Tag Archives: Trump

Great Expectations Meet Legal Reality

Politico appears to have joined the ranks of journalists who, having lost their matinee idol (Donald Trump), have turned their attention to throwing dirt at the Biden administration. It’s apparently hard doing political journalism when the President is a normal human being who actually works at his job and doesn’t spend all day demeaning others while praising himself.

In any case, Politico reports that for some reason, not entirely clear to me, the Biden administration may be embarrassed by the prospect that many of the insurrectionists who invaded and debased the Capitol on January 6 may not do much, if any, hard jail time. https://politi.co/3wbBBMj

There is nothing new or surprising about that possibility and no reason for the Biden administration to be “embarrassed” about it.

This click-bait story suggests that it was reasonable to believe that every one of the crazed mob of Trump supporters would be charged with felonies and imprisoned under very long sentences for their crimes. At the same time it notes that the many “lower-level cases” are clogging the District of Columbia federal trial court where all these cases are being “heard.” Those lower-level cases involve misdemeanor charges that typically plead out.

The reason for this is not ‘justice.” If justice were to be had here, all of the people who invaded the Capitol to stop the final approval of Biden’s election victory would be charged with felonies and required to plead to deals involving meaningful jail time.

But practical reality governs in these situations. Mass arrest scenarios rarely lead to jail time for  many who are swept up in the arrest net. This has been true for as long as mass arrests have occurred. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_arrest  The court system simply cannot handle trials of hundreds of people on top of its already heavy case load.

The result is that “deals” are made between prosecution and defense to an agreed sentence, often probation for first-offenders when only property damage is involved, in exchange for a guilty plea that avoids the time and cost of a jury trial. This is true almost regardless of the circumstances, although, as a society, we generally do not treat white people who commit “light crimes” with the harshness meted out to minority defendants.

There is, of course, an unusual amount of visual evidence in these cases — hundreds of hours of video of the crime scene. While the videos show a staggering amount of violence by the mob that led to dozens of injuries to police, it is apparently also true that many of those identified and arrested so far were not actually engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the Capitol Police or in physical desecration of the building. These people allegedly just “went along for the ride.” If so, they almost certainly will end up “pleading” to some misdemeanor offense and may indeed be spared jail time. That is an outrage given the threat to our democratic system that they attempted to achieve, but the judicial system simply cannot cope otherwise.

Politico takes this simple reality to the extreme of making a “federal case” out of nothing in stating that,

The prospect of dozens of January 6 rioters cutting deals for minor sentences could be hard to explain for the Biden administration, which has characterized the Capitol Hill mob as a uniquely dangerous threat. Before assuming office, Biden said the rioters’ attempt to overturn the election results by force “borders on sedition”; Attorney General Merrick Garland has called the prosecutions his top early priority, describing the storming of Congress as “a heinous attack that sought to disrupt a cornerstone of our democracy, the peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected government.

Justice Department prosecutors sent expectations sky-high in early statements and court filings, describing elaborate plots to murder lawmakers — descriptions prosecutors have tempered as new details emerged.

Nonsense. There are plenty of serious cases of violence that will lead to meaningful jail time and other penalties for the perpetrators. Many felons remain to be identified and arrested. This is not going away. It was a “uniquely dangerous event.”

The report is accurate in noting the time pressure on the prosecution, but again this is not unusual in mass-arrest cases. Speedy trial is a constitutional right, sometimes ignored, but a right nonetheless. And we can be sure that these virtually all-white “protestor insurrectionists” will get every advantage to which they are accustomed.

Other than the target of this particular mob, and the inspiration for their attack (the former president), there is nothing especially unusual about these cases. Mayhem has degrees just like other violence and the law treats each case individually. It’s likely that violent “protestors” in Portland and other places are facing the same issues, and opportunities, as the insurrectionists who attacked the Capitol.

I, at least, deeply hope that none of the Capitol attackers is going to receive what Politico refers to as a wrist-slapping. This attack was not a response to a prior event (as, for example, the protests after George Floyd’s murder) – it had a specific goal: to stop Congress from carrying out its constitutional duty to certify the election. The article refers to people “who walked into the building that day without authorization.” That, I  believe, fails to recognize the gravity of what was happening that January 6. Few, if any, of the insurrectionists just “walked into the building” – the proof is in the videos.

Politico says, “the Justice Department will soon be in the awkward position of having to defend such deals, even as trials and lengthy sentences for those facing more serious charges could be a year or more away.” Again, there is nothing “awkward” about this, beyond the simple inability of the judicial system to cope, in a constitutional democracy, with mass-type arrests, whether all at once or individually later for crimes that occurred together. Politico adds to its hyping of a non-existent issue by noting that Trump continues to lie about what happened on January 6, claiming this adds to the “political awkwardness” of the situation.

Wrong. Trump will continue lying and blathering to his last breath. Except for his die-hard political base, no serious person thinks Trump has any substantive contribution to make to the American political situation. It is certainly and indisputably true that Trump can be expected to keep lying about January 6 in an effort to thwart what he rightly fears as criminal prosecution of himself personally. No one is more deserving.

Unfortunately for journalism, Politico uses a common Trump formula in referencing “what many in the court system are referring to as “MAGA tourists,” a phrasing of unknown provenance (who, actually, are the “many” who call the insurrectionists “MAGA tourists?”) and calculated to diminish the significance of what happened on January 6.

Finally, I note that some of the January 6 defendants continue to run off at the mouth on Twitter and other social media, claiming they did nothing wrong and remain proud of their actions that day. Those defendants should face the full weight of the law – no deals for them. Let them stand trial if they like and face sentencing for their January 6 conduct and their continuing indifferent or outright hostility to the rule of law. Unless the judges in these cases want a repeat of January 6 or worse, they had better take a direct approach to such cases that are deserving of no leniency or special treatment.

The 2020 Election Was Not Stolen

I continue to see reports of Republicans claiming that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. Republican talking heads are being given air time on the networks and, of course, on cable, to continue arguing about this. They are wrong. It’s time to move on.

Republicans claiming the election was stolen due to rampant voter fraud are wrong for multiple reasons.

Belief is a choice. If we are to be rationally and coherently connected to the world, we must have a basis for that choice. There are several options.

One option (Evidence Principle) is: evidence. I believe X because there is sufficient evidence that X is true and insufficient evidence that non-X or anti-X is true, when both X and non/anti-X cannot be true at the same time.

Another option (No Evidence Principle): I go by the “absence of evidence rule” that the “absence of evidence is not evidence of the absence.” Thus, if there is no evidence from which to adopt Belief X, I still may choose to believe X because of the “rule.” Don’t try to tell me X is not true; I believe it because there is no evidence to disprove X. Bear in mind, however, that this option is only rational and coherent if there is no evidence. If there is evidence that X is not true, one cannot use this “absence of evidence” rationale for asserting X is true.

Another option (Don’t Know/Don’t Care Principle): I have no idea whether there is evidence or not regarding the truth of Belief X, but I choose to believe X anyway, because I believe a lot of things for which I have no evidence: (1) there is too much evidence to cope with, (2) evidence exists but we just don’t know what it is yet, (3) I know a lot of other people who believe X and I like them/respect them/want to be seen as one of them, so I really don’t care what is true. I believe what I believe.

What do we know regarding the 2020 election?

    1. After more than 60 legal challenges, the Republicans supporting Trump prevailed in exactly none that would have changed the result of the presidential election – NONE. Trump’s counsel and experts were never able to produce evidence that X was true, where X is the fact that the presidential election was stolen by rampant fraud in the handful of battleground states that decided the election.
    2. Since the legal battles ended and the Electoral College results were certified, the pro-Trump crowd has still not produced evidence of X, that the presidential election was stolen, despite months of opportunities to do so.
    3. During the multitude of legal challenges prior to January 6, the pro-Trump contingent was never able to explain how the presidential election was stolen (X was true) while Republicans continued to have electoral success in other races in the same battleground states (Belief Y, that would be expected to be concurrently true if X were true).

It appears that the Evidence Principle and the No Evidence Principle must be rejected as rational and coherent explanations for the continuing claim that the election was stolen.

We are left with the Don’t Know/Don’t Care Principle that, I suggest, means that there is no rational or coherent basis for the claim that the election is stolen. The apparently widespread belief in the QAnon Conspiracy and some of the other nonsense being spread on cable TV, most notably FoxNews, Newsmax and OAN, including but not limited to shows like Breitbart, are examples of the Don’t Know/Don’t Care Principle in practice – large numbers of Americans choose to belief utter nonsense for which no evidence exists or even could exist.

To be clear, I am open to being shown the error of my thinking on this but, absent such proof, this is where we are.

I am happy to have settled this problem for the nation. The subject should be considered closed. The media can now stop giving air time to the proponents of the Don’t Know/Don’t Care Principle. They have nothing useful to contribute to the national dialogue about how we should govern ourselves and therefore no more valuable air time should we wasted on them.

The End. Roll the credits. Blackout.

Republican Titanic – “I don’t see no stinkin’ iceberg”

Republican senators had an advantage over the Titanic command – the attack on the Capitol occurred in broad daylight and was captured on video by hundreds of gleeful participants. The attack, we now know, was planned by some participants in advance. The mob was summoned to Washington by Donald Trump, then the president of the United States, and directed to walk to the Capitol to stop the counting of Electoral College votes that would, at long last, end any hope Trump had of retaining power. It all happened in public view – Trump’s call to action, hours of hand-to-hand fighting with police, the mob hunting for members of Congress (particularly for Speaker Pelosi and Vice President Pence—“Hang Mike Pence,” they yelled) and ransacking the hallowed ground of American democracy. Calls for help went unanswered.

The desecration did not end on January 6. After reviewing the undeniable evidence, only seven Republican senators (Burr, Cassidy, Collins, Murkowski, Romney, Sasse and Toomey) had the courage, moral conviction, instinct for survival, call it what you will, to vote to convict Trump of the incitement to violence the entire world had witnessed. The other Republicans were fine with what happened, so much so that many of them literally ignored the proceedings in the Senate trial.

The media reported that Trump was “acquitted,” and while it’s a fine point, this was not an acquittal but just a failure to reach a super-majority for “guilty.” The total vote for “guilty” was 57, well past a simple majority and a historic first. In substance, Trump was found “guilty but not guilty.” In a supreme irony, the failure to achieve a two-thirds majority spared Trump by virtue of the very Constitution that he spat upon throughout his presidency.

Before the vote occurred, I was penning a blog post entitled “Senator Ted Cruz – Sophist in Wonderland,” addressing an op-ed Cruz wrote for, who else, Fox News. https://fxn.ws/2ZfvsQ0 The op-ed is remarkable for many reasons, but what stood out for me was the surprising conclusion that the Senate did indeed have jurisdiction to conduct a trial of a former president for in-office conduct. That conclusion, however, is followed by ““I believe the Senate should decline to exercise jurisdiction-and so I voted to dismiss this impeachment on jurisdictional grounds.” [boldface & italics mine] Thus, Cruz would have you believe that the Senate had jurisdiction but also did not have jurisdiction.

This style of reasoning is typical of the Republicans who have accepted Donald Trump as their liege lord. In their eyes, he can do no wrong. In the rare case where they admit he was wrong about something, they still support him. Absolute in their views about many things, so-called Republican “conservatives” apply total relativism for Trump’s conduct – relative to Satan himself. (Trump’s not so bad compared to the Beast himself, so what’s the problem?) Trump’s hallucinatory view of reality as totally malleable – essentially, “it is what I say it is” – is the Alice in Wonderland world the Republican Party has adopted as its operative principle. Beyond that, it has no principles. Power is all.

That much has been clear for the entirety of Trump’s presidency, at the very least since KellyAnne Conway uttered the infamous line about “alternative facts” two days after Trump’s inauguration. The January 6 insurrection that, reduced to its essence, was an attempt to overthrow the government by a sitting president, at least provided clarity about where the Republican Party stands.

Senators like Rand Paul can still appear on television and with a straight face argue that there are “two sides to everything.” But only someone with no moral foundation would say that. Even a craven individual like Mitch McConnell has admitted there is no evidence that the election was stolen from Trump. But, like Cruz, McConnell, moments after voting against the Senate majority, agreed that Trump had incited the violence for which McConnell had just voted he could not be held accountable. In Trumpland, reality really is whatever Trump says it is.

Now comes former Professor Alan Dershowitz in Newsweek, to offer cover for Republicans looking for a seemingly intellectually plausible basis to argue that Trump’s “incitement” was really protected speech under the First Amendment. https://bit.ly/3pnLWzY  [Disclosure: Dershowitz taught my 1L criminal law class at Harvard]

Dershowitz argues there is no difference between what Trump did and the actions of Representative Jamie Raskin’s father (Marcus Raskin) and others who, in the 1960’s, encouraged young men to resist the draft and endorsed  “the burning of draft cards, break-ins at draft boards and other unlawful actions to obstruct the war effort.” According to Dershowitz,

the defense was that the First Amendment protected Marcus’ advocacy of resistance to the draft, even if such resistance then took a form of unlawful actions by others….The jury acquitted Marcus, and the court of appeals reversed the convictions of the other defendants. They were all saved by a broad reading of the First Amendment.

While it’s remotely possible that my limited access to research has failed to find some relevant authorities, I am at loss to understand what Dershowitz is saying. The Court of Appeals case he refers to must be United States v Spock, 416 F.2d 165 (1st Cir. 1969). This was the appeal from the trial that acquitted Marcus of conspiracy but found the other four members of the “Spock Five” guilty. Contrary to the implication of Dershowitz’s description, the Court of Appeals in Spock did not reverse the convictions of the other four due to a “broad reading of the First Amendment.”

A couple of quotes from the opinion suffice to frame what was really going on:

The defendants here are not charged … with expressions of sympathy and moral support, but with conspiring to counsel, aid and abet Selective Service registrants to disobey various duties imposed by the Selective Service Act….

What we do determine is that the First Amendment does not, per se, require acquittal.

The central question addressed by the opinion was,

Whether … the evidence was sufficient to take the defendants to the jury.

There was, of course, an obvious and complex relationship between the First Amendment protections of speech and the adequacy of the evidence of illegal intent. The Court’s opinion expressly recognized the problem, but it also set out three different ways in which a speaker critical of the government could be found to have unlawfully conspired to violate the law, notwithstanding the First Amendment: (1) prior or subsequent “unambiguous statements;” (2) “subsequent commission of the very illegal act contemplated by the agreement;” or (3) “subsequent legal act if that act is ‘clearly undertaken for the specific purpose of rendering effective the later illegal activity which is advocated.”

The opinion, moreover, did not discuss Marcus Raskin at all because he was acquitted at trial. There is no way to know what the basis for a jury’s decision is, so Dershowitz cannot plausibly claim that Raskin was saved by a “broad reading of the First Amendment.”

The Court of Appeals did reverse the guilty findings of the other four defendants, as Dershowitz said. The Court reversed the trial court’s guilty finding for Spock because the evidence against him did not establish the “necessary intent to adhere to its [the charged conspiracy’s] illegal aspects.” Further, “Spock’s actions lacked the clear character necessary to imply specific intent under the First Amendment standard.”

While it’s certainly  true that the Court was applying the principle of strictest interpretation of law required by the First Amendment, as to which there was nothing surprising given the history of decisions regarding controversial speech, the actual decision as to Spock was based on evidentiary failures.

As to defendant Michael Ferber, at the time a draft-age student, the Court said,

the evidence did not warrant a finding that through other statements or conduct he joined the larger conspiracy for which the other defendants were prosecuted.

Rev. Coffin and Andrew Goodman had a different outcome entirely, but it was determined not by the First Amendment but by what the Court of Appeals determined, rather easily, was a fundamental error by the trial judge in posing questions to the jury designed to elicit “specific findings” of separate elements of the crimes charged, if they had reached a guilty verdict. That approach, condemned rather universally by precedent, ran afoul of the independence accorded to juries under American law. Juries, in other words, are free in criminal cases to do what they will; the Court of Appeals wrote:

To ask the jury special questions might be said to infringe on its power to deliberate free from legal fetters; on its power to arrive at a general verdict without having to support it by reasons or by a report of its deliberations; and on its power to follow or not to follow the instructions of the court. Moreover, any abridgement or modification of this institution would partly restrict its historic function, that of tempering rules of law by common sense brought to bear upon the facts of a specific case…

Uppermost … is the principle that the jury, as the conscience of the community, must be permitted to look at more than logic…. If it were otherwise there would be no more reason why a verdict should not be directed against a defendant in a criminal case than in a civil one. The constitutional guarantees of due process and trial by jury require that a criminal defendant be afforded the full protection of a jury unfettered, directly or indirectly….

Here, whereas, as we have pointed out, some defendants could be found to have exceeded the bounds of free speech, the issue was peculiarly one to which a community standard or conscience was, in the jury’s discretion, to be applied.

The Court thus reversed the trial court as to Coffin and Goodman and ordered new trials, leaving open the possibility that a properly instructed jury could convict them.

Thereafter, the government dropped the charges, ending the case.

Undeterred by those realities, Dershowitz goes on to expand his view of Trump’s innocence with this:

Several years later, Marcus [Raskin] was once again protected by a broad reading of the First Amendment, when he served as an intermediary between Daniel Ellsberg, who unlawfully stole the Pentagon Papers, and The New York Times, which published them despite their being classified. But for the First Amendment, Marcus would have been charged with conspiracy to publish classified material.

Unlike Dershowitz, I don’t claim to know what would have happened if there had been no First Amendment precedents, but I do know that the referenced case, New York Times Co. v. United States, 403 U.S. 713 (1971), involved the government’s attempt to stop publication of stolen classified documents. It dealt with “prior restraint” of the press and is remotely, if at all, relevant to the fate of Marcus Raskin.

Dershowitz then engages in a clever application of “whataboutism,” not to mention historical speculation and revisionism:

If Jamie Raskin’s current view of the First Amendment had prevailed back in the day, his father would likely have been convicted of two felonies. If President Trump incited his followers to commit unlawful conduct, so did Marcus.

In an all-too-familiar trope, Dershowitz goes on with this:

I would have thought that Jamie Raskin—in light of his history as a constitutional law professor, his family history under the First Amendment and his own protests against the 2016 election—would be leading the charge to protect the First Amendment. But no! He is leading the charge to compromise President Trump’s free speech rights—and thus the rights of all Americans to express controversial, even wrongheaded and provocative, views.

The English translation is “I thought someone as smart as you would not hold such crazy and disreputable views.” I really hate to see that, perhaps because it’s been used against me by people holding Trump-ish views. If someone disagrees about something, explain yourself, but don’t do the “how could someone as smart as you be so dumb” routine, especially following an incomplete, and arguably inaccurate recital of historical facts about which the author should know better (he claims to have been involved in the defense of the Spock case).

Returning to what Dershowitz labels as the desire of various people and groups to create a “Trump exception” to the First Amendment, Trump’s speech on January 6 does not stand alone. Indeed, in the Spock case, the Court of Appeals addressed in some detail not only the words spoken but other conduct that indicated participation (or not) in the charged conspiracy.

Trump actively invited his supporters to come to Washington on January 6 to “stop the steal,” a false claim that the election had been stolen from him. His public statements, through Twitter and otherwise, painted a false picture of what had happened. More than 60 court cases had heard his claims and rejected them. Some of his staunchest allies, including the Republican Majority Leader and his former Attorney General, had publicly acknowledged that the claim of stolen election was false.

Trump could say what he wanted, but there is no plausibility to the argument that he actually believed what he was saying to the mob. He lied repeatedly to them. Why? The only plausible reason was to stir them up, to play upon their anger and fear. He was supported in this by his attorney (who called for “trial by combat,” a statement Trump did not reject), and his sons addressing the mob that assembled at the “rally” in Washington.

It should be obvious, but speaking at a Trump rally is not like karaoke night at a bar where anyone who wants to perform can take the mic. Trump approved everything. He explicitly stated that the mob was going to walk down to the Capitol and that he would be with them, a crucially important element in the incitement component of the speech. That is a fact that his Republican supplicants would like to overlook but Trump’s assurance that he would accompany the mob to the Capitol is conclusive of his intent to direct them. Even before he finished talking, a large contingent of supporters headed for the Capitol Building, apparently led by the Proud Boys. Trump continued egging on the others who soon followed.

Thus, Trump’s call for action went well beyond merely voicing objection to government action. He explicitly directed the mob to go to the Capitol, leading them to believe he would be going with them. That Trump lied about going with them is irrelevant to the question whether his speech was simply a complaint about the government or a specific incitement to specific violent action that was foreseeable because it was called for by his choice of words, his continuing to lie about the election and by his subsequent failure to take action to resist the assault on the Capitol.

Indeed, the fact that no steps were taken by the Secret Service to move Trump to a secure location in the face of a brutal physical attack by thousands on the Capitol that lasted for several hours of hand-to-hand combat is itself strong evidence that Trump had directed the attack and intended for it to occur. He was perfectly content to sit back and watch his handiwork play out. Statements from White House sources, not credibly rebutted by evidence of contrary action, indicate that Trump was pleased with the violence and could not understand why others on White House staff were not equally moved by it.

A finding in those circumstances that Trump incited the attack on the Capitol does not create a “Trump exception” to the First Amendment. Dershowitz flatly states that the First Amendment recognizes no exception for actions by the president, but his assertion begs the question. Trump took an oath to defend the Constitution.

Dershowitz’s argument that Trump could not violate the law because he was “protesting the actions of other  branches of government” also fails to address the key issue: was the “protest” an active incitement to violence that the president sought to inspire and that he effectively directed to occur? Was he merely complaining out loud about what he thought, however absurdly, was a bad election? Or, was he effectively leading (from behind, but still leading) a physical attack to stop a constitutionally-mandated action from sealing his electoral fate?

In World War II, General Eisenhower did not physically assault the beaches at Normandy, but he was Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces. No person of reason would say that Eisenhower did not lead and direct the attack. Dershowitz’s categorical claim that Trump’s words were protected by the First Amendment would, if true, immunize any person, including a president, from organizing and directing from a distance a violent attempt to overthrow the government and capture or retain power. Whatever the First Amendment means, it doesn’t mean that. If it did, the framers would have created the seed from which the defeat of the democratic republic they risked so much to create could be easily destroyed. Dershowitz’s snarky attack on Jamie Raskin aside, that facile exercise in “whataboutism” is simply implausible.

Returning then to the metaphor I used at the outset of this post, if the democratic republic we know as the United States is going to survive, and we know that democracy is rare in world politics, the Republican Party must now face a reckoning unlike anything in its history. If the republic is fortunate, the GOP has doomed itself by aligning with a wannabe-dictator. An overwhelming majority of Americans who believe in the principle of rule by the people through a neutral system of laws will emerge from the horrors of January 6 with a stronger commitment to assure that such outrages are not repeated.

An agenda to achieve that end should include strong criminal prosecutions not only of the perpetrators of violence at the Capitol but of the leader. The spinelessness of the Republican senators who voted “not guilty” in the second impeachment should motivate true patriots to demand complete justice accomplished through the justice system without political involvement.

In addition to the offenses arising from January 6, we must not forget that the Mueller Report documented no fewer than ten instances of blatant obstruction of justice by Donald Trump. Those cases must be prosecuted so that no future president thinks he or she can follow Trump’s approach to governance with impunity. Don’t forget that Trump claimed Article II of the Constitution authorized him to “do whatever I want.”

As part of that process, but separate from it, the Department of Justice should reconsider its policy position that a sitting president cannot be indicted while in office. The “Republican gap” – you can’t indict while in office and you can’t try impeachments after leaving — must be closed definitively.

The federal government also needs to re-examine the states’ voter suppression tactics, which are rampant in the wake of the 2020 election. While I remain profoundly suspicious that Republican-dominated state governments will give good-faith and fair consideration to voter -expanding processes, a brief attempt should be made to find mutually-acceptable policies, to be ingrained in federal and state laws, that will put a permanent stop to the meddling that occurred in 2020 and long before. Nothing is more important to the survival of democracy than assuring that the will of the people is effectuated through elections at every level of government. The Biden administration should add this to its long list of priorities.

Finally, Americans who are committed to the continuation of government of, by and for the people must wake up, sign up, get informed and vote in every election. Failure to attend to the democratic opportunity will result in its being eliminated. We saw this in 2016 and almost again in 2020.

As for the Republican Titanic Party, Americans who believe in the principles once held by the GOP now must find a new political home. The GOP has been taken over by conspiracy theorists and violent extremists. They believe America can survive as an independent country even as it returns to an imaginary yesteryear in which a huge percentage of the population is treated like property, the country’s best opportunities are reserved for white people and we ignore issues like climate change and the need for international relationships based on shared interest and peace. They often espouse principles that would destroy the separation of church and state, a bedrock element of American freedom and independence.

Those Americans who, for better or worse, still genuinely believe that a country in the 21st century can prosper only with smaller government, less regulation of virulent capitalism and the other central tenets of traditional conservative values must find a new political home. If they choose to remain with the GOP, they are going to be swamped by Trumpers who have captured the machinery of its state parties (witness the multiple censures of Republicans who dared go against Trump during the election and after the January 6 attack). The old GOP is a dead duck, a backward-looking myth-based hallucination. Donald Trump, Jr. said it straight out on January 6: the GOP is now Trump’s party.

I hope that genuine conservatives will reconsider whether a modern 21st century country can prosper, or even survive, if it relies on Trump’s values. I hope they will join the Democratic Party in a future that accepts reality and welcomes change (which is inevitable), is inclusive (more interesting people in a diverse population) and works extra hard to ensure that its children are raised as independent thinkers (not replicas of their parents) who are more prepared to face the daunting challenges of 21st century life, open to new experiences, new people and hope. If those people come over, the old GOP will lose a huge element of its power and become a marginalized collection of white supremacists, misogynists and extremists with little to no influence on American political life going forward.

“Hang Mike Pence” – Politics as Usual?

If you’ve had the stomach to watch the videos shown to the U.S. Senate in Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial, you saw and heard this chant from the mob that attacked the Capitol on January 6. This was the threat to the Vice President instigated by the President. The evidence is overwhelming. Trump inspired and directed the mob of crazed right-wing insurrectionists and conspiracy-believers to attack the Capitol to stop the counting of Electoral College votes so that he could declare himself the winner of the election he so clearly lost. I am no fan of Mike Pence as a politician or person but “Hang Mike Pence” and “Pence is a traitor” for refusing to follow Trump’s expressed direction to throw the election to him are simply, unequivocally, irrefutably wrong and unacceptable.

Political pundits of all stripes predict that the Republicans in the Senate, as Lindsey Graham and others have declared, will vote to acquit Trump despite the evidence, just as they did in his first impeachment for trying to strong-arm a foreign president to damage his expected election opponent. I am not going to waste space reciting the evidence against Trump or addressing the preposterous defenses that his hapless counsel have presented. No, my question today relates to a different aspect of  this situation.

The question is simple enough: after the Republicans again prevent a guilty verdict, will the remaining Senators and Congresspeople just return to “politics as usual,” as they normally do after sometimes bruising political conflicts? Do they just go back to normal arguing, debating, schmoozing, dining together, attending meetings together and all the rest … as if this latest offense to truth and the Constitutional order were just another political difference of opinion?

Because it indisputably wasn’t just another difference of opinion. Based on the evidence, the mob sent by Trump was intent upon doing harm to not only the person second in succession to the presidency but also to members of Congress, including the Speaker of the House, third in the line of succession.  The mob engaged the Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police in a pitched battle for hours. The mob threw fists, threw fire extinguishers, beat police with hockey sticks and metal poles, hit police with bear spray and much more. For hours. Once inside the Capitol building, they ransacked offices while hunting for the prime targets of Trump’s and their anger. They desecrated the Capitol building not just with their presence but with their violence as they hunted for the fleeing members of Congress.

Those facts are not in dispute. The mob was fortunate in some ways that the police, for whatever reasons, did not fire on them. Imagine for just one moment what that scene would have looked like. Dead insurrectionists piling up in front of dead police (many of the mob were armed and almost certainly would have returned fire in close quarters with the defending police force). The worst that will happen to the mob now is that some of them will be convicted of multiple federal crimes, will be sentenced to prison terms, will lose their jobs and their families, and on and on. All for what? Some, of course, will be lionized by the Republican right-wing as heroes, a dubious honor already conferred on the woman who was shot trying to force her way into the House chamber. The others will disappear into well-earned obscurity.

Left behind will be the politicians, one group of which will have turned their backs on their colleagues to seek the favor of the mob back home that, while perhaps sharing the views of the January 6 attackers, stayed put and retains the right to vote in the next election. Left behind will be the politicians on the “other side of the aisle,” the mystical dividing line between the parties in the House and Senate chambers, most of whom are Democrats. A few will be Republicans who understood their higher duty and acted honorably, for which they are being vilified by Republican party leaders around the country. Left behind will be the Democrats holding slim majority power in both chambers and, of course, the White House. Left behind to deal with the carnage wrought by Trump’s violent and deranged army. Left behind also will be the Black Capitol Police officers who, well before January 6, had good reason to wonder if all their white colleagues really had their backs in a fight. See, for example, https://bit.ly/3u0aEds reporting on the long history of racism and other issues in the Capitol Police, largely ignored by Congress.

As those politicians who miraculously survived the mob assault return to their normal legislative work after the acquittal vote, how will they treat the senators who were perfectly content to have the mob kill them for doing their constitutional duty and for refusing to adopt the lies Donald Trump continued to promote about the election. How does one sit across from another politician with whom you have not just a profound disagreement about governance policies but who has basically said: “I am fine with your being murdered by a mob of Trump supporters because your life means nothing compared to keeping Trump, and myself, in power.?”

We’ve seen one hint, from Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She responded to Ted Cruz’s tweet purporting to agree with her regarding the dispute over stock market activity/manipulation with this:

I am happy to work with Republicans on this issue where there’s common ground, but you almost had me murdered 3 weeks ago so you can sit this one out. Happy to work w/ almost any other GOP that aren’t trying to get me killed. In the meantime if you want to help, you can resign. [Tweet, Jan. 28]

AOC is well-known for speaking her mind and this is a situation that calls for bold and clear responses. Going along to get along just won’t do anymore.

The question Democrats and a handful of honorable Republicans will have to face is how to deal with the reality that, looking at the evidence, that the Trump-acquitting Republicans no longer see their opposing representatives as other than enemies in the truest sense of that word. This is not a case of just another political fight where afterward everyone hoists a drink to celebrate messy but glorious democracy and moves on to the next dispute. A line has been crossed and there is no going back from here. The Republican Party has forfeited its legitimacy as an American political institution and there must be consequences.

What those consequences are, I am not competent to describe, but the members of Congress who have prosecuted the case against Trump will have to deal with it. There is no going back; no return to politics as usual. The American public, the majority that still believes in the American concept of democracy, will have to face it as well. We cannot just go back to the Before Times, like nothing much happened, like this was just a bad episode in the march toward truth, justice and the American way. A large contingent of Republican senators didn’t even bother to show their faces today, on the last day of the prosecution presentation. Their disdain for the process, for the American way of political life, is blatant and undeniable.

In light of all of this, the challenge is overwhelming to contemplate, especially when added to the racial divisions that have afflicted the country for all these hundreds of years and that boiled over in the wake of the latest spate of killings of unarmed Black people by police. The mythical “idea of America” has been brutally exposed for its essential unreality and it’s a hard pill to swallow. But it’s a truth from which we cannot escape until we have faced the demon and vanquished it.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

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.

America Under Siege

Take a long look at the image above. This is the Capitol of the United States four days after the siege of Trump supporters on January 6. The entire area around the Capitol, like that surrounding the White House and the Executive Office Building, is cordoned off by 7-foot high fencing. No one is permitted to enter Lafayette Park across from the White House, The closest you can get now is on foot and you are still at an extreme distance. The White House is all but invisible. The images below were taken with a long lens and do not accurately reflect how far away we were kept by the police stationed around the perimeter.

By now everyone is aware that the sitting president of the United States, having overwhelmingly lost the 2020 election, has, along with his Republican co-conspirators in Congress and at the White House, undertaken a campaign of false claims that the election was “stolen” by a country-wide cabal of liberal Democrats aided by certain Republicans in battleground states. Unwilling to accept the overwhelming evidence, including the judgment of some of his closest enablers like the just-former Attorney General William Barr, Trump decided to force the issue by disrupting the final Congressional process of counting, verifying and accepting the states’ certification of their Electoral College votes. He summoned his supporters to Washington on January 6, the day Congress would meet, gave an incendiary speech and directed the throng of screaming Trumpists to go to the Capitol where the Congress was meeting “to steal the election” from him. He said he would be with them, but that, of course, was just another Trump lie. The rest is history, labeled by many as one of the darkest days the country has ever seen.

Trump’s “army” assaulted the Capitol, inadequately defended by the Capitol Police, many of whom appeared on video to welcome the intruders. The attack was responsible for the death of one police officer, led to the death of one mob member on the verge of forcing her way into the room immediately outside the House chamber, and came close to reaching the members of Congress deliberating there. Three mob members died of medical problems in the heat of the attack.

So it has come to pass that the nation’s Capitol resembles a country being attacked by foreign armies. Members of the National Guard are stationed at various locations around the Capitol to guard the congressional office buildings. Trump has encouraged the mob to return and disrupt the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. The various chat boards favored by right-wing conspiracy nuts are alive with phantasmagorical claims and assertions of intention to effectively take over the government on Trump’s behalf.

This may seem comical and absurd to some, but I assure you it is deadly serious. The mob that assaulted the Capitol were laughing and high-fiving each other after what they regarded as an easy and overwhelming victory. Man of them are now being arrested around the country and face serious federal criminal charges. Like some gang members, the prospect of “doing time” in support of Trump is seen as a badge of honor in their delusional imaginations.

Trump’s claims are preposterous — unsupported by evidence, rejected by multiple courts — yet, right after the Capitol invasion Republican Party officials had a party at Amelia Island to celebrate Trump and their accomplishments. There is no reason to think Trump is ready to face reality. He believes he is immune from accountability, as he has been throughout his life. Trump has turned the national capital into a dark place, fencing off the People’s House and now the citadel of freedom that the Capitol Building signifies to the world. The time to put a stop to Donald Trump’s presidency is at hand, It would be a grave mistake to underestimate his willingness to destroy the country to avoid the reckoning he rightly fears.

These images illustrate the extent and appearance of the fencing that seals off the White House, Supreme Court, Executive Office Building and Capitol.

Black Lives Matter Plaza is one of the closest approaches that can now be made to the White House. It is the site of a peace vigil and other elements.

The National Guard on the job and it is likely that many more are stationed close by but out of sight; I am not prepared to believe that the federal government will let itself be surprised and understaffed a second time:

Finally, do not despair. The republic will survive this challenge as it has others led by more serious foes than Donald Trump. These still fly outside the fencing:

Long may it wave.

Some Things You Just Don’t Do

We should not be surprised that Donald Trump actively incited an angry and delusional mob of his supporters to attack the national Capitol Building on January 6. Among the hundreds or perhaps thousands of laws and norms of conduct that Trump has rejected, undermined or simply disregarded, we should never forget his declaration that “under Article II, I can do whatever I want.” Trump actually believes that and has acted accordingly since he won the Republican nomination. Wednesday’s assault on the Capitol is just the latest, and likely not the last, Trump anti-democratic, anti-American action.

The population appears to accept a certain amount of chicanery as “just politics” and “that’s how things are done,” and other such cliches. Such things have been going on in plain view since well before the beginning of the republic. It seems odd in some ways that evolution led homo sapiens to this state of affairs. I suspect it’s mainly a product of two forces: humanity’s advance (based on larger brains in key parts, opposed thumbs, etc.) reduced the influence of natural selection on humans in ways different than other animals and the recognition that unrelenting “tooth and claw” competition was less appealing and successful than cooperation. Such cooperation led to what we call “politics.” Politics involved a variation of the pushing and shoving competition but without the violence (although assassinations have played an important role to this day). You didn’t kill and eat your opponent, you outsmarted him, often with the help of allies whom you enlisted. Thus, coalitions and on and on. Argument, debates, voting.

Over the decades the temptations of power and money led to periodic excesses of chicanery. We evolved legal systems to address some of that, but the chicanery is so ubiquitous that the legal resistance has proved weak. Americans thought that their system was special, exceptional if you will, and the structures and processes established by the Constitution and laws were, in big-picture terms, sufficient to stem the tide of gross corruption at the highest levels of government. Until Trump.

From the dark recesses of America’s fraught past re-emerged a breed of people who seemed not only ignorant of how things were supposed to work, but who didn’t care. Although Trump was an over-entitled rich man, these people felt a kinship with his braggadocio, his seeming indifference and fearlessness when it came to breaking down historical norms. When asked to explain themselves, many Trump supporters say, “he tells it like it is – he doesn’t take anyone’s guff because he doesn’t have to.” They saw Trump’s apparent hostility to the “establishment in Washington and state houses across the country” as the way to rid America of the “swamp,” the “deep state,” the do-gooders who cared more about immigrants than “true patriotic Americans.”

Trump relished the attention paid to his histrionics to a pathological level. As noted at the top of this article, he came quickly to believe that his election vested him with powers beyond anything the world had seen. His followers came to declare that he had been sent by God to straighten things out, to resolve their grievances, to Make America Great Again. Trump’s buffoonery and incompetence were exposed time and again by the media that he also loved to attack, calling them the “enemy of the people.” The media couldn’t get enough of him and obsessed over every outrage while giving unprecedented exposure to Trump’s messages. He savored insane conspiracy theories, fictional characters and routinely called his adversaries by schoolyard names.

When Trump won the Republican nomination, his Republican allies bent the knee before him, recognizing the pathological attachment of his political base they dared not offend. The intra-party resistance melted away. Senior politicians who had publicly labeled him a “kook,” a “pathological liar,” an “unhinged nutcase,” all begged for positions in his administration and became leaders of the popular Trump Movement, a force within, but above and independent of, the Republican Party. In this world, you showed abject loyalty to Trump or you were “out.”

Members of the Democratic Party and other resistance groups warned of the dangers inherent in this situation, warned of what might happen if an unexpected disaster occurred that would make manifest Trump’s incompetence as a leader of substance. The Republicans were unmoved. The prospect of stacking the Supreme Court and federal judiciary with “conservative judges” and of reversing policies that supported women’s’ right to abortion, gay and transgender rights and all the rest were such strong enticements that the leadership of the GOP decided to look the other way and hope for the best.

The dreaded event occurred, not in the form of a war or nuclear accident but a plague. Trump instinctively recognized the threat that it presented to his re-election and decided to downplay the risk. His enabler went along. The result of the virus that was supposed to “just disappear one day” is US deaths over 370,000 and growing at about 4,000 a day. The economy tanked and allegiance to Trump weakened somewhat while many Americans still capable of independent reasoning came to see the threat that Trump represented. They believed that the remedy lay in the 2020 election. Impeachment had been tried and failed because Trump’s enablers in the Senate refused to consider the evidence of his corruption and acquitted him.

Trump lost the 2020 election by a margin of 7,060,140 votes, and the Electoral College count by 74 (306 to 232). Biden “flipped” five key states: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, the “battlegrounds” that became the focus of the post-election charade that led to the January 6 attack.

Trump, facing rejection for perhaps the first time in a major way, decided he would not accept the results. He had foretold this during the prior election when he said he would accept the results “if I win.” Well before Election Day 2020, he was vocal that the election was being “rigged” against him. He espoused that position despite openly using his control of the US Postal Service and the cooperation of Republican governors to stack the deck in his favor. When he lost, he claimed he actually won and that his concerns about voter fraud had proved correct. Sixty lawsuits later, he was 1 insignificant win for 59 losses, including rejection by the Supreme Court. All 50 states certified their results, in some cases after multiple recounts and audits. The just-former Attorney General who had generally served more as Trump’s private attorney than as chief legal officer of the national government announced that there was no meaningful case of fraud to be made. One by one, Trump’s allies abandoned his claims. Trump became more and more isolated.

Finally, on January 6, the damn burst. Trump gave an incendiary speech to a throng of supporters who came to Washington to protest his loss. They completely bought his claim of having been cheated. He urged them to go to the Capitol where the Congress was completing the final constitutionally mandated step of accepting the Electoral College vote count. Many members of the Republican Party in Congress had said they would vote against accepting the count because … Trump said he’d been cheated. No other basis existed to reject the count. They would put loyalty to him over loyalty to the Constitution or compliance with the oaths of office they took upon entering Congress.

Trump said he would go to the Capitol with the mass of supporters but, of course, that was just another lie. He stayed in the White House and watched on television what appeared to be thousands of his supporters assault the thin blue line of unprepared, undermanned and overmatched Capitol Police officers. [I will have more to say/ask about this extraordinary circumstance in a future post] They broke through the outer barricades, smashed their way into the Capitol and wandered around stealing objects, smashing windows and doors while preening for the cameras. There are extensive videos of the events outside and inside and they raise many serious questions.

I want to suggest that this was, at long last, a bridge too far. Trump overestimated how much power he could get away with throwing in the face of the country. His “anything I want” approach to government apparently led him to believe it was perfectly fine to send a throng of angry and delusional supporters to try to prevent the Congress, by force, from completing the final step in cementing Trump’s defeat.

It was always going to be by force because there was simply no other way the group could expect to gain entry to the building. If they thought about it at all, they apparently believed Trump’s “immunity” covered them as well, a judgment that is proving to be a catastrophic error of judgment. The arrests have begun and the process of identification of the perpetrators is being aided by large number of people with technical and other relevant skills using social media. The extent of the delusion driving the throng was so great that many wore no face covering and some displayed on their clothing nameplates and badges that identified their employers or conveyed other identity-related information.

The federal government has vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice and a number of them have already been arrested back in their home towns. A variety of federal criminal charges will lie against them. I imagine their excitement and enthusiasm for their “achievement” in Washington is rapidly dimming as the reality of criminal charges and possible long-term imprisonment dawns. Jobs are being lost and families upended. For a delusional dream of some vague power to protect Donald Trump from the electorate, from himself.

One of the attackers was a young woman, a veteran possessed of overwhelming anger and irrationality displayed in social media postings, a devotee of QAnon conspiracy theory and a pure Trump loyalist. For that, she was shot and killed heading an assault on the doors leading to the Speaker’s Lobby in the Capitol. The Speaker’s Lobby is directly outside the House Chamber where the House of Representatives was in joint session with the Senate to complete the Electoral College count. The shooting was captured on video. Other videos show a Capitol Police officer screaming in pain as he is crushed in a doorway by the mob. Another officer died being assaulted and, apparently, maced by the mob. Three other perpetrators died from medical emergencies.

Five dead. The crowd high-fiving as they left, satisfied that they had achieved something. Trump – well, he has had nothing to say about the deaths for which he bears direct responsibility. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, among other social media, have suspended Trump’s accounts. At long last, a bridge too far even for them.

Meanwhile, the Republican leadership gathered at Amelia Island, Florida for a retreat to discuss the Party’s future. https://wapo.st/3nupioS The Trump-loyalist leadership was re-elected, praising Trump the Almighty as if nothing had happened on January 6, no assault on one of the great temples of American democracy. Repeating insane claims still circulating on social media,

“Some members argued falsely that it was really “antifa” or other leftist groups responsible for the violence in the U.S. Capitol, people present said, and did not believe he had done anything wrong….

Attendees passed resolutions criticizing the news media and calling for attention to voter fraud, two of the president’s favored topics. One North Carolina official called for the reelection of the GOP’s officials partly so the news media could not say the party was in discord. A statement from a committeeman for the officer killed in the Capitol did not mention the president’s role in inciting the violence but said the Republican Party was the party of law and order.

New day, same old story. Read it at the cite above if you have the stomach for it.

So, maybe I am wrong in believing that this was a bridge too far. Maybe the Republican Party’s delusional obeisance to  a criminally-corrupt and possibly mentally unstable president will override all the evidence as it has for the throng that invaded the Capitol Building. The president and the Republican Party that, with very few exceptions, continues to support him appear utterly indifferent to the world-record number of COVID-19 deaths, to the failed vaccine distribution program that was to begin restoring order and health to the economy and to the assault on the citadel of democracy. They appear only to be concerned with maintaining their political power.

In light of that, I contend, yet again, that Trump should be removed from power by whatever means are available. If that fails, with less than two weeks left in his term, he should be arrested as soon as President Biden is sworn-in and charged with multiple crimes against the United States and against humanity itself. His acolytes are beyond reason, it seems, so the only way to deal with them and him is the full force of the legal system. No future leader, of whatever party, must ever get the idea that repeating Trump’s conduct will be accepted as just more political chicanery. If we fail in preventing that, we will have doomed the great American experiment in democracy, ultimate rule by the people, to its death.