Lazy Caturday Reads: The Final Days

ArtScans CMYK

By Marion Peck

Good Morning!!

The images in today’s post are examples of lowbrow art aka pop surrealism. You can read about this movement here: Widewalls: What Is the Lowbrow Art Movement? When Surrealism Took Over Pop.

After the horrifying events of the past week, we still have to get through 11 more days of Trump insanity. That’s one Scarimucci.

Democrats plan to introduce an article of impeachment on Monday. The New York Times: Democrats Ready Impeachment Charge Against Trump for Inciting Capitol Mob.

House Democrats laid the groundwork on Friday for impeaching President Trump a second time, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California threatened to bring him up on formal charges if he did not resign “immediately” over his role in inciting a violent mob attack on the Capitol this week.

Tiki Cat by Brad Parker

Tiki Cat by Brad Parker

The threat was part of an all-out effort by furious Democrats, backed by a handful of Republicans, to pressure Mr. Trump to leave office in disgrace after the hourslong siege by his supporters on Wednesday on Capitol Hill. Although he has only 12 days left in the White House, they argued he was a direct danger to the nation.

Ms. Pelosi and other top Democratic leaders continued to press Vice President Mike Pence and the cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to wrest power from Mr. Trump, though Mr. Pence was said to be against it. The speaker urged Republican lawmakers to pressure the president to resign immediately. And she took the unusual step of calling Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to discuss how to limit Mr. Trump’s access to the nation’s nuclear codes and then publicized it.

“If the president does not leave office imminently and willingly, the Congress will proceed with our action,” Ms. Pelosi wrote in a letter to colleagues.

Reuters: Majority of Americans want Trump removed immediately after U.S. Capitol violence – Reuters/Ipsos poll.

Fifty-seven percent of Americans want Republican President Donald Trump to be immediately removed from office after he encouraged a protest this week that escalated into a deadly riot inside the U.S. Capitol, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.

Most of them were Democrats, however, with Republicans apparently much more supportive of Trump serving out the final days of his term, which ends on Jan. 20.

The national public opinion survey, conducted Thursday and Friday, also showed that seven out of 10 of those who voted for Trump in November opposed the action of the hardcore supporters who broke into the Capitol while lawmakers were meeting to certify the election victory of Democrat Joe Biden.

Nearly 70% of Americans surveyed also said they disapprove of Trump’s actions in the run-up to Wednesday’s assault. At a rally earlier in the day, Trump had exhorted thousands of his followers to march to the Capitol.

Princess with a ragdoll cat, Jasmine Ann Becket-Griffith

Princess with a ragdoll cat, Jasmine Ann Becket-Griffith

Of course Trump did much more than “encourage a protest.” He literally told a mob of conspiracy nuts and white supremacist thugs to march to the Capital and disrupt the counting of electoral votes by the House and Senate. Aaron Rupar at Vox: How Trump’s speech led to the Capitol riot.

Just before a MAGA mob descended on the US Capitol on Wednesday and caused a riot that killed five people, including a Capitol police officer who was beaten to death, President Donald Trump delivered a speech to his supporters in which he used the words “fight” or “fighting” at least 20 times.

“We’re going to have to fight much harder and Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us,” Trump said at one point, alluding to Pence’s ultimate refusal to attempt to steal the election for him during that day’s hearing where the Electoral College made his loss official.

“You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength. You have to be strong,” he added during the speech in which he pushed long-debunked lies about Joe Biden’s convincing victory over him being the product of fraud….

Trump began his speech by urging the media to “show what’s really happening out here because these people are not going to take it any longer. They’re not going to take it any longer.”

“You don’t concede when there’s theft involved,” he said. “Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore and that’s what this is all about.”

Trump encouraged his listeners to march to the Capitol following his speech “to see whether or not we have great and courageous leaders or whether or not we have leaders that should be ashamed of themselves throughout history, throughout eternity.” He did mention in passion that he was confident they would march “peacefully,” but his fans seemed to hear a different message, at one point chanting “fight for Trump!” as Trump said, “We will not let them silence your voices. We’re not going to let it happen.” [….]

Indeed, shortly after Trump’s speech wrapped up, a mob of Trump supporters overran law enforcement officials and breached the Capitol, ransacking and looting and leaving the premises looking like a war zone. They succeeded in disrupting and delaying the proceedings that made Trump’s loss official but didn’t change the ultimate outcome — and if anything did damage to Trump by turning political sentiment sharply against him in the final days of his administration.

As chaotic scenes unfolded at the Capitol, Trump’s first move was to post a tweet attacking Pence for lacking the “courage” to help him steal the election (he later deleted it as a condition of getting Twitter to unlock his account). Meanwhile, rioters unsuccessfully hunted for Pence while others were photographed with zip-tie handcuffs, suggesting they hoped to take hostages.

Femke Hiemstra

By Femke Hiemstra

Were there plans to take hostages and even kill lawmakers? The Washington Post: FBI focuses on whether some Capitol rioters intended to harm lawmakers or take hostages.

FBI agents are trying to determine whether some who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday intended to do more than cause havoc and disrupt the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, and they are sifting through evidence to see whether anyone wanted to kill or capture lawmakers or their staffers, according to people familiar with the investigation.

Dozens have been arrested, and Friday, officials announced charges against an Arkansas man photographed in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office chair with a foot on her desk. But investigators also are working to determine the motivations and larger goals, if any, of those who had weapons or other gear suggesting they planned to do physical harm.

Some rioters, for instance, were photographed carrying zip ties, a plastic version of handcuffs, and one man was arrested allegedly carrying a pistol on the Capitol grounds.

“We’re not looking at this as a grand conspiracy, but we are interested in learning what people would do with things like zip ties,” said a law enforcement official, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the investigation….

Many of the initial charges have been for unlawful entry, but authorities also found suspected pipe bombs outside the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee, and they arrested the owner of a truck they said was spotted nearby with 11 molotov cocktails inside. The FBI is still searching for the person who left the suspected pipe bombs.

Adding to the investigation’s urgency, Twitter on Friday noted that plans for future armed protests have begun circulating online, including a proposed second attack on the U.S. Capitol and assaults on state government buildings Jan. 17. Officials cautioned that there may be a variety of motives among those who broke into Congress, and they said that a key part of their investigation is determining whether any individuals or groups had planned in advance or were coordinating in the moment to commit violence against individual politicians. Others may simply have been caught up in the moment and committed rash, unplanned crimes, officials said.

Harlekin Cat by Catrin Welz-Stein

Harlekin Cat by Catrin Welz-Stein

CNN: Feds say police found a pickup truck full of bombs and guns near Capitol insurrection as wide-ranging investigation unfurls.

An Alabama man allegedly parked a pickup truck packed with 11 homemade bombs, an assault rifle and a handgun two blocks from the US Capitol building on Wednesday for hours before authorities ever noticed, according to federal prosecutors.

Another man allegedly showed up in the nation’s capital with an assault rifle and hundreds of rounds of ammunition and told acquaintances that he wanted to shoot or run over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, prosecutors said.

The revelations are some of the most unsettling details federal prosecutors have made public this week as they detail the extent of the arsenal available to aid pro-Trump rioters who stormed the Capitol. Other individuals have been accused of taking guns and ammunition onto Capitol grounds and more charges are expected to come as a wide-ranging investigation unfurls.

The details about the weapons cache in the pickup truck were contained in federal documents charging Lonnie Leroy Coffman of Falkville, Alabama, with federal offenses. A bomb squad detected the arsenal during the scramble to secure the federal complex after it was overrun by pro-Trump rioters and other bombs around Washington, D.C., were found.

More on Coffman:

Coffman, 70, told police he had mason jars filled with “melted Styrofoam and gasoline.” Federal investigators believe that combination, if exploded, would have the effect of napalm “insofar as it causes the flammable liquid to better stick to objects that it hits upon detonation,” according to the court record.

Police also found cloth rags and lighters. The court documents said that those items and the explosive-filled mason jars “in close proximity to one another constitute a combination of parts” that could be used as a “destructive device.”

Coffman had parked his pickup truck at 9:15 a.m. ET on First St SE on the Hill, near the National Republican Club, commonly called the Capitol Hill Club. That building is within a block of a large US House office building and the Library of Congress, according to the complaint. The truck also had a handgun on the passenger seat and an M4 Carbine assault rifle, along with rifle magazines loaded with ammunition, police said.

When police found and searched him about a block away after dusk, Coffman was also carrying a 9mm handgun and a .22-caliber handgun in each of his front pockets, the police complaint said. None of the weapons found in his truck or on his person were registered to him.

Read more details about those who have been arrested at the CNN link.

jpg_Cat_Art_Show_2_Jean_Pierre_Arboleda_Playtime

Jean Pierre Arboleda, Playtime

Ronan Farrow on one of the men who carried zip-ties into the Capital: An Air Force Combat Veteran Breached the Senate.

As insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol this week, a few figures stood out. One man, clad in a combat helmet, body armor, and other tactical gear, was among the group that made it to the inner reaches of the building. Carrying zip-tie handcuffs, he was captured in photographs and videos on the Senate floor and with a group that descended on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office suite. In a video shot by ITV News, he is seen standing against a wall adjacent to Pelosi’s office, his face covered by a bandana. At another point, he appears to exit the suite, face exposed, pushing his way through the crowds of demonstrators.

A day after the riots, John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at Citizen Lab, at the University of Toronto’s Munk School, notified the F.B.I. that he suspected the man was retired Lieutenant Colonel Larry Rendall Brock, Jr., a Texas-based Air Force Academy graduate and combat veteran. Scott-Railton had been trying to identify various people involved in the attack. “I used a number of techniques to hone in on his identity, including facial recognition and image enhancement, as well as seeking contextual clues from his military paraphernalia,” Scott-Railton told me. Brock was wearing several patches on his combat helmet and body armor, including one bearing a yellow fleur de lis, the insignia of the 706th Fighter Squadron. He also wore several symbols suggesting that he lived in Texas, including a vinyl tag of the Texas flag overlaid on the skull logo of the Punisher, the Marvel comic-book character. The Punisher has been adopted by police and Army groups and, more recently, by white supremacists and followers of QAnon. Scott-Railton also found a recently deleted Twitter account associated with Brock, with a Crusader as its avatar. “All those things together, it’s like looking at a person’s C.V.,” Scott-Railton said.

Two family members and a longtime friend said that Brock’s political views had grown increasingly radical in recent years. Bill Leake, who flew with Brock in the Air Force for a decade, said that he had distanced himself from Brock. “I don’t contact him anymore ’cause he’s gotten extreme,” Leake told me. In recent years, Brock had become an increasingly committed supporter of Donald Trump, frequently wearing a Make America Great Again hat. In the days leading up to the siege of the Capitol, Brock had posted to social media about his plans to travel to Washington, D.C., to participate in Trump’s “Save America” rally. Brock’s family members said that he called himself a patriot, and that his expressions of that identity had become increasingly strident. One recalled “weird rage talk, basically, saying he’s willing to get in trouble to defend what he thinks is right, which is Trump being the President, I guess.” Both family members said that Brock had made racist remarks in their presence and that they believed white-supremacist views may have contributed to his motivations.

802f0df04e8ee57644f7bf35ccb803cc

Artist unknown

Brock claims to be completely innocent of any malign intent.

In an interview, Brock confirmed that he was the man in the photos and videos. He denied that he held racist views and echoed Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud, saying that he derived his understanding of the matter principally from social media. He told me that he had gone to Washington, D.C., to demonstrate peacefully. “The President asked for his supporters to be there to attend, and I felt like it was important, because of how much I love this country, to actually be there,” he said. Brock added that he did not identify as part of any organized group and claimed that, despite the scenes of destruction that day, he had seen no violence. When he arrived at the Capitol, he said, he assumed he was welcome to enter the building.

Brock denied that he had entered Pelosi’s office suite, saying that he “stopped five to ten feet ahead of the sign” bearing her title that insurrectionists later tore down and brandished. However, in the ITV video, he appears to emerge from the suite. Brock said that he had worn tactical gear because “I didn’t want to get stabbed or hurt,” citing “B.L.M. and Antifa” as potential aggressors. He claimed that he had found the zip-tie handcuffs on the floor. “I wish I had not picked those up,” he told me. “My thought process there was I would pick them up and give them to an officer when I see one. . . . I didn’t do that because I had put them in my coat, and I honestly forgot about them.” He also said that he was opposed to vandalizing the building, and was dismayed when he learned of the extent of the destruction. “I know it looks menacing,” he told me. “That was not my intent.”

Yeah, right. Read more about Brock at The New Yorker.

Dan Kois at Slate: They Were Out For Blood.

I can’t stop thinking about the zip-tie guys.

Amid the photos that flooded social media during Wednesday’s riot at the Capitol—shirtless jokers in horned helmets, dudes pointing at their nuts, dumbasses carrying away souvenirs—the images of the zip-tie guys were quieter, less exuberant, more chilling. And we’d better not forget what they almost managed to do.

It’s easy to think of the siege of the U.S. Capitol as a clown show with accidentally deadly consequences. A bunch of cosplaying self-styled patriots show up, overwhelm the incomprehensibly unprepared Capitol Police, and then throw a frat party in the rotunda. The miscreants smear shit on the walls and steal laptops and smoke weed in conference rooms. Someone gets shot; someone else has a heart attack, possibly under ludicrous circumstances. When they finally get rousted, they cry to the cameras about getting maced….

Marion Peck3

By Marion Peck

But there were other rioters inside the Capitol, if you look at the images. And once you see them, it’s impossible to look away. The zip-tie guys.

Call the zip ties by their correct name: The guys were carrying flex cuffs, the plastic double restraints often used by police in mass arrest situations. They walked through the Senate chamber with a sense of purpose. They were not dressed in silly costumes but kitted out in full paramilitary regalia: helmets, armor, camo, holsters with sidearms. At least one had a semi-automatic rifle and 11 Molotov cocktails. At least one, unlike nearly every other right-wing rioter photographed that day, wore a mask that obscured his face.

These are the same guys who, when the windows of the Capitol were broken and entry secured, went in first with what I’d call military-ish precision. They moved with purpose, to the offices of major figures like Nancy Pelosi and then to the Senate floor. What was that purpose? It wasn’t to pose for photos. It was to use those flex cuffs on someone.

Kois goes on to compare these men to the terrorists who plotted to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer in October. Read the rest at Slate.

This post has gotten way too long, so I’d better wrap this up. As you can well imagine, there is much more to read out there today. I’ll post more links in the comment thread, and I hope you’ll do the same.


Thursday Reads: Trump Incites Violent Assault On U.S. Capitol

APTOPIX Electoral College Protests

Supporters of President Donald Trump climb the west wall of the the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Good Morning!!

Now I’ve seen everything–I think. Yesterday the world witnessed a violent coup attempt in the United States of America. Could it get any worse? I think it probably could. Trump is a madman and with two weeks to go before he’s forced out of office, and he still has access to the nuclear codes.

Yesterday, the so-called “president” incited a mob of white supremacists to march on the Capitol where the House and Senate were gathered to count the electoral votes and formally declare that Joe Biden will be the next POTUS. The Capitol Police appeared to allow the insurgents to rush into the Capitol building, questions are being raised about why this happened and why there were so few arrests.

5ff659b080fc0.image

Trump called on rioters to march on the Capital building to convince Congresspeople to overturn the election.

Twitter and Facebook locked Trump out of his accounts because he continued to post claims that he had actually won the 2020 election.

Congress resumed their formal counting of electoral votes last night at 8PM and certified Biden’s victory about 4AM. Meanwhile, 

There have been White House staff resignations and reports that cabinet members have been meeting to discuss invoking the 25th Amendment and removing Trump before he can do more damage to our democracy.

I was wrong about the woman who was shot and killed during the insurrection. In the video I saw, she looked like a woman of color. It turns out she was one of the attackers. KUSI News San Diego: KUSI News confirms identity of woman shot and killed inside US Capitol.

WASHINGTON (KUSI) — The woman who was shot and killed inside the US Capitol during the protests was from the San Diego area.

KUSI News has spoken with her husband.

The woman is Ashli Babbit, a 14-year veteran, who served four tours with the US Air Force, and was a high level security official throughout her time in service.

Her husband says she was a strong supporter of President Trump, and was a great patriot to all who knew her.

The Metropolitan Police Department says an investigation into her death continues.

It’s time for serious investigations into white supremacist infiltration into the military and law enforcement.

The Washington Post: Aides weigh resignations, removal options as Trump rages against perceived betrayals.

President Trump was ensconced in the White House residence Wednesday night, raging about perceived betrayals, as an array of top aides weighed resigning and some senior administration officials began conversations about invoking the 25th Amendment — an extraordinary measure that would remove the president before Trump’s term expires on Jan. 20.

josh hawley fist francis chung

This photo of Sen. Josh Hawley raising his fist in solidarity with the rioters will go down in history.

A deep, simmering unease coursed through the administration over the president’s refusal to accept his election loss and his role in inciting a mob to storm the Capitol, disrupting the peaceful transfer of power to President-elect Joe Biden. One administration official described Trump’s behavior Wednesday as that of “a total monster,” while another said the situation was “insane” and “beyond the pale.”

Fearful that Trump could take actions resulting in further violence and death if he remains in office even for a few days, senior administration officials were discussing Wednesday night whether the Cabinet might invoke the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to force him out, said a person involved in the conversations.

A former senior administration official briefed on the talks confirmed that preliminary discussions of the 25th Amendment were underway, although this person cautioned that they were informal and that there was no indication of an immediate plan of action. Both of these people, like some others interviewed for this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the matter.

On Trump’s reactions:

People who interacted with Trump on Wednesday said they found him in a fragile and volatile state. He spent the afternoon and evening cocooned at the White House and listening only to a small coterie of loyal aides — including Meadows, deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino, personnel director Johnny McEntee and policy adviser Stephen Miller. Many of his top confidants — Meadows, son-in-law Jared Kushner and first lady Melania Trump, among others — were publicly silent.

“He’s got a bunker mentality now, he really does,” the close adviser said.

5ff61f01830d9.imageAs rioters broke through police barricades and occupied the Capitol, paralyzing the business of Congress, aides said Trump resisted entreaties from some of his advisers to condemn the marauders and refused to be reasoned with.

“He kept saying: ‘The vast majority of them are peaceful. What about the riots this summer? What about the other side? No one cared when they were rioting. My people are peaceful. My people aren’t thugs,’ ” an administration official said. “He didn’t want to condemn his people.”

“He was a total monster today,” this official added, describing the president’s handling of Wednesday’s coup attempt as less defensible than his equivocal response to the deadly white supremacist rally in 2017 in Charlottesville.

The Washington Post Editorial Board: Trump caused the assault on the Capitol. He must be removed.

PRESIDENT TRUMP’S refusal to accept his election defeat and his relentless incitement of his supporters led Wednesday to the unthinkable: an assault on the U.S. Capitol by a violent mob that overwhelmed police and drove Congress from its chambers as it was debating the counting of electoral votes. Responsibility for this act of sedition lies squarely with the president, who has shown that his continued tenure in office poses a grave threat to U.S. democracy. He should be removed.

Mr. Trump encouraged the mob to gather on Wednesday, as Congress was set to convene, and to “be wild.” After repeating a panoply of absurd conspiracy theories about the election, he urged the crowd to march on the Capitol. “We’re going to walk down, and I’ll be there with you,” he said. “You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.” The president did not follow the mob, but instead passively watched it on television as its members tore down fences around the Capitol and overwhelmed police guarding the building. House members and senators were forced to flee. Shots were fired, and at least one person was struck and killed.

Rather than immediately denouncing the violence and calling on his supporters to stand down, Mr. Trump issued two mild tweets in which he called on them to “remain” or “stay” peaceful. Following appeals from senior Republicans, he finally released a video in which he asked people to go home, but doubled down on the lies fueling the vigilantes. “We love you. You’re very special,” he told his seditious posse. Later, he excused the riot, tweeting that “these are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away.” [….]

unnamed (1)

Confederate flags were carried into the U.S. Capitol building.

The president is unfit to remain in office for the next 14 days. Every second he retains the vast powers of the presidency is a threat to public order and national security. Vice President Pence, who had to be whisked off the Senate floor for his own protection, should immediately gather the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment, declaring that Mr. Trump is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” Congress, which would be required to ratify the action if Mr. Trump resisted, should do so. Mr. Pence should serve until President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20.

Failing that, senior Republicans must restrain the president. The insurrection came just as many top Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), were finally denouncing Mr. Trump’s antidemocratic campaign to overturn the election results. A depressing number of GOP legislators — such as Sen. Josh Hawley (Mo.), Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (La.) — were prepared to support Mr. Trump’s effort, fueling the rage of those the president has duped into believing the election was stolen.

The Daily Beast: Trump Aides Beg Top Officials to Stay After MAGA Mob Attack.

While President Donald Trump egged on a mob of his supporters who had stormed the United States Capitol on Wednesday, several of his top aides began to scramble. Their mission, according to three sources familiar with the matter: to try to convince senior White House staffers and Cabinet secretaries to stay in the administration, if only just for the night.

The effort has not been completely successful. Stephanie Grisham, the chief of staff to the first lady and the former White House communications director, quit hours after the insurrection, as CNN first reported. So did Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Matthews. “As someone who worked in the halls of Congress I was deeply disturbed by what I saw today,” she wrote.

ErI6wrrXYAIPXN0Former Trump chief of staff Mick Mulvaney announced that he had resigned from his diplomatic post on Thursday morning, telling CNBC: “I can’t stay.” Deputy National Security Adviser Matt Pottinger also resigned on Wednesday afternoon, an administration official confirmed to The Daily Beast and Ryan Tully quit the National Security Council.

Several other senior officials said they were considering quitting on the spot after news broke that an individual involved in Wednesday’s events at the Capitol had died as a result of a gunshot wound. Those officials include Deputy Chief of Staff Chris Liddell, two sources familiar with the situation said.

Trump aides and GOP power-brokers including Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) asked all three to remain in their posts until at least tomorrow.

These people knew what Trump was long ago. The only reason they are leaving is to try to salvage their own tattered reputations.

Buzzfeed News: The Rioters Who Took Over The Capitol Have Been Planning Online In The Open For Weeks.

The supporters of President Donald Trump who rioted in the US Capitol building on Wednesday had been openly planning for weeks on both mainstream social media and the pro-Trump internet. On forums like TheDonald, a niche website formed after Reddit banned the subreddit of the same name, they promised violence against lawmakers, police, and journalists if Congress did not reject the results of the 2020 election.

In one interaction four days ago, a person on TheDonald asked, “What if Congress ignores the evidence?”

“Storm the Capitol,” one replied, which received more than 500 upvotes.

“You’re fucking right we do,” another said.

On pro-Trump social media website Parler, chat app Telegram, and other corners of the the far-right internet, people discussed the Capitol Hill rally at which Trump spoke as the catalyst for a violent insurrection. They have been using those forums to plan an uprising in plain sight, one that they executed Wednesday afternoon, forcing Congress to flee its chambers as it met to certify the results of the election.

“Extremists have for weeks repeatedly expressed their intentions to attend the January 6 protests, and unabashedly voiced their desire for chaos and violence online,” said Jared Holt, a visiting research fellow with DFRLab. “What we’ve witnessed is the manifestation of that violent online rhetoric into real-life danger.”

“The earliest call we got on our radar for today specifically was a militia movement chatroom talking about being ‘ready for blood’ if things didn’t start changing for Trump,” Holt said.

So why was the response from law enforcement so pathetic? We need answers.

1609997742809Axios: The Capitol siege’s QAnon roots.

Wednesday’s assault on the U.S. Capitol was an appalling shock to most Americans, but to far-right true believers it was the culmination of a long-unfolding epic.

The big picture: A growing segment of the American far right, radicalized via social media and private online groups, views anyone who bucks President Trump’s will as evil. That includes Democrats, the media, celebrities, judges and officeholders — even conservatives, should they cross the president.

Catch up quick: A great many Trump supporters spent recent weeks on heavily pro-Trump platforms like TheDonald.win and Parler openly discussing coming to Washington on Jan. 6 to launch an attack on the government.

  • Often the idea was discussed in vague or winking terms; other times, users explicitly called for elected officials to be abducted and executed.
  • Users on more mainstream platforms talked up plans to come to Washington on Jan. 6 to simply protest the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral victory. Trump egged them on, repeatedly calling on supporters to swarm Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6.

Between the lines: Adherents of the QAnon conspiracy theory, who imagine a vast deep-state cabal of pedophiles arrayed against Trump, have for years insisted that a moment of reckoning for their enemies is imminent.

  • QAnon believers have largely accepted that Trump is waiting for the right time to bring a hammer down on his enemies (or already has, in secret).

  • But time is running out. Because Congress was slated to officially certify Biden’s victory on Jan. 6, the day became the focal point of a new conspiracy theory — that Trump would, on that date, reveal mountains of evidence of electoral fraud, somehow invalidate Biden’s win, and secure a second term.

Anne Applebaum at The Atlantic: What Trump and His Mob Taught the World About America.

In 1945, the nations of what had been Nazi-occupied Western Europe chose to become democracies, partly because they aspired to resemble their liberators. In 1989, the nations of what had been Communist-occupied Eastern Europe also chose to become democracies, partly because they too wanted to join the great, prosperous, freedom-loving, American-led democratic alliance. A huge variety of countries all across Asia, Africa, and South America have also chosen democracy over the past several decades, at least partly because they wanted to be like us, because they saw a path to the peaceful resolution of conflict in imitating us, because they saw a way to resolve their own disputes just like we did, using elections and debate instead of violence.  

4WAEDE2JUVBD5ER3UIOTKJQGWADuring this period, many American politicians and diplomats mistakenly imagined that it was their clever words or deeds that persuaded others to join what eventually became a very broad, international democratic alliance. But they were wrong. It was not them; it was us—our example.

Over the past four years, that example has been badly damaged. We elected a president who refused to recognize the democratic process. We stood by while some members of Donald Trump’s party cynically colluded with him, helping him break laws and rules designed to restrain him. We indulged his cheerleading “media”—professional liars who pretended to believe the president’s stories, including his invented claims of massive voter fraud. Then came the denouement: an awkward, cack-handed invasion of the Capitol by the president’s supporters, some dressed in strange costumes, others sporting Nazi symbols or waving Confederate flags. They achieved the president’s goal: They brought the official certification of the Electoral College vote to a halt. House and Senate members and Vice President Mike Pence were escorted out of the legislative chambers. Their staff members were told to shelter in place. A woman was shot to death.

There is no way to overstate the significance of this moment, no way to ignore the power of the message that these events send to both the friends and the enemies of democracy, everywhere. The images from Washington that are going out around the world are far more damaging to America’s reputation as a stable democracy than the images of young people protesting the Vietnam War several decades ago, and they are far more disturbing to outsiders than the riots and protests of last summer. Unlike so many other disturbances over the years, the events at the Capitol yesterday did not represent a policy dispute, a disagreement about a foreign war or the behavior of police. They were part of an argument over the validity of democracy itself: A violent mob declared that it should decide who becomes the next president, and Trump encouraged its members. So did his allies in Congress, and so did the far-right propagandists who support him. For a few hours, they prevailed.

I’ve barely touched the surface of the commentary that’s out there today. I’ll add more links in the comment thread and I hope you’ll add your own thoughts and links to the discussion. Take care Sky Dancers!


Tuesday Reads: Two Momentous Days

246937_rgb_1536

Good Afternoon!!

Is it really only Tuesday? I’m already exhausted and the week has barely begun. Today is the day that voters in Georgia will decide which party controls the U.S. Senate. Trump held a rally in Georgia last night, supposedly to support Kelly Loeffler and David Purdue, the GOP candidates, but he spend most of his time arguing that he actually won the November election and should remain in office for four more years. Tomorrow Trump’s army of seditionists will be trying to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election–in Congress and in the streets of DC. Trump has been encouraging them to come and cause trouble in the streets and yesterday, he announced plans to address the angry rabble during their “protests.” Here’s the latest:

Georgia Runoff Elections

NBC News: Georgia voters head to the polls in pivotal Senate runoff elections.

Georgia voters are heading to the polls Tuesday to cast ballots in pivotal runoff elections that will determine the balance of power in the U.S. Senate.

Polls opened at 7 a.m. ET in the state and they close at 7 p.m. ET. Voters who are in line by 7 p.m. can still cast a ballot, according to the Georgia secretary of state’s office. More than 3 million Georgia residents have already cast ballots in the two races during the early voting period that started Dec. 14.

In the races, Democrat Jon Ossoff is running against Republican David Perdue, whose Senate term expired on Sunday with the start of the new Congress, and Democrat Raphael Warnock is trying to unseat GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler. The runoffs come after none of the candidates captured 50 percent of the vote in November’s election.

jd010121daprThe outcome Tuesday will decide whether Republicans will retain control of the Senate or Democrats retake the majority, which would give President-elect Joe Biden a better chance at passing his agenda through Congress. If both Democrats win, the chamber would be split 50-50, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris acting as the tie-breaker for Democrats on party-line votes. But the party would still face obstacles given the need for 60 votes to advance major legislation.

From Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball: 

With Election Day voting underway in the crucial Senate runoffs in Georgia, we continue to see both races as Toss-ups. But after an early-voting period where Democrats may have performed better than they did in the lead-up to the November election, Republicans may need to follow suit with an impressive day-of-election performance to defend Sens. David Perdue (R-GA) and Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) against challengers Jon Ossoff (D) and Raphael Warnock (D), respectively.

Georgians have cast roughly 3 million votes so far in the contest through early in-person and mail-in voting. Even without accounting for any Election Day votes, this is an impressive turnout, about 60% of the roughly 5 million votes cast in Georgia’s high-turnout November election.

The last time Georgia had a Senate runoff, in 2008, only 2.1 million votes were cast compared to 3.9 million votes cast for president in the general election. So a dozen years ago, turnout in the runoff was just a little more than half that of the general election, and then-Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) won the runoff by 15 points after leading in the November vote by just three points.

cjones01022021The turnout in these runoffs as a percentage of the general election vote is going to be markedly higher than in 2008. The key question is how much higher.

The votes cast before Election Day in these Senate runoffs may be more Democratic leaning than those cast before the November general election. Perhaps the most encouraging data point for Democrats is that the Black voter share of the pre-Election Day vote is up a few points from the pre-Election Day Black vote in the general election. Given that Black voters overwhelmingly support Democrats, any increase in the Black share of the electorate is very important.

Read more analysis at the link.

A couple more Georgia election stories to check out:

Takeo Spikes at USA Today: Georgia’s rural Black voters were ignored and suppressed. Now they might flip the Senate.

NBC News: In Georgia, Democrats close with populist pitch vowing $2,000 stimulus checks.

Trump’s Final Rally

Politico: Trump uses Georgia rally to pressure GOP on Electoral College challenge.

President Donald Trump came to Georgia on Monday to campaign for Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in an attempt to help Republicans retain control of the Senate. But he very quickly revealed another motivation for traveling to this ultra-conservative enclave.

“Hello, Georgia. By the way, there is no way we lost Georgia. There’s no way,” Trump said immediately after taking the stage. “That was a rigged election. But we are still fighting it.” [….]

“People will remember the people who don’t support us,” Trump said of Wednesday’s joint session of Congress, when lawmakers will vote to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College votes.

Speaking at a rally here, Trump berated members of his party who have refused to support his attempt to overturn Biden’s win in November, and continued to promote falsehoods that the election was stolen from him — spending relatively little time talking up the incumbent senators whose runoff elections will take place on Tuesday.

He vowed to campaign against Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in 2022 because they certified Biden’s win in the state, and he praised Republicans who plan to challenge the Electoral College results in Congress this week.

On Twitter, Aaron Rupar reported that the audience seemed bored when Trump briefly tried to talk about today’s Senate runoff elections. 

Tomorrow’s Trump Fan “Protests”

Politico: MAGA marchers plot final D.C. stand on Jan. 6.

Timed to the day when Congress will formally certify President-elect Joe Biden’s win, the MAGA crowd is trying to pressure Vice President Mike Pence and Republican lawmakers to refuse to seat Biden over fabricated voter-fraud claims. It’s a doomed plan, given the makeup of Congress, the absent evidence behind the rigged election allegations and the fact that every important state has already certified Biden’s win. Yet that hasn’t stopped a swell of Trump supporters from making plans — and the president from teasing his own appearance.

According to disinformation and extremist researchers, the Jan. 6 gathering will look similar to November’s Million MAGA March — a mashup of garden-variety Trump supporters and more extreme members of the far right, with no apparent central organizing apparatus. Stop the Steal, a group affiliated with pro-Trump super PACs and allies of Trump adviser Roger Stone, has filed for permits and plans to protest outside the Capitol, but other groups have also claimed to be the true official planners.

Click the link for more details.

ABC News: As he seeks to prevent certification of election, Trump plans to attend DC rally.

Over the weekend the president tweeted, “I will be there. Historic day!” replying to a tweet from one of the rally organizers.

Yesterday, the Proud Boys leader was arrested and also sued. Read the details at The Washington Post: Proud Boys leader arrested in the burning of church’s Black Lives Matter banner, D.C. police say.

DC is preparing for possible violence from the Trump cultists.

NBC News: D.C. mayor calls on National Guard as pro-Trump protests set for capital.

The Washington Post: D.C. houses of worship beef up security as Trump defenders descend on the nation’s capital.

On Trump and the GOP Congressional Sedition Caucus

John Cassidy at The New Yorker: Trump’s Authoritarian Moment Is Here.

If there were any doubt remaining that Donald Trump still represents a dire threat to American democracy, the events of this weekend dispelled it. As a new Congress gathers to confirm that the voters chose Joe Biden to be the next President, a proceeding that should be a mere formality, Trump is desperately trying to overturn the result and stay in office. Even more disturbing, large numbers of elected Republicans are joining in this unprecedented effort to reject the popular will. If the Republic gets through the next two weeks without a catastrophe, we must surely take steps to protect ourselves against the next would-be authoritarian, which could well be Trump himself in 2024.

On Sunday, the Washington Post reported the contents of a lengthy phone call that took place on Saturday between Trump and Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state. Raffensperger is one of the honorable Republicans at the state and local level who have stood up against the President’s efforts to bully them into calling the election for the loser: him. The conversation was a long one—it lasted almost an hour—but the transcript shows that this wasn’t the Trump of the campaign trail or the White House press room, endlessly going off on tangents. Throughout the conversation, he remained focussed on his counterfactual narrative—that he carried Georgia easily—and a specific set of demands for Raffensperger.

247110_rgb_768“So look, all I want to do is this,” the President said at one point. “I just want to find eleven thousand seven hundred and eighty votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state.” At numerous points, Trump repeated incendiary allegations about voter fraud in Georgia that some of his supporters have been putting forward. Among other things, he claimed that five thousand dead people voted, three hundred thousand fake ballots were submitted, and that Fulton County, an area the former Vice-President won big, shredded three thousand pounds of ballots and covertly removed voting machines. Raffensperger and his general counsel, who was also on the call, calmly pointed out that his office had investigated all of these claims and found them to be false. (Georgia’s state supreme court and a federal judge appointed by George W. Bush rejected the Trump campaign’s claims as well.) Trump wasn’t to be put off. “So what are we going to do here, folks? I only need eleven thousand votes,” he repeated. “Fellas, I need eleven thousand votes. Give me a break.”

Since the election, some commentators have downplayed Trump’s refusal to accept the result, saying that he was merely exercising the inviolate American right to sue. But this wasn’t Rudy Giuliani standing outside Four Seasons Total Landscaping, in a Philadelphia strip mall. It was the President of the United States speaking from the Oval Office and leaning on a local election official, with the backing of his chief of staff, Mark Meadows, who was also on the call, and a number of other Trump lawyers, including Cleta Mitchell, a partner at the corporate law firm Foley & Lardner. “The entire call is astonishing,” Michael Bromwich, a former inspector general at the Justice Department, commented on Twitter, after the Post report was published. “The bullying, the threats, the insults, the credulous embrace of discredited conspiracy theories. Like a crime boss, Trump occasionally says that all he wants is the truth. But he doesn’t—he wants the win.”

George F. Will at The Washington Post: Hawley, Cruz and their Senate cohort are the Constitution’s most dangerous domestic enemies.

On a conference call last Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told his caucus that, in his 36 Senate years, he has twice cast votes to take the nation to war and once to remove a president, but that the vote he will cast this Wednesday to certify Joe Biden’s electoral college victory will be the most important of his career. McConnell (R-Ky.) understands the recklessness of congressional Republicans who are fueling the doubts of a large majority of Republicans about the legitimacy of the 2020 election.

20210101edbbc-aThe day before McConnell’s somber statement, Missouri’s freshman Republican senator, Josh Hawley, announced that on Wednesday, 14 days before Biden will be inaugurated, he will challenge the validity of Biden’s election. Hawley’s conscience regarding electoral proprieties compels him to stroke this erogenous zone of the GOP’s 2024 presidential nominating electorate.

Hawley’s stance quickly elicited panicky emulation from Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, another 2024 aspirant. Cruz led 10 other senators and senators-elect in a statement that presents their pandering to what terrifies them (their Trumpkin voters) as a judicious determination to assess the “unprecedented allegations” of voting improprieties, “allegations” exceeding “any in our lifetimes.”

So, allegations in sufficient quantity, although of uniformly risible quality, validate senatorial grandstanding that is designed to deepen today’s widespread delusions and resentments. While Hawley et al. were presenting their last-ditch devotion to President Trump as devotion to electoral integrity, Trump was heard on tape browbeating noncompliant Georgia election officials to “find” thousands of votes for him. Awkward.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

The New York Times: Pence’s Choice: Side With the Constitution or His Boss.

Speaking to supporters of President Trump on Monday at the Rock Springs Church in Milner, Ga., Vice President Mike Pence implored the crowd to vote in the two runoff elections Tuesday that will determine whether Republicans maintain control of the Senate.

“I am here for one reason and one reason only, and that is that Georgia and America need David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler back in the Republican majority,” Mr. Pence said.

But the crowd had a message for him, too.

“We need you do the right thing Jan. 6!” one supporter cried out. “Stop the steal!” shouted others. The crowd applauded.

Cartoonist Gary Varvel: Mike Pence's main job

If Mr. Pence has tried to skirt Mr. Trump’s efforts to cling to power, his reception in Georgia on Monday served as the latest reminder of the delicate role he will play on Wednesday, when Congress conducts what is typically a ceremonial duty of opening and counting certificates of electoral votes.

As president of the Senate, Mr. Pence is expected to preside over the pro forma certification of the Electoral College vote count in front of a joint session of Congress. It is a constitutionally prescribed, televised moment in which Mr. Pence will name the winner of the 2020 presidential election, Joseph R. Biden Jr.

What Pence said in Georgia:

“I know we all have got our doubts about the last election,” Mr. Pence said Monday in Georgia, attempting to assuage Trump supporters. “I want to assure you that I share the concerns of millions of Americans about voting irregularities. I promise you, come this Wednesday, we will have our day in Congress.”

It was not clear, perhaps by design, what he meant. Mr. Pence does not have unilateral power to affect the outcome of Wednesday’s proceedings. But he has carefully tried to look like he is loyally following the president’s lead even as he goes through a process that is expected to end with him reading out a declaration that Mr. Biden is the winner.

We’ll find out tomorrow.

So that’s what’s happening over the next two days. It should be interesting. Take care of yourselves and take breaks from the news as needed!


Lazy Caturday Reads

Portrait of the Cat Armellino With a Sonnet by Bertazzi , Giovanni Reder, 1750

Portrait of the Cat Armellino With a Sonnet by Bertazzi , Giovanni Reder, 1750

Good Morning!!

As we get closer to Joe Biden’s inauguration, Trump is acting crazier than ever. I have to wonder if he can avoid a complete psychotic breakdown before he’s finally forced to leave the people’s house. With each passing day, he becomes more of an embarrassment to the country. Here’s the latest, along with some 18th Century cats in art:

The Daily Beast: Trump Plans to Fight the Election Even After ‘Stop the Steal’ Rally Ends.

Many of Donald Trump’s most dogmatic supporters see a mass protest in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6—just two weeks shy of Inauguration Day 2021—as their last chance to disrupt President-elect Joe Biden’s win. But for the president himself, it’s just another day to complain.

Two people familiar with the matter say that in recent days, Trump has told advisers and close associates that he wants to keep fighting in court past Jan. 6 if members of Congress, as expected, end up certifying the electoral college results.

“The way he sees it is: Why should I ever let this go?… How would that benefit me?” said one of the sources, who’s spoken to Trump at length about the post-election activities to nullify his Democratic opponent’s decisive victory.

(c) National Galleries of Scotland; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

A Girl Holding a Cat by Philippe Mercier, c.1750 (c) National Galleries of Scotland

The president’s exact plans for the Jan. 6 events remain unclear, and it has been common for him to lend his support to these rallies or protests via enthusiastic-sounding tweets, only to then stop short of doing much else. Since last week, Trump has asked certain aides and allies what they think would be good ideas for him to mark the occasion, such as a speech, a flyover, or a recorded video, the sources said….

On the day itself, protesters plan to meet in the northeast corner of the Capitol complex, where they’ll hear from a list of speakers that includes Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Trump adviser Roger Stone, and Rep-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who has supported the QAnon conspiracy theory. Trump has promoted the protest on Twitter, urging his supporters to attend.

“Be there, will be wild!” Trump tweeted on Dec. 19.

CNN: Trump attacks No. 2 Senate Republican as the President turns on allies in his final days in office.

President Donald Trump is spending his final days in office attacking leadership within his own party, this time the second-highest ranking Republican in the Senate, offering a possible preview of his broader post-presidential strategy to use his influence in the 2022 midterm elections and beyond.

Trump, back at the White House after his Mar-a-Lago holiday with no public events on his schedule, attacked Sen. John Thune, a South Dakotan who is the No. 2 Senate Republican, in an afternoon tweet on New Year’s Day.

“I hope to see the great Governor of South Dakota @KristiNoem, run against RINO @SenJohnThune, in the upcoming 2022 Primary. She would do a fantastic job in the U.S. Senate, but if not Kristi, others are already lining up. South Dakota wants strong leadership, NOW!” he wrote in a tweet.

Trump has railed against Republican leadership broadly multiple times this week, but this time is naming names. Thune, the Senate majority whip, had been one of the top Republicans to speak in favor of accepting the Electoral College results and President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, drawing Trump’s ire.

“Once somebody gets 270, I understand they’re ruling right now, but I think that’s the process we have, yes. … In the end at some point you have to face the music. And I think once the Electoral College settles the issue today, it’s time for everybody to move on,” Thune said ahead of the formal electoral college voting process last month.

Trump’s tweet comes just 19 days before he leaves the White House and days before a joint session of Congress is set to formally certify the Electoral College results, with some Trump allies planning to join his baseless efforts to overturn the results of the election.

(c) Paintings Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

A Little Girl Nursing a Kitten by James Northcote, 1795 (c) Paintings Collection

Trump’s childish tantrums threaten to disrupt GOP hopes of holding onto the Senate majority by winning two runoff elections in Georgia. Politico: Trump’s attacks on Senate Republicans complicate his Georgia message.

Trump’s last-minute moves to close out his presidency — from his demand for increased stimulus payments to his unsubstantiated claims about the 2020 election — have put Republicans in a bind ahead of the state’s runoffs next week that will determine which party controls the Senate. And the president’s messaging is ironically aligned with that of Democrats, who see a renewed opening on their broader push for more coronavirus relief aid after President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

Though he is actively campaigning for the state’s two incumbent GOP senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, holding a Monday night rally to drive turnout to help save the Republican majority, Trump is continuing to run roughshod all over the party’s message for Tuesday’s must-win runoffs and, some Republicans worry, giving Democrats a perfect opening.

On Friday, Trump called the Republican-controlled Senate “pathetic” for failing to deliver on the $2,000 stimulus checks and other demands he wanted to pair with it after the Senate voted to override his veto of the $741 billion defense policy bill.

“Now they want to give people ravaged by the China Virus $600, rather than the $2000 which they so desperately need,” Trump tweeted, referring to Senate Republicans. ”Not fair, or smart!”

Indeed, Democratic challengers Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff have been jumping all over the president’s demand to boost the pandemic relief payments by $1,400. It’s a major closing argument for them — especially on the heels of Senate Republicans blocking a stand-alone bill to increase the value of the checks.

For some unknown reason, reports The New York Times: Trump Calls Georgia Senate Races ‘Illegal and Invalid’

ATLANTA — President Trump took to Twitter Friday evening to make the unfounded assertion that Georgia’s two Senate races are “illegal and invalid,” an argument that could complicate his efforts to convince his supporters to turn out for Republican candidates in the two runoff races that will determine which party controls the Senate.

The president is set to hold a rally in Dalton, Ga., on Monday, the day before Election Day, and Georgia Republicans are hoping he will focus his comments on how crucial it is for Republicans to vote in large numbers for Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, the state’s two incumbent Republican senators.

Jean-Baptiste Perronneau, Portrait of Magdaleine Pinceloup de la Grange and kitty.

Jean-Baptiste Perronneau, Portrait of Magdaleine Pinceloup de la Grange and kitty.

But Mr. Trump has continued to make the false claim that Georgia’s election system was rigged against him in the Nov. 3 general election. Some Republican leaders are afraid that his supporters will take the president’s argument seriously, and decide that voting in a “corrupt” system is not worth their time, a development that could hand the election to the Democrats.

Some strategists and political science experts in the state have said Mr. Trump’s assault on Georgia’s voting system may be at least partly responsible for the relatively light Republican turnout in the conservative strongholds of northwest Georgia, where Dalton is, in the early voting period that ended Thursday.

Mr. Trump made his assertion about the Senate races in a Twitter thread in which he also made the baseless claim that “massive corruption” took place in the general election, “which gives us far more votes than is necessary to win all of the Swing States.”

The president made a specific reference to a Georgia consent decree that he said was unconstitutional. The problems with this document, he argued further, render the two Senate races and the results of his own electoral loss invalid.

Mr. Trump was almost certainly referring to a March consent decree hammered out between the Democratic Party and Republican state officials that helped establish standards for judging the validity of signatures on absentee ballots in the state.

Meanwhile, Trump continues to ignore the racing coronavirus pandemic.

CNN: US surpasses 20 million Covid-19 cases while experts foresee tough times in January.

The US surpassed 20 million total recorded Covid-19 cases on Friday, hours after the country ushered in 2021 and left behind its deadliest month of the pandemic.

The nation also has set a Covid-19 hospitalization record for four straight days. The high counts are a grim reminder that even with 2020 behind us, the pandemic continues to ravage parts of the country. And some leaders warn the worst is still ahead.

“We are still going to have our toughest and darkest days,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told CNN on Thursday.

More than 125,000 coronavirus patients were in US hospitals Friday, Covid Tracking Project data shows. 

(c) National Trust, Fenton House; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

‘Psyche’, a White Persian Cat by Francis Sartorius I, 1787 (c) National Trust, Fenton House

Don’t miss this devastating piece on Trump’s epic failure at The New York Times: Trump’s Focus as the Pandemic Raged: What Would It Mean for Him?

It was a warm summer Wednesday, Election Day was looming and President Trump was even angrier than usual at the relentless focus on the coronavirus pandemic.

“You’re killing me! This whole thing is! We’ve got all the damn cases,” Mr. Trump yelled at Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior adviser, during a gathering of top aides in the Oval Office on Aug. 19. “I want to do what Mexico does. They don’t give you a test till you get to the emergency room and you’re vomiting.”

Mexico’s record in fighting the virus was hardly one for the United States to emulate. But the president had long seen testing not as a vital way to track and contain the pandemic but as a mechanism for making him look bad by driving up the number of known cases.

And on that day he was especially furious after being informed by Dr. Francis S. Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, that it would be days before the government could give emergency approval to the use of convalescent plasma as a treatment, something Mr. Trump was eager to promote as a personal victory going into the Republican National Convention the following week.

“They’re Democrats! They’re against me!” he said, convinced that the government’s top doctors and scientists were conspiring to undermine him. “They want to wait!”

Throughout late summer and fall, in the heat of a re-election campaign that he would go on to lose, and in the face of mounting evidence of a surge in infections and deaths far worse than in the spring, Mr. Trump’s management of the crisis — unsteady, unscientific and colored by politics all year — was in effect reduced to a single question: What would it mean for him?

The result, according to interviews with more than two dozen current and former administration officials and others in contact with the White House, was a lose-lose situation. Mr. Trump not only ended up soundly defeated by Joseph R. Biden Jr., but missed his chance to show that he could rise to the moment in the final chapter of his presidency and meet the defining challenge of his tenure.

Read the whole thing at the NYT link.

The cat's lunch, Marguerite Gerard

The cat’s lunch, Marguerite Gerard

More stories to check out today:

Axios: Trump, the GOP arsonist.

The Washington Post: Judge dismisses Gohmert lawsuit seeking to stymie Biden electoral college count.

The New York Times: As Understanding of Russian Hacking Grows, So Does Alarm.

The New York Times: In Abrupt Reversal of Iran Strategy, Pentagon Orders Aircraft Carrier Home.

Times of Israel: Iran says killers of top general Soleimani, including Trump, ‘not safe on Earth’

ABC7 Los Angeles: Nancy Pelosi’s home vandalized with graffiti, fake blood on New Year’s Day.

The Los Angeles Times: Coughing, sneezing, vomiting: Visibly ill people aren’t being kept off planes.

Jay Rosen at PressThink: The Christmas Eve Confessions of Chuck Todd.

Lois Beckett at The Guardian: Facts won’t fix this: experts on how to fight America’s disinformation crisis.


New Year’s Eve Reads: So Long 2020

Revelers recovering from New Years Eve celebrations on the steps of Grand Central Station, New York, circa 1940.

Revelers recovering from New Years Eve celebrations on the steps of Grand Central Station, New York, circa 1940.

Good Afternoon!!

It has been a long, torturous year; thank goodness it’s almost over. In 20 days, Trump will be gone and we’ll have a normal president again. Unfortunately, tens of thousands of Americans will die as long as an irresponsible, uncaring narcissistic madman remains in control of the U.S. government.

Zachary B. Wolf at CNN: Trump absent as vaccine distribution lags and thousands continue to die.

A closing indignity on the final day of this horrendous year is that nobody actually seems to expect Donald Trump, who is still the President, to be paying much or any attention to the actual nightmare underway in the country he still leads.

At 341,000 and growing, more people have died from Covid-19 in the US this year than died in battle in World War II and Vietnam combined, according to data on casualties in those wars from the Department of Veterans Affairs. There were many more noncombat deaths in those conflicts. But the point here is the country is at war with a global pandemic and the President spent the week on the golf course and tweeting about his election loss instead of trying to save Americans.

It’s worth mentioning, in case nobody has told him, that more than 3,700 US Covid deaths were reported Tuesday, a frightening new record that will soon be eclipsed since the country notched a record number of new hospitalizations on the same day, which was soon broken on Wednesday.

American actress Clara Bow holds up a large card while actor Larry Gray inscribes a New Year's greeting with a giant pen, 1935.

American actress Clara Bow holds up a large card while actor Larry Gray inscribes a New Year’s greeting with a giant pen, 1935.

The 3,700 deaths in one day, for context, is more than half the US casualties on D-Day and more than the entire Tet Offensive in Vietnam.

Many people have pointed out the US is suffering a 9/11 every day. But the sad truth of that comparison has worn off as the Covid-19 numbers have grown more unfathomable. And while 9/11 was a single attack that changed the way Americans live, this war with coronavirus is still surging….

The vaccine program — Operation Warp Speed — which Trump put in place, has deployed millions of doses of vaccines for the disease, but that’s falling further and further behind schedule, which means it could take years at the current rate to vaccinate enough Americans to halt the pandemic.

Christina Maxouris at CNN: US sets daily Covid-19 death record for the second straight day. Another 80,000 could die in next 3 weeks, new forecast says.

More than 80,000 Americans could die of Covid-19 over the next three weeks, a new US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ensemble forecast projects — offering a stark reminder the nation is still facing challenging times.

The new prediction comes amid ongoing vaccine distributions — a rolloutexperts say has been slower than they’d hoped. Vaccines will only make any meaningful impact once they’re widely available to the public, possibly not until summertime, experts have said.

In the meantime, Covid-19 hospitalizations are soaring. The US set a record Wednesday for number of Covid-19 patients in hospitals on a given day, at 125,200, according to the COVID Tracking Project….

Seasonal greetings from the original Hollywood sex symbol, Mae West, 1936.

Seasonal greetings from the original Hollywood sex symbol, Mae West, 1936.

California’s Los Angeles County hit a grim milestone Wednesday, surpassing 10,000totalCovid-19 deaths, and one health official there said any progress made over the summer had “completely evaporated.” Texas reported a record number of hospitalizations for the third day in a row. Mississippi and Louisiana saw their highest single-day casecountsNew Orleans officials urged “extreme caution” during New Year’s Eve, announcing bars, breweries, and live adult entertainment venues must close indoor facilities starting at 11 p.m. Wednesday….

In Nevada, a similar message: Gov. Steve Sisolak urged residents to avoid high-risk activities to slow the spread of the virus in the state….

Celebratory gatherings and travel could help drive another surge of infections — followed by hospitalizations and deaths — health officials have warned. But millions have opted to spend the holidays away from home. More than a million people passed through airport security checks Tuesday, for the fourth straight day after the Christmas holiday.

Here in Massachusetts, I just got a text and a recorded phone call from the state asking me to stay home. That’s no problem for me, of course. Even if there weren’t a pandemic, I wouldn’t be out celebrating on “amateur night.” I’ve been happily sober for 38 years.

Trump is still hoping someone will help him stage a coup, and Sen. John Hawley has volunteered. The Charlotte Observer:

Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley became the first senator to say he’ll object to the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory when Congress meets on Jan. 6 to accept the results of the presidential election.

Several House Republicans have previously signaled their intention to do the same. With members of both the House and Senate bringing objections, it’ll set off a dramatic scenario requiring a roll call vote in both chambers.

The January votes are unlikely to change the outcome of the election, but they will cap off a prolonged effort by President Donald Trump’s allies seeking to overturn the president’s defeat and hinder Biden’s transition.

Great! This will force Republican lawmakers to go on the record supporting or opposing sedition. Ruth Marcus at The Washington Post: Let Josh Hawley put Republicans to the uncomfortable test.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) — Yale Law School, Supreme Court clerk, Missouri attorney general and, according to the first line of his Twitter bio, “constitutional lawyer” — surely knows better.

American jazz musician and bandleader Benny Goodman and his orchestra play for an enthusiastic audience during a New Year's Eve dance at the Waldorf Astoria, New York City, 1938.

American jazz musician and bandleader Benny Goodman and his orchestra play for an enthusiastic audience during a New Year’s Eve dance at the Waldorf Astoria, New York City, 1938.

His plan to challenge the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral college victory when Congress convenes for that purpose on Jan. 6 has no basis in the facts or the law. That is putting it too charitably, actually. It is, if anything, anti-constitutional — inconsistent with the Constitution’s vision of the ceremonial role of Congress in ratifying the election results.

It is doomed to fail — except, perhaps, at its scarcely disguised purpose of winning Hawley favor in the eyes of the Trumpian base. Think of it as the first act of Hawley’s all-but-inevitable 2024 presidential campaign. Think of it as what it is: a stunt.

Yet while irresponsible, Hawley’s move is not necessarily a terrible development. It forces a vote that will have the salutary effect of requiring his Republican colleagues to decide — and to put on the record —whether their loyalty is to President Trump or to the Constitution. Better to know than to guess. Better to inflict some accountability rather than to enable dodging.

Put another way: Any vote that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) fervently wishes to avoid is one I’m for. Put every member of the House and Senate on the record, and let them reap the consequences, for good and for ill, in the short term of political fallout and in the long view of history. Those who vote against certifying Biden’s victory can explain it to their grandchildren.

Trump apparently still thinks he has a shot, so he’s cutting short his two-week golf vacation and coming back to DC to watch the show. 

Kailin Collins and Kevin Liptak at CNN: Trump to return to Washington early ahead of Republican plan to disrupt certification of Biden’s win.

Trump is now slated to leave Palm Beach before his annual New Year’s Eve party, even though guests had already gathered at his south Florida club and were told Trump would be in attendance, according to three people familiar with the matter. The President typically relishes appearing on the red carpet in front of the press and his friends, but is skipping the event altogether this year in what will be an unusual move.

In the President’s daily public schedule for Thursday, the White House stated the President and first lady Melania Trump will leave Florida at 11 a.m. ET to return to the White House.

British actress Ida Lupino smiling at a friendly sailor as she cuts a cake which reads Happy Victory Year, 1944.

British actress Ida Lupino smiling at a friendly sailor as she cuts a cake which reads Happy Victory Year, 1944.

Over the course of his stay in Florida, Trump has been single-mindedly focused on the election results and the upcoming certification process in Congress, set for January 6. After losing dozens of court cases and having his appeal rejected by the Supreme Court, Trump has viewed the January 6 event as his best opportunity to overturn the election he lost.

He has been in an irritated mood during most of the trip and fumed about everything from the election outcome to first lady Melania Trump’s renovations to his private quarters, according to multiple people who spoke with him.

At one point, Trump also said he was concerned Iran could retaliate in the coming days for the US drone strike that killed Iran’s top general, Qasem Soleimani, one year ago. A person speculated that could be a contributing factor in his early departure. Trump was at Mar-a-Lago when he ordered the Soleimani strike on January 3, 2020.

Before leaving for Palm Beach, he learned of Vice President Mike Pence’s role in the certification proceedings on Capitol Hill, which is mostly ceremonial. As he was flying to Florida for his vacation, Trump retweeted a call from one of his supporters for Pence to refuse to ratify the Electoral College count on January 6.

While in Florida, Trump has repeatedly raised the January 6 date with members of Congress and other associates, according to people familiar with the conversations. He lobbied senators on whether they would go along with House conservatives in objecting to the results.

GOP Senators may be failing another test after Mitch McConnell block Democrats’ effort to increase Covid relief payments from $600 to $2,000. Eric Levitz at New York Magazine: The GOP Just Let Democrats Have Their Stimulus and Campaign On It Too.

Next week, voters in Georgia will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate in 2021 — and thus, quite plausibly, the future of macroeconomic, climate, and health-care policy in the United States….

If Perdue and Loeffler prevail, Biden will likely struggle to so much as get his own Cabinet nominees confirmed, let alone judicial appointees. Meanwhile, his capacity to legislate will be contingent upon the good-faith cooperation of Mitch McConnell, which is about as dependable a resource as the empathic self-restraint of Donald Trump, or the commitment to ethical consumption of Jeffrey Dahmer.

Debbie Reynolds, wearing a 1953 tiara and a costume with tinsel, blows a horn while sitting atop a star-shaped clock in a promotional portrait for New Year's Eve.The stakes are high, is what I’m saying. And earlier this month, it looked like the GOP was intent on gifting Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock a potent message for the Georgia runoffs: Our races are referenda on a second large stimulus package. As of a few weeks ago, Republicans were insisting on a $500 billion stimulus bill that was bereft of cash assistance or long-term federal unemployment benefits. Democrats, for their part, were backing a $2.2 trillion stimulus that included a $600 a week federal unemployment benefit, another round of $1,200 relief checks, funding for states and cities, housing assistance, small business aid, and a variety of other social supports. All available polling indicated that the voting public favored the Democratic position.

But Trump upset the applecart by calling for $2,000 cash payments. Seeing that the $2,000 payments could help them in the run-off elections, Purdue and Loeffler announced support for them. But McConnell chose to block Trump’s proposal. In the end, the Senate would only support $600 direct payments and a $300 unemployment supplement. 

So the Senate Majority Leader blocked an up-or-down vote on $2,000 checks, opting instead to wed the proposal to two of Donald Trump’s other demands — the repeal of the law that insulates social-media platforms from being sued for libel on the basis of statements their users post, and the formation of a commission to investigate voter fraud in the 2020 election. It is far from clear that most Republicans actually wish to repeal the former law, which would have a wide variety of chaotic consequences, many of which seem contrary to the interests of a political movement whose media has thrived on unmoderated social-media platforms. The point of rolling these demands together isn’t to ensure that they all pass, but rather, that they all fail — because Democrats blocked them.

This gambit is clever but flawed. For one thing, Trump is still refusing to play his part. Instead of insisting that his three demands are inseparable, the president called for the immediate passage of $2,000 checks alone on Wednesday morning.

It’s very possible that McConnell’s game-playing could help Democrats win in Georgia.

…polling suggests these races are going to be very close. Which means flipping even a tiny fraction of voters could be decisive. And there is some evidence that Democrats can win over skeptical voters by communicating the fact that they are the party more supportive of $2,000 relief payments: A new national Data For Progress poll, shared exclusively with Intelligencer, found that Independent voters initially said they preferred the Republicans to prevail in Georgia by a margin of 41 to 38 percent — but when told that the Democratic candidates would pass another round of stimulus checks if elected, while the Republicans would not, these voters shifted their allegiance, favoring Ossoff and Warnock over Perdue and Loeffler by 52 to 37 percent.

There’s much more analysis at the New York Magazi ne link.

That’s all I have for you on this last day of a nightmarish year. Here’s hoping 2021 will be better. At least we’ll be rid of Trump. Have a Happy New Year, however you choose to celebrate tonight.