenging Hollier's signatures on the grounds that many were forged. Garrett's team agreed.

"It was more than obvious to staff that the same hand had completed and signed" several petition sheets, officials wrote in their report. Altogether, the review said that most of the 348 signatures collected by three circulators were suspicious. Other signatures couldn't be accepted for more prosaic reasons, such as the signer not being a registered voter in the 13th District.

Detroit Councilmember Mary Waters is also running against Thanedar, and she would likely benefit if Hollier is disqualified. Waters, though, had just $5,000 in her campaign coffers at the end of March, so she may not be able to put up an effective fight against the wealthy incumbent.

NY-16: AIPAC's United Democracy Project has begun what Jewish Insider reports is a $2 million week-long buy to beat Rep. Jamaal Bowman in the June 25 Democratic primary, with one of its opening ads attacking the incumbent for voting against the Biden administration's priorities.

This messaging may already be familiar to viewers, as Westchester County Executive George Latimer debuted his own ad last week that, like the UDP's, went after Bowman for voting against the 2021 infrastructure bill.

UDP, which is also airing a commercial praising Latimer as a reliable liberal, is the first super PAC to spend a serious amount of money. Bowman, however, was already facing a big advertising deficit: AdImpact said Thursday that Latimer has outspent Bowman $967,000 to $171,000 on ads.

SC-01: A super PAC called South Carolina Patriots has spent a total of $2 million as of Thursday attacking Rep. Nancy Mace ahead of the June 11 Republican primary, which is almost twice as much as the $1.1 million that the Post & Courier reported it had deployed through Sunday. The group has ties to allies of Kevin McCarthy, whom Mace voted to depose as speaker last year.

Altogether, AdImpact writes that $4.3 million has been spent or reserved for ads either attacking Mace or promoting her main intra-party rival, former state cabinet official Catherine Templeton, compared to $2.5 million in pro-Mace advertising. The Trump-backed incumbent's main ally is the Club for Growth, which, according to FEC records, has spent $1 million to help her.

Marine veteran Bill Young is also running, and while he's attracted little attention, his presence on the ballot could prevent either Mace or Templeton from winning the majority of the vote needed to avert a June 25 runoff.

VA-07: The Washington Post, which has a large readership in Northern Virginia, has endorsed former National Security Council adviser Eugene Vindman in the June 18 Democratic primary for an open seat based in Washington's southern exurbs. The 7th District, which Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger is giving up to focus on her 2025 bid for governor, favored Joe Biden 53-46.

Vindman, along with his identical twin brother, Alexander, was at the center of the scandal that led to Donald Trump's 2019 impeachment. Thanks to the siblings' high profile during that affair, Vindman has been one of the strongest House fundraisers in the nation. He ended March with a massive $1.8 million to $188,000 cash advantage over his nearest intra-party opponent, Prince William County Supervisor Andrea Bailey.

The field also includes Bailey's colleague on the County Board, Margaret Franklin; Del. Briana Sewell; former Del. Elizabeth Guzman, and two little-known contenders. Spanberger has not taken sides in the race to succeed her.

The Post also endorsed Green Beret veteran Derrick Anderson for the Republican nomination, though the paper's support was not a sought-after prize for GOP primary candidates even before Donald Trump made it one of his many "fake news" punching bags.

Indeed, one of Anderson's intra-party rivals, Navy SEAL veteran Cameron Hamilton, responded to the development by retweeting messages from the last two GOP nominees, Nick Freitas and Yesli Vega, saying that the Post's endorsement demonstrates that Anderson is the least conservative option. Anderson himself has ignored the development on his social media accounts.

The good news for Anderson is that he already had more valuable endorsements from Speaker Mike Johnson and the Congressional Leadership Fund. Anderson also ended March with a $581,000 to $176,000 cash on hand advantage over Hamilton, while none of the other four candidates had so much as $100,000 available.

VA-10: The Washington Post has also endorsed Del. Dan Helmer in the Democratic primary to succeed Rep. Jennifer Wexton, a Democrat who is not seeking reelection because of the worsening symptoms of a neurodegenerative disease.

Earlier this week, Wexton backed a different state legislator, state Sen. Suhas Subramanyam, in the 12-way race for the nomination. The 10th District, which is located just north of the 7th, backed Joe Biden 58-40 in the last presidential election.

Helmer ended March with a decisive financial lead over the rest of the field, though his advantage isn't as yawning as Alexander Vindman's in the 7th. Helmer finished the first quarter with an $815,000 to $608,000 lead in cash on hand over Krystle Kaul, a defense contractor who has been self-funding much of her effort.

Subramanyam was just behind with $575,000 banked, compared to $435,000 for former state House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn. Former state education secretary Atif Qarni had $208,000 on hand, while state Sen. Jennifer Boysko and Del. David Reid respectively had $172,000 and $109,000.


GA Supreme Court: A federal court has rejected a lawsuit by former Democratic Rep. John Barrow seeking to block a state panel from policing his statements on abortion as he seeks a seat on the Georgia Supreme Court, ruling that Barrow had failed to show he'd been injured by the board's actions.

The harms Barrow alleged stemmed from a letter that the state's Judicial Qualifications Commission had sent the candidate, warning him that his comments and advertisements expressing support for abortion rights violated the state's Code of Judicial Conduct.

But U.S. District Judge Michael Brown pointed out in his decision that the letter in question was confidential and only became public because Barrow shared it. He also questioned Barrow's claims that his speech might be chilled, noting that Barrow has continued to speak out on abortion.

An attorney for Barrow said the campaign might appeal or file a new suit in state court. Barrow is seeking to unseat conservative Justice Andrew Pinson in an officially nonpartisan election on Tuesday.

Ballot Measures

MO Ballot: A Republican plan to entice voters into curtailing their rights is all but dead after Democrats in the Missouri Senate staged a record-breaking filibuster that forced the GOP to back down on Wednesday. With the legislative session coming to an end on Friday evening, Republicans now have little time to act, buoying Democratic hopes of preserving direct democracy and passing an abortion rights amendment this fall.

Republicans had been hoping to thwart that effort, which would undo the state's near-total ban on abortion, by placing their own measure on the Aug. 6 primary ballot that would make it harder to pass future amendments.

Mindful of the humiliating failure their counterparts in Ohio experienced last year, however, Missouri Republicans sought to add so-called "ballot candy" to their proposal: empty provisions that might entice conservatives to back it despite its deleterious impact on voters' power.

It was these enticements that Democrats objected to vociferously, prompting a 50-hour filibuster that began on Monday. These blandishments included provisions that would ban non-citizens from voting and prohibit foreign donations—things that are already illegal.

Democrats had strong reason to resist, since this tactic had proven successful in the past: In 2020, voters repealed a redistricting reform measure they'd passed in a landslide two years earlier by narrowly adopting a Republican amendment that included some fig-leaf ethics reforms.

Democrats say they are prepared for a fair fight over a candy-free version of the GOP's proposal, which would require amendments to win a majority of the vote both statewide and in five of the state's eight congressional districts.

"I think it will definitely be defeated and defeated resoundingly," Democratic state Sen. Lauren Arthur told Daily Kos Elections on "The Downballot" podcast.

That is, if the measure makes the ballot at all. Republicans brought the Democrats' filibuster to an end on Wednesday by voting to send their amendment to a conference committee with the state House, which previously passed it, complete with candy.

The House, however, voted to reject any such conference that might yield an unencumbered version of the amendment on Thursday afternoon. That means Senate Democrats are certain to resume their filibuster to ensure that the sugar-coated variant doesn't pass, a talk-a-thon they'd need to sustain until 6 PM local time on Friday.

Republicans could still try to break a filibuster by deploying a little-used parliamentary maneuver known as "calling the previous question"—a step that members of the far-right Freedom Caucus have implored their party to take. But more mainstream Republicans have resisted, due both to a bitter split within the GOP and because past attempts have often resulted in even greater dysfunction.

If Democrats stand strong, then, and Republicans remain divided, the GOP would come away empty-handed, and the measure to restore abortion rights would only need a simple majority to become law in November.

Ad Roundup

Campaign Action

Republican chaos is purposefully designed to dampen voter engagement

The Washington Post ran an illuminating story on Sunday titled, “In a swing Wisconsin county, everyone is tired of politics.”

A more honest headline would’ve been, “In a swing Wisconsin county, everyone is tired of Republican politics.”

With conservative nihilists either actively destroying our institutions, like the Freedom Caucus and the U.S. House of Representatives, or promising to do so, like Donald Trump, it should come as no surprise that people are growing increasingly tired of this.

Still, traditional media outlets remain wary of ascribing proper blame, doing a disservice to people who take that “both sides do it” coverage to heart. The Washington Post article featuring people in Wisconsin’s Door County, which is between Milwaukee and Green Bay, exemplifies that. It is one of just nine counties in the country that have voted for the winning presidential candidate since 2000. Let’s take a look.

The pandemic and inflation have already rattled folks, and the broader political backdrop — the impeachments, Trump’s torrent of falsehoods about the 2020 election, the Capitol insurrection, the band of hard-right Republicans ousting their speaker — has blocked out notice of what both sides cast as accomplishments, such as the billions of dollars poured into updating the nation’s roads, bridges and ports. Even as the economy grows at the strongest pace in two years, and jobs continue to proliferate, signs of progress are easy to miss amid what voters see as screaming matches.

So what are these screaming matches voters tell the Post are distressing them? Impeachments, Trump’s 2020 lies, the insurrection, and former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s ouster. What do all these items have in common?

The answer is obvious: They are all things conservatives do. Even the pandemic was exacerbated by anti-science Republicans. Yes, voters refuse to see positive news on the economy because of those Republican screaming matches, but that’s on purpose. Republicans have every interest in making sure Democrats don’t get credit for being responsible stewards of our economy.

Here is the next paragraph:

They long for compromise. They want to feel heard and understood. Most Americans, for instance, desire access to abortion, tighter restrictions on guns and affordable health care. Many wonder why our laws don’t reflect that.

Access to abortion, tighter gun restrictions, and affordable health care? Which party is fighting for that, and which one opposes all those things?

Again, the article shouldn’t be about how people are disenchanted with politics, but with how Republicans are poisoning the electorate that otherwise supports the core Democratic agenda.

Nichols, a 58-year-old caregiving service manager in the city of Sturgeon Bay, sees Biden as “not super impressive” at a time when she aches to be reassured. She wants a leader who can bring the sparring factions together — a feat no one seems to be close to accomplishing. (Her favorite thing about Biden, though: “He’s not always in the news.”) Trump, on the other hand, was guilty of “mean girl behavior,” she thought, picking fights with even his own party while racking up criminal charges.

The government in general reminded her of the reality series “Big Brother” — “with all the lies and deals behind the scenes.”

“You don’t know where to turn or who to believe,” she said.

So … she longs for a leader who can bring everyone together, but she is upset by “all the … deals behind the scenes.” Politics isn’t about facts and figures, it’s about vibes. That entire sentence is nonsensical, yet this voter absolutely believes it. It doesn’t mean she’s stupid or unsophisticated; we need to stop thinking of voters that way. (I used to do so, and I’m increasingly realizing that it is not helpful in achieving our goals.) It means Republicans have done a great job of muddling the political landscape so that it repels people who are natural Democratic supporters.

Talking about Washington, [League of Women Voters advocates] decided, isn’t the best way to nudge Door County voters to the polls. But when the group focused on hot-button issues, Kohout noticed, residents seemed eager to listen. Chairs filled up at their event focused on mental health and opioid addiction.

Investment in mental health and opioid addiction? Again, those are government investments Democrats are happy to make, and Republicans are eager to block.

Henderson had liked Trump’s outspokenness at first — she would have voted for him in 2020 but was recovering from surgery on Election Day. Now she resents his “cockiness” and wishes he and other politicians would channel more energy into addressing the soaring cost of food. Two months ago, she’d had to lift the price of every menu item by 50 cents, and now her barbecue chicken Mother Clucker sandwich cost $10.75. Customers, she knew, wouldn’t pay much more than that.

Inflation is a serious issue, and arguing that the United States has the lowest inflation rate of any industrialized nation doesn’t do much to assuage those concerns. But we also know that a big part of inflation is corporate America taking advantage of it to artificially raise prices, leading to record Wall Street profits. One party would do something about that, the other wants to give corporations unfettered ability to price-gouge Americans.

The article then meanders around some Libertarians in the area, because sure, why not talk to a Libertarian about (checks notes) abortion rights, tighter gun restrictions, affordable health care, corporate price gouging, and mental health and opioid programs?

The LGBTQ+ community here is small, [Owen Alabado] said. As a gay man with Filipino roots in the overwhelmingly White town of Baileys Harbor, he stood out. It felt personal when Door County’s board of supervisors voted in September to restrict what flags can be raised on county poles, effectively banning the Pride rainbow. Then lawmakers in Washington elected a House speaker who had previously suggested criminalizing gay sex.

Alabado was sick of the division, he said. Neither party, he thought, seemed capable of fixing it. He wished he could be excited to vote for Biden, rather than feel obligated to do so to defend “basic human rights.”

“I can’t really speak to anything he has done,” he said, “because I’ve tuned it out, like a lot of people have. We’re so tired of the us-against-them politics.”

One party is banning the LGBTQ+ flag and trying to criminalize gay sex, but sure, both parties are part of the problem. And “I don’t know what Biden has done because I refuse to pay attention” is a weird flex. But again, vibes. People are fed up with the toxicity of our politics and they want to tune out. Who does this benefit? Republicans. Conservatives are doing this on purpose.

The single most successful Biden moment over the past three years hasn’t been any of his actual and very real policy accomplishments. It was the Dark Brandon meme.

We can lament the lack of sophistication among key voters, chastising them for not doing politics right, or we can understand that nihilist conservatives are destroying our institutions precisely to drive down voter participation and engagement.

If it takes Dark Brandon to combat that, sign me up. And over the next year, we’re going to have to find ways to talk to people in a way that calms and reassures them while also driving home the existential threat to our democracy that Trump represents.

Does that seem like an impossibly contradictory task? It is. But that’s what the country wants, and it will be our job as liberals and Democrats to find the solution.

Republicans are challenging labor leaders to fights and allegedly physically assaulting one another. Donald Trump says he will abolish reproductive rights entirely and is openly calling for the extermination of his detractors, referring to them as “vermin” on Veterans Day. The Republican Party has emerged from its corruption cocoon as a full-blown fascist movement.

Republicans suck so bad, some mainstream media outlets are even getting McCarthy’s ouster right

In a refreshing turn of events, House Republicans are putting on such a dazzling display of self-immolation that many mainstream media outlets have been forced to accurately portray the level of pandemonium these so-called lawmakers have unleashed on the institution they supposedly govern and the country they purportedly serve.

A Wednesday morning Politico piece opened with, “There’s no House speaker, Republicans are tearing each other to shreds over Kevin McCarthy’s ouster and another shutdown deadline is less than six weeks away — with no leader in a strong enough position to guide the party through.”

While the reports, analyses, and opinion pieces almost always note that a small band of Republicans "voted with Democrats" to oust Rep. Kevin McCarthy from his post, they still deride Republicans and McCarthy as the root of the problem. After all, it's on the majority party to elect a speaker of the House, not the minority party.  

As The Washington Post’s Paul Kane quipped about McCarthy, “There’s a price to pay for helping set fire to an institution and then asking the fire department to come save your office.”

In a piece satisfyingly titled, "Republicans cut off their own heads," The Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote that the eight rogue Republicans led by Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida toppled McCarthy "without a plan, a replacement, or even a policy goal in mind."

[T]he House is essentially frozen. The putative GOP majority is weaker, and its ability to gain any policy victories has been undermined. Oversight of the Biden Administration will slow or stop. Republicans in swing districts who are vulnerable in 2024 will be especially wary of trusting the Gaetz faction, and regaining any unity of purpose will be that much harder.

A Politico Magazine piece by editor John Harris declared, "The House GOP is a failed State."

McCarthy’s ouster is dramatic evidence, if redundant, about the state of the modern GOP. A party that used to have an instinctual orientation toward authority and order — Democrats fall in love, went the old chestnut, while Republicans fall in line — is now animated by something akin to nihilism. The politics of contempt so skillfully exploited by Donald Trump is turned inward on hapless would-be leaders like McCarthy with no less ferocity than it is turned outward on liberals and the media.

In a Washington Post analysis titled, "McCarthy ouster exposes the Republican Party's destructive tendencies," Dan Balz wrote that Republicans had "brought the legislative body to a halt" and "now risk being returned to minority status by voters in next year’s election."

And NBC News' First Read cut to the chase in a report titled, "Republicans struggle to govern—and McCarthy paid the price."

It all underscores a fundamental point about today’s political dysfunction in Washington: Republicans have had a difficult — if not impossible — time governing, especially when they control at least one legislative chamber but not the White House. And that difficulty has only gotten worse.

Arguably, Republicans have had a tough time governing recently, even when they had unified control of government. For instance, starting in late 2018, then-President Donald Trump presided over the longest government shutdown in history.

But quibbles aside, by and large, these mainstream pieces got it right: Republicans are a menace to good governance and should never be in charge.

Sign the petition: No to shutdowns, no to Biden impeachment, no to Republicans

This immigrant police officer has proven to be more of an American than any of the Jan. 6 terrorists

It’s hard to overstate the body blow delivered to the entire right-wing project in the form of the four battle-scarred police officers who testified about their brutal experiences combating the mob of insurrectionists who Donald Trump unleashed against this country’s institutions on Jan. 6, 2021. Much as the nation’s armed forces, who the conservative multiverse leaps to lionize on every possible occasion, the country’s police represent its natural allies, their useful, quasi-military attack dogs against those Black people and brown-skinned immigrants who are the source (and ultimately the target of) nearly all their grievances. It’s a key component of their “us vs. them” philosophy, in which they reassure themselves who is a “real” American and who is not. 

So it’s understandable that the spectacle of these police officers not only impugning the Jan. 6 mob’s actions as criminal but as fundamentally un-American, literally describing them as “terrorists,” evoked such a visceral negative reaction among the right. That interpretation, one which not only right-wing media, but nearly the entire Republican Party has struggled mightily since Jan. 6 to preempt, strikes at the very heart of the conservative mindset. And it’s even more intolerable—galling, even—when that inescapable conclusion presents itself in via an immigrant police officer and Iraq war veteran.

When he got off the plane at New York City’s JFK airport in 1992, setting foot in the country that would eventually become his home—the same country that he would sign up to defend and would send him to Iraq for 545 days—Aquilino Gonell had no idea he’d one day be assigned to protect the U.S. Capitol. Or that 30 years after he came to the U.S., he’d be testifying in front of a congressional panel and television cameras about injuries and attacks he’d sustained in an unprovoked, vicious attack on the foundation of his adopted country’s democracy.

Gonell didn’t know that he’d be called upon to explain, in vivid detail, the barrage of physical blows, hurled objects, racist taunts, and screaming insults disparaging his loyalty to this country that he’d receive at the hands of an all-American mob, bent on killing members of Congress. A mob that a cynical, criminal thug of a president incited into attacking the Capitol for the sole purpose overturning a fair and lawful election in his favor.

The sergeant, now 43, could not possibly have foreseen that after immigrating from the Dominican Republic, he’d ultimately prove himself to be a far better, far more genuine American than millions of others who proudly boast of their citizenship and supposed loyalty to this country, somehow deemed more sincere simply by virtue of their being born here.

James Hohmann, writing for The Washington Post, patiently explains the difference between Aquilino Gonell and the thousands of so-called Americans who found time to take the day off from their busy schedules on Jan. 6 to put on their little baseball caps, pack up their metal pipes, rebar, tasers, mace, and bear spray, and and point their shiny $40,000 pickup trucks into the heart of this nation’s capitol for the purpose of inflicting violence and terror on the American people and its representatives.

Barbarians who ransacked the Capitol on Jan. 6 called Aquilino Gonell a “traitor” and told him he’s “not even an American.” Those slanderous words wounded the Capitol Police sergeant, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, as badly as the pole someone attacked him and fellow officers with, which was flying a U.S. flag. But Gonell is a bigger patriot than Donald Trump and all the insurrectionists incited by the then-president — combined. He is the one who truly understands — and embodies — what makes America great.

Of the four wounded officers who testified before the congressional select committee to open up its investigation into the attacks of Jan. 6, it’s impossible to say whose testimony was the most affecting. All of them, speaking in unsparing, sometimes truncated and often bitter language, vividly described what transpired that day as the rabid crowd of thousands descended on them, furious that they’d encountered resistance to their well-laid pans for carnage. As Officer Daniel Hodges explained, the officers were constrained by the fact that none of them could know whether the attackers were armed with live weapons (doubtlessly many were), or had set up pipe or other bombs primed to detonate (someone had), and for that reason they could not use their own weapons, since a firefight would inevitably lead to a mass slaughter.  More importantly, as they were vastly outnumbered by the mob, if a firefight broke out the police were likely to lose, leaving the Capitol and everyone in it open to attack.

"There were over 9,000 of the terrorists out there with an unknown number of firearms and a couple hundred of us, maybe. So we could not -- if that turned into a firefight, we would have lost," Hodges told the committee. "And this was a fight we couldn't afford to lose."

As Hohmann reports, Gonell, like his fellow officers, described the onslaught and what he experienced.

He described experiencing hand-to-hand combat like “something from a medieval battle,” scarier than any of the 545 days he served in Iraq. The invaders, chanting “Trump sent us,” used hammers, knives, batons and shields. Gonell was punched, pushed, kicked, shoved and bear-sprayed.

Each officer’s testimony provided unique insight into the barbaric nature of the Trump-inspired mob, the blatant racism, unconstrained hate, and the sickening, plainly gleeful and eager exercise of violence displayed to the nation on Jan. 6. Officer Harry Dunn’s testimony in particular explicitly revealed the explicit, virulent racism of that mob, collectively taunting him with a vile racist slur to punctuate and amplify attacks on his person. No officer’s testimony was anything less than wrenching, riveting and disturbing. All of them performed heroically under unbelievable odds, and the trauma each of them has endured was obvious.

But the irony of Gonell, a naturalized American citizen, defending this nation’s Capitol against a braying crowd of self-styled “true Americans” who told Gonell he was “not even an American,” many inspired by xenophobia and Trump’s race-baiting vitriol towards immigrants, is inescapable.

Gonell only stopped working when his right foot swelled so much that it wouldn’t fit in his shoe and his limp became so painful he could hardly stand. Surgeons fused fractured bones in his foot. He recently learned he’ll need surgery on his left shoulder. He also suffered injuries to both hands and his left calf. Now, he’s back on duty, but to his chagrin, deskbound until he can complete more physical therapy.

Hohmann makes the point that immigrants often turn out to be better Americans than many who were privileged enough to be born here, simply because they better understand the value—and fragility—of what democracy really is. That may be why events like the attempted insurrection on  Jan. 6 resonate with Sgt. Gonell. It may also be, as Hohmann points out, why some of the key witnesses against Trump during his first impeachment trial were also immigrants (two of whom, Alexander Vindman and Marie Yovanovitch, emigrated from autocratic regimes in Ukraine and the USSR).

Unlike the thugs who attacked the seat of our democracy on Jan. 6—whether they did it out of sheer malice, race-fueled hate, or blind ignorance—Sgt. Aquilino Gonell acted to protect, rather than destroy, the foundation of that democracy. As Hohmann observes, unlike the thugs who attacked the Capitol, Gonell actually took an oath to defend and protect this country: not once, not twice, but three times. And unlike many insurrectionists who were formerly in the military and law enforcement, who have dishonored and defiled their oaths to defend and protect the nation, its citizens, and its Constitution by abetting or participating in the Jan. 6 attack, Gonell has faithfully kept his oath, putting his own body on the line not only in Iraq, but on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.

So which of these folks represents the true American ideal?  Which represents the “real” Americans, as the Jan. 6 insurrectionists are so fond of calling themselves?

It’s really not that hard of a question to answer.

One question the Jan. 6 committee should ask every police officer injured during the insurrection

The response of the Washington, D.C. Capitol Police to the events of Jan. 6 has been closely examined and debated from practically the first moments of the insurrection itself. There have been credible accusations that the police deliberately responded sluggishly or with intentional forbearance given that the thousands of Trump supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol were almost entirely white. There is also strong evidence that some of the Capitol officers willingly abetted the insurrectionists by allowing access to the Capitol building at critical times during the event. There has been credible evidence indicating that some in the Capitol police hierarchy were aware of the insurrectionists’ plans to attack Congress beforehand and still did nothing to prepare against the attacks.

All of these assertions deserve to be fully investigated. But one thing remains absolutely undeniable: the Capitol and D.C. police were the only thing standing between the insurrectionists and the elected representatives and senators trapped in the Capitol building on Jan. 6. Had it not been for the presence and efforts of most of these officers, many of the Trump-supporting thugs who violently smashed their way through glass doors for the sole purpose of finding these officials would have inflicted violence on those same officials. Absent the police, some of these representatives and senators would almost certainly have been killed or otherwise assaulted by the members of this uncontrolled mob.

One other thing is clear: about 140 Capitol and D.C. police officers suffered injury in their efforts to repulse the attack on Jan. 6. Some of them were so gravely injured, both mentally and physically, that they may never return to work as police officers. Others find themselves now disabled from injuries inflicted during the melee on that day or stricken with PTSD more reminiscent of the wartime experience of Vietnam or Iraq veterans who have seen close combat. 

Many of those injured as a result of the events at the Capitol will doubtlessly be called as witnesses by the select committee now formed to investigate the cause of the insurrection.They will be asked about the extent of their injuries, and how they received those injuries. So here is one simple question that members of that committee should ask each and every one of these officers, preferably at the close of their testimony:

Did President Donald Trump ever contact you to apologize, or express his sympathy, gratitude or appreciation for your sacrifice?

I’m quite certain the answer of each of these officers will be “no.”

This weekend the Washington Post ‘s Peter Hermann highlighted the extent of injuries sustained by several officers defending against the attacks. As Hermann reports, these officers were “bludgeoned with poles and bats, pushed and trampled, and sprayed with chemical irritants.” Others were struck, often in the head, by thrown objects. One who was knocked unconscious could “barely walk, barely talk” in the days following the attacks, and is still out of work, having suffered a severe concussion. Several officers now suffer from ongoing neurological problems after being assaulted with such objects:

Some officers who were assaulted Jan. 6 experienced different or worsening symptoms in the weeks and months that followed, indicating they may have suffered injuries more severe than had initially been believed, in particular undiagnosed head trauma, according to a therapist who has seen hundreds of D.C. officers. She thinks others who emerged exhausted and sore may not have reported injuries, or even recognized they needed medical care.

One officer, Brian Sicknick, succumbed to two successive strokes one day after being assaulted and pepper-sprayed by the Trump mob. Two officers have committed suicide as a result of mental and physical trauma sustained during the attacks. One turned in her weapon, fearing that she would use it on herself. According to their union, several officers present that day are unlikely to ever return to work due to physical injuries they sustained.

Other scars are less visible but no less real. One Black police officer, repeatedly vilified as a “n-----” by Trump’s supporters, screaming it in his face as they assaulted him, has undergone marked changes in his personality. Others have sustained emotional trauma that has impaired their ability to function and impacted their relationships with their spouses and families.

Officer Michael Fanone is already familiar to many. Beaten unconscious by the Trump-incited mob, he has spearheaded a personal effort to obtain recognition for the sacrifices of his fellow officers. Fanone’s post-hospitalization course is emblematic of other officers injured that day: debilitating headaches, nausea, and dizziness symptoms common to post-concussion survivors, along with cognitive impairment, nervousness, and anxiety more akin to sufferers of PTSD. For his efforts in defending the Capitol, Fanone was rewarded by Georgia Republican Rep. Andrew Clyde, who refused to shake his hand. when the two met in an elevator (Clyde had previously referred to the Capitol attacks as a “tourist visit”).

Another officer, Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, a veteran of the Iraq war, was interviewed by Hermann for the Post article:

Gonell fought on the Capitol’s West Terrace. He said he and his colleagues were called unpatriotic, scum, traitors and un-American. He didn’t know he had been struck with a speaker until he saw himself on a video.

After the riot, Gonell powered through his injuries and insisted on working through the Jan. 20 inauguration, hiding his limp and shoulder pain and ignoring a doctor’s advice to take it easy. He stopped only after Biden was sworn in, when his foot had become dangerously swollen and he could no longer stand.

All of these injured officers have something in common: they were all injured as a direct result of a mob incited by Donald Trump to attack the Capitol. While these policemen and women were subjected to the full fury of the mob, Donald Trump (who had falsely reassured the rioters that he would be present alongside them during the assault) simply sat watching them being beaten, enthralled, in front of his television set for literally hours. Far from doing anything to stop the mayhem that he had incited, he encouraged it by refusing to do anything at all, even coyly tweeting at one point that the attackers were “very special.”

In his open letter to all members of Congress, Officer Fanone wrote that the “indifference shown to my colleagues and I is disgraceful.” 

"As the physical injuries gradually subsided, in crept the psychological trauma. In many ways I still live my life as if it is January 07, 2021. I struggle daily with the emotional anxiety of having survived such a traumatic event but I also struggle with the anxiety of hearing those who continue to downplay the events of that day and those who would ignore them altogether with their lack of acknowledgement. The indifference shown to my colleagues and I is disgraceful."

At the time Fanone was referring to the fact that Republican members of the House and Senate refused to acknowledge the viciousness and extent of the assault or even the reason it occurred. Since that time, Republicans have even attempted to ascribe some sort of heroism or justification on the part of these insurrectionists. Trump himself has called them “great people,” and a “loving crowd.”

So, after each officer testifying before the committee sets forth—in painstaking detail—the extent and cause of his/her injuries sustained at the hands of the Trump mob, the committee members will have an opportunity to simply remind Americans that all of those officers’ injuries stemmed entirely from one man’s malice, depravity and complete indifference to their fate. An indifference that he has never once even tried to hide or disguise by the slightest expression of sympathy or appreciation for their sacrifice.

Did President Donald Trump ever contact you to apologize, or express his sympathy, gratitude or appreciation for your sacrifice?

That, at the very least, should leave an impression.

Trump’s army of misogynists had special plans for any women they found

I’m ashamed to admit that this didn’t register the first time I saw video of Donald Trump’s supporters marching through the Capitol, methodically hunting door-to-door for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, smashing down doors and chanting her name.

Thanks to Monica Hesse, writing for The Washington Post, I get it now.

As rioters made their way through the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, some went looking for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. New footage of this was released at Wednesday’s session of the impeachment trial. The mob roamed hallways, searching for her office, and as they did, they called for her. “Oh Nancy,” one man cried out, three syllables ricocheting off the walls. “Oh Naaaaaaancy.

Sure, they wanted to hang then-Vice President Mike Pence. And they would have, in a heartbeat. But they had something special planned for the women they encountered, Nancy Pelosi most of all—and they wanted her to know it.

The video below, played during the House managers’ case, is just one example.

It wasn’t some high-minded notion about the election that motivated a lot of these folks. Yes, they all were avid Trump supporters, but, for many of them, Trump was just an authority figure who finally validated their anger and hostility. He was someone who had confirmed and stoked their deep-seated hatred and made them feel good about themselves. He was a soothing presence telling them that it was okay to be a racist and okay to be a misogynist. When he told them it was okay to march on the Capitol, they felt a sense of freedom. They could be exactly the people they always wanted to be, unbound by any constraints.

And that’s exactly how they behaved, Hesse explains.

Oh Naaaaaaancy is said in a singsongy voice. It is the same voice that a child would use to say, Come out, come out, wherever you arrrrre in a backyard game of hide-and-seek tag. It is playful. It is sinister. It says, I am planning to take my time, and it will not be pleasant, and it will not end well for you. The men looking for Pelosi in the Capitol were strolling, not running.

Hesse cites a revealing investigation by Alanna Vagianos, conducted for Huffington Post in the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection. Vagianos looked into the history of several of the prominent faces arrested in connection with the riots, and found that a startling number had something singular in common: “a history of violence against women―ranging from domestic abuse accusations to prison time for sexual battery and criminal confinement.”

By acting out their innermost misogynistic fantasies, these men, caught on camera roaming the halls in search of Speaker Pelosi, revealed their intentions as clear as day: They intended murder, but they also intended sexual assault. “Nancy” was the name that popped into their head, but it could have been any woman that they met in those hallways. The goal was to terrorize, and if the opportunity arose, well, who could say?

For those who may still not quite understand, Hesse patiently explains what these people were really about:

Oh Naaaaaaancy is also self-aware. It knows it sounds like a horror movie. It is the sort of affectation a bad man might pick up after too many viewings of The Shining. It is what a man stalking a woman thinks a man stalking a woman should say.

Retired Air Force veteran Larry Brock, famously photographed in tactical gear and carrying zip-ties (also known as flexible restraints) was one of these men with an ugly history of violence towards women. While in the process of finalizing a divorce, Brock was apparently fond of sending abusive text messages to his then-wife, such as. “Do the right thing and kill yourself already.”

“I have better things to do than speak to a whore”; “Nobody loves you”; “Narcissistic whore.” Her ex-husband, Larry Rendall Brock Jr., had been sending them like clockwork for three years. A court had ordered the couple to communicate through a specialized portal while their contentious divorce was finalized. Larry often used it for threats.

Another man arrested for the riots, 48-year old Guy Reffitt, was also an abuser.

In 2018, police responded to a domestic disturbance at Reffitt’s home during which he and his wife were physically fighting. Reffitt and his wife, Nicole Reffitt, were both drunk, their children were present and he had a gun, according to the police report. At one point, Reffitt pushed his wife onto a bed and started choking her until she almost lost consciousness, the report states.

There’s Jacob Lewis, a 37-year old gym owner, who gained national notoriety by refusing to close his California club in light of COVID-19 restrictions. Lewis had a restraining order against him for potential domestic violence.

There was 26-year-old Samuel Camargo, who had previously attacked his sister. There was Matthew Capsel, another abuser who had violated his own restraining order, threatening a woman with violence even after his arrest for the Jan. 6 rioting. There was Proud Boy Andrew Ryan Bennett, who had previously assaulted his sister and attacked a woman in a tattoo parlor.

And then there was this guy:

Another Capitol rioter, Edward Hemenway of Winchester, Virginia, was released from prison in 2013 after serving five years on rape, sexual battery and criminal confinement charges. According to court records, Hemenway lured his estranged wife to a hotel in 2004, where he handcuffed her and duct-taped her mouth shut.

Of course, these are only the ones who’ve been arrested, and whose newfound notoriety permits their histories to be explored. But there were doubtlessly hundreds more of these types in the crowd that day. As Vagianos’ article points out, the white supremacist ideology driving many of these people meshes perfectly with misogyny, because both attitudes thrive on white male insecurities—about race and about women, respectively. Trump deliberately played to these men’s insecurities, so it took little effort to convince them that a threat to him was equally a threat to themselves.

And that’s exactly what played out inside the Capitol halls as they chased down their prey.

Since Republicans won’t convict, turn the second impeachment into a trial of the Republican Party

Quavering under explicit threats from Donald Trump that he will start a neo-fascist third party (grossly named “The Patriot Party”), Senate Republicans, led by Kentucky blowhard Rand Paul, have signaled that there is no way they would ever vote to convict Trump for inciting the deadly insurrection that killed five people on Jan. 6, and sent hordes of stinking Trump supporters to smear feces all over the House and Senate chambers while trying to hunt down members of those legislative bodies.

Now that we know this, now that it’s clear, let’s just remember who controls the trial and the admissible evidence in that trial: the Democratic Senate. Just like then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell constrained the first trial by admitting no witnesses or evidence, Democrats are free to admit whatever it takes to paint a clear picture of the environment Trump created, which motivated and aided his incitement of the mob.

Max Boot, writing this week for The Washington Post, makes an excellent point.

When the impeachment proceedings begin in the Senate, it will not be just Donald Trump in the dock. The entire Republican Party will be on trial. And there is every reason to believe that the GOP will fail this test — as it failed every other during the past four years.

As Boot emphasizes, Trump’s guilt here is crystal clear and becoming even clearer than that with each passing day. Boot notes the Center for Responsive Politics report revealing that Trump’s corrupt campaign funneled $2.7 million to groups that organized and participated in the violent insurrection. Many of the participants in the event itself have directly characterized their actions as a response to Trump’s siren call.

There’s no doubt that Trump is guilty of inciting the insurrection. As an added bonus, it’s also clear that he had exhausted all other means to overturn the election, even trying to force the attorney general’s office to involve the Justice Department in the coup attempt. Many witnesses may now be called to attest to Trump’s desperation, further providing evidence for his motives in inciting the Jan. 6 attack.

As Boot observes, we caught a fleeting glimpse, out of the corner of our eyes, of Republicans possibly, maybe, kind of considering doing the right thing and convicting this criminal president of the worst offense any president could possibly commit against this nation: willful insurrection.

But no, it was not to be. Because … they’ve all suddenly become Constitutional scholars!

To avoid having to defend Trump’s indefensible conduct, many Republicans are taking refuge in the argument that it’s unconstitutional to impeach a president who has already left office. This is simply untrue, as more than 150 legal scholars — including a co-founder of the Federalist Society! — point out. “In 1876,” they note, “Secretary of War William Belknap tried to avoid impeachment and its consequences by resigning minutes before the House voted on his impeachment. The House impeached him anyway, and the Senate concluded that it had the power to try, convict, and disqualify former officers.”

Never mind that this vast concern for the Constitution wasn’t on display during Trump’s first impeachment trial, or throughout his entire months-long effort to delegitimize a national election and disenfranchise 80 million Americans. Nothing unconstitutional to see there, I guess.

But there actually was something to see, after all. It was the sight of House and Senate Republicans doing absolutely nothing to stop that effort, and in fact aiding and abetting it through their votes to negate the verdict of the American people—though not in their own elections, mind you. In fact, there was a whole lot to see. And there’s a whole lot of complicity to explore.

We saw Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley raise his fist in support of the insurrectionists, practically egging them on, as long as he could ride the coattails. We saw Texas Sen. Ted Cruz lending his own voice to the treachery, along with 140 members of the House of Representatives.

These people not only supported this lie, they campaigned on it in their own elections. The rot runs right down into the state legislators who wanted to get in on the action. Local party organizations are supporting Trump’s insurrection efforts in state after state, from Wyoming to Arizona.

The GOP appears more eager for retribution against Republicans who upheld their oaths of office than against a president who violated it. All 10 of the House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump are now facing a backlash at home, with local party organizations scolding them for disloyalty and primary challengers lining up against them. Pro-Trump House members are  also demanding Cheney’s ouster as chair of the House Republican conference.

The cancer cuts down to the bone. It isn’t just Trump, but a culture of Republican-abetted sedition that needs to be presented to the American people on Feb. 8. Call some witnesses from those state legislatures who met with Trump as he hemmed, hawed and threatened them. Call Hawley as a witness and obtain all his contacts and communications with the administration before the insurrection. Same with Cruz. There’s no privilege attached, not when you’re trying to commit a crime, boys.

Americans really need to see the big picture.  Let’s give it to them. And let Hawley and Cruz—and Trump—squeal their seditious little asses off.