Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!!

There’s a lot of news out there today and none of it is good. The press is still dumping on Biden for Afghanistan and his Covid response too. And so-called “centrist Democrats” are still trying to sabotage Biden’s infrastructure plans. And of course, the Covid-19 Delta variant is still spreading like wildfire. So this will be a mish-mash of reads. Before I get started with that, here’s one bit of good news from New York.

The New York Times: Kathy Hochul Is Sworn In as New York’s First Female Governor.

ALBANY, N.Y. — Kathy C. Hochul, a former congresswoman from Buffalo, became the 57th governor of New York early Tuesday, making history as the first woman to ascend to the state’s highest office.

She was sworn in at the State Capitol by the state’s chief judge, Janet DiFiore, in a private ceremony, capping a whirlwind chain of events that followed a series of sexual harassment allegations made against the outgoing governor, Andrew M. Cuomo.

Ms. Hochul, 62, assumes office three weeks after a state attorney general investigation concluded that Mr. Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women. A week later, Mr. Cuomo announced his resignation, bringing his 10-year reign to an abrupt end after rising to national fame during the pandemic last year.

Governor Hochul, a Democrat, has vowed to lead the state through a still surging pandemic and economic uncertainty, while ushering in a new era of civility and consensus in state government.

“I feel the weight of responsibility on my shoulders and I will tell New Yorkers I’m up for the task,” Ms. Hochul told WGRZ-TV, a Buffalo-based news station, shortly after she was sworn in. “I thought about all the women that came before me, including my mother who was not there, but a lot of women through history, and I felt they passed the torch to me.”

Andrew Cuomo is gone for now. That’s one good thing that happened.

Afghanistan News and Opinion

The Washington Post: CIA Director William Burns held secret meeting in Kabul with Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar.

CIA Director William J. Burns held a secret meeting Monday in Kabul with the Taliban’s de facto leader, Abdul Ghani Baradar, in the highest-level face-to-face encounter between the Taliban and the Biden administration since the militants seized the Afghan capital, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomacy.

The CIA declined to comment on the Taliban meeting, but the discussions are likely to have involved an impending Aug. 31 deadline for the U.S. military to conclude its airlift of U.S. citizens and Afghan allies.

President Biden dispatched his top spy, a veteran of the Foreign Service and the most decorated diplomat in his Cabinet, amid a frantic effort to evacuate people from Kabul international airport in what Biden has called “one of the largest, most difficult airlifts in history.”

The CIA declined to comment on the Taliban meeting, but the discussions are likely to have involved an impending Aug. 31 deadline for the U.S. military to conclude its airlift of U.S. citizens and Afghan allies.

For Baradar, playing the role of counterpart to a CIA director comes with a tinge of irony 11 years after the spy agency arrested him in a joint CIA-Pakistani operation that put him in prison for eight years.

Read more about Baradar’s history at the WaPo link.

Reuters: State Dept says U.S. will continue to help at-risk Afghans leave past Aug 31.

The United States’ commitment to at-risk Afghans extends beyond President Joe Biden’s Aug. 31 deadline to withdraw from the country, a senior State Department official said, adding that the promise of safe passage did not have “an expiration date.”

“Our commitment to at-risk Afghans doesn’t end on August 31,” the official told reporters in a briefing, without elaborating how Washington could continue its efforts to help people leave the country if it withdraws completely from the country by the end of the month….

“We’ve heard from the Taliban … that they want a functioning airport well after the U.S. military has left … The Taliban has also agreed to permit safe passage to the airport and this commitment doesn’t have an expiration date on it,” said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

She added that even when U.S. military’s presence is gone the United States had every expectation that at-risk Afghans would have an opportunity to leave the country.

But the reports from the ground already show potential evacuees face a perilous journey to the Kabul airport and chaos at the airport gates before they can soldier on through the crowds onto an aircraft.

Raw Story: Adam Schiff reveals startling facts after classified Afghanistan briefing.

According to CNN’s Ryan Nobles, Schiff said that he doesn’t believe everyone will be out by the Aug. 31 deadline. The Taliban has said that the United States has until that deadline, and they’ll make no concessions for dates beyond that. Speaking to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Monday, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) said that it would ultimately end with a showdown between the U.S. and Taliban.

“Maybe we’re going to have to call the Taliban’s bluff,” said Murphy.

“Given the number of Americans who still need to be evacuated, the number of SIVs, the number of others who are members of the Afghan press, civil society leaders, women leaders,” Schiff began. “It’s hard for me to imagine all of that can be accomplished between now and the end of the month.”

He said that he’s also concerned about the safety and security for the airport in Kabul, saying that the “threat to the airport is very real and very substantial.” He even said that it could be a target for ISIS….

Schiff went on to say that the intelligence community was aware that the Taliban had the ability to take over the country. “The intelligence agencies’ assessments of the Afghan government’s ability to maintain itself became increasingly pessimistic over the course of the last six months. And there were any number of warnings that the Taliban might take over, and some that included a potential of a very rapid, the Afghan government enforces.” (sic)

Two good opinion pieces:

Michelle Goldberg at The New York Times: The Afghanistan War Was Lost Before Biden Ended It.

Andrew Latham at The Hill: The coming collapse of the Taliban.

Covid-19 News and Opinion

Eleanor Clift at The Daily Beast:  It’s the Virus, Not Afghanistan, That’s Dragging Biden Down.

For all of the media attention here on President Biden’s handling of Afghanistan, the latest poll numbers show that it’s his handling of COVID-19 that’s been most damaging to his standing with the American public— and that could get worse, fast, if the Delta variant disrupts the school year.

The American people are sick of the pandemic and they’re taking it out on Biden while a handful of red-state governors reap short-term political gains by blocking mask mandates and other public health measures, and allow the virus to spread.

Their intransigence in the face of a widening health crisis is costing Biden politically. On Monday, with the news that the Pfizer vaccine had gotten full FDA approval, he called on private sector companies to do what he has done with the military and federal health workers and make the vaccine mandatory or require frequent testing to employees who refuse it. “It’s your lucky day,” the president told the people who say they were waiting on the FDA.

There may be a relatively small number of people who wanted full clearance instead of emergency authorization before getting the jab, but the FDA’s move may motivate companies to take a more aggressive approach to protecting their workforces and facilities now that they may be on a legally sounder footing for doing so.

Biden had promised that the country could return to something resembling normal once 70 percent of the population was vaccinated, which he believed could be achieved by July 4, aptly named Independence Day. The numbers fell short but the new president was on a roll, and he and the first lady celebrated with a big party on the South Lawn, prematurely as it turned out.

Even before the authorization, vaccination rates have continued to tick up but not fast enough to beat the Delta variant into submission, and not fast enough to reclaim Biden’s standing.

Sarah Zhang at The Atlantic: This School Year Is Going to Be a Mess—Again.

Since early summer, three pandemic clocks have been ticking. The first pertains to the coronavirus’s Delta variant, which has sent daily case numbers soaring more than tenfold since June. The second clock is more predictable: The school year starts, as it always does, in late August or early September. The third clock counts down to the authorization of vaccines for children under 12, which was optimistically supposed to come this fall. After the FDA pushed for a larger trial to collect more safety data in kids, it will likely take longer.

These three timelines have now managed to converge in the worst way possible: Just as Delta is climbing to a new peak, millions of children who still cannot be vaccinated are going to spend hours a day indoors at school. And many of them will do so without masks, thanks in part to mask-mandate bans in some of the same states that are currently experiencing the worst outbreaks. “Are you allowed to use swear words?” is how Sean O’Leary, a pediatrician at the University of Colorado, replied when I asked him how he felt going into the school year.

This fall was supposed to herald the return of in-person classes everywhere. After the virus brought the 2020 spring semester to an abrupt halt, schools fumbled through another year with a mix of in-person and virtual learning. Now Delta threatens to wreak havoc on a third school year.

Read the rest at The Atlantic.

Infrastructure Bill News

The Guardian: Tensions flare in Capitol as moderate Democrats hold up Biden budget plan.

Confronting moderates, House Democratic leaders tried to muscle Joe Biden’s multitrillion-dollar budget blueprint over a key hurdle, working overnight to ease an intraparty showdown that risks upending their domestic infrastructure agenda.

Tensions flared and spilled into early Tuesday as a band of moderates threatened to withhold their votes for the $3.5tn plan. They were demanding the House first approve a $1tn package of road, power grid, broadband and other infrastructure projects that has passed the Senate.

Despite hours of negotiations at the Capitol, the House chamber came to a standstill and plans were thrown into flux as leaders and lawmakers huddled privately to broker an agreement. Shortly after midnight, leaders announced no further votes would be taken until Tuesday’s session.

The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, implored Democrats not to miss this chance to deliver on the promises Biden and the party have made to Americans.

“Right now, we have an opportunity to pass something so substantial for our country, so transformative we haven’t seen anything like it,” Pelosi said, according to a person who requested anonymity to disclose the private comments.

Pelosi told the party it was “unfortunate” they were discussing the process when they should be debating the policy.

“We cannot squander this majority and this Democratic White House by not passing what we need to do,” she said.

An update from Politico: ‘Not that far apart’: Democrats near deal to break budget impasse.

Democratic leaders are finalizing a deal that would clear the way for passage of the $3.5 trillion budget framework and set a House vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill for Sept. 27, an offer they hope ends a weekslong standoff with moderates.

After several hours of furious negotiating Monday night, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her team are finishing the compromise, which they hope to put on the floor as soon as Tuesday afternoon. Democratic members believed a deal was imminent, based on Pelosi’s tone, but the caucus will meet Tuesday morning to discuss the contours of the agreement.

“I’m sorry that we couldn’t land the plane last night, and that you all had to wait. But that’s just part of the legislative progress,” Pelosi said Tuesday morning. “I think we’re close to landing the plane.”

Many rank-and-file members of the Democratic caucus are furious at Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey and his group of centrists, who have halted progress on the centerpiece of President Joe Biden’s social spending plans over their insistence the bipartisan bill receive a vote first. It’s unclear if the broader bloc of moderates has signed off on the emerging deal hashed out with Democratic leaders, as some of them are still trying to secure more assurances from leadership about the scope and details of the party-line budget framework.

That’s all I have for today. What stories are you following? Any good news?


Tuesday Reads: Misogyny and the Capitol Insurrection

Good Afternoon!!

All of us here are aware that men who commit violent acts such as mass shootings, attacks on Planned Parenthood and abortion clinics tend to have histories of domestic violence. Now we’re learning violence against women is common in men who participated in the January 6 Capitol insurrection. Recently NBC News investigative reporter Scott MacFarlane called attention to this connection.

I went looking for articles on this phenomenon. Here’s what I found.

This piece was published on January 13, 2021 at The Conversation: Misogyny in the Capitol: Among the insurrectionists, a lot of angry men who don’t like women, by Mona Lena Crook

Among the various forms of violence on display during the U.S. Capitol insurrection, one has been largely overlooked: misogyny, or hatred toward women. Yet behaviors and symbols of white male power were striking and persistent features of the riots.

Members of the overwhelmingly male crowds defending a president well-known for his sexist attacksembraced male supremacist ideologieswore military gear and bared their chests in shows of masculine bravado. They even destroyed display cabinets holding historical books on women in politics.

Actions targeting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi give the clearest illustration. Members of the mob broke into her office and vandalized it. Items like mail, signs and even her lectern proved to be particularly popular trophies – symbolizing an attack on Democrats and the House Speaker, but also against one of the most powerful women in American politics….

Attacks on Pelosi, while partisan in nature, also contained many elements of misogyny.

Pelosi was in physical danger as pro-Trump rioters roamed the Capitol building hunting down elected officials. News cameras filmed a man carrying zip-tie handcuffs entering and then exiting the speaker’s office, where members of her staff remained barricaded in a room for more than two hours.

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Richard Barnett in Nancy Pelosi’s office during the Capitol insurrection.

Acts of vandalism and theft were accompanied by speech disparaging and belittling Pelosi as a woman. In the hallway outside her suite of offices, angry rioters tore the leadership nameplate off the wall as crowds chanted, “Get her out!”

In a video, a woman claimed she helped break down the door to Pelosi’s office. Once inside, “somebody stole her gavel and I took a picture sitting in the chair flipping off the camera.” She proudly announced “and that was for Fox News” – a station notorious not just for its far-right politics, but also for its on- and off-camera sexism.

photo of Richard “Bigo” Barnett, sitting with his feet up on a desk in Pelosi’s office, solicited perhaps the strongest reaction. One feminist writer asked, “Have you ever seen a clearer photo of arrogant male entitlement? The legs apart, the foot on the desk, the smile … this guy isn’t just happy he’s broken into the Capitol building. He feels like he’s putting a woman in her place by violating and defiling her space.”

Consistent with this interpretation, Barnett later told a reporter: “I wrote her a nasty note, put my feet up on her desk, and scratched my balls.” The message read: “Nancy, Bigo was here you bitch.”

Krook is the author of Violence Against Women in Politics

Miranda Christou discusses misogyny among women who participated in the Capital attack in her article at Rantt Media, published January 28, 2021: Gender And Misogyny At The Capitol Insurrection.

As Cynthia Miller-Idriss explained, “the individuals who participated in the violence came from a wide range of groups across the far-right spectrum—white supremacists and neo-Nazis, Proud Boys, patriot militias, QAnon conspiracy theorists, and violent MAGA extremists, your neighbors and maybe even your family members.”

The fact that these were mostly white people was no surprise. But the presence of women in the crowd puzzled many, mainly because of assumptions about women’s “instincts” and predispositions. While it is true that women are rarely at the frontlines of violent extremism and they constitute a minority of far-right leaders and far-right voters, this so-called “gender gap” is misleading.

Women’s tangible and often intense investment in organizations that feed on racism and sexism belies their small numerical representation. I argue that women’s role in extremist movements needs to be understood in light of the misogyny that fueled the insurrectionists’ violent behavior, both literally and symbolically.

The-Women-of-the-InsurrectionChristou examines the history of white women being used to normalize hate movements.

White women’s role in white supremacy has a long history and it continues to morph into movements and causes that render a familial face to bigotry and hatred. This is why QAnon moms (or QAmoms) is now a mainstream phenomenon. The QAnon conspiracy infiltrated moms’ Facebook groups by tugging on their motherly sentiments and by providing them with likes in the age of mother influencers.

What took off as an obscure conspiracy theory supported by marginal basement dwellers moved into the kitchen and the living room because it artfully whitewashed Nazi ideology into a movement that purported to save trafficked children. No need to invoke the 14 words because QAnon hijacked #savethechildren in order to bestow an air of legitimacy and urgency to an otherwise ludicrous scheme.

Many white women have always been normalizing hate and they will continue to nurture children into hatred, bake cookies for white supremacists and declare innocence when their complicity is exposed. As Mona Eltahawy noted: “the audacity of white womanhood obscures and obfuscates the violence that white women are allowed to get away with.”

Of course women are only tools for the men who participate in hate movements, as Christou goes on to discuss. Head over to Rantt media to read the rest of this interesting piece. Also check out this article at Ms. Magazine, published in February: The Women of the Insurrection.

Two articles at HuffPost report on individual insurrectionists with histories of violence against women.

At Least 9 Far-Right Insurrectionists Have A History Of Violence Against Women.

She was alarmed, but no more so than she had been by all the other messages: “I have better things to do than speak to a whore”; “Nobody loves you”; “Narcissistic whore.” Her ex-husband, Larry Rendall Brock Jr., had been sending them like clockwork for three years. A court had ordered the couple to communicate through a specialized portal while their contentious divorce was finalized. Larry often used it for threats.

“The stuff that he writes to me is brutal. You grow thick skin and try to filter it, but it’s hard,” said Katya, who shares a 6-year-old son with Larry. Katya said her ex-husband views women as “disposable” and has abused her throughout their four years of marriage and additional three years of separation.

larry_rendall_brock

Larry Rendall Brock

Larry, a 53-year-old Air Force veteran, is one of the hundreds of insurrectionists who stormed the U.S. Capitol grounds on Jan. 6 and is now facing federal charges. He sported a combat helmet, a bulletproof vest and carried zip-tie handcuffs. His threats to Katya also went beyond those messages ― HuffPost uncovered numerous 911 calls from their home for domestic disputes, including one in 2016 in which Larry was described as making a “terroristic threat of family/household,” according to a police summary of the call.

Larry’s history of abusive behavior is part of an alarmingly common trend among the rioters who have been arrested so far for their roles in the insurrection. After reviewing police reports and court filings, a HuffPost investigation found that at least nine insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol have a history of violence against women ― ranging from domestic abuse accusations to prison time for sexual battery and criminal confinement.

Experts have linked extremism to violent misogyny in recent years, especially in the wake of mass shootings in which the perpetrators had a history of violence against women. These violent behaviors exist on a spectrum ― and, of course, not all abusive men turn into killers ― but violence against women often begets more violence, sometimes deadly. Three people died as a direct result of the violence at the Capitol, and more than 140 law enforcement officers were injured during the riot. Two U.S. Capitol Police officers have died by suicide in the aftermath.

“We still, in this day and age, treat violence against women as a personal or family issue, as opposed to a troubling indicator of someone who could become more violent,” said Bridget Todd, communications director at feminist organization UltraViolet.

Read more examples and more about Brock at the HuffPost link. Here is a follow-up article, published June 11, 2021: Revealed: Even More Insurrectionists Have Histories Of Violence Against Women.

One of the newly listed men, who was charged with attacking a police officer Jan. 6, has been responsible for “many hospital visits for many victims,” according to a charging memo uncovered by HuffPost. Another man being charged in connection with the Capitol riot has been arrested multiple times for domestic violence, but never prosecuted, and is pending trial on felony child abuse charges, HuffPost found.

And a third, who allegedly yelled at Capitol police that they were “protecting pedophiles,” was convicted of statutory rape in 2010, CNN reported last week.

The link between extremism and violent misogyny has become very evident in recent years as more mass shooters have been found to have a history of violent behavior toward women. Though most abusive men do not go on to perpetrate larger acts of violence, the ties between violence against women and extremism are too clear to ignore, experts said

ryan-stephen-samsel-us-department-of-justice

Ryan Samsel

One of the men mentioned in the above article, Ryan Samsel, has gotten quite bit of media attention. From the HuffPost article:

Ryan Samsel, 38, is charged with assaulting a U.S. Capitol Police officer and giving her a concussion while storming the barricades. According to prosecutors, Samsel “has an extensive criminal history of assaultive and violent behavior” toward women and has been convicted of assaulting women at least three times.

“The facts underlying these other convictions are extremely disturbing,” prosecutors wrote of Samsel in the Pennsylvania man’s detention memo. “They show a pattern of Samsel choking and beating women to the point of loss of consciousness, of many hospital visits for many victims, of chipped and missing teeth, and of Samsel even breaking into one victim’s home multiple times to assault her.”

Samsel’s criminal history includes a 2006 assault in which he attempted to run a woman he knew off the road with his car, punched her windshield and told her he would kill her if he didn’t get back the $60 she owed him, prosecutors stated. In 2009, Samsel was convicted of simple assault and reckless endangerment after he “held a victim against her will for five hours, choking her to the point of unconsciousness, pushing her, beating her, and chipping her teeth,” the detention memo says.

Samsel was again convicted of simple assault, among other charges, in 2011 for choking and beating his pregnant girlfriend. In 2015, he was convicted of simple assault for a third time, involving a different female victim who told police that Samsel had choked her to the point of losing consciousness.

Another woman came forward in 2019 and alleged that Samsel broke into her home, assaulted her and choked her until she lost consciousness multiple times. “The victim also alleged that Samsel raped her multiple times, and that she had often been scared he would kill her,” the detention memo says. The woman told police she got a restraining order against Samsel, but he violated it multiple times. 

The Feds are using Samel’s history of violence against women to try to keep him in jail while he awaits trial.

From a February 4 story at The New York Times: The Misogynistic ‘Dating Coach’ Who Was Charged in the Capitol Riot.

For $150, Brad Holiday’s customers could purchase and download a package of dating tips and tricks he called his “Attraction Accelerator.” The batch of files featured advice from Mr. Holiday, a self-styled Manhattan dating coach, about things like the best facial serums and pickup lines, and his thoughts on the viciousness of the opposite sex.

But tucked between videos denigrating women and reviews of height-boosting shoes were other guides: how to defeat Communists, expose what he claimed were government pedophilia cabals, and properly wield a Glock.

On Jan. 20, F.B.I. agents arrested the man, whose real name is Samuel Fisher, outside his apartment on the Upper East Side in connection with his involvement in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Stashed in his Chevrolet Tahoe, parked on East 88th Street, investigators found a shotgun, machetes and more than a thousand rounds of ammunition, according to court records.

Screen_Shot_2021-01-20_at_6.07.58_PM.original

Samuel Fisher AKA Brad Holiday

Like many of the roughly 175 people arrested after the riot, Mr. Fisher left a trail of social media posts about his exploits. “People died,” but it was great, Mr. Fisher wrote online after the attack, according to court records. “Seeing cops literally run … was the coolest thing ive ever seen in my life.” [….]

The composition of the mob that stormed the Capitol last month has come into sharper focus as arrests linked to the incident mount. In New York, the people charged include an accountant, a sanitation worker and a retired firefighter.

Among them were a handful of men like Mr. Fisher, whose large online footprint suggests a fierce devotion to a hypermasculine ethos of chauvinism, grievance and misogyny. His scores of videos, treatises and posts, spread across web pages and social media profiles, reflect a worldview that festers on the far-right fringe.

Read more at the NYT link.

Again, I know that the link between misogyny and other types of hatred is nothing new to Sky Dancers, but I think it’s important that NBC News’ Scott MacFarlane is talking about it. I’d like to see more of this from mainstream media types, though I’m not holding my breath while I wait to see it. Of course the hate–the misogyny, the racism, the anti-Semitism, the embrace of violence among the MAGA faithful all goes back to Trump.

Here’s an interesting piece from The Washington Post Magazine by David Montgomery, published January 14, 2021: 24 Warning Signs of an Insurrection That Should Have Been Obvious. And 11 shameful rationalizations that prevented so many Americans from seeing how bad things were getting

Donald Trump’s rhetoric had consequences from the beginning of his presidential candidacy. In June 2015, he descended the golden escalator in Trump Tower to the cheers of fans, tourists and, reportedly, paid actors. His announcement speech was a potpourri of Trumpian braggadocio and vanity, with a dash of American optimism, all steeped in resentment — resentment against unnamed political elites, corrupt system-riggers, freeloaders, losers, Democrats and foreigners. He warned of the “rapists” invading from Mexico.

Just two months later, two brothers in Boston pounced on a Latino man sleeping outside a subway stop, viciously beating him. According to the arresting police officers, the brothers explained their attack as inspired by Trump’s demand that “illegals” be kicked out of the country. 

That frenzied campaign summer, Trump’s rollicking rallies became safe spaces for his most enthusiastic and embittered supporters to vent unprintable racist, misogynistic and sometimes violent language against Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and the news media. In coming months, some ralliers were moved to administer the occasional sucker punch to anti-Trump protesters.

It was all egged on by Trump, who smirked at his throngs’ antics. He never quite directed their attacks, but he never quite discouraged them either. Instead — not just at rallies, but continuing through the four years of his presidency — he set an example. He modeled maximal invective against enemies and harnessed it to an intemperate conviction that vast forces were conspiring against him — including, in the end, his own vice president.

Montgomery collected quotes from Trump and his enablers that led up to the violent insurrection on January 6.

I hope you’ll check out some of these articles that I’ve collected and let me know your reactions. 


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

U.S. President Joe Biden's first address to a joint session of Congress

Michael Reynolds/Pool via REUTERS

Last night President Biden gave his first speech to a joint session of Congress. For the first time, two women sat behind the president, Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. A couple of reactions to the speech:

Philip Bump at The Washington Post: In his first speech to Congress, Biden rejects autocracy — including from Trump.

There were two moments during President Biden’s address to the nation on Wednesday in which he obviously, if only indirectly, referred to the man who preceded him in his position.

The first came near the beginning.

“America is rising anew,” Biden said, “choosing hope over fear, truth over lies, and light over darkness.”

Only the second of those three pairings is immediately and obviously about Donald Trump; the former president’s indifference to accuracy is unparalleled. But by stringing the three together, Biden was similarly positioning Trump as the target of the other pejoratives. America under Trump, he’s saying, was a place of fear, dishonesty and darkness. That tracks with Biden’s past rhetoric and, frankly, Trump’s own: Biden warned the country last autumn that a dark winter was coming because of the pandemic (and Trump’s leadership failures), and Trump himself made fear a central part of his reelection bid.\But now, Biden argued on Wednesday night, all of that was swept aside.

“After 100 days of rescue and renewal, America is ready for takeoff, in my view,” he said. “We’re working again, dreaming again, discovering again and leading the world again. We have shown each other and the world that there’s no quit in America.”

From there, Biden turned his attention to an exhaustive list of policy priorities, one that, in its own way, differentiated his speech from any of Trump’s. Not only were his proposals robust and detailed in a way that was never Trump’s style, they were also progressive in a way that no Republican’s would be. It was an obvious difference and, of course, the most important one in terms of governance.

But it was also a reminder that Biden always ran on being a president who just sort of quietly went about presidenting, a promise that he has fulfilled in spades.

A CNN poll found that public reaction to the speech was positive: CNN Poll: 7 in 10 who watched say Biden’s speech left them feeling optimistic.

About half of Americans who watched President Joe Biden’s address to Congress had a very positive reaction to the speech, and 71% said they walked away feeling more optimistic about the country’s direction, according to a CNN Poll conducted by SSRS.

E0Gxo1TVEAQFpzCBy a wide margin, speech-watchers said that Biden’s policy proposals would move the country in the right direction (73%) rather than the wrong direction (27%). In a survey conducted before the speech, the same people were a bit less bullish that Biden would lead in the right direction (67% right direction, 33% wrong direction), and that movement came from the independents and Republicans who watched the speech. Among Republicans, the share saying Biden’s policies would move the country in the right direction grew from 13% pre-speech to 27% post-speech, while among independents, that percentage rose from 61% to 73%.

That perception carries through to the major issues covered in the speech. More than 8 in 10 said Biden’s proposals on the coronavirus pandemic would move in the right direction (86%), and 74% said the same about racial injustice. Around 7 in 10 said the President’s policies on the economy (72%), gun laws (70%) and taxes (70%) were steps in the right direction. Slightly fewer said the same about immigration (65%).

And Biden’s focus on those issues appeared to hit the right mark for speech-watchers. Overall, 68% said Biden has had the right priorities so far as president, while 32% said he has not paid enough attention to the most important problems.

The other big news yesterday was that Rudy Giuliani’s home and office were searched by Federal agents. Some reactions:

From The Week, via Yahoo News: Federal investigators search Giuliani’s home and office, and experts say it means he’s in real trouble.

Federal investigators searched Rudy Giuliani’s home and office in Manhattan on Wednesday, executing search warrants as part of an investigation into his business dealings in Ukraine, reports The New York Times.

The former New York City mayor and personal lawyer to former President Donald Trump is being investigated over possible illegal lobbying on behalf of Ukrainian officials and his efforts to dig up dirt on Trump’s political rivals. “Executing a search warrant is an extraordinary move for prosecutors to take against a lawyer, let alone a lawyer for a former president,” writes the Times. “While the warrants are not an explicit accusation of wrongdoing against Mr. Giuliani, it shows that the investigation has entered an aggressive new phase.”

e9oxrHhCExperts agreed the search represented very serious stakes for Giuliani. Former U.S. attorney Harry Litman wrote that “this means that a magistrate judge has found probable cause to believe that [Giuliani’s actions in Ukraine] were criminal.” As the Times writes, “to obtain a search warrant, investigators need to persuade a judge they have sufficient reason to believe that a crime was committed and that the search would turn up evidence of the crime.”

Federal prosecutor and legal analyst Shanlon Wu called the search an “extraordinary step,” and wrote that “no amount of hot air and ranting is going to help Rudy Giuliani now.”

Litman continued: “I don’t know offhand the percentage of people whose [apartments] are searched by warrant who are then indicted … but it’s high, and given Giuliani’s profile, it has to be higher [because] they would be more careful and get lots of approvals.”

The search warrant was reportedly a long time coming, and politics may have slowed it down. The process was delayed for the presidential election so as not to sway voters, and Trump appointees at the DOJ reportedly managed to temporarily block the warrant while Trump was still in office.

Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara agrees. Benjamin Hart at New York Magazine: Preet Bharara Thinks Rudy Giuliani Is in ‘Deep Trouble.’

I spoke with Preet Bharara, who served as the U.S. Attorney for the district from 2009 to 2017 — and whose podcast, Stay Tuned, was recently acquired by Vox Media — about Giuliani’s predicament and where the investigation might go next.

28d18330dd2ee5d27239b46eb62eb5ebc5633101How significant is this move by the Feds from your perspective? How much legal danger does Giuliani face here?
I think it’s extremely significant. I’m not one to say that when routine subpoenas are issued or interviews are conducted, but here you have a very prominent person — not just the former lawyer to the president of the United States but also the former U.S. Attorney of the office that’s involved in the investigation. The fact that you execute a warrant on someone’s residence does not necessarily mean there will be a charge, but given the circumstances, given the identity of Mr. Giuliani, given what you have to show to get a judge to authorize the warrant and the search — that’s a sign that he’s in deep trouble. We saw this play out with respect to Michael Cohen and to Paul Manafort. Very prominent targets, very sensitive cases. Both of those men were charged.

The two people you just cited also both went to prison. Is that where this could be going?

I used to head that office, and there are search warrants that get executed on people’s premises and their offices, and no charges follow. That happens, and Giuliani is presumed to be innocent. But what’s likely is that there has already been substantial investigation. The reporting was that they tried to execute these searches when Trump was in office, and they were stymied by higher-ups in the Justice Department. Bear in mind, they’re probably far along, given what showing they have to make of probable cause to do these searches in the first place. They likely already have a lot of Rudy Giuliani’s communications. You don’t need to have his devices in your possession to have email records; those are obtained from third parties, and they probably have all of that. It’s anyone’s guess what the charges will be and when they will come. But in my experience, when you do something like this, that you know will have a reputational effect on the subject, you’re usually thinking there’s a good likelihood of a charge.

It hasn’t been as widely reported, but it’s also significant that the Feds searched the home of another Trump-associated attorney, Victoria Toensing. Nicholas Reimann at Forbes: Feds Search Giuliani’s, Toensing’s Properties As Part Of Ukraine Investigation.

Federal investigators searched Rudy Giuliani’s Manhattan apartment on Wednesday and later searched the home of attorney Victoria Toensing as part of a probe into whether Giuliani acted on behalf of Ukrainian oligarchs to illegally lobby the Trump Administration, according to multiple reports, with investigators said to have seized electronic devices.

A bit more from The New York Times

26dc-Digenova-superJumbo-v2F.B.I. agents also executed a search warrant on Wednesday morning at the Washington-area home of Victoria Toensing, a lawyer close to Mr. Giuliani who had dealings with several Ukrainians involved in the hunt for information on the Bidens, according to people with knowledge of that warrant. The warrant was for her cellphone.

Ms. Toensing, a former Justice Department official, has also represented Dmitry Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch under indictment in the United States whose help Mr. Giuliani sought.

More stories to check out:

Susan Glasser at The New Yorker: Biden’s Speech Offers an Alternate Reality for Democrats to Love, After Four Years of Trumpian Fantasy.

Wall Street Journal: Stocks Are Off to Best Start to a Presidential Term Since Great Depression.

Newsweek: Rudy Giuliani Voicemail Hints at Cause of Federal Search Warrant.

The Los Angeles Times: FBI director says Capitol riot was ‘domestic terrorism.’

The Washington Post: Trump supporter found guilty of threatening to kill members of Congress after Jan. 6 insurrection.

Politico: Trump’s Battle to Win the First 100 Days.

CNN: US investigating possible mysterious directed energy attack near White House.

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Feds plan to indict Chauvin, other three ex-officers on civil rights charges.

CBS News: In India, a scramble for scarce vaccines as COVID deaths top 200,000.

CNN: India’s Covid-19 crisis is a problem for the world.

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


Lazy Caturday Reads: The Final Days

ArtScans CMYK

By Marion Peck

Good Morning!!

The images in today’s post are examples of lowbrow art aka pop surrealism. You can read about this movement here: Widewalls: What Is the Lowbrow Art Movement? When Surrealism Took Over Pop.

After the horrifying events of the past week, we still have to get through 11 more days of Trump insanity. That’s one Scarimucci.

Democrats plan to introduce an article of impeachment on Monday. The New York Times: Democrats Ready Impeachment Charge Against Trump for Inciting Capitol Mob.

House Democrats laid the groundwork on Friday for impeaching President Trump a second time, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California threatened to bring him up on formal charges if he did not resign “immediately” over his role in inciting a violent mob attack on the Capitol this week.

Tiki Cat by Brad Parker

Tiki Cat by Brad Parker

The threat was part of an all-out effort by furious Democrats, backed by a handful of Republicans, to pressure Mr. Trump to leave office in disgrace after the hourslong siege by his supporters on Wednesday on Capitol Hill. Although he has only 12 days left in the White House, they argued he was a direct danger to the nation.

Ms. Pelosi and other top Democratic leaders continued to press Vice President Mike Pence and the cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to wrest power from Mr. Trump, though Mr. Pence was said to be against it. The speaker urged Republican lawmakers to pressure the president to resign immediately. And she took the unusual step of calling Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to discuss how to limit Mr. Trump’s access to the nation’s nuclear codes and then publicized it.

“If the president does not leave office imminently and willingly, the Congress will proceed with our action,” Ms. Pelosi wrote in a letter to colleagues.

Reuters: Majority of Americans want Trump removed immediately after U.S. Capitol violence – Reuters/Ipsos poll.

Fifty-seven percent of Americans want Republican President Donald Trump to be immediately removed from office after he encouraged a protest this week that escalated into a deadly riot inside the U.S. Capitol, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.

Most of them were Democrats, however, with Republicans apparently much more supportive of Trump serving out the final days of his term, which ends on Jan. 20.

The national public opinion survey, conducted Thursday and Friday, also showed that seven out of 10 of those who voted for Trump in November opposed the action of the hardcore supporters who broke into the Capitol while lawmakers were meeting to certify the election victory of Democrat Joe Biden.

Nearly 70% of Americans surveyed also said they disapprove of Trump’s actions in the run-up to Wednesday’s assault. At a rally earlier in the day, Trump had exhorted thousands of his followers to march to the Capitol.

Princess with a ragdoll cat, Jasmine Ann Becket-Griffith

Princess with a ragdoll cat, Jasmine Ann Becket-Griffith

Of course Trump did much more than “encourage a protest.” He literally told a mob of conspiracy nuts and white supremacist thugs to march to the Capital and disrupt the counting of electoral votes by the House and Senate. Aaron Rupar at Vox: How Trump’s speech led to the Capitol riot.

Just before a MAGA mob descended on the US Capitol on Wednesday and caused a riot that killed five people, including a Capitol police officer who was beaten to death, President Donald Trump delivered a speech to his supporters in which he used the words “fight” or “fighting” at least 20 times.

“We’re going to have to fight much harder and Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us,” Trump said at one point, alluding to Pence’s ultimate refusal to attempt to steal the election for him during that day’s hearing where the Electoral College made his loss official.

“You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength. You have to be strong,” he added during the speech in which he pushed long-debunked lies about Joe Biden’s convincing victory over him being the product of fraud….

Trump began his speech by urging the media to “show what’s really happening out here because these people are not going to take it any longer. They’re not going to take it any longer.”

“You don’t concede when there’s theft involved,” he said. “Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore and that’s what this is all about.”

Trump encouraged his listeners to march to the Capitol following his speech “to see whether or not we have great and courageous leaders or whether or not we have leaders that should be ashamed of themselves throughout history, throughout eternity.” He did mention in passion that he was confident they would march “peacefully,” but his fans seemed to hear a different message, at one point chanting “fight for Trump!” as Trump said, “We will not let them silence your voices. We’re not going to let it happen.” [….]

Indeed, shortly after Trump’s speech wrapped up, a mob of Trump supporters overran law enforcement officials and breached the Capitol, ransacking and looting and leaving the premises looking like a war zone. They succeeded in disrupting and delaying the proceedings that made Trump’s loss official but didn’t change the ultimate outcome — and if anything did damage to Trump by turning political sentiment sharply against him in the final days of his administration.

As chaotic scenes unfolded at the Capitol, Trump’s first move was to post a tweet attacking Pence for lacking the “courage” to help him steal the election (he later deleted it as a condition of getting Twitter to unlock his account). Meanwhile, rioters unsuccessfully hunted for Pence while others were photographed with zip-tie handcuffs, suggesting they hoped to take hostages.

Femke Hiemstra

By Femke Hiemstra

Were there plans to take hostages and even kill lawmakers? The Washington Post: FBI focuses on whether some Capitol rioters intended to harm lawmakers or take hostages.

FBI agents are trying to determine whether some who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday intended to do more than cause havoc and disrupt the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, and they are sifting through evidence to see whether anyone wanted to kill or capture lawmakers or their staffers, according to people familiar with the investigation.

Dozens have been arrested, and Friday, officials announced charges against an Arkansas man photographed in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office chair with a foot on her desk. But investigators also are working to determine the motivations and larger goals, if any, of those who had weapons or other gear suggesting they planned to do physical harm.

Some rioters, for instance, were photographed carrying zip ties, a plastic version of handcuffs, and one man was arrested allegedly carrying a pistol on the Capitol grounds.

“We’re not looking at this as a grand conspiracy, but we are interested in learning what people would do with things like zip ties,” said a law enforcement official, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the investigation….

Many of the initial charges have been for unlawful entry, but authorities also found suspected pipe bombs outside the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee, and they arrested the owner of a truck they said was spotted nearby with 11 molotov cocktails inside. The FBI is still searching for the person who left the suspected pipe bombs.

Adding to the investigation’s urgency, Twitter on Friday noted that plans for future armed protests have begun circulating online, including a proposed second attack on the U.S. Capitol and assaults on state government buildings Jan. 17. Officials cautioned that there may be a variety of motives among those who broke into Congress, and they said that a key part of their investigation is determining whether any individuals or groups had planned in advance or were coordinating in the moment to commit violence against individual politicians. Others may simply have been caught up in the moment and committed rash, unplanned crimes, officials said.

Harlekin Cat by Catrin Welz-Stein

Harlekin Cat by Catrin Welz-Stein

CNN: Feds say police found a pickup truck full of bombs and guns near Capitol insurrection as wide-ranging investigation unfurls.

An Alabama man allegedly parked a pickup truck packed with 11 homemade bombs, an assault rifle and a handgun two blocks from the US Capitol building on Wednesday for hours before authorities ever noticed, according to federal prosecutors.

Another man allegedly showed up in the nation’s capital with an assault rifle and hundreds of rounds of ammunition and told acquaintances that he wanted to shoot or run over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, prosecutors said.

The revelations are some of the most unsettling details federal prosecutors have made public this week as they detail the extent of the arsenal available to aid pro-Trump rioters who stormed the Capitol. Other individuals have been accused of taking guns and ammunition onto Capitol grounds and more charges are expected to come as a wide-ranging investigation unfurls.

The details about the weapons cache in the pickup truck were contained in federal documents charging Lonnie Leroy Coffman of Falkville, Alabama, with federal offenses. A bomb squad detected the arsenal during the scramble to secure the federal complex after it was overrun by pro-Trump rioters and other bombs around Washington, D.C., were found.

More on Coffman:

Coffman, 70, told police he had mason jars filled with “melted Styrofoam and gasoline.” Federal investigators believe that combination, if exploded, would have the effect of napalm “insofar as it causes the flammable liquid to better stick to objects that it hits upon detonation,” according to the court record.

Police also found cloth rags and lighters. The court documents said that those items and the explosive-filled mason jars “in close proximity to one another constitute a combination of parts” that could be used as a “destructive device.”

Coffman had parked his pickup truck at 9:15 a.m. ET on First St SE on the Hill, near the National Republican Club, commonly called the Capitol Hill Club. That building is within a block of a large US House office building and the Library of Congress, according to the complaint. The truck also had a handgun on the passenger seat and an M4 Carbine assault rifle, along with rifle magazines loaded with ammunition, police said.

When police found and searched him about a block away after dusk, Coffman was also carrying a 9mm handgun and a .22-caliber handgun in each of his front pockets, the police complaint said. None of the weapons found in his truck or on his person were registered to him.

Read more details about those who have been arrested at the CNN link.

jpg_Cat_Art_Show_2_Jean_Pierre_Arboleda_Playtime

Jean Pierre Arboleda, Playtime

Ronan Farrow on one of the men who carried zip-ties into the Capital: An Air Force Combat Veteran Breached the Senate.

As insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol this week, a few figures stood out. One man, clad in a combat helmet, body armor, and other tactical gear, was among the group that made it to the inner reaches of the building. Carrying zip-tie handcuffs, he was captured in photographs and videos on the Senate floor and with a group that descended on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office suite. In a video shot by ITV News, he is seen standing against a wall adjacent to Pelosi’s office, his face covered by a bandana. At another point, he appears to exit the suite, face exposed, pushing his way through the crowds of demonstrators.

A day after the riots, John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at Citizen Lab, at the University of Toronto’s Munk School, notified the F.B.I. that he suspected the man was retired Lieutenant Colonel Larry Rendall Brock, Jr., a Texas-based Air Force Academy graduate and combat veteran. Scott-Railton had been trying to identify various people involved in the attack. “I used a number of techniques to hone in on his identity, including facial recognition and image enhancement, as well as seeking contextual clues from his military paraphernalia,” Scott-Railton told me. Brock was wearing several patches on his combat helmet and body armor, including one bearing a yellow fleur de lis, the insignia of the 706th Fighter Squadron. He also wore several symbols suggesting that he lived in Texas, including a vinyl tag of the Texas flag overlaid on the skull logo of the Punisher, the Marvel comic-book character. The Punisher has been adopted by police and Army groups and, more recently, by white supremacists and followers of QAnon. Scott-Railton also found a recently deleted Twitter account associated with Brock, with a Crusader as its avatar. “All those things together, it’s like looking at a person’s C.V.,” Scott-Railton said.

Two family members and a longtime friend said that Brock’s political views had grown increasingly radical in recent years. Bill Leake, who flew with Brock in the Air Force for a decade, said that he had distanced himself from Brock. “I don’t contact him anymore ’cause he’s gotten extreme,” Leake told me. In recent years, Brock had become an increasingly committed supporter of Donald Trump, frequently wearing a Make America Great Again hat. In the days leading up to the siege of the Capitol, Brock had posted to social media about his plans to travel to Washington, D.C., to participate in Trump’s “Save America” rally. Brock’s family members said that he called himself a patriot, and that his expressions of that identity had become increasingly strident. One recalled “weird rage talk, basically, saying he’s willing to get in trouble to defend what he thinks is right, which is Trump being the President, I guess.” Both family members said that Brock had made racist remarks in their presence and that they believed white-supremacist views may have contributed to his motivations.

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Artist unknown

Brock claims to be completely innocent of any malign intent.

In an interview, Brock confirmed that he was the man in the photos and videos. He denied that he held racist views and echoed Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud, saying that he derived his understanding of the matter principally from social media. He told me that he had gone to Washington, D.C., to demonstrate peacefully. “The President asked for his supporters to be there to attend, and I felt like it was important, because of how much I love this country, to actually be there,” he said. Brock added that he did not identify as part of any organized group and claimed that, despite the scenes of destruction that day, he had seen no violence. When he arrived at the Capitol, he said, he assumed he was welcome to enter the building.

Brock denied that he had entered Pelosi’s office suite, saying that he “stopped five to ten feet ahead of the sign” bearing her title that insurrectionists later tore down and brandished. However, in the ITV video, he appears to emerge from the suite. Brock said that he had worn tactical gear because “I didn’t want to get stabbed or hurt,” citing “B.L.M. and Antifa” as potential aggressors. He claimed that he had found the zip-tie handcuffs on the floor. “I wish I had not picked those up,” he told me. “My thought process there was I would pick them up and give them to an officer when I see one. . . . I didn’t do that because I had put them in my coat, and I honestly forgot about them.” He also said that he was opposed to vandalizing the building, and was dismayed when he learned of the extent of the destruction. “I know it looks menacing,” he told me. “That was not my intent.”

Yeah, right. Read more about Brock at The New Yorker.

Dan Kois at Slate: They Were Out For Blood.

I can’t stop thinking about the zip-tie guys.

Amid the photos that flooded social media during Wednesday’s riot at the Capitol—shirtless jokers in horned helmets, dudes pointing at their nuts, dumbasses carrying away souvenirs—the images of the zip-tie guys were quieter, less exuberant, more chilling. And we’d better not forget what they almost managed to do.

It’s easy to think of the siege of the U.S. Capitol as a clown show with accidentally deadly consequences. A bunch of cosplaying self-styled patriots show up, overwhelm the incomprehensibly unprepared Capitol Police, and then throw a frat party in the rotunda. The miscreants smear shit on the walls and steal laptops and smoke weed in conference rooms. Someone gets shot; someone else has a heart attack, possibly under ludicrous circumstances. When they finally get rousted, they cry to the cameras about getting maced….

Marion Peck3

By Marion Peck

But there were other rioters inside the Capitol, if you look at the images. And once you see them, it’s impossible to look away. The zip-tie guys.

Call the zip ties by their correct name: The guys were carrying flex cuffs, the plastic double restraints often used by police in mass arrest situations. They walked through the Senate chamber with a sense of purpose. They were not dressed in silly costumes but kitted out in full paramilitary regalia: helmets, armor, camo, holsters with sidearms. At least one had a semi-automatic rifle and 11 Molotov cocktails. At least one, unlike nearly every other right-wing rioter photographed that day, wore a mask that obscured his face.

These are the same guys who, when the windows of the Capitol were broken and entry secured, went in first with what I’d call military-ish precision. They moved with purpose, to the offices of major figures like Nancy Pelosi and then to the Senate floor. What was that purpose? It wasn’t to pose for photos. It was to use those flex cuffs on someone.

Kois goes on to compare these men to the terrorists who plotted to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer in October. Read the rest at Slate.

This post has gotten way too long, so I’d better wrap this up. As you can well imagine, there is much more to read out there today. I’ll post more links in the comment thread, and I hope you’ll do the same.


Tuesday Reads: Pelosi Is Winning On Impeachment, But Russia Is Still Helping Trump.

By Félix Edouard Vallotton

Good Morning!!

Lots of tweeting about Trump and Melania at the LSU-Clemson game yesterday. Melania wore some kind of raincoat that looked like it was made out of garbage bags. More people are starting to notice Trump’s odd standing and walking issues.

See more tweets at Raw Story: Internet speculates about Trump’s strange gait at Clemson vs LSU championship.

There was disagreement about whether Trump or Melania released the other’s hand, but Melania looks angry. Some people suggested she was digging her fingernails into his hand before he let go. Watch and see what you think.

 

Enough gossip, there is also breaking news on impeachment. CNN: Pelosi sets up floor vote as soon as Wednesday to name impeachment managers and send articles to the Senate.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated that that the House will vote Wednesday on a resolution to name the impeachment managers for the Senate trial of President Donald Trump and transmit the articles to the chamber, two sources told CNN on Tuesday.

Pelosi told her Democratic colleagues Tuesday morning at a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill that she won’t announce impeachment managers during that meeting, according to a source familiar with the remarks. Last week, Pelosi told Democrats she planned to discuss plans for sending over the articles of impeachment, which she’s held following a vote last month.

By Belinda Del Pesco

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said on Monday night that the House vote to name the impeachment managers “could be” on Wednesday, adding that the Senate has “practical problems” if they were to move sooner since three Democratic senators are participating in the presidential debate.

After a several week delay to formally send the articles, Pelosi’s move will kick the impeachment fight officially into the Senate’s court, where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is readying a resolution of his own to set out the rules of the trial.

It looks like Pelosi’s decision to hold onto the articles for a few weeks is paying off. The New York Times: Republicans Rule Out Outright Dismissal of Impeachment Charges.

Senate Republicans indicated on Monday that they would not seek to summarily dismiss the impeachment charges against President Trump, proceeding instead to a trial with arguments and the possibility of calling witnesses that could begin as soon as Wednesday.

Dismissal was always a long shot given Republicans’ narrow control of the Senate, but it was the subject of renewed discussion after Mr. Trump said on Sunday that he liked the idea put forward by some conservatives as a way to deny the House’s case the legitimacy of a trial. Other Republicans had signed on to a resolution that would have dismissed the House’s impeachment articles if they were not promptly brought to trial.

In interviews, rank-and-file senators and party leaders made clear on Monday that even if they wanted to pursue dismissal, the votes simply were not there to succeed — at least not at the outset of the trial. They did not rule out considering a motion to dismiss the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress after opening arguments from both sides.

“Our members generally are not interested in a motion to dismiss,” said Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, a top Republican leader. “They think both sides need to be heard. They believe the president needs to be heard for the first time in a fair setting.”

By Henri Lebasque

Mitch doesn’t have the votes for dismissal anymore. The Washington Post: Top Senate Republicans reject Trump’s renewed call for immediate dismissal of impeachment charges.

On Monday, senior Republicans said immediate dismissal could not win approval in the chamber, where Republicans hold a 53-seat majority. And even some staunch Trump allies argued that the president’s legacy would benefit from a robust trial.

“I don’t think there’s any interest on our side of dismissing,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the fourth-ranking GOP senator. “Certainly, there aren’t 51 votes for a motion to dismiss.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said that he wants the trial — only the third impeachment of a president in U.S. history — to follow the format used 21 years ago in the trial of President Bill Clinton. In that case, the Senate approved a resolution that would have allowed the Senate to vote to dismiss the charges.

But senior Republicans signaled Monday that they are not inclined to include such a provision in the resolution that will kick off Trump’s trial, perhaps as soon as Thursday….

Another GOP senator, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss legislation that is not yet public, also said the inclusion of a provision to dismiss is unlikely.

Even the White House now admits there are going to be witnesses, according to CBS News: White House expects GOP defections on calling witnesses in Senate impeachment trial.

Senior White House officials tell CBS News they increasingly believe that at least four Republicans, and likely more, will vote to call witnesses. In addition to Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah and possibly Cory Gardner of Colorado, the White House also views Rand Paul of Kentucky as a “wild card” and Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee as an “institutionalist” who might vote to call witnesses, as one official put it.

By Edouard Vuillard

Last week, Collins said she was working with a “fairly small group” of GOP senators to allow new testimony, adding that her colleagues “should be completely open to calling witnesses.” Romney has expressed an interest in hearing from former national security adviser John Bolton, who has said he would testify under subpoena. Murkowski said last week that the Senate should proceed as it did during the 1999 Clinton impeachment trial.

Gardner and Alexander have both said the Senate trial should be fair and impartial. Paul has said the president should be able to call his own witnesses, including the whistleblower whose complaint about Ukraine sparked the impeachment inquiry in the first place.

More on Rand Paul from Politico: Republicans face reckoning on impeachment witnesses.

Republican Sen. Rand Paul offered a warning to his colleagues as they began debating whether to hear from witnesses like John Bolton in President Donald Trump’s imminent impeachment trial.

“Don’t think you can just vote for Bolton and not the witnesses Trump wants,” Paul told senators at a party lunch last week, according to two attendees and two people briefed on the meeting. He advised that incumbent senators’ conservative base would be enraged if vulnerable lawmakers were seen as undercutting Trump.

The blunt advice from Paul laid bare the GOP’s perilous task in handling Trump’s impeachment trial in an election year, all while the president delivers stage directions on his Twitter account. Trump over the weekend first requested that House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and even Speaker Nancy Pelosi appear as witnesses, then argued a few hours later that the trial should be dismissed summarily before it begins….

By Patrick Bornemann

The GOP has tried to stay focused on its game plan to shut down Democratic hopes of locking in witnesses at the outset of the trial, but it’s become increasingly clear the party will face an internal reckoning during the trial as it defends its Senate majority and faces a president who demands complete loyalty.

In other news, The New York Times broke this stunning story last night: Russians Hacked Ukrainian Gas Company at Center of Impeachment

With President Trump facing an impeachment trial over his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter Biden, Russian military hackers have been boring into the Ukrainian gas company at the center of the affair, according to security experts.

The hacking attempts against Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company on whose board Hunter Biden served, began in early November, as talk of the Bidens, Ukraine and impeachment was dominating the news in the United States.

It is not yet clear what the hackers found, or precisely what they were searching for. But the experts say the timing and scale of the attacks suggest that the Russians could be searching for potentially embarrassing material on the Bidens — the same kind of information that Mr. Trump wanted from Ukraine when he pressed for an investigation of the Bidens and Burisma, setting off a chain of events that led to his impeachment.

The Russian tactics are strikingly similar to what American intelligence agencies say was Russia’s hacking of emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman and the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 presidential campaign. In that case, once they had the emails, the Russians used trolls to spread and spin the material, and built an echo chamber to widen its effect.

Then, as now, the Russian hackers from a military intelligence unit known formerly as the G.R.U., and to private researchers by the alias “Fancy Bear,” used so-called phishing emails that appear designed to steal usernames and passwords, according to Area 1, the Silicon Valley security firm that detected the hacking. In this instance, the hackers set up fake websites that mimicked sign-in pages of Burisma subsidiaries, and have been blasting Burisma employees with emails meant to look like they are coming from inside the company.

By Ethel Sands

Russia is still listening to what Trump wants them to do. And don’t forget, they could also have planted fake information to be released at appropriate times. They did that in 2016 when they hacked John Podesta’s emails.

At The Washington Post, former ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul warns: Be prepared to fight a dangerous new wave of disinformation during the Senate trial.

In a matter of days, U.S. senators will be exercising one of their most solemn constitutional duties as they take part in the second phase of the impeachment process. When they do so, they — and the rest of us — should take heed of Hill’s warning. By now it should be amply clear that Russian-style disinformation tactics, whether employed by Russians or Americans, represent a major threat to American democracy.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his proxies deploy several methods of disinformation to strengthen their power and influence. The first is to deny facts. For instance, Putin initially denied that Russian soldiers had seized control of Crimea in February 2014, denies Russian involvement in the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in July 2014, and denies any Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

A second tactic is to deflect attention from the facts, also known as “whataboutism.” When criticized about Crimean annexing Crimea, Putin’s media shoot back, what about Kosovo? Or New Mexico? When criticized about civilian casualties from Russian military intervention in Syria, Kremlin defenders retort, what about Iraq, Vietnam or Hiroshima? When confronted with evidence of Russian meddling in U.S. elections, the Russian standard refrain is, you do it all the time.

By Harold Knight

A third practice is the dissemination of lies. Russian state media once asserted that President Barack Obama and former Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi embraced the same ideology. I may be more sensitive than most about this tactic, because when I was serving as U.S. ambassador to Russia, Kremlin media outlets accused me of fomenting revolution against Putin’s regime; perhaps most disgustingly of all, a video was circulated suggesting I was a pedophile. When Putin met with President Trump in July 2018 in Helsinki, the Russian president again lied about me, claiming I had broken Russian law while working in the White House.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

More stories to check out, links only:

The Daily Beast: Warren and Sanders’ Famous Friendship Finally Ices Over.

Business Insider: Trump needed to show Soleimani was an imminent threat to assassinate him — and could be in dangerous legal territory now he’s abandoned the argument.

The Daily Beast: Jitters at MSNBC as Brass Eyes Moving Chuck Todd and Talks to Shep Smith.

NPR: Here Are The Lawyers Who Will Defend President Trump Against Impeachment.

The Washington Post: Trump retweeted Pelosi in Muslim garb. The White House made it worse.

NBC News: Muslim groups denounce Trump retweet of fake Pelosi-Schumer photo.

Courthouse News Service: Trump Campaign Adviser Pleads Guilty to Child Porn, Sex Trafficking.

The Daily Beast: U.S. Embassies Were Never Told of Supposed Soleimani Threat Because It Didn’t Exist: Officials.

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