Lazy Caturday Reads

Le Chat Noir, Théophile Steinlen (1896)

Le Chat Noir, Théophile Steinlen (1896)

Good Afternoon!!

There is a great deal of news today about Trump’s attempted coup and his attempts to cover up what he did. The more that comes out the clearer it becomes that Trump really tried to bring down the U.S. government and install himself as a Putin-like strongman. Furthermore, he’s not finished yet.

Last night, The Washington Post broke a bombshell story about the extent of Trump lawyer John Eastman’s efforts to force Mike Pence to overturn the electoral college votes on January 6, 2020: During Jan. 6 riot, Trump attorney told Pence team the vice president’s inaction caused attack on Capitol.

As Vice President Mike Pence hid from a marauding mob during the Jan. 6 invasion of the Capitol, an attorney for President Donald Trump emailed a top Pence aide to say that Pence had caused the violence by refusing to block certification of Trump’s election loss.

The attorney, John C. Eastman, also continued to press for Pence to act even after Trump’s supporters had trampled through the Capitol — an attack the Pence aide, Greg Jacob, had described as a “siege” in their email exchange.

“The ‘siege’ is because YOU and your boss did not do what was necessary to allow this to be aired in a public way so that the American people can see for themselves what happened,” Eastman wrote to Jacob, referring to Trump’s claims of voter fraud.

Eastman sent the email as Pence, who had been presiding in the Senate, was under guard with Jacob and other advisers in a secure area. Rioters were tearing through the Capitol complex, some of them calling for Pence to be executed.

The Post also published a draft op-ed that Jacob wrote but never submitted until now. Back to the original story:

Jacob, Pence’s chief counsel, included Eastman’s emailed remarks in a draft opinion article about Trump’s outside legal team that he wrote later in January but ultimately chose not to publish. The Washington Post obtained a copy of the draft. Jacob wrote that by sending the email at that moment, Eastman “displayed a shocking lack of awareness of how those practical implications were playing out in real time.”

Black Cats in Paris, by Atelier De Jiel

Black Cats in Paris, by Atelier De Jiel

Jacob’s draft article, Eastman’s emails and accounts of other previously undisclosed actions by Eastman offer new insight into the mind-sets of figures at the center of an episode that pushed American democracy to the brink. They show that Eastman’s efforts to persuade Pence to block Trump’s defeat were more extensive than has been reported previously, and that the Pence team was subjected to what Jacob at the time called “a barrage of bankrupt legal theories.”

Eastman confirmed the emails in interviews with The Post but denied that he was blaming Pence for the violence. He defended his actions, saying that Trump’s team was right to exhaust “every legal means” to challenge a result that it argued was plagued by widespread fraud and irregularities.

“Are you supposed to not do anything about that?” Eastman said.

He stood by legal advice he gave Pence to halt Congress’s certification on Jan. 6 to allow Republican state lawmakers to investigate the unfounded fraud claims, which multiple legal scholars have said Pence was not authorized to do.

There’s much more at the link.

Also at The Washington Post, Aaron Black highlights the story’s revelation that Trump and Eastman tried to leverage the attack itself to force Pence’s hand: The most shocking new revelation about John Eastman.

After Pence aide Greg Jacob emailed Eastman to tell him that his “bull—-” legal advice was why Pence’s team was “under siege,” Eastman responded that it was in fact Pence’s fault.

“The ‘siege’ is because YOU and your boss did not do what was necessary to allow this [election challenge] to be aired in a public way so that the American people can see for themselves what happened,” Eastman replied, as revealed in a previously unpublished op-ed by Jacob.

Blaming a guy currently in hiding for fear of his life is certainly a position to take. We knew Trump posted a tweet attacking Pence early in the riot, even after Pence had just gone into hiding, but it hasn’t been clear that Trump knew he was in hiding or the level of the danger involved. Here is Trump’s lawyer suggesting that even when they were able to appreciate the danger, Pence was still being leaned on.

By Day She Made Herself Into A Cat, Arthur Rackham (1920)

By Day She Made Herself Into A Cat, Arthur Rackham (1920)

But that’s arguably not even the most compelling evidence that Trump and Eastman tried to leverage the mob. Check out this section of The Post’s report about what happened after the Capitol had been cleared and Congress had reconvened:

Pence allowed other lawmakers to speak before they returned to counting the votes, and said he wasn’t counting the time from his speech or the other lawmakers against the time allotted in the Electoral Count Act.

Eastman said that this prompted him to email Jacob to say that Pence should not certify the election because he had already violated the Electoral College Act, which Pence had cited as a reason that he could not send the electors back to the states.

“My point was they had already violated the electoral count act by allowing debate to extend past the allotted two hours, and by not reconvening ‘immediately’ in joint session after the vote in the objection,” Eastman told The Post. “It seemed that had already set the precedent that it was not an impediment.”

This is all a bit dense. But what it basically amounts to is Eastman attempting to use the fallout of a mob riot — one spurred by his and Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud and Eastman’s highly unorthodox plan to overturn the election — to then get Pence to reject election results based upon a technicality.

This morning The Guardian published this piece by Ed Pinkington: ‘A roadmap for a coup’: inside Trump’s plot to steal the presidency.

In an interview with the Guardian, Eastman explained that he had been asked to prepare the memo by one of Trump’s “legal shop”. “They said can you focus first on the theory of what happens if there are not enough electoral votes certified. So I focused on that. But I said: ‘This is not my recommendation. I will have a fuller memo to you in a week outlining all of the various scenarios.’”

Inside the Oval Office, with the countdown on to 6 January, Trump urged Pence to listen closely to Eastman. “This guy’s a really respected constitutional lawyer,” the president said, according to the book I Alone Can Fix It.

Eastman, a member of the influential rightwing Federalist Society, told the Guardian that he made clear to both men that the account he had laid out in the short memo was not his preferred option. “The advice I gave the vice-president very explicitly was that I did not think he had the authority simply to declare which electors to count” or to “simply declare Trump re-elected”.

Eastman continued: “The vice-president turned to me directly and said, ‘Do you think I have such powers?’ I said, ‘I think it’s the weaker argument.’”

Grumpy Cat, by Vanessa Stockard

Grumpy Cat, by Vanessa Stockard

Instead, Eastman pointed to one of the scenarios in the longer six-page memo that he had prepared – “war-gaming” alternatives. His favorite was that the vice-president could adjourn the joint session of Congress on 6 January and send the electoral college votes back to states that Trump claimed he had lost unfairly so their legislatures could have another go at rooting out the fraud and illegality the president had been railing about since election day.

“My advice to the vice-president was to allow the states formally to assess the impact of what they had determined were clear illegalities in the conduct of the election,” Eastman said. After a delay of a week or 10 days, if they found sufficient fraud to affect the result, they could then send Trump electors back to Congress in place of the previous Biden ones.

The election would then be overturned.

“Those votes are counted and TRUMP WINS,” Eastman wrote in his longer memo, adding brashly: “BOLD, certainly … but we’re no longer playing by Queensbury rules.”

Then why did Eastman send that e-mail to Jacob in the middle of the violent insurrection? It’s pretty obvious that Eastman is just trying to get himself out of trouble. It’s a mystery to me why he hasn’t been disbarred. Pilkington’s story is long and well worth reading in full.

Andrew Kaczynski and Em Steck at CNN’s KFILE: Trump lawyer John Eastman said ‘courage and the spine’ would help Pence send election to the House in comments before January 6.

John Eastman, a conservative lawyer working with then-President Donald Trump’s legal team, said in a radio interview in early January that then-Vice President Mike Pence had the power to throw the 2020 presidential election to the House of Representatives, saying it depended on whether Pence had “courage and the spine.” Those comments are more direct than how Eastman has recently described his conversation with Pence, when he has said he told the vice president it was an “open question” whether he could throw out seven states’ Electoral College votes and that it’d be a “foolish” option to pursue.

Two Black Cats, by Jacques Lehmann Nam

Two Black Cats, by Jacques Lehmann Nam

Eastman made the comments, unearthed by CNN’s KFile, on the radio show of former Trump White House senior adviser Stephen Bannon on January 2 — just two days before Eastman briefed both Pence and Trump on his controversial memo about how Pence could overturn the election and just four days before January 6, when he spoke at the rally that preceded the attack on the US Capitol….

Eastman’s memo outlines a scenario in which Pence would disregard seven states’ Electoral College votes — making sure no candidate received the 270 Electoral College votes required to be declared the winner — thereby throwing the election to the House. Each state delegation would then have had one vote to cast for president, and since Republicans controlled 26 state delegations, a majority could have voted for Trump to win the election.

Eastman claims the memo does not reflect his own views and called the scenario to have Pence reject electoral votes and therefore throw the election to the House not “viable” and “crazy” to pursue in comments to the National Review. He also told CNN the memo was a draft.

In a conversation with CNN, Eastman said that his statements have been consistent and that he told Pence during their January 4 meeting that throwing the election to the House was “the weaker argument” and ultimately did not advise it.

“My statement on Bannon on January 2 acknowledges that that was one of the scenarios that was being discussed. But the issue that I presented to the vice president, when he asked me point blank, I told him, I said, ‘It’s an open question,’ which is true. And I said, ‘I happen to think it’s the weaker argument,’ which is true. And that’s why I recommended that he delay rather than taking that step,” Eastman said.

After CNN pointed out that on Bannon’s radio show, Eastman did not specify that the option to throw the election to the House was the “weaker” option, Eastman responded, “That’s right. Because it was a radio show.”

Yeah, right. Eastman is a liar, and not a very good one.

There’s also news about the documents Trump is trying to hide from the January 6 committee. Kyle Cheney at Politico: Call logs, speech drafts among records Trump is trying to block from Jan. 6 investigators.

Donald Trump is seeking to prevent Jan. 6 investigators from accessing daily presidential diaries, drafts of election-related speeches, logs of his phone calls, handwritten notes and files of top aides, the National Archives revealed in a Saturday morning court filing.

According to the National Archives, the former president has sought to block about 750 pages out of nearly 1,600 identified by officials as relevant to the Jan. 6 investigation. Among them are hundreds of pages from “multiple binders of the former press secretary [Kayleigh McEnany] which is made up almost entirely of talking points and statements related to the 2020 election,” according to the court filing.

Donge Kobayashi

Painting by Donge Kobayashi

The filing details are the clearest indication yet of what Trump is trying to withhold from congressional investigators seeking information about his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results and his activities on the day that a mob of violent Trump supporters stormed the Capitol and disrupted the peaceful transfer of power.

The National Archives indicated that many files were drawn from the systems of key Trump aides including former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, adviser Stephen Miller and deputy counsel Patrick Philbin.

Other documents include “draft text of a presidential speech for the January 6, 2021, Save America March; a handwritten list of potential or scheduled briefings and telephone calls concerning election issues; and a draft Executive Order concerning election integrity … a draft proclamation honoring deceased Capitol Police officers Brian Sicknick and Howard Liebengood, and associated e-mails from the Office of the Executive Clerk, which relate to the Select Committee’s interest in the White House’s response to the Capitol attack.”

“These records all relate to the events on or about January 6, and may assist the Select Committee’s investigation into that day, including what was occurring at the White House immediately before, during and after the January 6 attack,” Justice Department attorneys, acting on behalf of Archivist David Ferriero, wrote in the filing.

Read more at Politico; see also this article at CNN by Katlyn Polantz: New January 6 court filings reveal what Trump is trying to keep secret from Congress.

Have a very spooky Halloween weekend, Sky Dancers!


Friday Reads: The Final Days

Andrea Kowch, Soiree

Soiree, by Andrea Kowch

Good Morning!!

The revelations about Trump’s final days just keep on coming. The Washington Post released another excerpt from the book by their reporters Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig yesterday, and today The New Yorker a piece by Susan Glasser, who apparently has a book coming out next year. 

Among the stunning details in the Rucker/Leonnig excerpt is that Mike Pence didn’t trust all of the the members of his Secret Service detail, seemingly suspecting that they were aiding Trump’s attempted coup. 

At 2:13, Pence’s Secret Service detail removed the vice president from the Senate floor and took him through a side door to his ceremonial office nearby, along with his wife, Karen, their daughter Charlotte, and his brother, Greg, a congressman from Indiana. The Pences were hurried across one of the Capitol’s many ornate marble hallways to get there, but the path proved eerily close to danger. One or two minutes later, marauders chanting Pence’s name charged up the stairs to that precise landing in front of the hallway, and a quick-thinking Goodman led the rioters in a different direction, away from the Senate chamber. Had Pence walked past any later, the intruders who called him a traitor would have spotted him….

As rioters marauded through the Capitol, it was clear whom they were looking for. Some of them shouted, “Hang Mike Pence!” Trump didn’t exactly throw them off the hunt. At 2:24, the president tweeted, “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.”

At that moment, Pence was still in his ceremonial office — protected by Secret Service agents, but vulnerable because the second-floor office had windows that could be breached and the intruding thugs had gained control of the building. Tim Giebels, the lead special agent in charge of the vice president’s protective detail, twice asked Pence to evacuate the Capitol, but Pence refused. “I’m not leaving the Capitol,” he told Giebels. The last thing the vice president wanted was the people attacking the Capitol to see his 20-car motorcade fleeing. That would only vindicate their insurrection.

The third time Giebels asked Pence to evacuate, it was more of an order than a request. “They’re in the building,” Giebels said. “The room you’re in is not secure. There are glass windows. I need to move you. We’re going.”

At 2:26, after a team of agents scouted a safe path to ensure the Pences would not encounter trouble, Giebels and the rest of Pence’s detail guided them down a staircase to a secure subterranean area that rioters couldn’t reach, where the vice president’s armored limousine awaited. Giebels asked Pence to get in one of the vehicles. “We can hold here,” he said.

“I’m not getting in the car, Tim,” Pence replied. “I trust you, Tim, but you’re not driving the car. If I get in that vehicle, you guys are taking off. I’m not getting in the car.”

The Pences then made their way to a secure underground area to wait out the riot.

Much as I can’t stand Pence, he did the right thing on that terrible day.

As we’ve learned, General Milly also came through, and even the much hated Bill Barr refused to support Trump’s authoritarian obsession.

Meanwhile, Trump was excitedly watching the MAGA attack on TV. He couldn’t have cared less that the Vice President and hundreds of Congresspeople were in danger.

Back at the White House, [Pence’s national security adviser, Retired Lt. General Keith] Kellogg was worried about Pence’s safety and went to find Trump.

“Is Mike okay?” the president asked him.

“The Secret Service has him under control,”  Kellogg told Trump. “Karen is there with the daughter.”

“Oh?” Trump asked.

“They’re going to stay there until this thing gets sorted out,” Kellogg said.

john-singer-sargent-a-siesta-young-girls

A Siesta, by John Singer Sargent

Trump said nothing more. He didn’t express any hope that Pence was okay. He didn’t try to call the vice president to check on him. He just stayed in the dining room watching television.

Around this time, Kellogg ran into Tony Ornato in the West Wing. Ornato, who oversaw Secret Service movements, told him that Pence’s detail was planning to move the vice president to Joint Base Andrews.

“You can’t do that, Tony,” Kellogg said. “Leave him where he’s at. He’s got a job to do. I know you guys too well. You’ll fly him to Alaska if you have a chance. Don’t do it.”

Pence had made clear to Giebels the level of his determination and Kellogg said there was no changing it.

“He’s going to stay there,” Kellogg told Ornato. “If he has to wait there all night, he’s going to do it.”

At this point, can anyone seriously doubt that Trump would have been OK with his thugs hanging Pence? Pence and Kellogg need to testify under oath before the January 6 committee.

If you haven’t read the Washington Post article yet, please do.

General Mark Milley was a significant source for the Rucker/Leonnig book, and he apparently talked extensively to Susan Glasser as well. Glasser writes at The New Yorker: “You’re Gonna Have a Fucking War”: Mark Milley’s Fight to Stop Trump from Striking Iran.

The last time that General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke with President Donald Trump was on January 3, 2021. The subject of the Sunday-afternoon meeting, at the White House, was Iran’s nuclear program. For the past several months, Milley had been engaged in an alarmed effort to insure that Trump did not embark on a military conflict with Iran as part of his quixotic campaign to overturn the results of the 2020 election and remain in power. The chairman secretly feared that Trump would insist on launching a strike on Iranian interests that could set off a full-blown war.

There were two “nightmare scenarios,” Milley told associates, for the period after the November 3rd election, which resulted in Trump’s defeat but not his concession: one was that Trump would try “to use the military on the streets of America to prevent the legitimate, peaceful transfer of power.” The other was an external crisis involving Iran. It was not public at the time, but Milley believed that the nation had come close—“very close”—to conflict with the Islamic Republic. This dangerous post-election period, Milley said, was all because of Trump’s “Hitler”-like embrace of the “Big Lie” that the election had been stolen from him; Milley feared it was Trump’s “Reichstag moment,” in which, like Adolf Hitler in 1933, he would manufacture a crisis in order to swoop in and rescue the nation from it.

Study for the Pigeons, by Henry Koerner

Study for the Pigeons, by Henry Koerner

To prevent such an outcome, Milley had, since late in 2020, been having morning phone meetings, at 8 a.m. on most days, with the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in the hopes of getting the country safely through to Joe Biden’s Inauguration. The chairman, a burly four-star Army general who had been appointed to the post by Trump in 2019, referred to these meetings with his staff as the “land the plane” calls—as in, “both engines are out, the landing gear are stuck, we’re in an emergency situation. Our job is to land this plane safely and to do a peaceful transfer of power the 20th of January.”

This extraordinary confrontation between the nation’s top military official and the Commander-in-Chief had been building throughout 2020. Before the election, Milley had drafted a plan for how to handle the perilous period leading up to the Inauguration. He outlined four goals: first, to make sure that the U.S. didn’t unnecessarily go to war overseas; second, to make sure that U.S. troops were not used on the streets of America against the American people, for the purpose of keeping Trump in power; third, to maintain the military’s integrity; and, lastly, to maintain his own integrity. He referred back to them often in conversations with others.

As the crisis with Trump unfolded, and the chairman’s worst-case fears about the President not accepting defeat seemed to come true, Milley repeatedly met in private with the Joint Chiefs. He told them to make sure there were no unlawful orders from Trump and not to carry out any such orders without calling him first—almost a conscious echo of the final days of Richard Nixon, when Nixon’s Defense Secretary, James Schlesinger, reportedly warned the military not to act on any orders from the White House to launch a nuclear strike without first checking with him or with the national-security adviser, Henry Kissinger. At one meeting with the Joint Chiefs, in Milley’s Pentagon office, the chairman invoked Benjamin Franklin’s famous line, saying they should all hang together. To concerned members of Congress—including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—and also emissaries from the incoming Biden Administration, Milley also put out the word: Trump might attempt a coup, but he would fail because he would never succeed in co-opting the American military. “Our loyalty is to the U.S. Constitution,” Milley told them, and “we are not going to be involved in politics.”

Read the rest at The New Yorker.

Raw Story has an investigative article on the January 6 Capitol attack: Anatomy of an insurrection: How military veterans and other rioters carried out the Jan. 6 assault on democracy, by Jordan Green.

The slow-moving tedium of prosecutorial legal machinery and the GOP campaign to deflect responsibility can make it easy to lose sight of the big picture of what transpired on Jan. 6. But based on an aggregate review of individuals cases, along with other sources, a Raw Story analysis of the critical events in the Jan. 6 siege reveals a striking degree of coordination, sustained and intentional violence, planning and preparation, and determined effort to disable the United States’ critical governance apparatus by participants, including many with recent military experience. Many of the rioters who played critical roles in breaching the Capitol came away from the experience vowing to wage war against the United States. Few among those who are being prosecuted have expressed any remorse for their actions.

William Haskell

Day Trip, by William Haskell

Amid the hundreds of prosecutions of Trump supporters motivated by the big lie, the GOP has punished lawmakers who fail to bear allegiance to the former president and run afoul of the party line that the election was stolen, while thwarting the House investigation into the events of Jan. 6. GOP intransigence makes it likely that the Democratic-led investigation will become reduced to another partisan snipe-fest, undermining its potential to hold people accountable and prevent future attempts to overturn democracy….

A handful of defendants, including Oath Keepers members, have pleaded guilty, as fresh arrests fatten the docket weekly. Those recently charged are not minor players: In addition to people who trashed media equipment and assaulted reporters, they include the first boogaloo-identified rioter, with hints that there are more to come, and a man who organized a resistance cell under the cover of a Bible study. Critically, the FBI has yet to make an arrest for bombs that were planted outside the Democratic and Republican headquarters on the eve of the insurrection. Even under the most optimistic scenario, the prosecutions are likely to drag on for years: Among the few cases set for trial, white nationalist Christian Secor isn’t scheduled to begin deliberations until January 2022.

Beyond the chaotic events that took place when hundreds of Trump supporters unleashed mayhem on the Capitol, it remains unknown to what degree, if any, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers coordinated their actions. And beyond Trump’s feverish promotion of the Jan. 6 “Save America” rally and instruction to his followers to “walk down to the Capitol,” it also remains to be seen whether the siege may have been directed by the president or his surrogates through intermediaries such as Trump confidant Roger Stone or “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander.

Notably, the mob began its advance on the Capitol well before Trump had finished speaking at the Ellipse, suggesting that key players had decided in advance to disrupt the certification of the electoral vote, while Trump’s exhortations mobilized thousands more to reinforce the riot that was already unfolding at the seat of American government.

This is a very long and interesting article. I hope you’ll check it out.

I’m sorry to have to keep focusing on Trump news, but that’s what’s out there today. As always, this is an open thread. What’s on your mind?


Lazy Caturday Reads: Call Witnesses!

Ambrosius Benson, Portrait of a Woman and cat

Ambrosius Benson, Portrait of a Woman and cat

Good Morning!!

Yesterday after the Trump lawyers in the impeachment trial presented their pathetic defense of Trump’s January 6, 2020 coup attempt, details about a phone call between Trump and GOP House leader Kevin McCarthy began getting a lot of attention. The facts had actually been available for some time in the Longview, Washington Daily News, but hadn’t broken through in major media outlets until CNN broke this story yesterday: New details about Trump-McCarthy shouting match show Trump refused to call off the rioters.

In an expletive-laced phone call with House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy while the Capitol was under attack, then-President Donald Trump said the rioters cared more about the election results than McCarthy did.

“Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,” Trump said, according to lawmakers who were briefed on the call afterward by McCarthy.

McCarthy insisted that the rioters were Trump’s supporters and begged Trump to call them off.

Judith Leyster, Two Childrren with a Cat,

Judith Leyster, Two Children with a Cat

Trump’s comment set off what Republican lawmakers familiar with the call described as a shouting match between the two men. A furious McCarthy told the then-President the rioters were breaking into his office through the windows, and asked Trump, “Who the f–k do you think you are talking to?” according to a Republican lawmaker familiar with the call.

The newly revealed details of the call, described to CNN by multiple Republicans briefed on it, provide critical insight into the President’s state of mind as rioters were overrunning the Capitol. The existence of the call and some of its details were first reported by Punchbowl News and discussed publicly by McCarthy.

The Republican members of Congress said the exchange showed Trump had no intention of calling off the rioters even as lawmakers were pleading with him to intervene. Several said it amounted to a dereliction of his presidential duty.

Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler was one of the Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, based on what she had learned about the phone call. From the Longview Daily News story linked above:

In a Friday interview with The Daily News, she said the events of Jan. 6 determined her course of action for the following week. Hiding with colleagues from the violent mob that was ransacking the U.S. Capitol on that day, she told how she was flooded with emotions.

“I was heartbroken. I was aghast. I was in disbelief,” she recalled. “I was praying. I was like, ‘We’ve got some pretty big angels, a couple of big angels, and we’re fine.’ Just knowing how badly outnumbered everybody was at that point, and how beaten everybody was, the fact that there wasn’t a mass casualty event to me just demonstrates, I feel like, I do think God, I do think God intervened.”

“When I look at the picture of the Capitol police officer on his face, with the crowd standing over him, or of someone being bludgeoned to death, I cannot express to you the feeling inside that says, ‘I will stand up to that any day of the week and twice on Sunday,’ ” she said.

Woman with a cat, Il Bacchiacca

Woman with a cat, Il Bacchiacca

“To me that’s what my vote represents. I will not tolerate that and nor will, I believe, a majority of the good people in my district, in our state and in our country.” [….]

On the House floor Jan. 13, Herrera Beutler said:

“I’m not afraid of losing my job, but I am afraid that my country will fail. I’m afraid that patriots of this country have died in vain. I’m afraid that my children won’t grow up in a free country. I’m afraid injustice will prevail.

“My vote to impeach our sitting president is not a fear-based decision. I am not choosing a side – I am choosing truth, she said. “It’s the only way to defeat fear.”

Trump’s lawyers are still claiming he didn’t know that Pence’s life was in danger, but he had to know, even before his phone call with Tommy Tuberville. USA Today: Sen. Tommy Tuberville stands by account of Jan. 6 Trump phone call after lawyers say it’s ‘hearsay.’

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., stood by his account of former President Donald Trump’s phone call to him during Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol despite Trump’s lawyers calling the account “hearsay.” 

Tuberville’s account would mean Trump was aware of the danger Vice President Mike Pence faced before he tweeted an attack on Pence. Asked about the allegation by reporters, Tuberville said he was not sure exactly what time Trump called, but reiterated he had talked to Trump by phone on Jan. 6 and had told the president Pence was evacuated from the Senate chamber. 

Tuberville recounted answering the phone, talking briefly to Trump, and then telling him, “Mr. President, they’ve taken the vice president out. They want me to get off the phone, I gotta go.” [….]

Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., asked Trump’s lawyers for greater clarity on the call but said Trump’s lawyers had “not really” answered his question.

Trump’s attorney Michael van der Veen had responded to Cassidy’s question by saying he disputed the “premise” of Cassidy’s question and called Tuberville’s account “hearsay.”

But the Secret Service would have informed Trump.

This is from yesterday’s Washington Post: Six hours of paralysis: Inside Trump’s failure to act after a mob stormed the Capitol.

Hiding from the rioters in a secret location away from the Capitol, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) appealed to Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) phoned Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter.

Studies for Madonna with a cat, Leonardo Da Vinci

Studies for Madonna with a cat, Leonardo Da Vinci

And Kellyanne Conway, a longtime Trump confidante and former White House senior adviser, called an aide who she knew was standing at the president’s side.

But as senators and House members trapped inside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday begged for immediate help during the siege, they struggled to get through to the president, who — safely ensconced in the West Wing — was too busy watching fiery TV images of the crisis unfolding around them to act or even bother to hear their pleas.

“He was hard to reach, and you know why? Because it was live TV,” said one close Trump adviser. “If it’s TiVo, he just hits pause and takes the calls. If it’s live TV, he watches it, and he was just watching it all unfold.”

Even as he did so, Trump did not move to act. And the message from those around him — that he needed to call off the angry mob he had egged on just hours earlier, or lives could be lost — was one to which he was not initially receptive….

Trump ultimately — and begrudgingly — urged his supporters to “go home in peace.” But the six hours between when the Capitol was breached shortly before 2 p.m. Wednesday afternoon and when it was finally declared secure around 8 p.m. that evening reveal a president paralyzed — more passive viewer than resolute leader, repeatedly failing to perform even the basic duties of his job.

It’s absolutely clear at this point that Trump deliberately aided the insurrectionists and knowingly put his own Vice President and members of Congress and their staffs in danger. Now House managers are face pressure to call witnesses in the trial, which they still can do. Greg Sargent writes:

Peter Paul Rubens, Detail from Annunciation,

Peter Paul Rubens, Detail from Annunciation,

Evidence is mounting that Donald Trump knew Mike Pence was in grave danger from the mob rampaging into the Capitol when the then-president sent out a tweet blasting his vice president.

During the Jan. 6 assault, Trump tweet-slammed Pence for lacking the “courage” to overturn the election, which further infuriated the insurrectionists. Trump essentially pointed the mob like a loaded gun at Pence — and newly unearthed facts suggest Trump may have understood what he was doing in exactly these terms.

These new circumstances hand Democrats one last big weapon to wield against Trump at his impeachment trial. They also impose on them an obligation.

Specifically, the impeachment managers can still call witnesses. And the case for this has gotten stronger, now that we are so close to showing that Trump may have knowingly endangered Pence’s life.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse is calling for witnesses in the trial.

Today’s session of the Trump trial should be interesting.

More relevant reads:

Jan Steen, Children teaching a cat to dance

Jan Steen, Children teaching a cat to dance

The Bulwark: The 10 Worst Moments from Trump’s “Defense”

The New York Times: For the Defense: Twisted Facts and Other Staples of the Trump Playbook

David Frum at The Atlantic: The Incompetence Lasted to the Very End.

The New York Times: For the Defense: Twisted Facts and Other Staples of the Trump Playbook

George Conway III at The Washington Post: Opinion: Trump’s lawyers offered an attack on everything but the evidence

Aaron Rupar at Vox: Trump lawyers keep accusing Democrats of manipulating evidence. But they’re doing that themselves.

Politico: House Republican pleads for Pence, Trump aides to speak out on Jan. 6 insurrection

PBS: Sen. Patty Murray recounts her narrow escape from a violent mob inside the U.S. Capitol\

Yahoo News: Trump lawyer struggles to answer key questions from Republican senators

ProPublica: “I Don’t Trust the People Above Me”: Riot Squad Cops Open Up About Disastrous Response to Capitol Insurrection

That’s all I have for you today. Have a terrific long weekend, Sky Dancers!


Sunday Reads: Whitelash

This attempted coup is disgusting…here are a few thoughts on the violence this past week.

I think it all stems from the fact that a black man was elected President some years ago….tRump supporters have something in common. They are white supremacist, bigoted assholes.

This thread:

Just waiting for…

This is an open thread.


Tuesday Reads: Two Momentous Days

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Good Afternoon!!

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

Georgia Runoff Elections

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

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

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

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

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

From Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball: 

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

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

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

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

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

Read more analysis at the link.

A couple more Georgia election stories to check out:

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

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

Trump’s Final Rally

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tomorrow’s Trump Fan “Protests”

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

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

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

Click the link for more details.

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

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

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

DC is preparing for possible violence from the Trump cultists.

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

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

On Trump and the GOP Congressional Sedition Caucus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest at the WaPo.

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

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

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

But the crowd had a message for him, too.

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

Cartoonist Gary Varvel: Mike Pence's main job

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

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

What Pence said in Georgia:

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

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

We’ll find out tomorrow.

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