Tuesday ReadsPosted: November 16, 2021
I’m having trouble getting going this today. I looked around at the latest news, and I started to feel exhausted. But I’m resisting sinking into that feeling. I have to believe there is some way for us as a country to recover from the Trump poison. At least we got some good news yesterday when Biden signed the bipartisan infrastructure bill and Pelosi announced that the House could vote on the Build Back Better bill this week.
Now Democrats will need to convince voters how great these accomplishments are.
Today’s news is filled with revelations from the book “Betrayal,” by Jonathan Karl, released today. In her review of the book in The New York Times, Jennifer Szalai focuses on Karl’s (along with other journalists) apparent blindness about who and what Trump was: In Another Trump Book, a Journalist’s Belated Awareness Steals the Show.
…[I]n his new book, “Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show,” Karl comes across as almost poignantly ingenuous and polite to a fault, repeatedly flummoxed by what he saw in the last year of the Trump administration. “Front Row,” which had the unfortunate timing of being published in March 2020, before the consequences of Trump’s governance were fully laid bare, began with a solemn tribute to “objectivity and balance” and a complaint that “the mainstream media coverage of Donald Trump is relentlessly and exhaustively negative.” Just a year-and-a-half later, after 750,000 American Covid deaths and an attack on the Capitol, Karl allows that the “Trump show” may have in fact been more sinister than mere theatrics after all.
“I have never wavered from my belief that journalists are not the opposition party and should not act like we are,” Karl maintains in “Betrayal.” “But the first obligation of a journalist is to pursue truth and accuracy. And the simple truth about the last year of the Trump presidency is that his lies turned deadly and shook the foundations of our democracy.”
According to Szalai, Karl repeated writes in the book that he is shocked by Trump’s behavior. From a description of Karl’s face-to-face interview with Trump:
During the…interview, Trump reminisced about the speech he gave on Jan. 6, 2021, shortly before the attack on the Capitol, calling it “a very beautiful time with extremely loving and friendly people.” Karl, at least inwardly, was aghast. “I was taken aback by how fondly he remembers a day I will always remember as one of the darkest I have ever witnessed,” he writes, adding that Trump seemed to justify the death threats made against his own vice president. “It boggled my mind,” Karl says.
It did? The author’s expressions of surprise are so frequent and over-the-top that they are perhaps the most surprising parts of this book. “Betrayal” is less insightful about the Trump White House and more revealing of Karl’s own gradual, extremely belated awareness that something in the White House might in fact be awry. Events strike him as “wacky,” “crazy,” “nuts.” He delves into the outlandish conspiracy theories around the presidential election, earnestly explaining why each of them is wrong. He scores a number of on-the-record interviews with Trumpworld insiders — nearly all of whom insist that even as they publicly sided with Trump, they were bravely telling the president some very tough truths in private.
This is so typical of what we saw from journalists during the Trump years. They repeatedly tried to normalize Trump’s behavior and some are still doing it. But Trump showed us who again and again before he ran for president and especially during the 2016 campaign. Yet Karl was still shocked by what Trump said in the interview–even after he (Trump) refused to concede the election and led a serious coup attempt.
More revelations from the book:
In “Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show,” scheduled to be released today, Karl reports that former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump attorney Sidney Powell tried to enlist a Pentagon official to help overturn the election.
According to the book, Flynn — who had just received an unconditional pardon from President Trump after pleading guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI during the Russia probe — made a frantic phone call to a senior Trump intelligence official named Ezra Cohen (sometimes referred to as Ezra Cohen-Watnick), who previously worked under Flynn at both the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the National Security Council.
“Where are you?” Flynn asked the DoD official, who said he was traveling in the Middle East.
“Flynn told him to cut his trip short and get back to the United States immediately because there were big things about to happen,” according to the book. Karl writes that Flynn told Cohen, “We need you,” and told the DoD official that “there was going to be an epic showdown over the election results.”
Flynn, according to the book, urged Cohen that “he needed to get orders signed, that ballots needed to be seized, and that extraordinary measures needed to be taken to stop Democrats from stealing the election.”
“As Flynn ranted about the election fight, [Cohen] felt his old boss sounded manic,” Karl writes in the book. “He didn’t sound like the same guy he had worked for.”
It gets even crazier.
“Betrayal” also reports that Sydney Powell, Flynn’s former lawyer who was then advising President Trump, called Cohen shortly after the Flynn conversation and tried to enlist his help with one the most far-fetched claims about the election, involving then-CIA Director Gina Haspel.
“Gina Haspel has been hurt and taken into custody in Germany,” Powell told Cohen, pushing a false conspiracy theory that had been gaining steam among QAnon followers, according to the book. “You need to launch a special operations mission to get her,” Powell said.
Powell, according to the book, was pushing the outlandish claim that Haspel had been injured while on a secret CIA operation to seize an election-related computer server that belonged to a company named Scytl — none of which was true.
“The server, Powell claimed, contained evidence that hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of votes had been switched using rigged voting machines. Powell believed Haspel had embarked on this secret mission to get the server and destroy the evidence — in other words, the CIA director was part of the conspiracy,” Karl writes.
Powell wanted the Defense Department to send a special operations team over to Germany immediately: “They needed to get the server and force Haspel to confess,” Karl writes.
All of this was too crazy even for Trump loyalist Cohen, yet these are the people Trump was listening to after the election.
Hayes Brown at MSNBC: Jenna Ellis’ memo on stealing the 2020 election holds a lesson for Democrats.
After losing the 2020 presidential election, former President Donald Trump was obsessed with finding a route to remain in power. In September, we learned that John Eastman, a conservative lawyer working with Trump’s legal team, went so far as to write a two-page memo for how to throw out President Joe Biden’s win before Congress could certify it in January.
And in the last week, we’ve learned that Eastman wasn’t alone in taking notes on a criminal conspiracy. At least two other people prepared memos to justify Trump’s reinstallation as president. This collection of memos shows more clearly than ever that those closest to the former president were dedicated to finding some loophole to keep him in power. Their mentally thin, ultimately self-serving assertions acted as fuel to Trump’s delusions, which he then passed on to his followers — most spectacularly, of course, at his rally ahead of the riot on Jan. 6….
ABC News first reported Sunday that White House chief of staff Mark Meadows emailed Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff on Dec. 31 to pass on a memo from Trump campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis. Ellis — whom you may recall from her many failed attempts to reverse the election in court — “outlined a multi-step strategy,” according to Karl:
On Jan. 6, the day Congress was to certify the 2020 election results, Pence was to send back the electoral votes from six battleground states that Trump falsely claimed he had won.
The memo said that Pence would give the states a deadline of “7pm eastern standard time on January 15th” to send back a new set of votes, according to Karl.
Then, Ellis wrote, if any state legislature missed that deadline, “no electoral votes can be opened and counted from that state.”
That scheme aligns with one of the scenarios that Eastman laid out in his longer Jan. 3 memo. And at first glance it seems like a valid off-ramp that would let Trump save face and allow time to investigate the “fraud” that he had alleged. It’s not dissimilar in that sense from the arguments that Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Josh Hawley, R-Mo., made in their refusal to vote to certify the election.
Crucially, though, the plan’s real goal depended on another plot that was underway inside the Trump administration. The Justice Department was under pressure in the weeks after the election to issue a letter to the states Trump falsely claimed to have won declaring that there was enough “significant concern” of fraud to warrant special sessions of their legislatures. Those legislatures controlled by the GOP — like Georgia’s and Arizona’s — would then provide the electoral votes needed to put Trump over the top under Ellis’ proposal.
Here’s the promised warning for Democrats:
Whether we like it or not, there are numerous loopholes and vagaries in our method of choosing a president. None of them have been remedied since 2020. And there are now multiple examples for the next would-be coup leader to draw from when exploiting the flaws inherent in the electoral system. If anything, Republican-controlled states have been moving to codify those flaws for their own benefit, making it easier for legislatures to overturn the will of the people.
I’ll end with this from EconoTimes: Capitol insurrection: Carl Bernstein says infamous memos are ‘blueprints’ of a coup.
According to Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein, the infamous memos drafted for Mike Pence to overturn the election results is a blueprint of a coup.
Bernstein weighed in on a recording of Trump and ABC journalist Jonathan Karl’s conversation, where the former president did not deny that he told Pence that if he does not overturn the 2020 election results, he is a “p***y.” The Watergate reporter said that there is more to the former president’s comments and touched on the memos drafted by lawyers John Eastman and Jenna Ellis. The memos detailed how Pence could overturn the 2020 elections, which Pence ultimately refused to do.
“I think what we’re seeing in these memos particularly are blueprints for a coup,” said Bernstein. “The actual blueprints in document form in which the president of the United States, through his chief of staff, is sending to Mike Pence’s, the vice president’s staff, a blueprint to overturn an election, a blueprint for a conspiracy led by a president of the United States to result in an authoritarian coup in which the election is stolen.”
Bernstein added that there is nothing that comes close to what happened in the 2020 elections and that it is all documented in writing. The Watergate reporter noted that more records are needed to determine what the former president said and did, especially on January 5 and January 6. Bernstein added that the House Committee must act fast to find the answers in case the GOP regains the majority in the House in 2022.
That’s it for me today. It is all so exhausting. But we have to hold onto hope somehow, don’t we? Please let me know your thoughts on this or any topic in the comment thread.