June 12, 2022
Thursday’s presentation by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol made quite a splash…and the ripples are still spreading.
Today in the New York Times, columnist Maureen Dowd reacted to Thursday’s revelations that Trump was “deadly serious about overthrowing the government,” by laying out the main points: Trump knew he had lost the election, and he was willing to see his vice president hanged in order to avoid being labeled a loser. Dowd called former president Trump an “American monster” and compared him unfavorably to Frankenstein’s monster, who at least “has self-awareness, and a reason to wreak havoc…[and] knows how to feel guilty and when to leave the stage.” Our monster, in contrast, is driven only by “pure narcissistic psychopathy—and he refuses to leave the stage or cease his vile mendacity.”
Yesterday, Politico’s Betsy Woodruff Swan and Kyle Cheney reported that on January 5, 2021, then–vice president Pence’s attorney Greg Jacob wrote a three-page memo concluding that what the president and his supporters were demanding Pence do the next day would break the 1887 Electoral College Act—that is, the law—in four different ways. The memo responded to John Eastman’s memo laying out the plan for Pence to hand the election to Trump by refusing to count a number of Biden electors. Jacob noted that Eastman himself “acknowledges that his proposal violates several provisions of statutory law.” In addition, both historical court decisions and one as recent as the day before contradicted Eastman’s plan.
Jacob’s memo concluded that if Pence did what Trump demanded, the best possible outcome was that “[t]he Vice President would likely find himself in an isolated standoff against both houses of Congress, as well as most or all of the applicable State legislatures….”
It is no wonder that Pence declined to participate.
Today on CBS’s Face the Nation, Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), who is on the January 6th committee, called out Republicans who have rallied behind the Big Lie, saying: “I don’t really know many people around [Trump] who truly believe the election was stolen,” and if Trump “truly believes the election was stolen, he’s not mentally competent to be President.”
After Thursday’s revelation by committee vice-chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) that Representative Scott Perry (R-PA), as well as “multiple other Republican congressmen,” tried to get Trump to pardon them for their participation in his plan to overturn the election, Perry’s spokesperson called the allegation a “laughable, ludicrous, and a thoroughly soulless lie.”
But today on ABC News, Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA), who is on the January 6 committee, said the panel has evidence. Schiff said: “We will show the evidence that we have that members of Congress were seeking pardons…. I think that is some of the most compelling evidence of a consciousness of guilt…. Why would members do that if they felt that their involvement in this plot to overturn the election was somehow appropriate?”
Asked if the committee had evidence for their statement that congresspeople had asked for pardons, Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD), also on the panel, and a constitutional lawyer, told CNN’s Dana Bash, “everything we’re doing is documented by evidence, unlike the Big Lie, which is based on nonsense, as former Attorney General Barr said, everything we’re doing is based on facts.”
As the atmosphere around Trump gets hotter, there are cracks appearing in the Republican Party’s support for the former president. Today, Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, said on Fox News Sunday that former president Trump is “politically, morally responsible” for the events of January 6, although Hutchinson expressed the opinion that the committee has not yet established that the former president is criminally liable. Hutchinson said, “Republicans need to do a lot of soul searching as to what is the right thing here and what is the right thing for our democracy in the future, and not simply adhere to the basic instincts of some of our base.”
It is not clear that his colleagues will heed Hutchinson’s call.
Yesterday, demonstrators across the country called for stronger gun safety laws, and the need for them is heightened by the fact that today is the sixth anniversary of the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, when a gunman murdered 49 people and wounded 53 others. Americans appear to have had enough of the carnage at our schools and supermarkets, nightclubs, and churches: more than 80% of Americans want background checks before gun purchases, and 75% of adults want to limit purchases of AR-15 style weapons to those over 21.
Today a bipartisan group of 20 senators announced they had reached an agreement on what they are willing to put into a package of gun safety regulations. If successfully written into a bill and then enacted, this would be the first major federal gun safety legislation in almost 30 years, which is astonishing considering just what weak sauce it is.
The agreement calls for stronger red flag laws to help keep guns out of the hands of those a court has determined are a significant danger to themselves or others, “consistent with state and federal due process and constitutional protections”; investment in mental health services; an end to the so-called “boyfriend loophole” that allows unmarried partners with domestic violence records to own guns; more funding for school safety measures; penalties for those who buy guns illegally; and longer reviews for gun buyers who are under 21.
It seems likely the Democrats want the deal to establish the principle of federal regulation of guns, and the Republicans want it to say they’re doing something at a time when American voters are demanding action on gun safety. If it does little to change outcomes, Republicans will be able to say that regulations don’t make us safer.
Significantly, in his statement announcing the framework, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), did not mention gun safety or gun control, simply saying that he supports a bipartisan agreement that resolves “key issues like mental health and school safety, respects the Second Amendment, and earns broad support in the Senate.” All of those terms reinforce Republican arguments for solving our epidemic of gun deaths.
Meanwhile, what it means to empower Trump’s base became clear yesterday when law enforcement officers in Idaho arrested 31 members of the so-called “Patriot Front” white supremacist hate group. The men intended to disrupt Coeur D’Alene’s “Pride in the Park,” an event advertised as a “family-friendly, community event celebrating diversity and building a stronger and more unified community for ALL.” The Patriot Front rebranded itself from so-called Vanguard America after one of that group's members plowed a car into a crowd in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, killing counter protester Heather Heyer and wounding many others. Members of the gang arrested yesterday came from 11 different states, and one of those arrested for conspiring to riot—a misdemeanor—was the group’s founder, Thomas Ryan Rousseau.
Farther to the south, Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro, whom Trump has called a “great friend” and whose reelection he supports, has expanded his claim that the upcoming election in which he is running is being stolen. Bolsonaro is 25 percentage points behind his chief rival in the polls but says he will lose only if the vote is fraudulent. Now he has enlisted the support of the military in his claims. Bolsonaro recently said that election officials had “invited the armed forces to participate in the electoral process,” and reminded an audience that “the supreme chief of the armed forces is named Jair Messias Bolsonaro.” He insists that the military is only trying to keep the vote clean and safe. “For the love of God,” he said recently, “no one is engaging in undemocratic acts.”
The January 6 committee will hold its second hearing tomorrow, at 10:00 a.m. Eastern time.