Tuesday ReadsPosted: November 16, 2021 Filed under: Afternoon Reads | Tags: Carl Bernstein, Coup attempt, Donald Trump, Ezra Cohen, Jenna Ellis, Jonathan Karl, Michael Flynn, Sidney Powell 14 Comments
I’m having trouble getting going this today. I looked around at the latest news, and I started to feel exhausted. But I’m resisting sinking into that feeling. I have to believe there is some way for us as a country to recover from the Trump poison. At least we got some good news yesterday when Biden signed the bipartisan infrastructure bill and Pelosi announced that the House could vote on the Build Back Better bill this week.
Now Democrats will need to convince voters how great these accomplishments are.
Today’s news is filled with revelations from the book “Betrayal,” by Jonathan Karl, released today. In her review of the book in The New York Times, Jennifer Szalai focuses on Karl’s (along with other journalists) apparent blindness about who and what Trump was: In Another Trump Book, a Journalist’s Belated Awareness Steals the Show.
…[I]n his new book, “Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show,” Karl comes across as almost poignantly ingenuous and polite to a fault, repeatedly flummoxed by what he saw in the last year of the Trump administration. “Front Row,” which had the unfortunate timing of being published in March 2020, before the consequences of Trump’s governance were fully laid bare, began with a solemn tribute to “objectivity and balance” and a complaint that “the mainstream media coverage of Donald Trump is relentlessly and exhaustively negative.” Just a year-and-a-half later, after 750,000 American Covid deaths and an attack on the Capitol, Karl allows that the “Trump show” may have in fact been more sinister than mere theatrics after all.
“I have never wavered from my belief that journalists are not the opposition party and should not act like we are,” Karl maintains in “Betrayal.” “But the first obligation of a journalist is to pursue truth and accuracy. And the simple truth about the last year of the Trump presidency is that his lies turned deadly and shook the foundations of our democracy.”
According to Szalai, Karl repeated writes in the book that he is shocked by Trump’s behavior. From a description of Karl’s face-to-face interview with Trump:
During the…interview, Trump reminisced about the speech he gave on Jan. 6, 2021, shortly before the attack on the Capitol, calling it “a very beautiful time with extremely loving and friendly people.” Karl, at least inwardly, was aghast. “I was taken aback by how fondly he remembers a day I will always remember as one of the darkest I have ever witnessed,” he writes, adding that Trump seemed to justify the death threats made against his own vice president. “It boggled my mind,” Karl says.
It did? The author’s expressions of surprise are so frequent and over-the-top that they are perhaps the most surprising parts of this book. “Betrayal” is less insightful about the Trump White House and more revealing of Karl’s own gradual, extremely belated awareness that something in the White House might in fact be awry. Events strike him as “wacky,” “crazy,” “nuts.” He delves into the outlandish conspiracy theories around the presidential election, earnestly explaining why each of them is wrong. He scores a number of on-the-record interviews with Trumpworld insiders — nearly all of whom insist that even as they publicly sided with Trump, they were bravely telling the president some very tough truths in private.
This is so typical of what we saw from journalists during the Trump years. They repeatedly tried to normalize Trump’s behavior and some are still doing it. But Trump showed us who again and again before he ran for president and especially during the 2016 campaign. Yet Karl was still shocked by what Trump said in the interview–even after he (Trump) refused to concede the election and led a serious coup attempt.
More revelations from the book:
ABC News: Trump allies pressed Defense Department to help overturn election, new book says.
In “Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show,” scheduled to be released today, Karl reports that former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump attorney Sidney Powell tried to enlist a Pentagon official to help overturn the election.
According to the book, Flynn — who had just received an unconditional pardon from President Trump after pleading guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI during the Russia probe — made a frantic phone call to a senior Trump intelligence official named Ezra Cohen (sometimes referred to as Ezra Cohen-Watnick), who previously worked under Flynn at both the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the National Security Council.
“Where are you?” Flynn asked the DoD official, who said he was traveling in the Middle East.
“Flynn told him to cut his trip short and get back to the United States immediately because there were big things about to happen,” according to the book. Karl writes that Flynn told Cohen, “We need you,” and told the DoD official that “there was going to be an epic showdown over the election results.”
Flynn, according to the book, urged Cohen that “he needed to get orders signed, that ballots needed to be seized, and that extraordinary measures needed to be taken to stop Democrats from stealing the election.”
“As Flynn ranted about the election fight, [Cohen] felt his old boss sounded manic,” Karl writes in the book. “He didn’t sound like the same guy he had worked for.”
It gets even crazier.
“Betrayal” also reports that Sydney Powell, Flynn’s former lawyer who was then advising President Trump, called Cohen shortly after the Flynn conversation and tried to enlist his help with one the most far-fetched claims about the election, involving then-CIA Director Gina Haspel.
“Gina Haspel has been hurt and taken into custody in Germany,” Powell told Cohen, pushing a false conspiracy theory that had been gaining steam among QAnon followers, according to the book. “You need to launch a special operations mission to get her,” Powell said.
Powell, according to the book, was pushing the outlandish claim that Haspel had been injured while on a secret CIA operation to seize an election-related computer server that belonged to a company named Scytl — none of which was true.
“The server, Powell claimed, contained evidence that hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of votes had been switched using rigged voting machines. Powell believed Haspel had embarked on this secret mission to get the server and destroy the evidence — in other words, the CIA director was part of the conspiracy,” Karl writes.
Powell wanted the Defense Department to send a special operations team over to Germany immediately: “They needed to get the server and force Haspel to confess,” Karl writes.
All of this was too crazy even for Trump loyalist Cohen, yet these are the people Trump was listening to after the election.
Hayes Brown at MSNBC: Jenna Ellis’ memo on stealing the 2020 election holds a lesson for Democrats.
After losing the 2020 presidential election, former President Donald Trump was obsessed with finding a route to remain in power. In September, we learned that John Eastman, a conservative lawyer working with Trump’s legal team, went so far as to write a two-page memo for how to throw out President Joe Biden’s win before Congress could certify it in January.
And in the last week, we’ve learned that Eastman wasn’t alone in taking notes on a criminal conspiracy. At least two other people prepared memos to justify Trump’s reinstallation as president. This collection of memos shows more clearly than ever that those closest to the former president were dedicated to finding some loophole to keep him in power. Their mentally thin, ultimately self-serving assertions acted as fuel to Trump’s delusions, which he then passed on to his followers — most spectacularly, of course, at his rally ahead of the riot on Jan. 6….
ABC News first reported Sunday that White House chief of staff Mark Meadows emailed Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff on Dec. 31 to pass on a memo from Trump campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis. Ellis — whom you may recall from her many failed attempts to reverse the election in court — “outlined a multi-step strategy,” according to Karl:
On Jan. 6, the day Congress was to certify the 2020 election results, Pence was to send back the electoral votes from six battleground states that Trump falsely claimed he had won.
The memo said that Pence would give the states a deadline of “7pm eastern standard time on January 15th” to send back a new set of votes, according to Karl.
Then, Ellis wrote, if any state legislature missed that deadline, “no electoral votes can be opened and counted from that state.”
That scheme aligns with one of the scenarios that Eastman laid out in his longer Jan. 3 memo. And at first glance it seems like a valid off-ramp that would let Trump save face and allow time to investigate the “fraud” that he had alleged. It’s not dissimilar in that sense from the arguments that Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Josh Hawley, R-Mo., made in their refusal to vote to certify the election.
Crucially, though, the plan’s real goal depended on another plot that was underway inside the Trump administration. The Justice Department was under pressure in the weeks after the election to issue a letter to the states Trump falsely claimed to have won declaring that there was enough “significant concern” of fraud to warrant special sessions of their legislatures. Those legislatures controlled by the GOP — like Georgia’s and Arizona’s — would then provide the electoral votes needed to put Trump over the top under Ellis’ proposal.
Here’s the promised warning for Democrats:
Whether we like it or not, there are numerous loopholes and vagaries in our method of choosing a president. None of them have been remedied since 2020. And there are now multiple examples for the next would-be coup leader to draw from when exploiting the flaws inherent in the electoral system. If anything, Republican-controlled states have been moving to codify those flaws for their own benefit, making it easier for legislatures to overturn the will of the people.
I’ll end with this from EconoTimes: Capitol insurrection: Carl Bernstein says infamous memos are ‘blueprints’ of a coup.
According to Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein, the infamous memos drafted for Mike Pence to overturn the election results is a blueprint of a coup.
Bernstein weighed in on a recording of Trump and ABC journalist Jonathan Karl’s conversation, where the former president did not deny that he told Pence that if he does not overturn the 2020 election results, he is a “p***y.” The Watergate reporter said that there is more to the former president’s comments and touched on the memos drafted by lawyers John Eastman and Jenna Ellis. The memos detailed how Pence could overturn the 2020 elections, which Pence ultimately refused to do.
“I think what we’re seeing in these memos particularly are blueprints for a coup,” said Bernstein. “The actual blueprints in document form in which the president of the United States, through his chief of staff, is sending to Mike Pence’s, the vice president’s staff, a blueprint to overturn an election, a blueprint for a conspiracy led by a president of the United States to result in an authoritarian coup in which the election is stolen.”
Bernstein added that there is nothing that comes close to what happened in the 2020 elections and that it is all documented in writing. The Watergate reporter noted that more records are needed to determine what the former president said and did, especially on January 5 and January 6. Bernstein added that the House Committee must act fast to find the answers in case the GOP regains the majority in the House in 2022.
That’s it for me today. It is all so exhausting. But we have to hold onto hope somehow, don’t we? Please let me know your thoughts on this or any topic in the comment thread.
Lazy Caturday Reads: Investigating The January 6 Insurrection and Trump’s Attempted CoupPosted: October 23, 2021 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: Coup attempt, Donald Trump, January 6 Committee, January 6 insurrection, Jeffrey Clark, Steve Bannon 16 Comments
There is a great deal of news today about the January 6 Capitol insurrection and the House committee’s investigation of what happened.
First up: if you didn’t think Trump and his gang were trying to organize a serious coup attempt, you need to read this stunning article at The Washington Post: Ahead of Jan. 6, Willard hotel in downtown D.C. was a Trump team ‘command center’ for effort to deny Biden the presidency.
They called it the “command center,” a set of rooms and suites in the posh Willard hotel a block from the White House where some of President Donald Trump’s most loyal lieutenants were working day and night with one goal in mind: overturning the results of the 2020 election.
The Jan. 6 rally on the Ellipse and the ensuing attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob would draw the world’s attention to the quest to physically block Congress from affirming Joe Biden’s victory. But the activities at the Willard that week add to an emerging picture of a less visible effort, mapped out in memos by a conservative pro-Trump legal scholar and pursued by a team of presidential advisers and lawyers seeking to pull off what they claim was a legal strategy to reinstate Trump for a second term.
They were led by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani. Former chief White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon was an occasional presence as the effort’s senior political adviser. Former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik was there as an investigator. Also present was John Eastman, the scholar, who outlined scenarios for denying Biden the presidency in an Oval Office meeting on Jan. 4 with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
They sought to make the case to Pence and ramp up pressure on him to take actions on Jan. 6 that Eastman suggested were within his powers, three people familiar with the operation said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations. Their activities included finding and publicizing alleged evidence of fraud, urging members of state legislatures to challenge Biden’s victory and calling on the Trump-supporting public to press Republican officials in key states.
The effort underscores the extent to which Trump and a handful of true believers were working until the last possible moment to subvert the will of the voters, seeking to pressure Pence to delay or even block certification of the election, leveraging any possible constitutional loophole to test the boundaries of American democracy.
Here’s what these coup-organizers were doing:
The three people familiar with the operation described intense work in the days and hours leading up to and even extending beyond 1 p.m. on Jan 6, when Congress convened for the counting of electoral votes.
In those first days in January, from the command center, Trump allies were calling members of Republican-dominated legislatures in swing states that Eastman had spotlighted in his memos, including Pennsylvania, Georgia and Arizona, encouraging them to convene special sessions to investigate fraud and to reassign electoral college votes from Biden to Trump, two of the people familiar with the operation said.
On Jan. 2, Trump, Giuliani and Eastman spoke to 300 state legislators via a conference call meant to arm them with purported evidence of fraud and galvanize them to take action to “decertify” their election results. “You are the real power,” Trump told the state lawmakers, according to a Washington Examiner report. “You’re the ones that are going to make the decision.”
The goal was to convince these state lawmakers to work to decertify the election results in their states and to try to convince Mike Pence to delay certification of the electoral college results to give these insurrectionist legislators time to convince their colleagues to overthrow the election results. And Bannon was involved in these efforts.
Also on Jan. 2, Eastman, Giuliani and Epshteyn appeared on Bannon’s podcast to make the case directly to Bannon’s pro-Trump listeners. They discussed what Bannon called that day’s “all-hands meeting with state . . . legislators that the Trump campaign and also others are putting on.” The comments were first highlighted by Proof.
They argued that state lawmakers were legally bound to reexamine their election results. “It’s the duty of these legislatures to fix this, this egregious conduct, and make sure that we’re not putting in the White House some guy that didn’t get elected,” Eastman said. He contended that Congress could itself decide on Jan. 6 to select Trump electors in contested states, but that “it would certainly be helped immensely if the legislatures in the states looked at what happened in their own states and weigh in.”
I hope you’ll go read the rest. Every sentence in the article is important.
Will Bannon pay a price for his involvement in the coup attempt? That will be up to Attorney General Merrick Garland. Former U.S. Attorney and Deputy Assistant Attorney General Harry Litman writes: Don’t be too sure about the Justice Department’s ‘duty’ to indict Bannon.
Atty. Gen. Merrick Garland has a far more complicated decision coming his way than people realize.
The Department of Justice, in the person of the United States attorney for the District of Columbia, has received a referral from the House of Representatives to bring criminal contempt charges against Stephen K. Bannon, who has refused to comply with a subpoena from the House select committee investigating the events of Jan. 6.
The righteousness of the referral is not in doubt. There is every reason to think Bannon has important first-hand information about the planning of the Capitol attack. After all, he crowed the night before on his podcast: “All hell is going to break loose tomorrow…. Strap in.”
In addition, as the committee’s vice chair, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), emphasized Tuesday, there is strong reason to think Bannon knows if and how Trump was “personally involved” in the Jan. 6 attack. No matter is more important for Congress to probe or for the American public to understand.
As for Bannon’s thumbing his nose at a subpoena, it could not be a more flagrant or a more contemptuous violation of the law.
Enforcing the subpoena “should be a slam dunk,” Littman writes, “But it isn’t.” According to Littman, there are several Office of Legal Counsel memos that will impact Garland’s actions. One decision is that the DOJ is not required to enforce subpoenas on members of the executive branch–the AG makes the decision. Other OLC memos address the issue of White House officials and executive privilege. I’m not sure I understand this, because Bannon was not a White House official when all this was happening–even when he was in the White House, he was only a political adviser. Furthermore, Trump is no longer president and how can he invoke executive privilege over planning for a coup? Littman writes:
There is a way for Garland to square the circle. The Office of Legal Counsel’s memo that has precluded pursuit of criminal contempt charges was based on cases in which the department issued legal opinions that the assertions of privilege were proper.
Bannon’s suggestion that the subpoenaed documents and communications are properly covered by executive privilege is spurious at best. First, there’s the fact that Trump hasn’t actually asserted the privilege. On top of that, the select committee’s subpoena involves events that happened years after Bannon left the executive branch; it’s ridiculous to say the relevant testimony and documents must be kept secret to ensure that presidents can freely do the country’s business.
Finally, even if Bannon had a sound claim to executive privilege, Congress’ and the public’s need to know the information covered by the subpoena is paramount, and that factor should prevail. (Likewise, public interest trumped Nixon’s claim to privacy in the 1977 Supreme Court case, which was about the disposition of the disgraced president’s papers.)
More January 6 committee news:
CNN: Former DOJ official Jeffrey Clark, who pushed baseless election fraud claims, expected to testify before January 6 committee.
The House select committee investigating the US Capitol insurrection is planning for former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark to testify next Friday — teeing him up to be the first Trump administration official to comply with a subpoena for an interview with the panel, two sources familiar with the committee’s inquiry told CNN.
Clark’s testimony could be a major step forward for Democrats as they attempt to determine what former President Donald Trump, Republican members of Congress and his advisers did and said behind closed doors about overturning the results of the 2020 election before January 6.
CNN has also learned that Alyssa Farah, former director of strategic communications in the Trump White House and assistant to the president, has voluntarily met with Republicans on the House select committee and provided information in several meetings, according sources familiar with the matter. There are two Republicans on the committee — Vice Chair Liz Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger.
The panel has been talking to an ever-widening circle of witnesses as part of its sprawling investigation — and testimony from Farah in addition to Clark would give the panel a crucial new level of insight into Trump’s thinking after the election….
After the deadly January 6 insurrection, Farah told CNN that Trump lied to the American people about the 2020 presidential election results and said that he should “seriously consider” resigning from office.
Clark emerged in the last week of 2020 as a central player in Trump’s two-month-long effort to overturn the vote in key states — and as one of the officials who was in direct contact with Trump.
While serving as the acting head of civil cases at the Justice Department at the end of the Trump presidency, Clark floated plans to give Georgia’s legislature and other states backing to undermine the popular vote results. He gave credence to unfounded conspiracy theories of voter fraud, according to documents from the Justice Department, and communicated with Trump about becoming the attorney general, a Senate investigation found this month.
The extent of Clark’s talks with Trump in the days before January 6 aren’t yet publicly known. The committee subpoenaed Clark for testimony and documents last week.
Did Clark decide to testify because he feared being referred for criminal contempt along with Bannon?
Also from CNN: House investigators target the money trail behind January 6 rally.
The House select committee is setting its sights on the financing behind events and people associated with January 6, CNN has learned, including money that funded pro-Trump “Stop the Steal” rallies that preceded the attack on the Capitol that day, in an effort to determine whether any election law violations or financial crimes took place.
The Democratic-led panel is focused in part on understanding how event organizers and vendors were paid, and how the two rallies were funded, according to multiple sources familiar with the investigation, including some who have been interviewed by the committee. Investigators also want to know if any funding came from domestic extremists or foreign sources, sources say.
As the committee moves forward with its sweeping probe of January 6, among the many new details CNN has learned is that the committee has divided its work into at least five investigative teams, each with their own color designation.
The ‘green’ team, for example, is tasked with tracking money, including the funding behind the rallies, as well as untangling the complex web of financial ties between rally organizers and entities affiliated with former President Donald Trump or his campaign, according to multiple sources.
Some of the other teams such as the “red” “blue” and “gold” teams are examining everything from the motivation of participants, whether there was coordination between groups, and whether Trump used his executive authority to pressure lawmakers, former Vice President Mike Pence and the Justice Department, according to the sources familiar with the committee’s work.
“As Rep. Liz Cheney said the other night, it’s very likely that Trump was personally involved in the planning and execution of January 6 and these money trails can help adduce additional proof of that,” CNN legal analyst Norm Eisen said. Cheney, a Wyoming Republican, is vice chair of the select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection.
I’ll post more interesting links in the comment thread. Have a nice weekend, Sky Dancers!!
Friday Reads: The Final DaysPosted: July 16, 2021 Filed under: just because, morning reads | Tags: Coup attempt, Donald Trump, iran, January 6 Capitol insurrection, Joint Chiefs, Keith Kellogg, Mark Milley, Mike Pence, Secret Service, Trump books 11 Comments
The revelations about Trump’s final days just keep on coming. The Washington Post released another excerpt from the book by their reporters Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig yesterday, and today The New Yorker a piece by Susan Glasser, who apparently has a book coming out next year.
Among the stunning details in the Rucker/Leonnig excerpt is that Mike Pence didn’t trust all of the the members of his Secret Service detail, seemingly suspecting that they were aiding Trump’s attempted coup.
At 2:13, Pence’s Secret Service detail removed the vice president from the Senate floor and took him through a side door to his ceremonial office nearby, along with his wife, Karen, their daughter Charlotte, and his brother, Greg, a congressman from Indiana. The Pences were hurried across one of the Capitol’s many ornate marble hallways to get there, but the path proved eerily close to danger. One or two minutes later, marauders chanting Pence’s name charged up the stairs to that precise landing in front of the hallway, and a quick-thinking Goodman led the rioters in a different direction, away from the Senate chamber. Had Pence walked past any later, the intruders who called him a traitor would have spotted him….
As rioters marauded through the Capitol, it was clear whom they were looking for. Some of them shouted, “Hang Mike Pence!” Trump didn’t exactly throw them off the hunt. At 2:24, the president tweeted, “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.”
At that moment, Pence was still in his ceremonial office — protected by Secret Service agents, but vulnerable because the second-floor office had windows that could be breached and the intruding thugs had gained control of the building. Tim Giebels, the lead special agent in charge of the vice president’s protective detail, twice asked Pence to evacuate the Capitol, but Pence refused. “I’m not leaving the Capitol,” he told Giebels. The last thing the vice president wanted was the people attacking the Capitol to see his 20-car motorcade fleeing. That would only vindicate their insurrection.
The third time Giebels asked Pence to evacuate, it was more of an order than a request. “They’re in the building,” Giebels said. “The room you’re in is not secure. There are glass windows. I need to move you. We’re going.”
At 2:26, after a team of agents scouted a safe path to ensure the Pences would not encounter trouble, Giebels and the rest of Pence’s detail guided them down a staircase to a secure subterranean area that rioters couldn’t reach, where the vice president’s armored limousine awaited. Giebels asked Pence to get in one of the vehicles. “We can hold here,” he said.
“I’m not getting in the car, Tim,” Pence replied. “I trust you, Tim, but you’re not driving the car. If I get in that vehicle, you guys are taking off. I’m not getting in the car.”
The Pences then made their way to a secure underground area to wait out the riot.
Much as I can’t stand Pence, he did the right thing on that terrible day.
As we’ve learned, General Milly also came through, and even the much hated Bill Barr refused to support Trump’s authoritarian obsession.
Meanwhile, Trump was excitedly watching the MAGA attack on TV. He couldn’t have cared less that the Vice President and hundreds of Congresspeople were in danger.
Back at the White House, [Pence’s national security adviser, Retired Lt. General Keith] Kellogg was worried about Pence’s safety and went to find Trump.
“Is Mike okay?” the president asked him.
“The Secret Service has him under control,” Kellogg told Trump. “Karen is there with the daughter.”
“Oh?” Trump asked.
“They’re going to stay there until this thing gets sorted out,” Kellogg said.
Trump said nothing more. He didn’t express any hope that Pence was okay. He didn’t try to call the vice president to check on him. He just stayed in the dining room watching television.
Around this time, Kellogg ran into Tony Ornato in the West Wing. Ornato, who oversaw Secret Service movements, told him that Pence’s detail was planning to move the vice president to Joint Base Andrews.
“You can’t do that, Tony,” Kellogg said. “Leave him where he’s at. He’s got a job to do. I know you guys too well. You’ll fly him to Alaska if you have a chance. Don’t do it.”
Pence had made clear to Giebels the level of his determination and Kellogg said there was no changing it.
“He’s going to stay there,” Kellogg told Ornato. “If he has to wait there all night, he’s going to do it.”
At this point, can anyone seriously doubt that Trump would have been OK with his thugs hanging Pence? Pence and Kellogg need to testify under oath before the January 6 committee.
If you haven’t read the Washington Post article yet, please do.
General Mark Milley was a significant source for the Rucker/Leonnig book, and he apparently talked extensively to Susan Glasser as well. Glasser writes at The New Yorker: “You’re Gonna Have a Fucking War”: Mark Milley’s Fight to Stop Trump from Striking Iran.
The last time that General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke with President Donald Trump was on January 3, 2021. The subject of the Sunday-afternoon meeting, at the White House, was Iran’s nuclear program. For the past several months, Milley had been engaged in an alarmed effort to insure that Trump did not embark on a military conflict with Iran as part of his quixotic campaign to overturn the results of the 2020 election and remain in power. The chairman secretly feared that Trump would insist on launching a strike on Iranian interests that could set off a full-blown war.
There were two “nightmare scenarios,” Milley told associates, for the period after the November 3rd election, which resulted in Trump’s defeat but not his concession: one was that Trump would try “to use the military on the streets of America to prevent the legitimate, peaceful transfer of power.” The other was an external crisis involving Iran. It was not public at the time, but Milley believed that the nation had come close—“very close”—to conflict with the Islamic Republic. This dangerous post-election period, Milley said, was all because of Trump’s “Hitler”-like embrace of the “Big Lie” that the election had been stolen from him; Milley feared it was Trump’s “Reichstag moment,” in which, like Adolf Hitler in 1933, he would manufacture a crisis in order to swoop in and rescue the nation from it.
To prevent such an outcome, Milley had, since late in 2020, been having morning phone meetings, at 8 a.m. on most days, with the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in the hopes of getting the country safely through to Joe Biden’s Inauguration. The chairman, a burly four-star Army general who had been appointed to the post by Trump in 2019, referred to these meetings with his staff as the “land the plane” calls—as in, “both engines are out, the landing gear are stuck, we’re in an emergency situation. Our job is to land this plane safely and to do a peaceful transfer of power the 20th of January.”
This extraordinary confrontation between the nation’s top military official and the Commander-in-Chief had been building throughout 2020. Before the election, Milley had drafted a plan for how to handle the perilous period leading up to the Inauguration. He outlined four goals: first, to make sure that the U.S. didn’t unnecessarily go to war overseas; second, to make sure that U.S. troops were not used on the streets of America against the American people, for the purpose of keeping Trump in power; third, to maintain the military’s integrity; and, lastly, to maintain his own integrity. He referred back to them often in conversations with others.
As the crisis with Trump unfolded, and the chairman’s worst-case fears about the President not accepting defeat seemed to come true, Milley repeatedly met in private with the Joint Chiefs. He told them to make sure there were no unlawful orders from Trump and not to carry out any such orders without calling him first—almost a conscious echo of the final days of Richard Nixon, when Nixon’s Defense Secretary, James Schlesinger, reportedly warned the military not to act on any orders from the White House to launch a nuclear strike without first checking with him or with the national-security adviser, Henry Kissinger. At one meeting with the Joint Chiefs, in Milley’s Pentagon office, the chairman invoked Benjamin Franklin’s famous line, saying they should all hang together. To concerned members of Congress—including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—and also emissaries from the incoming Biden Administration, Milley also put out the word: Trump might attempt a coup, but he would fail because he would never succeed in co-opting the American military. “Our loyalty is to the U.S. Constitution,” Milley told them, and “we are not going to be involved in politics.”
Read the rest at The New Yorker.
Raw Story has an investigative article on the January 6 Capitol attack: Anatomy of an insurrection: How military veterans and other rioters carried out the Jan. 6 assault on democracy, by Jordan Green.
The slow-moving tedium of prosecutorial legal machinery and the GOP campaign to deflect responsibility can make it easy to lose sight of the big picture of what transpired on Jan. 6. But based on an aggregate review of individuals cases, along with other sources, a Raw Story analysis of the critical events in the Jan. 6 siege reveals a striking degree of coordination, sustained and intentional violence, planning and preparation, and determined effort to disable the United States’ critical governance apparatus by participants, including many with recent military experience. Many of the rioters who played critical roles in breaching the Capitol came away from the experience vowing to wage war against the United States. Few among those who are being prosecuted have expressed any remorse for their actions.
Amid the hundreds of prosecutions of Trump supporters motivated by the big lie, the GOP has punished lawmakers who fail to bear allegiance to the former president and run afoul of the party line that the election was stolen, while thwarting the House investigation into the events of Jan. 6. GOP intransigence makes it likely that the Democratic-led investigation will become reduced to another partisan snipe-fest, undermining its potential to hold people accountable and prevent future attempts to overturn democracy….
A handful of defendants, including Oath Keepers members, have pleaded guilty, as fresh arrests fatten the docket weekly. Those recently charged are not minor players: In addition to people who trashed media equipment and assaulted reporters, they include the first boogaloo-identified rioter, with hints that there are more to come, and a man who organized a resistance cell under the cover of a Bible study. Critically, the FBI has yet to make an arrest for bombs that were planted outside the Democratic and Republican headquarters on the eve of the insurrection. Even under the most optimistic scenario, the prosecutions are likely to drag on for years: Among the few cases set for trial, white nationalist Christian Secor isn’t scheduled to begin deliberations until January 2022.
Beyond the chaotic events that took place when hundreds of Trump supporters unleashed mayhem on the Capitol, it remains unknown to what degree, if any, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers coordinated their actions. And beyond Trump’s feverish promotion of the Jan. 6 “Save America” rally and instruction to his followers to “walk down to the Capitol,” it also remains to be seen whether the siege may have been directed by the president or his surrogates through intermediaries such as Trump confidant Roger Stone or “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander.
Notably, the mob began its advance on the Capitol well before Trump had finished speaking at the Ellipse, suggesting that key players had decided in advance to disrupt the certification of the electoral vote, while Trump’s exhortations mobilized thousands more to reinforce the riot that was already unfolding at the seat of American government.
This is a very long and interesting article. I hope you’ll check it out.
I’m sorry to have to keep focusing on Trump news, but that’s what’s out there today. As always, this is an open thread. What’s on your mind?