Tuesday Reads: Jan. 6 Committee Surprise Hearing

Good Morning!!

Yesterday, after the January 6 Committee announced a surprise hearing for today at 1PM, I was glued to Twitter trying to get clues to what could be coming. By late last night, news had leaked that the surprise witness is Cassidy Hutchinson, a top aide to Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows. Dakinikat stayed up later than I did, and she texted me a more detailed account of what the committee may be planning to reveal by Hugo Lowell of The Guardian (more below).

Background info on Hutchinson from The Washington Post: Who is Cassidy Hutchinson?

Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, has become one of the most useful witnesses for the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob determined to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s win.

cassidy-hutchinson_hpMain_20220628-012908_16x9_1600

Cassidy Hutchinson

She has spoken to investigators on the committee multiple times behind closed doors. In the absence of testimony from Meadows himself — he refused to appear, and the committee held him in contempt — Hutchinson seems to be key to understanding the scope of his actions….

Hutchinson was by Meadows’s side leading up to and during the Capitol attack and has told the committee of strategy sessions held between the White House and President Donald Trump’s allies in Congress about whether they should encourage “Stop the Steal” participants to march to the Capitol, and how to set up alternative slates of electors.

The Washington Post reported that she confirmed to the committee that at one point Meadows said Trump had indicated support for protesters who were shouting, “Hang Mike Pence!”

Videotaped testimony from Hutchinson was also central to allegations of pardon-hunting by Republican House members. The allegations were aired by the committee at Thursday’s hearing.

Hutchinson testified that she was involved with conversations about requests from Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) and Scott Perry (R-Pa.), all of whom she said had sought a promise from the White House to be cleared in advance of any crimes they might be charged with. Perry had previously denied seeking a pardon, but Hutchinson insisted in her deposition that he had spoken to her directly about it….

According to a court filing in April, Hutchinson told congressional investigators that Meadows was warned before Jan. 6 about the threat of violence that day as supporters of Trump planned to mass at the U.S. Capitol.

Hutchinson recalled that Anthony Ornato, a senior Secret Service official who also held the role of a political adviser at the White House, “coming in and saying that we had intel reports saying that there could potentially be violence on the 6th. And Mr. Meadows said: All right. Let’s talk about it.”

Hutchinson added, “I’m not sure if he — what he did with that information internally.”

Read more about her at the WaPo. We don’t know what further information Hutchinson plans to share with the committee, but the reason they want her to testify ASAP is because she has faced threats and perhaps could be subject to witness tampering.

Dakinikat sent me this article late last night:

From the Guardian:

The House select committee investigating the January 6 Capitol attack is closely focused on phone calls and conversations among Donald Trump’s children and top aides captured by a documentary film-maker weeks before the 2020 election, say sources familiar with the matter.

The calls among Trump’s children and top aides took place at an invitation-only event at the Trump International hotel in Washington that took place the night of the first presidential debate on 29 September 2020, the sources said.

The select committee is interested in the calls, the sources said, since the footage is understood to show the former president’s children, including Donald Jr and Eric Trump, privately discussing strategies about the election at a crucial time in the presidential campaign.

House investigators first learned about the event, hosted by the Trump campaign, and the existence of the footage through British film-maker Alex Holder, who testified about what he and his crew recorded during a two-hour interview last week, the sources said….

The select committee is closely focused on the footage of the event – in addition to the content of the one-on-one interviews with Trump and Ivanka – because the discussions about strategies mirror similar conversations at that time by top Trump advisors.

On the night of the first presidential debate, Trump’s top former strategist Steve Bannon said in an interview with The Circus on Showtime that the outcome of the election would be decided at the state level and eventually at the congressional certification on January 6.

“They’re going to try and overturn this election with uncertified votes,” Bannon said. Asked how he expects the election to end, Bannon said: “Right before noon on the 20th, in a vote in the House, Trump will win the presidency.”

The select committee believes that ideas such as Bannon’s were communicated to advisers to Donald Jr and his fiancee, Kimberly Guilfoyle, even before the 2020 election had taken place, the sources said – leading House investigators to want to review the Trump hotel footage.

What appears to interest the panel is whether Trump and his children had planned to somehow stop the certification of the election on January 6 – a potential violation of federal law – and to force a contingent election if Trump lost as early as September.

Before the news about the surprise committee hearing broke yesterday, the big story was that John Eastman’s phone was seized by federal agents on the same day that federal agents searched Jeffrey Clark’s home last week. 

John Eastman, the attorney who developed Donald Trump’s last-ditch strategy to seize a second term, said in court Monday that he had his phone seized by federal agents last week.

In a court filing in federal court in New Mexico, Eastman indicated he was confronted by agentswhen leaving a restaurant. He’s moving for a judge to order his phone returned.

“The federal agents identified themselves as FBI agents, but they appeared to be executing a warrant issued at the behest of the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General,” Eastman’s lawyer, Charles Burnham, wrote in the 13-page filing.

Eastman accompanied the filing with a copy of the search warrant, authorized by a federal magistrate judge in Albuquerque.

jeffrey-clark-january-6-donald-trump-fbi

Jeffrey Clark

A legal adviser to Trump’s campaign, Eastman has been a central figure in the Capitol riot committee’s case that the former president attempted to block the peaceful transfer of power on Jan. 6, 2021. A federal judge in California has previously ruled that Eastman and Trump “likely” entered a criminal conspiracy to obstruct the counting of electoral votes on Jan. 6.

The search of Eastman’s phone appears to have come amid a flurry of activity by federal prosecutors probing the Jan. 6 attack and efforts by Trump allies to authorize false slates of electors as part of a plan to overturn the 2020 election.

Last week, subpoenas were served on a slew of those false electors, including at least three state Republican Party chairs. Investigators also searched the Lorton, Va., home of former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, another critical player in Trump’s efforts.

As a number of legal experts have pointed out, in order to get a search warrant for Eastman’s phone, the government would have to convince a judge that there is probable cause to believe the device contains evidence of a crime. Since the search was initiated by the DOJ Inspector General, the information likely relates to the case against Jeffrey Clark, a former DOJ employee.

I’m going to end there for now. I will post any further news I find in the comment thread. We’ll soon know what the committee believes is so important they are holding an unscheduled meeting three days before the Fourth of July break.


Tuesday Reads

Bowes, Josephine, 1825-1874; Study of Birch Trees

Bowes, Josephine; Study of Birch Trees; The Bowes Museum.

Good Morning!!

Today’s January 6 Committee hearing has now been scheduled for 1PM. As you know, the hearing will focus on Trump’s efforts to pressure state lawmakers to set up slates of fake electors. It could be a blockbuster. Politico just broke the news that Ginni Thomas’s communications with Arizona lawmakers could come up in the questioning.

From the Politico Playbook:

The logistics … Chair BENNIE THOMPSON (D-Miss.) and Vice Chair LIZ CHENEY (R-Wyo.) are expected to open the hearing, and Rep. ADAM SCHIFF (D-Calif.) will play a key role. There will be four witnesses broken up over two panels.

— The first panel features (1) Arizona House Speaker RUSTY BOWERS(2) Georgia Secretary of State BRAD RAFFENSPERGER and (3) his deputy, GABRIEL STERLING.

Bowers is expected to describe the pressure campaign from Trump, RUDY GIULIANI and VIRGINIA THOMAS, the wife of Supreme Court Justice CLARENCE THOMAS. In one phone call, Trump and Giuliani pushed Bowers to change Arizona law retroactively “to allow the Legislature to choose a different slate of presidential electors than picked by voters.”

And the Playbook also broke this news this morning:

SCOOP: The House select committee investigating Jan. 6 sent a subpoena last week to ALEX HOLDER, a documentary filmmaker who was granted extensive access to President DONALD TRUMP and his inner circle, and who shot interviews with the then-president both before and after Jan. 6. The existence of this footage is previously unreported.

Landscape with trees, Felix Edouard Vallotton

Landscape with trees, Felix Edouard Vallotton

A source familiar with the project told Playbook on Monday night that Holder began filming on the campaign trail in September 2020 for a project on Trump’s reelection campaign. Over the course of several months, Holder had substantial access to Trump, Trump’s adult children and VP MIKE PENCE, both in the White House and on the campaign trail.

According to the subpoena, which was obtained exclusively by Playbook, the committee wants three main things from Holder:

(1) Raw footage from Jan. 6.

(2) Raw footage of interviews from September 2020 to present with Trump, Pence, DONALD TRUMP JR.IVANKA TRUMPERIC TRUMP and JARED KUSHNER.

(3) Raw footage “pertaining to discussions of election fraud or election integrity surrounding the November 2020 presidential election.”

Holder is expected to fully cooperate with the committee in an interview scheduled for Thursday. Read the full subpoena

The second panel will focus on an election worker from Georgia:

— The second panel has just one witness: SHAYE MOSS, an election worker in Georgia. She and her mother processed ballots in 2020 and were targets of a smear campaign by Trump allies. David Wickert at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a deep dive on Moss, who was accused “of rigging the November 2020 election for Joe Biden with ‘suitcases’ of ballots on election night. The pair were featured in a video that Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani called a ‘smoking gun’ for voting fraud.”

A committee aide said that Moss would outline how “being targeted by the former president has upended her life and that of her mother. … They were subjected to death threats, intimidation, coercion, forced to go into hiding.”

Raffensperger and Sterling are relatively well known now, but I had not heard of Rusty Bowers before. Here’s some information about him from The Washington Post: Who is Rusty Bowers?

Arizona House Speaker Russell “Rusty” Bowers, a Republican, was pressured by Donald Trump and other members of his party to refuse to accept the results of Arizona’s election in 2020. Bowers is expected to be Tuesday’s first live witness before the Jan. 6 panel.

Vickerman, Stanley, 1922-1997; Tree Roots

Vickerman, Stanley; Tree Roots; Kirklees Museums and Galleries

Bowers, 69, supported Trump’s 2020 campaign. When the former president lost the election in Arizona by 10,457 votes, he and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani called Bowers to persuade him to block the state legislature from certifying the results.

Bowers refused.

His decision to stand firm against Trump put him at the center of the ire of the former president’s supporters. Armed protesters gathered outside his house and screamed that he was a pedophile. Last summer, the state’s right-wing Patriot Party attempted to recall Bowers from office, complaining that he did not do enough to support an audit of the 2020 election. The effort failed, the Arizona Republic reported.

The state lawmaker, who will not be in charge of the Arizona House next year — he decided to seek a state Senate seat instead — received the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award in April for resisting intimidation from Trump.

Adam Schiff will take the lead in today’s hearing. From Nicholas Wu and Kyle Cheney at Politico: Jan. 6 committee to highlight Trump’s state-level pressure to overturn the 2020 election.

The select committee intends to lay out Tuesday how Trump leaned on statehouse Republicans — from Pennsylvania, to Georgia, to Michigan, to Arizona and others — to pull off a scheme that would culminate on Jan. 6, 2021, when then-Vice President Mike Pence presided over the counting of electoral votes.

Under Trump’s plan, Pence would be presented with competing slates of electors — those certified by the governors, and those certified by state legislators — and he would assert the extraordinary power to choose which slates to count. But no state legislature responded to Trump’s demand, and Pence, without any genuine controversy, rejected the scheme as illegal.

In fact, the legality of the plan will be at the heart of Tuesday afternoon’s hearing, which will be led in part by panel member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). It’s the select panel’s fourth public hearing as investigators lay out their findings.

Dancing around the large trees at Perros Maurice Denis - 1914, Bo Fransson

Dancing around the large trees at Perros Maurice Denis – 1914, Bo Fransson

Trump-aligned lawyers concocted the effort, leaning on fringe constitutional theory and the guidance of John Eastman, a primary architect of the effort to pressure Pence on Jan. 6. Eastman himself acknowledged in emails obtained by the select committee that the Pence plan would be “dead on arrival” without the backing of state legislatures — yet he pushed ahead anyway, suggesting that the confusion around alternate electors would give Pence enough cover to act.

Trump’s own White House counsel’s office also raised doubts about the plan, according to testimony released by the select panel in court filings. And in the days before Jan. 6, Pence’s chief counsel Greg Jacob engaged in an intense debate with Eastman, contending that not a single justice of the Supreme Court would back his plan — a point he said Eastman reluctantly conceded.

Select committee aides told reporters Monday that the hearing would highlight new evidence of Trump’s direct awareness and involvement in the fake electors scheme. To highlight the issue, the panel plans to hear from Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, his aide Gabriel Sterling and other state and local officials. Several of Tuesday’s witnesses were subpoenaed to appear. Schiff told the Los Angeles Times Monday the panel would also highlight proof of then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows’ involvement in Georgia.

I don’t want to miss a minute of this!

This is from yesterday’s Washington Post: Trump campaign documents show advisers knew fake-elector plan was baseless.

The convening of the electoral college on Dec. 14, 2020, was supposed to mark the end of the wild, extended presidential election that year.

But when the dayarrived, a strange thing happened. In seven swing states won by JoeBiden, when the Democrat’s electors assembled to formally elect him president, Trump supporters showed up, too, ready to declare that their man had actually won.

“The electors are already here — they’ve been checked in,” a state police officer told the group in Michigan, according to a video of the encounter, as he barred the Republicans from the Capitol in a state Biden won by more than 154,000 votes.

In Nevada,a state Biden had won by about 33,600 votes,a photo distributed by the state Republican Party showed Trump supporters squeezing around an undersize picnic table dressed up with a bit of bunting, preparing to sign formal certificates declaring that they were “the duly elected and qualified” electors of their state.

Ellison, R.; Oak Trees

Ellison, R.; Oak Trees; Colchester and Ipswich Museums Service

At the time, the gatherings seemed a slapdash, desperate attempt to mimic President Donald Trump’s refusal to concede.

But internal campaign emails and memos revealthat the convening of the fake electors was apparently a much more concerted strategy, intended to give Vice President Mike Pence a reason to declare that the outcome of the election was somehow in doubt on Jan. 6, 2021, when he was to preside over the congressional counting of the electoral college votes.

The documents show that Trump’s team pushed ahead and urged the electors to meet — then pressured Pence to cite the alternate Trump slates — even as various Trump lawyers acknowledged privately that they did not have legal validity and the gatherings had not been in compliance with state laws.

Adam Schiff spoke to The Los Angeles Times about Mark Meadows’ role in interfering in the Georgia election: House Jan. 6 committee to reveal Meadows’ pressure on Georgia election officials.

The House Jan. 6 committee plans to show in its fourth hearing Tuesday that President Trump’s then-chief of staff Mark Meadows “had an intimate role … in this plot to put pressure on [Georgia] state legislators and on elections officials,” Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), a member of the panel, told The Times in an interview.

Among other things, Schiff said the committee investigating the 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol will release new information about Meadows’ appearance at a key election meeting in Georgia and text messages revealing that he wanted to send autographed Make America Great Again hats to people conducting the audit….

With the Jan. 6 probe, Schiff and House Democrats have a powerful tool they lacked in the previous investigations: Some of Trump’s closest allies have spelled out in sworn testimony the details of the former president’s actions leading up to Jan. 6 and, in many cases, how they advocated against such moves.

In the interview, Schiff, a former prosecutor, expressed surprise that the House committee got so many people to speak on the record.

“I’m glad these people are coming forward,” he said. “I’m glad they’re speaking out. It took a long time for [former Atty. Gen.] Bill Barr to do the right thing. It took a long time for many others who enabled Donald Trump to say ‘I can’t go any further.’”

But he added, if they had spoken out earlier, “we might have been spared all the trauma we went through.”

Bough, Samuel, 1822-1878; Entrance to Cadzow Forest, near Glasgow

Bough, Samuel; Entrance to Cadzow Forest, near Glasgow; York Museums Trust.

I’ll end with some Ginni Thomas news that The Washington Post broke last night: Speaker at meeting of Ginni Thomas group called Biden’s win illegitimate long after Jan. 6, video shows.

Two months after rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to help President Donald Trump stay in office, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, attended a gathering of right-wing activists where a speaker declared to roaring applause that Trump was still the “legitimate president,” a video recording of the event shows.

“There is a robbery that is going on in this country right now,” pastor and conservative radio personality C.L. Bryant told the crowd, according to video posted to Facebook by an attendee. “In fact, I say it to you and I’ll say it loud and clear, and I’m not ashamed to say it. I won’t bite my tongue. I do believe that Donald John Trump is the only legitimate president.”

The event on March 6, 2021, was a meeting of Frontliners for Liberty. The group vaulted from obscurity to national attention last week with the disclosure that Thomas had invited pro-Trump lawyer John Eastman to speak to its members in December 2020.

The revelation, originating from emails that a judge ordered Eastman to turn over to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, showed that Thomas was in contact with Eastman, a key legal architect of the attempt to subvert the election. The judge, David O. Carter of the Central District of California, wrote in a June 7 opinion that the emails, including two in which the group’s “high-profile leader” invited Eastman to speak — were relevant to the committee’s work.

While text messages and emails unearthed in recent weeks have shown that Thomas was involved in those efforts before Jan. 6, her attendance at the Orlando gathering indicates that her alliance with election deniers continued even after Joe Biden was inaugurated. Frontliners has hosted hard-right lawmakers, insisted on strict secrecy and proclaimed that the nation’s top enemy is the “radical fascist left,” according to social media posts, court filings and interviews with several people involved in the group.

I can’t wait for 1:00! If you’re watching the hearing, please share your thoughts in the comment thread.


Virulant Friday Reads: Get Ready for the Next Wave

Indianapolis artist Kat Silver creates oil paintings based on her vision of the Covid-19 Pandemic. Read more about her here at the Indianapolis Star.

Happy Avoiding Black Friday Day!

I spent Thanksgiving with my neighbors, which is so lovely on many levels.  It really felt like the first typical holiday for me in a few years. The last one was the Mardi Gras, where I woke up with something that made me highly ill for weeks. I was really hoping to make it to Seattle, but I’m still afraid of crazies on planes and the maskless roaming airports. Now, I’m delighted I just zoomed the grandbabies and enjoyed the bags of groceries my daughter sent me so I could do my own family-style Thanksgiving at home.  The Dow has fallen this morning, and countries are racing to end flight contact with South Africa.  There’s a new Covid-19 variant.  This is the headline from WAPO: “Announcement of new virus variant alarms world, crashing stocks and banning flights.”

A new, possibly more infectious coronavirus variant, with an unusual number of mutations, had scientists sounding the alarm, countries moving to impose travel bans and financial markets tumbling on Friday, as the world feared another setback on the long road out of the pandemic.

Major questions remain about the variant’s transmissibility, whether it might make people sicker and whether it might be able to evade vaccines, but Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser to Britain’s Health and Security Agency, warned that the new variant found in southern Africa is the “most worrying we’ve seen.”

The variant, known as B.1.1.529, was first detected in Botswana, but scientists in South Africa convened a news conference Thursday and said they had linked it to an exponential rise of infections in their country. Cases have also been identified in Hong Kong and Belgium.

By the next morning, the Dow Jones industrial average plunged about 800 points or 2.2 percent, the S&P 500 index fell 1.5 percent, and the Nasdaq composite index was off 1.1 percent. Crude oil prices tumbled as well.

France, Britain, Japan and Israel began to ban or order quarantines for air passengers arriving from the southern African region. The European Union is also expected to also propose a ban on air travel arriving from southern Africa.

“Our view is very clear,” Dana Spinant, deputy chief spokeswoman for the European Commission, said at a news conference Friday. “We need to act very fast, we need to be vigilant, and we need to take all measures that are appropriate at this stage to prevent this virus from entering Europe.”

Anthony S. Fauci, the top U.S. infectious-disease official, said banning flights to the United States from southern Africa is a “possibility,” but that a decision has not been made yet.

Kat’s paintings, including these done on toilet paper which has been available for $20

I keep telling all my Mardi Gras-loving friends not to get overly excited about the possibility of parades again. This thing is not through with us yet. It should be called the Trump Virus by now.  Reuters reports on Dr. Fauci’s comments. 

“There is always the possibility of doing what the UK has done, namely block travel from South Africa and related countries,” Fauci said in an interview on CNN.

“That’s certainly something you think about and get prepared to do. You’re prepared to do everything you need to protect the American public. But you want to make sure there’s a basis for doing that,” he said.

“Obviously as soon as we find out more information we’ll make a decision as quickly as we possibly can.”

Fauci said U.S. scientists would speak with South African counterparts on Friday about the new variant, called B.1.1.529, which has raised concern about its transmissibility and whether it might evade immune responses.

He added that there was no indication that the new variant was already in the United States.

Here we go again!  Our healthcare continues to be threatened by right-wing Trumperz and Trumperz clones.

From the NYT: “Texas Abortion Law Complicates Care for Risky Pregnancies. Doctors in Texas say they cannot head off life-threatening medical crises in pregnant women if abortions cannot be offered or even discussed.”  I am so glad my daughters have moved to states that let medical science rather than superstition abide.

A few weeks after Texas adopted the most restrictive abortion law in the nation, Dr. Andrea Palmer delivered terrible news to a Fort Worth patient who was midway through her pregnancy.

The fetus had a rare neural tube defect. The brain would not develop, and the infant would die at birth or shortly afterward. Carrying the pregnancy to term would be emotionally grueling and would also raise the mother’s risk of blood clots and severe postpartum bleeding, the doctor warned.

But the patient was past six weeks’ gestation, and under the new law, an abortion was not an option in Texas because the woman was not immediately facing a life-threatening medical crisis or risk of permanent disability.

“So we look at them like a ticking time bomb and wait for the complications to develop,” Dr. Palmer said of her patients.

In this case, the woman had the means to travel, and she obtained an abortion in another state, an option unavailable to many low-income and working class women.

Texas’ new measure was intended to impose stringent limits on abortion. But it is also affecting women who have no desire for termination but are experiencing medically risky pregnancies. Many doctors say they are unable to discuss the procedure as an option until the patient’s condition deteriorates and her life is at risk.

Abortion is permitted in Texas after six weeks only when a woman is facing a life-threatening or disabling medical emergency linked to her pregnancy. The law makes no exceptions for nonviable pregnancies in which the fetus has no chance of survival.

Even crazier are these calls to action by the QAnon Queen of Canada reported in VIce. “QAnon’s ‘Queen of Canada’ Calls for Followers to ‘Kill’ People Vaccinating Children. QAnon influencer Romana Didulo told her 70,000 followers that “duck-hunting season is open” and by ducks, she means healthcare workers, politicians, and journalists.” Vigilantism is sure en vogue with these dangerous nutters. Oh, Canada!

Earlier this week, the so-called QAnon Queen of Canada opened up “duck-hunting” season in the Great White North.

Now, to be clear, we aren’t talking about hunters in hip waders going after our fine-feathered friends with a loyal hound by their side. These “duck hunters” are “soldiers” of Roman Didulo—a Canadian woman who has convinced thousands of QAnon adherents that she’s the secret ruler of Canada—targeting health care workers administering COVID-19 vaccines to children, politicians, journalists, and others who make up the cabal at the heart of the QAnon conspiracy.

In a post on Sunday to her over 70,000 followers on Telegram, Didulo issued an order to the soldiers of her “Kingdom of Canada’s Military.” She demanded the mass arrests of those they consider opposition, and wanted her soldiers to take control of newspapers and seize the border.

“Shoot to kill anyone who tries to inject Children under the age of 19 years old with Coronavirus19 vaccines/ bioweapons or any other Vaccines,” she wrote. “This order is effective immediately.”

A follow-up post on Tuesday changed the wording from “shoot to kill” to “arrest.”

“Please, use airports, hospitals, schools, stadiums, and other public venues to hold and detain all traitors,” the post said. “They will stay there until Military Tribunal is held for each one of them until the day they are executed via firing squad or hanging.”

Here are two articles to read.

This Guardian article is specific and prescient. It comes from 2020 directly after the election.  Have we made any progress since a year ago?

As Ian Bassin, executive director of Protect Democracy, put it: “The United States just allowed an autocratic person to ascend to the presidency, to serve in it for four years and to very nearly extend that term. The big question is: how did that happen, what went wrong there?”

Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, expressed a similar thought in Slate: “Our voting system is fundamentally broken,” she wrote. “The future of our country unequivocally depends on our ability to reform it.”

This Op-Ed by   MSNBC Opinion Columnist–is provocative because we really have not faced these threats head-on.

There are a lot of different ways that democracies can fail. Some collapse under the weight of political leaders who assume authoritarian control, arrest opponents, or refuse to allow new elections to take place. Others suffer at the hands of citizens who support political violence, dehumanize other political parties as “evil,” or call for civil war. Still others struggle with voter suppression and intimidation efforts, weakened trust in institutions, and falling political participation.

The U.S. is facing all these problems, and more. We are witnessing challenges to the integrity of elections, rooted in disinformation spread by our own elected officials and in widespread conspiracies that circulate online. A third of election poll workers reported feeling unsafe this year, after an “unprecedented” number of them received threats. The violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 came at the hands of thousands of ordinary citizens who aimed to disrupt the democratic certification of the presidential election and prevent President Joe Biden from taking office.

We also face rising harassment and violence from extremist groups, citizen vigilantes, and unlawful militias who threaten minority groups, disrupt our freedom of assembly and demonstration with shows of violent force, and violate civil rights like the right to “public accommodations,” as recent court rulings have shown. We have seen repeated violent attacks, harassment, and even death threats directed at front-line workers and public officials, including school board members, health care workers, teachers, flight attendants, and restaurant hostesses.

The U.S. isn’t the only democracy that is eroding. Democratic stability is backsliding across the globe, as nations suffer from compromised elections, dismantled checks on government, challenges to a free media, and reductions of minority protections. But there is a particular urgency in the U.S. warning signs, not least because we are a nation of citizens who are now armed at previously unimaginable levels. This year is on track to be the second-highest year of firearm sales in history, following a “record shattering” year in 2020, in which 21 million background checks for firearms sales took place — far above the average of about 8.6 million annual checks.

Luckily, just because a democracy is in crisis does not mean it will collapse. On average, it takes about a decade from the onset of democratic backsliding to end in either democratic breakdown or recovery. But we are long overdue for a course correction.

We are facing back-sliding on so many civil liberties issues that I am astounded daily. Will SCOTUS overturn Roe v. Wade?  Will we be able to correct the inequities that its decision on the Voting Rights Act caused? How do we deal with vigilantism; especially in communities where the police encourage it! Can we get some criminal justice reform?  Haven’t we all seen enough to know how necessary it is?

These are all eyes-on-the-prize questions to me.  What are yours?

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Thursday Reads: Top Generals suspected Trump was plotting a coup

Honoré Daumier, “The Uprising,” 1848 or later

Good Day Sky Dancers!

I’m doing today’s post.  BB’s in bed healing atm so I’m going to scramble to get stuff up before I see students at noon.

The details coming out from General Mark Milley in the latest tell-all book from two Pulitzer Prize-winning WAPO reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker are simply horrifying.  This is from CNN: “‘They’re not going to f**king succeed’: Top generals feared Trump would attempt a coup after election, according to new book”

The top US military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley, was so shaken that then-President Donald Trump and his allies might attempt a coup or take other dangerous or illegal measures after the November election that Milley and other top officials informally planned for different ways to stop Trump, according to excerpts of an upcoming book obtained by CNN.

The book, from Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker, describes how Milley and the other Joint Chiefs discussed a plan to resign, one-by-one, rather than carry out orders from Trump that they considered to be illegal, dangerous or ill-advised.

“It was a kind of Saturday Night Massacre in reverse,” Leonnig and Rucker write.

The book, “I Alone Can Fix It,” scheduled to be released next Tuesday, chronicles Trump’s final year as president, with a behind-the-scenes look at how senior administration officials and Trump’s inner circle navigated his increasingly unhinged behavior after losing the 2020 election. The authors interviewed Trump for more than two hours.

The book recounts how for the first time in modern US history the nation’s top military officer, whose role is to advise the president, was preparing for a showdown with the commander in chief because he feared a coup attempt after Trump lost the November election.

The authors explain Milley’s growing concerns that personnel moves that put Trump acolytes in positions of power at the Pentagon after the November 2020 election, including the firing of Defense Secretary Mark Esper and the resignation of Attorney General William Barr, were the sign of something sinister to come.

Milley spoke to friends, lawmakers and colleagues about the threat of a coup, and the Joint Chiefs chairman felt he had to be “on guard” for what might come.

“They may try, but they’re not going to f**king succeed,” Milley told his deputies, according to the authors. “You can’t do this without the military. You can’t do this without the CIA and the FBI. We’re the guys with the guns.”

In the days leading up to January 6, Leonnig and Rucker write, Milley was worried about Trump’s call to action. “Milley told his staff that he believed Trump was stoking unrest, possibly in hopes of an excuse to invoke the Insurrection Act and call out the military.”

Milley viewed Trump as “the classic authoritarian leader with nothing to lose,” the authors write, and he saw parallels between Adolf Hitler’s rhetoric as a victim and savior and Trump’s false claims of election fraud.

“This is a Reichstag moment,” Milley told aides, according to the book. “The gospel of the Führer.”

Francisco Goya, “The Third of May,” 1808

Ben Jacobs–writing for New York Magazine–had more to say about the Hitler referrences. “Top U.S. General Said Trump Preached ‘Gospel of the Führer’.

Tump had appointed Milley to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs in 2018, over the objections of Defense Secretary James Mattis. The Army general’s tenure at the top of the Pentagon had been relatively quiet, until last summer, when he appeared in uniform during an infamous photo opportunity for Trump in Lafayette Square that followed the clearing of protesters in front of the White House. Milley later apologized for creating a “perception of the military involved in domestic politics.”

Although the book chronicles Milley’s concern with Trump dating back to that moment, the general’s worries grew rapidly as the president plunged the nation into chaos following Election Day. Seven days later, Milley got a call from “an old friend” with an explicit warning that Trump and his allies were trying to “overturn the government.” Milley was confident that any attempts by Trump to hold on to power would be thwarted, because the military wouldn’t go along. “They may try, but they’re not going to fucking succeed,” he told aides. “You can’t do this without the military. You can’t do this without the CIA and the FBI. We’re the guys with guns.”

Still, Milley was disturbed by the sight of Trump supporters rallying to his cause in November, calling them “Brownshirts in the streets.” Leonnig and Rucker wrote that Milley “believed Trump was stoking unrest, possibly in hopes of an excuse to invoke the Insurrection Act and call out the military.” The general likened the U.S. to Germany’s fragile Weimar Republic in the early 1930s. “This is a Reichstag moment,” he said, referring to the arson attack on Germany’s Parliament that Hitler used as a pretext to assume absolute power and destroy democracy.

On January 6, Milley watched with disgust as Trump addressed his supporters. Soon after Trump finished speaking, a violent mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol in an attempt to disrupt the certification of the presidential election by a joint session of Congress — and many promised to return for Biden’s inauguration. “These guys are Nazis, they’re boogaloo boys, they’re Proud Boys. These are the same people we fought in World War II,” Milley said a week after the attack on the Capitol.

After Biden took the oath of office on January 20, and Trump was finally an ex-president, former First Lady Michelle Obama encountered Milley at the Capitol and asked how he was feeling. “No one has a bigger smile today than I do,” he said. “You can’t see it under my mask but I do.”

Konstantin Yuon, “New Planet,” 1921 

Meanwhile out in the states, the Big Lie continues to be a Republican Election tactic.  This is from the Atlantic Journal-Constituion: “Georgia Republicans center campaigns on false claims of election fraud.”  These people are a crazy-ass Death Cult.

 The organizers at the door handed out soft-pink “Trump Won” signs to each attendee. An out-of-state radio host spouted far-right conspiracies. Speaker after speaker insisted that Joe Biden couldn’t have won the November election and that Georgia couldn’t be a blue state.

The gathering this week in Rome might seem like a pro-Donald Trump fantasy convention. But this was no fringe group. Some of the biggest stars in the Georgia GOP were in attendance.

State Sen. Burt Jones, a wealthy executive who is expected to run for lieutenant governor, was given a hero’s welcome. A fellow Republican, state Sen. Brandon Beach, regaled the group with stories about standing up to the party establishment. Two other congressional candidates worked the room.

And U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene opened by telling the crowd, “I do not think Joe Biden won the election.”

Across the state, candidates for public office are repeating Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was rigged and the contest was stolen from him. Many are running for local office and state legislative seats, while some are seeking the most powerful posts in the state.

Diego Rivera, “The Arsenal,” 1928

Where does the exercise of freespeech trip over into inciting insurrection?  Hey DOJ!  Hey AG Garland!  Can we get some action here before there’s a repeat of Jan in–say–August?  Or say, let’s get back to the Bender book. (See BB’s post on this) and discuss the former guy doing that interview for it.  This is from Poliltico: “Trump rages over post-presidential books he did interviews for. The avalanche of coming books has caused recriminations. And there is anxiety about what’s to come by Meredith McGraw.

The guessing game that Bender’s book sparked added to the schisms and points of tensions that have erupted in Trump’s orbit in recent weeks. As the deluge of Trump-related books has hit the shelves, the already tenuous alliances that bind aides and associates of the former president have been strained further. Ex-aides have publicly attacked one-time allies while others have sought distance from a presidency they once dutifully served.

Fear is mounting, too, about the tea-spilling to come. In particular, Trump officials are anxiously awaiting the books set to be published by actual colleagues, chief among them counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway and Jared Kushner, who plan to write their own accounts of the Trump presidency.

“I think it’s fraught right now as to who is telling the truth,” said a Trump adviser. “They’re all trying to go back in time and curate their own images.”

Privately, former administration officials and top campaign aides have shared concerns about Conway’s upcoming tell-all in particular. The ex-president’s loyal former counselor is expected to give a hold-no-punches account of her time in the White House and those she worked alongside. Conway herself sat down with Trump for her book at Mar-a-Lago.

Right!  Just what we need!  A book from Ms “Alternative Facts”.  Well, here’s another attention grabber. From The Guardian. 

Vladimir Putin personally authorised a secret spy agency operation to support a “mentally unstable” Donald Trump in the 2016 US presidential election during a closed session of Russia’s national security council, according to what are assessed to be leaked Kremlin documents.

The key meeting took place on 22 January 2016, the papers suggest, with the Russian president, his spy chiefs and senior ministers all present.

They agreed a Trump White House would help secure Moscow’s strategic objectives, among them “social turmoil” in the US and a weakening of the American president’s negotiating position.

Russia’s three spy agencies were ordered to find practical ways to support Trump, in a decree appearing to bear Putin’s signature.

By this point Trump was the frontrunner in the Republican party’s nomination race. A report prepared by Putin’s expert department recommended Moscow use “all possible force” to ensure a Trump victory.

Western intelligence agencies are understood to have been aware of the documents for some months and to have carefully examined them. The papers, seen by the Guardian, seem to represent a serious and highly unusual leak from within the Kremlin.

The Guardian has shown the documents to independent experts who say they appear to be genuine. Incidental details come across as accurate. The overall tone and

The Revolution, 1937 by Marc Chagall

AG Garland?  Hello?  Are you there?  Please rid us of this meddlesome TV Reality Bimbo.  You know?  The Former Guy?

So, that’s enough to discuss and read for awhile.  I think we’re likely in for a Friday surprise tomorrow.  There are hints from Politico: ” Pigs fly: McConnell weighs giving Biden a bipartisan win. The self-appointed Senate GOP “Grim Reaper” has aired remarkably little criticism of the physical infrastructure deal that his members helped negotiate.”  I personally will believe it when I see it.

Something strange is happening in Washington: Mitch McConnell might go along with a central piece of Joe Biden’s agenda.

The self-appointed “Grim Reaper” of the Senate, a minority leader who said just two months ago that “100% of my focus is on standing up to this administration,” has been remarkably circumspect about the Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure deal. He’s privately telling his members to separate that effort from Democrats’ party-line $3.5 trillion spending plan and publicly observed there’s a “decent” chance for its success.

So, lots of headines to share today!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

capitol-insurrection-tear-gas-crowd-gty-imgA bipartisan Senate report on the January 6 insurrection came out last night, and it’s highly critical of the Capitol Police, but it doesn’t address Trump’s role in encouraging the riot. 

A new Senate report reveals previously unknown details about the stunning security breakdowns ahead of the January 6 US Capitol attack, including a finding that the US Capitol Police’s main intelligence unit “was aware of the potential for violence” beforehand.

The report adds an authoritative emphasis to previous evidence that there were massive intelligence failures, critical miscommunications, and unheeded warnings that ultimately led to the chaotic response that day.

Among the failures was an inability by intelligence officials to tie together a swirl of troubling internet chatter leading up to the riot and a reliance on using past, non-violent Trump rallies in security planning.

There are also several glaring omissions in the report including any examination of Donald Trump’s role in the riots, raising questions about whether lawmakers, in their quest for bipartisanship, exposed the limits of a Congress divided and unable to agree on certain truths, particularly those related to the former President’s actions.

Sources tell CNN that in order for this report, which was compiled by the Senate Homeland Security and Rules committees, to have support from both parties, the language had to be carefully crafted, and that included excluding the word “insurrection,” which notably does not appear outside of witness quotes and footnotes.

Clearly we need an independent commission to investigate the origins of the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol. Nevertheless the Senate report does reveal new information.

The Washington Post: Capitol Police had intelligence indicating an armed invasion weeks before Jan. 6 riot, Senate probe finds.

The U.S. Capitol Police had specific intelligence that supporters of President Donald Trump planned to mount an armed invasion of the Capitol at least two weeks before the Jan. 6 riot, according to new findings in a bipartisan Senate investigation, but a series of omissions and miscommunications kept that information from reaching front-line officers targeted by the violence.

11696121ha.originalA joint report, from the Senate Rules and Administration and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committees, outlines the most detailed public timeline to date of the communications and intelligence failures that led the Capitol Police and partner agencies to prepare for the “Stop the Steal” protest as though it were a routine Trump rally, instead of the organized assault that was planned in the open online.

Released Tuesday, the report shows how an intelligence arm of the Capitol Police disseminated security assessments labeling the threat of violence “remote” to “improbable,” even as authorities collected evidence showing that pro-Trump activists intended to bring weapons to the demonstration and “storm the Capitol.”

“There were significant, widespread and unacceptable breakdowns in the intelligence gathering. . . . The failure to adequately assess the threat of violence on that day contributed significantly to the breach of the Capitol,” Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), chairman of the homeland security panel, told reporters. “The attack was, quite frankly, planned in plain sight.”

Recommendations for the future?

The report’s recommendations, which call for better planning, training and intelligence gathering, largely mirror those of other investigators who have examined the topic, and its contents steer clear of offering any assessment or conclusion about Trump’s responsibility for the riot.

Still, the report provides a vivid picture of how poor communication and unheeded warnings left officers underequipped to face violent threats about which they had not been made aware, leaving the Capitol vulnerable to an attack that otherwise might have been preventable.

According to the report, Capitol Police intelligence officers knew as early as Dec. 21 that protesters planned to “bring guns” and other weapons to the Jan. 6 demonstration and turn them on any law enforcement officers who blocked their entry into the Capitol. They knew that would-be rioters were sharing maps of the Capitol campus online and discussing the building’s best entry points — and how to seal them off to trap lawmakers inside. But that information was shared only with command officers.

A separate security assessment dated Dec. 23 made no mention of those findings. Neither did a follow-up Dec. 30.

Read more at the WaPo.

file-20210107-16-1t7kdysThe New York Times: ‘Does Anybody Have a Plan?’ Senate Report Details Jan. 6 Security Failures.

Top federal intelligence agencies failed to adequately warn law enforcement officials before the Jan. 6 riot that pro-Trump extremists were threatening violence, including plans to “storm the Capitol,” infiltrate its tunnel system and “bring guns,” according to a new report by two Senate committees that outlines large-scale failures that contributed to the deadly assault.

An F.B.I. memo on Jan. 5 warning of people traveling to Washington for “war” at the Capitol never made its way to top law enforcement officials. The Capitol Police failed to widely circulate information from its intelligence unit that supporters of President Donald J. Trump were posting online about pressuring lawmakers to overturn his election loss.

“If they don’t show up, we enter the Capitol as the Third Continental Congress and certify the Trump Electors,” one post said.

“Bring guns. It’s now or never,” said another.

The first congressional report on the Capitol riot is the most comprehensive and detailed account to date of the dozens of intelligence failures, miscommunications and security lapses that led to what the bipartisan team of senators that assembled it concluded was an “unprecedented attack” on American democracy and the most significant assault on the Capitol in more than 200 years….

The 127-page joint report, a product of more than three months of hearings and interviews and reviews of thousands of pages of documents, presents a damning portrait of the preparations and response at multiple levels. Law enforcement officials did not take seriously threats of violence, it found, and a dysfunctional police force at the Capitol lacked the capacity to respond effectively when those threats materialized.

There are many more details on the report at the NYT link.

NBC News: Capitol Police didn’t act on warnings Trump backers would breach Capitol, target Democrats, report say.

U.S. Capitol Police leaders learned that Trump supporters were discussing ways to infiltrate tunnels around the complex and target Democratic members of Congress on Jan. 6 but failed to act on the threats, according to a new Senate report summing up what it says were profound intelligence and security failures that contributed to one of the worst incidents of domestic terrorism in U.S. history.

Rioters clash with police trying to enter Capitol building

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The report also says that officers complained about a lack of leadership within the department as they tried to repel the attack — and that top leaders were virtually silent as they begged for help.

Through tips from the public and other sources, Capitol Police “knew about social media posts calling for violence at the Capitol on January 6, including a plot to breach the Capitol, the online sharing of maps of the Capitol Complex’s tunnel systems, and other specific threats of violence,” the report said, but the police force’s intelligence division “did not convey the full scope of known information to USCP leadership, rank-and-file officers, or law enforcement partners.”

The Capitol Police’s possession of the specific intelligence had been previously flagged by the department’s inspector general in a report that has not made public, NBC News and other news organizations have reported. But the Senate document sheds new light on it. The failure to distribute the information widely, the report says, left rank-and-file Capitol Police officers unprepared to defend themselves from the armed mob.

“The objects thrown at us varied in size, shape and consistency,” an officer said. “Some were frozen cans and bottles, rebar from the construction, bricks, liquids, pepper spray, bear spray, sticks of various widths, pipes, bats.”

Another officer told Senate investigators: “We were ill prepared. We were NOT informed with intelligence. We were betrayed.”

In other news, CNN obtained a recording of a 2019 phone call between Rudy Giuliani and a Ukrainian official: Exclusive: New audio of 2019 phone call reveals how Giuliani pressured Ukraine to investigate baseless Biden conspiracies.

Never-before-heard audio, obtained exclusively by CNN, shows how former President Donald Trump’s longtime adviser Rudy Giuliani relentlessly pressured and coaxed the Ukrainian government in 2019 to investigate baseless conspiracies about then-candidate Joe Biden.

The audio is of a July 2019 phone call between Giuliani, US diplomat Kurt Volker, and Andriy Yermak, a senior adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The call was a precursor to Trump’s infamous call with Zelensky, and both conversations later became a central part of Trump’s first impeachment, where he was accused of soliciting Ukrainian help for his campaign.

US-IRAN-DEMONSTRATION

During the roughly 40-minute call, Giuliani repeatedly told Yermak that Zelensky should publicly announce investigations into possible corruption by Biden in Ukraine, and into claims that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election to hurt Trump. (These separate claims are both untrue.)

“All we need from the President [Zelensky] is to say, I’m gonna put an honest prosecutor in charge, he’s gonna investigate and dig up the evidence, that presently exists and is there any other evidence about involvement of the 2016 election, and then the Biden thing has to be run out,” Giuliani said, according to the audio. “… Somebody in Ukraine’s gotta take that seriously.”

The new audio demonstrates how Giuliani aggressively cajoled the Ukrainians to do Trump’s bidding. And it undermines Trump’s oft-repeated assertion that “there was no quid pro quo” where Zelensky could secure US government support if he did political favors for Trump.

The call was one of the opening salvos in the years-long quest by Trump and his allies to damage Biden and subvert the 2020 election process — by soliciting foreign meddling, lying about voter fraud, attempting to overturn the results, and inciting the deadly January 6 assault on the Capitol.

I hadn’t heard of this crazy conspiracy theory until yesterday. Vanity Fair: Trump’s Deranged Theory That Democrats Would Replace Biden Might Have Helped Him Lose 2020

In early 2020, a frustrated and furious Donald Trump described Joe Biden as “a mental retard” while struggling to cope with his own placement in early polls, according to a passage from “Frankly, We Did Win This Election”: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost, a forthcoming book by senior Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Bender. The author notes that Trump vented his anger at the time by interrupting “a policy meeting in the Oval Office to ask, ‘How am I losing in the polls to a mental retard?’” 

In another moment Bender writes that Trump held back on focusing his firepower on Biden during the primary stage of the election because he was convinced that the Democratic Party was scheming to switch out now president Biden for a different candidate—such as Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama—over the summer. The source of this conspiracy theory, per Bender, was Dick Morris, a former Clinton White House adviser who was “quietly advising Trump” last year. “Dick Morris told Trump that Biden was too old and too prone to gaffes to be the nominee,” Bender writes, while others in Trumpworld felt Biden would exit the race and be replaced by someone else if Trump began bashing him too hard. “Others said Fox News anchor Sean Hannity expressed concern that Biden would collapse under a sustained attack from Trump.”

trump-dollarAccording to Bender, Trump also felt that his attack strategy had backfired during the first stage of the Democratic primary. “The president, meanwhile, had often complained that his early attack on [Elizabeth] Warren had damaged her presidential bid, which he regretted because he viewed her as an easier opponent than Biden,” Bender writes. “Now he worried that a heavy blitz of attack ads would hasten the secret plot being hatched by Democrats, and his mind raced with who they might select in Biden’s place.” During a meeting held the month after the coronavirus outbreak hit the U.S., Trump expressed his Biden replacement theory to advisers, saying that Democratic leadership would “realize [Biden is] old, and they’re going to give it to somebody else. They’re going to give it to Hillary, or they’re going to give it to Michelle Obama.” 

One person in Trump’s circle did work to put a stop to this absurd belief, which Trump apparently clung to so deeply that he “had cited it as a reason to hold off on heavy spending against Biden earlier in the month.” Bender writes that Trump campaign pollster Tony Fabrizio “devoted nearly an entire page of [a campaign memo] to debunking a conspiracy theory that had bubbled up inside Trump World, including with the president, that Democrats were going to steal Biden’s nomination at the convention.” In the memo, Fabrizio reportedly wrote, “I know there is some concern (which I strenuously disagree with) that if we go after Biden too soon, we can collapse him, and the Dems will replace him at their convention. I know POTUS tends to share this opinion.” Bender adds: “The pollster aimed to debunk the theory by outlining the remaining Democratic primaries, in which Biden had no significant challenger, and the delegate math to secure the nomination. Biden would have enough delegates to secure the nomination in just three weeks, Fabrizio explained, and it would be mathematically impossible to steal it in four weeks.”

How on earth could this wacko actually have been POTUS? 

That’s all I have for you today. What stories are you following?