Thursday Reads

hammock-1923-henri-lebasque

Henri Lebasque, Hammock, 1923

Good Afternoon!!

More news broke yesterday about Trump’s intense efforts to overturn the results of the election so he could stay in office. It’s becoming clear that his inciting of the January 5 insurrection was just a last ditch effort after repeated coup attempts had failed.

Remember when the U.S. Attorney in Atlanta suddenly resigned early this year around the time when Trump’s phone calls pressuring Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to find enough votes to change the state’s election results?

Yesterday, at the New York Times, Katie Brenner reported: Former U.S. attorney in Atlanta says Trump wanted to fire him for not backing election fraud claims.

Byung J. Pak, a former U.S. attorney in Atlanta, told congressional investigators on Wednesday that his abrupt resignation in January had been prompted by Justice Department officials’ warning that President Donald J. BTrump intended to fire him for refusing to say that widespread voter fraud had been found in Georgia, according to a person familiar with his testimony.

Mr. Pak, who provided more than three hours of closed-door testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, stepped down with no notice on Jan. 4, saying that he had done his best “to be thoughtful and consistent, and to provide justice for my fellow citizens in a fair, effective and efficient manner.”

While he did not discuss Mr. Trump’s role in his decision to resign at the time, he told the Senate panel that the president had been dismayed that Mr. Pak had investigated allegations of voter fraud in Fulton County, Ga., and not found evidence to support them, according to the person familiar with the statements.

Mr. Pak testified that top department officials had made clear that Mr. Trump intended to fire him over his refusal to say that the results in Georgia had been undermined by voter fraud, the person said. Resigning would pre-empt a public dismissal.

Rowntree, Kenneth, 1915-1997; The Balcony

Kenneth Rowntree, The Balcony

He also described work done by state officials and the F.B.I. to vet Mr. Trump’s claims of voter fraud, and said they had not found evidence to support those allegations.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is examining Mr. Pak’s departure as part of its broader investigation into the final weeks of the Trump administration and the White House’s efforts to pressure the Justice Department to falsely assert that the election was corrupt. The Justice Department’s inspector general is also looking at Mr. Pak’s resignation.

During a phone call with Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger of Georgia on Jan. 2, two days before Mr. Pak resigned, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Raffensperger to find enough votes to reverse the state’s presidential election results and described fraud allegations that Mr. Raffensperger said were not supported by facts, according to leaked audio of the call.

Mr. Pak had refused to support similar election fraud claims because of the lack of evidence, according to two people familiar with his investigation. “You have your never-Trumper U.S. attorney there,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Raffensperger during their phone call.

This story on then Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen’s Congressional testimony came out this morning at The Washington Post: What Rosen told U.S. senators: Trump applied ‘persistent’ pressure to get Justice to discredit election.

President Donald Trump’s last acting attorney general has told U.S. senators his boss was “persistent” in trying to pressure the Justice Department to discredit the results of the 2020 election.

In closed-door testimony Saturday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Jeffrey Rosen said he had to “persuade the president not to pursue a different path” at a high-stakes January meeting in which Trump considered ousting Rosen as the nation’s most powerful law enforcement officer.

Late Summer, Hermann Wessel, 1924

Late Summer, Hermann Wessel, 1924

According to a person familiar with the testimony, Rosen’s opening statement also characterized as “inexplicable” the actions of his Justice Department colleague, Jeffrey Clark, who was willing to push Trump’s false claims of election fraud and whom Trump considered installing as acting attorney general to replace Rosen….

On Saturday, Rosen appeared before the Senate committee to deliver his account directly. Donoghue testified as well. During a seven-hour interview, Rosen emphasized how he and other senior leaders resisted Trump’s entreaties.

“The president was persistent with his inquiries, and I would have strongly preferred that he had chosen a different focus in the last month of his presidency,” he said in his opening statement, according to a person familiar with the testimony, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the closed-door session. “But as to the actual issues put to the Justice Department, DOJ consistently acted with integrity, and the rule of law held fast.”

Rosen said he thought Trump’s claims about voting irregularities were “misguided, and I disagreed with things that President Trump suggested the Justice Department do with regard to the election. So we did not do them.”

Click the link to read the rest.

Mary Harris at Slate: A Rogue DOJ Lawyer Almost Kept Trump in Office. This is a report of an interview with Mark Joseph Stern, a Slate writer who has been reporting on Trump’s coup attempts. Stern argues that the DOJ’s Jeffrey Clark was supporting the efforts of Trump’s lawyers to get courts to declare various states’ election results invalid.

Mark Joseph Stern: …[Y]ou’ve got Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani claiming there’s mass voter fraud. You’ve got state attorneys general in 18 different states, as well as a lot of conservative intellectuals and Republican politicians, claiming that the election was conducted in an unconstitutional way….

Gari Melchers, The Sun Porch

Gari Melchers, The Sun Porch

So these folks talked about voter fraud, but they focused on this idea that only state legislatures get to decide the rules for a presidential election. And here, you had a lot of other players—governors, state courts, election boards—tweaking these rules in part because legislatures can’t foresee every possible election regulation, and sometimes state courts or secretaries of state or governors will have to step in and clarify things. But also, because of the COVID-19 crisis, you had a lot of states trying new things for the first time. And you also had a lot of states that refused to try new things, whose restrictive voting laws were going to force people to potentially wait in line indoors for a very long time and expose themselves to COVID. But all the modifications certain states made were modest.

Mary Harris: The neatness of making this argument that somehow the election was unconstitutional is that it potentially allows state legislatures to step in and override the vote, right?

That’s exactly right. That’s the endgame here. It’s not as if these folks were flailing and screaming and accusing the election results of being illegitimate. They had a purpose, which was to throw the procedure of the election into sufficient legal doubt so state legislatures would have an excuse to reconvene, step in, essentially ignore the results of the actual vote, and appoint their states’ electors in the Electoral College to Donald Trump….

It looks like most Justice Department officials balked at this idea, but Jeffrey Bossert Clark was all for it. And what we’ve seen in the release of documents that the House Oversight Committee has provided, and also from other reporting, is that he eagerly wanted to have the Justice Department step in in several different ways, specifically in Georgia, to push the state legislature to call its own special session, overturn the actual results, and declare Trump the real winner.

Winslow Homer, Sunshine and Shadow

Winslow Homer, Sunshine and Shadow

We’ve actually seen the drafts of the letters and lawsuits that Clark was typing up furiously and trying to issue on behalf of the entire Justice Department—and that would have potentially nudged Georgia and its legislature toward overthrowing its own election results….

There are a number of reports from high-level Justice Department officials that are somewhat corroborated by other emails we’ve seen about various meetings that were taking place at this time. They show that at this point, Clark had decided that Rosen didn’t have the backbone to steal the election or to intervene on Trump’s behalf. So Clark apparently held unauthorized conversations behind the backs of his superiors with the president himself, and seems to have floated this idea of using the Justice Department to make these state legislatures reconvene and reassign their electoral votes. Trump seems to have really liked this idea and even said to Rosen, Why am I having to deal with you and these state suits when I could be dealing with Clark, who would do everything I say? All I need to do is fire you and make Clark the new acting attorney general, and then he’ll do whatever I want.

Read the whole thing at Slate.

One more story on this topic from Politico: Emails: Senior DOJ officials wrangled over baseless Trump voter fraud allegations.

During Donald Trump’s final weeks in office, top Justice Department officials wrangled over how the FBI should handle a particularly wacky voter fraud allegation promoted by the then-president and his allies. Unreleased emails obtained by POLITICO show just how tense the episode got.

The dispute pitted a senior career section chief against one of the DOJ’s top officials, with the FBI caught in the crossfire. Trump’s appointees at DOJ ultimately prevailed, and their investigation — a probe into a viral video from Georgia that didn’t actually find any evidence of fraud — ended up playing a role in torpedoing the president’s narrative. While Trump’s opponents fretted that the FBI’s involvementwould undermine public confidence in elections and boost Republican talking points, it had the opposite effect.

Summer Porch at Mr. and Mrs. C.E.S. Woods, 1904, Child Hassam

Summer Porch at Mr. and Mrs. C.E.S. Woods, 1904, Child Hassam

At the time of the email dispute, Trump and his allies were lobbing a host of allegations about voter fraud, claiming wide-reaching and nefarious forces had conspired to steal the election for Biden. One allegation in particular commanded the president’s attention:a video showing election workers counting ballots at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. Trump’s allies claimed it showed the workers secretly pulling ballots out of “suitcases” and using them to commit election fraud.

Officials in the office of Georgia’s secretary of state quickly debunked those claims. But on Dec. 5, Trump alluded to the video at a rally in Georgia, suggesting it proved poll workers were stuffing ballot boxes to help the Democrats.

This led to this dispute between DOJ officials involving the FBI. It’s a convoluted story that I can’s easily summarize, but the story is worth reading.

Unfortunately, the ravages of the Delta variant of the coronavirus are still the top story of the day. Here’s the latest depressing news, links only:

The Daily Beast: No One I Know Is Vaccinated’: Sturgis Rally Bikers Are Coming for America.

Ed Yong at The Atlantic: How the Pandemic Now Ends. Cases of COVID-19 are rising fast. Vaccine uptake has plateaued. The pandemic will be over one day—but the way there is different now.

Rachel Gutman at The Atlantic: Why Is It Taking So Long to Get Vaccines for Kids? A few things still need to happen before the shots can be authorized for Americans younger than 12.

The New York Times: Texas Hospitals Are Already Overloaded. Doctors Are ‘Frightened by What Is Coming.’

Adam Serwer at The Atlantic: Greg Abbott Surrenders to the Coronavirus. The Texas governor’s warped priorities are allowing an extremist minority to worsen the pandemic.

Mississippi Free Press: Mississippi’s Hospital System Could ‘Fail’ In 10 Days, UMMC Warns As Feds Rush In.

Mississippi Free Press: With Mississippi Hospitals Near Calamity, Gov. Reeves Left State For GOP Political Event.

The Daily Beast: Trump Keeps Rejecting Pleas From Allies for Pro-Vax Campaign.

The Washington Post: Republicans risk becoming face of delta surge as key GOP governors oppose anti-covid measures.

That’s it for me today. What stories are you following?


Lazy Caturday Reads

Arsen Kurbanov

Painting by Arsen Kurbanov

Good Morning!!

Yesterday was a busy news day and a very bad day for Donald Trump. The Justice Department has ordered the IRS to hand over his taxes to the House Ways and Means Committee and new evidence was revealed about his efforts to get Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen to help overturn the 2020 election.

The New York Times: Treasury must turn over Trump’s taxes to Congress, the Justice Dept. says.

The Treasury Department must turn over six years of former President Donald J. Trump’s tax returns to House investigators, the Justice Department said in a legal opinion issued on Friday that most likely paves the way for their eventual release to Congress and potentially to the public.

Hours later, the Treasury told a federal judge that it planned to move ahead.

The 39-page opinion from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel dealt a sharp legal blow to a yearslong campaign by Mr. Trump to keep his tax information secret, reversing a Trump administration position that had shielded the documents from Congress.

Portrait of Gerrit Komrij - Theo Daamen, 1986 Dutch, b.1939

Portrait of Gerrit Komrij, by Theo Daamen, 1986 Dutch, b.1939

Rejecting that view, the Biden administration opinion said that a request for the tax information first lodged in 2019 by the House Ways and Means Committee was legitimate and that the Treasury Department had no valid grounds to refuse it.

“The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee has invoked sufficient reasons for requesting the former president’s tax information,” the opinion said. “Treasury must furnish the information to the committee.”

Democrats on Capitol Hill, who said they aim to examine the I.R.S.’s presidential audit program and Mr. Trump’s conflicts of interest, hailed the decision as a victory for congressional oversight powers and for national security. The House had sued to enforce the request after the Trump Treasury Department objected, and litigation continues.

“The American people deserve to know the facts of his troubling conflicts of interest and undermining of our security and democracy as president,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a valedictory statement.

Katie Benner at The New York Times: Trump Pressed Justice Dept. to Declare Election Results Corrupt, Notes Show.

President Donald J. Trump pressed top Justice Department officials late last year to declare that the election was corrupt even though they had found no instances of widespread fraud, so he and his allies in Congress could use the assertion to try to overturn the results, according to new documents provided to lawmakers.

The demands were an extraordinary instance of a president interfering with an agency that is typically more independent from the White House to advance his personal agenda. They are also the latest example of Mr. Trump’s wide-ranging campaign during his final weeks in office to delegitimize the election results.

White-Cat-with-Crescent-Moon-Gertrude-Abercrombie, 1909-1977

White Cat with Crescent Moon, Gertrude-Abercrombie, 1909-1977

The exchange unfolded during a phone call on Dec. 27 in which Mr. Trump pressed the acting attorney general at the time, Jeffrey A. Rosen, and his deputy, Richard P. Donoghue, on voter fraud claims that the Justice Department had found no evidence for. Mr. Donoghue warned that the department had no power to change the outcome of the election. Mr. Trump replied that he did not expect that, according to notes Mr. Donoghue took memorializing the conversation.

“Just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me” and to congressional allies, Mr. Donoghue wrote in summarizing Mr. Trump’s response.

Mr. Trump did not name the lawmakers, but at other points during the call, he mentioned Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, whom he described as a “fighter”; Representative Scott Perry, Republican of Pennsylvania, who at the time promoted the idea that the election was stolen from Mr. Trump; and Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, whom Mr. Trump praised for “getting to bottom of things.”

A bit more:

The phone call by Mr. Trump was perhaps the most audacious moment in a monthslong pressure campaign aimed at enlisting the Justice Department in his crusade to overturn the election results.

After the departure of Mr. Rosen’s predecessor, William P. Barr, became public on Dec. 14, Mr. Trump and his allies harangued Mr. Rosen and his top deputies nearly every day until Jan. 6, when Congress met to certify the Electoral College and was disrupted by Mr. Trump’s supporters storming the Capitol, according to emails and other documents obtained by Congress and interviews with former Trump administration officials.

The conversations often included complaints about unfounded voter fraud conspiracy theories, frustration that the Justice Department would not ask the Supreme Court to invalidate the election and admonishments that department leaders had failed to fight hard enough for Mr. Trump, the officials said.

The Justice Department provided Mr. Donoghue’s notes to the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which is investigating the Trump administration’s efforts to unlawfully reverse the election results.

leonard tsuguharu foujita, Japanese-French, 1886-1968

Leonard Tsuguharu Foujita, Japanese-French, 1886-1968

So it looks like we’ll be following more Congressional investigations of the the former guy in the near future. You can read specifics of Trump’s demands at that link.

David A. Graham at The Atlantic: The Insurrection Was Just Part of the Plot.

…[T]he House Oversight Committee shed more light this week on just how and why January 6 happened, releasing handwritten notes by Richard Donoghue, a top Justice Department official in the waning days of the Trump administration. The violence of the day has taken center stage, but these notes help put it in context: The angry crowd was just one part of President Donald Trump’s long-running effort to overturn the results of the election in the House of Representatives.

Trump’s effort to call the election results into doubt began long before the votes were cast, but it accelerated immediately after the election. As I wrote on January 26, Trump’s coup attempt started not on January 6 but in the wee hours of November 4, when Trump said at the White House, “This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election.” He added: “Frankly, we did win this election.” (He did not, and was not being frank.)

In November and early December, the focus of Trump’s efforts was pressuring state officials in places such as Arizona and Georgia to decline to certify results in favor of Biden, and pressing Attorney General William Barr to cast doubt on the results. But Barr declined, breaking with Trump, and so did pivotal Republicans including Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey. Once Barr was pushed aside, The Washington Post reported this week, Trump began a daily campaign to pressure Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen into doing what Barr would not, trying to place new claims of fraud before the Justice Department. Unbeknownst to Rosen, Trump was also orchestrating a plan to topple him.

Pierre Bonnard, 1867-1947

Pierre Bonnard, 1867-1947

What Trump hoped to achieve from these efforts has always been a little hazy. The Justice Department doesn’t certify elections, and at most could have pursued fraud claims in court—had there been any credible ones, which there were not. The new releases by the House Oversight Committee, first reported by The New York Times,connect the dots. Donoghue explained to Trump that the DOJ couldn’t overturn the result, but the president was unruffled.

“Don’t expect you to do that, just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R[epublican] Congressmen” is how Donoghue recorded Trump’s response in handwritten notes.

All Trump wanted was some semi-independent arbiter to declare the election fraudulent—whether that was the governor of Arizona, the Georgia secretary of state, or the U.S. Justice Department. This much was clear even then, but Trump’s endgame was not. After all, Democrat Joe Biden’s lead was wide enough that a single state declining to certify or a single fraud case couldn’t have erased it. Trump, despite his weakness for conspiracy theories, understood that. But he didn’t need any of these officials to set aside the results on their own. He just needed enough ammunition, no matter how tenuous, that he could derail certification of the election in Congress.

If the election couldn’t be decided based on the results, then it would go to the House of Representatives. Though Democrats held a majority there, the presidency would have been decided by state delegations, of which Republicans controlled more.

Read the rest at The Atlantic.

More stories on Trump’s attempts to subvert the DOJ and his coup attempt:

Margaret Carlson at The Daily Beast: Damn Right Jan. 6 Was a Coup—This Was Trump’s Call That Led There.

Andy Wright at Just Security: Trump inadvertently made key admission in calls to DOJ: impeachment counsel Daniel Goldman.

Raw Story: Trump inadvertently made key admission in calls to DOJ: impeachment counsel Daniel Goldman.

Carel Willink, Crayon drawing of a cat with attitude, 1976

Carel Willink, Crayon drawing of a cat with attitude, 1976

Is Trump still trying to get himself “reinstated” as president? I wouldn’t be surprised. A couple of stories that suggest there’s still something going on.

Tommy Christopher at Mediaite: WATCH: Mark Meadows Says Trump Meeting with ‘Cabinet Members’ at Jersey Golf Club About ‘Moving Forward in a Real Way.’

Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said that former President Donald Trump has been meeting with “cabinet members” at his New Jersey golf resort, mysteriously adding that they’re planning to “move forward in a real way.”

On Friday night’s edition of Newsmax’s Cortes & Pellegrino, Meadows defended Trump’s failed endorsement in a Texas special election runoff, saying “the magic is still there.”

He added that Trump is “a president that is fully engaged, highly focused, and remaining on task.” [….]

As he did throughout the interview, Meadows referred to Trump in the present-tense “the president,” and described meeting with “members of our cabinet”:

“Well, we met with several of our cabinet members tonight, we actually had a follow-up member, meeting with some of our cabinet members, and as we were looking at that, we were looking at what does come next. I’m not authorized to speak on behalf of the president, but I can tell you this steve. We wouldn’t be meeting tonight if we weren’t making plans to move forward in a real way, with president Trump at the head of that ticket.”

Although Meadows’ linguistic cues suggested some sort of alt-presidency, the rest of his remarks appeared to refer only to future elections. Meadows did not mention any discussion of a potential Trump “reinstatement” to the presidency, a notion that has been popular with Trump supporters, and reportedly with Trump himself.

Then why did he refer to Trump as “the president?”

Hernán Valdovinos, 1948

Hernán Valdovinos, 1948

Raw Story: Mike Lindell is now hoping Supreme Court allows a do-over election: ‘Maybe that’s a thing.’

On the far-right Brandon Howse Live radio program on Friday, MyPillow CEO and conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell suggested that perhaps the Supreme Court will allow a do-over of the election without electronic voting machines.

“So maybe the Supreme Court will say, hey, let’s have another — let’s do another election without machines,” said Lindell. “You know. Maybe that’s a thing.”

Lindell, who this week withdrew all his advertising from Fox News due to his belief they are insufficiently loyal to former President Donald Trump, has been a key purveyor of the nonsense idea that Trump could be “reinstated” as president later this year — although he has recently backed off that idea.

He has also spread false claims about Dominion Voting Systems equipment rigging votes, which has resulted in a lawsuit against him.

Yes, he’s nuts, but does he still have Trump’s ear? I wouldn’t be surprised.

Have a great weekend Sky Dancers! As always, this is an open thread.


Thursday Reads

Max Beckman, Woman in Chair Reading at Beach, 1939

Max Beckman, Woman in Chair Reading at Beach, 1939

Good Morning!!

Yesterday Joe Biden got another big win when his infrastructure bill got more than 60 votes to begin consideration in the Senate.

The Washington Post: Bipartisan infrastructure pact clears key Senate vote after breakthrough in talks.

Senate Democrats and Republicans banded together on Wednesday to advance a roughly $1 trillion proposal to improve the country’s aging infrastructure, overcoming months of political deadlock on one of President Biden’s signature economic policy priorities.

The day of breakthroughs began with news of a deal, as a bipartisan bloc of 10 negotiators coalesced around a package to upgrade the nation’s roads, bridges, pipes, ports and Internet connections. The announcement from some of the group’s leaders, including Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), capped off a series of frenetic talks that nearly collapsed amid behind-the-scenes battles about the new spending and how to pay for it.

With that once-elusive agreement finally in hand, the Senate hours later then took its first formal legislative step. Lawmakers voted 67-32 to put themselves on track to begin debating infrastructure reform this week, clearing the first of many hurdles toward adopting a proposal that the White House has described as historic.

The twin developments marked an early victory for lawmakers who have struggled for years to turn their shared enthusiasm for infrastructure into actual investments in the country’s inner-workings. Several past presidents had called for robust, new public-works spending to replace old pipes and fix cracked bridges, yet only on Wednesday did the Senate actually move toward delivering on those promises….

The news sparked jubilation at the White House, where Biden this spring put forward a roughly $2 trillion jobs and infrastructure plan funded largely through tax increases that Republicans swiftly rejected. But the administration’s top aides ultimately proved willing to be flexible in the months that followed in how they pursued some of the president’s priorities. Asked about the deal while traveling in Pennsylvania, Biden sounded a hopeful note, telling reporters: “I feel confident about it.”

The infrastructure bill that started moving forward again Wednesday is undeniably large: It calls for new federal spending of about $550 billion, an amount roughly equivalent to the cost of the Interstate Highway System, after adjusting for inflation.

Irving R. Wiles, Sunshine and Shadow Woman

Irving R. Wiles, Sunshine and Shadow Woman

But the bipartisan deal is less than a quarter the size of the $2.6 trillion plan that President Biden proposed in March, which included $2.2 trillion in spending and around $400 billion in tax credits. It’s also significantly smaller than the counteroffer the White House proposed in May, which scaled back spending by $500 billion, and it leaves out many of the Democrats’ biggest ambitions.

Democrats have also put forward a $3.5 trillion budget proposal that they intend to pass through a process known as budget reconciliation, which requires fewer votes.

This budget is expected to contain some of the pieces that were left out of the bipartisan infrastructure agreement — including investments in housing and education; child care; research and development; manufacturing; and clean energy. But moderate and progressive Democrats currently disagree on what will be included.

There were six major areas in Mr. Biden’s original infrastructure proposal: transportationutilitiespollutioninnovationin-home care and buildings. Almost all these areas were scaled back or eliminated in the bipartisan plan, with one exception: pollution cleanup.

Three major areas of President Biden’s original proposal were not included in the bipartisan deal: buildingsin-home care and innovation. The bipartisan plan also left out $363 billion in clean energy tax credits.

Trump Crimes Breaking News

Josh Dawsey and Devlin Barrett at The Washington Post: As Trump pushed for probes of 2020 election, he called acting AG Rosen almost daily.

President Donald Trump called his acting attorney general nearly every day at the end of last year to alert him to claims of voter fraud or alleged improper vote counts in the 2020 election, according to two people familiar with the conversations.

The personal pressure campaign, which has not been previously reported, involved repeated phone calls to acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen in which Trump raised various allegations he had heard about and asked what the Justice Department was doing about the issue. The people familiar with the conversations spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive legal and political issues that are not yet public.

Rosen told few people about the phone calls, even in his inner circle. But there are notes of some of the calls that were written by a top aide to Rosen, Richard Donoghue, who was present for some of the conversations, these people said.

David Brayne Woman reading

David Brayne, Woman reading

Donoghue’s notes could be turned over to Congress in a matter of days, they added, if Trump does not file papers in court seeking to block such a handover. In addition, both Rosen and Donoghue could be questioned about the conversations by congressional committees examining Trump’s actions in the days after the election.

The Justice Department recently notified Rosen, Donoghue and others who were serving there during the end of Trump’s presidency that the agency would not seek to invoke executive privilege if they are asked about their contacts with the president during that period.

That posture — which the letter to Rosen calls a departure from normal agency practice — means that individuals who are questioned by Congress would not have to say the conversations with the president were off-limits. They would be able to share details that give a firsthand account of Trump’s frantic attempts to overturn the 2020 election and involve the Justice Department in that effort.

January 6 Investigation News

Politico: Jan. 6 select-panel Dems confident they can corral ex-Trump aides.

Lawmakers on the Jan. 6 select committee describe their probe’s reach as still undefined, saying in interviews that they have yet to formalize the confines of an already closely watched and fast-moving investigation. Minutesbefore the panel’s first hearing on Tuesday, however, its members scored a key win thanks to a legal opinion from President Joe Biden’s Justice Department that allowed them to freely seek witness statements from former Trump administration officials.

“That means the likelihood of any resistance from the committee’s work from former [Trump] employees or current employees is not an impediment,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who chairs the Jan. 6 probe, said in an interviewThe Biden DOJ’s decision “expedites” the panel’s work digging into the insurrection, he added….

The panel only recently hired its senior staff and launched its website — and it has more work to do before it can seek out potential Trump-adjacent witnesses such as Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) or Gen. Mark Milley, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Woman Reading at a Dressing Table, Henri Matisse, 1919

Woman Reading at a Dressing Table, Henri Matisse, 1919

“I think the true scope of the investigation is still under development,” Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.), a member of the select panel, said in a brief interview. “I know that we will build on work that’s already been done by other committees.” [….]

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), another select committee member, echoed Luria and Thompson about the still-undefined scope of the investigation. But he said it was critical that the panel examine coordination efforts by the extremist groups that marched on the Capitol that day — a process that includes studying the hundreds of criminal prosecutions helmed by the Justice Department.

“[We] want to know who was the ultimate organizer and who paid for all of this action and how did it come about and are they still out there,” Raskin said.

Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks, who on January 6 told the insurrectionists to “start taking names and kicking ass,” has been busy destroying his own defenses for his actions on the day of the attempted coup.

Mark Joseph Stern at Slate: Mo Brooks Accidentally Gave Up His Immunity From Eric Swalwell’s Insurrection Lawsuit.

On Tuesday, the Department of Justice announced that it would not shield Rep. Mo Brooks from Rep. Eric Swalwell’s lawsuit against the fomenters of the Jan. 6 insurrection. The DOJ’s decision may seem surprising: After all, Attorney General Merrick Garland has continued to protect Donald Trump from E. Jean Carroll’s defamation lawsuit, signaling a broad view of elected officials’ immunity from civil suits. In Swalwell’s case, however, the Justice Department seized upon comments demonstrating that, at the Jan. 6 rally, Brooks was acting not as an elected official, but as a politician seeking to influence future elections. Ironically, it was Brooks himself who made these statements, under oath, in an effort to evade this very lawsuit. The congressman’s legal defense has turned into a legal liability.

Frédéric Soulacroix (1858-1933), a French painter.

Frédéric Soulacroix (1858-1933), French painter.

Swalwell’s lawsuit marks a serious effort to hold Brooks, Trump, and Rudy Giuliani accountable for their conduct at the rally that preceded—and incited—the Jan. 6 insurrection. He sued all three defendants for civil rights violations, as well as more garden variety misdeeds known as torts. In this case, Brooks’ alleged torts included negligence, aiding and abetting common law assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and bias-related crimes. Brooks sought to dismiss these tort claims by invoking the Westfall Act. Under this statute, a federal official facing a civil suit can ask the Department of Justice to certify that they were acting within the scope of their employment when the alleged tort occurred. If the DOJ agrees, the United States is substituted as the defendant. And because the U.S. cannot be sued for a wide range of torts, that substitution usually ends the case.

Predictably, Brooks asked the Justice Department to certify that he was acting as an employee of the federal government carrying out his official duties at the Jan. 6 rally. This argument is hard to swallow. Then again, so was Trump’s assertion that defaming E. Jean Carroll was a presidential act, yet Garland’s Justice Department still endorsed his theory. What appears to have made the difference in this case is Brooks’ own inadvertent admission that he was acting as a campaigner, not a congressman, on the morning of Jan. 6.

This admission was prompted by a claim at the heart of Swalwell’s lawsuit: that Brooks urged the crowd to commit violence at the Capitol. Central to Swalwell’s theory was a segment of Brooks’ speech in which he declared: “Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass!” Brooks continued:

“Now, our ancestors sacrificed their blood, their sweat, their tears, their fortunes, and sometimes their lives, to give us, their descendants, an America that is the greatest nation in world history. So I have a question for you: Are you willing to do the same? My answer is yes. Louder! Are you willing to do what it takes to fight for America? Louder! Will you fight for America?”

In a long, rambling affidavit, Brooks tried to counter this allegation by reframing his call to begin “kicking ass.” He testified that, in this passage, “I am talking about ‘kicking ass’ in the 2022 and 2024 ELECTIONS!” [….]

This narrative provides perhaps the most self-defeating explanation Brooks could possibly muster at this stage in litigation. As the Justice Department pointed out in its Tuesday filing, “activities specifically directed toward the success of a candidate for a partisan political office in a campaign context” are “not within the scope of the office or employment of a Member of the House of Representatives.” That’s because it is not the “business of the United States to pick sides among candidates in federal elections.” Representatives thus cannot invoke the Westfall Act’s protections when they are engaged in “campaign efforts.”

Jim Newell at Slate: Turns Out Mo Brooks Was Wearing Body Armor to Trump’s Very Peaceful Jan. 6 Rally.

Igor Morski, Polish Artist, 1960Back in December, Brooks was the first House Republican to say ahead of the congressional Electoral College certification that he would object to certain states’ electors. On the day of the certification, Jan. 6, he then gave a fiery speech at President Donald Trump’s rally at the Ellipse where he told the assembled crowd that “today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass!” Months later, he still argues that Trump would have won the election if only “lawful votes” were counted.

Brooks, like Republican leaders who tried to counterprogram the hearing with a press conference yesterday, thinks a proper investigation would look at why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office wasn’t “doing a better job with respect to the Capitol Police and their level of preparation.”

Then, to prove his point about preparation, he revealed a new detail to me: that because of a tip he’d received about potential violence, he’d been wearing body armor at the very same Ellipse speech in which he encouraged rally attendees to “start taking down names and kicking ass.”

“I was warned on Monday that there might be risks associated with the next few days,” he said. “And as a consequence of those warnings, I did not go to my condo. Instead, I slept on the floor of my office. And when I gave my speech at the Ellipse, I was wearing body armor.

“That’s why I was wearing that nice little windbreaker,” he told me with a grin. “To cover up the body armor.”

Who was this source? The Committee is probably going to want to hear from Brooks about all this.

Could it have been this guy?

I have a few more links to add in the comments. What’s on your mind today? This is an open thread.


Tuesday Reads

House by the Railroad, Edward Hopper

House by the Railroad, Edward Hopper.

Good Morning!!

Revelations just keep on coming about Trump’s crazy efforts to overturn the 2020 election. The New York Times and CNN have obtained emails that show how the White House tried to get the Justice Department to investigate insane claims about election conspiracy theories, including a baseless theory about Italian satellites changing votes.

Katie Benner at The New York Times: Trump Pressed Official to Wield Justice Dept. to Back Election Claims.

An hour before President Donald J. Trump announced in December that William P. Barr would step down as attorney general, the president began pressuring Mr. Barr’s eventual replacement to have the Justice Department take up his false claims of election fraud.

Mr. Trump sent an email via his assistant to Jeffrey A. Rosen, the incoming acting attorney general, that contained documents purporting to show evidence of election fraud in northern Michigan — the same claims that a federal judge had thrown out a week earlier in a lawsuit filed by one of Mr. Trump’s personal lawyers.

Another email from Mr. Trump to Mr. Rosen followed two weeks later, again via the president’s assistant, that included a draft of a brief that Mr. Trump wanted the Justice Department to file to the Supreme Court. It argued, among other things, that state officials had used the pandemic to weaken election security and pave the way for widespread election fraud.

The draft echoed claims in a lawsuit in Texas by the Trump-allied state attorney general that the justices had thrown out, and a lawyer who had helped on that effort later tried with increasing urgency to track down Mr. Rosen at the Justice Department, saying he had been dispatched by Mr. Trump to speak with him.

The emails, turned over by the Justice Department to investigators on the House Oversight Committee and obtained by The New York Times, show how Mr. Trump pressured Mr. Rosen to put the power of the Justice Department behind lawsuits that had already failed to try to prove his false claims that extensive voter fraud had affected the election results….

The documents dovetail with emails around the same time from Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s chief of staff, asking Mr. Rosen to examine unfounded conspiracy theories about the election, including one that claimed people associated with an Italian defense contractor were able to use satellite technology to tamper with U.S. voting equipment from Europe.

Yellow House in Arles, Vincent Van Gogh

Yellow House in Arles, Vincent Van Gogh

Benner reports much more insanity in this article. Here’s just a bit more:

Much of the correspondence also occurred during a tense week within the Justice Department, when Mr. Rosen and his top deputies realized that one of their peers had plotted with Mr. Trump to first oust Mr. Rosen and then to try to use federal law enforcement to force Georgia to overturn its election results. Mr. Trump nearly replaced Mr. Rosen with that colleague, Jeffrey Clark, then the acting head of the civil division.

Mr. Rosen made clear to his top deputy in one message that he would have nothing to do with the Italy conspiracy theory, arrange a meeting between the F.B.I. and one of the proponents of the conspiracy, Brad Johnson, or speak about it with Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer.

“I learned that Johnson is working with Rudy Giuliani, who regarded my comments as an ‘insult,’” Mr. Rosen wrote in the email. “Asked if I would reconsider, I flatly refused, said I would not be giving any special treatment to Giuliani or any of his ‘witnesses’, and reaffirmed yet again that I will not talk to Giuliani about any of this.”

More details from CNN: New emails show how Trump and his allies pressured Justice Department to try to challenge 2020 election results.

The emails also provide new detail into how Mark Meadows, then-White House chief of staff, directed Rosen to have then-Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark — who reportedly urged Trump to make him acting attorney general instead of Rosen — investigate voter fraud issues in Georgia before the US attorney there resigned in January.

Amid the pressure, Rosen said he refused to speak to Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani about his false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.

When Meadows sought to have Rosen arrange an FBI meeting with a Giuliani ally pushing a conspiracy theory that Italy was using military technology and satellites to somehow change votes to Joe Biden, Rosen said he would not help Giuliani.

Weatherside, 1965, by Andrew Wyeth

Weatherside, 1965, by Andrew Wyeth

“I flatly refused, said I would not be giving any special treatment to Giuliani or any of his ‘witnesses,’ and re-affirmed yet again that I will not talk to Giuliani about any of this,” Rosen wrote to Donoghue.\The new emails provide additional detail to reports earlier this month from CNN, The New York Times and others on Meadows’ emails to Rosen after the election, which revealed how the top White House aide had urged the Justice Department to take action for Trump’s benefit. The emails included a list of complaints about voting procedures in New Mexico, alleged “anomalies” in a Georgia county and the claims about Italian satellites.

The emails also show how Trump directed allies toward Rosen, who had been named acting attorney general following Barr’s December 2020 resignation after Barr had publicly said there had not been widespread fraud in the election.

Kurt Olsen, a private attorney, reached out to John Moran at the Justice Department on December 29 requesting a meeting with Rosen, promising he could meet at the Justice Department with an hour’s notice. He attached a draft complaint modeled after the Texas Supreme Court lawsuit unsuccessfully challenging the election results in four states, and wrote in a follow-up email that Trump directed him to meet with Rosen to discuss the US bringing a similar action.

“The President of the United States has seen this complaint, and he directed me last night to brief AG Rosen in person today to discuss bringing this action,” Olsen wrote. “I have been instructed to report back to the President this afternoon after the meeting.”

The same day, Trump’s White House assistant also forwarded the draft complaint to Rosen and Donoghue to review, saying it had also been shared with Meadows and White House counsel Pat Cipollone.

By the end of the year, it was clear Rosen and Donoghue had tired of the pressure campaign from the White House.

At least it’s good to know there was pushback from some Trump appointees.

The insanity continues in Arizona and elsewhere. Will Sommer at The Daily Beast: Republicans Now Want to ‘Audit’ Election Results in States That Trump Won.

In the wake of the Arizona audit’s success at grabbing publicity across right-wing media, Republican lawmakers in states that Trump won are demanding Arizona-style audits or other election inspections of their own.

The Republican hunt for voter-fraud evidence even in states that voted for Trump reveals how far inside the party the idea has spread that the election was stolen.

Houses at Falaise in the Fog, Claude Monet

Houses at Falaise in the Fog, Claude Monet

Focusing on fraud claims allows Republican officials to raise money and attention from devoted Trump supporters, according to former Republican National Committee communications director Doug Heye. It also helps lawmakers align themselves with Trump’s claims of widespread fraud, ingratiating themselves with the energized Trump grassroots as they try to claim more power in the party.“

This is about two things, and these are symbiotic,” Heye said. “The continued fealty for all things Trump, and placating the base or the portion of the base that still can’t accept a clear loss.” [….]

The prospect of audits that could somehow dispute Biden’s electoral college win have become articles of faith for Trump supporters unable to get over the former president’s defeat, as Republican-held legislatures across the country use a sense that the election was stolen to push voting restrictions across the country. Some Republican voters have also become fixated on a “domino theory” about the election, which holds that if Arizona’s audit finds fraud in their election, other states that voted for Biden will fall like dominos.

In other news, today the Biden administration released a “National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism.” You can read the White House statement at that link.

The New York Times: Biden Administration Forms Blueprint to Combat Domestic Extremism.

The Biden administration is aiming to bolster information sharing with technology companies, potentially expand hiring of intelligence analysts and improve screening of government employees for ties to domestic terrorism as part of a much-anticipated plan expected to be released on Tuesday detailing how the federal government should combat extremism.

President Biden ordered the review of how federal agencies addressed domestic extremism soon after coming into office, part of an effort to more aggressively acknowledge a national security threat that has grown since the Capitol riot on Jan. 6.

Changing a Flat, Norman Rockwell

Changing a Flat, Norman Rockwell

The 32-page plan synthesizes steps that have been recommended by national security officials — including bolstering relationships with social media companies and improving information sharing among law enforcement agencies — into one blueprint on how to more effectively identify extremists in the country after years of heightened focus on foreign terrorists.

“We cannot ignore this threat or wish it away,” Mr. Biden wrote in the strategy document. “Preventing domestic terrorism and reducing the factors that fuel it demand a multifaceted response across the federal government and beyond.”

The new strategy was widely expected to detail a position on whether the government should establish a domestic terrorism law that prosecutors could use to investigate and charge homegrown extremists instead of relying on assault, murder and hate crime charges. The strategy instead indicates that the administration is focused for now on bolstering methods of combating extremism already used by the government, despite Mr. Biden calling for such a law during the presidential campaign.

The Guardian: White House unveils first national strategy to fight domestic terrorism.

The White House has published its first ever national strategy for countering domestic terrorism five months after a violent mob stormed the US Capitol in Washington.

The framework released on Tuesday by the national security council describes the threat as now more serious than potential attacks from overseas but emphasises the need to protect civil liberties.

Anticipating Republican objections that Joe Biden could use counterterrorism tools to persecute supporters of Donald Trump, the strategy is also careful to state that domestic terrorism must be tackled in an “ideologically neutral” manner.

Houses in Munich, 1908, Wassily Kandinsky

Houses in Munich, 1908, Wassily Kandinsky

It cites examples such as “an anti-authority extremist” ambushing, shooting and killing five police officers in Dallas In 2016; a lone gunman (and leftwing activist) wounding four people at a congressional baseball practice in 2017; and an “unprecedented attack” on Congress on 6 January.

“They come across the political spectrum,” a senior administration said on a media conference call. “We acknowledge the shooting at the congressional baseball, the attack on police officers in Dallas, just as we acknowledge the attack in Charlottesville and the attack on the Capitol on January 6.

“So it’s not motivating politics or ideology that matters for us or, more importantly for the strategy and its implementation. It’s when political grievances become acts of violence and we remain laser focused on that.”

Of course Biden is in Europe right now, and he will meet with Vladimir Putin soon. David Rothkopf at The Daily Beast: Here’s What Biden’s Team Expects From His Meeting With Putin.

The political world and the media have zeroed in on President Joe Biden’s meeting this week with Vladimir Putin as the most important diplomatic event in which this young administration has participated. But the truth is that the heaviest diplomatic lifting with regard to the US-Russia relationship, and American national security, will have already taken place before the meeting in Geneva begins—or it will come in its wake.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said that Biden would be arriving at the Geneva meeting “with the wind at his back.” What he meant by that, according to a senior official traveling with the president, is that “in many respects, the most important part of the president’s message to Putin will have been made in the days before the meeting.” The official cited the achievements associated with Biden’s meetings with the U.K. leadership, G7 leaders, his NATO counterparts and top officials from the EU.

House in Provence, 1867, Paul Cezanne

House in Provence, 1867, Paul Cezanne

Trump not only distinguished himself from all previous American presidents by publicly bending the knee before his political sponsor Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, on Twitter and whenever he had the chance, the only coherent part of Trump foreign policy was that he effectively rejected three-quarters of a century of U.S. history by seeking to dismantle the international order America had tried to build since World War II. He attacked our allies. He condemned NATO. He disparaged the EU. And whenever he was given a chance, he rewarded Putin despite his invasion of Ukraine, his murder of his opponents (including on foreign soil), his freelancing in Syria, his efforts to erode the west’s relationship with Turkey and more.

Biden has been one of those who helped build the international system Trump attacked. He has been committed to undoing the damage Trump did. Just in the last week, Biden announced an effort to revitalize the Atlantic Charter, mended ties within the G7, made an unprecedented pledge of 500 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine as part of the G7’s commitment to provide 1 billion doses to needy nations worldwide, and re-engaged with our allies on terms more consistent with the pro-democracy, anti-autocracy message of our past.

Read the rest at The Daily Beast.

That’s it for me. What’s on your mind today?


Thursday Reads: The Party of Lies

Good Morning!!

The Luncheon, Claude Monet

The Luncheon, Claude Monet

Yesterday the House Oversight Committee held a hearing on the January 6 Capitol insurrection. Democrats tried to address the facts, and Republicans attempted to sell blatant lies and fantasies about what happened that day. Fromthe Associated Press:

Republicans sought to rewrite the history of the Jan. 6 insurrection during a rancorous congressional hearing Wednesday, painting the Trump supporters who attacked the building as mostly peaceful patriots and downplaying repeatedly the violence of the day.

Democrats, meanwhile, clashed with Donald Trump’s former Pentagon chief about the unprepared government response to a riot that began when hundreds of Trump loyalists bent on overturning the election broke through police barriers, smashed windows and laid siege to the building.

The colliding lines of questioning, and a failure to settle on a universally agreed-upon set of facts, underscored the challenges Congress faces as it sets out to investigate the violence and government missteps. The House Oversight Committee hearing unfolded just after Republicans in the chamber voted to remove Rep. Liz Cheney from her leadership post for rebuking Trump for his false claims of election fraud and his role in inciting the attack.

Former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller and former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, testifying publicly for the first time about Jan. 6, defended their agencies’ responses to the chaos. But the hearing almost immediately devolved into partisan bickering about how that day unfolded, with at least one Republican brazenly stating there wasn’t an insurrection at all….

Some fantastical claims by Republicans:

Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona played video footage of violence outside the federal courthouse in Portland last summer. Rep. Andrew Clyde of Georgia said that while “there were some rioters” on Jan. 6, it was a “bold-faced lie” to call it an insurrection and likened it in some ways to a “normal tourist visit.”

Apres le Dejunier, Berthe Morisot

Apres le Dejunier, Berthe Morisot

In ways that fundamentally rewrote the facts of the day and the investigations that resulted, Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona said the Justice Department was “harassing peaceful patriots.” He described Ashli Babbit, a California woman who was fatally shot by an officer during the insurrection after climbing through the broken part of a door, as having been “executed,” even though prosecutors have said the officer won’t be prosecuted because the shooting did not break the law.

“It was Trump supporters who lost their lives that day, not Trump supporters who were taking the lives of others,” said Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia, downplaying the violent tactics used by loyalists to the president, including spraying officers with pepper and bear spray.

Raw Story on Paul Gosar of Arizona, who actually helped organize the January 6 rally: Trump-loving congressman Paul Gosar rants about MAGA rioter Ashli Babbitt being ‘executed’ by Capitol cops.

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) on Wednesday delivered a rant in which he declared that Capitol police “executed” pro-Trump rioter Ashli Babbitt.

During a hearing on the January 6th Capitol riots before the House Oversight Committee, Gosar angrily charged that opponents of former President Donald Trump were using “propaganda” to make the MAGA rioters seem worse than they really were.

He also accused Capitol police of using unnecessary force when one of them fatally shot Babbitt, who during the riots was trying to breach a set of doors that were just outside the House chamber where lawmakers were hiding in shelter on January 6th after the breach of the Capitol building.

Here’s a different take on the Ashli Babbitt story at Law and Crime: Capitol Rioter Wanted to Lynch Black Officer He Believed Shot Ashli Babbitt, Prosecutors Say.

A U.S. Capitol rioter from Texas who said that he brought a rope with him to Congress on Jan. 6 threatened days later to lynch a Black police officer that he believed fatally shot Ashli Babbitt, federal prosecutors wrote in a legal brief on Monday. The startling allegation surfaced in court papers against 34-year-old Garret Miller, whom prosecutors want to keep behind bars pending trial.

Drinking tea in the garden by Edit B. Toth

Drinking tea in the garden by Edit B. Toth

Babbitt was fatally shot when she and the other rioters tried to break into the Speaker’s Lobby, where lawmakers had taken cover.

According to prosecutors, Miller referred to Babbitt as his “sister in battle” and began to see himself as her avenger.

“He became consumed with her death and circulated photographs on Facebook of an African-American police officer that he believed was responsible for her death,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth C. Kelley wrote in a 16-page legal brief on Monday. “Miller threatened to kill that officer, stating that he wanted to ‘hug his neck with a nice rope’ and that ‘he will swing.’ He also said that the officer deserved to die and that ‘it’s huntin season.’”

“His fixation with hunting down and hanging a USCP officer is extremely concerning,” prosecutors added of Miller.

Now facing a 12-count indictment, Miller has been charged with assaulting police officers, threatening to assassinate Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and several charges related to U.S. Capitol insurrection. Prosecutors say that Miller’s remarks were especially chilling in light of what authorities found in his house.

But Georgia Rep. Andrew Clyde claimed the rioters looked like normal tourists. NBC News:

During a House Oversight Committee hearing on the Jan. 6 riot, Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., said the House floor was not breached and that the supporters of former President Donald Trump who stormed the Capitol behaved “in an orderly fashion.” [….]

“As one of the members who stayed in the Capitol, and on the House floor, who with other Republican colleagues helped barricade the door until almost 3 p.m. from the mob who tried to enter, I can tell you the House floor was never breached and it was not an insurrection. This is the truth,” Clyde claimed….

“There was an undisciplined mob. There were some rioters, and some who committed acts of vandalism. But let me be clear, there was no insurrection and to call it an insurrection in my opinion, is a bold faced lie. Watching the TV footage of those who entered the Capitol, and walk through Statuary Hall showed people in an orderly fashion staying between the stanchions and ropes taking videos and pictures, you know,” he continued.

“If you didn’t know that TV footage was a video from January the sixth, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit,” Clyde said.

Paul Wonner, The Newspaper, 1960

Paul Wonner, The Newspaper, 1960

Tell that to police officer Michael Fanone who was beaten by rioters and now suffers from PTSD. The Washington Post: Body-cam footage shows Capitol rioter celebrating as D.C. cop is beaten and Tasered: ‘I got one!’

Surrounded by rioters who had dragged him down the U.S. Capitol steps, beaten him and Tasered him, D.C. police officer Michael Fanone screamed in pain.

“I got one!” one of the rioters yelled triumphantly.

As the crowd pushed in, grabbing at his head, Fanone screamed again and then pleaded for help. “I got kids!” he yelled.

The intense scene plays out in body-camera footage of the attack broadcast by CNN on Wednesday evening, casting new light on Fanone’s struggle to escape a clash he later described as “the most brutal, savage hand-to-hand combat of my entire life.” Fanone suffered a mild heart attack and a concussion in the melee.

Those don’t look like normal tourists to me.

Yesterday Republicans also excommunicated far right conservative Liz Cheney for telling the truth about what happened on January 6, including Trump’s culpability for the riot.

CNN: Takeaways from a day of congressional Republicans embracing Trump and downplaying the US Capitol riot.

The ongoing battle between truth and lies, and the continued fallout from the January 6 insurrection, played out Wednesday on Capitol Hill with critical oversight hearings and a landmark vote among the House Republicans to oust Liz Cheney from their leadership ranks.

The extraordinary day saw Cheney removed by voice vote in a 20-minute session that featured her fellow lawmakers booing her remarks about former President Donald Trump’s falsehoods about election fraud and then having members mock her on social media.

A House Oversight Committee hearing about “unexplained delays and unanswered questions” from January 6, featured Republican lawmakers attempt to deny basic facts about the insurrection and saw former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller and former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen resisting efforts to shed more light on Trump’s response to the riot. The Senate also held a hearing on domestic extremism that shed light on homegrown threats….

At the garden table, Auguste Macke

At the garden table, Auguste Macke

Rosen revealed that he met with Trump on January 3, just three days before the insurrection. He said they didn’t talk about the security planning for January 6, but he repeatedly refused to answer questions from House Oversight Committee Democrats about what he discussed with Trump at that meeting.

“I cannot tell you, consistent with my obligations today, about private conversations with the President, one way or the other,” Rosen said, later saying he “tried to be as forthcoming as I can” but that there are “ground rules” set by the Justice Department that he must “abide by.” Rosen did not elaborate on the alleged “ground rules” and passed on opportunities to shed more light on the insurrection.

This left Democrats stunned, including Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia, who pointed out that nobody invoked executive privilege before the hearing, and Rep. Kweisi Mfume of Maryland, who asked Rosen if Trump ever talked to him about overturning the results of the 2020 election.

Read more details from the hearing at the link.

Hayes Brown at MSNBC: GOP lies about Jan. 6 are getting bolder — and more dangerous.

Four months ago, the U.S. Capitol was overrun. Lawmakers fled their chambers as the mob surged past police lines. Many feared for their lives as former President Donald Trump did nothing to halt the rioters’ march through the building in his name.

Since then, we’ve seen a shift in tone from Republicans who were there that day. I’ve argued that the GOP is taking advantage of Trump’s social media silencing to work undistracted on making the next election easier to overturn.

But it’s becoming clear to me that it’s worse than that. Some members of Congress are getting bolder in their defense of Trump’s actions before and after the election. They aren’t just denying that Trump incited a mob as they rewrite election laws: They’re denying that the mob was ever a threat at all, justifying the violence of that day.

A hearing on Wednesday in the House Oversight and Reform Committee was meant to get some answers to the many questions about what was going on inside the Trump administration on Jan. 6 as the mob tried to stop the count of electoral votes. Unfortunately, the star witnesses of the day, former acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller and former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, were less informative than hoped. Miller in particular walked back his written testimony during his opening statement, refusing to say Trump had incited the protesters that day.

That wasn’t the worst rewrite of history at the hearing, though. That dubious honor goes to Republicans on the panel. In their telling, what happened on Jan. 6 was just some Trump supporters taking an unscheduled walk through the halls of Congress and the Capitol Police overreacting.

One more from Richard Wolffe at The Guardian: The point of the Republican party? To stroke the ego of Trump.

What is the point of the Republican party?

This isn’t a flip question. It’s one prompted by the last four months of grappling with the fallout of the bloody insurrection on Capitol Hill, and by the last four years of grappling with the fallout of installing a fascist in the White House.

Lunch in the Garden, Henri Lebasque

Lunch in the Garden, Henri Lebasque

So, for real: what does the GOP stand for? Apart from trying to seize back power, what does it want to do?

The answer, as Liz Cheney has learned, is to pander to the ego of a single Florida resident who has no obvious or coherent political purpose.

This might just explain why the party has been struggling so hard to respond to the last four months of the most tenuous Democratic control in Washington.

The Biden team has not commanded the nation’s capital from a position of strength because of LBJ-like powers of persuasion, Democratic unity or structural majorities. They have succeeded because Republicans sorely lack – as George HW Bush used to put it – the vision thing….

There was a time, not so long ago, when the GOP stood for small government, or big business, or at least big churches, or sometimes the little guy. They were for standing up to foreign enemies and domestic taxes….

After four years of Donald Trump, that is no longer the world we’re living in. To be fair, three decades’ worth of upheaval – the colossal failures of the war on terror, the financial crisis, a historic pandemic, the climate crisis and a technological revolution – may have made matters worse.

But here we are nonetheless at a point where the Grand Old Party has shrunk into a small old cult of personality, willing to twist and turn to the whims of its sociopathic former leader.

Consistency meant nothing inside the cult. More billions of spending on a nonsensical border wall? The deficit hawks said no problem. More bullying business leaders by presidential tweet? The capitalist caucus said bring it on. More cozying up to the leaders of Russia, China and even North Korea? The defense hawks thought that sounded fine. Paying off porn stars with campaign dollars? The party of family values barely blushed.

Each one of these big and small sellouts brought the party to the point where it fired Liz Cheney from the House leadership on Tuesday for stating the obvious: Trump lost the election last year and stoked an insurrection to save face.

The only solution to this battle between reality and fantasy is an independent commission to investigation the insurrection writes Kate Brannen at Just Security: Getting to the Bottom of Jan. 6 Is Proving Too Difficult for Congress.

If Wednesday’s House hearing on “unanswered questions” about the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was good for anything, it showed why an independent commission is needed to investigate what happened that day.

Tea in the Garden, Henri Matisse, 1919

Tea in the Garden, Henri Matisse, 1919

It was the first time that former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller and former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen testified about the decisions and actions they took. Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee also testified, but his actions are under far less scrutiny because his police officers responded immediately and essentially saved the day. He had also already testified about these matters in the Senate.

Despite this opportunity to question Miller and Rosen (and the important questions they could have been asked), members of the House Oversight Committee elicited little new information. Instead, precious time was wasted with grandstanding and aggressive posturing on both sides. Whether it’s Democrats admonishing the witnesses before they have a chance to speak or, worse yet, Republicans flooding the zone with disinformation, it’s increasingly clear that Congress is not up to the task of investigating the events of that day.

That’s a shame, because when it comes to Jan. 6, there are essentially two security failures that demand accountability (not to mention the role played by former President Donald Trump): the failure to prepare and understand the signals of what was coming and a failure to quickly get federal forces to respond once it was underway. The Department of Justice and the FBI bear some responsibility for the first failure, which left the U.S. government flat-footed when the attack began. The Defense Department, which Miller oversaw, was responsible for fielding requests for support from the D.C. National Guard and then authorizing its deployment, and so, is at the center of responsibility for the second failure.

Click the link to read the rest.

Is there any way to get past the GOP lies and obfuscation? Is an independent investigation possible? I hope so.

As always, this is an open thread.