Monthly Archives: January 2021

Indict & Arrest Trump — Charge with Sedition & Felony Murder

Not surprisingly, Republican senators have already decided they have no interest in addressing the January 6 Trump-inspired attack on the U.S. Capitol in an effort to steal the election from Joe Biden. Most of them have voted that it is unconstitutional to entertain impeachment since Trump has left office. The English translation of this is that “impeachment ceases to be available unless it can be brought and tried before the president leaves office so anything he does, no matter how serious, in the closing weeks of his presidency, is immune.” More on that in a moment.

The Supreme Court appears to have added its imprimatur, without explanation or noted dissent, to the extraordinary proposition that violations of the emoluments clauses are also unavailable after a presidency ends even if suits were initiated during the presidency.

If all that is correct and it is also not lawful to indict the president for crimes during the presidency, as the Department of Justice has twice opined (wrongly, in my view), we have effectively overturned the balance of power created by the constitutional framers when they created the three branches of the federal government with separate counterbalancing powers. The imperial presidency, as declared by Trump (“I have an Article II, where I have to the right to do whatever I want as president”) has arrived.

If so, the country is in the most dangerous place since the period just before the Civil War. This raises the question of what the United States government should do if Trump’s supporters, emboldened by what they believe was a victory at the Capitol, return to attack the government again. I address this specifically at the end.

But first, as I write, the Republican leadership of the House and Senate are meeting with Trump in Mar-a-Lago. No one will ever know what they are discussing, but, given recent events and the continued obeisance of Republican legislators to Trump’s dominance, it is not outlandish to suggest that they are considering further steps to overthrow the government. Trump representatives, enablers and acolytes meanwhile are aggressively promoting false narratives that the violence on January 6 was led by “antifa” and other infiltrators and, despite overwhelming video and other evidence, Trump and his people are faultless.

Let’s begin with a short lesson in the applicable law.

“Sedition,” or more fully, “seditious conspiracy,” means,

If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to ,,, oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years or both. [18 USC 2384] [bolding mine]

As with most legal matters of import, this is more complicated than it first appears. As noted in https://criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-charges/sedition.html,

Simply advocating for the use of force … in most cases is protected as free speech under the First Amendment. For example, two or more people who give public speeches suggesting the need for a total revolution “by any means necessary” have not necessarily conspired to overthrow the government. Rather, they’re just sharing their opinions, however unsavory. But actively planning such an action (distributing guns, working out the logistics of an attack, actively opposing lawful authority, etc.) could be considered a seditious conspiracy. Ultimately, the goal is to prevent threats against the United States while protecting individuals’ First Amendment rights, which isn’t always such a clear distinction.

Of course, there are lawyers who will argue that nothing that happened at the January 6 Trump rally was outside the protection of the First Amendment. There are others who strongly disagree, me included. See https://bit.ly/39vCK80

The critical point here, in my view, is this: Donald Trump was not just another angry man voicing his grievances to a like-minded audience. If he were just that, the First Amendment would likely protect him. But, no,  Trump was President of the United States and still subject to the oath of office he took in 2017 to “faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and … preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Trump therefore had an affirmative duty to act to prevent and defend against any action that would interfere with the execution of Congress’s official constitutionally-mandated duty to validate and count the Electoral College votes. He also had an affirmative duty to protect federal property. He did not so act, and for that reason alone should lose any protection that might arguably arise from the First Amendment for his speech that preceded, for the most part, the January 6 attack. I say “preceded for the most part” because there is evidence that some of the assaulting force was already at the Capitol when Trump began speaking at noon.

Continuing with our over-brief summary of the law, “conspiracy” is also complicated but not terribly so:

A criminal conspiracy exists when two or more people agree to commit almost any unlawful act, then take some action toward its completion. The action taken need not itself be a crime, but it must indicate that those involved in the conspiracy knew of the plan and intended to break the law. A person may be convicted of conspiracy even if the actual crime was never committed ….

… an agreement may be implied from the circumstances…. [such as attending a meeting to plan the crime]

… individuals in the conspiracy must intend to agree, and all must intend to achieve the outcome.

… at least one co-conspirator [but only one] must take some concrete step in furtherance of the plan.

Finally, “felony murder” is chargeable when in the commission of a felony (which breaching the Capitol & attacking Capitol Police were) someone is killed, all of the felons are guilty of felony murder even if they had no specific role in the killing. Illustration: you and your buddy rob a bank. He goes in, you merely wait for him and drive the get-a-way car, he shoots and kills a bank teller. You are guilty of felony-murder.

Now to the known facts.

As reported at https://bit.ly/3rdBtJ,1 and elsewhere, the night before the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, a private meeting assembled in Trump’s private residence at the Trump International Hotel in Washington. Reporting indicates that the following people attended the meeting:

Donald Trump Jr., eldest son of the president

Eric Trump, second-eldest son of the president

Michael Flynn, former National Security Advisor to the president

Peter Navarro, Assistant to the President, among other things

Corey Lewandowski, 2016 Trump campaign manager

David Bossie, 2016 Trump deputy campaign manager

Adam Piper, executive director of the Republican Attorneys General Association

Tommy Tuberville, United States senator from the State of Alabama

Rudy Giuliani, personal attorney to the President of the United States

Kimberly Guilfoyle, girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr

Michael Lindell, Trump donor and MyPillow CEO

Charles W. Herbster, National Chairman of the Agriculture and Rural Advisory Committee for the Trump administration

The meeting was confirmed in an attendee’s Facebook post late on January 5 that ends with “TRUMP WILL RETAIN THE PRESIDENCY!!!”

Senator Tuberville claims he was not at the Trump Hotel on January 5, but an Instagram photo of him at the hotel with two other people indicates otherwise. We can only wonder why the Senator would mislead about his presence.

To be clear, there is no report thus far that Donald Trump attended the meeting in person or by phone. Trump’s whereabouts that night would almost certainly have been noted by the White House media if he had been driven to his hotel. It beggars the imagination, however, to believe that this cast of characters was working independently of the president, given all the circumstances and what occurred the next day.

The primary report notes:

Not only does this meeting appear to confirm that Trump’s team helped orchestrate the events of January 6, but that it participated in the calibration of those events to exert maximum “pressure” on members of Congress in the midst of them executing a grave constitutional duty. Moreover, it participated in that calibration in the presence of a member of the United States Senate, who was therefore—we can now conclude, from the reporting of the Omaha World Herald—working in private with the president’s team to advise Trump on how to generate that maximum pressure on his Senate peers….

While we cannot know if these co-conspirators discussed the possibility of violence on January 6, that they contemplated the crime that most of the January 6 insurrectionists have now been charged with—Unlawfully Entering a Restricted Building—is all but certain, as is the fact that the purpose of such entries was to put improper pressure on government officials to reverse course on a government action.

In simpler terms, the purpose of the January 5 meeting at the Trump International Hotel in D.C. was arguably seditious conspiracy—as it appears to have been intended to promote and incite criminal acts by a mob whose purpose was to intimidate federal officials engaged in the certification of a democratically elected branch of government.

Much of the article cited above is speculation, but what seems clear is that many of Trump’s closest confidantes, including his attorney Giuliani, attended a meeting away from the White House for the apparent purpose of discussing how to pressure Congress in a last-ditch attempt to stop the election certification and award it to Trump. One attendee reportedly claims they were just there to watch the election returns come in from the Georgia senate runoffs. Believe what you wish about this.

The New York Times reported that the day before the rally,

“If you are not prepared to use force to defend civilization, then be prepared to accept barbarism,” a member of the Red-State Secession group on Facebook posted …

Beneath it, dozens of people posted comments that included photographs of the weaponry — including assault rifles — that they said they planned to bring to the rally. There were also comments referring to “occupying” the Capitol and forcing Congress to overturn the November election that Joseph R. Biden Jr. had won — and Mr. Trump had lost. [https://nyti.ms/3r4ZAJy]

Still earlier in January,

the extreme fringes of Trump supporters — including the Proud Boys and other groups known to incite violence, as well as conspiracy groups like QAnon — were exploring what they might do on Jan. 6 in Washington. On dedicated chats in Gab they discussed logistics of where to gather and what streets they would take to the Capitol. The Red-State Secession Facebook page even encouraged its 8,000 followers to share the addresses of “enemies,” including those for federal judges, members of Congress and well-known progressives.

At the rally on January 6, Donald Jr, preceding his father, flatly stated that the Republican Party was now “Donald Trump’s Republican Party,” the kind of claim that a banana-republic dictator would make, the meaning of which is “if Trump tells you to do something, you will do it.” The speech was replete with grievances against the Democratic leadership but also against “establishment Republicans” who were portrayed as weak and essentially traitors to the cause of “America First” and Trump’s own set of grievances.

The further events of January 6 are well-known. Video shows Trump urging the crowd to walk to the Capitol where he contended Congress was about to confirm the election he said was stolen. Among other remarks, Trump said:

“We will never give up,” he said. “We will never concede. It will never happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved. Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore.”

He went so far as to say he would be with the crowd at the Capitol, but that was a lie. In any case, the crowd walked the mile-plus to the Capitol, confronted the grossly under-prepared Capitol Police, stormed the building through smashed windows and doors, screaming in rage that they could not find the members of Congress who had been moved to safe-rooms. The building was vandalized, a police officer was killed, and many were injured in a multi-hour battle against the vastly larger force of invaders. Others also died as a direct or indirect result of the attack. The Pentagon leadership working under Trump failed to send timely help.

Those events have inspired House Democrats to impeach Trump a second time. It’s the only “remedy” over which they have any real influence. Republicans, of course, overwhelmingly leapt to Trump’s defense, voting that the impeachment of a president after he leaves office is somehow unconstitutional. https://wapo.st/2YkPW9x Having refused to even hear evidence and witnesses at Trump’s first impeachment, the Republican Party completed its obeisance to Trump by essentially declaring that whatever he may have done, no sanction is justified. As a result, Democrats now are also considering a censure, a fallback proposed by Sen. Kaine of Virginia, because an impeachment trial will delay consideration of critical elements of President Biden’s plan to combat the COVID crisis.

A censure, even if adopted over Republican opposition that is certain to occur, will be nothing more than a slap on the wrist for a man who believes he is immune from the law. Republicans have every incentive to drag out the trial because, in addition to supporting Trump’s every act, they want to  impede Biden’s efforts to boost the economy and restore the health of the country.

I don’t doubt Senator Kaine’s sincerity in arguing that a censure resolution is “a potentially more politically palatable alternative to convicting Trump and barring him from future office” while also arguing that “his resolution would have much the same effect as a conviction, by condemning the former president and laying the foundation to keep him from returning to the presidency under the terms of the 14th Amendment.” Kaine argues further that “It’s more than just a censure, saying, ‘Hey, you did wrong’ ….It makes a factual finding under the precise language of the 14th Amendment that would likely put an obstacle in Donald Trump’s path if he were to run for office again.”

Kaine’s further argument is that “Just as the question of impeachment after you’ve left office is not ironclad one way or the other, this one is not ironclad, It leaves the door open for folks to make arguments down the road,”

That is, I think, plainly wrong because its premise is wrong.

The argument accepts that there is a legitimate constitutional objection to impeaching a president after he leaves office. The “immune after exit” position leaves open the possibility that in the closing days of a presidency, the president could engage in blatantly unlawful criminal activities and escape being called to account by impeachment. He could still be indicted and tried, but as a matter of principle, the position of no impeachment after office seems inconsistent with the framework established  by the Constitution — just stall long enough and escape an otherwise justified political accountability.

Impeachment, in any case, whether during or after the presidency, is insufficient to address the magnitude of the January 6 insurrection. While Republicans like John Cornyn of Texas are all so happy to “just move on” and “not live in the past,” claiming that impeachment now is “retroactively” punishing ex-officeholders,” even moderate Sen. Manchin of West Virginia understands the gravity of this situation which has no precedent in modern times. And, by the way, to Sen. Cornyn and others who subscribe to his view: all punishments, whether political like impeachment or criminal, are about past behavior. The notion that impeachment now is somehow wrong because it refers to past conduct is beyond moronic. And you can quote me on that.

So, where do we go from here? Political stalemate seems certain in Congress’ attempts to call Trump to account. The evidence of seditious conspiracy is, however, overwhelming. Do we let Trump skate? Do we ignore a blatant attempt to overturn the election and, in effect, declare Trump dictator? I think not.

Republican leadership in the House and Senate is now running away as fast as possible from early statements indicating grave concerns about Trump’s role in the insurrection at the Capitol. https://wapo.st/3a4Qd5G Both of them have rushed to Mar-a-Lago to meet privately with Trump. Why do you suppose they’re coordinating with him now? Why is House Minority Leader McCarthy now trying to place blame for January 6 on “all Americans” and other similar nonsense rhetoric? Why is McCarthy handing out choice committee assignments to QAnon conspiracy advocates like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who has previously endorsed violence against Democratic leaders and who has claimed that the Parkland/Sandy Hook school massacres were staged along with the 9/11 attack and the January 6 assault as well? As noted in the article cited above,

For party leadership and top election strategists, video of protesters pummeling Capitol Police officers or chanting for the death of Vice President Mike Pence has proved less germane to current considerations than the potential to quickly return to power. They have been calling for more party comity, even with those holding extremist views.

Operating from Florida, Trump’s advisers have been encouraging party leaders to move on from impeachment and refrain from further criticism of the former president, even as they plot retribution against Republicans who opposed Trump’s final effort to overturn the election. Trump campaign advisers have commissioned and circulated to GOP lawmakers polling that shows him as still formidable in their states and made clear that he would seek revenge for votes against him.

The political reality is that the Senate is evenly divided between the parties, House Democrats have a small majority, and, despite Trump’s overwhelming defeat, Republicans gained governorships and control more than 60 percent of state legislatures. At least two Democratic senators are uncertain allies to aggressive positioning by their party.

WAPO reports that polling shows a staggering 79 percent of Republicans still approve of Trump’s conduct of the presidency and 57 percent saying the Republican Party should follow his leadership even after the attack on the Capitol. Some GOP party groups are embracing the fantasy claim that the January 6 attack was actually staged by Trump’s enemies. Some Republican Party strategists refer to the attack as “extremely unfortunate” and Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel claimed that it was Democrats who were trying to “sow division and obstruct” while “Republicans will keep fighting for the American people.” If this were a TV show, it would be the Twilight Zone, but it’s the reality of where America now sits. The Republican Party really does belong to Trump and no longer adheres to fundamental democratic principles.

If you think I’m overstating it, WAPO reports that there is “speculation that the president’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, might run for the open North Carolina seat or that the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump might mount a primary challenge to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).” A few Republican voices in the wilderness remain – Mitt Romney flat out said Trump “incited the insurrection” on January 6, — but their influence against the Trump Red Tide is limited at best.

While the Republicans continue to focus only on their political prospects going forward and how to align themselves with Trump’s base, evidence continues to mount that the January 6 attack was not just a spontaneous response to Trump’s words. The Washington Post, for example, reports that so-called militias in three states beginning planning to challenge the election by force in November. https://wapo.st/39pblEB US prosecutors have asserted,

Three self-styled militia members charged in the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol began soliciting recruits for potential violence within days of the 2020 presidential election, later training in Ohio and North Carolina and organizing travel to Washington with a busload of comrades and a truck of weapons….

The report is quite detailed with communications among the parties charged as conspirators. Many other reports show that multiple January 6 participants are being charged with federal crimes of varying severity, depending on what the preliminary evidence shows they actually did at the scene of the invasion. It is reasonable to expect many more arrests as prosecutors work through the videos, recordings and social media posts of participants. The New York Times published an article with multiple videos revealing parts of the fight between police and the insurrectionists screaming “I will f*cking kill you!” https://nyti.ms/3ahHP2P That is what the Republican Party is defending.

The Acting Chief of Capitol Police is so concerned about the continuing threat to the Capitol that she is recommending permanent emplacement of unscalable fencing, possibly topped with barbed wire, around the perimeter. Mayor Bowser, thankfully, is opposed but consider what this means for the state of the nation’s politics.

So, where do we go from here?

After long reflection, my view is that nothing short of the indictment and arrest of Donald Trump can adequately begin to redress the harm done to the country. We are on the precipice of the collapse of the rule of law. Washington, DC remains an armed camp protected by thousands of National Guard due to reports of further armed attacks on the government. Failing to bring real and serious criminal charges against Trump will be seen by his acolytes as further proof that he was the victim of multiple hoaxes and a fraudulent election, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Postponing the day of reckoning while Trump reorganizes his political forces is a recipe for catastrophe from which the country may not recover. The time to deal with this is now, when the evidence is fresh and the focus is clear.

There can be no rational doubt that Trump summoned the mob to come to DC for the pre-insurrection rally, that his words called for the mob to go to the Capitol for the purpose of stopping the Electoral College vote count, that there was almost certainly planning activity in advance, not only by mob participants but by members of Trump’s inner circle of family and other advisors. People died during the attack, an outcome entirely foreseeable. The case for seditious conspiracy and felony murder is compelling.

Political accountability through impeachment will accomplish nothing of substance. Criminal liability, on the other hand, while facing a higher standard of proof, will  bring the evidence before a carefully selected jury of Americans. If they decide that Trump is not guilty, so be it. There will, at least, be no basis for complaint that political vendettas were being accomplished. The far greater likelihood is that a properly presented case against Trump will lead to his conviction.

If it were up to me, I would include in the indictment charges related to Trump’s obstruction of justice in the Mueller investigation, including perjury, and likely also the incident in which Trump attempted to leverage Ukraine’s president to interfere in the U.S. election. It is time, in other words, to call the question on Trump’s claim that he is above the law. If this fails, our democracy may well be doomed, as conspiracy theorists like MJ Greene, Lauren Boebert and other Republican fantasists remain in power in subservience to Donald Trump who, elected or not, will become de facto dictator as long as he lives.

No doubt, the bringing of criminal charges will further enrage Trump’s already deranged supporters. If they decide to attack the Capitol, no amount of fencing and barbed wire will stop them. The government must be prepared to make the most aggressive response, including overwhelming deadly force against those who seek to bring down the government by violent assault. This conflict cannot be resolved by negotiation, and it is virtually certain Trump will continue to assert his false grievances to a willing audience of true believers. If so, the nation has no choice, in fact has a solemn duty, to defend itself and its democracy with every means at its disposal.

 

 

 

Congressional Hall of Dishonor – Updated

Members of the Sedition Caucus, you are named here because you voted to overturn the 2020 presidential election by rejecting the vote of the Electoral College on January 6, 2021, in violation of your oath of office and the Constitution.

Some of you backed out at the last moment after the man whose election loss you sought to overturn inspired a mob of angry, violent supporters to attack the Capitol. You embraced the Trump con game until expediency drove you to either vote to support the Electoral College results or to abstain from voting. The same is true for those who said they would vote to uphold the results “unless strong/overwhelming or whatever evidence is presented during the debate.” You are just as complicit as those who stood their ground, however ill-conceived it was. So, you are included here under Dishonorable Mention.

You violated your solemn oaths of office and placed the desires of a deranged aspiring dictator ahead of the will of the people as expressed by their votes. This action to undermine American democracy will not be forgotten or forgiven.

Senators

  • Ted Cruz –Texas
  • Josh Hawley – Missouri
  • Cindy Hyde-Smith – Mississippi
  • John Kennedy – Louisiana
  • Cynthia Lummis – Wyoming
  • Roger Marshall – Kansas
  • Rick Scott – Florida
  • Tommy Tuberville – Alabama

NOTE: Four of the above Senators (Cruz, Hawley, Scott & Tuberville) voted against the nomination of Janet Yellen for Secretary of the Treasury. They were joined by:

Barrasso (R-WY)
Blackburn (R-TN)
Boozman (R-AR)
Cotton (R-AR)
Cramer (R-ND)
Hoeven (R-ND)
Lee (R-UT)
Paul (R-KY)
Risch (R-ID)
Shelby (R-AL)
Sullivan (R-AK)
With his usual courage, Senator Rubio (R-FL) did not vote on the Yellen nomination
 

Representatives (Updated to Add)

Griffith, Guest & Hagedorn

  • Robert B. Aderholt AL
  • Rick Allen GA
  • Jodey Arrington TX
  • Brian Babin TX
  • Jim Baird IN
  • Jim Banks IN
  • Cliff Bentz OR
  • Jack Bergman MI
  • Stephanie Bice OK
  • Andy Biggs AZ
  • Dan Bishop NC
  • Lauren Boebert CO
  • Mike Bost IL
  • Mo Brooks –AL
  • Ted Budd NC
  • Tim Burchett TN
  • Michael C. Burgess TX
  • Ken Calvert CA
  • Kat Cammack FL
  • Jerry Carl AL
  • Earl L. “Buddy” Carter GA
  • John Carter TX
  • Madison Cawthorn NC
  • Steve Chabot OH
  • Ben Cline VA
  • Michael Cloud TX
  • Andrew Clyde GA
  • Tom Cole OK
  • Eric A. “Rick” Crawford AR
  • Warren Davidson OH
  • Scott DesJarlais TN
  • Mario Diaz-Balart FL
  • Byron Donalds FL
  • Jeff Duncan SC
  • Neal Dunn FL
  • Ron Estes KS
  • Pat Fallon TX
  • Michelle Fischbach MN
  • Scott Fitzgerald WI
  • Charles J. “Chuck” Fleischmann TN
  • Virginia Foxx NC
  • Scott Franklin FL
  • Russ Fulcher ID
  • Matt Gaetz FL
  • Mike Garcia CA
  • Bob Gibbs OH
  • Carlos Gimenez FL
  • Louie Gohmert TX
  • Bob Good VA
  • Lance Gooden TX
  • Paul A. Gosar AZ
  • Garret Graves LA
  • Sam Graves MO
  • Mark Green TN
  • Marjorie Taylor Greene GA
  • Griffith VA
  • Guest MS
  • Hagedorn MN
  • Andy Harris MD
  • Diana Harshbarger TN
  • Vicky Hartzler MO
  • Kevin Hern OK
  • Yvette Herrell NM
  • Jody Hice GA
  • Clay Higgins LA
  • Richard Hudson NC
  • Darrell Issa CA
  • Ronny Jackson T
  • Chris Jacobs NY
  • Mike Johnson LA
  • Bill Johnson OH
  • Jim Jordan OH
  • John Joyce PA
  • Fred Keller PA
  • Trent Kelly MS
  • Mike Kelly PA
  • David Kustoff TN
  • Doug LaMalfa CA
  • Doug Lamborn CO
  • Jake LaTurner KS
  • Debbie Lesko AZ
  • Billy Long MO
  • Barry Loudermilk GA
  • Frank D. Lucas OK
  • Blaine Luetkemeyer MO
  • Nicole Malliotakis NY
  • Tracey Mann KS
  • Brian Mast FL
  • Kevin McCarthy CA
  • Lisa McClain MI
  • Dan Meuser PA
  • Mary Miller IL
  • Carol Miller WV
  • Alex Mooney WV
  • Barry Moore AL
  • Markwayne Mullin OK
  • Gregory Murphy NC
  • Troy Nehls TX
  • Ralph Norman SC
  • Devin Nunes CA
  • Jay Obernolte CA
  • Burgess Owens UT
  • Steven M. Palazzo MS
  • Gary Palmer AL
  • Greg Pence IN
  • Scott Perry PA
  • August Pfluger TX
  • Bill Posey FL
  • Guy Reschenthaler PA
  • Tom Rice SC
  • Mike D. Rogers AL
  • Harold Rogers KY
  • John Rose TN
  • Matt Rosendale MT
  • David Rouzer NC
  • John Rutherford FL
  • Steve Scalise LA
  • David Schweikert AZ
  • Pete Sessions TX
  • Jason T. Smith MO
  • Adrian Smith NE
  • Lloyd Smucker PA
  • Elise Stefanik NY
  • Greg Steube FL
  • Chris Stewart UT
  • Glenn Thompson PA
  • Tom Tiffany WI
  • William Timmons SC
  • Jeff Van Drew NJ
  • Beth Van Duyne TX
  • Tim Walberg MI
  • Jackie Walorski IN
  • Randy Weber TX
  • Daniel Webster FL
  • Roger Williams TX
  • Joe Wilson SC
  • Rob Wittman VA
  • Ron Wright TX
  • Lee Zeldin NY

 

Day 2 –Republican Whining Begins

We should have seen it coming.

Washington Post reports that after two days of the Biden administration, with Day One largely devoted to the inauguration, Republicans are already whining about what they now claim is profligate Biden spending proposals in his initial stimulus package to help struggling families as well as states/localities trying to get schools started again, and more. https://wapo.st/39f295C The WAPO title, Turned off by Biden’s approach, GOP opposition to stimulus relief intensifies, tells the story even without reading the article. But I read it anyway.

The gist:

President Biden’s pitch for bipartisan unity to defeat the coronavirus and resurrect the economy is crashing into a partisan buzz saw on Capitol Hill, where Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on ground rules for running the Senate — let alone pass a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill.

Biden’s relief package is being declared dead on arrival by senior Senate Republicans, some of whom say there has been little, if any, outreach from the Biden team to get their support. Liberals are demanding the president abandon attempts to make a bipartisan deal altogether and instead ram the massive legislation through without GOP votes. And outside groups are turning up the pressure for Biden and the Democrats who control Congress to enact economic relief quickly, even if it means cutting Republicans out of the deal

Some Republicans, WAPO cites Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), are saying that some elements of Biden’s pandemic stimulus package were really their idea and, naturalment, they’re on board with those. But some were apparently insulted that President Biden had not personally reached out to them to beg for support “even though Biden pitched himself on the campaign trail as a bipartisan dealmaker.”

According to the WAPO story, it’s not just the bruised egos of Republicans who think the President, before having breakfast, owes each of them a personal call. What it actually is remains unclear, however, as, for example, Sen. Portman (R-Ohio) is quoted, doing the classic Republican two-step, to the effect that “it’s not about me but it’s all about me – I didn’t get a call.”

The English translation of all this Republican hand-wringing and hair-pulling is that the new president had the nerve to announce his $1.9 trillion plan without first asking the Republicans to approve it. And, presumably, if the Republicans disapproved, the President, being a champion of bipartisanship, should simply have yielded to the partisanship of the Republicans. How nice for the Republicans who, having lost the election, would still get final say on the Democratic agenda.

The issue as portrayed is not whether in substance the Biden proposal is the correct approach in its details to the massive mess that the Trump administration, with full Republican congressional support, created for the country. It’s whether Biden is acting in a genuinely bipartisan manner, which to Republicans means they get to define the plan.

Having forgotten their affection for Trump’s deficit-exploding tax cuts for the wealthy, the always oh-so-conservative anti-spending Republicans are bent out of shape over the dastardly possibility of increasing the national minimum wage to $15. In case you’re wondering, as I was, about the history of the minimum wage, it was raised a whopping 70 cents in July 2009 to the current $7.25 per hour. https://bit.ly/3sPSIl3 At that rate, a person working 40 hours of paid time per week makes $290 gross per week and $15,080 a year if no unpaid leave is taken. The 2020 “poverty guidelines” for the 48 contiguous states plus DC were:

Persons in Family/Household           Poverty Guideline

1                                                               $12, 760

2                                                               $17, 240

3                                                               $21,720

4                                                               $26,200

Biden’s proposal would yield annual gross income of $31,200 and, technically, move most minimum wage workers out of “poverty.” It would also, obviously, help many of people most seriously affected by the unemployment driven by the pandemic.

But – the Republicans say this is a “non-starter.” Why, after all, would Republicans want to help people most in need of help when they can help themselves instead?

The Democratic strategy, according to Jen Psaki, the White House Press Secretary, is to put Republicans in the position of identifying what they don’t want to pay for. That’s a good strategy, but the Republicans will be remorseless in saying “no” to provisions like an increase in the minimum wage, the first in more than 11 years. Republican logic, says that the minimum wage is not related to the pandemic. Kind of like saying the vaccine is not related to the pandemic either – you can take it, but you can also not take it. And if it’s not related, then under the reasoning of occasional Republican dissenter, Mitt Romney, the spending is not “absolutely necessary.”

Having witnessed Republican indifference to the suffering of caged children at the southern border and other crimes against humanity and multiple overt acts of criminality, including obstruction of justice and voter suppression, it was a bit disconcerting to see how sensitive Republicans have become. They are a virtual chorus of “Biden poisoned the well with an extreme proposal and our feelings are so hurt, we simply can’t cope with negotiating in good faith.” The horror, the horror.

The article notes that the legislation could be passed with just Democratic votes, but that individual senators could then try to force acceptance of their individual agendas.  That would, of course, be classic Democratic politics – get control and then shoot yourselves in the foot/head. Hopefully, that won’t happen this time. Opportunities like this only come along occasionally and the need is critical.

Everything is complicated by disagreements over how to manage the Senate’s business with a 50-50 split in party membership (the Republicans claiming their 50 percent is worth more than the Democrats’ 50 percent) and the handling of Trump’s second impeachment trial (Republicans claim that holding Trump accountable for his crimes will be “divisive.”) Everything depends on everything, and meanwhile the American people continue to suffer – COVID deaths continue to mount, lunatic right-wing white supremacists continue to claim that the election was stolen from Trump and threaten to resume attacks and unemployment claims continue at economy- and company/family-destroying rates.

Republicans don’t seem to care because, well, they’re Republicans and the economic suffering of Americans is simply not something of major importance to them. They had no hesitancy last year in dawdling for months over the last stimulus legislation, only finally agreeing at the very end of the year. We should have seen this coming.

My view, then, is that Biden tells the Republicans to put up or shut up – and do it now. No prolonged negotiations. It’s time to act. If Republicans can’t see the problem, proceed without them. Democrats who try to leverage the situation should be taken out to the woodshed and, well, you know. It’s time to end politics as usual. We didn’t run Trump out of town just to have all the good ideas pulled into Republican quicksand.

 

 

 

What to My Wondering Eyes Did Appear …

You likely recognize my slight modification of the iconic line from the poem, The Night Before Christmas, a/k/a, A Visit From St. Nicholas. It came instantly and unbidden to mind upon reading today’s Washington Post report entitled, Justice Department, FBI debate not charging some of the Capitol rioters. https://wapo.st/2KGv2hM

No, I am not making this up. The story was written by two highly accomplished reporters: Devlin Barrett and Spencer Hsu. As astounding and gut-wrenching as the story is, I take it for true.

The prosecutors’ discussions are assertedly based on a number of key ideas:

  1. About 800 people (+/- 100) entered the Capitol unlawfully; bringing so many cases could overload the local court;

Objection: The message from such nonsense is: “if you’re going to be part of an illegal mob action, be sure it’s a big one.” Is that really the message the FBI/DOJ want to send here?

  1. Some insurrectionists may only be guilty of “unlawful entry,” not having engaged in “violent, threatening or destructive behavior” – they merely went along with the crowd;

Objection: The perpetrators were not mere bystanders to a large-scale criminal event. They were active participants. “I just went along with the crowd that killed people and stole property” has never been a defense; why now? How do you discourage such conduct in the future if you decide to look the other way for most of the people involved?

  1. “The primary objective for authorities is to determine which individuals, if any, planned, orchestrated or directed the violence” – people who “planned and carried out violence aimed at the government” may face charges of seditious conspiracy, carrying a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison;

Hint for FBI/DOJ: good; go big with the charges for the planners; by the way, there is substantial provable evidence that the individual who orchestrated the violence was the president, Donald J Trump. Indict him.

  1. “…investigators are still gathering evidence, and agents could easily turn up additional photos or online postings that show a person they initially believed was harmless had, in fact, encouraged or engaged in other crimes.”

Another Hint for FBI/DOJ: What?? Harmless??? It is impossible to conclude rationally that any person who entered the Capitol with the mob on Jan. 6 was “harmless.” The harm began with the attack on the defending police force and continued unabated for hours. Those who entered knew they weren’t supposed to be there, saw the violence directed at the small police contingent in place to defend the Capitol and, based on extensive video, did nothing to try to stop the entry/violence that was perpetrated by the mob of which they were a part, even if they did not all directly engage in violence against the police, the building or its contents. Sacking the Capitol cannot be harmless.

  1. Some people may have done nothing but enter, look around and leave. If the only charge is unlawful entry, prosecutors might lose some cases. The exact quote in the story was: ““If an old man says all he did was walk in and no one tried to stop him, and he walked out and no one tried to stop him, and that’s all we know about what he did, that’s a case we may not win,”

Objection: So what? Irrelevant. Prosecutors are seriously concerning themselves with the remote possibility that a handful of the invaders said “whoopsie, this has gotten out of hand; think I’ll just wander on outside and watch the fun from there?” Every prosecutor, every trial lawyer, has lost some cases. It’s not a shame; happens to the best of them once in a while. Losing should be the last thing FBI/DOJ are concerned about here.

  6.  Most of the arrestees have no prior criminal records;

Objection: Utterly irrelevant; for every criminal, there is a first time. A first-time murderer is no less a murderer because he’s not murdered before. If this has any bearing, it’s at sentencing, but surely is not a factor in deciding whether to prosecute. Surely.

  1. “…defense lawyers … are contemplating something akin to a “Trump defense” — that the president or other authority figures gave them permission or invited them to commit an otherwise illegal act.”

Yet Another Hint to FBI/DOJ: this “defense” gets a good grade for clever and bold, but it’s wrong and thus no cigar. This is the point at which I seriously consider screaming obscenities. The president lacked authority to give anyone legally effective permission to force their way into the Capitol to interfere with the scheduled work of Congress. Being delusional may get you a reduced sentence, maybe, but it cannot and should not insulate you from self-evidently unlawful conduct. Believing the unbelievable (the election was stolen –Trump said so) is no excuse.

  1. In a remarkable double/triple entendre, or something, the argument is noted that Trump’s impending impeachment trial will “raise questions about the culpability of followers for the misinformation spread by leaders around bogus election-fraud claims rejected by courts and state voting officials.” Further,

It’s not a like a bunch of people gathered on their own and decided to do this, it’s not like a mob. It’s people who were asked to come by the president, encouraged to come by the president, and encouraged to do what they did by the president and a number of others,” said one attorney representing defendants charged in the breach who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss legal strategy.”

Objection: – this is the “I was too stupid to know how stupid I was…” defense. Or the “my president made me do it” defense. It speaks for itself, which is what lawyers say when they don’t know what to say. Defense lawyers may try this, which is their right, but this is not the basis for prosecutorial deference. If anything, it should inspire more aggression on the part of prosecutors.

  1. “For rioters with no previous criminal records or convictions and whose known behavior inside the Capitol was not violent or destructive, the government could enter into deferred plea agreements, a diversion program akin to pretrial probation in which prosecutors agree to drop charges if a defendant commits no offenses over a certain time period.”

Another Note: the article says this tactic “has been used before in some cases involving individuals with a history of mental illness who were arrested for jumping the White House fence. Criminal defense attorneys note there may be further distinctions between individuals who may have witnessed illegal activity or otherwise had reason to know they were entering a restricted area, and those for whom prosecutors can’t show such awareness.”

Objection: This is just a variant of “I didn’t know breaking into the Capitol with a raging, screaming mob breaking windows and attacking police was illegal.” It is, I suggest, preposterous even for Trump true-believers. It’s like the “Martians made me do it” defense deeply felt perhaps but just plain wrong. We cannot have a society in which people get away with crimes because they say they’re too ignorant to know what is right and wrong. Plead insanity if you think you can establish it, but this, again, is not a ground for prosecutors to lay off.

I close this part of the post with this final quote from the story:

“There is absolute resolve from the Department of Justice to hold all who intentionally engaged in criminal acts at the Capitol accountable,” Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi said in an email. “We have consistently made clear that we will follow the facts and evidence and charge individuals accordingly. We remain confident that the U.S. District Court for Washington, DC can appropriately handle the docket related to any resulting charges.”

We must certainly hope that Mr. Raimondi’s declaration is correct. This may be the most appalling story I have read about the justice system — ever.

I cannot get my mind around the idea that (1) the president of the United States calls a mob of supporters to Washington and, along with some family members and attorneys, urges the crowd to “walk down to the Capitol” (lying about his intention to join them), (2) for the avowed purpose of preventing final Congressional certification of the presidential election the president clearly lost AND (3) the people who follow his suggestion take the walk (over a mile, plenty of time to think about what they’re doing), (4) assault the Capitol police, (5)  join the mob forcing its way into the building through smashed windows/doors, (6) are present during multiple melees throughout the building including attacks on police, and (7) are allowed to simply walk out without impediment — are being considered for leniency by prosecutors.

Have we lost our collective minds? Is this the lingering product of Trump’s undermining of the Department of Justice? Let these people walk and they will just go home, laughing all the way. What happened to respect for law, never mind “law and order?” This was an insurrection against the government of the United States. People died. A police officer attacked by the mob died. Why aren’t “felony murder” charges appropriate (participation in the commission of a felony, where a death occurs during that felony, even if the defendant wasn’t the one who killed the victim)? Why isn’t felony murder being discussed? What is going on here?

Kids Like Me Book Drive — Smash Success

Thank you for your support of the Kids Like Me Book Drive. It was a phenomenal success and the donations keep on coming! Nearly 1,200 books have been donated so far.  The Reading Is Fundamental Team sent this video of the books starting to arrive at RIF Headquarters. I cannot thank you all enough for all your generosity.

You can still donate. Use this link https://tinyurl.com/kidslikemebookdrive to select the book/s you wish to donate directly to RIF.

  • If you are already signed up for Amazon Smile, the link will take you directly to the RIF Wish List.
  • If you are not signed up for Amazon Smile, you will need to search the Charity List for Reading Is Fundamental.
  • After you add the book/books to your cart and go to checkout, be sure to select Reading Is Fundamental as the shipping address so that they go directly to RIF.

The site provides plenty of books to choose from, starting at less than at $7.00. If you do decide to participate, I would love for you to share the link on your social media pages and invite others to donate.

#DayofService #ReadingisFundamental #KidsLikeMeBookDrive

Kids Like Me Book Drive

Today, the nation and the world acknowledge and celebrate the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As part of that worthy effort, and in support of the Presidential Inaugural Committee MLK Day of Service, my wife started the “Kids Like Me Book Drive.” Here is her message:
“When I was a child, reading was such an important part of my life. It was a way to make sense of the world, find a temporary escape from reality, and a chance to learn about other people, places and things. I wish every child had the chance to own and love books like I did.
That’s why in honor of MLK Day of Service, I am hosting a virtual book drive to benefit Reading Is Fundamental (RIF). The event, titled “Kids Like Me Book Drive,” is centered around donating books celebrating diversity.
Here’s how you can help. Use this link https://tinyurl.com/kidslikemebookdrive to select the book/s you wish to donate directly to RIF.
A few things to note:
  • If you are already signed up for Amazon Smile, the link will take you directly to the RIF book list.
  • If you are not signed up for Amazon Smile, you will need to search the Charity List for Reading Is Fundamental.
  • After you add the book/books to your cart and go to checkout, be sure to select Reading Is Fundamental as the shipping address so that they go directly to RIF and not your home.
The site provides plenty of books to choose from, starting at less than $7.00. Some of the titles people have selected include,
Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice
I Am Every Good Thing
Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation
Ada Twist, Scientist
Too Shy for Show and Tell
One is a Pinata
You Matter
Windows
Lend a Hand
Hair Love
If you do decide to participate, I would love for you to post the title(s) you select in the Reply section below. Also, please feel free to share the link on your social media pages.
With children continuing to learn at home, I would be very grateful if you would join me in helping RIF provide needed books and resources to assist children and families as they navigate the challenges this pandemic presents.
Thank you for your generosity!”
Note: Over 90 people have already signed up. There can never be too many books.

The Republican Unity Smokescreen

In an astonishing but not surprising exercise in false-equivalency and what-about-ism, Republican Gary Abernathy argues in WAPO, https://wapo.st/3oT6n8t, that the price of unity going forward is to pretend Donald Trump is really Mother Theresa in a suit and that nothing serious happened in Washington on January 6. President Biden, Abernathy argues, should let bygones be “boys will be boys.” In effect, Biden should validate the “concerns” of right-wing/conservative conspiracy-meisters and extend an olive branch.

Abernathy begins his sanctimony by objecting to Biden’s comparing the election-fraud lie campaign of Trump-Hawley-Cruz (the-list-goes-on), to Nazi propaganda techniques. Why? Because, Abernathy says, marketers exaggerate and Democrats lie too, and let’s not forget the violence “instigated by left-leaning agitators” (read that as, “those violent Black people and antifa”), so what’s the problem? If Biden wants to unify the country, he should just flip the Trump Charlottesville playbook and go with “bad people on both sides.” Abernathy says Biden should “acknowledge that there’s plenty of blame to go around for a nation more on edge than at any time since the 1960s.”

In short, Abernathy, likely speaking for most of the Republican establishment now, argues, in effect, that the Trump-directed assault on the Capitol that was intended to stop the Congress from completing the election process to confirm Joe Biden, and thereby retain the defeated Donald Trump as a dictator/president, was equivalent to the resistance to the Vietnam War in the 1960s. He grudgingly admits that the second Trump impeachment is “admittedly more justifiable than the first one” but in referring to it as a “melodrama,” Abernathy uses sleight of words to take away what he purports to concede. Most thinking adults are now aware that the government itself was lying to the people about Vietnam, from the beginning and throughout. Does Abernathy really want to equate the two situations: Trump and Vietnam?

The ultimate effect of Abernathy’s “reasoning” is that the burden falls to President Biden to extend an olive branch to the gang of insurrectionists and traitors who tried to topple the government in the service of a corrupt and incompetent grifter. In short, Abernathy seems to believe that the burden for the insurrection falls on the shoulders of those who did not engage in insurrection. Remarkable.

The real beef here is obscured by that opening line, but Abernathy soon reveals his real grievance: that, finally, after four years of helping spread Trump/Republican disinformation and outright lies about our government and our country, the social media platforms decided it was time, with a few weeks left, to suspend the president’s access to a free megaphone for amplifying his mendacity to the public and his attempts to overthrow the government.

Abernathy’s real gripe thus seems to be the decision to cut off Trump from his endless broadcast of falsehoods through serial tweeting:

In the current environment, conservatives are rightfully alarmed at the prospect of crucial digital platforms being pulled out from under them in response to the support they express for a particular politician or idea. The tech giants are private entities claiming to be following their guidelines, not government agencies violating the First Amendment, but a president can use his bully pulpit to influence their actions.

There are those who say that Trump abused social media to incite violence. Others read the same tweets and disagree. More disturbing than anything Trump could tweet, though, is the fact that the highest elected officeholder in the land could have his voice virtually silenced by the whims of a handful of unelected Silicon Valley bullies. [boldface added by me]

This part of the diatribe is so disingenuous, it’s laughable. Digital platforms were not pulled out from conservatives merely because they supported a particular politician or “idea.” Trump expressed very few “ideas” in his constant tweeting [when did he actually work at the job of being president?]. It was not even the constant lying that fact-checkers found, without refutation, set a world record in outright false messages.

Those were “concerns” and the subjects of many complaints, but the digital media folks stuck with Trump/Republicans despite all that lying. It was when Trump decided to send a mob of violent supporters to interfere with, and threaten the physical safety of, the Congress that the platforms finally said, “too much is too much.” This was no “whim.” To call it that is to minimize the most serious assault on American democracy since the Civil War threatened to literally break the country.

Silliest of all is the argument that Trump has actually been silenced. The media still hangs on his every word, though he’s not talking so much these days as he sulks and prepares for the political anonymity and legal adversities that await him beginning in a few days. That’s on him. He has plenty of supportive media (FOX, OAN, Breitbart and others) ready to repeat and amplify every false message he still wants to convey.

Maybe the reality is that Trump finally realizes that the game is over, and he can’t win. He has finally, after a lifetime of being the boss, been told “no, and no means no. You lost. It’s over.” We’ll see about that. The nation’s capital city and the capitals of all 50 states are on high alert for days to come to the threat of violence by Trump’s deranged supporters who still claim, with no factual support whatsoever, that the election was stolen.

Abernathy’s grievances against the tech platforms are so profound that he has undertaken to write parts of President Biden’s inaugural address for him. For example, he proposes Biden say,

What we should not fall prey to is the temptation to silence the voices of millions of peaceful and patriotic Americans by eliminating their preferred platforms because of a few bad actors. That’s not who we are as Americans.

But “who we are as Americans,” if it has any meaning now, is certainly not the thousands of people who, at the direction of the president, refused to accept reality and instead used violence to try to change the outcome of an election and thereby disenfranchise more than 81 milli0n voters who elected Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. The “few bad actors” excuse went down Trump’s golden toilet with the videos of the Capitol assault and the deaths of five people, including a police officer, at the hands of screaming traitors to American values, acting on lies promoted by the president and multiple Republican members of Congress.

The “few bad actors” is just another variant of “fine people on both sides” and it’s not good enough, not even close. The voices of “millions of peaceful and patriotic Americans,” who were not present or represented by the insurrectionists at the Capitol, have not been silenced. They have full access to Twitter, Facebook and the rest to make such conservative arguments as they wish. Indeed, many of them continue to spew hate and conspiracy nonsense to this day. It’s actually quite difficult to be censured by the platforms, but, as we learned, even they have limits. As for Trump, well, just too bad about him. He made his choice and, finally, there were consequences. And, of course, there are other platforms where he can continue to spew lies, crazy conspiracy theories and grievances against anything and everything he and they believe is oppressing them.

The truth that Abernathy and the politicians he continues to support refuse to accept is that the election was not stolen. Continuing to argue otherwise based on fantasies lacking any basis in reality is not an American value that the incoming president should be focusing on right now.

Biden understands that he must immediately try to overcome the triple threat/shambles left behind by the Trump administration and its enablers: the pandemic, the crushed economy and the collapsing climate on which our very survival depends. Abernathy doesn’t want to face the horrible truth that Donald Trump’s reign as president has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans, wrecked the economy and set back our attempts to combat climate catastrophe perhaps beyond repair. THOSE are the priorities, not the continued whining and grievance of Trump’s political base.

Abernathy’s preferred version of Biden’s address also would contain this:

Biden could further make conservative Americans sit up and take notice by speaking their language, saying, “In the United States, we don’t ‘cancel’ people because their opinions and ideas diverge from what many of us might prefer. We don’t exile people for criticizing or questioning their government or even our democratic processes — both of which can be constantly fortified by our willingness to consider the voices of all Americans, not just those with whom we agree.

That is wrong on virtually every level. Abernathy is laying claim to the idea that everything is equal: lies, insane conspiracies, calls for violence – all are entitled to equal credit with the truth and reality. That is simply wrong. We cannot and should not use the government to suppress the expression of non-violent ideas, but, to use a time-worn but valid analogy, one may not cry “fire” in a darkened theatre when there is no fire and you’re just afraid of the dark. The First Amendment does not protect such speech, nor should it. And it doesn’t matter a wit that your fear of the dark is genuine.

Private communication platforms are not obligated to give equal voice to boldfaced lies and fantasies which are not the same or equivalent to positions/arguments about political philosophy. QAnon is not entitled to equal space on Twitter or Facebook. In the end, conservatives can choose to believe whatever they want to believe, including rejecting science and scientific method as valid means of determining what is true, but they don’t have the right to control privately-owned space for the purpose of undermining truth as a concept and dis-establishing the government.

A final point: Abernathy’s call for Biden to “embrace Americans across the political spectrum” was addressed repeatedly during the campaign. Biden said many times he would be president for all people, not just those who voted for him. That pledge stands, as Mr. Abernathy surely knows, but it is incredibly disingenuous, in my opinion, to try to wedge into that commitment an acceptance of the right-wing orthodoxy that truth and falsity as just two equal versions of one thing. They are opposites, not equivalents, and Joe Biden knows it. Someday, maybe, Republicans will awaken from their dreamworld and accept that truth as well.

 

Quo Vadis, Republican Party?

You may recognize the Latin phrase, or not. It derives from “Domine, quo vadis? meaning Lord, where are you going?” and was assertedly spoken by Saint Peter who, fleeing persecution in Jerusalem, came upon the resurrected Jesus and made the inquiry, leading Jesus to tell Peter that he was returning to be crucified again. [source: e­­ncyclopedia.com https://bit.ly/38OcLIG] [Also a 1951 movie title]

I was reminded of this by a, typically, erudite and lengthy essay by Yale historian Timothy Snyder in today’s New York Times Magazine, entitled The American Abyss: Trump, the mob and what comes next. Snyder also wrote On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, a book that should be required reading for every American interested in the survival of our democracy.

A major premise of Snyder’s Times essay is that the Republican Party’s political establishment has two main branches. One, the gamers,

is concerned above all with gaming the system to maintain power, taking full advantage of constitutional obscurities, gerrymandering and dark money to win elections with a minority of motivated voters. They have no interest in the collapse of the peculiar form of representation that allows their minority party disproportionate control of government.

The main exponent of this group’s point of view is the former Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, of the failed state of Kentucky.

The other, even more craven group (my view, not necessarily Snyder’s) are the “breakers,” who “might actually break the system and have power without democracy.” That group is now led by Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz.

Snyder then begins the analysis, noting that to some Republicans the hopeless quest to overturn the election was just political theater, but

for Congress to traduce its basic functions had a price. An elected institution that opposes elections is inviting its own overthrow. Members of Congress who sustained the president’s lie, despite the available and unambiguous evidence, betrayed their constitutional mission. Making his fictions the basis of congressional action gave them flesh. Now Trump could demand that senators and congressmen bow to his will. He could place personal responsibility upon Mike Pence ….

If that doesn’t lead you to immediately buy a Times subscription and also Snyder’s book, I don’t know about you….{I get no royalties; just trying to be helpful]

As noted, Snyder’s treatment is erudite and complex. My own view is more simplistic.

The principal distinguishing feature of our mish-mash American democratic republic with its squirrelly Constitution and three “co-equal” branches of government intended to mutually restrain each other, is that the people elect their leaders. If the leaders fail to perform as the voters think they expected, the voters can elect new leaders on the immutable schedule of elections. AND — this is critical — assuming a fair process, the loser accepts the loss and waits for the next election in the immutable schedule for another try. ALWAYS. The loser accepts the loss, moves on, reorganizes and so on.

If the acceptance of loss, a/k/a the peaceful transfer of power, were to be lost, the entire system, Constitution notwithstanding, would collapse and American democracy would be finished.

As noted, the essential premise of this scheme is “fair process,” and everyone knows that politics can be “rough and tumble,” “dirty,” and other unpleasantries, often in direct proportion to how much power is at stake. But “rough and tumble” or not, the process by which voting occurs must be accepted as fair, meaning each voter has a fair and equal opportunity to vote and to have her vote honestly counted.

Obviously, that goal is aspirational. We have, for example, gerrymandering which alters the “equal opportunity” element by rearranging the electorate to favor one party over another. Since both parties, in a floating tit-for-tat combat try to tilt the system in their favor when they can, the electoral system begins to resemble an exercise in mutually-assured-destruction, a/k/a MAD. And that doesn’t even account for the way in which the Electoral College system enhances the votes of smaller states or the way in which the allocation of legislative seats dilutes the votes of high-population states.

But those are features of the imperfect system that have been present for a very long time. At bottom, there remains, at least until now, the fundamental core principle that the loser will accept the loss and move on.

But, what if the process is not fair, in that the voting or the vote-counting is rigged in some way that favors one side? Why would the loser be expected to just accept defeat, an ill-gotten gain by an adversary with no recompense? Isn’t that exactly what Trump and his supporters have claimed?

No, it is not. The entire system by which the “truth” is determined in our society is based on arrangements provided in the Constitution. Thus, the taking of an oath to support the Constitution is an oath to accept those arrangements. The determination of “truth,” as close as we frail humans can come to its ascertainment, is made by a system of challenge-response-decision by independent courts which in turn have elaborate appeal arrangements so that erroneous decisions may be corrected before doing lasting harm. Like all human systems, the legal system is not perfect, but it is the closest we have come and is far better than a system in which appointed autocrats make all the decisions. And our systems have published “rules of engagement” that all parties must follow, so that the fight in a legal environment is as fair as it can be, assuming both sides have access to adequate representation.

Thus, our system includes the legal system as a fail-safe against faulty electoral process, as regards problems like obstruction of access to the polls, corrupt vote counting and the like.

Turning then to the 2020 presidential election, we first should recognize that the president began complaining of election rigging even before issue was joined with a chosen Democratic opponent. Moreover, through direct manipulation of the U.S. Postal Service, he tried to rig the election in his own favor, all the while complaining about what the opposition was up to. Aided by Republican governors, access to the ballot box was restricted by closing polling stations and other techniques of voter suppression.

Whatever one may say about social media and their manipulation by Trump and other politicians, those media also enabled the Democrats to call out the voter suppression as it was happening. So, it came to pass that the president, in sharply declining popularity as he downplayed the deadly coronavirus and was caught trying to pressure foreign governments to help undermine his opponent, lost the popular vote by more than 7 million votes, lost the key battleground states and lost the Electoral College vote. Joe Biden was declared the winner.

Trump fought back, screeching that the election had been stolen due to massive voter fraud, but only in the key battleground states he lost and, inexplicably, only regarding the presidential election but not the down-ballot races for supremely important seats such as that held by Majority Leader McConnell of Kentucky, who survived a challenge despite having done little or nothing for his constituents. Trump sent a team of lawyers into the field, filing lawsuit after lawsuit, more than 60 cases, many to be decided by judges he had appointed. Not knowing and not caring how the legal system worked, Trump apparently expected his appointees to simply award him victories. He, and his crack legal team, could not, however, overcome the lack of evidence, defined as credible information of specific facts supporting a legal claim. Such evidence simply did not exist. Trump’s case was actually damaged by trotting out “witnesses” who did not understand how vote counting worked in their precincts. Trump lost ALL but one insignificant decision, more than 60 defeats. Even his “house lawyer,” William Barr, putative Attorney General of the United States, concluded that Trump had lost the election fairly.

And still Trump cried “foul,” arguing that he had won the election by a landslide, that the fix was in.  His mendacity was exposed yet again by a tape of his attempt to induce the Georgia Secretary of State to “find” a collection of votes just one more than Trump needed to reverse Biden’s win in Georgia. Never mind that for his claims to be true, tens of thousands of people would have had to conspire to tilt the vote count, a vast conspiracy that both theory and practice informs us could not happen without someone spilling the beans. There were no beans to spill.

And still Trump cried “foul.” And still his Republican enablers in Congress remained silent or engaged in full-throated support not only of Trump’s right to test the legal waters, but in support of the proposition that the election had been “stolen.” Stolen by means and persons unknown, but stolen nonetheless.

That “situation,” created by Trump’s own irrational insistence and domination of his political party, led to the January 6 assault on the Capitol Building in which a violent mob of Trump supporters tried to prevent the final certification of the Electoral College vote count. Trump watched on TV, apparently quite happy with his handiwork. He was a hero to his fans and within arms’ reach of getting the second term he claimed to deserve.

The attack failed, a perfect metaphor for Trump’s presidency.

Trump’s term ends at noon on January 20, just three days away. The nation’s capital city is an armed military camp awaiting a predicted resumption of the January 6 attack in an attempt to overthrow the government and install Trump as dictator.

Time will tell. But what is clear to me at least is that Donald Trump has violated the fundamental and central premise of democratic government. He has rejected his electoral loss and is trying to force himself on the country for a second term.

This then is the root of the tree of ultimate political evil. Unwillingness to accept the loss and move on after being heard more than 60 times in court, and despite multiple audits and recounts, is a  bridge too far, an undoing of norms, conventions and legal/Constitutional principles from which there is no recovery for forgiveness. In this effort, Trump is supported by multiple elected representatives of the people in the national legislature.

For those reasons alone, though there are many others, Trump should not only be convicted in his second impeachment, but he must also be prevented from holding public office again. If you don’t play by the rules, you must not be allowed on the field. The same is true for the other politicians who continue to falsify, fabricate and bloviate regarding the election result. They — Hawley, Cruz, Johnson and the others who voted to reject the final count even after the January 6 coup attempt —  must be removed from office and banned from holding another.

A Bright Spot in the Darkness

Much of what I write about here is dark and ominous. The past four years have brought the country low. We are on the verge, I believe, of beginning the long process of recovery, as I have indicated in earlier posts. But the darkness is tenacious. As we approach the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, on whom the hopes of the nation depend, the city of Washington is shrouded in massive defensive preparations – not against a foreign enemy, but against a segment of the American people who threaten to disrupt the inauguration to overturn the election.

As fate would have it, I am scheduled for some surgery in Bethesda, Maryland (a Washington suburb for those not familiar with the area) on February 19 and a follow-up exam in Rockville, MD on the 20th, Inauguration Day. Poor planning on my part, but I took what was available and could not predict that the capital city would be under siege by our own citizens.

Some days before, I had signed up for AlertDC, a messaging service about various disruptions one might want to know in traveling around the area. Last night (Friday at 8:22 pm) we received an alert including a message from the Virginia Department of Transportation about bridge closures, further raising our concerns  about our travel plans for my surgery. In the VDOT message were the standard “Contact” email addresses of people from VDOT and Virginia State Police.

Feeling increasingly concerned about the obstacles we might face making two roundtrips from downtown DC to the Maryland suburbs, I sent an email inquiry to all three. It was now 8:52 pm on Friday night. It would, I thought, be a miracle if we ever heard from anyone because they likely were being bombarded with messages and preoccupation with the brewing crisis across the area.

Eighteen minutes later, 9:10 on a Friday night, a reply email arrived with additional information about bridge closures and a specific suggestion to help reduce our risk of getting stuck. The message was from Ellen Kamilakis, Senior Public Affairs Officer at VDOT. Not a form message but a personal response with useful information that addressed my reason for reaching out. A  quick check of her LinkedIn revealed a multi-award-winning communicator. No wonder. I decided this person needs some additional recognition. Late on a Friday night, in an environment that must be fraught with pressure and uncertainty, Ms. Kamilakis took a moment to respond to a citizen with a problem.

As I noted in an earlier post, the next time someone makes a crack about “those government employees,” recall this message. Be thankful, as I am, that people like Ellen Kamilakis work for all of us.

Experience Keeps a Dear School – Time to Call the Question

Ben Franklin famously said, “Experience keeps a dear school, but a fool will learn in no other.” He was all too prescient.

I have noted before that religion and other beliefs are a choice. We are not born to believe one religion or indeed any religion. Similarly, we do not inherently believe science or mathematics. We learn the content of these things by various means, come to understand that some have options (religion) and some don’t (science and mathematics, though many questions remain open in each domain). We choose what to believe. Our choices are heavily influenced by parents, social circles, schooling and other forces, but in the end we each decide what to believe and how to act. That’s what I believe. And thus, I choose to believe the following:

A. On January 6, 2021, following months of unsupported and false claims of voting fraud and stolen election, an unprecedented and intolerable series of events occurred.

B. The President of the United States summoned his most volatile supporters to Washington and directed them to attack the Capitol Building where the Congress was completing the constitutionally mandated task of validating, counting and accepting the Electoral College votes that would officially and finally end the election in which Trump was soundly defeated.

C. The attack was orchestrated and planned beforehand by various means, including social media, encrypted websites and chat rooms frequented by people who have chosen to believe that,

    1. Donald Trump is an honest, hardworking, dedicated public servant trying to do the right thing for all Americans;
    2. Trump’s decision to downplay the coronavirus as another Democratic hoax was correct, despite the ensuing deaths of more than 375,000 Americans;
    3. QAnon is real – the government is run by a secret “deep state” cabal of pedophiles and other miscreants, possibly including lizard-people, trying to destroy America;
    4. The election Trump lost was rigged and rife with fraud, despite the bringing of more than 60 failed lawsuits, despite the absence of actual evidence of fraud, despite the opposite conclusion of many of Trump’s staunchest allies (Attorney General Barr, for example) and despite the fact that to rig the election on the claimed scale would have to have involved many thousands of cooperating individuals in multiple states, including many Republican election officials.
    5. Despite numerous sources warning of the impending assault, multiple government security authorities concluded that a small force of Capitol Police, with limited equipment and unclear instructions/chain of command, could handle whatever might occur. When the attack quickly overwhelmed the limited opposing force, some of whom actively cooperated with the attackers, urgent appeals for additional help from nearby National Guard and other forces were either denied, delayed or simply ignored.
    6. While FBI and other law enforcement agencies are now arresting hundreds of riot participants, little meaningful light was been shed on how such a massive, widespread failure of security could have occurred, jeopardizing the lives of government officials high in the chain of presidential succession and numerous members of Congress who had publicly stated they intended to accept the Electoral College votes and declare Joe Biden, once and for all, the election winner.
    7. Republican members of Congress who voted against accepting the Electoral College results continue to resist accountability by Trump for the attack on the Capitol.
    8. Republican members of Congress who refused to accept the results participated through speeches and likely other means in inducing the attack on the Capitol.
    9. Those same Republican members refused to comply with House requirements to wear masks, likely resulting in COVID infection of multiple members who congregated with those Republicans in safe holding areas while police and reinforcements pushed the invaders out of the building.
    10. Those same Republican members of Congress have refused to cooperate with new House security measures intended to assure safety of Congress and staff, such as passing through magnetometers at entry doors.
    11. Most of those same Republicans voted “no” to the House resolution impeaching Trump for the unprecedented second time for inciting an insurrection against the government of the United States (see details at https://bit.ly/3nJK2cd)
  1. D. As a result of the foregoing, the nation’s capital city, preparing for the inauguration of Joe Biden & Kamala Harris, is a state of major defensive lockdown arising from well-founded fear that the insurrectionists inspired by Trump will return and use violence to try to prevent the inauguration from being completed.
  2. E. The sealed-off perimeter for the already limited inaugural activities has been vastly expanded and public transportation has already begun to be shut down in a wide area.
  3. F. National Guard presence is evident at multiple government buildings.
  4. G. Reports indicate a vast law enforcement mobilization in anticipation that it may be necessary to repel additional attacks by Trump’s supporters against the U.S. government.

That is where we are. The nation’s capital is under threat from an army of thousands of American citizens supported by multiple members of the Republican Party who have learned nothing from the recent experience and continue to align themselves with utterly discredited claims of election fraud and phantasmagorical claims that are suggestive of the most far-out science-fiction.

The claims of adequate preparation for the possible attacks is, of course, comforting. But, in my opinion, it is not enough. I believe the following:

  1. The Speaker of the House should immediately announce that any member of the House who refuses to wear a mask in the Capitol or who refuses to pass through magnetometers to assure they are unarmed will not be recognized to speak in the House chamber until they comply. If those members continue to disrupt the House through demands to be heard and other means, the Sergeant-at-Arms of the House should forcibly remove such members from the building.
  2. The federal government law enforcement leadership should publicly announce and, where possible, directly communicate to the putative leaders and participants of those threatening to renew the January 6 attack that they will be met with extreme physical deterrence. This means a warning that deadly force will be authorized – not tear gas and rubber bullets, but the full force of the police and military forces charged with protecting the city and the government from further insurrectionist actions.
  3. It is time to stop treating the Republican and Trump supporter insurrectionists like spoiled over-privileged children. They are adults making the most serious decisions to attempt to overthrow the government through force and violence. The fastest solution, with the least likelihood of mass casualties and destruction of the fabric of our democratic republic, is to employ force that will end the fight swiftly and definitively. As horrifying as that scene will be, it will far worse, I suggest, to engage in a repeat in the nation’s capital of the prolonged street conflicts that ensued during the conflicts in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by police and related cases.
  4. The U.S. government has not only the right but the obligation to defend itself and now is the time to make clear unequivocally that such defense will be mounted with full force against any who choose to challenge it through violence.

If you are horrified by this prospect, you should be. So am I. But think of what happens, or could happen, if the defense of the Capitol City and the government is insufficient to stop the insurrection before it can work its full destructive force. I chose to believe we have no other reasonable option.