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Federal Judge Warns Trump May Be Held Liable For January 6 Insurrection

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

In a ruling on Wednesday in the case of one of the accused Capitol rioters, U.S. Judge Emmett Sullivan offered a provocative aside about former President Donald Trump's role in the attack.

Sullivan ruled that Jeffrey Sabol of Colorado is too dangerous and too much of a flight risk to be released prior to his trial. Sabol is accused of beating a cop during the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, which sought to prevent Congress from officially counting the Electoral College votes that made Joe Biden president.

The judge rejected the argument that Sabol was prompted to engage in the insurrection in the heat of the moment, spurred on by Trump's rally. Evidence suggests, instead, that Sabol engaged in "prior planning" ahead of the attack, Sullivan found, which distinguishes him from rioters who are not being held pre-trial.

"He brought tactical gear, including a helmet, steel-toe boots, zip ties, a radio and an ear piece," Sullivan said. "He later admitted to law enforcement that he had equipped himself with this gear because he anticipated encountering counter-protesters. ... He also maintained, even days after the riot when he believed he was wanted by the FBI, that he had been "fighting tyranny in the D.C. Capitol."

He continued: "The Court is ultimately unpersuaded by Mr. Sabol's argument that he did not plan to commit violence or disrupt the electoral process on January 6, 2021, but rather was caught up in the "frenzy" that was created in part by then-President Trump's, and his associates', words and actions."

Then, in a section of the ruling flagged by journalist Marcy Wheeler, Sullivan indicated he believes Trump and his allies may have significant legal exposure for their roles.

"To be sure, to what extent President Trump's words and actions led to the violent and shocking storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 is an important question, and one that could still have legal consequences for the former President and his prominent supporters," Sullivan wrote, citing a civil lawsuit against the former president. "But President Trump's culpability is not before this Court."

He continued, noting that Trump's own role in spurring the attack would not exonerate Sabol:

To the extent Mr. Sabol raises this issue to suggest he has a complete defense to the criminal charges he faces based on President Trump ostensibly or actually giving the rioters permission to use violence to interfere with the peaceful transition of power, that argument fails for the reasons clearly and thoughtfully articulated by Chief Judge Howell ... Indeed, "even if former President Trump in fact . . . 'told the assembled rabble what they must do' (i.e., attack the Capitol and disrupt the certification of the electoral vote count) and 'ratified their actions,' . . . he acted 'beyond [his] power' as President, . . . and his statements would not immunize defendants charged with offenses arising from the January 6 assault on the Capitol from criminal liability."

While the judge's remarks on their own don't have any legal significance for the former president, they're a useful reminder of a fact that is far too quickly being swept under the rug. The former president had a clear role in the most direct attack on American democracy in memory, and he has not yet been held legally responsible for it. Many others who believed his lies about the election, on the other hand, are suffering dearly. And while there's been significant attention paid to the ongoing investigations of Trump in New York and Georgia, his most egregious violations took place in the American capital.

Biden Signals Reversal Of Commitment On Refugee Admissions

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

UPDATE: Following sharp reaction from advocates and members of Congress, the White House announced late Friday that the previous caps on refugee admissions will be lifted next month. Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that the president will seek further advice on how many refugees can be admitted during this fiscal year, which ends in October. Although Psaki said that number was unlikely to reach 62,500 as promised two months ago, due to the "decimated" state of the processing system left by Trump, the administration will "take immediate action to reverse the Trump policy that banned refugees from many key regions, to enable flights from those regions to begin within days; today's order did that.".

After a steady increase in pressure from outside groups and questions from the media, the Biden administration officially decided on Friday to break its pledge to lift President Donald Trump's strict limits on refugee admissions for the fiscal year ending in September.

Despite previously pledging to raise the cap on refugees from the extremely low level of 15,000 to 62,500, Biden has reversed himself. During the presidential campaign, Biden pledged to raise the cap to 125,000 in the next fiscal year, and as recently as February, Secretary of State Tony Blinken had told Congress the level set under Trump for this fiscal year would be increased more than fourfold.

Many observers had become increasingly worried about Biden's commitment to following through on this objective as the weeks dragged on without official action. Some reports indicated Biden was worried about the "optics" of raising the refugee cap. CNN's Kaitlan Collins on April 8 pressed White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on the issue given the delay, and Psaki insisted Biden was committed to the increase:

Collins: My last question, sorry, is on the refugee cap that the President has proposed raising to 62,500, but he's not actually formally signed the paperwork yet. Is the White House still committed to raising that cap to 62,500 by this fiscal year?
Psaki: Yes.
Collins: And so we should expect that before October? And it's not going to change from 62,500? -- is my other question.
Psaki: I don't anticipate that. It is -- that it would change, I should say. It is -- remains -- the President remains committed to raising the cap.

But on Friday, the fears of refugee advocates were realized.

The New York Times reported:

A senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the decision-making, said the administration grew concerned that the surge of border crossings by unaccompanied minors was too much and had already overwhelmed the refugee branch of the Department of Health and Human Services. But migrants at the border seeking asylum are processed in an entirely separate system than refugees fleeing persecution overseas.

It also noted:

The administration will change subcategories for refugee slots created by the Trump administration that gave priority to Iraqis who had worked for the U.S. military and people, primarily Christians, who are facing religious persecution. But the classification also disqualified most other Muslim and African refugees. As a region, Africa has the most displaced people needing resettlement. An administration official said the change would allow the Biden administration to fill the cap of 15,000, although it would also leave thousands of additional refugees cleared to fly to the United States stranded in camps.

This broken promise from Biden is a cowardly betrayal of his many supporters who were horrified by Trump's aggression toward and disregard for asylum seekers and refugees. Prior to the revelation of Biden's reversal, The Atlantic writer Adam Serwer said on Twitter: "Biden's delay in reversing Trump's discriminatory refugee restrictions is a violation of his campaign promises and the reasons he gave for running in the first place." In a new piece, he wrote:

Restoring "the soul of the nation" cannot mean simply unseating Trump. It also has to mean reversing the policies his administration put in place in an attempt to codify into law his racial and sectarian conception of American citizenship. If Biden cannot do that, then he has restored little more than Democratic control of the presidency. And should he fail to rescind these policies simply because he fears criticism of those who enabled Trump's cruelty to begin with, it will be nothing short of cowardice.
"My faith teaches me that we should be a nation that once again welcomes the stranger and shows a preferential option for the poor, remembering how so many of us and our ancestors came here in a similar way," Biden wrote in 2019. "It's not enough to just wish the world were better. It's our duty to make it so."

So far, Biden has done a lot that is popular — accelerating vaccine distribution, passing the American Rescue Plan, proposing a big infrastructure and spending package. And he may fear that increasing the refugee cap is unpopular and will derail the momentum that he has. Indeed, one Morning Consult poll found that increasing refugee admissions was the only major Biden priority that was unpopular.

But one reason for passing popular policies that meet people's needs is to have more cover and trust with the public when taking values-based policy steps that might trigger some discontent. And it's not as if raising the cap is a bait-and-switch for Biden — he campaigned on letting in more refugees, so he shouldn't feel the need to shy away from it now. It is one of the easiest ways for a president to drastically improve a large number of human lives, saving families from dire conditions in refugee camps, with little or no downside.

And there's likely no upside at all to breaking this promise. The anti-immigrant right wing will not give Biden any credit at all for backing down; instead, it will likely just encourage them to increase their demands even further. They'll cite Biden's capitulation on this promise as evidence that refugees really are a problem, and perhaps say that letting in any refugees is a problem.

This is a particularly terrible time for Biden to be retreating on the immigration issue, too, because anti-immigrant bigotry is resurgent. Fox News's Tucker Carlson, an influential leader in conservatism, is openly endorsing the white supremacist "replacement theory," which Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson recently echoed. And on Friday, a group of far-right Republicans announced the launch of a new, openly nativist caucus based on "Anglo Saxon political traditions."

Maybe this increasing sentiment on the right, combined with manufactured right-wing outrage about the border, has spooked Biden into capitulating on this issue. But appeasing this bigotry won't work. It will only embolden it.

Schumer Has A New Way To Bulldoze McConnell's Senate Obstruction

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

On Monday evening, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's spokesperson put out a seemingly dry statement that actually contained major news.

The New York Democrat has found a new way to avoid Republican senators' obstruction on budget-oriented legislation:

The Parliamentarian has advised that a revised budget resolution may contain budget reconciliation instructions. This confirms the Leader's interpretation of the Budget Act and allows Democrats additional tools to improve the lives of Americans if Republican obstruction continues. While no decisions have been made on a legislative path forward using Section 304 and some parameters still need to be worked out, the Parliamentarian's opinion is an important step forward that this key pathway is available to Democrats if needed.

It's a somewhat esoteric point, but it could have significant implications for the Democrats' agenda. From the start of Joe Biden's presidency, Democrats knew that either they'd have to eliminate or significantly modify the Senate filibuster to pass major bills, or else find ways to work around Republican obstinacy. As the filibuster currently functions, 60 votes are needed to pass a bill through the Senate, which means at least 10 Republicans would have to join with all of the sitting Democrats to enact legislation. However, the budget reconciliation process allows the Senate to pass a bill on a pure majority vote, which is how Democrats passed the nearly $2 trillion American Rescue Plan in March. It was also crucial in passing Obamacare in 2010 and the Trump tax cuts in 2017.

Usually, though, Senators have believed that reconciliation could only happen on a limited basis — there's only one budget per fiscal year. But Schumer concluded — and crucially, he got the Senate parliamentarian to agree — that it's also legitimate to revise a budget using the reconciliation mechanism. This would allow the Senate to pass additional bills with a simple majority vote, thereby circumventing the filibuster and Republican opposition.

This "could enable Democrats to bypass a filibuster and use reconciliation once more in fiscal year 2021 (and several more times next year)," explained CNN"s Sahil Kapur.

This is something of a game-changer. It means passing laws will be easier through the Senate. But there are still major restrictions on what this procedure can be used for — most notably, the rules dictate that reconciliation bills can only include provisions that are directly, rather than incidentally, related to the budget, i.e., taxing and spending. This means that many of the Democrats' priorities, such as securing voting rights, will still have to overcome the filibuster to become law.

One might think that it doesn't really matter if Democrats can pass many reconciliation bills or just a few, because they can just stuff as many fiscal provisions as they want into a single package and pass it as a whole. This is true, but as Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont said Monday night on MSNBC, the ability to "revise" the budget will give Democrats more "flexibility" to enact their agenda.

Driver Rams Barrier, Killing Capitol Police Officer And Triggering Lockdown

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

U.S. Capitol Police announced Friday afternoon that one officer was killed and another hospitalized after a driver plowed a car into a barrier outside the Capitol complex. The driver of the vehicle, who was reportedly shot by police after he left the car and lunged at them with a knife, officials said.

Reports of the incident first emerged on Friday around 1 p.m. when Capitol Hill was put on lockdown, and staff were alerted about an "external security threat" via text message.

Multiple reporters on the scene shared the news.

"Capitol locked down," said Fox News reporter Chad Pergram. "Car crashed into barrier on Senate side off of Constitution Avenue. This is where they shrunk the perimeter a few weeks ago."

U.S. Capitol Police put out a statement saying they received reports that a vehicle rammed into two of its officers on the north side of the capitol.

The two injured officers and the suspect were all reportedly taken to the hospital. But by the time Capitol police held a press conference at 2:45 p.m., only one of the cops was still alive. Officials did not disclose any officials about a possible motive. They said they did not believe there was an ongoing threat, but the investigation is in its early stages.

NBC News reporter Jon Allen reported that a Capitol Police officer told him "We've been attacked."

After the January 6 attack on the Capitol, extensive fencing had been erected around the complex to protect officials. But the security measures were widely criticized and were eventually scaled back.

Reporter Jake Sherman captured footage of a helicopter landing on the grounds.

"One Of The Weirdest": Tucker Carlson Interviews Gaetz About Sex Crime Probe

After the New York Times reported that Rep. Matt Gaetz is under federal investigation on the suspicion of sex trafficking a 17-year-old girl, the Florida Republican found himself seeking a safe space to fight back against the allegations in Fox News' prime time hour with host Tucker Carlson. But after the interview, Carlson himself told viewers he was left flummoxed by the exchange and didn't know what to think about the story.

"If you just saw our Matt Gaetz interview, that was one of the weirdest interviews I've ever conducted," Carlson told his audience. "That story just appeared in the news a couple of hours ago. And on the certainty that there's always more than what you read in the newspaper, we immediately called Matt Gaetz and asked him to come on and tell us more. Which as you saw, he did. I don't think that clarified much. But it certainly showed that this is a deeply interesting story. And we'll be following it. Don't quite understand it. But we'll bring you more when we find out."

So what was so "weird" about the interview for Carlson?

For one thing, Gaetz made the interview uncomfortably personal. Gaetz claimed that a woman he had dated, and who had met Carlson and his wife at a dinner a few years back, had been "threatened" by the FBI as part of the investigation. Carlson seemed a bit taken aback and didn't welcome being brought into the narrative.

"I don't remember the woman or the context at all honestly," Carlson told Gaetz.

Gaetz also claimed that he was being falsely smeared by people at the Justice Department, and he tried to commiserate with Carlson over an allegation the host had previously faced. Carlson didn't seem to welcome this anecdote, etiher.

"You just referred to a mentally ill viewer who accused me of a sex crime 20 years ago," Carlson said. "And of course it wasn't true. I had never met the person."

Gaetz's story about the investigation is a bit hard to parse. He accused a former DOJ official of trying to extort him for money over the allegations, citing a March 16 text message to his father that led to an in-person meeting with the alleged extortionist. And he said that he had worked with the FBI in an investigation into the extortion, which led to his father wearing a wire. Gaetz called on the FBI and DOJ to release the tapes, claiming they would exonerate him.

But he also seemed to suggest that people currently in the FBI were trying to set him up, apparently separately from the former DOJ official who is trying to extort him. And he was much more eager to talk about the supposed extortion plot than about the FBI investigation. When Carlson asked Gaetz when he first became aware of the FBI investigation into the suspicion of sex trafficking, Gaetz awkwardly refused to answer. He only referred back to the March 16 text message. He even named a person, David McGee, who used to work for the DOJ as the person who has been extorting him, though this claim has not been corroborated. Katie Benner, who broke the story for the Times, later argued that Gaetz is trying to distract from the fact that the investigation into his conduct began under Attorney General Bill Barr — making it less likely that it arose as a partisan plot against him.

The New York Times story, Gaetz said, was planted to "quell" the extortion investigation.

He also unprompted brought up an allegation that there were pictures of him with child prostitutes, a claim that had not appeared in the New York Times article about the investigation.


Gaetz again suggested, as he had already in response to the Times reporting, that he pays for trips and travel for his girlfriends (none of whom, he said, were underage) and that this spending was being distorted into a sex trafficking claim.

"I have not had a relationship with a 17-year-old," he said.

Matt Gaetz Reported Under Investigation By Justice Department For Underage Sex Trafficking

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz is under investigation for potentially violating sex trafficking laws, according to a new report Tuesday from the New York Times.

Officials are reportedly investigating his relationship with a 17-year-old girl and whether he had sex with her and paid for her to take take trips with him. It is a federal crime to use money to get an underage person to cross state lines for sexual purposes.

"It was not clear how Mr. Gaetz met the girl, believed to be 17 at the time of encounters about two years ago that investigators are scrutinizing, according to two of the people," the report said. "The investigation was opened in the final months of the Trump administration under Attorney General William P. Barr, the two people said. Given Mr. Gaetz's national profile, senior Justice Department officials in Washington — including some appointed by Mr. Trump — were notified of the investigation, the people said."

Earlier on Tuesday, Axios had reported that Gaetz has considered stepping down from Congress early to join the right-wing outlet Newsmax. It's not clear if such considerations are related to the investigation reported by the Times.

The Times reported that the investigation of Gaetz grew out from a "broader investigation into a political ally of his, a local official in Florida named Joel Greenberg, who was indicted last summer on an array of charges, including sex trafficking of a child and financially supporting people in exchange for sex, at least one of whom was an underage girl."

Greenberg shared a picture on Twitter with Gaetz at the White House in June 2019, as the Times pointed out. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.

Gaetz gave a bizarre and puzzling response to the Times when asked about the case, seeming to confirm at least some parts of the report:

Mr. Gaetz said in an interview that his lawyers had been in touch with the Justice Department and that they were told he was the subject, not the target, of an investigation. "I only know that it has to do with women," Mr. Gaetz said. "I have a suspicion that someone is trying to recategorize my generosity to ex-girlfriends as something more untoward."

After this piece and the Times story were initially published, Gaetz gave more extended comments to Axios.

"I have definitely, in my single days, provided for women I've dated. You know, I've paid for flights, for hotel rooms. I've been, you know, generous as a partner. I think someone is trying to make that look criminal when it is not," he said. He added that "absolutely" none of the women were underage."

"The allegations of sexual misconduct against me are false," he told reporter Jonathan Swan. "They are rooted in an extortion effort against my family for $25 million … in exchange for making this case go away."

America's Worst Senator Offers His Racist Take On Capitol Riot

Who is the worst member of the U.S. Senate? There's certainly a lot of fierce competition. But for my money, there's a clear answer: Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson.

One reason to be confident in this choice is that I've been mulling making this argument directly for several months now, and there's been no shortage of news events to build the thesis around. His latest missive against decency in an interview on the conservative Joe Pags Show, though, is particularly ghastly.

"On January 6, I didn't feel threatened," Johnson said, referring to the day of the Capitol insurrection. "Mainly because I knew that even though those thousands of people that were marching to the Capitol were trying to pressure people like me to vote the way they wanted me to vote, I knew those were people that love this country, that truly respect law enforcement, would never do anything to break the law, so I wasn't concerned."

He continued: "Had the tables been turned, and President Trump won the election and those were tens of thousands of Black Lives Matter and Antifa protestors, I might have been a little concerned."

This claim, of course, is obviously false. Five people died directly from the events of that day, including a cop, and two more police officers took their own lives in the subsequent days. More than a hundred officers were reported injured, many of them seriously. Every person who invaded the Capitol was guilty of trespassing, at least, and many have been charged with much more serious crimes. Even the action Johnson himself describes — pressuring lawmakers to vote against a lawful election — is potentially a crime in the context and is certainly a violation of the Constitution.

Johnson's remarks got even worse when they turned from a blatantly partisan defense of insurrection to outright racism and bigotry.


What's so remarkable about these claims is that there's no clear incentive for him to be making them — it's hard to see how they help him politically. It seems they just reflect what he really thinks. But they're obviously incorrect, and he should recognize as much. He was in danger on January 6 — there were literally bombs planted near the Capitol. His claim that it would have taken Black Lives Matter to really scare him, even when the actual threat he faced was dire, just highlights his open embrace of irrational bigotry.

Johnson has been out on a limb on Capitol riots for a while, far further than many other Republicans are willing to venture. During a Senate hearing on the Capitol attack, Johnson read into the record an account from the far-right outlet The Federalist pushing the debunked notion that the Trump-supporting rioters were framed. This was obvious nonsense from the start, and anyone with a shred of credibility recognized as much — but there was Johnson, pushing obvious misinformation from the Senate itself.

Of course, Johnson's not the only Republican to have a disturbing relationship with the events of January 6. Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri arguably helped incite the attack by being the first of the chamber to join Donald Trump's call to oppose the counting of the Electoral College votes for Joe Biden on that day. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas later joined in, and even after the Capitol was assaulted and lawmakers forced into hiding, seven Republican senators still cast votes against certifying the election. Johnson, it should be noted, wasn't among them.

But despite the other strong competitors in the race to be the worst senator, Johnson's cumulative turpitude surpasses them all. Sure, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham utterly debased himself with his about-face on and fealty to Trump. Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton is a warmonger at home and abroad. And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has been the bane of Democrats for years, standing athwart many of their greatest hopes and plans.

Yet what McConnell did, he mostly did as a representative of his party's larger goals. That doesn't exonerate him, of course, but it casts him as more of a cold functionary than a malevolent monster.

Meanwhile, Johnson seems to go out of his way to be as devious as possible.

Before the 2020 election, he took up the call from Trump to attack Biden by launching an investigation into Obama-era intelligence activities. And he didn't hide his motivation at all.

"The more that we expose of the corruption of the transition process between Obama and Trump, the more we expose of the corruption within those agencies, I would think it would certainly help Donald Trump win reelection and certainly be pretty good, I would say, evidence about not voting for Vice President Biden," he said.

Such "corruption" never came to light, because it was based on lies and distorted facts. But that never mattered for the Wisconsin senator — what mattered was harming Biden.

These remarks followed another investigation from Johnson and Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley into allegations about Biden and supposed corruption in Ukraine. That investigation found no wrongdoing on the part of the former vice president, though it attacked his son Hunter Biden. Johnson had been warned that in pursuing the Biden probe, he was following a trail of Russian propaganda and disinformation. He didn't care.

Despite his vigorous pursuit of these hollow allegations, Johnson, of course, showed no interest or curiosity about Trump and his family's massive conflicts of interest.

And when Johnson and Trump's efforts to tarnish Biden failed to defeat him, the Wisconsin Republican used his Senate seat to hold a hearing on debunked claims of voter fraud and election rigging. This fed into the bogus narratives pushed by the then-president, helping lead to the January 6 insurrection.

Even more bizarrely, Johnson used a hearing on December 8 to promote bogus claims by medical quacks about Covid-19. The New York Times reported:

So on Tuesday, for not the first time, Mr. Johnson lent his committee's platform to the promotion of unproven drugs and dubious claims about stemming the spread of the coronavirus while giving prominence to a vaccine skeptic.
In a move that led even most members of his own party on the committee to avoid the hearing, Mr. Johnson called witnesses who promoted the use of hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin. The National Institutes of Health guidelines recommend against using either drug to treat coronavirus patients except in clinical trials.

Trump himself, a popularizer of dubious ideas about hydroxychloroquine, had long dropped his advocacy for the drug. When he personally fell ill with the disease, he didn't take it as a treatment. But Johnson was still wasting committee time pursuing these avenues while he had control. Another witness that day argued, falsely, that social distancing and masks aren't helpful in reducing the spread of the virus.

Whenever a controversial issue arises, Johnson seems determined to get on the wrong side of it. He was a major advocate against a December round of direct payments to individuals for economic relief during the pandemic, despite the wide popularity of the policy and its ability to help people suffering from the crisis.

If all this is making you frustrated or angry at Johson, just know this: He knows people don't like him. And it only makes him worse.

"I think it's obvious that I'm target number one here," Johnson told CNN in a recent interview. "People are out to destroy me."

I wonder why?

Johnson is up for re-election in 2022 — or at least, he will be if he chooses to run again. He hasn't made up his mind yet, though Trump has reportedly encouraged him to stick around.

All the criticism he's taken, he said, just makes him likelier to run again: "If anything it makes me feistier."

Could he win again? It's certainly possible in Wisconsin. Trump won the state in 2016, and he only barely lost it by 20,000 votes in 2020. If Biden faces the typical midterm backlash, keeping the seat might be an easy task for Johnson.

But Wisconsin isn't a straightforward place. One of the key factors that truly clinches Johnson's role as the worst senator in the country is that his state can do so much better. Its electorate doesn't require its representatives to act the way Johnson does. It has also sent Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a stalwart progressive, to the upper chamber in a seat once occupied by the infamous Joe McCarthy — himself a shameless demagogue with many similarities to Johnson.

That may mean Wisconsin is open to kicking the worst senator in the country to the curb — if he doesn't slink out of his own accord.

FBI Arrests Former Trump Appointee In Capitol Riot Probe

A former appointee of President Donald Trump was arrested on Thursday by the FBI for his alleged role in the January 6 Capitol riot, according to a new report from Politico.

Federico Klein had worked in the State Department under the previous administration. It is not yet clear which charges led to his arrest.

But Klein is the first person with a direct connection to the former president and his administration to be reported arrested in connection with the attack. Trump himself was impeached and tried on the charge of inciting the insurrection. Though he was acquitted in the Senate, a majority of 57 senators voted to convict, and even some lawmakers such as Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who voted "not guilty" admitted Trump was responsible for the attack.

Some have argued that Trump could be charged for criminal incitement of the attack.

"Klein worked for a time in the State Department's Office of Brazilian and Southern Cone Affairs before being transferred to the office that handles Freedom of Information Act requests, according to a former colleague who spoke on the condition of anonymity," Politico reported. "The alleged presence of a Trump political appointee at the riot may tie those events more closely to the president, although there is already ample evidence that many of those charged were inspired by Trump's false claims about widespread election fraud and by his call for supporters to descend on Washington on January 6 for events that he promised would be 'wild.'"

Politico also spoke to Klein's mother, who confirmed that he had been at the protests in D.C. on January 6, though she was not sure if he had entered the Capitol. Any unauthorized entry into the Capitol on that day could result in a trespassing charge, among the many other crimes that were committed that day.

National Guard Chief: Pentagon Brass Delayed Critical Deployment On Jan. 6

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Maj. Gen. William Walker, the commander of the National Guard in Washington, D.C., delivered disturbing new testimony on Wednesday about the delay in deployment of his forces during the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Walker was prepared to send a large number of troops to the Capitol immediately at 1:49 p.m. when he received a "frantic" call for backup from then-Chief of the Capitol Police Steven Sund. Sund was desperate for support as his officers' perimeter had been breached by the mob of Trump supporters, gravely endangering members of Congress counting the votes of the Electoral College. Walker said Sund's voice was "cracking with emotion" and pleaded that there was a "dire emergency at the Capitol."

"He requested the immediate assistance of as many available National Guardsmen that I could muster," Walker said.



It wasn't until three hours and 19 minutes later that Walker would get permission from the Pentagon to deploy the troops, he said. Because D.C. is not a state, the district's National Guard is under the control of the president, who has delegated his command to the Department of Defense. Christopher Milley was serving as the acting secretary of the department after President Trump had removed Secretary Mark Esper following the 2020 election.

In the time between Sund's call to Walker and the arrival of the National Guard, rioter Ashli Babbitt was killed by an officer for breaching a barrier within the building separating the mob from the lawmakers. Officer Brian Sicknick of the Capitol Police was also killed in the clash with protesters, though the exact cause of his death remains unknown.

As the Capitol was breached, news media looked on with horror as the Capitol Police were overwhelmed, and people quickly began calling for the National Guard to intervene. But scattered reports indicated that there was an unexplained delay in their deployment, raising the disturbing prospect that political influence was responsible for denying Congress necessary protection.

Walker's testimony indicates that this was, indeed, the case.

"It required me to seek authorization from the Secretary of the Army and the Secretary of Defense to essentially protect my guardsmen," he said. In an "unusual memo," he said, "the Secretary of Defense, told me I needed his permission to escalate to have that kind of protection." During the previous summer's racial justice protests, Walker said, he had been able to get immediate approval to activate his forces.

And on a call with his supervisors after hearing Sund's pleas, the request was stalled: "The Army senior leaders did not think it would look good."

Other Pentagon officials have defended the response, saying the National Guard was activated as quickly as possible. Disputes about the exact timeline remain to be resolved.

"This is the D.C. National Guard that went from a cold start, and they had troops there in two and a half, three hours," Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters on Monday. "They reacted faster than our most elite forces from a cold start."

But Walker contended that he was unnecessarily delayed and could have gotten about 150 troops out almost immediately.

"I would have had them assemble, and then get on buses and go straight to the armory and report to the most ranking Capitol Police officer they saw and take direction, and further," he said. "We could have helped extend the perimeter and push back the crowd."

It wasn't until 5:09 p.m., Walker said, that he was given permission to act. In less than 20 minutes, the National Guard arrived at the Capitol, where more than 100 officers had reportedly been injured.

Walker said that Army Gen. Charles Flynn, the brother of disgraced former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who advised Trump in his plots to overturn the 2020 election, was on the call and had pushed back against approving the request for the National Guard. The Army had initially denied that Flynn was on the call.

The Crisis Of Democracy Is Already Here

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

We can stop waiting for the big constitutional crisis, the cataclysmic electoral breakdown, the fracturing of democracy that many have long feared in the United States of America.

The crisis is already here, and we've been living with it for years.

It's become conventional wisdom among many political observers that the Electoral College system for picking our presidents is an anti-democratic relic that we're nevertheless forced to work around. And yet the significance of this fact is far too easily elided. We hear warnings that the Electoral College may one day trigger a disaster, but we've yet to properly take stock of the world of crisis we've already made for ourselves. And American political discourse still hasn't accommodated the fact that, because of the Electoral College and the winner-take-all state rules that decide our presidential elections, our form of government is not as democratic and morally admirable as we like to think.

Within the last two decades, there have indeed been, arguably, four distinct crises in the Electoral College that have profoundly shaken our democratic ideals and even warped the course of world history. Lives have been lost and ruined; blood has been shed as a result. The Electoral College is not just an outdated institution. It's a shambolic mess. The wheels have completely come off, and the train is off the tracks. And there's no sign it's headed for any smoother terrain.

The first of the modern crises, of course, came in 2000. The presidential election came down to Florida, and that state came down to 537 votes. A wave of irregularities and clear errors in the process easily swamped that margin, but as the fight over a recount dragged on, the Supreme Court was asked to intervene. Its decision essentially gave George W. Bush the presidency over then-Vice President Al Gore, despite the fact that Gore had won nationally by about half a million votes.

Gore conceded graciously, but a disaster was set in motion. The 9/11 Commission cited the delayed transition as a potential factor in the failure to foresee the coming terrorist attack mere months down the road. Had the Clinton administration smoothly transitioned into a Gore administration as most American voters wanted, perhaps that calamity could have been avoided — along with the disastrous wars of choice that followed. The country might have started taking climate change seriously at a crucial point in history, rather than ignoring it for far too long. The legitimacy of the 2000 election's outcome has never been broadly accepted, as many Democrats were outraged that the Supreme Court had sided with Bush and resented a system that let a contested 537 votes hold more sway than the hundreds of thousands more Gore could boast in his total.

And it wasn't just Democrats who could see the problem with the Electoral College's structure outweighing the collective voice of the voters. Contemporary news reports suggested that if, as had seemed possible before the election, Bush had won the popular vote but lost in the Electoral College, his team would have fought fiercely in favor of letting the popular vote control. They would have argued for the plausible view: For the only two nationally elected officers — the president and vice president — the nation's vote as a whole should be what matters.

But as we all know, that's not how the world works.

"There is no constitutional right to vote for the president," Jesse Wegman, a member of the New York Times editorial board and author of the book, "Let the People Pick the President: The Case for Abolishing the Electoral College," told me. "You and I and every other citizen have no right at all to play a role in choosing the president. It's just the state legislators' decision to let us do that."

In the American system, state legislators wield enormous power, though they tend to attract much less attention than the U.S. Congress. Under the Constitution, they get to decide how electors are selected every four years to join the Electoral College, which then gets to pick the president and the vice president. Because most states have elections with winner-take-all rules, giving all of the state's electors to a single candidate, it's possible for the winner of the national popular vote to fail to win a majority of the Electoral College votes.

After the 2000 election highlighted this glaring flaw, many demanded change. But amending the Constitution to reform or abolish the Electoral College is extremely difficult because the people who benefit from the current system have the power to veto any reform. And the unique circumstances of the 2000 election — such a narrow margin in Florida, and botch election administration that included hanging chads and butterfly ballots — could almost be dismissed as a fluke.

And then it happened again.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton decisively won the popular vote. She won by more than 2 points and nearly 3 million votes. But despite winning 48.2 percent of the vote, she lost in the Electoral College to Donald Trump, who won a mere 46.1 percent of the vote.

That, on its own, should've been considered a crisis. Once again, the candidate with much more support from the voters was denied the presidency in favor of her less popular — not to mention clearly unfit — opponent. But Clinton herself avoided such language, conceding graciously the day after the election.

Those were the rules of the game, of course, and Clinton and Trump knew that going in. Had the results been reversed, Clinton would have happily taken office while losing the popular vote. But that doesn't mean the result was acceptable or right. The fact that we don't set up any other important election to function in this way shows that this arrangement doesn't have any intuitive appeal or inherent moral legitimacy. It's just what we've come to accept. Wegman persuasively argues that it wasn't an ingenious solution developed by the American Founders, either — it was a last-minute agreement by deeply flawed men that no one was ever really satisfied with.

Because Clinton was widely expected to win in 2016, and Trump was such an outlandish character, much of the media coverage in the days after the election focused on the fact of the stunning upset. Many urged Democrats and Clinton supporters to re-evaluate their own assumptions about the electorate and to question why the country had found Trump so appealing.

But the country hadn't found Trump so appealing. Millions more voted for his opponent. The odd quirk about the Electoral College, though, is that despite the fact that everyone knows it doesn't adhere to our traditional assumptions about democracy, the political establishment implicitly assumed there's something inherently just about the winner's claim to office and that they represent the will of the voters.

Trump didn't represent the will of the voters, though, as the numbers made clear. For a second time since 2000, democracy failed for the single most important office in the country. And this failure was massively consequential. The winner picked three Supreme Court justices, completely reshaping the balance of the court. He rewrote the tax code, started trade wars, defied Congress, tormented immigrants, ordered assassinations and executions, manipulated the tools of justice. And he oversaw mass death and misery during the COVID-19 pandemic as public experts pleaded with him to stop lying and do more to stop the virus.

His foreseeably catastrophic and plutocratic presidency was forced upon the country and the world, even though a majority of Americans thoroughly rejected him and more voters cast their ballots for his opponent.

American democracy broke down, and it hasn't yet been fixed. Some people tried to implement a last-ditch solution in 2016 to his unjust rise, after all the votes were cast, as Wegman recounts in "Let the People Pick the President." A group of faithless electors tried to break with the expectation that they cast their votes in line with their states in an effort to deny Trump the presidency.

It didn't work, of course. Only seven electors voted out of turn — five from Clinton and two from Trump. It was nowhere near the number that would've been required to deny Trump the presidency.

But it was, on its own, a mini-crisis of democracy. It was a serious effort to undo the outcome that had been set in motion on Election Day. It was itself a response to an emergency, an attempt to set right a grave wrong. But had the effort been successful, it could have unleashed unprecedented chaos, and it's far from clear that would have been a preferable outcome.

When Trump tried to overturn the results of the 2020 election, some pointed to the 2016 faithless electors plan — which wasn't supported by Clinton, who had conceded — as evidence that the Democrats were hypocrites and had been just as unwilling to accept the verdict of the voters.

There are, however, two key differences in the faithless electors' plan and Trump's efforts to undo the 2020 election. First, the faithless electors' plan is actually in accordance with the constitutional design of the Electoral College — it says nothing about electors being pledged to certain candidates. The electors could argue that becoming faithless to block Trump's win was both in accord with the original vision for the Electoral College and an appropriately democratic representation of an electorate who had rejected him. This is the second key difference with the 2020 crisis: the faithless electors were trying to stop a person who had clearly lost the popular vote from taking office.

When Trump tried to overturn the 2020 election, he was doing the opposite. He was trying to stop Joe Biden — who not only won the popular vote but a substantial majority of American voters — from rightfully becoming president.

The crisis Trump triggered was not just a crisis of democracy, but a revolt against democracy. By pushing to have state legislatures overturn the result of the election procedures they had already put in place, and pressuring election officials to reject the proper results of those procedures, Trump undermined the bedrock of electoral governance. It was a rejection of the principles of democratic progress and an effort to install autocratic rule.

"It was outrageous that Trump and his allies were trying to do this," Wegman told me. "First of all, the election had already happened. Second of all, there was literally no evidence of fraud or irregularities at all, let alone on the level that they were claiming there was. So there was nothing to overturn."

He added that though it was "terrifying," the events were also "clarifying and illuminating" for the country. "Because it let the American people see just how contingent this whole process is on the state legislatures playing along."

He continued: "And while it was absurd and anti-democratic to try to force their hand after Nov. 3, in fact, at any point before then, the Constitution gave them free rein to change their rules about awarding electors. They didn't have to do it the way they did, which was a popular vote in their state. That's how every state does it, and that's how every state had done it since 1876, but they don't have to. They could change it in a day if they wanted to. And they could change it and say 'We're going to decide for ourselves.'"

Trump took it even further than that, of course. After his gambit with state legislatures failed, he tried to convince his vice president, Mike Pence, to intervene in Congress's counting of the Electoral College vote. Pence refused, and Trump, in response, sent a riotous mob after him and the nation's lawmakers. The violence was a predictable outcome of Trump's rejection of democracy and his cult-like following. Perhaps such an attack would have occurred even if the former president had lost under a pure national popular vote system, but the baroque nature of the existing process created many more opportunities for mischief that someone like Trump would be desperate to exploit. That gave his supporters hope he could remain in office if they just pushed hard enough.

At the same time, the Supreme Court is poised to give state legislatures even more power in setting the terms of elections, unconstrained by popular referendums or courts.

And even though Biden won the election, and Trump's efforts to overturn the outcome failed, he came much closer to winning than he should have.

David Shor, a data scientist for the progressive group Open Labs, which works on progressive causes, stressed how bad the skew of the Electoral College has become for Democrats.

"We got 52.2 percent, and if we had gotten 52 percent, we might have lost," he told me, referring to Biden's share of the two-party vote. "That's what the breakeven point was. The bias of the Electoral College went up. I think a lot of people forecast that it would go down. So that's bad. I think that's really bad. I think it's really under-remarked about."

He continued: "And it makes me think we're probably favored to lose in 2024. We barely scraped 52.2 against the most unpopular Republican incumbent to run in decades. And we still barely scraped by, so I think it's quite bad."

It's been a difficult truth for the media coverage to capture. On the one hand, Biden's Electoral College victory and his national popular vote share were substantial, so his win can be regarded as giving him a significant mandate and a rebuke of his predecessor. But the collective margins of victory in the decisive states that made Biden the winner are actually quite small, less the 50,000 votes. So it's not hard to imagine a very similar world where Trump had legally held on to power — even though he oversaw a world-historical disaster that made an overwhelming and record-setting 81 million voters turn out against him.

But because Trump's efforts to change the rules after Election Day and throw out votes was so outrageous, shameful, and potentially criminal, much less attention was paid to the institution that allowed it to happen at all.

In the wake of Trump's threat to democracy, some observers have boasted that the country's institutions held firm against the threat of autocracy, as they were designed to. But the Electoral College, a central pillar of our constitutional order — didn't protect us — it exacerbated the threat and made it possible to begin with.

Trump never had a hope of flipping any of the states that voted against him after the 2020 election — the margins were just too wide, unlike Florida in 2000. But even this hopeless and corrupt effort rested on a premise that should never be accepted in the first place — that it would be acceptable for Trump to hold on to the presidency even if he lost nationally by 7 million votes.

Wegman argued that there might nevertheless be an upside to Trump's post-election crisis.

"I actually hope it pushes us further in the direction of reforming what is so clearly a system that is not built for the 21st century and Americans' expectations of what it means to live in a modern democracy," he said.

In "Let the People Pick the President," Wegman endorses the idea of the National Popular Vote Compact. Under this scheme, already adopted by many legislatures in blue states, states agree to give their Electoral College votes to the winner of the national popular vote as long as enough other states representing 270 electors have agreed to do so, too. Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin, recently famous for his role as the lead impeachment manager in Trump's Senate trial, introduced the legislation in 2007 as a state lawmaker that allowed Maryland to become the first to adopt the compact.

It's a clever pathway to get around most of the problems with the Electoral College without needing to pass a constitutional amendment on the matter, which is widely regarded as politically impossible. The hope is that, if it were ever in effect, Americans would get used to the process and the right to pick the president by popular vote, so amending the Constitution to make it permanent would become feasible.

Getting there, though, is the tricky part. Republicans in state legislatures resist the idea because they're aware that their party currently benefits from the Electoral College. And swing states — which, by definition, are necessary to reach 270 electors — have the strongest incentives to keep the current systems in place because they benefit from it enormously.

Wegman suggested that red state legislatures who see their states trending Democratic in the future might be persuaded to adopt the popular vote compact. The winner-take-all system would, if the opposite party takes control, completely nullify any Republican votes for president in their state. So they may see the compact as a way to preserve their relevance and protect their voices.

But Shor is not so optimistic about the national vote compact, calling the plan a "dead end."

"You can only get solidly blue states to pass this thing," he said. "And we're not going to have trifectas in Pennsylvania, or Wisconsin, or Michigan, or any of these other places."

Shor said one plan that helps the Democratic position a bit would be making Puerto Rico a state — a change many have called for on separate grounds. He estimated that adding the island as a state "would erase something like 10 percent of the Electoral College bias." (D.C. statehood, on the other hand, makes no difference in the Electoral College, since it already selects electors.)

In his work, Shor spends more time thinking about how Democrats can cope with the structural bias against them, rather than whether the problem can be fixed. His main answer is that Democrats have to hone their messages to compensate for the game being rigged against them.

"The source of this Electoral College bias as it exists is that as education polarization goes up, generally speaking, that leads to a lot of wasted votes," he said. "Roughly speaking, who does well in these large midwestern states determines the presidency. As those places trend more Republican, unless we do better and reverse education polarization, it's unlikely to go away any time soon."

Basically, the problem for Democrats is that white people without college degrees — who are increasingly favoring Republicans — are overrepresented in swing states.

"We have to turn around and try to appeal to voters in these states that matter more. Which really sucks," he said. "We just have to care more about what midwestern white people think."

Of course, the fundamental idea in a democracy should be that nobody's vote counts more than anyone else's. That's the egalitarian commitment that underlies the system and gives it moral and popular legitimacy. The Electoral College as it's currently set up undermines all that — it says that the rational thing for politicians to do is to care more about certain voters than others, just as Shor advises.

That's the crisis we're living with. And it could easily get worse. Not only is the institution that picks the presidency skewed against the popular will, one of the two major parties is increasingly authoritarian and opposed to democracy. And now, Trump has blazed a path for future challenges to election results, even if has failed.

"Now the sharks are circling, because now they know there's blood in the water," said Wegman. "The party that refuses to try to appeal to more people in a representative democracy has only one way to power, and that's through the manipulation of existing mechanisms to entrench minority rule. And that will kill American democracy. And that will kill the republic."

The GOP has been working hard at this for years. While it's widely known that Republicans heavily gerrymandered congressional districts to their advantage in 2010, Shor argued that even more significant is what happened to state legislatures — the bodies with the ultimate authority over how we pick the president.

"I think this is one of the most under-remarked things in politics," Shor said. "State legislative lines are substantially more gerrymandered than congressional ones. They have more districts to work with. People's intuitions on this are totally wrong. The more districts you have, the easier it is."

With Republicans in control of many key state legislatures, gerrymandering in Republicans' favor is likely going to get worse as we head into another round of redistricting. That means the people who control elections, including the Electoral College, will likely become even more disconnected from the voters and even more extreme. This week, the Arizona legislature even considered a proposal that could potentially let it override the way its people vote in a presidential election, if the legislators so chose.

What's most remarkable to me is that throughout all these crises, the leadership of the Democratic Party seems to lack all urgency. There's certainly a time for calm, stately leadership. But Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and Biden have rarely made the point that there is something fundamentally broken in American democracy. That encourages the media to treat the grossly skewed system of the Electoral College, which keeps throwing the country into chaos and corrupting politicians' incentives, as an acceptable part of the country. And the lulls the public into thinking this is just the way things are, and we have to learn to live with it.

At least until the next crisis.

Kinzinger’s Family Sends Wild Letter That Says He Joined ‘Devil’s Army’

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Illinois Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger made many enemies within his own party by standing up to former President Donald Trump after the 2020 election, a break that included voting in favor of impeachment pushed by the Democrats. And on Monday, a new profile of Kinzinger revealed that some of his harshest critics come from within his own family.

The New York Times obtained a letter signed by 11 of Kinzinger's relatives and sent to his father, as well as other Republican officials in the state. It was written by his cousin, Karen Otto, the Times reported.

In style, the letter was clearly influenced by Trump's own writing — though it included far more religious references than the former president typically employs, unless he is intentionally addressing a religious audience.

"Oh my, what a disappointment you are to us and to God!" Otto wrote.

She continued:

We were once so proud of your accomplishments! Instead, you go against your Christian principles and join the "devil's army" (Democrats and the fake news media). How do you call yourself a Christian when you join the "devil's army" believing in abortion! We thought you were "smart" enough to see how the left is brainwashing so many "so called good people including yourself and many other GOP members. You have even fallen for their socialism ideals! So, so, sad!
President Trump is not perfect, but neither are you or any of us for that matter! It is not for us to judge or be judged! But he is a Christian. (If God can forgive and use King David in the Bible, He can do the same with President Trump.) Franklin Graham, Robert Jeffress, to just to name a few, of many Pastors who mentor President Trump, know that he is a believer! Obviously, you did not hear President Trump's "Christmas Message" to the American people (fake news media did not cover his message) where he actually gave the plan of salvation, instructing people how to repent and ask the Savior into their heart to be "Born Again"! (To believe in John 3:16) When was the last time you proclaimed your faith Adam? (Oh, we forgot you now belong to the "devil's army.") You won't convince us otherwise with your horrible, rude accusations of President Trump! (To embrace a party that believes in abortion and socialism is the ultimate sin.) We should list even more grievances against you, but decided you are not worth more our time to list them. We have said enough!
You should be very proud that you have lost the respect of Lou Dobbs, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Greg Kelly, most importantly in our book, Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh and us!
It is now most embarrassing to us that we are related to you. You have embarrassed the Kinzinger family name!
We are not judging you. This letter is our opinion of you!
Oh, by the way, good luck in your fund raising endeavor. We are sure we know there are many other good GOP and CHirsitans supporters that feel the same way we do. Also very disappointed with the many other GOP that have sided with the Democrats. (We should demand our money back!)

View an image of the letter below:

"I wanted Adam to be shunned," Otto told the Times.

The message was a stark demonstration of the force of negative polarization. Because Kinzinger's family hates the Democrats so much, they see Kinzinger's turning against Trump and most of the Republican Party as an ultimate betrayal. What's binding the right-wing together isn't so much shared values as much as the shared belief that the Democratic Party is the ultimate threat. Parallel trends are affecting the political left in the United States, though it's unclear if the forces are as extreme.

"We just fear," Kinzinger said in an interview with the Times. "Fear the Democrats. Fear the future. Fear everything. And it works for an election cycle or two. The problem is it does real damage to this democracy."

McConnell's Condemnation Of Trump Only Exposed His Own Guilt

After voting to acquit former President Donald Trump of inciting an insurrection on January 6, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell did something few were expecting.

He took to the Senate floor and explained why Trump was guilty.

"There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day," Mcconnell said. "The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president. And their having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories, and reckless hyperbole which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth."

It was a forceful, clear, and powerful speech, one that would have fit well among the many widely praised performances by the House impeachment managers. But rather than mitigating McConnell's vote to acquit, it only aggravated the wrong he had done by covering, once again, for Trump. In attempting to strike a balance between voting in Trump's favor and verbally condemning him, McConnell only made it crystal clear that he's just as guilty as the former president.

"Former President Trump's actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty," McConnell said. That was true. But on Feb. 13, McConnell — along with many but not all of his Senate Republican colleagues, 43 of whom voted to acquit — were derelict in their own duties to hold Trump accountable.

McConnell's dereliction and betrayal of his office, however, was unique. The excuse he gave for voting to acquit Trump was based on a technicality that he personally engineered.

He claimed the former president is "constitutionally not eligible for conviction," citing the argument made by Trump's lawyers that because the Senate trial occurred after Trump left office, it was improperly held. And he blamed the House of Representatives for this fact: "Donald Trump was the President when the House voted, though not when the House chose to deliver the papers."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, speaking after McConnell's remarks, eagerly rebutted this claim: "When this distinguished group of House managers were gathered on January 15 to deliver the articles of impeachment, we're told it could not be received because Mitch McConnell had shut down the Senate. And was going to keep it shut down until the inauguration."

She added: "It is so pathetic that Senator McConnell kept the Senate shut down so that the Senate could not receive the article of impeachment and has used that as his excuse for not voting to convict Donald Trump."

McConnell even admitted as much in another part of his speech when he said: "The Senate was right not to entertain some light-speed sham process to try to outrun the loss of jurisdiction."

So he essentially acknowledged that it was his choice to force a situation in which he now claims that Trump can no longer be held accountable by Congress. His suggestion that it would've been a "light-speed sham process" to conduct a snap trial after the House passed the article of impeachment doesn't hold up. The House was able to vote quickly to approve the article on a bipartisan basis. McConnell himself said there is "no question" that Trump did what the House accused him of. In another portion of the speech, McConnell called the impeachment power an "intra-governmental safety valve" — an apt phrase. But the point is to use it, and it provides little safety if it can't be used swiftly in an emergency.

An impeachment trial is not a criminal proceeding, so it doesn't need to have the traditional level of due process usually afforded by the courts. Congress can adapt its procedures based on the seriousness of the violation in question and the persuasiveness of the available evidence. And McConnell's remarks make clear: he thinks the evidence was decisive. Trump's behavior was "unconscionable," he said, and it threatened to "either overturn the voters' decision or else torch our institutions on the way out."

So why not hold the trial immediately? McConnell just didn't want to convict, so he delayed instead. He then used the delay as an excuse to acquit.

"The constitutional argument on its own is dubious, even if McConnell weren't the source of the technicality that enabled its use as a fig leaf. Most constitutional scholars reject it, including originalists and conservative thinkers McConnell supposedly adores. And though he argued vehemently in favor of his interpretation, McConnell even admitted the Constitution is "legitimately ambiguous" on the question of trying former officials. Given this admission, McConnell should have, by all rights, let the matter remain settled by the Senate's vote on the question, 56-44, finding that it did have jurisdiction to hold Trump's trial. Instead, despite having lost this vote, McConnell used this separate issue as his excuse for voting on another matter entirely: regardless of jurisdiction, was Trump guilty of the charges laid out in the article of impeachment?

McConnell's speech made quite clear he thinks Trump was guilty. But instead — against his own judgment, and arguably in violation of his own oaths — he declared Trump "not guilty" when the roll was called.

Were McConnell really so opposed to the trial that he thought he couldn't in good faith vote to convict, he could have chosen to abstain from the final vote. He could have even boycotted the proceedings, which would have made it easier for the managers to obtain a conviction — a conviction only requires two-thirds of the senators who are present. Instead of choosing these alternatives, McConnell took a dishonest vote.

These choices on McConnell's part show how hollow his devotion to the Constitution and his cries of outrage about the president's conduct really are. But it wasn't just the games he played around impeachment that should draw scrutiny. His actions prior to January 6 showed he's just as derelict in his duty as the president was.

Even though McConnell on Saturday denounced the "growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories, and reckless hyperbole, which the defeated President kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth" for inspiring the violent Capitol mob, the Kentucky senator himself had already personally enabled it.

On November 10, 2020, after media outlets correctly projected Joe Biden as the winner of the election, Trump had already declared victory and was launching a wave of frivolous lawsuits attempting to overturn the result. The then-sitting president's refusal to concede despite the clear evidence of his loss disturbed many of his critics, and some of us correctly saw even then that he was plotting a coup. We warned of potential violence.

But McConnell defended Trump's array of legal challenges, despite their clear lack of merit and their role in stoking conspiracy theories and distrust in the election result.

"Until the electoral college votes, anyone who's running for office can exhaust concerns about counting in any court of appropriate jurisdiction," McConnell said on Nov. 10. "That's not unusual. That should not be alarming."

He added: "At some point here we'll find out, finally, who was certified in each of these states. And the electoral college will determine the winner. And that person will be sworn in on January 20. No reason for alarm."

There was reason for alarm, and many of us were correctly alarmed. Not only did McConnell dismiss those legitimate fears, he was defending what he has since called on Saturday the "increasingly wild myths about a reverse landslide election that was being stolen in some secret coup.

McConnell did recognize Biden as the president-elect after the Electoral College voted in mid-December. But by then the damage was done. McConnell had enabled Trump to spin his election lies for more than a month, and the train was already on a course for disaster. Had McConnell, as the then-leader of the Senate, joined with Speaker Pelosi in congratulating Biden and assuring the country that his victory was settled as soon as the election result had become clear, Trump's doomed effort to stay in power might never have gotten off the ground.

Just as Trump's riling up of the mob on January 6 foreseeably resulted in the violent attack on the Capitol, McConnell's decision to humor the president in November foreseeably gave rise to an insurrectionist movement.

And indeed, McConnell's dereliction of duty goes back even further. He led the Senate through Trump's first impeachment trial at the beginning of 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic took over our lives. And he was upfront from the start that there was no way he and the Republican caucus he led were going to let Trump be convicted.

During that trial, lead impeachment manager Adam Schiff made a passionate plea that Trump's attempt to induce Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden was a gross abuse of power and an attempt to cheat in the 2020 election. And Schiff warned that if Trump wasn't convicted and removed, he would continue to put democracy at risk

"You can't trust this president to do the right thing," Schiff told the Senate. "Not for one minute, not for one election, not for the sake of our country. You just can't. He will not change and you know it."

But McConnell, along with nearly the rest of his caucus, refused to listen. Even as Democrats said over and over that Trump's crime needed to be punished by impeachment because it was a threat to democracy, McConnell said their objections could be solved at the ballot box.

"If Washington Democrats have a case to make against the President's re-election, they should go out and make it. Let them try to do what they failed to do three years ago and sell the American people on their vision for the country," McConnell said during the first impeachment trial.

It was a disingenuous response, and he knew better. There was a plain warning that Trump was dangerous and didn't care about democracy, but McConnell couldn't be moved. He helped keep Trump in office, only to let Trump attack democracy in a more overt, gruesome, and vicious way. The Capitol was stormed. More than a hundred officers were injured. Five people died during the attack, including one Capitol police officer. Two other cops who responded to the assault died by suicide in the following days.

McConnell correctly said that Trump is "practically and morally responsible" for the events of that day. That's true. But McConnell shares in the blame as well.

Speaking on Saturday, he said: "The Senate's decision does not condone anything that happened on or before that terrible day. It simply shows that Senators did what the former President failed to do: We put our constitutional duty first."

But this isn't correct. Like the former president, McConnell abandoned his duty to protect the Constitution and fulfill his oath of office. By letting Trump off the hook, once again, McConnell's just as negligent and derelict.

McConnell tried to deflect such accusations by saying others can hold Trump responsible: "We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation. And former presidents are not immune from being held accountable by either one."

But he also said: "By the strict criminal standard, the president's speech probably was not incitement."

That claim is up for debate, and many legal scholars disagree. But if McConnell is right, Trump isn't subject to be held accountable for the acts he spent the speech condemning. If it is true that Trump's acts, reprehensible as they were in McConnell's view, didn't technically violate the criminal law, it would only emphasize why it's so important that the Constitution provides a specific remedy for high crimes and misdemeanors. Officials can abuse their power and authority in unique and dangerous ways, and that's why impeachment exists. Through McConnell's actions, the remedy has been vacated. And if Trump does end up criminally charged for his January 6 conduct, his party and supporters would have been better prepared for that eventuality if the Senate had properly fulfilled its duty and delivered a resounding bipartisan vote for conviction.

Instead, Republicans want someone else to take responsibility for Trump.

And regardless of the criminal question, the gravity of Trump's violation demands a constitutional response. It would prevent Trump from even credibly threatening to run for office again and help the country move on. And it would close that dark and dangerous chapter, and potentially allow the Republican Party to move in a healthier direction.

But McConnell, like most of the GOP, is refusing to defend American democracy from a would-be tyrant. He let Trump run wild and tramble over American institutions, cheering him on at certain moments, averting his gaze at others, and eventually throwing up his hands in a feigned inability to use his power to respond as needed. And for that, the minority leader shares in the former president's guilt.




’Smoking Gun’: CNN Reports Explosive Remark By Trump During Insurrection

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Shortly after day's proceedings in the impeachment trial of Donald Trump wrapped up on Friday, CNN published a new report revealing explosive details that go to the heart of the trial.

Citing multiple Republican House members as sources, including one on the record, CNN reported on a conversation between Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy during the Jan. 6 Capitol attack that the former president is accused of inciting. During the trial, Trump's lawyers argued that he had no role in the attack, despite his speech urging the mob to "fight" beforehand and the rioters' own comments claiming they were acting on behalf, in addition to other evidence of his intent.

But CNN's report brought forward what might be the most explicit evidence yet of Trump's intent to incite the rioters as he hoped to stop the counting of the Electoral College votes making Joe Biden the next president. It also indicates he was trying to leverage the attack in his efforts to overturn the election.

"Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are," Trump said on January 6 in the phone call, CNN reported. It cited "lawmakers who were briefed on the call afterward by McCarthy."

McCarthy, in response, reportedly said: "Who the f--k do you think you are talking to?"

At the very same moment, the report said, "rioters were breaking into his office through the windows."

"You have to look at what he did during the insurrection to confirm where his mind was at," Washington Republican Rep. Herrera Beutler told CNN, confirming the account of the call on the record. "That line right there demonstrates to me that either he didn't care, which is impeachable, because you cannot allow an attack on your soil, or he wanted it to happen and was OK with it, which makes me so angry."

CNN continued:

As senators prepare to determine Trump's fate, multiple Republicans thought the details of the call were important to the proceedings because they believe it paints a damning portrait of Trump's lack of action during the attack. At least one of the sources who spoke to CNN took detailed notes of McCarthy's recounting of the call.

This adds to the evidence, which was already substantial, that Trump was using the Capitol attackto pressure Congress into overturning the 2020 presidential election.

"So we have yet another smoking gun," said Norm Onstein, of the American Enterprise Insititue. "Two points. Shows McCarthy's cowardice on impeachment. Shows Trump reveled in the violence."

McCarthy had previously discussed his call with Trump, but not in as much detail.

"I called the president," McCarthy had said. "I begged him to go talk to the nation."

According to a previous report by Jake Sherman of Punchbowl News, the pair "got into a screaming match ... as an enraged mob of Trump supporters attacked the Capitol, according to a source familiar with the episode. McCarthy, one of the president's closest allies in Congress, demanded that Trump release a statement denouncing the mob. Initially, Trump would not agree to do it."

Why Sen. Tuberville’s Revelations Are Vital To Impeachment Case

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

On Friday, former President Donald Trump's lawyers wrapped up their brief arguments in defense of their client in less than four of the 16 hours they had available to them. In that time, they skirted over many of the arguments the impeachment managers have made for conviction; they instead tried to deflect blame for Trump's alleged "incitement of insurrection" on January 6 by pointing to Democrats who used similar language, even though that came in contexts where no such similar violence was unleashed.

Trump's lawyers largely skipped over a key part of the managers' case: the former president's attacks on former Vice President Mike Pence and the peril he was under. This feature of the case because particularly relevant this week after the House impeachment managers' arguments on Wednesday, because Alabama Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville revealed a new and surprising detail about his communication with the then-president that could shed light on Trump's state of mind during the January 6 attack.

Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah had already explained that he had received a phone call from Trump during the attack while in the Senate chamber. That call came a little after 2 p.m. Trump hadn't meant to call Lee, but instead wanted to talk to newly elected Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama. So Lee gave his phone to Tuberville.

It's not entirely clear what they discussed, though Rudy Giuliani was later recorded leaving a message that he thought was for Tuberville pleading with the senator to delay the count of the Electoral College votes. But on Wednesday, after a minor dispute about the events, Tuberville told reporters how the phone call ended.

"I said, 'Mr. President, they just took the vice president out, I've got to go,'" Tuberville said.

This is significant. According to the Washington Post's construction of the timeline, Pence was removed from the Senate chamber at 2:13 p.m. So we can infer that that's about the time when Tuberville told Trump that Pence had been evacuated.

It was just about 10 minutes later, at 2:24 p.m., when Trump tweeted the following:

Mike Pence didn't have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!

Many, including the impeachment managers, have pointed to this tweet as a part of Trump's incitement. Even after his mob of supporters had breached the Capitol, Trump was still fueling their rage and attacking Pence as a traitor for not helping him and his movement overturn the election.

But Tuberville's information introduces a new detail from the side of events that we know least about: Trump's perspective during the attack. It's reasonable to assume, and reporting indicates, that Trump was watching the news coverage of the events. But Tuberville's revelation confirms that Trump's targeted attack on Pence — one that was read aloud and championed by the rioters — was sent directly after the time he had already been informed of the vice president's evacuation from the chamber due to the danger posed by the mob. Pence was under direct threat, Trump had been informed of the threat, and yet the president kept up the attacks. The managers even showed clips of protesters reading Trump's 2:24 p.m. tweet aloud during the riot, further providing evidence that the insurrectionists were, indeed, incited by his words.

On Friday, Trump's lawyers largely wanted to skip over mentioning the direct attack on Pence.

A Democratic senator had noted that he was stunned by the attack in the moment.

WATCH Rep. Raskin’s Powerful — And Tearful — Summation At Impeachment Trial

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Rep. Jamie Raskin's voice broke, and he wiped tears from his eyes, as he delivered an emotional speech on Tuesday during the first day of former President Donald Trump's Senate impeachment trial.

As the lead impeachment manager, Raskin opened the proceedings Tuesday afternoon with a discussion about why the proceedings are constitutional. The Maryland Democrat showed a powerful clip of the violence Trump is charged with inciting on Jan. 6, interspersed with footage of the then-president's speech that. And he spoke about what the American founders intended in the Constitution and why the impeachment power is important for accountability in a democracy.

But perhaps the most personally powerful moment came when Raskin discussed his own experience on Jan. 6 when the Trump-inspired mob stormed the Capitol. Raskin, who had lost his son to suicide just a week before, was at the Capitol with his family, including his daughter, Tabitha. He said the sound of the mob pounding on the door "like a battering ram" was the "most haunting sound I ever heard, and I will never forget it."

Once he reunited with his family, who had feared they would die in the attack, he said he told his 24-year-old daughter: "It would not be like this again the next time she came back to the Capitol with me."

He continued: "And you know what she said? She said: 'Dad, I don't want to come back to the Capitol.'"

At this point, Raskin's voice cracked with emotion. He looked down and brought his hand to his eyes, clearly overwhelmed and wiping away tears.

"That one hit me the hardest," he said. "That, and watching someone use an American flag pole with the flag still on it to spear and pummel one of our police officers, ruthlessly, mercilessly. Tortured by a pole with a flag on it that he was defending with his very life. People died that day."

Watch the clip below:


Dershowitz on Trump Lawyer: ‘I Have No Idea What He’s Doing’

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Alan Dershowitz panned the performance of President Donald Trump's first lawyer in his Senate impeachment trial, Bruce Castor, in an appearance during the proceedings on Tuesday. Dershowitz appeared bewildered at the opening remarks.

"I have no idea what he's doing," said Dershowitz, who defended Trump during his first impeachment. "Maybe he'll bring it home, but right now, it does not appear to me to be effective advocacy."

Castor's rambling and unfocused argument was widely criticized. Noting that Castor had seemed to go out of his way to praise the Senators, Dershowitz said: "Maybe they want to be buttered up, maybe they want to be told what great people they are and how he knows two Senators, but it's not the kind of argument I would have made, I have to tell you that."

Instead, Dershowitz, who was recently exposed for trying to get presidential clemency for convicted child sex trafficker George Nader, said he would have argued that the president's alleged incitement of an insurrection was protected First Amendment speech. Many other experts and scholars have argued, however, that the First Amendment does not cover Trump's conduct.

Watch the clip below:

Biden: No Intelligence Briefings For ‘Erratic’ Trump

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

In a new interview with CBS News, President Joe Biden said that he doesn't think former President Donald Trump should get briefings on intelligence matters anymore now that he's out of office.

As a courtesy, former presidents are typically permitted to continue receiving such briefings. But the decision is left up to the sitting president.Biden suggested that because of Trump's "erratic behavior," it would not be appropriate for him to continue getting briefed. This consideration, he said, was apart from concerns about Trump's role in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.

One reason former presidents are often given briefings is that the current president may choose to consult them on decisions that could impact national security. But Biden's comments indicate, unsurprisingly, that he doesn't foresee that happening.

In fact, he suggested there would be a risk Trump would reveal information that should be kept secret.

"What value is giving him an intelligence briefing? What impact does he have at all, other than he might slip and say something?" he said.



Sue Gordon, who served as a leader in the intelligence community under Trump before she resigned, recently wrote an op-ed arguing the former president shouldn't receive these briefings anymore.