While President Joe Biden quietly tried to fix the congestion at ports that is causing supply chain issues, the news today has been consumed by one story after another showing the increasing radicalization of those Republicans in charge of the national party.
Yesterday’s news that Representative Paul Gosar (R-AZ) had posted a video of himself as an anime character killing Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and slashing at an anime Biden drew attention today as Democrats called for an ethics and law enforcement investigation into the congressman but no leading Republican condemned Gosar’s outrageous and dangerous behavior. Instead, Republicans talked of stripping the committee assignments from the 13 Republican representatives who voted for the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
At the very least, this refusal to hold Gosar to account while going after those party members who cooperated with Democrats and voted for the very popular infrastructure bill indicates that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) sees no choice but to throw his weight behind the Trump faction.
The party has tied itself to Trump, and yet, more damaging information continues to drop about his administration. A report today from the Office of Special Counsel, an internal federal government watchdog agency led by Henry Kerner, who was appointed to the post by former president Donald Trump, concluded that 13 senior Trump administration officials violated the Hatch Act by using their official positions to campaign for the president.
Pressure on the former president continues to mount.
Late last night, Trump tried to block the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) from answering a subpoena from the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol for telephone records, visitor logs, and other documents.
But tonight, U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan rejected his suit, saying that the decision to exercise executive privilege resides with the office, not the people who have held that office in the past. Her decision was scorching. It quoted his tweets inciting the insurrection, took down his arguments one by one, and concluded: “Plaintiff does not acknowledge the deference owed to the incumbent President’s judgment…. His position that he may override the express will of the executive branch appears to be premised on the notion that his executive power ‘exists in perpetuity,’.... But Presidents are not kings, and Plaintiff is not President.” She concluded: “The court…holds that Plaintiff’s assertion of privilege is outweighed by President Biden’s decision not to uphold the privilege.”
But she went further. Trump’s lawyers had tried to argue that the committee was simply on a fishing expedition and had no legitimate legislative reason to look into the insurrection. Judge Chutkan responded with an acknowledgement of just what Congress might want to consider in the wake of the insurrection. It might want to enact or amend criminal laws “to deter and punish violent conduct targeted at the institutions of democracy, enacting measures for future executive enforcement of Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment against any Member of Congress or Officer of the United States who engaged in ‘insurrection or rebellion,’ or gave ‘aid or comfort to the enemies thereof,’” she wrote. Coming from a federal judge, this is a significant indictment of the actions of those leaders who engaged in the events of January 6.
Trump’s lawyers immediately appealed. A senior adviser to Trump responded that the former president is simply trying to “defend Executive Privilege for Presidents past, present & future,” and that “Trump remains committed to defending the Constitution & the Office of the Presidency, & will be seeing this process through.”
For his part, Trump promptly issued a statement insisting that the 2020 election in Georgia was fraudulent.
The House Select Committee issued subpoenas today for records and testimony from ten more people from the Trump White House. Many of those names were of people who are largely out of the spotlight and who witnessed or participated in conversations. Some better known names jump out.
The committee has subpoenaed Kayleigh McEnany, the former White House press secretary, who insisted falsely there was fraud in the election and who was apparently with Trump as he watched the attack on January 6.
It subpoenaed Trump adviser Stephen Miller, who talked falsely about voter fraud in the election and called on state legislatures to overturn Biden’s victory by appointing alternate slates of electors.
It also subpoenaed John McEntee, a young Trump loyalist who had been the former president’s baggage handler before Trump installed him as the White House personnel director, in charge of hiring for the executive branch. McEntee was reportedly present for many of the key conversations around trying to overturn the 2020 election.
An article today in The Atlantic by Jonathan D. Karl, the chief Washington correspondent for ABC News, calls “Johnny” McEntee “the man who made January 6 possible.” McEntee purged the administration of anyone he did not consider sufficiently—that is to say, totally—loyal to Trump.
All the negative news for the former president today provided fodder for the anti-Trump Republicans who seem to be making a play to reclaim control of the party. In reaction to McCarthy’s silence on Gosar, Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois tweeted: “A party with leaders like Kevin McCarthy, that cannot stand up to the insanity from people like Greene, Gaetz, Gosar, etc, is going to have a hard time standing up to countries like China.”
In New Hampshire today, Republican governor Chris Sununu announced on television that he would not run for the Senate. Party leaders had courted the popular governor for the spot, believing he could win and help the Republicans retake control of the Senate. Sununu did not tell Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) or National Republican Senatorial Committee chair Rick Scott (R-FL) ahead of time, telling reporters: "I guess you'll have to let them know. I haven't talked to them.” Democrats did well in New Hampshire in last week’s election, and Sununu likely noted that this was a poor time to tie himself to the national party.
Also in New Hampshire today, Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) tore into the Trump Republicans. She said that Americans are “confronting a domestic threat that we’ve never faced before: a former president who's attempting to unravel the foundations of our Constitutional Republic, aided by political leaders who have made themselves willing hostages to this dangerous and irrational man.” Cheney was speaking at St. Anselm College, a traditional stop for those running for president.
“In this time of testing, will we do our duty? Will we do what we must? Will we defend our Constitution? Will we stand for truth? Will we put duty to our oath above partisan politics? Or will we look away from the danger, ignore the threat, embrace the lies and enable the liar?” she said. “There is no gray area when it comes to that question. When it comes to this moment, there is no middle ground.”