Lazy Caturday Reads

Intellectual Cat, Olena Kamenetska-Ostapchuk

Intellectual Cat, Olena Kamenetska-Ostapchuk

Good Morning!!

I hope you are all having a nice weekend. It’s finally starting to feel more like Spring here in Greater Boston after weeks of unseasonably cool weather. It’s bright and sunny and in the 70s today and it looks like the good weather will continue into next week. We might even see some 80-degree days midweek. 

It looks like we might be getting closer to a comeuppance for Trump and his merry band of conspiracy nuts. I don’t want to get my hopes up too much, but Democrats in the House have finally decided to try to set up an independent commission to investigate the January 6 insurrection.

The Washington Post: House members announce bipartisan deal for Jan. 6 commission.

A group of House Democrats and Republicans announced Friday that they had struck a deal to establish an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, a significant breakthrough after months of partisan standoff over the mandate for such a panel — and whether it should exist at all.

Zombie's Mother Katherine Goncharova

Zombie’s Mother, by Katherine Goncharova

The proposed 10-member commission, which emulates the panel that investigated the causes and lessons of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, would be vested with subpoena authority and charged with studying the events and run-up to Jan. 6 — with a focus on why an estimated 10,000 supporters of former president Donald Trump swarmed the Capitol grounds and, more important, what factors instigated about 800 of them to break inside. Trump’s critics in both political parties view it as a means to bring further public scrutiny to his role in inspiring the violence.

“There has been a growing consensus that the January 6th attack is of a complexity and national significance that what we need [is] an independent commission to investigate,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, announcing that he had reached agreement with the panel’s top Republican, Rep. John Katko (N.Y.). “The creation of this commission is our way of taking responsibility for protecting the U.S. Capitol.”

Democrats also proposed a bill to increase security in the Capitol.

The bill puts over a half-billion dollars toward hardening the Capitol and congressional office buildings with movable fences, door and window reinforcements, and additional security cameras and checkpoints. It also dedicates $21.5 million to stepping up security details for members facing threats, whether in Washington, their home districts or traveling between the two — and $18 million to better train and equip the U.S. Capitol Police to respond to riot situations.

But the largest part of the hefty spending bill — nearly $700 million — is simply to pay money owed to the Capitol Police, D.C. police, the National Guard and other federal agencies for costs they incurred in responding to the riot and its aftermath. It also dedicates more than $200 million to the federal courts to address threats to judges and to meet various other costs related to prosecuting those charged in connection with the insurrection.

Both the spending bill and the commission legislation face unique challenges as proponents seek to build enough bipartisan support to get the measures through both chambers of Congress. Thus far, no Republicans have voiced support for the Democrats’ spending bill. And although the commission proposal is bipartisan, and is likely to have enough backing to clear the House when it comes to a vote next week, it is unclear how many Republicans will support it.

Liz Cheney, the ultraconservative who has become a fierce Trump critic, applauded the bill. Newsweek: Liz Cheney Welcomes January 6 Commission, Says Americans Need ‘The Truth.’

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) has welcomed the prospect of a bipartisan commission to examine the violence of January 6, insisting Americans need to know “the truth” of what happened that day….

Still Life with Cats, by Max Beckman

Still Life with Cats, by Max Beckmann

In a statement, Cheney said: “All members, especially House and Senate leaders, should support this effort and there should be no delay in passing this bill to find the facts and the truth about what happened on January 6th and the events leading up to it.

“In the aftermath of national crises, such as Pearl Harbor, the Kennedy assassination, or September 11th, our nation has established commissions so the American people know the truth and we can prevent these events from happening again. The same thing is needed for January 6th and this commission is an important step forward to answering those fundamental questions.”

More from Cheney at CNN: Cheney says some GOP members voted against impeachment out of fear for their lives.

Telling CNN’s Jake Tapper on “The Lead” that there are “more members who believe in substance and policy and ideals than are willing to say so,” Cheney cited the impeachment vote earlier this year, in which she was one of only 10 House Republicans who voted to hold Trump accountable for the Capitol riot.

“If you look at the vote to impeach, for example, there were members who told me that they were afraid for their own security — afraid, in some instances, for their lives,” she said. “And that tells you something about where we are as a country, that members of Congress aren’t able to cast votes, or feel that they can’t, because of their own security.”

Hours earlier on Friday, New York Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik, a vocal ally of the former President who has a less conservative voting record than Cheney, was elected House GOP conference chairwoman. The key difference between the two women is that Stefanik has supported Trump’s baseless claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 election while Cheney has repeatedly rebutted them, leading House Republicans to complain that the Wyoming Republican is undermining the party’s message of promoting Trump’s brand of politics.

Cheney said her role as a member of Congress obligated her to oppose the widespread lie of fraud in the election and she believes that “we’ve had a collapse of truth in this country.”

“We’ve seen an evolution of, you know, a general situation where conspiracy theories are rampant, where good people in a lot of instances have been misled and believe things that are not true,” Cheney continued. “And so, I think that we all have an obligation to make sure we’re doing everything we can to convey the truth, to stand for the truth and to stand for the Constitution and our obligations.”

Three cats, Franz Marc

Three Cats, by Franz Marc

At Mother Jones, David Corn questions whether the bipartisan commission could fully uncover the truth: House Dems and Republicans Strike a Deal on a 1/6 Commission—But There’s One Big Catch.

On Friday morning, big news hit: Democrats and Republicans in the House had reached a compromise to set up a bipartisan, independent commission that would investigate the January 6 assault on the US Capitol. For weeks, GOPers had opposed a proposal from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to establish such a body, complaining it permitted Democrats to appoint a majority of the commissioners. But last month, she pitched a new deal with equal representation. And under the agreement concocted by Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who chairs the Homeland Security Committee, and Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), the top Republican on the panel, the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate would each get to appoint five members of the 10-person body, which will be modeled on the 9/11 commission. (The Dems will name the chair, the Republicans the vice chair.) Yet there is one big wrinkle: Though this commission will have the power to subpoena witnesses, subpoenas must be approved by either the chair and vice-chair or by a majority of the commissioners. That means the Republicans on the commission will have the power to block any subpoena.

It is not hard to envision numerous scenarios in which the commission—which would have to be approved by the Senate—could become immersed in conflict over the question of who to interview, what information to seek, and which witnesses to subpoena. After all, there is no way for the commission to do its job thoroughly without fully scrutinizing the actions of various Republicans, pro-Trump activists, the Trump White House, and former President Donald Trump himself. And if some of these potential subjects refuse to voluntarily cooperate with the commission’s investigators, the only recourse will be subpoenas. But will Republican-appointed commissioners okay subpoenas for GOP witnesses? 

Corn offers a list of necessary witnesses, including Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Rudi Giuliani, Roger Stone, Jared Kushner, and Ivanka Trump. Would Republicans on the commission go along with subpoenaing those important witnesses? He conclues:

The public deserves a complete, no-holds-bar accounting of the January 6 tragedy. But there is no way for any commission to fully uncover and report the whole truth without questioning Republicans and past and present members of Trump’s inner circle. This attack was a Trump production, and some of the most important eyewitnesses of that day are prominent Republicans and Trumpers. Should a commission be established—and it’s no done-deal yet—will Republican commissioners actually allow their gumshoes to haul in these sorts of witnesses? If not, this exercise could end up being yet another GOP assault on American democracy.

The Matt Gaetz investigation seems to be heating up. Here’s the latest.

The New York Times: Former Gaetz Confidant Agrees to Plead Guilty and Cooperate.

Woman with Cat, Jose Manuel Merello, 1960

Woman with Cat, Jose Manuel Merello, 1960

A former confidant of Representative Matt Gaetz admitted in court papers on Friday to an array of federal crimes, including sex trafficking of a 17-year-old girl, and agreed to cooperate with the Justice Department’s ongoing investigations.

The plea deal by Joel Greenberg, the onetime associate of Mr. Gaetz who had served as a tax collector in Seminole County, Fla., north of Orlando, until he was indicted last year, provided prosecutors a potential key witness as they decide whether to charge Mr. Gaetz, the Florida Republican who is a close ally of former President Donald J. Trump.

Mr. Gaetz is said to be under investigation over whether he violated sex trafficking laws by having sex with the same 17-year-old.

Mr. Greenberg did not implicate Mr. Gaetz by name in court papers filed by prosecutors in Federal District Court in Orlando. But Mr. Greenberg admitted that he “introduced the minor to other adult men, who engaged in commercial sex acts” with her, according to the documents, and that he was sometimes present. The others were not named.

Mr. Greenberg, who has been meeting with prosecutors for at least five months, has told investigators that Mr. Gaetz had sex with the girl and knew that she was being paid, according to a person briefed on the inquiry.

And from The Daily Beast: Rep. Matt Gaetz Snorted Cocaine With Escort Who Had ‘No Show’ Gov’t Job.

When Rep. Matt Gaetz attended a 2019 GOP fundraiser in Orlando, his date that night was someone he knew well: a paid escort and amateur Instagram model who led a cocaine-fueled party after the event, according to two witnesses.

The Florida congressman’s one-time wingman, Joel Greenberg, will identify that escort to investigators as one of more than 15 young women Gaetz paid for sex, according to a source familiar with the investigation.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

By Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

But what distinguishes this woman, Megan Zalonka, is that she turned her relationship with Greenberg into a taxpayer-funded no-show job that earned her an estimated $7,000 to $17,500, according to three sources and corresponding government records obtained by The Daily Beast.

On Oct. 26, 2019, Gaetz attended the “Trump Defender Gala” fundraiser as the featured speaker at the Westgate Lake Resort in Orlando. Two witnesses present recalled friends reconvening at Gaetz’s hotel room for an after-party, where Zalonka prepared lines of cocaine on the bathroom counter. One of those witnesses distinctly remembers Zalonka pulling the drugs out of her makeup bag, rolling a bill of cash, and joining Gaetz in snorting the cocaine.

While The Daily Beast could not confirm that Gaetz and Zalonka had sex that night, two sources said the pair had an ongoing financial relationship in exchange for sex. “She was just one of the many pieces of arm candy he had,” said one source familiar with the encounters between Gaetz and Zalonka.

The congressman—who has declared that he “never paid for sex”—wrote off the stay at the hotel as a campaign expense, with his donors picking up the tab.

Yuck. I can’t believe Gaetz is still in Congress and on the House Judiciary Committee.

Finally, investigations that were blocked under Trump may be able to go forward. CNN reports on some possibilities: Biden administration gives House panel documents related to Trump hotel.

The General Services Administration has provided House Democrats with documents related to former President Donald Trump’s Washington hotel, in the second case this week where the Biden administration gave the House information that the Trump administration had blocked it from obtaining….

House Transportation Chairman Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat, requested a slew of records in March related to the Trump International Hotel lease of the Old Post Office Building, which is not far from the White House. It was a request he had resubmitted to the GSA after it had been blocked by the Trump administration.

Jan F. Welker

By Jan F. Welker

The GSA responded in a letter to DeFazio last week that it was turning over some of the requested records, including monthly financial statements from the Trump hotel, audits and lease amendments — though the GSA declined to provide legal memorandums, arguing that those records were part of “internal executive branch legal advice.” The letter from the GSA said it was still working to fulfill DeFazio’s request for memos and communications from the White House or other federal agencies related to the lease of the Old Post Office Building….

The GSA’s willingness to provide documents to the House comes around the same time that the Justice Department struck an agreement with the House Judiciary Committee this week for the long-sought testimony of former Trump White House counsel Don McGahn. The House’s agreement with the Justice Department came ahead of a scheduled court hearing on the matter.

There are still several other outstanding court cases in which the House is fighting for Trump-related documents — most notably the effort by the House Ways and Means Committee to obtain Trump’s tax returns from the IRS. That case has a status update scheduled for May 28.

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


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.


Lazy Caturday Reads: Trumpism Isn’t Over Yet

Room with Curved Window Cat and Bird, Paul Wonner

Room with Curved Window Cat and Bird, by Paul Wonner

Good Afternoon!!

It’s great to finally have a normal president who actually cares about the American people and isn’t completely focused on his own needs. But it’s going to take a long time for the country to recover from four years of Trump. For one thing, Trumpism still controls the Republican Party. There is also the aftermath of Trump’s immigration and tax policies as well as his destructive influence on nearly every aspect of the Federal government, including the Departments of Justice, Defense, and Homeland Security and the intelligence community, as well as his efforts to corrupt U.S. elections. And of course Trump had a dramatic impact on the Supreme Court that will likely last for decades. In this post, I’m going to highlight some of the continuing influences of Trumpism in our politics and our justice system.

Trump loves the death penalty, and his first SCOTUS appointee Neil Gorsuch cast the deciding vote that led the execution of an innocent man in Arkansas in 2017.

The New York Times: 4 Years After an Execution, a Different Man’s DNA Is Found on the Murder Weapon. Lawyers’ request to conduct additional DNA testing before Ledell Lee was executed had been denied.

For 22 years, Ledell Lee maintained that he had been wrongly convicted of murder.

“My dying words will always be, as it has been, ‘I am an innocent man,’” he told the BBC in an interview published on April 19, 2017 — the day before officials in Arkansas administered the lethal injection.

Girl with a Cat, Franz Marke

Girl with a Cat, by Franz Marke

Four years later, lawyers affiliated with the Innocence Project and the American Civil Liberties Union say DNA testing has revealed that genetic material on the murder weapon — which was never previously tested — in fact belongs to another man. In a highly unusual development for a case in which a person has already been convicted and executed, the new genetic profile has been uploaded to a national criminal database in an attempt to identify the mystery man….

Mr. Lee’s execution, on April 20, 2017, was the first in Arkansas in more than a decade. Some accused the state of rushing Mr. Lee and several other prisoners to their deaths that month before the expiration of its supply of a lethal injection drug….

Mr. Lee’s execution, on April 20, 2017, was the first in Arkansas in more than a decade. Some accused the state of rushing Mr. Lee and several other prisoners to their deaths that month before the expiration of its supply of a lethal injection drug.

Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern on the Gorsuch vote, April 21, 2017

On Thursday night, Arkansas executed Ledell Lee—the state’s first execution in 12 years. Lee is one of eight men whom Arkansas originally planned to kill over 11 days before one drug in the three-drug lethal injection cocktail expires. Four of these men have received stays of execution, but Lee’s final plea to the U.S. Supreme Court was rejected by a 5–4 vote. Justice Neil Gorsuch cast the deciding vote allowing Lee to die. It was his first recorded vote cast as a justice of the court….

with Gorsuch’s vote, the court’s conservatives were able to ignore their four liberal colleagues and permit the execution. Lee was given midazolam, then a drug to paralyze and suffocate him—which may have been purchased under false pretenses. Finally, the state administered a chemical to stop his heart. Lee was declared dead shortly before midnight, Central Time. Had one more justice voted in his favor, Lee would still be alive today.

Lisa Lerer at The New York Times on Trump continued control of his party: Marooned at Mar-a-Lago, Trump Still Has Iron Grip on Republicans.

Locked out of Facebook, marooned in Mar-a-Lago and mocked for an amateurish new website, Donald J. Trump remained largely out of public sight this week. Yet the Republican Party’s capitulation to the former president became clearer than ever, as did the damage to American politics he has caused with his lie that the election was stolen from him.

Jennifer Gennari

Painting by Jennifer Gennari

In Washington, Republicans moved to strip Representative Liz Cheney of her House leadership position, a punishment for denouncing Mr. Trump’s false claims of voter fraud as a threat to democracy. Lawmakers in Florida and Texas advanced sweeping new measures that would curtail voting, echoing the fictional narrative from Mr. Trump and his allies that the electoral system was rigged against him. And in Arizona, the state Republican Party started a bizarre re-examination of the November election results that involved searching for traces of bamboo in last year’s ballots.

The churning dramas cast into sharp relief the extent to which the nation, six months after the election, is still struggling with the consequences of an unprecedented assault by a losing presidential candidate on a bedrock principle of American democracy: that the nation’s elections are legitimate.

They also provided stark evidence that the former president has not only managed to squelch any dissent within his party but has also persuaded most of the G.O.P. to make a gigantic bet: that the surest way to regain power is to embrace his pugilistic style, racial divisiveness and beyond-the-pale conspiracy theories rather than to court the suburban swing voters who cost the party the White House and who might be looking for substantive policies on the pandemic, the economy, health care and other issues.

“We’ve just gotten so far afield from any sane construction,” said Barbara Comstock, a longtime party official who was swept out of her suburban Virginia congressional seat in the 2018 midterm backlash to Mr. Trump. “It’s a real sickness that is infecting the party at every level. We’re just going to say that black is white now.”

Read more at the NYT link.

From the Editorial Board of the Financial Times: Republicans drift ever further into Trumpism. The right must find ways to head off disaster for party and country.

Six months after Trump was defeated in the US presidential election, no Republican can dispute his claim that Joe Biden stole it and expect to prosper among their peers. Facebook’s initial decision to suspend Trump’s account came after he had egged on the mob that assaulted Capitol Hill on January 6 in what was the most serious threat to American democracy since the civil war. Since then, Trump’s language has only grown more ominous. Republicans who think they can keep their head down and wait out the Trump era are probably deluding themselves. Trump is only consolidating his hold over their party — and shows every sign of planning a 2024 presidential run.

What should principled conservatives do? One option is to follow the example of Liz Cheney, the number three Republican in the House of Representatives, who correctly reminds her colleagues that last year’s election was legitimate and the assault on Congress was sedition. She will almost certainly be removed from her position next week.

August Macke

Painting by August Macke

This is nothing to do with ideology. Cheney is among the most conservative figures in the House. Elise Stefanik, who is set to replace her, is more moderate. Stefanik, however, has an unblemished record of echoing whatever Trump says, including that America’s voting is rigged. Like any revolution, the demands on its children grow more outlandish. The more preposterous the conspiracy theory, the greater the demonstration of loyalty from those who embrace it. The downsides to Cheney’s act of courage are obvious. She will lose her influence and ultimately even her Wyoming district to a Trump loyalist. Others among the principled holdouts, including Illinois’ Adam Kinzinger, are also at risk.

A parallel line of attack would be to point out that Trump is already jeopardising his party’s hopes of regaining control of Congress in next year’s midterm elections, and the White House two years later. Trump lost the presidency, but his party did far better in non-presidential races. Millions of voters who endorsed Biden switched to Republicans down ballot. Not once in four years did Trump’s approval rating exceed 50 per cent. Biden’s has not yet fallen below that. 

Trump can keep the party united through fear of defenestration but his grip will make the party less appealing to the larger electorate. Sadly, there is little hope right now of severing Trump’s bonds to a party that is now largely his — 70 per cent of its voters say the election was stolen. 

Liz Cheney is getting a great deal of attention right now, and although I probably disagree with her on every political issue, I have to admire her principled stand against Trumpism. And now the GOP Trump cult is trying to excommunicate her.

The Washington Post: Liz Cheney’s months-long effort to turn Republicans from Trump threatens her reelection and ambitions. She says it’s only beginning.

Rep. Liz Cheney had been arguing for months that Republicans had to face the truth about former president Donald Trump — that he had lied about the 2020 election result and bore responsibility for the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol — when the Wyoming Republican sat down at a party retreat in April to listen to a polling briefing.

The refusal to accept reality, she realized, went much deeper.

When staff from the National Republican Congressional Committee rose to explain the party’s latest polling in core battleground districts, they left out a key finding about Trump’s weakness, declining to divulge the information even when directly questioned about Trump’s support by a member of Congress, according to two people familiar with what transpired.

Paul Wonner cat painting

Painting by Paul Wonner

Trump’s unfavorable ratings were 15 points higher than his favorable ones in the core districts, according to the full polling results, which were later obtained by The Washington Post. Nearly twice as many voters had a strongly unfavorable view of the former president as had a strongly favorable one.

Cheney was alarmed, she later told others, in part because Republican campaign officials had also left out bad Trump polling news at a March retreat for ranking committee chairs. Both instances, she concluded, demonstrated that party leadership was willing to hide information from their own members to avoid the truth about Trump and the possible damage he could do to Republican House members, even though the NRCC denied any such agenda.

Those behind-the-scenes episodes were part of a months-long dispute over Republican principles that has raged among House leaders and across the broader GOP landscape. That dispute is expected to culminate next week with a vote to remove Cheney from her position as the third-ranking House Republican.\At issue: Should the Republican Party continue to defend Trump’s actions and parrot his falsehoods, given his overwhelming support among GOP voters? Or does the party and its leaders need to directly confront the damage he has done?

I think we all know how that is going to turn out.

On the corruption of the Justice Department, Devlin Barrett broke this startling news yesterday at The Washington Post: Trump Justice Department secretly obtained Post reporters’ phone records.

The Trump Justice Department secretly obtained Washington Post journalists’ phone records and tried to obtain their email records over reporting they did in the early months of the Trump administration on Russia’s role in the 2016 election, according to government letters and officials.

In three separate letters dated May 3 and addressed to Post reporters Ellen Nakashima and Greg Miller, and former Post reporter Adam Entous, the Justice Department wrote they were “hereby notified that pursuant to legal process the United States Department of Justice received toll records associated with the following telephone numbers for the period from April 15, 2017 to July 31, 2017.” The letters listed work, home or cellphone numbers covering that three-and-a-half-month period.

Cameron Barr, The Post’s acting executive editor, said: “We are deeply troubled by this use of government power to seek access to the communications of journalists. The Department of Justice should immediately make clear its reasons for this intrusion into the activities of reporters doing their jobs, an activity protected under the First Amendment.”

Cat on Green Pilllow, August Mackee

Cat on Green Pilllow, August Macke

News organizations and First Amendment advocates have long decried the government practice of seizing journalists’ records in an effort to identify the sources of leaks, saying it unjustly chills critical newsgathering. The last such high-profile seizure of reporters’ communications records came several years ago as part of an investigation into the source of stories by a reporter who worked at BuzzFeed, Politico and the New York Times. The stories at issue there also centered around 2017 reporting on the investigation into Russian election interference.

It is rare for the Justice Department to use subpoenas to get records of reporters in leak investigations, and such moves must be approved by the attorney general. The letters do not say precisely when the reporters’ records were taken and reviewed, but a department spokesman said the decision to do so came in 2020, during the Trump administration. William P. Barr, who served as Trump’s attorney general for nearly all of that year, before departing Dec. 23, declined to comment.

A few more stories to check out:

The Washington Post: Trump’s out-of-power agenda: Retribution against foes, commanding the spotlight and total domination of GOP.

Joyce Vance at NBC News: Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s Barr rebuke opens the door to DOJ accountability.

CBS News: The Arizona GOP’s Maricopa County audit: What to know about it.

NBC News: Sen. Lindsey Graham says the GOP can’t move forward without Trump.

Brad Bannon at The Hill: GOP is consumed by Trump conspiracy theories.

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


Thursday Reads: Democrats and The Greene Party

Vittorio Matteo Corcos, Dreams / Sogni, 1896|

z;o Vittorio Matteo Corcos, Dreams / Sogni, 1896

Good Afternoon!!

I’ve never been a Joe Biden fan. Early on in the 2020 primaries, I even thought I might refuse to vote for him if he were the Democratic nominee. But as time went on, he grew on me. Now I think he probably is exactly what we needed. He’s a “normal” Democratic politician, he’s extremely knowledgeable and experienced in the ways of the Senate, and he comes across as a decent person. He’s the perfect antidote to Trump’s psychotic behavior, ignorance, and incompetence. And it turns out that most Americans support what Biden is doing as president.

AP: AP-NORC Poll: Americans open to Biden’s approach to crises.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two weeks into a new administration, a majority of Americans say they have at least some confidence in President Joe Biden and his ability to manage the myriad crises facing the nation, including the raging coronavirus pandemic.

Overall, 61% approve of Biden’s handling of his job in his first days in office, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Though the bulk of Biden’s support is from fellow Democrats, about a quarter of Republicans say they approve of his early days in office.

Even at a moment of deep national divisions, those numbers suggest Biden, as with most of his recent predecessors, may enjoy something of a honeymoon period. Nearly all modern presidents have had approval ratings averaging 55% or higher over their first three months in office, according to Gallup polling. There was one exception: Donald Trump, whose approval rating never surpassed 50% in Gallup polls, even at the start of his presidency.

The Travelling Companions by Augustus Egg

The Travelling Companions by Augustus Egg

Obviously Biden faces serious challenges, but so far the public as a whole is supportive.

Biden’s standing with the public will quickly face significant tests. He inherited from Trump a pandemic spiraling out of control, a sluggish rollout of crucial vaccinesdeep economic uncertainty and the jarring fallout of the Jan. 6 riot on Capitol Hill. It’s a historic confluence of crises that historians have compared to what faced Abraham Lincoln on the eve of the Civil War or Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the depths of the Great Depression.

Biden’s advisers know that the new president will be quickly judged by Americans on his handling of the pandemic, which has killed more than 450,000 people in the U.S. He’s urgently pressing Congress to pass a $1.9 trillion relief package that would include funds for vaccine distribution, school reopening and state and local governments buckling under the strain of the pandemic.

“We have to go big, not small,” Biden told House Democrats on Tuesday. He’s signaled that he’s open to trimming his $1.9 trillion proposal but not as far as some Republicans are hoping. A group of GOP senators has put forward their own $618 billion package.

Lady on a Sofa, Harold Gilman, c 1910

Lady on a Sofa, Harold Gilman, c 1910

At Axios, Mike Allen explains why Biden’s stimulus plan is probably going to get through Congress one way or another: Biden’s grand plan

President Biden toldRepublican senators he has “an open door and an open mind” on his $1.9 trillion coronavirus plan. But he already has the votes, and overwhelming support in the country.

Why it matters: Well, power matters. And Biden holds all of it.

Get used to this. Democrats are gleeful as they watch the media fixate on family feuds inside the GOP, while Biden pushes out executive orders and pushes through this bill on his terms.

  • Biden embraces the reality that the two numbers that matter most to his presidency are coronavirus cases falling and economic growth rising.

Steve Ricchetti, counselor to the president and longtime Biden confidant, was in the Oval this week for meetings with Republican and Democratic senators, and told me that the president “reaffirmed and deepened his explanation and commitment on the numbers and the substance” of the full package.

  • Ricchetti said Biden made it clear that he welcomes “fine-tuning or amendments or recommendations,” but “underscored that he’s committed to his plan and to the elements he outlined” — and to moving quickly.

What we’re watching: Ricchetti said the president wants to have “a bipartisan and unifying dialogue in the country,” including conversations he’s already had with mayors and local elected officials, “so that this isn’t just about a dialogue with senators and members of Congress. It is a dialogue with the country.”

  • Ricchetti said Biden treated a GOP counterproposal “with an open mind and with respect. He was also honest … in underscoring why he proposed what he did — that he was committed to every one of the elements in his package.”

The bottom line: Democrats will dismiss any whining about Biden’s stimulus as D.C. noise or Republican hypocrisy. They’ll be right on both fronts.

The Railway, Edouard Manet, 1873

The Railway, Edouard Manet, 1873

Meanwhile, Republicans are mired in a conflict over Q Anon Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Gree Kevin McCarthy has to be the most pathetic GOP leader ever–even worse than Paul Ryan or John Boehner. Yesterday, Republicans met to discuss the futures of Greene, a complete crackpot, and Liz Cheney, a relatively normal mainstream Republican who had the guts to vote for Trump’s impeachment. Both women have survived so far. 

CBS News: Liz Cheney survives vote to remove her from GOP leadership.

House Republicans voted by a large margin Wednesday to allow Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney to stay on as the GOP conference chairwoman following an hours-long meeting where members aired their grievances over her vote to impeach former President Trump last month. Just 61 Republicans voted to remove Cheney from her post, while 145 voted for her to stay in a vote by secret ballot.

The vote came after Cheney told her Republican colleagues she would not apologize for her decision, according to a source familiar with the meeting. She later praised the result as a “terrific vote.” 

“We’re not going to be in a situation where people can pick off any member of leadership,” she said after the meeting. “It was very resounding acknowledgment that we need to go forward together and then we need to go forward in a way that helps us beat back the really dangerous and negative Democrat policies.” 

歌川国芳 by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

歌川国芳 by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Greene’s situation is still somewhat up in the air, but she got a standing ovation after apologizing the her colleagues in a private meeting. From The New York Times: The G.O.P. Walks a Tightrope.

  • The extremist wing of the Republican Party has lived to fight another day. But G.O.P. leaders are in knots trying to prove that the party’s factions can all live in harmony.

  • Representative Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, refused to strip Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of her committee appointments yesterday, instead issuing a long statement that condemned her history of making extreme and violent statements but also threw a jab back at Democrats, accusing them of a “partisan power grab.”

  • But at a closed-door meeting yesterday, the party’s House delegation also voted overwhelmingly to keep Representative Liz Cheney — an anti-Trump, establishment figure who has drawn fire from the party’s right wing — in her spot as the No. 3 Republican in the chamber.

  • At the meeting, many House Republicans expressed dismay with Cheney for her vote to impeach Trump and her condemnation of his role in the Capitol riot on Jan. 6. Members of the far-right Freedom Caucus accused Cheney of “aiding the enemy” when she joined just nine other Republicans in voting to impeach Trump, according to people familiar with the discussion. But ultimately she held on to her leadership role easily.

  • McCarthy’s unwillingness to strip Greene of her appointments, as Democrats and many Republicans have called on him to do, indicates that the G.O.P. plans to address the division in its ranks through messaging more than disciplinary action, at least for now.

  • In his statement, McCarthy used strong and direct language to reject the conspiracy-minded views promulgated by Greene, but he effectively defended her right to have held them.

  • “Past comments from and endorsed by Marjorie Taylor Greene on school shootings, political violence, and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories do not represent the values or beliefs of the House Republican Conference,” McCarthy said. “I condemn those comments unequivocally.”

  • He said that he had met with her privately and explained “that as a member of Congress,” she would be held “to a higher standard than how she presented herself as a private citizen.”

Just a Couple of Girls by Harry Wilson Watrous, 1915

Just a Couple of Girls by Harry Wilson Watrous, 1915

At Axios, Margaret Talev reports: Exclusive poll: Republicans favor Greene over Cheney.

Conspiracist Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene is far more popular than Rep. Liz Cheney among Americans who align with the Republican Party, according to a new Axios-SurveyMonkey poll.

Why it matters: As the House GOP caucus is being torn over calls to yank Cheney from congressional leadership for backing Donald Trump’s second impeachment, and strip Greene from committee assignments for her baseless conspiracy theories and violent rhetoric, these findings show how strongly Trumpism continues to define most Republicans.

  • House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is much more popular with Republicans than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the survey finds.

By the numbers: McCarthy enjoys the highest favorable versus unfavorable ratings (net favorability) of the four among Republicans, at 38%-16% (+22); followed by Greene, at 28%-18% (+10); McConnell, at 31%-46% (-15); and Cheney, at 14%-42% (-28).

  • Greene is the least well known of the four, with 51% of Republicans and Republican leaners saying they don’t know enough to say whether their impression is favorable or not. Respondents have the most fully formed views of McConnell.
  • Republican respondents are three times as likely to say their views align with Greene than with Cheney, but nearly one-third say they don’t align with either, and half say they don’t know enough to say.
  • Republican respondents who voted for Trump in November gave McCarthy a high net favorable rating (+31) and McConnell a high net unfavorable rating (-18).

The intrigue: People who identify with Greene are disproportionately likely to have lost faith in democracy or believe despite evidence that voter fraud is rampant in their state.

How scary is that?

Leitura by José Ferraz de Almeida JúniorDemocrats are moving forward on a plan to take away Greene’s committee assignments. CNN: House to vote on removing Marjorie Taylor Greene from committee assignments.

The House will vote Thursday on a measure to remove Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from her committee assignments, a decisive step that comes in the wake of recently unearthed incendiary and violent past statements from the congresswoman that have triggered widespread backlash from Democrats and divided congressional Republicans.

House Democrats, who control the chamber, set up the vote after first attempting to pressure Republicans to strip the Georgia Republican of committee assignments on their own. House Republicans have not taken that action, however, and House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy on Wednesday released a statement calling the push by Democrats to take away the congresswoman’s committee assignments a “partisan power grab.”

The measure the House will take up calls for Greene to be removed from the House Education and Labor Committee and the Budget Committee “in light of conduct she has exhibited.”

The move could set a risky precedent as Democrats target a sitting member of the opposing party in Congress over views expressed prior to her serving as an elected official — one that has the potential to someday be used against the party by Republicans.

Interesting stories to check out today:

Young Woman Reading an Illustrated Journal, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, c. 1880

Young Woman Reading an Illustrated Journal, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, c. 1880

Slate: How Georgia Newspapers Are Covering Marjorie Taylor Greene.

The Atlantic: What QAnon Has in Common With the Birchers: Sixty years ago, many GOP leaders resisted extremism. Now they’re not even trying.

Just Security: Movie at the Ellipse: A Study in Fascist Propaganda. Scholars on the Nazis and anti-Semitism have seen this before.

Norm Eisen and Katherine Reisner at USA Today: Whatever legal or constitutional test you apply, Trump incited the violent Capitol attack.

The Washington Post: Mitt Romney unveils plan to provide $3,000 per child, giving bipartisan support to President Biden’s effort.

Slate: Biden Ousts All 10 of Trump’s Union Busters From Powerful Labor Panel.

NBC News: Biden administration weighs plan to directly send masks to all Americans.

Moe Tkacik at Slate: The Lousy Tippers of the Trump Administration. They were exhausting, impossible, stingy, and cruel, just like at their day jobs.

It has been quiet around here lately. I know I’ve been feeling overwhelmed, and I’m probably not alone. I’m realizing that Trump culture isn’t going to just magically go away. But I do hope you’ll check in and leave a comment or link when you can. We miss you when we don’t hear from you!