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Arizona GOP Legislator Admits Audit ‘Makes Us Look Like Idiots’

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

How is the effort by Arizona Republicans to undermine their state's election results going?

"It makes us look like idiots," said Paul Boyer, a Republican state senator who had supported the effort, as quoted in The New York Times. "Looking back, I didn't think it would be this ridiculous. It's embarrassing to be a state senator at this point."

That well, huh?

Republicans are trying to have 2.1 million ballots from Maricopa County—where the majority of the state's voters live—"audited." So far, the conspiracy theorists in charge of the effort have gotten through 250,000 ballots, which puts them on track to finish in August. They only have the space where they're currently working reserved until May 14, at which point they will have to find someplace else to move the ballots and equipment, because there are high school graduation ceremonies scheduled at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum beginning on May 17.

A former Arizona secretary of state involved in the effort claims they will finish in June or July, depending which news outlet he's talking to, after hiring more workers—currently less than half of the tables available for counting are staffed. The hiring process has already led to a former Republican state representative and participant in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol being paid to count ballots, so that should go well. Maybe he can recruit some of his buddies.

A conspiracy theory-inspired effort to find watermarks on the ballots has been abandoned, but the people being paid $15 an hour to inspect and count them are still looking for bamboo fibers due to another conspiracy theory involving a planeload of counterfeit ballots from South Korea. (Apparently Asian nations do not have access to paper without bamboo in it?)

The Justice Department has raised serious concerns about the proceedings, noting that "the ballots, elections systems, and election materials that are the subject of the Maricopa County audit are no longer under the ultimate control of state and local elections officials, are not being adequately safeguarded by contractors at an insecure facility, and are at risk of being lost, stolen, altered, compromised or destroyed," which could violate federal laws relating to the preservation of election records.

The Justice Department further expressed a concern that the plan to "identify voter registrations that did not make sense, and then knock on doors to confirm if valid voters actually lived at the stated address" and to contact voters in selected precincts to "collect information of whether the individual voted in the election" is potentially in violation of federal laws against intimidating voters, including in the Voting Rights Act. Arizona State Senate President Karen Fann subsequently backed off that part of the plan.

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat who has criticized the partisan and slipshod manner of the proceedings, now requires a 24/7 security detail after death threats.

All of this when the votes were counted the first time, then underwent a partial hand recount and two audits, in a county where the Board of Supervisors is controlled by Republicans who have strongly defended the integrity of the election and the count. The reason is simple: "They lost, and they can't get over it," as Grant Woods, a former Republican Arizona attorney general who became a Democrat during the Trump years, told the Associated Press. "And they don't want to get over it because they want to continue to sow doubt about the election."

Republicans Glom Credit For  Funding They Opposed -- And Media Finally Notice

Let's hope this is one of the hot trends of May 2021—the media is noticing how congressional Republicans are promoting funding from the American Rescue Plan despite having voted against the law. The Associated Press is on the story, with a bluntly accurate headline: "Republicans promote pandemic relief they voted against."

Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY) voted against the COVID-19 relief package, the AP reports, then described funding her district got from the law as one of her "achievements," and touted "bringing federal funding to the district and back into the pockets of taxpayers."

Malliotakis is one of a long list of Republicans who've gone from voting no to making absolutely sure their constituents knew that federal money was flowing into their districts—usually highlighting either the Restaurant Revitalization Fund or money for community health centers.

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), poised to oust Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) as the third-ranking House Republican, has been especially brazen, going from slamming the American Rescue Plan as "Pelosi's partisan COVID-19 package" to bragging about Head Start funding as well as the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) recently shredded Republican hypocrisy on this issue, noting how "All of a sudden they are deficit hawks when they were giving away money to wealthy people under President Trump," but after yelling about the deficit when it was time to pass the stimulus package, "A number of them are trying to take credit for something they didn't vote for—that's not unusual. Vote no, take the dough—that's what the Republicans do."

The Democratic National Committee is also focusing on this issue, the AP reports, with a digital advertising campaign on local news websites in Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin, Nevada, New Hampshire, Florida, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, while putting up billboards in 20 states.

Will any of it stick? That depends in part on the media. The American Rescue Plan continues to be very popular, so it makes sense that Republicans are trying to associate themselves with it despite their opposition. Any time a Republican says anything good about the effects of the law, any media coverage of it needs to note the fact that if it had been up to that Republican, the law would not have passed.

Just quoting a Republican saying, for instance, they're "Happy to announce" federal money going to community health centers in their district—as Rep. Madison Cawthorn did (R-NC) —without correcting the false impression that they supported that funding coming to the district is aiding and abetting them in that falsehood.

GOP Anti-Vaxxers Are Destroying America's Hope For Herd Immunity

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

If you've been holding out hope that the coronavirus pandemic would end when the United States reached herd immunity … I have some bad news for you. Thanks in large part to vaccine hesitancy and slowing rates of vaccination, scientists now say herd immunity is not attainable, and COVID-19 is likely to be a public health threat that we live with and try to manage for a generation or more.

And let's be clear: There's a ton of overlap between the "we don't need no stinkin' masks, we're waiting for herd immunity" crowd and the vaccine-rejecting crowd. They're certainly part of the same broad approach to the pandemic—total lack of personal responsibility in the guise of personal liberty—and the damage keeps accumulating.

Nearly half of Republicans still say they don't want to be vaccinated, while parts of their party—like the Nevada Republican Party—are leveraging vaccine opposition for partisan gain. Republican officials across the country have downplayed the threat of the virus and refused to embrace public health guidelines, leading to nine out of the ten states with the highest cases of COVID-19 by population being Republican-led, and Republican-controlled states also dominating the list of states with the lowest vaccination rates.

Anti-vaxxers continue to thrive on social media, often driven by profit motives. On top of all that, the U.S. continues to contend with serious inequities in vaccine accessibility, leading to a situation where, as ProPublica reported, "Counties with high levels of chronic illnesses or "co-morbidities" had, on average, immunized 57 percent of their seniors by April 25, compared to 65 percent of seniors in counties with the lowest co-morbidity risk."

Add those things together and you get a situation where vaccination can give many people a strong level of protection and drive down overall rates of new COVID-19 cases, but herd immunity as it has been talked about over the past year—as the great hope for a return to normal—is not happening. Even if there are high levels of vaccination in many parts of the U.S., the virus will be able to find its way in to the places where there are not. And while prior COVID-19 infection confers some degree of protection from reinfection there are reasons to believe vaccination is more protective, so the view that if you let enough people get sick, eventually you'll reach the gleaming horizon of herd immunity has significant problems.

"I think we're going to be looking over our shoulders—or at least public health officials and infectious disease epidemiologists are going to be looking over their shoulders going: 'All right, the variants out there—what are they doing? What are they capable of?" Columbia University epidemiologist Jeffrey Shaman said to The New York Times. "Maybe the general public can go back to not worrying about it so much, but we will have to."

The United States doesn't stand alone, either. The situation in India continues to be horrific, reminding us both of how bad the worst can be and that the U.S. cannot expect to be an island of safety in a world where the pandemic continues to rage.

Gaetz Exposure Deepens With New Evidence Of Trump Pardon Effort

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Reps. Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene were about to kick off a road show, traveling the nation to attack "the radical left" and insufficiently extremist Republicans. And then the other shoe dropped in the ever-developing scandal around Gaetz's apparent habit of paying for sex, in one case allegedly with a minor.

That scandal has been developing for a month, starting with the revelation that Gaetz is under federal investigation as part of a broader sex trafficking investigation involving former Seminole County, Florida, tax collector Joel Greenberg, who is under indictment already. Gaetz initially tried to deflect by claiming his family was being extorted in a bizarre scheme involving a hostage in Iran who is generally believed to be dead—a claim that Gaetz mostly moved on from when it became clear that no one thought it exonerated him.

Revelation after revelation followed: Gaetz had showed nude pictures of women to fellow members of Congress. As a Florida legislator, he participated in a sex game in which points were awarded for sex with different categories of women, including interns. He took a trip to the Bahamas paid for in part by a "marijuana entrepreneur" … and part of what was paid for may have included women.

So we've already heard a lot. Really, we've probably heard more than enough about Matt Gaetz and sex, because even before you get to the predatory behavior, just … ick. But there is more.

Gaetz typically didn't pay women for sex directly — instead, he paid Greenberg, who then paid the women. That means Greenberg knows a lot, and since Greenberg is facing significant legal trouble, he appears to be motivated to talk. But before he started talking to the federal government, Greenberg talked to Roger Stone in late 2020 in hopes that Stone could convince Donald Trump to give him a last-minute pardon.

Greenberg talked to Stone a lot, and The Daily Beast has the receipts in the form of Signal chats between Greenberg and Stone, and a lengthy confession letter Greenberg wrote for Stone to use in his efforts with Trump. Of note, Gaetz had at one point posted a social media picture of himself, Stone, and Greenberg.

In the letter, of which The Daily Beast has multiple drafts, Greenberg describes learning through "an anonymous tip" that a woman—well, as it turned out, girl—in his and Gaetz's sex trafficking scheme was 17 years old.

"Immediately I called the congressman and warned him to stay clear of this person and informed him she was underage," Greenberg wrote. "He was equally shocked and disturbed by this revelation."

They were so shocked and disturbed that they stayed away from the girl only until after she turned 18. She was one of the women paid by Greenberg immediately after Gaetz sent him $900 through Venmo with the note "hit up [her nickname]."

In his communications with Stone, Greenberg was hanging his argument for a pardon in part on the threat to Gaetz. "And while I have not had any communication with MG, he absolutely has to know that the sex charge they hit me with would be what they would hit him with," he wrote in one of the Signal messages. "All he has to is explain to POTUS the situation and his exposure, and it would be very easy to do."

"MG is like a son to POTUS. MG is like a brother to me."

Well, we know how far "like a son" goes with Donald Trump, and now we know how far "like a brother" goes with Matt Gaetz. And to Greenberg, who seems to have been screen-shotting his Signal chats with Stone before they could disappear, in just one of a series of insurance policies he set up for himself should the pardon effort fail, as it did.

Gaetz is defiant and is attempting to remain a significant figure in the Republican Party, as his planned tour with Greene shows. But even before the investigation into him became public, it was serious enough that then-Attorney General William Barr was reportedly taking steps to avoid being photographed near him. Attacking the media will only go so far if and when he faces federal charges.

Despite Pandemic Pressures, Big Banks Screwed Consumers On Overdrafts

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Last year was a difficult one for millions of people in the United States.

It was not so difficult for big banks, and one of the ways the banks raked in revenue was by hitting struggling people with overdraft fees.

During the final quarter of 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic was battering the country, JPMorganChase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo each took in more than $300 million in overdraft fees alone. Those fees are slapped on people who are by definition struggling, and banks often use strategies to maximize the number of fees people pay, like ordering transactions so that the biggest amounts go through first, which lets them charge fees on more, smaller transactions. And it's no thanks to the banks that it wasn't much, much worse—COVID-19 relief from the government protected many people from the worst.

Around one in three checking accounts has at least one overdraft a year, and five percent of checking account holders have 20 or more overdrafts a year, accounting for more than 60 percent of overdraft fees. In 2020, the average overdraft fee was over $33. Many of these fees are triggered by debit card transactions for less than $25 that are repaid within three days.

This is an ongoing story—bank overdraft fee policies have been terrible for years. But it took on new dimensions during the pandemic, with sky-high unemployment creating a financial emergency for so many people.

"Banks could've capped overdraft fees for a certain number of months, or had no fees during the pandemic, but they didn't want to give up a dollar of overdraft revenue in any formal way," Rebecca Borné, senior policy counsel at the Center for Responsible Lending, told The American Prospect's Alexander Sammon. "So what we see now is a return to business as usual, where our largest banks each took over a billion dollars out of the checking accounts of people during one of the worst years in our history. It's a gobsmacking amount of money."

It would have been much worse without COVID-19 relief bills, from the CARES Act to the American Rescue Plan. Check out how Google trend data on searches for "overdraft" tracked the passage of those laws:


After each round of relief payments, you see searches for "overdraft" drop. Because the banks weren't interested in going easy on people being hammered by a once-in-a-century pandemic and the accompanying economic devastation.

Consider it one more reminder that what we need are regulations and laws to protect consumers. There are two prime ways that could happen on this issue. Early in the pandemic, Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) proposed legislation to crack down on overdraft fees during the COVID-19 emergency, banning them altogether for the duration of the emergency and preventing banks from reporting overdrafts to credit reporting agencies—but that didn't get passed. Booker and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) have other legislation on overdraft abuses more generally, but as always, there's that Senate filibuster problem blocking progress.

Under President Biden, though, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) could do a lot more protecting consumers than the agency did under Donald Trump. Biden's nominee to head the CFPB, Rohit Chopra, hasn't yet been confirmed, but he's known as a strong consumer advocate. He could regulate the practice, which is extraordinarily abusive even in non-pandemic times.

Senate Confirms Vanita Gupta To Civil Rights Post Despite GOP Attacks

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

After months of Republican attacks, Vanita Gupta was confirmed Wednesday afternoon as associate attorney general. Vice President Kamala Harris was available to break a tie, but Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) voted to advance Gupta's nomination to a full Senate vote earlier in the day, then followed up in making it a 51 to 49 vote to confirm. Gupta is the first woman of color and the first civil rights lawyer in this role.

Gupta is eminently qualified: She headed the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division under then-President Barack Obama and is the president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. But she's a woman of color who has focused her career on civil rights, which means Republicans see her as an enemy.

Gupta has been the target of nearly $1 million in attack ads by the far-right Judicial Crisis Network, and a group of Republican state attorneys general also attacked her, focusing on her work in the Obama Justice Department heading up investigations of police departments after white officers killed Black people. Those attacks came despite glowing endorsements from many law enforcement leaders. "She always worked with us to find common ground even when that seemed impossible," wrote the head of the nation's largest police union.

At her confirmation hearing, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) sneeringly attacked Gupta for having the nerve to believe that implicit bias is a real thing, trying to turn it around on her by asking: "Against which races do you harbor racial bias?" Cotton also claimed that Gupta supports "decriminalization of all drugs," which she does not, and that she had misled the Senate Judiciary Committee about her stance on decriminalization, which she had not.

The Republican attacks weren't done there. On Wednesday, as the Senate moved toward a vote on Gupta's nomination, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell painted Gupta as having "a record of astoundingly radical positions." The notoriously dishonest McConnell also assailed Gupta's honesty, charging: "She's levied attacks on members of this body, and during the confirmation process, she employed the loosest possible interpretation of her oath to deliver honest testimony." The attacks on Gupta's truthfulness come essentially because she said that she would represent the Biden administration's positions, as she has in the past represented other organizations, be it the Obama Justice Department or the ACLU. This is a standard position for a nominee to take, but when it comes from a woman of color, it's portrayed as a character issue.

Gupta is far from the only woman of color whose confirmation has run into ferocious Republican attacks in recent months. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first American Indian Cabinet member ever, was likewise described as a "radical" during her confirmation process, of which former Sens. Tom Udall and Mark Udall noted, "Were either of us the nominee to lead the Interior Department, we doubt that anyone would be threatening to hold up the nomination or wage a scorched earth campaign warning about 'radical' ideas."

Many of the same Republicans who managed not to hear about any of Donald Trump's most outrageous tweets for four years were extremely well-informed about every strongly worded tweet ever to come from former Office of Management and Budget nominee Neera Tanden. Her nomination was ultimately sunk by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, ostensibly over those tweets, though Manchin had voted to confirm full-on misogynist Twitter troll Richard Grenell as ambassador to Germany under Trump.

Most recently, Republicans pulled out pretty much the same playbook on Kristen Clarke, Biden's nominee to head the Justice Department Civil Rights Division, that they tried on Gupta: She's a radical who cares about civil rights—how dare she! In fact, she's the real racist, whether because she wrote a satire of The Bell Curve as a college student or has called for accountability in police killings of civilians.

If Republicans were distributing their venom equally across Biden's nominees, you'd say, well, they just hate all Democrats. But that's not what's happening here. There's a very clear pattern of especially fierce, personal opposition to women of color, and it doesn't seem like Senate Republicans mind how obvious it is, either.

Report: Capitol Police Warned Days Before Jan. 6 That Congress Was Targeted

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The Capitol Police absolutely did know that the crowd of Trump supporters on January 6 was threatening violence, and that "Congress itself is the target," a new inspector general's report confirms. But the agency's leadership not only failed to act on that, it did the reverse, not allowing the Civil Disturbance Unit to use its most serious crowd-control equipment and techniques.

The warning from a Capitol Police intelligence assessment three days before the attack could not have been much more explicit, noting that a map of the Capitol's underground tunnels had been posted online.

"Unlike previous postelection protests, the targets of the pro-Trump supporters are not necessarily the counterprotesters as they were previously, but rather Congress itself is the target on the 6th," the inspector general's report quotes the threat assessment. "Stop the Steal's propensity to attract white supremacists, militia members, and others who actively promote violence may lead to a significantly dangerous situation for law enforcement and the general public alike."

Skip forward to Jan. 5—the day the FBI's Norfolk field office forwarded a social media thread with threats like "Get violent … stop calling this a march, or rally, or a protest. Go there ready for war. We get our President or we die. NOTHING else will achieve this goal"—and Capitol Police leadership concluded, in a plan for handling the next day's events, that there were "no specific known threats related to the joint session of Congress."

In February, Steven Sund, the former chief of the Capitol Police, testified to the Senate, saying "None of the intelligence we received predicted what actually occurred." He added, "These criminals came prepared for war."

Yes, they did. As they repeatedly pledged on social media to do. As the Capitol Police intelligence assessment warned days before the attack. As Sund and his leadership somehow … overlooked, as they planned for the kind of protest that could be controlled by the simplest metal barricades and an underequipped, understaffed roster of police.

As a result, "Heavier, less-lethal weapons"—you know, the kind you've seen used against far, far less threatening protesters time and time again if they're carrying Black Lives Matter or Water is Life signs—"were not used that day because of orders from leadership."

The report from Michael Bolton, the inspector general for the Capitol Police, also notes that there were significant equipment failures that day, as well as that training and audits of equipment hadn't been kept up.

But as damning as it is, Bolton's report leaves significant questions, Dan Froomkin of Press Watch argues. Froomkin obtained part of the report—which is not public—and wrote that "the part of the report I saw doesn't get into why officials weren't more alarmed. It doesn't address the either covert or overt role of racism. I see no sign that, to this day, anyone—not the inspector general, not congressional overseers, and certainly not journalists—has gotten hold of contemporaneous correspondence between the key players or any other evidence that would offer insight into their states of mind." That's significant.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) has called Bolton to testify before a House panel on Thursday. There should be questions about this, because the investigation needs to keep going deeper. We know the Capitol Police failed. This inspector general's report tells us more about how they failed. Why did they fail?

Republicans are trying to prevent a serious assessment of what happened, getting in the way of the 9/11 Commission-style independent investigation House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called for. If Republicans make that kind of investigation impossible, she told USA Today, investigations by existing congressional committees will continue, and a select committee is "always an option." That said, "It's not my preference in any way. My preference would be to have a commission." But Republicans have their reasons for wanting to keep what happened on January 6—and in particular what motivated the insurrectionists—obscured. They may not be able to stop investigations, but they especially don't want an investigation from an independent commission that will command added media and public attention.

This inspector general's report once again makes clear why it's so desperately important that we learn what really happened.

McConnell’s Political Threat To Corporations Is Backfiring

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Apparently Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's threat to corporations to "stay out of politics" didn't have the result he intended. Big business seems to be getting more serious about pushing back as Republicans continue to push voter suppression measures in states across the country. More than 100 top corporate executives joined a Zoom call Saturday to discuss how to apply pressure against such legislation, The Washington Post reports.

Companies represented included Delta, American, United, Starbucks, Target, LinkedIn, Levi Strauss, and Boston Consulting Group, as well as Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, the Post reports, and the discussion included "potential ways to show they opposed the legislation, including by halting donations to politicians who support the bills and even delaying investments in states that pass the restrictive measures."

The call, which lasted over an hour, "shows they are not intimidated by the flak. They are not going to be cowed," according to one of its organizers, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a Yale management professor. "They felt very strongly that these voting restrictions are based on a flawed premise and are dangerous."

That "flawed premise" is in fact Donald Trump's big lie, which even Georgia Republican Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan has made clear, saying on CNN, "This is really the fallout from the 10 weeks of misinformation that flew in from former President Donald Trump."

Before Georgia passed the instantly notorious voter suppression law that started the blowback from corporations, some top Georgia businesses worked behind the scenes to try to blunt the bill's worst provisions. But once the law passed, they saw that that wasn't going to cut it, prompting the more public corporate opposition to attacks on voting rights.

Republicans in Georgia responded to that corporate opposition with threats of retaliation, including a failed (for now) attempt to strip Delta Air Lines of a major tax break. In Texas, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick claimed: "Texans are fed up with corporations that don't share our values trying to dictate public policy." And, of course, there was that "warning" from McConnell, though he quickly tried to walk it back a little when he saw how badly it played.

All this—the voter suppression measures that prompt blowback, the sudden turn against their usual corporate allies—comes because, first, Donald Trump lost and couldn't admit it and made it an article of faith for his base that elections are being stolen, and second, because Republicans know that their electoral future depends on making it harder to vote, especially for Black and brown people, low-income people, and young people.

Democrats, meanwhile, are trying to protect the right to vote and expand access to voting, from Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms trying to mitigate the impact of the new Georgia anti-voting law to House Democrats passing historic voting reforms—which, of course, Senate Republicans are blocking. But this can't be framed as a partisan fight. It's about whether the United States really values its democracy. Whether voting is a right that all eligible people can equally access, or a privilege easily extended to some while others are forced to overcome barrier after barrier to use it. Whether our voting laws are made in the name of justice or in the name of Trump's big lie. If you're on the wrong side of that, it's not a routine partisan issue. It's a stain on your name and on your soul.

How Clarence And Ginni Thomas Soil The Supreme Court's Ethical Standards

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, far-right activist Virginia "Ginni" Thomas, have quite the scheme going. She takes in dark money contributions to her Tea Party-connected nonprofit, Liberty Central, and organizes Republicans on exactly the kind of issues that often reach the Supreme Court. He sits on the Supreme Court and never recuses himself as justices are called on by federal law to do in certain situations, including ones where their spouses have financial interests.

And this is going on while Justice Stephen Breyer is solemnly warning that expanding the Supreme Court might be a problem because "Structural alteration motivated by the perception of political influence can only feed" the perception that the court is guided by politics, "further eroding that trust." As if that ship had not long since sailed.

That ship sailed when then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell held open a seat on the court for nearly a year of then-President Barack Obama's term to give Republicans a chance to fill it. It sailed again when McConnell then rushed through the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett weeks before an election. And it has sailed repeatedly thanks to the actions of the Thomases.

Most recently that's come up on the issue of big tech, with Republicans feeling censored by the likes of Facebook, Twitter, and Google, despite reams of evidence that Republicans in fact receive kid-glove treatment from Facebook in particular.

Virginia Thomas has been sending out email blasts promoting a website and "influence network" about the "corporate tyranny" of big tech. Clarence Thomas wrote a concurring opinion in a case dealing with Donald Trump's habit of blocking his critics on Twitter, railing against the control "of so much speech in the hands of a few private parties" and the "glaring concern" for free speech.

On the one hand, the fundraiser and organizer raking in contributions and whipping up opposition; on the other hand, the justice proclaiming on the law.

This is not a new story. Virginia Thomas started Liberty Central in 2009 with secret donations enabled by the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision that same year. The very existence of those secret donations raised ethical questions, legal ethicists said at the time.

"It's shocking that you would have a Supreme Court justice sitting on a case that might implicate in a very fundamental way the interests of someone who might have contributed to his wife's organization," Deborah Rhode, director of the Stanford University Center on the Legal Profession, told The New York Times in 2010.

"The fact that we can't find that out is the first problem," she said. Not to mention, "how can the public form a judgment about propriety if it doesn't have the basic underlying facts?"

Virginia Thomas and Liberty Central also fought fiercely against the Affordable Care Act, which has of course ended up in front of the Supreme Court repeatedly. But while Supreme Court justices are supposed to recuse themselves in cases of conflict of interest, they get to decide when to do so. No one can make them, which means Clarence Thomas can be just as unethical as he likes.

So, no, Justice Breyer, expanding the court—something with lots of historical precedent—or otherwise reforming it would not be what undermined trust by creating the perception of political motivation. You have only to look around you on the court to see what's done that.

Georgia Sheriff Who Dismissed Racist Motive In Shootings Posted Anti-Asian Slur

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Robert Aaron Long, the suspect in fatal shootings at three Atlanta-area businesses, was charged with eight counts of murder on Wednesday, with six of his victims being Asian or Asian American women. Four of the victims still have not been identified by authorities. One survivor, Elcias Hernandez-Ortiz, is in critical condition.

Law enforcement officials have said it's not clear that Long's motive was racist, but there are multiple reasons to doubt this. For one thing, one of the officers advancing this narrative was Capt. Jay Baker of the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office. Long "was pretty much fed up, kind of at the end of his rope, and yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did," Baker said. It didn't take long for Buzzfeed to locate a racist and indeed specifically anti-Asian post on Baker's own Facebook page: a picture of a T-shirt calling COVID-19 an "IMPORTED VIRUS FROM CHY-NA."

"Loved my shirt," Baker wrote accompanying the picture. "Get yours while they last."

This is maybe not the best guy to assess what a racist motive looks like, and it certainly helps explain how he, in his role as sheriff's department spokesman, seemed at least as attuned to the suspect's basic humanity as to that of the victims.

As Rep. Ted Lieu responded to the "bad day" excuse from Baker, "All of us have experienced bad days. But we don't go to three Asian businesses and shoot up Asian employees." Lieu is calling for "the FBI to conduct its own independent investigation."

"We know hate when we see it," Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock said on MSNBC. "We'll get into the nuances of it, but only hate drives you to take eight precious lives in the way that he did."

While Long told investigators he had a "sexual addiction" and saw the spas and massage businesses he attacked as a "temptation," that hardly eliminates race as a factor considering that, as Twitter user David Dennis Jr. pointed out, "He was so wildly addicted to sex that he drove pass all the strip clubs in ATLANTA to only target establishments where he knows Asian women work." (If you haven't been to Atlanta, please trust that there are a lot of strip clubs.)

Multiple stereotypes of Asian people could have simultaneously fed into the specific targeting of women of Asian descent in these shootings. Helen Kim Ho, a Korean American founder of the group Asian Americans Advancing Justice in Atlanta, listed some of those for The Washington Post: "We're not really Americans, we're perpetually foreigners, and that idea plays out with women as being oversexualized," she said. "All of that had to have played out in this man's own mind. In addition to the unspoken notion that Asian people are easy targets."

"Racially motivated violence should be called out for exactly what it is and we must stop making excuses and rebranding it as economic anxiety or sexual addiction," Rep. Marilyn Strickland said on the House floor on Wednesday. "As a woman who is Black and Korean I am acutely aware of how it feels to be erased or ignored." In this case, specifically, the racial component of a mass killing is being erased and ignored by law enforcement.

There has been a surge of anti-Asian racism in the U.S. over the past year, with the group Stop AAPI Hate tracking 3,800 incidents, 68% of them targeting women. This came as Donald Trump and other prominent Republicans repeatedly blamed the coronavirus pandemic on China.

Aysha Qamar has compiled a list of resources for putting an end to anti-Asian hate.

Congress Debates Bipartisan Commission To Investigate Capitol Attack

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

A bipartisan Senate inquiry into the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol is underway, but it's unlikely to be the only major investigation. Congressional leaders are also talking about a bipartisan commission like the 9/11 Commission, though there's disagreement on what that would look like.

Democrats are reportedly drafting a bill to set up a commission with 11 members: two chosen by each of the top congressional leaders in the two parties (House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell) and three chosen by President Biden, with one of Biden's choices serving as chair. McConnell, however, is unhappy with that plan, describing it as a "bizarre partisan construct."

A competing Republican bill would have each of the top four congressional leaders appoint two members, Biden appoint a chair, and McConnell appoint a vice chair. (So McConnell would get the most choices? Hmmm.)

The 9/11 Commission was evenly balanced between Democrats and Republicans, but while it was successful at getting its recommendations passed and is now being cited as an uncontroversial model, its original chair and vice chair both stepped down and there were a series of conflicts over its work. Let's not allow the pretense that any such major investigation can happen free from disagreement or politics.

Jordan Tama, an associate professor at American University's School of International Service, has studied independent commissions going well beyond the 9/11 Commission. At Just Security, he writes that two factors are key to a successful commission: its credibility, and a carefully defined scope for investigation. Too narrow a scope, and the investigation doesn't get to the root causes of its subject. Too broad, and it can lose focus.

In this case, Tama argues, the scope of the investigation "should include examining how the attack was planned and carried out; the roles and motivations of extremist groups that were involved in it; the use of social media and other digital communications to facilitate it; how and to what extent political leaders inspired or contributed to it; whether foreign governments contributed to it; and what federal, state, and local law enforcement and intelligence agencies knew, did, and failed to do."

Similarly, writing at Lawfare, Herb Lin and Amy Zegart argued in January for a commission tasked with 10 major areas of inquiry, including law enforcement planning, intelligence warnings, a timeline of the events of January 6, the involvement of U.S. governmental actors and foreign actors, and, finally, "What changes in law, rules, regulation or policy for both the executive and legislative branches are necessary to reduce the likelihood of future violent attacks for political purposes against American democratic institutions, facilities and leaders? What would be the impact of such changes on privacy and civil liberties in the United States?"

The composition of the commission will be critical to its credibility, Tama further argues. He supports an evenly divided commission, but beyond that, "commissions are more likely to conduct their work in a bipartisan manner and reach consensus on their findings and recommendations when their members are not holding public office or engaged in other political roles during their tenure." Two out of three commissions he's researched have issued a unanimous report, and those that haven't have seen fewer of their recommendations adopted.

But even in the course of an argument for an evenly divided commission, Tama acknowledges the challenge: "Assuming they are both given some appointment power, will Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy name commissioners who will be willing to follow the facts and support corrective measures even when Trump and his supporters deny or denounce those facts and proposals?"

That's the problem, isn't it? Choosing Republican former officials—people not worried about a primary challenge—would certainly open up the likelihood of a Republican who was willing to follow the facts. After all, a stream of Republicans have retired from Congress because they couldn't or wouldn't hack it in Trump's party, and still more former officials in Republican administrations have spoken out in recent months. There are plenty of longtime professional Republicans who are going to be willing to do an investigation that at least has a chance of implicating Donald Trump. But those are unlikely to be the people that Kevin McCarthy would choose, and McConnell, too, is questionable on that front. We're unlikely to be talking about a commission that includes former Rep. Justin Amash, former Gov. John Kasich, or former Sen. Jeff Flake. Or even Trump's own former defense secretary, Jim Mattis, for that matter. (Unless Democrats choose them in a fit of nonpartisanship or McConnell decides he's not going to be around to try for Senate majority leader again in 2023 and he really, really wants his obituaries to characterize him as a statesman.)

That leaves a very tricky balance between, on the one hand, a commission that Republicans will relentlessly demonize as a partisan Democratic operation and, on the other hand, a commission that can never succeed because its Republican members are dedicated to protecting the leader of their party. We'll see how it goes.

New Jan. 6 Timeline Shows Police And Pentagon Brass Failed To Defend Capitol

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

As a mob of Trump-supporting insurrectionists attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, the Capitol Police were not ready, and a National Guard deployment was delayed. Those are facts that cannot be seriously contested. The details of how and why law enforcement agencies were so unprepared and by whom the National Guard deployment was delayed, though, are questions that are going to be fought out for some time to come.

The New York Times has a new timeline of the requests for help from the National Guard -- raising questions that Steven Sund, the former chief of the Capitol Police, will no doubt face when he testifies to Congress on Tuesday.

This is how the timeline breaks down:

1:09 PM: The mob breaks through police barriers and Sund calls the House sergeant-at-arms, Paul Irving, to ask for the National Guard. (Irving, like Sund, has since resigned.) Irving tells Sund he needs to take the request "up the chain of command."

1:40 PM: After a 30-minute delay, Irving takes that request to staff of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

1:43 PM: Staff can be seen on video of the House proceedings passing Pelosi a note and asking for permission to call in the National Guard. Pelosi immediately says yes, and asks whether then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell needs to be involved. Irving and the then-Senate sergeant-at-arms (also since resigned) Michael Stenger were already meeting with McConnell's staff.

2:10 PM: Irving lets Sund know that Pelosi and McConnell approved the request for National Guard support. But at this point, the request still needs to go to the Pentagon, since Washington, D.C., is not a state and its National Guard is under federal control.

2:30 PM: In a conference call including Sund and local Washington, D.C., leaders, Lt. Gen. Walter E. Piatt, the director of the Army staff, says he will recommend against sending the National Guard because "I don't like the visual of the National Guard standing a line with the Capitol in the background."

3:04 PM: The Pentagon approves a National Guard deployment.

5:40 PM: 154 National Guard troops arrive at the Pentagon.

But by then, the damage was mostly done. Around 2:44, the mob made it into the Senate chamber and, on the House side, an officer shot and killed Ashli Babbitt as she tried to climb through a window to get to the House chamber. Around 4:25, the mob was beating police officers with flag poles and dragging them down the Capitol steps. Around the same time, a member of the mob was trampled to death.

Maybe the National Guard deployment couldn't have arrived by 2:44 even if everyone had immediately acted on Sund's 1:09 request. But it could have been there by 4:25. And, while every minute of that hour and 55-minute delay after Sund's first ask for help will need to be accounted for, the bigger question is why it was such an emergency to begin with. Why the Capitol Police just had a few little barriers up that the insurrectionists could go straight through and had only 170 officers in riot gear. Why the small number of National Guard troops active in the District that day were blocked from "interacting with" the crowd of Trump supporters in town at Trump's bidding. Why the Pentagon has changed its story about the lead-up to Jan. 6 and that 2:30 phone call. Why Sund had told members of Congress that he was totally prepared for what was coming on Jan. 6, only to be so badly underprepared. Why Irving waited half an hour before asking Pelosi for permission to ask for a National Guard deployment, which he could have asked for on his own anyway.

We know why this mob was in Washington, D.C.: because Trump asked them to be there. We know what they wanted to do: prevent Congress from certifying the results of the election. And maybe "hang Mike Pence" if they had the chance. But their unprecedented success, the first time the Capitol has been stormed since the War of 1812, the first time the Confederate flag has been carried inside the Capitol ever, that was due to failures at every level of law enforcement to take the threat seriously and respond accordingly. The leaders involved in that failure need to answer for it, in detail.

Dominion Voting Systems Files $1.3B Lawsuit Against MyPillow Guy

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Like many things about the Trump era and its lingering remnants, the news that a voting machine maker is suing a pillow executive for $1.3 billion sounds faintly ridiculous—but is part of a very serious effort to undermine democracy. The big lie, pushed by Donald Trump for months, is that the election was stolen, that President Biden won only through theft. The specific lie involved in this lawsuit is that voting machines made by Dominion Voting Systems deleted votes for Trump or double-counted votes for Biden or were manipulated by foreign governments.

But the specific lie matters—in the world at large, not just to Dominion—because of the power of the big lie. Trump spent months pushing the claim that the election was stolen, delegitimizing Biden's presidency, and polls show that large majorities of Republicans—65 percent in one poll, 76 percent in another—believe there was widespread fraud or that Biden's win was not legitimate. And in this, as in so many things, Trump continues to lead the institutional Republican Party. On Sunday, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise went on ABC's This Week and repeatedly insisted that Biden's win was related to there being "a few states that did not follow their state laws."

That right there is all the evidence you need that Trump has made the effort to undermine U.S. democracy mainstream in the Republican Party.

Dominion's lawsuit against MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, which also names MyPillow, relates to a less establishment-friendly form of the big lie, but it's all part of the same effort, and Lindell wasn't pushing his Dominion claims alone. This lawsuit follows similar ones by Dominion against Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, and voting company Smartmatic similarly sued Giuliani, Powell, Fox News, and some Fox hosts for $2.7 billion.

In the lawsuit, Dominion alleges that "Acting in concert with allies and media outlets that were determined to curry favor with one of their biggest sponsors and to promote a false preconceived narrative about the 2020 election, Lindell launched a defamatory marketing campaign about Dominion that reached millions of people and caused enormous harm to Dominion."

As for those media outlets, Lindell paid to air his lies about the election and Dominion in a two-hour documentary that ran on One America News. OAN offered an extensive disclaimer about how the documentary was just Lindell's opinion, "not the product of OAN's reporting." But it also promoted the show as "a never-before-seen report breaking down election fraud evidence & showing how the unprecedented level of voter fraud was committed in the 2020 Presidential Election." The video was subsequently pulled from YouTube for violating the platform's presidential election integrity policy.

OAN, one of Trump's current favorite media outlets since he turned against Fox News, has been the target of a defamation suit by a Dominion executive and, following cease and desist letters from Dominion itself, quietly removed a bunch of election-related conspiracy theory coverage from its website in January.

So this is very much not just a voting machine maker suing a pillow maker. Lindell, as absurd as it may seem, is part of a much bigger effort to overturn or at least throw doubt on the results of a presidential election, an effort that started with someone who, as absurd as it may seem, was then the sitting president of the United States. It was pushed in its extreme forms by the latter's lawyers, including a once-respected former mayor of New York City, and widely aired on more than one right-wing television news network. The big lie led directly to a deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol aimed at stopping Congress from certifying the election results. The lie continues, in a slightly watered-down form, to be spread by one of the top Republicans in the House of Representatives on a major network's flagship Sunday news talk show. The veneer of absurdity does not make this any less serious.

In Texas Storm Disaster, Biden Acts As A President For All Americans

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Texas is being battered by a winter storm, causing rolling electrical blackouts while unplowed streets have people trapped at home without heat or water. At least 2.5 million people don't have power in the state, several times the number that lost power during Hurricane Harvey, with record winter demand in the cold weather and turbines and other equipment freezing.

In response, President Biden has approved an emergency declaration, authorizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency "to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures," with 75 percent federal funding.

Oh. So this is what it's like to have a president who considers himself responsible for the whole country, not just the states that voted for him.

By contrast, Donald Trump repeatedly delayed disaster aid to parts of the country he didn't think were sufficiently pro-Trump. After Hurricane Maria, in 2017, Trump repeatedly whined about disaster relief funding for Puerto Rico, assailed Congress for passing too much funding—when in fact it was inadequate—and only changed his tune as the election approached. When Puerto Rico was hit by an earthquake in early 2020, Trump again forced the island to wait for needed aid, while imposing harsh restrictions on how aid could be spent.

California, too, bore the brunt of Trump's contempt for anyone outside of his own base. In October, 2020, he initially rejected a request for disaster assistance as California fought six major wildfires, before reversing course days later. That came after a 2019 threat to cut off disaster funding related to wildfires. And after a similar threat in 2018. And a January 2019 attempt to cut off aid to victims of the 2018 wildfires.

Puerto Rico waited years, and never got the relief it needed. California got its aid in more timely fashion, but under constant threat and abuse, with the ever-present fear that Trump would really follow through on his threats. Texas got its emergency declaration basically as soon as Gov. Greg Abbott requested it. Because, as Biden repeatedly said during his campaign and in his inauguration speech, he wants to be a "president for all Americans." Even the ones who didn't vote for him.

Of course, it's not just Trump. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and John Cornyn (R-TX) were right out with a letter echoing Abbott's request for aid—yet another reminder that both Cruz and Cornyn voted against relief funds for Hurricane Sandy in 2013.

Texans are being asked to conserve energy by not running major appliances where possible—put off that load of laundry for a few days, for instance—and by turning their heat all the way down to 68, a number that is an indictment of the culture, because seriously, 68 is ridiculously warm, put on a sweater and stop wasting energy.

That said, it's important to understand that while this is weather that for many parts of the country would not be a particularly big deal, it's truly a serious problem in an area that does not have the infrastructure to handle significant amounts of snow or very low temperatures. This is absolutely an emergency. It's a good thing the United States now has a president who will respond appropriately, without threats and tantrums. It's unfortunate Texas still has senators who won't return the favor next time the state asking for assistance is one they find it convenient to level culture war attacks on.

Georgia Authorities Now Probing Trump’s Attempt To Overturn Election

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The Georgia secretary of state's office has launched an investigation into Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the state's presidential election results. Those efforts included a January call to Brad Raffensperger, the head of the office, in which Trump pressured Raffensperger to "find 11,780 votes"—the number needed to put Trump ahead of President Biden—as well as a call to the state's lead voter fraud investigator and public pressure on Georgia officials up to and including Gov. Brian Kemp. In the wake of Trump's mention on the Raffensperger call of a "never-Trumper U.S. attorney," Byung J. Pak abruptly resigned as U.S. attorney.

There's a lot to investigate, in other words. The current investigation is "fact-finding and administrative in nature," coming in response to complaints the secretary of state's office has received. The findings of this inquiry will go to the state's board of elections, which is controlled by Republicans (as is the secretary of state's office). The board of elections then decides whether to refer the complaint to the state attorney general.

This investigation is causing David Worley, the single Democrat on the board of elections, to hold off on introducing his own motion to refer Trump to the Fulton County district attorney at the board's next meeting. "Any investigation of a statutory violation is a potential criminal investigation depending on the statute involved," Worley said, and in Trump's case, "The complaint that was received involved a criminal violation."

At the same time, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, a Democrat, is considering whether to launch her own criminal inquiry.

"Former prosecutors said Mr. Trump's calls might run afoul of at least three state laws," The New York Times reports. "One is criminal solicitation to commit election fraud, which can be either a felony or a misdemeanor; as a felony, it is punishable by at least a year in prison. There is also a related conspiracy charge, which can be prosecuted either as a misdemeanor or a felony. A third law, a misdemeanor offense, bars 'intentional interference' with another person's 'performance of election duties.'"

It's hard to listen to audio of Trump's call with Raffensperger and conclude he didn't violate at least one of these laws, in particular the criminal solicitation to commit election fraud. But we are talking about a Georgia state government controlled by Republicans, and a U.S. justice system that is not built to deliver accountability to powerful people.

QAnon Rep. Greene Endorsed Murder Of Pelosi On Facebook

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene is not just the QAnon congresswoman. Not just the 9/11 truther, Sandy Hook and Parkland were staged congresswoman. She's also, we're learning, the pro-assassination congresswoman.

Greene liked other people's Facebook comments calling for, in one case, "a bullet to the head" for Speaker Nancy Pelosi and in other cases for executing FBI agents. When Greene posted about the Iran deal, a commenter asked about hanging former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to which Greene responded "Stage is being set. Players are being put in place. We must be patient. This must be done perfectly or liberal judges would let them off."

At another point, she, as Media Matters describes it, "endorsed a conspiracy theory that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was videotaped murdering a child during a satanic ritual and then ordered a hit on a police officer to cover it up." This is apparently a theory that people have because ... it's not enough to disagree about policy?

These posts and likes by Greene are not in the distant past, to be clear. They are in 2018 and 2019. And they are not the first outrageous, incendiary, dangerous social media activity we've seen from her.

Greene responded to the discoveries with a non-denial: "Over the years, I've had teams of people manage my pages. Many posts have been liked. Many posts have been shared. Some did not represent my views. Especially the ones that CNN is about to spread across the internet." Okay, Marjorie. So come out and tell us in detail which of these things you don't endorse.

This is someone who has incited violence against Democrats since joining Congress, and who is suspected of helping to plan the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. So yeah, we're going to need specifics about which part of assassinating the speaker of the House and hanging the former president and secretary of state she doesn't really like.

True to form, Greene then went on the attack against people criticizing her for literally endorsing assassination. When Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (that's his Twitter handle, and it's fabulous) called her social media positions "dangerous and unacceptable," Greene attacked himfor supporting abortion rights, concluding, "'Pastor,' being a heretic is far worse than fake news." When former FBI agent Peter Strzok tweeted about her, well, Greene's response was predictable.

Greene should be expelled from Congress. Until that happens, she's House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's problem, and according to his spokesperson, "These comments are deeply disturbing and Leader McCarthy plans to have a conversation with the Congresswoman about them." Yeah. Does it seem like McCarthy is the kind of guy who's going to deliver the strong talk that gets Greene to back down? More likely that he'll come out of that conversation QAnon-curious himself.

Greene isn't going to stop embracing dangerous conspiracy theories. But the House could ensure that she is no longer embracing dangerous conspiracy theories from within Congress by expelling her, and it's increasingly clear that's what needs to happen.

WATCH: Impeachment Trial Will Feature Video Of Trump’s Insurrection Incitement

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The House impeachment managers delivered the article of impeachment to the Senate on Monday, and the Senate convened Tuesday afternoon to issue a summons to Donald Trump for his second impeachment trial. But the trial itself won't begin until February 9, leaving Trump time to try to find a second lawyer willing to take on his defense. South Carolina lawyer Butch Bowers will lead the defense, but other lawyers are proving reluctant to associate themselves with the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, in addition to very reasonable concerns that Trump won't pay them.

While Republicans are trying to forestall the trial by arguing that Trump can't be tried now that he's no longer in office, President Joe Biden told CNN on Monday that "I think it has to happen," because, while the trial may be cause delays in his own agenda, there would be "a worse effect if it didn't happen."

Tuesday, Jan 26, 2021 · 3:42:42 PM EST · Laura Clawson
Rand Paul's effort to kill the impeachment trial because Trump is no longer in office fails, but only five Republicans vote against Paul. And no, Mitch McConnell is not one of them.

In addition to their reliance on the procedural claim that a former president can't face an impeachment trial, the delay in beginning the trial will give Senate Republicans time to decide that what's past is past and the threat to their own lives should be waved off as irrelevant—but during that time there may also be further revelations about Trump's efforts to illegally retain power. So the wait could cut either way, or both at once.

Once the trial begins, the House impeachment managers are expected to use video from the attack, including video like one assembled by Just Security showing the response of the rally crowd on January 6 as Trump exhorted them to march to the Capitol. Footage of the mob inside the Capitol could remind senators of just what that felt like—but many Republicans have shown that they are more afraid of that mob coming after them again in one form or another if they don't support Trump at all times. "There are only a handful of Republicans and shrinking who will vote against him," predicts Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is continuing his service as Trump's lapdog.

Since Trump is now a private citizen, his impeachment trial won't require the services of Chief Justice John Roberts. Instead, Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Senate president pro tempore, will preside. Some Republicans are trying to make an issue of the lack of Roberts, but only a sitting president merits the chief justice, and that is not Donald Trump. Leahy is firmly pledging total procedural fairness, saying "I don't think there's any senator who—over the 40-plus years I've been here—that would say that I am anything but impartial in voting on procedure." And no kidding—it's as likely that Democrats should worry he'll bend so far backward to show he's fair that he'll form a one-man loop.

Conviction remains unlikely because Trump continues to own the Republican Party too thoroughly for it to be likely that 17 senators will be able to admit to the seriousness of inciting an insurrection that threatened their lives. Which is saying something about just how much of a cult this is. But it's important to hold the trial—especially with evidence still coming out about both the seriousness of the attack and the scope of Trump's efforts to overturn the election.