July 19, 2022
Last week, the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, Joseph Cuffari, told the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol that the U.S. Secret Service had erased text messages between agents on January 5 and January 6, 2021, during the time of the attack. Last Friday, July 15, the committee subpoenaed those records from the U.S. Secret Service.
Today, the Secret Service said it had only one new text to provide and that any other texts from its agents around January 6 have been deleted and cannot be recovered. Agents were supposedly told to upload their messages to an internal agency drive before a general reset of cell phones, but many did not do so. A Secret Service spokesperson said that the deletion was not on purpose, but the phone reset began on January 27, eleven days after Congress requested the information be preserved.
Because its agents protected then-president Trump and then–vice president Mike Pence on January 6, their text messages could provide important context for the events of that day including, for example, Pence’s apparent reluctance to get into a vehicle driven by a Secret Service agent, or why agents apparently permitted Trump to record a video outside the White House while the Capitol was under attack.
Like every other branch of government, the Secret Service is required to preserve its records. Today, the chief records officer of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Laurence Brewer, sent a letter to Damian Kokinda, the records officer of the Department of Homeland Security, about “the potential unauthorized deletion” of the texts. Brewer asked the Secret Service to investigate and to send all information about deleted records to NARA within 30 days.
While this seems a bit like locking the door after the horse has left the barn, let me just say that no one with any brains at all messes with archivists. That Secret Service members were willing to purge texts that they knew by law they had to preserve suggests that they calculated it would be better to face the fallout for deleting the texts than the fallout from whatever was in those texts.
In Georgia, legal filings today revealed that the 16 people who created a false slate of electors for Trump have been told they are targets of the grand jury’s investigation into the attempt to steal the 2020 election in that state. Those false electors are trying to quash subpoenas for their testimony, claiming the subpoenas are “unreasonable and oppressive.” Despite reports that a Trump campaign official urged them to operate in “complete secrecy,” they claim they did not know how “certain high level members of the Trump team” intended to use those false electors, and had provided the slate only in case the real slate of electors was rejected.
Thus, they say, they did nothing wrong. But they did sign their names to a document saying they were the “duly elected and qualified Electors for President and Vice President of the United States of America from the State of Georgia,” and they submitted that document to NARA (archivists, again).
In an interview today, Speaker of the Wisconsin Assembly Robin Vos said that earlier this month (not a typo), Trump called him to ask him to decertify the 2020 election, a plan some Republicans in the legislature are backing. Vos notes that the legislature does not have the authority to “reclaim” electors. After Vos declined to join Trump’s effort, Trump posted a message saying: “The Democrats would like to sincerely thank Robin, and all of his fellow RINOs [Republicans in Name Only], for letting them get away with ‘murder.’ A Rigged & Stolen Election!”
On Thursday, the January 6 committee will hold another public hearing, this one in prime time. Today, committee chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) announced he has Covid, so the vice chair, Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY), will run the hearing.
The topic will be Trump’s behavior on January 6, 2021—what he did do and what he didn’t—and former deputy national security advisor Matthew Pottinger and former deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews are scheduled to testify. Both Pottinger and Matthews resigned immediately after January 6. Pottinger said that he decided to quit when he read Trump’s 2:24 p.m. tweet attacking Pence as not having “the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution,” even while Pence’s life was in danger.
Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, who testified before the January 6 committee, has been formally censured by the Arizona Republican Party. Tonight, the chair of the party announced the censure over a number of “offenses.” The censure called for voters to throw Bowers out of office.
While Trump’s people try to evade the law and establish minority rule, others are trying to change it to reflect the wishes of the majority of Americans.
Capitol Police today arrested 34 people, including 17 Democratic members of Congress, for engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience as they protested in front of the Supreme Court in support of abortion rights. Sitting on the street, they were blocking traffic, so police immediately ordered them to leave. When they refused, they were arrested.
Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), who at 76 has seen all this before, later said: “There is no democracy if women do not have control over their own bodies and decisions about their own health, including reproductive care. I have the privilege of representing a state where reproductive rights are respected and protected—the least I can do is put my body on the line for the 33 million women at risk of losing their rights. The Republican Party and the right-wing extremists behind this decision are not pro-life, but pro-controlling the bodies of women, girls, and any person who can become pregnant. Their ultimate goal is to institute a national ban on abortion. We will not let them win. We will be back.”
On Friday, Lauren Robel, the former dean of Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law, filed a misconduct complaint with the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission against Indiana attorney general Todd Rokita. Rokita’s inflammatory statements about the physician who provided abortion care to the ten-year-old rape victim forced to travel from Ohio to Indiana to obtain an abortion after the Supreme Court’s June 24 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision overturning Roe v. Wade, put her in danger. Rokita made baseless claims on the Fox News Channel that the physician had not reported the case properly as child abuse, and he began to investigate her medical license. In fact, the physician had reported the abuse as Indiana law required.
This afternoon, the House of Representatives passed a bill to protect gay marriage. The Respect for Marriage Act repeals the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defined marriage as “only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife” and allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages. The 2015 Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges overrode DOMA, but in case this Supreme Court goes after Obergefell, as it has suggested it might do, members of the House want to make sure DOMA doesn’t again become the law of the land.
The bill passed by a vote of 267 to 157. Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo noticed something about the vote. Not surprisingly, all Democrats voted in favor. Also not surprisingly, 157 Republicans– 77% of the caucus– voted no. The surprise is that 47 Republicans joined the Democrats to vote yes on the measure, and another 7 did not vote. These Republicans were likely willing to vote in favor in part because the new law defers to states to permit them to deny same-sex marriage licenses– although it requires them to recognize marriages from other states– and Republicans tried hard to argue that such a measure was unnecessary.
But in the end, 54 Republicans were unwilling to go on record against gay marriage, which a whopping 70% of Americans—including 55% of Republicans—support.—