Monday Reads: Are We Headed For Civil War?

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Good Morning!!

The news this morning is full of stories about corruption by Trump and his cronies; but even more horrifying, Trump himself spent the weekend ranting on Truth Social–his own social media company–and he seemed to suggest that he wants a civil war in the U.S.

Business Insider: Trump reshares post on Truth Social that appears to suggest or predict a civil war in America.

Trump re-posted a suggestion from a Truth Social user called “MAGA King Thanos,” who commented on a screenshot of a tweet from El Salvador’s president, Nayib Bukele.

In the tweet, Bukele wrote: “The most powerful country in the world is falling so fast, that it makes you rethink what are the real reasons. Something so big and powerful can’t be destroyed so quickly, unless the enemy comes from within.

Bukele’s remarks came in response to a Bloomberg tweet on coping with inflation in the US if one earns under $300,000 a year.

The post that Trump re-shared captured the Truth Social user’s comment on Bukele’s tweet, which read “Civil war.”

Here’s the post Trump shared:

More from Business Insider:

Bukele is El Salvador’s millennial president — a controversial figure who once switched up his Twitter bio to call himself “the coolest dictator in the world.”

Trump’s re-post was picked up on by conservative political activist George Conway, the husband of former Trump aide Kellyanne Conway.

“Nothing to see here. Just a former president of the United States sharing a social media post advocating or predicting civil war in the United States. No biggie,” he tweeted.

Trump’s comment was also swiftly rebuked by Rep. Adam Kinzinger, one of Trump’s staunchest critics in the GOP.

“Any of my fellow Republicans wanna speak out now?” Kinzinger tweeted. “Or are we just wanting to get through ‘just one more election first…?”

Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell also weighed in on Trump’s post, tweeting: “Donald Trump is calling for Civil War. Of course, like Vietnam and the walk to the Insurrection, he won’t be man enough to fight it.” 

In January, Barbara F. Walter published a book called How Civil Wars Start and How to Stop Them. I believe I put something in a post about it at the time. Here are some articles from the time the book came out.

Dana Millbank at The Washington Post: ‘We are closer to civil war than any of us would like to believe,’ new study says.

A startling new finding by one of the nation’s top authorities on foreign civil wars says we are on the cusp of our own.

Barbara F. Walter, a political science professor at the University of California at San Diego, serves on a CIA advisory panel called the Political Instability Task Force that monitors countries around the world and predicts which of them are most at risk of deteriorating into violence. By law, the task force can’t assess what’s happening within the United States, but Walter, a longtime friend who has spent her career studying conflicts in Syria, Lebanon, Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Rwanda, Angola, Nicaragua and elsewhere, applied the predictive techniques herself to this country.

Her bottom line: “We are closer to civil war than any of us would like to believe.” She lays out the argument in detail in her must-read book, “How Civil Wars Start,” out in January. “No one wants to believe that their beloved democracy is in decline, or headed toward war,” she writes. But, “if you were an analyst in a foreign country looking at events in America — the same way you’d look at events in Ukraine or the Ivory Coast or Venezuela — you would go down a checklist, assessing each of the conditions that make civil war likely. And what you would find is that the United States, a democracy founded more than two centuries ago, has entered very dangerous territory.”

Indeed, the United States has already gone through what the CIA identifies as the first two phases of insurgency — the “pre-insurgency” and “incipient conflict” phases — and only time will tell whether the final phase, “open insurgency,” began with the sacking of the Capitol by Donald Trump supporters on Jan. 6.

Things deteriorated so dramatically under Trump, in fact, that the United States no longer technically qualifies as a democracy. Citing the Center for Systemic Peace’s “Polity” data set — the one the CIA task force has found to be most helpful in predicting instability and violence — Walter writes that the United States is now an “anocracy,” somewhere between a democracy and an autocratic state.

Dropping five points in five years greatly increases the risk of civil war (six points in three years would qualify as “high risk” of civil war). “A partial democracy is three times as likely to experience civil war as a full democracy,” Walter writes. “A country standing on this threshold — as America is now, at +5 — can easily be pushed toward conflict through a combination of bad governance and increasingly undemocratic measures that further weaken its institutions.”

The Boston Globe published an interview with Walter by Shannon Larson: Q&A with Barbara F. Walter, author of ‘How Civil Wars Start,’ on the prospect of open civil conflict breaking out in the US.

Barbara F. Walter, a political science professor at the University of California at San Diego, has spent over three decades studying civil conflict. In her new book, “How Civil Wars Start: and How to Stop Them,” Walter examines the rise of violent extremism on a global scale and warns of the increasing likelihood of a second civil war breaking out in the United States.

“January 6, 2021 was a gift to the American people,” she tweeted on the one-year anniversary of the insurrection at the Capitol. “It made it impossible for the country to ignore or deny the cancer that has been growing out of the public eye for years. We can fix this!”

From the interview:

1) In your book, you write that the United States is “closer to civil war than any of us would like to believe.” How did you reach that conclusion?

“I’m a quantitative social scientist who studies civil wars. That means that I don’t study just one civil war in one country. I study all civil wars that have occurred over the last 80 years (and there have been over 200 of them). There has been an enormous amount of data collected by scholars on the factors that lead to civil war — so we know what things tend to put countries at greater risk of civil war.

“In addition, between 2017 and 2021, I served on the Political Instability Task Force run by the US government. The Task Force included political scientists, economists, anthropologists, and data analysts. The task of the Task Force was to put together a predictive model that would help the US government predict where around the world political instability and political violence was likely to break out. The Task Force included over 50 variables in the model — variables that the experts thought might matter, like poverty, income inequality, the ethnic diversity of a country, the size of a country, etc. Only two factors turn out to be highly predictive: anocracy and ethnic factionalism.”

2) What is an anocracy? What does it mean when a government is defined as such?

“Anocracy is a term that political scientists use for a government that is neither fully democratic nor fully autocratic, it is something in between. You can think of it as a partial democracy, weak democracy, illiberal democracy. It turns out that it is in this middle zone — between democracy and autocracy — that most civil wars occur. The second factor was whether a political faction had emerged in an anocracy that was based on ethnic, religious, or racial identity, and that faction then had the goal to gain power in order to exclude everyone else.”

3) What are some of the more notable examples in recent history demonstrating that the country is heading down the path toward a civil war?

“The US’s democracy has been weakening since 2016. It was downgraded first in 2016, then again in 2019, and then finally again after the January 6th attack on the Capitol, when it was classified as an anocracy for the first time since 1800.

“And then, one of America’s two big parties — the Republican Party — has become a faction based on race. As late as 2008, white Americans were equally likely to be a Democrat as a Republican. Today, 90 percent of the Republican Party is white, and it is doing everything possible to disenfranchise those who don’t vote Republican.” [….]

6) What would a modern civil war look like?

“The next civil war will look nothing like the last civil war. 21st-century civil wars tend to look much more like insurgencies — often fought by multiple factions, militias, and paramilitary groups — sometimes working together, sometimes competing. And they tend to use unconventional methods such as terrorism and guerilla warfare. It will look more like Northern Ireland and the 1st and 2nd intifada than Gettysburg.”

I’ve quoted quite a bit of the article, because it is behind a paywall.

This piece by Stephen Marche at The Guardian is also an important read. The next US civil war is already here – we just refuse to see it.

The United States today is, once again, headed for civil war, and, once again, it cannot bear to face it. The political problems are both structural and immediate, the crisis both longstanding and accelerating. The American political system has become so overwhelmed by anger that even the most basic tasks of government are increasingly impossible.

The legal system grows less legitimate by the day. Trust in government at all levels is in freefall, or, like Congress, with approval ratings hovering around 20%, cannot fall any lower. Right now, elected sheriffs openly promote resistance to federal authority. Right now, militias train and arm themselves in preparation for the fall of the Republic. Right now, doctrines of a radical, unachievable, messianic freedom spread across the internet, on talk radio, on cable television, in the malls.

The consequences of the breakdown of the American system is only now beginning to be felt. January 6 wasn’t a wake-up call; it was a rallying cry. The Capitol police have seen threats against members of Congress increase by 107%. Fred Upton, Republican representative from Michigan, recently shared a message he had received: “I hope you die. I hope everybody in your family dies.” And it’s not just politicians but anyone involved in the running of the electoral system. Death threats have become a standard aspect of the work life of election supervisors and school board members. A third of poll workers, in the aftermath of 2020, said they felt unsafe.

Two things are happening at the same time. Most of the American right have abandoned faith in government as such. Their politics is, increasingly, the politics of the gun. The American left is slower on the uptake, but they are starting to figure out that the system which they give the name of democracy is less deserving of the name every year.

An incipient illegitimacy crisis is under way, whoever is elected in 2022, or in 2024. According to a University of Virginia analysis of census projections, by 2040, 30% of the population will control 68% of the Senate. Eight states will contain half the population. The Senate malapportionment gives advantages overwhelmingly to white, non– college educated voters. In the near future, a Democratic candidate could win the popular vote by many millions of votes and still lose. Do the math: the federal system no longer represents the will of the American people.

The right is preparing for a breakdown of law and order, but they are also overtaking the forces of law and order. Hard right organization have now infiltrated so many police forces – the connections number in the hundreds – that they have become unreliable allies in the struggle against domestic terrorism.

I’ve focused this post on civil war, because I think this is where the Trumpists and the rest of the Republicans who cower in fear of their base are taking us. And I don’t think the Democrats are taking this seriously enough. I hope I’m wrong about that.

More stories to check out today:

The New York Times: Kushner’s and Mnuchin’s Quick Pivots to Business With the Gulf.

Crew: The Secret Service spent nearly $2 million at Trump properties.

The Guardian: Capitol attack panel to hold six public hearings as it aims to show how Trump broke law.

Just Security: Prosecuting Trump for the Insurrection: The Well-Founded Case f.or Optimism.

The Daily Beast: How Trump’s Fear of Getting Pied in the Face May Come Back to Cream Him.

The Washington Post: Russian diplomat resigns protesting Putin’s ‘aggressive war.’

The New York Times: U.S. Military Airlifts Baby Formula From Europe.

CNN: Biden says US would respond ‘militarily’ if China attacked Taiwan, but White House insists there’s no policy change.

Melissa Murray at The New York Times How the Right to Birth Control Could Be Undone.

Politico: State Democrats, abortion-rights activists ‘incredibly frustrated’ with federal inaction.

Have a nice Monday, Sky Dancers!!


Tuesday Reads: When Will There Be Good News?

Tuesday Morning Rant:

1d810814-7c26-4a14-b67b-00ac04998422Once again,  I’ve reached the point where I can’t bring myself to watch the news on TV. I check Twitter a few times a day and end up frightened and depressed. On the days I write posts, I read a number of articles, but then I need hours of down time to decompress. When will there be some good news for those of us who want the U.S. to be a democracy?

When will Democratic leaders understand that we are facing the strong possibility of losing the House and Senate in November? When will the House January 6 Committee begin the promised public hearings? When will the Justice Department prosecute the powerful people who planned the Capitol insurrection?

How can the pandemic end when the GOP has become the party of removing all restrictions designed to reduce the spread of the virus?

And that’s just the domestic situation. When will the U.S. and NATO deal with Putin’s genocide in Ukraine? When will they face the fact that the genocide continues, no matter how many weapons we provide?

I don’t know the answers to these questions; I only know that, in terms of democracy, our country has been losing ground since 2016 and–even with a Democratic president–we are still in grave danger from Trump and his GOP sycophants who are still trying to overturn the 2020 election.

From yesterday’s New York Times: Trump Allies Continue Legal Drive to Erase His Loss, Stoking Election Doubts.

In statehouses and courtrooms across the country, as well as on right-wing news outlets, allies of Mr. Trump — including the lawyer John Eastman — are pressing for states to pass resolutions rescinding Electoral College votes for President Biden and to bring lawsuits that seek to prove baseless claims of large-scale voter fraud. Some of those allies are casting their work as a precursor to reinstating the former president.

The efforts have failed to change any statewide outcomes or uncover mass election fraud. Legal experts dismiss them as preposterous, noting that there is no plausible scenario under the Constitution for returning Mr. Trump to office.

John Eastman

John Eastman

But just as Mr. Eastman’s original plan to use Congress’s final count of electoral votes on Jan. 6, 2021, to overturn the election was seen as far-fetched in the run-up to the deadly Capitol riot, the continued efforts are fueling a false narrative that has resonated with Mr. Trump’s supporters and stoked their grievances. They are keeping alive the same combustible stew of conspiracy theory and misinformation that threatens to undermine faith in democracy by nurturing the lie that the election was corrupt.

The efforts have fed a cottage industry of podcasts and television appearances centered around not only false claims of widespread election fraud in 2020, but the notion that the results can still be altered after the fact — and Mr. Trump returned to power, an idea that he continues to push privately as he looks toward a probable re-election run in 2024.

Democrats and some Republicans have raised deep concerns about the impact of the decertification efforts. They warn of unintended consequences, including the potential to incite violence of the sort that erupted on Jan. 6, when a mob of Mr. Trump’s supporters — convinced that he could still be declared the winner of the 2020 election — stormed the Capitol. Legal experts worry that the focus on decertifying the last election could pave the way for more aggressive — and earlier — legislative intervention the next time around.

The article quotes Michael Luttig, a prominent conservative lawyer who was consulted by Mike Pence when Trump was pushing him to refuse to certify the 2020 Electoral College results:

“At the moment, there is no other way to say it: This is the clearest and most present danger to our democracy,” said J. Michael Luttig, a leading conservative lawyer and former appeals court judge, for whom Mr. Eastman clerked and whom President George W. Bush considered as a nominee to be the chief justice of the United States. “Trump and his supporters in Congress and in the states are preparing now to lay the groundwork to overturn the election in 2024 were Trump, or his designee, to lose the vote for the presidency.”

Eastman’s latest effort in Wisconsin:

And then there’s this:

A former lawyer for Donald Trump has claimed attorney-client privilege over 37,000 pages of emails related to his dealings with the then-president, he revealed in a court filing Monday night. John Eastman, known for penning a memo outlining how Team Trump might overturn the 2020 election, was ordered by a judge in January to review and turn over more than 90,000 pages of emails to the House select panel probing the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. After reviewing a reported 1,000 to 1,500 pages per day for three months, Eastman made no claims over 25,000 other records, according to Politico. However, after his Monday filing, the House committee said it objected to “every claim” of privilege. All 37,000 pages will now be sent to U.S. District Judge David Carter, who in March called Eastman and Trump’s post-election activities “a coup in search of a legal theory,” for him to rule individually on each of them.

Fortunately, Judge Carter is unlikely to have any sympathy for Eastman and his privilege claims. Read Kyle Cheney’s original story at Politico: Eastman shielding 37,000 pages of Trump-related email from Jan. 6 committee.

More January 6 news from Raw Story: GOP’s Ronny Jackson may have been communicating with Oath Keepers during Jan. 6 riot: court documents.

Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-TX) may have been in contact with Oath Keepers members during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

A newly released trove of text messages shows members of the right-wing militia discussing security for some top Donald Trump allies ahead of the congressional certification of Joe Biden’s election win, and Oath Keepers co-founder Stewart Rhodes asked an associate for Jackson’s cell phone number, reported Politico.

“Dr. Ronnie Jackson — on the move,” wrote an unidentified person. “Needs protection. If anyone inside cover him. He has critical data to protect.”

“Help with what?” Rhodes replied. “Give him my cell.” [….]

Kelly Meggs, an Oath Keepers member among six indicted on seditious conspiracy charges, mentioned on Jan. 3, 2021, that allies had discussed militia members “on the call with congressmen” and “wanted to say thank you all for providing and protecting us.”

What kind of data was Jackson trying to “protect?”

In pandemic news, yesterday a Trump-appointed judge struck down the mask mandate for airline passengers and crew.

Lawrence O. Gostin at The Daily Beast: Trump’s Worst Judge Just Made Travel a MAGA Nightmare.

The coronavirus pandemic may feel like a past-tense phenomenon for many Americans, even though the dangers are real and ongoing. But a federal judge appointed by Donald Trump just did everything she could to send the nation back into chaos.

On Monday, Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle in Florida threw out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s mask mandate for air travel and other forms of mass transportation. Deaths from COVID-19—and the mask mandates intended to prevent them—may be on the wane nationwide, but whatever you think about such policies, this is the latest and most egregious example of a judge acting as a partisan warrior in the COVID-19 culture wars.

Mizelle was appointed to the federal bench by President Trump in 2020. She was 33, and had been practicing law for only 8 years. She had never tried a case as a lead attorney. The Senate confirmed her even though the American Bar Association gave her a rating of “not qualified.” This nominee should have been rejected by the Senate not because of her judicial philosophy and not because of her age, but because she simply didn’t have the credentials and experience to be a federal judge with lifetime tenure.

Now she is substituting her opinion for that of scientific professionals at the CDC, and dictating health policy in America. The outcome could be disastrous, only serving to further embolden the right-wing activists who dispute the reality of this horrifically lethal pandemic.

Click the link to read the rest.

This could be a bit of good news:

The Washington Post: Infowars, run by Alex Jones, files for bankruptcy protection.

The conspiracy website Infowars has filed for bankruptcy protection as founder Alex Jones faces multiple defamation lawsuits tied to his false claims that the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School was a “giant hoax.”

According to documents filed Sunday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas, three companies owned by Jones are seeking Chapter 11 protection, which would put civil litigation on hold while they restructure their finances.

Jones is being sued by the families of several victims of the 2012 attack that left 26 people dead, including 20 young children, in Newtown, in western Connecticut. It remains the deadliest elementary school shooting in U.S. history. The 20-year-old gunman died by suicide.

But Jones falsely claimed the massacre was fabricated by gun control advocates and the mainstream media, who he said pursued a “false flag” operation staged by “crisis actors.”

The families accused him of grifting off those false claims while defaming their loved ones. Some said they were harassed and threatened after Jones ran online segments accusing them of being a part of a hoax, with one receiving hate mail referencing the Second Amendment, according to a 2018 CBS news segment. They rejected settlement offers from Jones….

Jones has been found liable in two separate cases, one in Texas, where he and Infowars are based, and another in Connecticut where the mass shooting occurred. Damages have not yet been decided in either case, but an initial amount of $725,000 has been paid into a bankruptcy trust managed by two retired judges, court records show, with an expected $2 million to be funded at a later date. The Texas court is expected to determine damages first, with jury selection scheduled for April 25.

Or maybe not so good news?

Finally, I’ll share just one Ukraine story from David Rothkopf at The Daily Beast: Even if Russia Uses a Nuke, We Probably Won’t—but Putin Would Still Pay Dearly.

If Russia were to use a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine it would, as CIA Director William Burns put it in public remarks last week, “change the world in a flash.” It might not, however, according to several experts, result in the direct military involvement of the west or a broader nuclear war.

That is not to say that such an attack would not produce devastating consequences beyond those related to the attack itself. There are a wide range of options that NATO would consider—many of which would produce lasting, disastrous consequences for Russia. Further, there is a clear sense among current and former U.S. government officials that Western leaders’ disinclination to take the bait and trigger a global war would and should be seen as a sign of strength. Finally, for all these reasons, such an act of Russian desperation is likely to be yet another huge miscalculation on the part of Vladimir Putin.

Although nuclear weapons have not been used since the American attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the late summer of 1945, concerns about their use are higher than they have been in decades. CIA Director Burns, in remarks at the Georgia Institute of Technology last Thursday, said, “Given the potential desperation of President Putin and the Russian leadership…none of us can take lightly the threat posed by a potential resort to tactical nuclear weapons or low-yield nuclear weapons.” On Friday, Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy echoed this warning saying that the international community should be concerned about Russian use of nuclear or chemical weapons, saying, “We should… not be afraid but be ready.”

Senior U.S. officials with whom I spoke emphasized that Burns was not basing his comments on any new intelligence or other evidence that Russia was preparing to use nuclear weapons, but rather on a prudent analysis of Russia’s situation. They mentioned that Russian doctrine had a “lower threshold” for the use of nuclear weapons than other nations, but that it was “still pretty high.” According to that doctrine, there were two kinds of events that would warrant consideration of the use of nuclear weapons. One was if the Russian military was facing a massive defeat that threatened its ability to further defend its country. The other was if there was a direct threat to the regime in Moscow.

Read the rest at the Daily Beast link.

That’s it for me today. Now I need to decompress with an escapist novel. I hope you are all well and taking care not to overdose on the news.


Lazy Caturday Reads

Gedda Runyon Starlin “House Prince”

Gedda Runyon Starlin, “House Prince”

Good Afternoon!!

You’ve probably heard about actor Bruce Willis having stopped acting because he has aphasia. Aphasia is most commonly caused by a stroke that affects language areas–usually located on the left side of the brain. It can but it can also follow a severe head injury or other brain trauma. It can result from traumatic brain injuries suffered by athletes in contact sports like football and hockey. Willis’ family has declined to explain the cause of his aphasia, so we don’t know if he had a stroke or some other type of brain injury or if he has Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. There’s an interesting story at the LA Times on other celebrities who have struggled with aphasia, including Sharon Stone, Dick Clark, Kirk Douglas, and Patricia Neal.

Apparently Willis showed signs of cognitive decline as far back as 2017, but he continued working. His performances apparently deteriorated enough that he received a “Razzie” award (now rescinded) for “worst performance in a 2021 movie.” I’m not sure what to think about this, but it made me uncomfortable when I learned about this. Abigail Weinberg writes at Mother Jones: For Years, Hollywood Suspected Bruce Willis’ Deteriorating Health. They Exploited Him Anyway This is a labor issue.

After an illustrious career that featured starring roles in movies like Pulp Fiction and The Sixth Sense, Willis had in recent years taken to churning out dozens of low-budget productions. A new Los Angeles Times article reveals just how bad things were on the set of those movies—and gives the impression that the actor was being taken advantage of.

Two crew members from the upcoming film White Elephant told the Times that Willis asked aloud, “Why am I here?” “Someone would give him a line and he didn’t understand what it meant,” a crew member said. “He was just being puppeted.”

The incidents ranged from relatively benign to potentially dangerous: A crew member from the 2020 movie Hard Kill said that Willis repeatedly fired a gun loaded with blanks on the wrong cue. The incident seems particularly stark in light of Alec Baldwin’s gun accidentally firing and killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of Rust last year.

So, why were the dozens of people involved in these films so set on working with someone who wasn’t cognitively fit to perform? Well, the money, of course. “His involvement in films—even if for a fleeting few minutes—helped low-budget independent filmmakers sell their films internationally,” the Times explains. “Having Willis’ face on a movie poster or a lineup of streaming service thumbnails helped draw viewers to his films.”

Seems a tad exploitative, no? I’m no Hollywood insider, but I hope these revelations will spur the industry to work toward safer on-set conditions for workers on- and off-screen.

Being rich and famous doesn’t protect you from exploitation.

Another labor story from The Daily Beast: Amazon Workers Claim Historic Union Win in Big Blow to Bezos.

An Amazon warehouse in New York City made history on Friday when workers said they had won a vote to form the retail behemoth’s first union, a breakthrough that represented another sign that support for labor unions is resurgent in America.

159f2e26b59b52e97d73dc11824ae139Over 2,000 employees at the fulfillment center known as JFK8 voted to form a union, organizers said, after facing down months of hostile messaging that workers say included daily mandatory meetings with Amazon’s anti-union consultants.

The victory was especially significant because employees not only appeared to unionize a facility controlled by one of the world’s most powerful companies—but also to join the Amazon Labor Union (ALU). The grassroots group is led by current and former warehouse workers who waged a hard-fought battle frequently billed as Davids battling a $1.6-trillion Goliath.

Outside the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) office in Brooklyn, ALU president Chris Smalls and other organizers popped champagne once the win was official.

“It’s not about me,” Smalls told reporters at a press conference. “Amazon tried to make it about me from Day 1. And I never said it was going to be Amazon versus Chris Smalls. It’s always going to be Amazon versus the people, and today the people have spoken, and the people wanted a union.”

During his remarks, the new union president took aim at Amazon’s billionaire founder, saying, “We want to thank Jeff Bezos for going to space because when he was up there, we was signing people up.”

The Ginni and Clarence Thomas story continues to develop. Yesterday, Dakinikat posted the Daily Beast story about Thomas’s influence on Trump’s hiring and firing decisions. Jane Mayer, who wrote a book about Clarence Thomas, added this to the story:

This situation presents serious problems for the Supreme Court and for Congress. It’s unlikely that Clarence Thomas will voluntarily recuse himself from January 6 cases and I doubt if Chief Justice Roberts will take action unless there is a massive public outcry. At The Washington Post, Paul Waldman writes: What can Democrats do about Clarence Thomas?

The controversy over Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, Clarence Thomas and the Jan. 6 insurrection is demonstrating one profound difference between Democrats and Republicans: how they view the value of making a stink….

Given his wife’s role in encouraging the effort to overturn the election that culminated in the awful events of that day, Clarence Thomas should obviously recuse himself from any case having to do with Jan. 6. But what can Democrats do about him?

The way Democrats are answering that question tells us a lot about their party.

This Friday, 17 progressive organizations are releasing a letter calling on Democrats to launch a congressional investigation of Justice Thomas’s “misconduct in his handling of cases regarding the January 6 insurrection, the 2020 presidential election, and other cases involving his wife’s political activities.”

As the groups note in their letter, which is spearheaded by Take Back the Court, Supreme Court justices are bound by a federal statute that says they, like other judges, should recuse themselves from any case in which their “impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”

Patrick Saunders, Opal in the Window

Patrick Saunders, Opal in the Window

In addition, in the past, Thomas has failed to properly disclose his wife’s income from political groups (he later amended his disclosures after the omissions were revealed), and she reportedly works with groups that have business before her husband.

What might a congressional investigation accomplish? The letter argues that it might determine “whether Justice Thomas’ conduct was consistent with basic principles of judicial ethics, whether he violated federal law and his oath to ‘impartially discharge and perform his judicial duties, and what actions must be taken in response.”

But so far, Democrats have largely been restrained in response to the Ginni Thomas revelations. While a few more liberal lawmakers, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) have said Clarence Thomas should resign or be impeached, Democratic leaders have not.

Read the rest at the WaPo. You can also check out this post from Emptywheel today: On Ginni Thomas’ Obstruction Exposure and Clarence’s Former Clerk Carl Nichols

There’s also more news today about the gap in the White House phone logs during the January 6 Capitol insurrection. Dakinikat also wrote yesterday about the Axios claim that it was no big deal; the Trump executive assistant who kept track of the call log was out that day. I don’t buy it. That’s just too convenient an excuse. 

Last night CNN reported: Trump’s presidential diarist tells Jan. 6 committee White House officials provided less detail about his activities days before riot.

Just days before the US Capitol riot, White House officials started providing fewer details about then-President Donald Trump‘s calls and visits, the person in charge of compiling those activities for the official record told the House select committee investigating January 6, 2021, according to two sources with knowledge of the probe.

The committee interviewed Trump’s presidential diarist roughly two weeks ago. That interview has not been previously reported, nor has the testimony describing a noticeable drop-off in information provided by Oval Office staff leading up to January 6.

Daniel F. Gerhartz, 1965

By Daniel F. Gerhartz, 1965

Other witnesses also have told the panel there was significantly less information being shared with those involved in White House record-keeping during the same time period, according to three sources familiar with the investigation.

One source described how White House record-keepers appeared to be “iced out” in the days leading up to January 6.

“The last day that normal information was sent was the 4th,” said another source familiar with the investigation. “So, starting the 5th, the diarist didn’t receive the annotated calls and notes. This was a dramatic departure. That is all out of the ordinary.”

The White House diarist normally receives many streams of information, including the phone logs from the switchboard, the president’s movements from the US Secret Service and, critically, the notes from Oval Office operations, which detail calls, guests and activities.

The Guardian’s Ed Pilkington doesn’t seem to buy the Axios excuse either. He writes today: What is Trump hiding? The Capitol riot-sized hole in White House call log.

At 2.26pm on 6 January last year, Donald Trump picked up a White House phone and placed a call to Mike Lee, the Republican senator from Utah. The communication came at a very significant moment.

Thirty-seven minutes earlier, a riot had been declared by Washington DC police. Minutes after that the then vice-president, Mike Pence, was rushed out of the Senate chamber, where he had been presiding over Congress’s certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election, and put into hiding.

Fifteen minutes before Trump made the call his supporters, exhorted by the sitting president to “fight like hell” against what he falsely claimed was a rigged election, broke through a window in the south front of the Capitol and entered the heart of American democracy.

And we know Trump was watching it on TV.

Yet when you look for recorded details of Trump’s 2.26pm call which was made, as Hugo Lowell of the Guardian revealed, on an official White House landline, they are nowhere to be found. The Lee call was one of an unknown number that Trump made during a mysterious gap of 7 hours 37 minutes that exists in the call logs – precisely the timeframe of the Capitol attack.

Belinda Del Pasco

By Belinda Del Pasco

Those missing call logs, disclosed by the Washington Post and CBS News, raise several burning questions – how did the records disappear? who carried out the excising? – but none more urgent than this: what was Trump trying to hide?

“A gap like this doesn’t happen by accident. It’s not a coincidence,” said Charlie Sykes, columnist at the Trump-resistant conservative outlet the Bulwark. “There is no innocent explanation here – somebody made the decision to rip up the record for the crucial hours of January 6 and there has to be a reason why.”

What Trump is trying to hide lies at the heart of the House committee investigation into the January 6 insurrection. The former president has consistently tried to block information flowing to the committee – pressuring his inner circle not to testify, tearing up documents before they were handed over.

The stakes in the tussle over evidence rose sharply this week when a federal judge said in a ruling that Trump “more likely than not … dishonestly conspired to obstruct” Congress on 6 January. That would be a criminal act.

Read the rest at The Guardian.

Finally, Merrick Garland spoke publicly again yesterday. CNN’s Tierney Sneed reports: Garland says the only pressure DOJ feels on January 6 probes is to ‘do the right thing.’

After several recent developments in the January 6 investigations that put the Justice Department in the center of the political whirlwinds, Attorney General Merrick Garland said Friday that the only pressure his agency feels is to “do the right thing” by following “the facts and the law.”

“The only pressure I feel, and the only pressure that our line prosecutors feel, is to do the right thing. That means we follow the facts and the law, wherever they may lead,” Garland said at a news conference Friday, where he was announcing new charges in an unrelated gun trafficking case.

Garland was asked about political pressure on the agency at the end of a momentous week for the efforts to scrutinize the 2020 election reversal plot.

dbf8dd19adee267eff34b427875d5e68On Monday, a federal judge said that it was “more likely than not that President Trump corruptly attempted to obstruct” Congress’ electoral certification vote. The assertion by US District Judge David Carter came in a documents disclosure case related to the House select committee investigation of the January 6 attack on the Capitol….

On Friday, Garland would not weigh in on the Carter opinion or on the status of the Meadows referral.

“We follow the facts and the law wherever they lead, and that’s all I can say about the investigation,” Garland said when asked about the ruling, as he referenced department policy of not commenting on ongoing investigations. “The best way to undermine an investigation is to say things out of court about how they’re going.”

Asked about the status of the Meadows referral, Garland said, “We don’t comment on ongoing referrals.”

I don’t know what else he is supposed to say. He has said repeatedly that he will follow the evidence up to and including people at the top. But the Garland detractors aren’t going to stop whining.

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


Monday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

Daknikat has a cell phone emergency, so I’m filling in and starting really late–just beginning to look at the news. There’s quite a bit happening.

The Washington Post’s Michael Kranish has a big story about Ted Cruz and January 6: Inside Ted Cruz’s last-ditch battle to keep Trump in power. It turns out that Cruz and John Eastman, the lawyer who wrote a memo explaining how Pence could supposedly refuse to certify the election, have known each other for 27 years. Not only that, Trump asked Cruz if he would argue the case to overturn the election if they could get the Supreme Court to hear it. From the article:

An examination by The Washington Post of Cruz’s actions between Election Day and Jan. 6, 2021, shows just how deeply he was involved, working directly with Trump to concoct a plan that came closer than widely realized to keeping him in power. As Cruz went to extraordinary lengths to court Trump’s base and lay the groundwork for his own potential 2024 presidential bid, he also alienated close allies and longtime friends who accused him of abandoning his principles.

ted-cruz-january-6Now, Cruz’s efforts are of interest to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, in particular whether Cruz was in contact with Trump lawyerJohn Eastman, a conservative attorney who has been his friend for decades and who wrote key legal memos aimed at denying Biden’s victory.

As Eastman outlined a scenario in which Vice President Mike Pence could denycertifying Biden’s election, Cruz crafted a complementary plan in the Senate. He proposedobjecting to the results in six swing states and delayingaccepting the electoral college results on Jan. 6 in favor of a 10-day “audit” — thus potentiallyenabling GOP state legislatures to overturn the result. Ten other senators backed hisproposal, which Cruz continued to advocate on the day rioters attacked the Capitol.

The committee’s interest in Cruz is notable as investigators zero in on how closely Trump’s allies coordinated with members of Congress in the attempt to block or delay certifying Biden’s victory. If Cruz’s plan worked, it could have created enough chaos for Trump to remain in power.

“It was a very dangerous proposal, and, you know, could very easily have put us into territory where we got to the inauguration and there was not a president,” Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), a Jan. 6 committee member, said earlier this year on the podcast “Honestly.” “And I think that Senator Cruz knew exactly what he was doing. I think that Senator Cruz is somebody who knows what the Constitution calls for, knows what his duties and obligations are, and was willing, frankly, to set that aside.”

Eastman and Cruz both worked for Michael Luttig, who was then on the U.S. Appeals Court. Here’s what Luttig has to say about Cruz’s actions:

Luttig told The Post that he believes that Cruz — who once said that Luttig was “like a father to me” — played a paramount role in the events leading to Jan. 6.

“Once Ted Cruz promised to object, January 6 was all but foreordained, because Cruz was the most influential figure in the Congress willing to force a vote on Trump’s claim that the election was stolen,” Luttig said in a statement to The Post. “He was also the most knowledgeable of the intricacies of both the Electoral Count Act and the Constitution, and the ways to exploit the two.”

The story also says that Eastman took the Fifth when the Committee asked him about communications with Cruz.

Also from The Washington Post: Jan. 6 committee to seek interview with Ginni Thomas.

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection will seek an interview with Virginia Thomas, a conservative activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, according a source familiar with the investigation.

Virginia Thomas, who goes by Ginni, has drawn scrutiny for her text messages to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in which she repeatedly pressed Meadows to work aggressively to overturn the election and keep President Donald Trump in power in a series of urgent exchanges in the critical weeks after the vote, according to copies of the messages obtained by The Washington Post and CBS News.

The messages — 29 in all — reveal an extraordinary pipeline between Thomas, a conservative activist, and Trump’s top aide during a period when Trump and his allies were vowing to go to the Supreme Court in an effort to negate the election results.

The committee’s plans to ask Thomas for an interview were first reported by CNN. A source familiar with the investigation who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal committee plans confirmed the report.

Amanda Carpenter at The Bulwark: Is Ginni Thomas’s Story Believable?

Virginia Thomas wants people to believe that her husband, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, had no idea about her activities challenging the results of the 2020 election.

“Clarence doesn’t discuss his work with me, and I don’t involve him in my work,” she told a friendly outlet earlier this month. Therefore, no one need worry about his ability to be an impartial judge on the highest court in the land. Everything is hunky-dory….

0x0Her story, as well as her election theories, don’t survive even the most basic common-sense tests.

Justice Thomas cannot plausibly plead ignorance of his wife’s Jan. 6th-related activities. Her texts were the subject of a blockbuster Washington Post-CBS story, carried by numerous other outlets such as CNN and the New York Times. Multiple outlets asked the Thomases for comment multiple times. A CNN reporter staked out the couple in their parking garage. Maybe the Thomases talked about it, maybe they didn’t—it’s impossible for outsiders to know what happens inside a marriage—but the notion that Clarence Thomas is unaware of what Ginni was up to? Not plausible.

Second, beyond the text messages revealed last week, many of Ginni’s political activities relating to Jan. 6th were already a matter of public record. Her promotion of election conspiracies was well known; she posted them on her Facebook page. On the morning of Jan. 6th, just hours before the attack on the Capitol, she lavished praise on the Trump rallygoers who wanted to overturn the election. In the weeks after the riot, Ginni apologized to a listserv of her husband’s former clerks because her election-related activities and her “lifetime passions” caused a rift in the close-knit group of Thomas alumni.* Although this was a minor controversy, her husband could reasonably be expected to know about it, since it directly involved his wife and former clerks—and the Washington Post reported on it.

To believe that Justice Thomas is unaware of Mrs. Thomas’s Jan. 6th-related activities, one would also have to believe that Ginni’s co-signed public letter to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy demanding that he remove Republicans Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger from the GOP conference for serving as members of the Jan. 6th Committee never crossed Justice Thomas’s radar.

More at the link.

Here’s another breaking story from Katelyn Polantz at CNN: Judge: ‘More likely than not’ that Trump ‘corruptly attempted’ to block Congress from counting votes on January 6.

A federal judge said Monday that former President Donald Trump and right-wing attorney John Eastman may have been planning a crime as they sought to disrupt the January 6 congressional certification of the presidential election.

“Based on the evidence, the Court finds it more likely than not that President Trump corruptly attempted to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021,” Judge David Carter wrote Monday.

Attorney John Eastman gestures as he speaks next to U.S. President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani at the January 6 Trump rally on the Ellipse in Washington

Attorney John Eastman gestures as he speaks next to Rudy Giuliani on January 6, 2021. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

Carter, a federal judge in California, ordered Eastman to turn over 101 emails from around January 6, 2021, that he has tried to keep secret from the House select committee investigating the US Capitol attack.

Carter’s reasoning is a startling acknowledgment by a federal court that Trump’s interest in overturning the election could be considered criminal.

“The illegality of the plan was obvious,” Carter wrote. “Our nation was founded on the peaceful transition of power, epitomized by George Washington laying down his sword to make way for democratic elections. Ignoring this history, President Trump vigorously campaigned for the Vice President to single-handedly determine the results of the 2020 election … Every American — and certainly the President of the United States — knows that in a democracy, leaders are elected, not installed.”

Judge Carter had even more to say:

In his order, Carter made an unusually bold statement wishing for accountability so that history does not repeat itself.

“If the country does not commit to investigating and pursuing accountability for those responsible, the Court fears January 6 will repeat itself,” the judge wrote.

“More than a year after the attack on our Capitol, the public is still searching for accountability. This case cannot provide it. The Court is tasked only with deciding a dispute over a handful of emails. This is not a criminal prosecution; this is not even a civil liability suit,” he wrote.

“At most, this case is a warning about the dangers of ‘legal theories’ gone wrong, the powerful abusing public platforms, and desperation to win at all costs,” Carter added. “If Dr. Eastman and President Trump’s plan had worked, it would have permanently ended the peaceful transition of power, undermining American democracy and the Constitution.”

I hope Merrick Garland is paying attention.

Another big story from The Wall Street Journal: Roman Abramovich and Ukrainian Peace Negotiators Suffer Suspected Poisoning.

Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich and Ukrainian peace negotiators suffered symptoms of suspected poisoning after a meeting in Kyiv earlier this month, people familiar with the matter said.

Roman AbramovichFollowing the meeting in the Ukrainian capital, Mr. Abramovich, who has shuttled between Moscow, Lviv and other negotiating venues, as well as at least two senior members of the Ukrainian team developed symptoms that included red eyes, constant and painful tearing, and peeling skin on their faces and hands, the people said.

They blamed the suspected attack on hard-liners in Moscow who they said wanted to sabotage talks to end the war. A person close to Mr. Abramovich said it wasn’t clear who had targeted the group.

Mr. Abramovich and the Ukrainian negotiators, who include Crimean Tatar lawmaker Rustem Umerov, have since improved and their lives aren’t in danger, the people said. Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, who has met with Mr. Abramovich, wasn’t affected, they said. Mr. Zelensky’s spokesman said he had no information about any suspected poisoning.

\Western experts who looked into the incident said it was hard to determine whether the symptoms were caused by a chemical or biological agent or by some sort of electromagnetic-radiation attack, the people familiar with the matter said.

Read more at the WSJ. There was no paywall when I opened the link.

I’m going to end there so I can get this posted. What do you think about all this? What other stories are you following?


Lazy Caturday Reads

Good Morning and Happy Caturday!!

Why Cats PaintToday’s images are from the book Why Cats Paint: A Theory of Feline Aesthetics, by Heather Busch and Burton Silver. It’s a delightfully tongue-in-cheek discussion of “cat artists” that is really fun to read. Here’s some commentary on the book at Goodreads.

Today’s news is full of Ukraine stories. It’s looking as if Putin really plans to go through with an invasion. Here’s the latest:

CNN: Biden says he’s now convinced Putin has decided to invade Ukraine, but leaves door open for diplomacy.

President Joe Biden on Friday said he is now convinced Russian President Vladimir Putin has made the decision to invade Ukraine, but emphasized that room for diplomacy remains.

“As of this moment, I am convinced he’s made the decision,” Biden said during remarks at the White House.

The President also said the US believes Russian forces intend to attack Ukraine “in the coming week” or sooner, and that an attack will target the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Saturday said Russia was “moving into the right positions to conduct an attack,” echoing Biden’s assertion that Putin had made up his mind on invading.

“They’re uncoiling and now poised to strike,” Austin said, speaking from Vilnius, Lithuania. Austin said the US would pursue a diplomatic solution “until the very last minute, until it’s not possible.”

Biden plans to spend the weekend monitoring the ongoing Ukraine crisis from the White House as he meets with his national security team and remains in close contact with world leaders, multiple officials say. Biden had considered traveling to Delaware, as he typically does, but decided to remain in Washington.

Vice President Kamala Harris is in Germany today for the Munich Security Conference. Reuters: West puts up united front as Russia begins nuclear exercises.

MUNICH, Feb 19 (Reuters) – Russia must not attempt to move Ukraine’s borders by force, Western leaders warned on Saturday, saying they would be ready to respond even if Russia created a pretext for an invasion by accusing Ukraine of aggression.

Charlie the peripheral realist

Charlie the peripheral realist

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said the United States would reinforce NATO’s eastern flank to act as a further deterrent to any Russian military action in addition to the threat of sanctions.

“National borders should not be changed by force,” Harris said at the Munich Security Conference.

“We have prepared economic measures that will be swift, severe, and united,” she said. “We will target Russia’s financial institutions and key industries.”

Western leaders were meeting in Munich amid reports of explosions just inside Russian territory to Ukraine’s east and in the parts of eastern Ukraine that are controlled by Moscow-backed rebels.

But most also added that diplomacy had not yet run its course.

“History has not yet been written: there is an exit that the Russian government can choose at any time,” said German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock after a meeting of Western foreign ministers.

“Our common message to them is very clear: Don’t make this fatal mistake. Withdraw your troops … Let’s talk.”

But she warned against being misled by misinformation coming from separatist regions , saying Ukraine had done nothing to give the separatist leaders a reason for the evacuations they ordered on Friday.

Read more about the Munich meeting at The Washington Post: Harris, Blinken navigate Munich Security Conference as Europe holds its breath.

NBC News: Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine call to mobilize as Putin oversees nuclear drill.

Pro-Russian separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine ordered a full military mobilization Saturday, amid a spike in violence that has heightened fears that Moscow is planning to use an escalation in the conflictas a pretext to invade.

Pepper’s self-portrait

Pepper’s self-portrait

The announcements came ahead of planned large-scale drills involving Russian nuclear forces, overseen by President Vladimir Putin, offering a timely reminder of the country’s nuclear might, as Europe faces its gravest security crisis since the Cold War. Ballistic and cruise missiles were launched from land, air and sea the Kremlin said in a statement Saturday. 

In eastern Ukraine, where the Moscow-supported separatists have been fighting government forces since 2014, Denis Pushilin, the head of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic,” urged reservists to show up at military enlistment offices in a video released on the chat app Telegram on Saturday.

In neighboring Luhansk, Leonid Pasechnik, leader of the self-proclaimed “Luhansk People’s Republic,” also signed a decree calling for “full combat readiness.”

The separatists control an enclave about the size of New Jersey, where it’s population of around 2 million speak Russian use the Russian ruble and hundreds of thousands have Russian passports.

Their statements came as the evacuation of civilians from the rebel-held territories in those regions to neighboring Russia continued.

The New York Times interviewed Russia expert Fiona Hill about Putin’s motives: Explaining Putin’s Decades-Long Obsession With Ukraine. Here’s the beginning of the interview:

How would you evaluate the administration’s handling of this crisis so far? What’s worked and what hasn’t?

I think they’re handling it as well as they can be, given the circumstances. Writ large, what the administration is doing right now is certainly what I would recommend doing. But I don’t know whether we can say if it’s going to work or not. The real test is going to be over a long period of time. I don’t think this is going to be a short, sharp crisis.

Tiger the spontaneous reductionist

Tiger the spontaneous reductionist

What do you mean?

Putin’s been trying to get a grip on Ukraine for years now. They cut off the gas to Ukraine in 2006. He’s been in power for 22 years, and the whole of that time, he’s had Ukraine in the cross hairs one way or another, and it’s intensified over time. Putin wants to be the person who, on his watch, in his presidency, pulls Ukraine back into Russia’s orbit. And he could be president until 2036, in terms of what’s possible for him.

Is this fundamentally ideological for him, or geopolitical?

It’s about him personally — his legacy, his view of himself, his view of Russian history. Putin clearly sees himself as a protagonist in Russian history, and is putting himself in the place of previous Russian leaders who’ve tried to gather in what he sees as the Russian land. Ukraine is the outlier, the one that got away that he’s got to bring back.

Head over to the NYT to read the rest.

Back in the USA, we continue to learn more about Donald Trump’s many crimes.

The Washington Post: National Archives confirms classified material was in boxes at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence.

The National Archives and Records Administration confirmed in a letter Friday that it found items marked classified in boxes of White House records that former president Donald Trump took with him to his Mar-a-Lago residence.

In a letter to Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), U.S. Archivist David S. Ferriero wrote that officials had “identified items marked as classified national security information within the boxes” at Mar-a-Lago and had been in touch with the Justice Department over the matter.

The Washington Post reported last week that some of the Mar-a-Lago documents were marked as classified, including some at the “top secret” level — a revelation that seemed likely to intensify the legal pressure that Trump or his staffers could face.

Princess

Princess, the Elemental Fragmentist

Ferriero’s letter, though, provides the first official confirmation of classified material being in the boxes, and it is likely to reignite calls that the Justice Department investigate to see how the information got out of secure facilities, and who might have seen it.

It remains unclear how many classified documents were in the 15 boxes of materials, or what the Justice Department might do. An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment, and a spokesman for the Justice Department did not immediately return a message.

Ferriero wrote that the National Archives was conducting an inventory of the boxes’ content and expected to complete that process by Feb. 25. He wrote that the agency also had “asked the representatives of former President Trump to continue to search for any additional Presidential records that have not been transferred to NARA, as required by the Presidential Records Act.”

CNN: Judge says Trump could be culpable for January 6 and says lawsuits against the former President can proceed.

Civil lawsuits seeking to hold Donald Trump accountable for the January 6, 2021, insurrection can move forward in court, a federal judge said Friday in a ruling outlining how the former President could conceivably be responsible for inciting the attack on the US Capitol.

Trump’s statements to his supporters before the riot “is the essence of civil conspiracy,” Judge Amit Mehta wrote in a 112-page opinion, because Trump spoke about himself and rallygoers working “towards a common goal” of fighting and walking down Pennsylvania Avenue.

“The President’s January 6 Rally Speech can reasonably be viewed as a call for collective action,” Mehta said.

Democratic members of the House and police officers who defended the US Capitol on January 6 sued Trump last year, claiming he prompted his supporters to attack. Friday, Mehta wrote that the three lawsuits could move to the evidence-gathering phase and toward a trial — a major loss in court for Trump.

Wong Wong and Lulu

Lulu and Wong Wong

“To deny a President immunity from civil damages is no small step. The court well understands the gravity of its decision. But the alleged facts of this case are without precedent,” Mehta wrote.

“After all, the President’s actions here do not relate to his duties of faithfully executing the laws, conducting foreign affairs, commanding the armed forces, or managing the Executive Branch,” Mehta added. “They entirely concern his efforts to remain in office for a second term. These are unofficial acts, so the separation-of-powers concerns that justify the President’s broad immunity are not present here.”

While he homed in on Trump’s legal liability, the judge ruled in favor of three close allies to Trump who also spoke at the rally on January 6 — his attorney Rudy Giuliani, his son Donald Trump Jr. and Republican Rep. Mo Brooks, saying he would dismiss the claims against them.

Philip Bump offers an analysis of Mehta’s decision at The Washington Post: The president, the extremists and the conspiracy to storm the Capitol.

There were three things that jumped out at me from D.C. District Judge Amit Mehta’s decision that lawsuits targeting former president Donald Trump and two extremist organizations could move forward.

That is, three things beyond this remarkable paragraph:

 
“ … the court concludes that the Complaints establish a plausible §1985(1) conspiracy involving President Trump. That civil conspiracy included the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, [Proud Boys leader Enrique] Tarrio, and others who entered the Capitol on January 6th with the intent to disrupt the Certification of the Electoral College vote through force, intimidation, or threats.”

Before moving forward, it’s very important to qualify those sentences in two ways. The first is that Mehta is not saying that this conspiracy was proved; rather, that it was not implausible that it might be. It’s the difference between going to trial and reaching a verdict. The second important qualifier is that Mehta is describing only a civil conspiracy, in keeping with the nature of the lawsuits (brought by several members of Congress) that he was considering.

Misty goes off the wall

Misty goes off the wall

A civil conspiracy, Mehta writes, does not require that conspirators “entered into any express or formal agreement, or that they directly, by words spoken or in writing, stated between themselves what their object or purpose was to be, or the details thereof, or the means by which the object or purpose was to be accomplished.” They don’t need to know all the details of any plan or all of those participating in affecting it. They need only have come “to a mutual understanding to try to accomplish a common and unlawful plan … [the] general scope of which were known to each person who is to be held responsible for its consequences.”

The evidence at hand, Mehta concluded, suggests that such a conspiracy may have been in place between Trump and members of those right-wing extremist groups.

Read the rest at the WaPo. It’s very interesting.

One more January 6 story at Law and Crime: Stuart Rhodes is still locked up.

‘Clear and Convincing Danger’: Federal Judge Refuses to Let Oath Keepers Founder Stewart Rhodes Out of Jail Pending Seditious Conspiracy Trial.

Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the Oath Keepers militia group accused of seditious conspiracy in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, is a “clear and convincing danger” who must stay behind bars pending trial, a second federal judge has ruled.

Rhodes, 56, has been in custody since his arrest in January, after a U.S. Magistrate Judge in Texas deemed him to be a “credible threat” to the public. Prosecutors say Rhodes has weapons caches and unregistered cars stashed in multiple locations, and that he saw Jan. 6—when hundreds, and possibly thousands, of Donald Trump supporters overran police at the U.S. Capitol to block Congress from certifying Joe Biden‘s win in the 2020 presidential election—as “an initial skirmish or battle in a larger war.”

Smokey at work

Smokey at work

Prosecutors say Rhodes and other Oath Keepers planned to bring years of military experience and a variety of weapons to support the pro-Trump mob, going so far as to prepare for ferrying a trove of firearms and other weapons across the Potomac.

“My observation at this point [is] if the conduct alleged is true, the danger that it poses cannot be [overstated],” U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta said at the start of Rhodes’ bond hearing Friday, signaling his intention to keep Rhodes in behind bars.

Mehta said that the government hadn’t convinced him that Rhodes is a flight risk, but they won on their arguments that he posed a risk of future dangerousness to the general public. 

Prosecutors say Rhodes and other Oath Keepers planned to bring years of military experience and a variety of weapons to support the pro-Trump mob, going so far as to prepare for ferrying a trove of firearms and other weapons across the Potomac.

“My observation at this point [is] if the conduct alleged is true, the danger that it poses cannot be [overstated],” U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta said at the start of Rhodes’ bond hearing Friday, signaling his intention to keep Rhodes in behind bars.

Judge Mehta was busy yesterday.

So . . . what else is happening? What stories are you following today?