Saturday, July 30, 2022

"A Cabal of Right-Wing 'Fanatics and Vandals' We Still Call Scotus" by Abby Zimet


A mere month after the medieval anti-abortion ruling by a cabal of right-wing "fanatics and vandals" we still call SCOTUS, its effects are already cataclysmic. At least seven states have passed near-total bans and many more are working on them, some with monstrous features like Indiana's call for abortion-providers to serve up to six years in prison; experts predict a devastating impact on women's education, employment and income; a new study says it could lead to a 21% increase in pregnancy-related deaths.

The ruling is viewed as so extreme that even Chief Justice John Roberts reportedly tried to reverse at least parts of it; with his failure, suggests Charlie Pierce, he should just resign: "Your work here is done...You've lost control of your majority (and) it's gone barking mad." With the help, one more time, of unconscionable, ever-complicit Susan Collins. Having landed in this apocalyptic muck, we welcome Australia's newest Honest Government Ad from the satirical Juice Media, this one ripping "the shitfuckery that is the U.S. Supreme Court." 

An offshoot of the news site Balloon Juice, the Honest Government Ads are "an indispensable public service for translating the mountains of bullshit coming from our duly elected governments."

Focusing on "the shitfuckery of the Australian government," the ads took off during the tenure of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, a bumbling "satirist's dream" who, when Australian students went on a climate strike in 2019, called for "more learning in schools and less activism." Amidst raging bushfires with "kids in gas masks, dead animals, dead homes, dead reefs, dead tourism industry," the first ad unveiled, amidst the billowing smoke, Australia's new climate policy: "Get fucken used to it!" 

To launch its third season, Juice Media kept its promise to expose "the work of other shit governments around the world" with its cheerfully chilling ad about a SCOTUS that, "even at the best of times, gives zero fucks about democracy." Cue a glossy, smiling woman presenting "your actual government - the Supreme Court." 

"We answer to nobody, we overrule laws made by Congress, our Justices are appointed for life, and you don't even elect us!" she chirps, happily adding now we finally have enough "Federalist Society nut jobs" to strip multiple hard-won rights - "and we're just getting started!" The ad, "Authorized by the Department for Thinly Disguised Plans to Usher In A Theocratic Christian Regime," stops short of showing the barbaric, in-the-doctor's-office consequences of their judicial atrocities; we have Moms Against Greg Abbott for that. Thanks to the truth-tellers. Bitter balm for the soul.

Abby Zimet has written CD's Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, she moved to the Maine woods in the early 70s, where she spent a dozen years building a house, hauling water and writing before moving to Portland. Having come of political age during the Vietnam War, she has long been involved in women's, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues. Email:

Friday, July 29, 2022

Republican Leaders Block Bill to Help Veterans and Urge Their Caucus to Vote Against the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors for America Act Bill


Yesterday saw widespread outrage when Senate Republicans sank the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) bill—a bill they had already agreed to by a strong margin—out of spite over the resurrection of a reconciliation package that would make drugs cheaper, plug tax loopholes for corporations and the extremely wealthy, and invest in switching the economy away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy. The PACT bill would provide medical benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxins during their military service.

Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) vowed that he would not permit the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) bill, which appropriates $280 billion to speed up the manufacturing of semiconductors in the U.S. and to invest in scientific research and development in computers, artificial intelligence, and so on, to pass unless Democrats gave up their larger plan. Yesterday, the Senate passed the CHIPS bill, and shortly after, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) announced that he and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) had agreed to much of what McConnell objected to. They introduced a new bill, the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, to pass through reconciliation.

Although the CHIPS Act was a popular bipartisan bill, Republicans claim the Democrats’ political hardball in passing it before turning to other, also popular measures like lower prices on prescription drugs, was a betrayal of the Republican Party.

In retaliation, besides blocking the PACT bill, Republican leaders whipped their caucus in the House against voting for the CHIPS bill. In addition, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), who has been working to find votes in the Senate to protect gay marriage, told Jonathan Nicholson of HuffPost that Senate Republicans now would be unlikely to agree to that protection. That bill reflects the fact that 70% of Americans support gay marriage. It seemed as if the Senate might agree to it (the House has already passed it), but Republicans seem to be backing away from it out of anger that the Democrats want to pass measures that are actually quite popular.

Trying to demonstrate a party’s power to kill popular legislation is an interesting approach to governance. Right now, the Republicans are getting hammered, primarily for their refusal to repass the PACT bill, which is a real blow to veterans. Veterans’ advocate and comedian Jon Stewart has been especially vocal today, calling out Republican senators at the Capitol and then on a number of media shows, going “nuclear,” as the Military Times put it, over the undermining of medical treatment for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. “[I]f this is America First,” he said, “then America is f*cked.”

At the end of the day, it is still possible that the bill will pass, but it will not come up until Schumer reschedules it, meaning the Republicans are simply going to have to endure the hits they are taking for this fit of pique until he decides to give them some cover.

Indeed, the demonstration that Republican leadership wants power to kill popular legislation creates an opening for Democrats and Republicans eager to break away from the party’s current extremism.

That showed in today’s vote in the House on the CHIPS bill, when 187 Republicans voted no but 24 Republicans, including Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), both of whom sit on the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, joined the Democrats to vote yes. The 24 representatives did so despite the fact that Republican leadership was urging them to vote no, and although the Democrats all hung together and therefore Republican votes were not necessary to pass the measure.

The momentum growing behind the Democrats as Republicans begin to buck House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) seems as if it might reflect the realization that more information will be coming from the January 6th committee and that it is unlikely to be the sort of information that reinforces faith in the Republican Party…

-Heather Cox Richardson

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

A former Justice Department lawyer thinks he’s found a way to penalize states that undermine voting rights

It’s been a hard few years for people worried about voting rights in America. Republican-controlled states are imposing a raft of new restrictions. A divided Congress has failed to pass any legislation in response. And the Supreme Court just agreed to hear a case that could give state legislatures unchecked power over election rules.

“But perhaps a largely forgotten provision of the Constitution offers a solution to safeguard American democracy. Created amid some of the country’s most violent clashes over voting rights, Section 2 of the 14th Amendment provides a harsh penalty for any state where the right to vote is denied “or in any way abridged.”

“A state that crosses the line would lose a percentage of its seats in the House of Representatives in proportion to how many voters it disenfranchises. If a state abridges voting rights for, say, 10 percent of its eligible voters, that state would lose 10 percent of its representatives — and with fewer House seats, it would get fewer votes in the Electoral College, too.

“Under the so-called penalty clause, it doesn’t matter how a state abridges the right to vote, or even why. The framers of the constitutional amendment worried that they would not be able to predict all the creative ways that states would find to disenfranchise Black voters.

“They designed the clause so that they wouldn’t have to. ‘No matter what may be the ground of exclusion,’ Sen. Jacob Howard, a Republican from Michigan, explained in 1866, ‘whether a want of education, a want of property, a want of color, or a want of anything else, it is sufficient that the person is excluded from the category of voters, and the State loses representation in proportion.’

“That approach could come in handy for discouraging states from imposing more limits on voting, as the country witnesses what Adam Lioz, senior policy counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, calls ‘the greatest assault on voting rights since Jim Crow.’ There’s just one problem: The penalty clause isn’t being enforced — and never has been.

“One man is now waging a legal campaign to change that. It’s a longshot, but if he succeeds, it could serve as a sharp deterrent against voting rights restrictions and even reshape the entire electoral map. At minimum, the push highlights why such language was included in the Constitution in the first place” (Politico).

-Michael Linhorst, media lawyer and lecturer at Yale Law School



Tuesday, July 26, 2022

"We all need someone we can [sleep] on"


My Granddaughter, July 25

With Her Grandmother, July 5, Just Two Days Old

Monday, July 25, 2022

"The idea of reducing our professional civil service to those who offer loyalty to a single leader is yet another fundamental attack on democracy" -Heather Cox Richardson


On FridayAxios began to publish a deeply researched and important series by Jonathan Swan, explaining that if former president Trump retakes power, he and allies like his former chief of staff Mark Meadows, Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH), and head of Trump’s social media network Devin Nunes are determined to purge our nonpartisan civil service and replace it with loyalists. In a normal administration, a new president gets to replace around 4000 political appointees, but most government employees are in positions designed to be nonpartisan. Trump’s team wants to gut this system and put in place people loyal to him and his agenda. 

When he campaigned for the presidency, Trump promised to “drain the swamp” of officeholders who, he suggested, were just sucking tax dollars. Once in office, though, Trump grew increasingly angry at the civil servants who continued to investigate his campaign’s ties to Russia, insisting that figures like former FBI director Robert Mueller and former deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller as special counsel to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election, were Democrats who wanted to hound him from office. (They were, in fact, Republicans.) 

Trump’s first impeachment trial inflamed his fury at those he considered disloyal. The day after Republican senators acquitted him on February 6, 2020, he fired two key impeachment witnesses: U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the top expert on Ukraine at the National Security Council. Ironically, Vindman had testified in the impeachment hearings that he had reassured his father, who had lived in the Soviet Union and was worried about Vindman’s testifying against the president, not to worry because in America, “right matters.” Trump fired Vindman’s twin brother, Yevgeny, at the same time, although he had nothing to do with the impeachment. 

A Trump advisor told CNN the firings were intended to demonstrate that disloyalty to the president would not be tolerated. 

Within days, Trump had put fierce loyalist John McEntee in charge of the White House office of personnel, urging him to ferret out anyone insufficiently loyal and to make sure the White House hired only true believers. McEntee had been Trump’s personal aide until he failed a security clearance background check and it turned out he was under investigation for financial crimes; then–White House chief of staff John Kelly fired him, and Trump promptly transferred McEntee to his reelection campaign. On February 13, 2020, though, Trump suddenly put McEntee, who had no experience in personnel or significant government work, in charge of the hiring of the 4000 political appointees and gave him extraordinary power. 

Trump also wanted to purge the 50,000 nonpartisan civil servants who are hired for their skills, rather than politics. But since 1883, those jobs have been protected from exactly the sort of political purge Trump and McEntee wanted to execute. 

A policy researcher who came to Trump’s Domestic Policy Council from the Heritage Foundation, James Sherk, found that employees who work in “a confidential, policy-determining, policy-making or policy-advocating” job can be exempted from civil service protections. 

On October 21, 2020, Trump signed an executive order creating a new category of public servant who could be hired by agency heads without having to go through the merit-based system in place since 1883, and could be fired at will. This new “Schedule F” would once again allow presidents to appoint cronies to office, while firing those insufficiently loyal. One Trump loyalist at the Office of Management and Budget identified 88% of his agency as moveable to Schedule F.

Biden rescinded Trump’s executive order on January 22, 2021, just two days after taking office.

According to Swan, Trump has not forgotten the plan. Since the January 6 insurrection, he has called those former colleagues who did not support his coup “ungrateful” and “treasonous.” In a new administration, he would insist on people who had “courage,” and would reinstate the Schedule F plan in order to purge the career civil service of all employees he believes insufficiently loyal to him. 

The idea of reducing our professional civil service to those who offer loyalty to a single leader is yet another fundamental attack on democracy.

Democracy depends on a nonpartisan group of functionaries who are loyal not to a single strongman but to the state itself. Loyalty to the country, rather than to a single leader, means those bureaucrats follow the law and have an interest in protecting the government. It is the weight of that loyalty that managed to stop Trump from becoming a dictator. He was thwarted by what he called the “Deep State,” people who were loyal not to him personally but to America and our laws. That loyalty was bipartisan. 

Authoritarian figures expect loyalty to themselves alone, rather than to a nonpartisan government. To get that loyalty, they turn to staffers who are loyal because they are not qualified or talented enough to rise to power in a nonpartisan system. They are loyal to their boss because they could not make it in a true meritocracy, and at some level they know that (even if they insist they are disliked for their politics). 

Between 1829 and 1881, all but the very highest positions throughout the government were filled by the president on the recommendations of officials in his party, so every change of administration meant weeks of office seekers hounding the president. After the Civil War, the numbers of federal jobs climbed, until by 1884 there were 131,000 people on the federal payroll. Assignment of these jobs was based not on the applicants’ skills, but on their promise to bring in votes or money for their party. Once a man scored a government job, he was expected to return part of his salary to the party’s war chest for the next election.

And then, on July 2, 1881, a man who had expected a government job and didn’t get it retaliated for his disappointment by shooting the president, President James A. Garfield, in the back as he walked up the stairs of a train station in Washington, D.C. The assassin expected that Garfield’s successor, Chester A. Arthur, would reward him with a job. 

Horrified, Americans recognized that a government that was for sale by the political party in charge created men who saw government only as a way to make money and were willing to tear the entire system down to get their cut. Even though they hoped no one else would go so far as Garfield’s assassin did, they could see that such a system attracted those who could not get a decent job on their actual merits. 

So in 1883, Congress passed and President Arthur signed An Act To Regulate and Improve the Civil Service of the United States, more popularly known as the Pendleton Civil Service Act. It guaranteed the government would have skilled workers by requiring applicants for positions to pass entrance exams, and then protected them from being fired by an incoming president of the opposite party. At first, only a few jobs were covered, but presidents expanded the system quickly. Our government employees became highly qualified, and loyal to the country rather than to a president.

That seems likely to change if Trump gets back into office.

—Heather Cox Richardson



Sunday, July 24, 2022

The Department of Justice Should Investigate Trump

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a member of the House select committee investigating the Jan 6, 2021, attack at the Capitol, said on Sunday, July 24, that he believes the Department of Justice (DOJ) should investigate former President Trump for his actions on that day. 

“If the department were now to take the position that you can’t investigate or indict a former president, then a president becomes above the law. That’s a very dangerous idea that the founders would have never subscribed to,” Schiff said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

“Even more dangerous, I think in the case of Donald Trump. Donald Trump is someone who has shown when he’s not held accountable, he goes on to commit worse and worse abuses of power. So I agree … there was evidence that the former president engaged in multiple violations of the law, and that should be investigated.”

When moderator Margaret Brennan mentioned the notion of the political calculus surrounding the possible prosecution of a former president, Schiff said it would be worse to not hold Trump accountable at all.

“It’s certainly not a step to be taken lightly at all. At the same time, immunizing a former president who has engaged in wrongdoing, I would agree with our vice chair, I think is more dangerous than anything else, and the decision not to move forward to the investigation or not to move forward to the prosecution, because of someone’s political status or political influence or because they have a following – to me, that is a far more dangerous thing to our Constitution than following the evidence wherever it leads, including when it leads to a former president,” Schiff responded.

Schiff added that the latest committee hearings have shown Trump’s efforts to have the 2020 elections results overturned, noting how Trump didn’t make any efforts to stop the insurrection during that day. 

“He wouldn’t lift a finger as he watched on TV police officers being beaten and gouged and sprayed with chemicals in the most supreme dereliction of duty ever,” Schiff said. “But also, those multiple lines of effort, I think, invoke various criminal laws and his conduct ought to be the subject of investigation.”

The Hill


"Republican lawmakers are comfortable standing firmly against the firm will of the people" (Heather Cox Richardson)


Thursday’s public hearing by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol brought to its logical conclusion the story of Trump’s attempt to overturn our democracy. After four years of destroying democratic norms and gathering power into his own hands, the former president tried to overturn the will of the voters. Trump was attacking the fundamental concept on which this nation rests: that we have a right to consent to the government under which we live.

Far from rejecting the idea of minority rule after seeing where it led, Republican Party lawmakers have doubled down.

They have embraced the idea that state legislatures should dominate our political system, and so in 2021, at least 19 states passed 34 laws to restrict access to voting. On June 24, in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision, the Supreme Court said that the federal government did not have the power, under the Fourteenth Amendment, to protect the constitutional right to abortion, bringing the other rights that amendment protects into question. When Democrats set out to protect some of those rights through federal legislation, Republicans in Congress overwhelmingly voted to oppose such laws.

In the House, Republicans voted against federal protection of an individual’s right to choose whether to continue or end a pregnancy and to protect a health care provider’s ability to provide abortion services: 209 Republicans voted no; 2 didn’t vote. That’s 99% of House Republicans.

They voted against the right to use contraception: 195 out of 209 Republicans voted no; 2 didn’t vote. That’s 96% of House Republicans.

They voted against marriage equality: 157 out of 204 Republicans voted no; 7 didn’t vote. That’s 77% of House Republicans.

They voted against a bill guaranteeing a woman’s right to travel across state lines to obtain abortion services: 205 out of 208 Republicans voted no; 3 didn’t vote. That’s 97% of House Republicans.

Sixty-two percent of Americans believe abortion should be legal. Seventy percent support gay marriage. More than 90% of Americans believe birth control should be legal. I can’t find polling on whether Americans support the idea of women being able to cross state lines without restrictions, but one would hope that concept is also popular. And yet, Republican lawmakers are comfortable standing firmly against the firm will of the people. The laws protecting these rights passed through the House thanks to overwhelming Democratic support but will have trouble getting past a Republican filibuster in the Senate.

When he took office, Democratic president Joe Biden recognized that his role in this moment was to prove that democracy is still a viable form of government.

Rising autocrats have declared democracy obsolete. They argue that popular government is too slow to respond to the rapid pace of the modern world, or that liberal democracy’s focus on individual rights undermines the traditional values that hold societies together, values like religion and ethnic or racial similarities. Hungarian president Viktor Orbán, whom the radical right supports so enthusiastically that he is speaking on August 4 in Texas at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), has called for replacing liberal democracy with “illiberal democracy” or “Christian democracy,” which will explicitly not treat everyone equally and will rest power in a single political party.

Biden has defended democracy across the globe, accomplishing more in foreign diplomacy than any president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Less than a year after the former president threatened to withdraw the U.S. from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken pulled together the NATO countries, as well as allies around the world, to stand against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The new strength of NATO prompted Sweden and Finland to join the organization, and earlier this month, NATO ambassadors signed protocols for their admission. This is the most significant expansion of NATO in 30 years.

That strength helped to hammer out a deal between Russia and Ukraine with Turkey and the United Nations yesterday to enable Ukraine to export 22 million tons of grain and Russia to export grain and fertilizer to developing countries that were facing famine because of Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports. An advisor to the Ukrainian government called the agreement “a major win for Ukraine.” When a Russian attack on the Ukrainian port of Odesa today put that agreement under threat, U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Bridget A. Brink called the attack “outrageous.”

Biden has also defended democracy at home, using the power of the federal government to strengthen the ability of working Americans to support their families. As soon as Biden took office, Democrats passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan to rebuild the economy. It worked. The U.S. has added 10 million new jobs since Biden took office, and unemployment has fallen to 3.6%. That strong economy has meant higher tax revenues that, combined with the end of pandemic spending, have resulted in the budget deficit (the amount by which the government is operating in the red each year and thus adding to the national debt) dropping considerably during his term.

The strong economy has also led to roaring inflation, fed in part by supply chain issues and high gas prices. During the pandemic, as Americans turned to ordering online at the same time that factories closed down, shipping prices went through the roof. In the past year or so, outdated infrastructure at U.S. ports has slowed down turnaround while a shortage of truckers has slowed domestic supply chains. Biden’s administration worked to untangle the mess at ports by getting commitments from businesses and labor to extend hours, and launched new programs to increase the number of truckers in the country.

While oil companies are privately held and thus have no obligation to lower their prices rather than pocket the record profits they have enjoyed over the past year, Biden has nonetheless tried to ease gas prices by releasing oil from the strategic reserve and by urging allies to produce more oil for release onto the world market. Gas prices have declined for the past month and now average $4.41 a gallon, down from a high of more than $5 last month.

Last month, on June 25, Biden signed into law the first major gun safety bill in almost 30 years, having pulled together the necessary votes despite the opposition of the National Rifle Association. On July 21, he signed the bipartisan FORMULA (which stands for “Fixing Our Regulatory Mayhem Upsetting Little Americans”—I’m not kidding) Act to drop tariffs on baby formula for the rest of the year to make it easier to get that vital product in the wake of the closure of the Sturgis, Michigan, Abbott Nutrition plant for contamination, which created a national shortage. The Biden administration has also organized 53 flights of formula into the country, amounting to more than 61 million 8-ounce bottles.

While we have heard a lot about Biden’s inability to pass the Build Back Better part of his infrastructure plan because of the refusal of Republicans and Democratic senator Joe Manchin (WV) to get on board, Biden nonetheless shepherded a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill through this partisan Congress, investing in roads, bridges, public transportation, clean energy, and broadband. Last Thursday, Vice President Kamala Harris announced that 1 million households have signed up for credits to enable them to get broadband internet, a program financed by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Love or hate what Biden has done, he has managed to pull a wide range of countries together to stand against Russian president Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian attack in Ukraine, and he has managed get through a terribly divided Congress laws to make the lives of the majority better, even while Republicans are rejecting the idea that the government should reflect the will of the majority. That is no small feat.

Whether it will be enough to prove that democracy is still a viable form of government is up to us.

—Heather Cox Richardson


Saturday, July 23, 2022

Highlights from the January 6 Hearings by Rebecca Beitsch


The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack spent more than 15 hours presenting their findings over eight hearings this summer, culminating in Thursday night’s prime-time presentation.

Here is what we learned from each hearing.

JUNE 9: The Big Picture

Trump was complacent about Hang Mike Pence chants

In her opening statement at the much-watched first hearing, committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) revealed that witnesses who spoke to the committee described former President Trump showing little regard for the safety of his vice president when learning about the mood at the Capitol, where rioters were calling to “hang Mike Pence.”

“Maybe our supporters have the right idea,” Trump said. He went on to add that Pence “deserves” it.

Perry, among multiple lawmakers, sought pardon from Trump

Cheney also revealed that Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) was among the lawmakers who sought a pardon from Trump “in the weeks after Jan. 6.” 

Perry introduced Trump to Jeffrey Clark, a Justice Department lawyer he weighed installing as attorney general because he was willing to forward an investigation into voter fraud. 

“Multiple other Republican congressmen also sought presidential pardons for their roles in attempting to overturn the 2020 election,” Cheney said.

JUNE 13Trump was told he lost the election but pushed voter fraud claims

Trump ignored the advice of aides in prematurely claiming victory 

“My recommendation was to say that votes are still being counted. It’s too early to tell, too early to call the race,” Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien told Trump the night of the election, according to video from his deposition with the committee’s investigators.

“I don’t recall the particular words. He thought I was wrong. He told me so and, you know, that they were going to, he was going to go in a different direction.”

Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller said he gave similar advice to Trump. “I remember saying that … we should not go and declare victory until we had a better sense of the numbers.” 

A number of other aides also stepped forward to say the campaign was unable to find any evidence of widespread voter fraud, despite Trump’s claims.

Barr questioned Trump’s mental state

The committee played numerous clips from a deposition with former Attorney General William Barr, who dished on his blunt assessment to Trump that there was no voter fraud, including telling him such claims were “bullshit.”

“I was somewhat demoralized because I thought, ‘Boy, if he really believes this stuff he has, you know, lost contact with — he’s become detached from reality if he really believes this stuff,” Barr said.

JUNE 16: Pence pushed back against illegal and unconstitutional plan

Eastman admitted that plan may be illegal

Former Pence counsel Greg Jacob told lawmakers about a meeting with Trump campaign attorney John Eastman on Jan. 4, noting that Trump may have been present. 

“So during that meeting on the 4th, I think I raised the problem that both of Mr. Eastman’s proposals would violate several provisions of the Electoral Count Act. Mr. Eastman acknowledged that that was the case, that even what he viewed as the more politically palatable option would violate several provisions,” Jacob said.

Eastman was willing to do so, Jacob said, “because in his view the Electoral Act was unconstitutional” and thought the courts “simply wouldn’t get involved.” 

Eastman refuted his own legal advice and asked for a pardon

The committee shared a never-before-seen October draft document prepared for Trump that Eastman redlined that refuted his own legal argument that the vice president has the power to single-handedly reject electoral votes. “Nowhere does [the Constitution] suggest that the President of the Senate gets to make the determination on his own,” Eastman noted. 

At other points leading up to and after the attack, he acknowledged how his plan would be a “relatively minor violation” and said he wouldn’t approve of Vice President Harris making such a move.  After Jan. 6, he emailed fellow campaign attorney Rudy Giuliani with a request: “I’ve decided that I should be on the pardon list if that is still in the works.”

Rioters came within 40 feet of Pence 

After Pence was brought to a secure location at the Capitol, he remained there for four hours, where Jacobs said they could hear rioters nearby. “Approximately 40 feet — that’s all there was between the vice president and the mob,” Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) said during the hearing.

JUNE 21: Trump and campaign put pressure on state-level officials 

Giuliani acknowledged lack of “evidence”

Arizona Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers (R) said Giuliani and other Trump campaign lawyers repeatedly failed to provide the evidence they claimed to have of widespread voting fraud. “[Giuliani] said, ‘We’ve got lots of theories. We just don’t have the evidence,’” Bowers said. “And I don’t know if that was a gaffe or maybe he didn’t think through what he said.”

Lawmakers were working as late as Jan. 6 to advance the fake electors scheme

Two lawmakers were involved in forwarding the false elector scheme as late as the morning of Jan. 6, 2021: Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.). Johnson tried to hand-deliver two of the certificates to Pence as he arrived at the Capitol that morning to oversee the electoral vote count. “Johnson needs to hand something to VPOTUS please advise. … Alternate slate of electors for MI and WI because archivist didn’t receive them,” Johnson aide Sean Riley texted to a Pence staffer in an exchange the committee displayed. “Do not give that to him,” Chris Hodgson, Pence’s aide, responded.

A spokeswoman for Johnson tweeted later that Johnson had “no foreknowledge” of the scheme and called the texts “a staff to staff exchange.” Bowers also testified that he heard from Biggs that morning. “He asked if I would sign on both to a letter that had been sent from my state, and/or that I would support the decertification of the electors,” Bowers said. “I said I would not,” he added.

The White House contacted Georgia officials 18 times to set up infamous Trump-Raffensperger call

“The White House, including the former president’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, repeatedly called or texted the secretary’s office some 18 times in order to set up this call,” Cheney said during the hearing, referring to Trump’s phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) in which Trump asked Raffensperger to “find” votes for him.

Cleta Mitchell said fake elector scheme may have been hatched before the election

The Trump campaign’s focus on fake electors, much like the former president’s claims of election fraud, may have been hatched even before the election. “Right after the election. It might have been before the election,” Cleta Mitchell, a Trump campaign-aligned lawyer, said when asked when the idea first surfaced.

30 people have pleaded the Fifth 

While the committee has interviewed more than 1,000 people, Cheney said 30 had chosen to exercise their right against self-incrimination, a group that includes Eastman and Trump confidant Roger Stone. 

JUNE 23: DOJ and White House lawyers fought Trump plan to install new attorney general

Clark was favored by the campaign because he wasn’t concerned with his reputation

Trump weighed installing Clark, a Justice Department lawyer specializing in environmental law, as attorney general because he was willing to send a letter to Georgia and other states asking that they stall certification of their election results so that the agency could investigate baseless claims of voter fraud.

Giuliani said part of why they landed on Clark was because “somebody should be put in charge of the Justice Department who isn’t frightened of what’s going to be done to their reputation, because Justice Department was filled with people like that.”

White House visitor logs indicate Trump met Clark on Dec. 22, after an introduction by Perry, the day after the president held a meeting with lawmakers to hone a strategy to “fight back against mounting evidence of voter fraud,” according to a tweet from Meadows. 

There was a connection between Eastman and Clark

Kenneth Klukowski began serving at the Justice Department just 36 days before President Biden’s inauguration, joining Clark’s staff on Dec. 15, 2020. Cheney said that Klukowski had been working with Eastman prior to joining the department and showed evidence suggesting their relationship continued while Klukowski was working under Clark.

She presented a Dec. 28 email from Trump ally Ken Blackwell requesting that Pence receive a briefing from Klukowski and Eastman and warning “to make sure we don’t over expose Ken given his new position.” 

“This email suggests that Mr. Klukowski was simultaneously working with Jeffrey Clark to draft the proposed letter to Georgia officials to overturn their certified election and working with Dr. Eastman to help pressure the Vice President to overturn the election,” Cheney said.

Clark had secured the job — before DOJ and White House lawyers changed Trump’s mind

Clark and Trump spoke multiple times on Jan. 3 ahead of the explosive late evening meeting that would convince him to shift his plan. At that 6 p.m. meeting, the Justice Department’s top leadership as well as White House staff were able to successfully convince Trump to abandon his plans, stressing that he would face mass resignations that would overshadow any investigation Clark might launch.

Still, it appears Trump’s mind was made up as late as 4 p.m. that day, with call logs labeling a conversation shortly thereafter as being with “acting Attorney General Jeffrey Clark.”

At least a half dozen Republican lawmakers sought pardons

Taped testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson, a special assistant to Meadows, named GOP Reps. Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Mo Brooks (Ala.), Louie Gohmert (Texas), Biggs and Perry as seeking pardons. She also said that Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) contacted the White House counsel’s office seeking a pardon.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) “talked about congressional pardons, but he never asked me for one,” Hutchinson said, noting that he was largely inquiring about whether the White House was going to grant the pardons to other lawmakers.

A letter from Brooks to the White House references the ask. “I recommend that President give general (all purpose) pardons to the following groups of people,” the email adds. “Every Congressman and Senator who voted to reject the electoral vote submission of Arizona and Pennsylvania.”

JUNE 28: Hutchinson offers explosive testimony about Trump’s actions on Jan. 6

White House officials expected violence on Jan. 6

Hutchinson approached Meadows about Jan. 6 after Guiliani told her Trump would be marching to the Capitol that day. “There’s a lot going on, Cass, but I don’t know. Things might get real, real bad on Jan. 6,” Meadows said, according to Hutchinson.

She also said Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe predicted there would be violence, saying he didn’t want to be involved with any of the post-election strategies. “He felt it was dangerous for the president’s legacy,” she said. “He had expressed to me that he was concerned that it could spiral out of control and potentially be dangerous, either for our democracy or the way that things were going for the 6th.”

Trump knew supporters were armed and wanted to eliminate screenings

Hutchinson said White House officials knew, as early as 10 a.m. on Jan. 6, that Trump supporters had knives, guns, bear spray, body armor and spears attached to the ends of flagpoles. Texts show Trump was furious the magnetometers, or “mags” for short, were evidently limiting his crowd size because many protesters with weapons elected to watch the speech from outside the screened area so their arms wouldn’t be confiscated. 

“He felt the mags were at fault for not letting everybody in. But another leading reason, and likely the primary reason, is because he wanted it full and he was angry that we weren’t letting people through the mags with weapons,” Hutchinson said.

“They’re not here to hurt me,” Hutchinson recalled Trump saying. “Take the effing mags away. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here. Let the people in. Take the effing mags away.

Trump then used his speech to encourage his supporters to march to the Capitol. 

Trump was determined to go to the Capitol; he allegedly tried to grab steering wheel of the car

A national security chat log indicates the White House was trying to arrange the trip to the Capitol — despite a 12:57 p.m. warning that fencing around the building had been breached. Ultimately it was the Secret Service that would push back against Trump’s demands to be transported to the Capitol, Hutchinson said she was told by Tony Ornato, a former Secret Service agent tapped to lead White House operations, as Robert Engel, the special agent in charge for Secret Service on Jan. 6, stood by listening. 

“I’m the effing president, take me up to the Capitol now,” Trump said when Engel informed him they could not safely make the unscheduled journey, according to Hutchinson’s testimony. “The president reached up towards the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel. Mr. Engel grabbed his arm, said, ‘Sir you need to take your hand off the steering wheel, we’re going back to the West Wing, we’re not going to the Capitol.’ Mr. Trump then used his free hand to lunge towards Bobby Engel,” Hutchinson testified she had been told. Ornato and Engel have said they are willing to testify to dispute Hutchinson’s account, but have yet to speak publicly about the incident.

White House lawyers worried about legal exposure 

White House counsel Pat Cipollone told Hutchinson a few days before the attack he was worried that if Trump marched to the Capitol it could appear he was trying to incite a riot, obstruct justice or defraud the electoral count. “Please make sure we don’t go up to the Capitol, Cassidy,” Hutchinson said, relaying Cipollone’s message to her that morning. “We’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable if we make that movement happen.”

He and others in his office had also raised concerns about the language used in Trump’s speech for the morning of the 6th. “In my conversations with Mr. Herschmann, he had relayed that we would be foolish to include language that had been included at the president’s request,” she said, referring to White House lawyer Eric Herschmann. The language repeatedly would use the word “fight” and urged supporters to march to the Capitol.

Flynn pleads the Fifth when asked about democratic principles

Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, needed a lengthy interlude with his lawyers when asked if he believes violence was justified on Jan. 6 and if he believes in the peaceful transition of power. He pleaded his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination to both questions.

Witnesses have been facing intimidation

The committee displayed various intimidating messages sent to those testifying before the committee, including one where a witness was told they would stay in good standing in Trump World if they “protect[ed] who I need to protect” and stayed on the “right team.” They were also reminded that “Trump does read transcripts.”

Another received a call the night before their deposition. “He wants me to let you know he’s thinking about you. He knows you’re loyal and you’re going to do the right thing when you go in for your deposition,” the committee said a witness was told. CNN has since reported both were messages to Hutchinson.

Giuliani and Meadows asked for pardons 

When questioned by Cheney, Hutchinson affirmed that both Giuliani and Meadows asked for pardons relating to their involvement in Jan. 6. Meadows denied the assertion through a spokesman. “Meadows never sought a pardon and never planned to.”

JULY 12: Outside advisers helped shift Trump strategy to extremes 

Trump verbally agreed to give Sidney Powell security clearance

Trump not only weighed installing campaign lawyer Sidney Powell as a special counsel to investigate voter fraud, but suggested he was preparing to get her a security clearance in order to further her work.

The idea came up in a meeting with Cipollone where outside advisers encouraged Trump to consider an executive order that would allow the secretary of Defense to seize voting machines and also establish the position for Powell. “[Trump] asked Pat Cipollone if he had the authority to name a special counsel, and he said yes. And then he asked him if he had the authority to give me whatever security clearance I needed, and Pat Cipollone said yes. And then the president said, ‘OK, you know, I’m naming her that and I’m giving her security clearance,’” Powell said in a taped deposition shown by the committee. It’s not clear that any further steps were taken to secure the clearance. 

Campaign lead for investigating voter fraud said he could not find any

Bernard Kerik, a former New York City police commissioner tasked with leading the campaign’s investigation of voter fraud, was never able to find any, according to an email from his attorney to the committee. “It was impossible for Mr. Kerik and his team to determine conclusively whether there was widespread fraud or whether that widespread fraud would have altered the outcome of the election,” his lawyer wrote.

The panel also showed an email from him warning the investigation may not pan out. “We can do all the investigations we want later. But if the President plans on winning, it’s the legislators that have to be moved,” Kerik wrote to Meadows on Dec. 28.

Meadows thought Trump should concede; acknowledged voter fraud wouldn’t change outcome

Cipollone testified that Meadows had repeatedly shared that Trump should concede the election at some point. “That is a statement and a sentiment that I heard from Mark Meadows,” Cipollone said.

However, Hutchinson said she saw Meadows shift his focus to legal loopholes when voter fraud claims no longer seemed viable. “I perceived his goal with all of this to keep Trump in office. You know, he had very seriously and deeply considered the allegations of voter fraud,” she said.

“But when he began acknowledging that maybe there wasn’t enough voter fraud to overturn the election, you know, I witnessed him start to explore potential constitutional loopholes more extensively, which I then connected with John Eastman’s theories.”

Those outside White House stressed secrecy about Trump calls for a march to the Capitol 

Text messages revealed by the committee showed those outside the White House, including those who organized the rally, seemed confident Trump would make the call for his supporters to head to the Capitol. 

“POTUS is going to have us march there/the Capitol,” rally organizer Kylie Kremer wrote in a text to My Pillow founder Mike Lindell, adding that he wanted his involvement kept under wraps. 

“It can also not get out about the march because I will get in trouble with the National Park Service and all the agencies but POTUS is going to just call for it ‘unexpectedly.’”

Another text from “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander on Jan. 5 noted that “Trump is supposed to order us to the Capitol at the end of his speech but we will see.” The committee also showed a draft tweet, marked with a “president has seen” stamp, that would have Trump tell rallygoers to “march to the capitol after” his speech.

GOP lawmakers had safety fears ahead of Jan. 6 

In a Jan. 5 phone call among Republican members, Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.), a member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, said she asked House leaders to come up with a “safety plan for members.” 

“I’m actually very concerned about this because we have who knows how many hundreds of thousands of people coming here,” Lesko said, falsely asserting “antifa” could be present.

“We also have, quite honestly, Trump supporters who actually believe that we are going to overturn the election,” she added. “And when that doesn’t happen — most likely will not happen — they are going to go nuts.”

Trump changed his speech to attack Pence 

A review of multiple drafts of Trump’s speech as well as testimony indicate Trump added a line to his speech attacking Pence after a call the morning of Jan. 6 with his speechwriter Stephen Miller. “And we will see whether Mike Pence enters history as a truly great and courageous leader. All he has to do is refer the illegally submitted electoral votes back to the states,” Trump wrote shortly before his speech at the Ellipse. Miller’s wife, Katie Miller, was a communications director for Pence at the time.

The line was removed over legal concerns, with Stephen Miller saying Herschmann saw it as “counterproductive,” but speechwriters were directed to add it back in shortly after Trump’s heated call with Pence later that morning.

An analysis of Trump’s prepared remarks and what he ultimately said that day showed that while speaking he ended up criticizing Pence seven more times during the speech. 

Trump campaign manager said his rhetoric will lead to deaths  

Texts from former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale show he blamed Trump for inciting the violence that day. “This is about Trump pushing for uncertainty in our country. A sitting president asking for a civil war,” he wrote in a message to former Trump campaign spokesperson Katrina Pierson shortly after 7 p.m. on Jan. 6. “This week I feel guilty for helping him win.”

The two would later disagree about the role Trump’s rhetoric played. “A woman is dead,” Parscale said in reference to Ashli Babbit, who was shot in the Capitol. “But if I was Trump and I knew my rhetoric was going to kill someone...” When Pierson said “it wasn’t the rhetoric,” Parscale responded, “Katrina. Yes it was.”

JULY 21: Trump led White House path of inaction 

Secret Service spent at least 45 minutes weighing whether to take Trump to the Capitol

Videotaped testimony from retired Sergeant Mark Robinson, who previously worked with D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department and was assigned to help the president’s motorcade that day, backed up testimony from Hutchinson that Trump got into a “heated” exchange with his Secret Service detail.

But he also added new details to just how long the agency spent determining whether and how to get Trump there. “We were told to stand by … until they confirmed whether or not the president was going to go to the Capitol. And so I may have waited, I would just estimate maybe 45 minutes to an hour waiting for Secret Service to make that decision,” he said in a taped interview.

Trump did not talk to any of his national security leaders on Jan. 6

Despite gaps in call logs, interviews with a wide range of national security officials indicate that Trump didn’t contact any of them on Jan. 6. “You’re the commander in chief — you’ve got an assault going on the Capitol of the United States of America and there’s nothing? No call? Nothing? Zero?” Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a recorded deposition shared by the committee.

While Trump did not talk to his national security officials, others on his staff did. It was Pence that ultimately spoke with Milley. “He was very animated and he issued very explicit, very direct, unambiguous orders. There was no question about that,” Milley said, adding that Pence said “get the military down here, get the Guard down here, put down this situation.”

And at one point, the Pentagon called the White House to coordinate a response to the attack. “The president didn’t want to do anything,” Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) said. “And so Mr. Cipollone had to take the call himself.”

Pence security detail feared for their lives 

Pence’s security detail believed they may need to use lethal force as they were trapped in the Capitol hearing the chants of rioters some 40 feet away. “If we lose any more time, we may … lose the ability to leave. So, if we’re going to leave, we need to do it now,” one Secret Service agent said in a radio transmission.

The committee interviewed an anonymous White House security official, who told the panel that the National Security Council was listening to the audio in real time and could hear some officers audibly fearing for their lives. “There was a lot of yelling. A lot of very personal calls over the radio, so it was disturbing. I don’t like talking about it, but there were calls to say goodbye to family members, so on, so forth,” an anonymous official said in audio played Thursday.

“They were running out of options and they were getting nervous. It sounds like we came very close to either service having to use lethal options or — or worse.”

Trump resisted adding any references to “peace” in his tweets

As the attack was happening, Trump sent a limited number of tweets, but none included messages to call off the attack as staff hoped for.

“Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!” Trump wrote at 2:38 p.m.  

Sarah Matthews, Trump’s deputy press secretary, said she was told by then-White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany that it was difficult to get Trump to make any call for peace. “She looked directly at me and, in a hushed tone, shared with me that the president did not want to include any sort of mention of peace in that tweet, and that it took some convincing on their part, those who were in the room,” Matthews said.

“There was a back and forth, going over different phrases to find something that he was comfortable with. And it wasn’t until Ivanka Trump suggested the phrase ‘stay peaceful’ that he finally agreed to include it.” 

Trump didn’t include calls to go home in a peaceful way in Jan. 6 video 

Raw footage presented Thursday showed Trump ignored a script that called for him to tell protesters to “leave the Capitol Hill region now and go home in a peaceful way.” The script, marked with the “president has seen” stamp, included such language.

Instead he spoke off the cuff in the Rose Garden, repeating false claims about the election being stolen and ultimately telling supporters they were “very special.” Trump ended the day mad at Pence

“Mike Pence let me down” were the last words Trump said before going into his private residence on Jan. 6, according to a White House employee who spoke with the committee.

Giuliani worked until the last minute to delay the certification of the vote

Even after Trump had tweeted a video telling people to go home, his lawyer was still working the phones the hour before Congress reconvened asking lawmakers to further delay the certification.

Giuliani made calls to GOP Sens. Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Tommy Tuberville (Ala.), Bill Haggerty (Tenn.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Josh Hawley (Mo.), and Ted Cruz (Texas) as well as Jordan.

“Hello. Senator Tuberville? Or I should say Coach Tuberville. This is Rudy Giuliani, president’s lawyer. I’m calling you because I want to discuss with you how they’re trying to rush this hearing and how we need you, our Republican friends, to try to just slow it down so we can get these legislatures to get more information to you,” he said in a voicemail left for Tuberville. 

Trump resisted filming Jan. 7 speech

In the aftermath of Jan. 6, advisers encouraged Trump to condemn the actions of the day prior more explicitly. The video gave a window into Trump’s ongoing refusal to accept the election results, as well as the behind the scenes tinkering that took place to produce a three-minute video.

In one outtake, Trump cuts himself off while reading a script from a teleprompter. “But this election is now over. Congress has certified the results — I don’t want to say the election’s over, I just want to say Congress has certified the results without saying the election’s over, OK?” Trump said.

In another outtake, Trump is seen saying he can’t say the word “yesterday” in the context of the script. Additionally, the committee showed two out takes of Trump becoming frustrated after reading the line, “My only goal was to ensure the integrity of the vote.” In one clip, he pointed his index finger down before starting over, and in the second, he slammed the podium.

Cipollone was nervous about resigning 

Cipollone said he considered resigning with the waves of other staffers but decided against it. “Did I consider it? Yes. Did I do it? No. [What I was] concerned about is if people in the counsel’s office left, who would replace me? And I had some concerns that it might be somebody who, you know, had been giving bad advice,” he said.

Scalia told him to knock off stolen election talk and stop listening to Giuliani

Then-Labor Secretary Eugen Scalia organized a meeting of Cabinet officials to “steady the ship” amid calls to use the 25th Amendment to remove Trump, ultimately issuing a memo of demands to the president. “While president, you will no longer publicly question the election results — after Wednesday, no one can deny this is harmful,” Scalia wrote in the memo.

He also offered a veiled dismissal of Giuliani, according to the committee. The memo suggests Trump listen to his Cabinet secretaries “while limiting the role of certain private citizens, who, respectful, have served you poorly with their advice.” 

Trump campaign aides said Trump response to Jan. 6 was ‘shitty

A text exchange between Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh and one of his deputies, Matthew Wolking, showed they were frustrated that Trump never even mentioned Brian Sicknick, a Capitol Police officer killed in the riot.

“Also shitty not to have even acknowledged the death of the Capitol Police officer,” Murtaugh said in the Jan. 9 exchange.

“That is enraging to me. Everything he said about supporting law enforcement is a lie,” Wolking responded.

“You know what this is, of course. If he acknowledged the dead cop, he’d be implicitly faulting the mob. And he won’t do that, because they’re his people. And he would also be close to acknowledging that what he lit at the rally got out of control. No way he acknowledges something that could ultimately be called his fault. No way,” Murtaugh said.

by Rebecca Beitsch, 
The Hill