Tuesday ReadsPosted: November 16, 2021 Filed under: Afternoon Reads | Tags: Carl Bernstein, Coup attempt, Donald Trump, Ezra Cohen, Jenna Ellis, Jonathan Karl, Michael Flynn, Sidney Powell 14 Comments
I’m having trouble getting going this today. I looked around at the latest news, and I started to feel exhausted. But I’m resisting sinking into that feeling. I have to believe there is some way for us as a country to recover from the Trump poison. At least we got some good news yesterday when Biden signed the bipartisan infrastructure bill and Pelosi announced that the House could vote on the Build Back Better bill this week.
Now Democrats will need to convince voters how great these accomplishments are.
Today’s news is filled with revelations from the book “Betrayal,” by Jonathan Karl, released today. In her review of the book in The New York Times, Jennifer Szalai focuses on Karl’s (along with other journalists) apparent blindness about who and what Trump was: In Another Trump Book, a Journalist’s Belated Awareness Steals the Show.
…[I]n his new book, “Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show,” Karl comes across as almost poignantly ingenuous and polite to a fault, repeatedly flummoxed by what he saw in the last year of the Trump administration. “Front Row,” which had the unfortunate timing of being published in March 2020, before the consequences of Trump’s governance were fully laid bare, began with a solemn tribute to “objectivity and balance” and a complaint that “the mainstream media coverage of Donald Trump is relentlessly and exhaustively negative.” Just a year-and-a-half later, after 750,000 American Covid deaths and an attack on the Capitol, Karl allows that the “Trump show” may have in fact been more sinister than mere theatrics after all.
“I have never wavered from my belief that journalists are not the opposition party and should not act like we are,” Karl maintains in “Betrayal.” “But the first obligation of a journalist is to pursue truth and accuracy. And the simple truth about the last year of the Trump presidency is that his lies turned deadly and shook the foundations of our democracy.”
According to Szalai, Karl repeated writes in the book that he is shocked by Trump’s behavior. From a description of Karl’s face-to-face interview with Trump:
During the…interview, Trump reminisced about the speech he gave on Jan. 6, 2021, shortly before the attack on the Capitol, calling it “a very beautiful time with extremely loving and friendly people.” Karl, at least inwardly, was aghast. “I was taken aback by how fondly he remembers a day I will always remember as one of the darkest I have ever witnessed,” he writes, adding that Trump seemed to justify the death threats made against his own vice president. “It boggled my mind,” Karl says.
It did? The author’s expressions of surprise are so frequent and over-the-top that they are perhaps the most surprising parts of this book. “Betrayal” is less insightful about the Trump White House and more revealing of Karl’s own gradual, extremely belated awareness that something in the White House might in fact be awry. Events strike him as “wacky,” “crazy,” “nuts.” He delves into the outlandish conspiracy theories around the presidential election, earnestly explaining why each of them is wrong. He scores a number of on-the-record interviews with Trumpworld insiders — nearly all of whom insist that even as they publicly sided with Trump, they were bravely telling the president some very tough truths in private.
This is so typical of what we saw from journalists during the Trump years. They repeatedly tried to normalize Trump’s behavior and some are still doing it. But Trump showed us who again and again before he ran for president and especially during the 2016 campaign. Yet Karl was still shocked by what Trump said in the interview–even after he (Trump) refused to concede the election and led a serious coup attempt.
More revelations from the book:
ABC News: Trump allies pressed Defense Department to help overturn election, new book says.
In “Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show,” scheduled to be released today, Karl reports that former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump attorney Sidney Powell tried to enlist a Pentagon official to help overturn the election.
According to the book, Flynn — who had just received an unconditional pardon from President Trump after pleading guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI during the Russia probe — made a frantic phone call to a senior Trump intelligence official named Ezra Cohen (sometimes referred to as Ezra Cohen-Watnick), who previously worked under Flynn at both the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the National Security Council.
“Where are you?” Flynn asked the DoD official, who said he was traveling in the Middle East.
“Flynn told him to cut his trip short and get back to the United States immediately because there were big things about to happen,” according to the book. Karl writes that Flynn told Cohen, “We need you,” and told the DoD official that “there was going to be an epic showdown over the election results.”
Flynn, according to the book, urged Cohen that “he needed to get orders signed, that ballots needed to be seized, and that extraordinary measures needed to be taken to stop Democrats from stealing the election.”
“As Flynn ranted about the election fight, [Cohen] felt his old boss sounded manic,” Karl writes in the book. “He didn’t sound like the same guy he had worked for.”
It gets even crazier.
“Betrayal” also reports that Sydney Powell, Flynn’s former lawyer who was then advising President Trump, called Cohen shortly after the Flynn conversation and tried to enlist his help with one the most far-fetched claims about the election, involving then-CIA Director Gina Haspel.
“Gina Haspel has been hurt and taken into custody in Germany,” Powell told Cohen, pushing a false conspiracy theory that had been gaining steam among QAnon followers, according to the book. “You need to launch a special operations mission to get her,” Powell said.
Powell, according to the book, was pushing the outlandish claim that Haspel had been injured while on a secret CIA operation to seize an election-related computer server that belonged to a company named Scytl — none of which was true.
“The server, Powell claimed, contained evidence that hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of votes had been switched using rigged voting machines. Powell believed Haspel had embarked on this secret mission to get the server and destroy the evidence — in other words, the CIA director was part of the conspiracy,” Karl writes.
Powell wanted the Defense Department to send a special operations team over to Germany immediately: “They needed to get the server and force Haspel to confess,” Karl writes.
All of this was too crazy even for Trump loyalist Cohen, yet these are the people Trump was listening to after the election.
Hayes Brown at MSNBC: Jenna Ellis’ memo on stealing the 2020 election holds a lesson for Democrats.
After losing the 2020 presidential election, former President Donald Trump was obsessed with finding a route to remain in power. In September, we learned that John Eastman, a conservative lawyer working with Trump’s legal team, went so far as to write a two-page memo for how to throw out President Joe Biden’s win before Congress could certify it in January.
And in the last week, we’ve learned that Eastman wasn’t alone in taking notes on a criminal conspiracy. At least two other people prepared memos to justify Trump’s reinstallation as president. This collection of memos shows more clearly than ever that those closest to the former president were dedicated to finding some loophole to keep him in power. Their mentally thin, ultimately self-serving assertions acted as fuel to Trump’s delusions, which he then passed on to his followers — most spectacularly, of course, at his rally ahead of the riot on Jan. 6….
ABC News first reported Sunday that White House chief of staff Mark Meadows emailed Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff on Dec. 31 to pass on a memo from Trump campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis. Ellis — whom you may recall from her many failed attempts to reverse the election in court — “outlined a multi-step strategy,” according to Karl:
On Jan. 6, the day Congress was to certify the 2020 election results, Pence was to send back the electoral votes from six battleground states that Trump falsely claimed he had won.
The memo said that Pence would give the states a deadline of “7pm eastern standard time on January 15th” to send back a new set of votes, according to Karl.
Then, Ellis wrote, if any state legislature missed that deadline, “no electoral votes can be opened and counted from that state.”
That scheme aligns with one of the scenarios that Eastman laid out in his longer Jan. 3 memo. And at first glance it seems like a valid off-ramp that would let Trump save face and allow time to investigate the “fraud” that he had alleged. It’s not dissimilar in that sense from the arguments that Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Josh Hawley, R-Mo., made in their refusal to vote to certify the election.
Crucially, though, the plan’s real goal depended on another plot that was underway inside the Trump administration. The Justice Department was under pressure in the weeks after the election to issue a letter to the states Trump falsely claimed to have won declaring that there was enough “significant concern” of fraud to warrant special sessions of their legislatures. Those legislatures controlled by the GOP — like Georgia’s and Arizona’s — would then provide the electoral votes needed to put Trump over the top under Ellis’ proposal.
Here’s the promised warning for Democrats:
Whether we like it or not, there are numerous loopholes and vagaries in our method of choosing a president. None of them have been remedied since 2020. And there are now multiple examples for the next would-be coup leader to draw from when exploiting the flaws inherent in the electoral system. If anything, Republican-controlled states have been moving to codify those flaws for their own benefit, making it easier for legislatures to overturn the will of the people.
I’ll end with this from EconoTimes: Capitol insurrection: Carl Bernstein says infamous memos are ‘blueprints’ of a coup.
According to Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein, the infamous memos drafted for Mike Pence to overturn the election results is a blueprint of a coup.
Bernstein weighed in on a recording of Trump and ABC journalist Jonathan Karl’s conversation, where the former president did not deny that he told Pence that if he does not overturn the 2020 election results, he is a “p***y.” The Watergate reporter said that there is more to the former president’s comments and touched on the memos drafted by lawyers John Eastman and Jenna Ellis. The memos detailed how Pence could overturn the 2020 elections, which Pence ultimately refused to do.
“I think what we’re seeing in these memos particularly are blueprints for a coup,” said Bernstein. “The actual blueprints in document form in which the president of the United States, through his chief of staff, is sending to Mike Pence’s, the vice president’s staff, a blueprint to overturn an election, a blueprint for a conspiracy led by a president of the United States to result in an authoritarian coup in which the election is stolen.”
Bernstein added that there is nothing that comes close to what happened in the 2020 elections and that it is all documented in writing. The Watergate reporter noted that more records are needed to determine what the former president said and did, especially on January 5 and January 6. Bernstein added that the House Committee must act fast to find the answers in case the GOP regains the majority in the House in 2022.
That’s it for me today. It is all so exhausting. But we have to hold onto hope somehow, don’t we? Please let me know your thoughts on this or any topic in the comment thread.
Tuesday Reads: Will We Ever Be Rid Of Him?Posted: December 1, 2020 Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Chris Krebs, Christmas stuff, Donald Trump, Doug Ducey, Joe Biden, Joe diGenova, Lou Dobbs, Melania Trump, Sidney Powell, Trump grifting 31 Comments
The election has been over for weeks, but Trump is determined to continue making our lives miserable until the bitter end. He plans to troll Biden’s inauguration, and begin running for president again as soon as he leaves the White House. We may not be rid of him until the day he dies.
I have been having trouble sleeping again, despite feeling exhausted. I’m tense much of the time, worried about what is going to happen next. I think it’s likely that millions of Americans are going to be suffering from PTSD for some time after the years of abuse we have suffered at Trump’s hands. Even formerly loyal Republicans are getting sick of his whining.
Talking Points Memo: AZ’s GOP Gov Appears To Get A Call From Trump As Biden’s Win Becomes Official In The State.
President Trump, who still refuses to concede to President-elect Joe Biden despite how his legal battles contesting the legitimacy of the election process have fallen flat, appeared to call up Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) as the governor certified the battleground state’s election results on Monday.
Arizona’s certification of its election results on Monday handed the state’s 11 electoral votes to Biden and cemented the swearing-in of Senator-elect Mark Kelly, a Democrat who defeated Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ), this week.
Ducey, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich and Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Brutinel (all of whom are Republican) witnessed secretary of state Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, certify the state’s election results as required by state law….
Last July, Ducey told reporters that he changed his ringtone to “Hail to the Chief” to alert him when the White House is calling.
Resnik noted that specific ringtone was heard while Ducey was in the middle of certifying the state’s results. The Arizona governor appeared to silence the call.
Raw Story:‘It’s over’: Joe Biden’s win is certified in all key states — and Donald Trump can’t handle the truth.
Since Nov. 7, the result of the 2020 presidential race has been clear: Joe Biden has defeated President Donald Trump by a substantial enough margin that the outcome has never really been in doubt by serious observers. But on Monday, the results met a new official threshold as Arizona and Wisconsin became the final decisive swing states to certify their votes.
“All six key states have now certified their election results with Joe Biden as the winner,” said attorney Marc Elias, who has been involved in key election law cases for the Democratic Party. “Trump and his allies remain 1-39 in court.”
In addition to the newly certified swing states, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nevada, and Georgia have also certified Biden as the winner. Georgia is still undergoing a recount, but it is not expected to affect the result, especially since the state has already conducted an audit of the ballots, carried out by hand, that affirmed a margin for Biden of more than 12,000 votes. Trump also funded recounts of two counties in Wisconsin, which likewise reaffirmed Biden’s win. Certifications are also being carried out in swing states Trump won and states where the presidential election outcome was never really in doubt.
Eugene Robinson at The Washington Post: Trump is an ego monster. Republicans, don’t let him consume you.
Maybe it’s not pure, unadulterated cynicism. Maybe soon-to-be-former President Trump is having a genuine existential crisis. I’d feel sorry for the friends and family who have to be around him right now, if they weren’t such sycophants and grifters. It must be a bumpy ride.
In his desperation to avoid being forever labeled a loser, Trump is pursuing a futile course of action that only causes him to lose to President-elect Joe Biden again and again. Trump was declared the loser slightly after Election Day; he loses repeatedly and decisively in court; he loses in recounts and then demands re-recounts, which he will also lose. So much losing!
With Trump, it’s generally wise to assume the basest motives. Maybe he is actually trying to bully Republicans into nullifying the election and helping him stage what would amount to an authoritarian coup d’etat. Maybe he is spitefully trying to make life as difficult as possible for the new administration by delegitimizing Biden’s victory in the eyes of many voters. Maybe he is reinforcing his cult-leader control over his followers in what amounts to a massive act of hostage-taking, hoping to use them as human shields against potential criminal investigations or prosecutions — or as sources of ongoing profit.
But perhaps, on some level, Trump simply cannot accept that in an election that saw Republicans do well overall — gaining seats in the House, retaining control of statehouses, winning Senate seats that polls indicated they would almost surely lose — the man at the top of the ticket got creamed by more than 6 million votes.
“So I led this great charge, and I’m the only one that lost?” Trump tweeted Sunday. “No, it doesn’t work that way. This was a massive fraud, a RIGGED ELECTION!”
But yes, it does work that way. And no, of course the election wasn’t rigged. What happened was that voters turned out in record numbers for the specific purpose of kicking Trump out of the White House. It was a massive act of rejection, a clear message sent by more than 80 million of Trump’s fellow citizens: Go away.
But it looks like he will never go away until he either dies or his dementia advances to the point where he can no longer tweet or call in to right wing TV and radio.
Trump may actually want to overturn the election, but he’s also using his ridiculous legal “strategy” to wring more money from his cult followers.
The New York Times: Trump Raises $170 Million as He Denies His Loss and Eyes the Future.
President Trump has raised about $170 million since Election Day as his campaign operation has continued to aggressively solicit donations with hyped-up appeals that have funded his fruitless attempts to overturn the election and that have seeded his post-presidential political ambitions, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The money, much of which was raised in the first week after the election, according to the person, has arrived as Mr. Trump has made false claims about fraud and sought to undermine public confidence in the legitimacy of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory.
Instead of slowing down after the election, Mr. Trump’s campaign has ratcheted up its volume of email solicitations for cash, telling supporters that money was needed for an “Election Defense Fund.”
In reality, the fine print shows that the first 75 percent of every contribution currently goes to a new political action committee that Mr. Trump set up in mid-November, Save America, which can be used to fund his political activities going forward, including staff and travel. The other 25 percent of each donation is directed to the Republican National Committee.
A donor has to give $5,000 to Mr. Trump’s new PAC before any funds go to his recount account.
Still, the Trump campaign continues to urgently ask for cash. On Monday, Mr. Trump signed a campaign email that breathlessly told supporters that the end of November — nearly four weeks after Election Day — represented “our most IMPORTANT deadline EVER.”
More details at the NYT link.
Meanwhile, Trump’s “legal team” and his media sycophants are becoming more and more unhinged.
Tim Miller at The Bulwark: Trump Lawyer: Former DHS Senior Official Should Be Executed.
On Monday President Trump’s campaign lawyer and former U.S. Attorney Joe diGenova said that fired Trump cybersecurity chief Chris Krebs should be executed for saying that the election was the “most secure in United States history.”
DiGenova, appearing on the Howie Carr show, which simulcasts on Newsmax, took aim at Krebs as an aside during a wheels-off segment full of false claims about how the United States election had been rigged.
“Anybody who thinks that this election went well, like that idiot Krebs who used to be the head of cybersecurity [for Trump]. That guy is a class A moron. He should be drawn and quartered. Taken out at dawn and shot,” diGenova said.
This is not just a random Parler troll trying to get attention. This is an attorney speaking on behalf of the President of the United States’ re-election campaign. And while it may read like a macabre joke, the direct nature of diGenova’s comments make it impossible to interpret as anything other than a real wish/threat against a public servant for offering truthful testimony.
Joe diGenova should get a visit from the FBI.
And then there’s Lou Dobbs, suggesting on live TV that Trump must take “drastic action.” Media Matters: Lou Dobbs calls on Trump to take “drastic action” over non-existent election fraud.
LOU DOBBS (HOST): And as I said at the outset of the broadcast, Sidney, this is no longer about just voter fraud or electoral fraud. This is something much bigger. And this president has to take, I believe, drastic action, dramatic action to make certain that the integrity of this election is understood or lack of it, the crimes that have been committed against him and the American people. And if the Justice Department doesn’t want to do it, if the FBI cannot do it, then we have to find other resources within the federal government. We’ve got to rise above this because the nation itself — this is an assault on the core of a democracy, any democracy. Our ability to cast a secret ballot. Your thoughts, Sidney, as we wrap up here.
SIDNEY POWELL: That’s exactly right, Lou. It affects the bedrock of our democratic republic. It can’t be allowed to stand and, frankly, I’m about to think the entire FBI and the entire Department of Justice need to be hosed out with Chlorox and fire hoses.
As Trump whines about losing the election, his trophy wife has been busy doing something she hates: choosing ugly “decorations” for the White House for Christmas.
NBC News: Melania Trump unveils Christmas decorations for final holiday season in White House.
First lady Melania Trump on Monday morning revealed this year’s White House Christmas decorations and theme: “America the Beautiful.” The unveiling comes less than two months after secret recordings from June 2018 were aired by CNN, in which she complained about preparing for the holidays at the White House.
The first lady announced the decorations on Twitter with a 1-minute video showcasing the festive halls and rooms of the White House. The White House also issued the video and a press release about the reveal on Monday.
“During this special time of the year, I am delighted to share ‘America the Beautiful’ and pay tribute to the majesty of our great Nation,” the first lady tweeted. “Together, we celebrate this land we are all proud to call home.” [….]
This year’s decorations may just be the most anticipated of the Trump presidency, following the public release in October of the first lady’s expletive-filled 2018 complaints about planning for the holiday at the White House.
“I’m working … my a** off on the Christmas stuff, that you know, who gives a f*** about the Christmas stuff and decorations?” She said in the leaked audio that was secretly recorded by Trump’s former senior adviser and friend Stephanie Winston Wolkoff. “But I need to do it, right?”
Monica Hesse at The Washington Post: Everything we needed to know about Melania Trump is in those bewildering Christmas decorations.
I can’t wait to get rid of this trailer trash family. They remind me of the Beverly Hillbillies.
That’s all I have for you today. I know I skipped the really serious stories, but I’m reaching the limit of how much horror I can handle first thing in the morning.
Take care Sky Dancers! We will get through this together some how some way.