Heather Cox Richardson

December 9, 2021 (Thursday)

The big news today is, once again, the economy. Indeed, it’s odd that the sort of numbers we’re seeing across the country aren’t constant headline news, indicating, as they do, both a rapid economic recovery from the pandemic and the success of President Biden’s return to an economic policy that focuses on getting money into the hands of ordinary Americans.

In Washington Monthly, national economic consultant Robert J. Shapiro catalogued what he called the “extraordinary gains” of the past several months. “Over the first three quarters of this year, real GDP increased at a 7.8 percent annual rate—that’s adjusted for the current inflation,” he wrote. “The Federal Reserve expects real growth of 5.9 percent for all of 2021, followed by another 3.8 percent increase in 2022.” In contrast, the real GDP grew by an average rate of 2.2% every year and never actually reached 3% between 2000 and 2019. Reflecting this growth, the stock market is booming, with the S&P Index jumping 21.7% from January 20 to December 7, 2021.

He continues: Americans’ disposable income grew 3% (after inflation) from January to October; in the same period in 2019 the rate was 0.5% and in 2018 it was 1.7%. Personal savings rates climbed during the pandemic, enabling households to pay off debt and make new purchases. Since January, unemployment has fallen by a third. Wages, too, have climbed, although inflation, which appears to be tied to supply chain bottlenecks, is hurting poorer Americans. Economists currently think that inflation will ease as the bottlenecks clear.

"It’s a Biden boom,” the article is titled, “and no one has noticed yet.”

That boom will not be undercut by another fight over the debt ceiling, which is a cap on how much the Treasury can borrow. Congress originally adopted the debt ceiling in the early twentieth century to make borrowing easier by giving the Treasury leeway to borrow through whatever instruments it wished up to a certain amount. Now, though, Republicans have been threatening to hold the nation hostage, refusing to allow the Treasury to borrow to pay bills Congress has already run up, in order to prevent the Democrats from passing legislation. Forcing the nation to default on its debt would devastate both the U.S. economy and the world economy.

Today, in the Senate, 14 Republicans joined the Democrats in a complicated maneuver to avoid a filibuster and enable the Democrats to raise the debt ceiling by a simple majority vote. The Republicans were not actually voting to raise the debt ceiling, which they are eager to pin on the Democrats despite having added $7.8 trillion to the debt in the four years of the Trump presidency. They were agreeing not to stop Democrats from protecting the U.S. debt on their own.

Still, it seems significant that the Senate so easily created a carve-out for a measure in which the Republicans were interested, when there appears to be determination not to create carve-outs for the voting rights bills before the Senate.

Meanwhile, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol appears to be picking up momentum.

Today, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit unanimously agreed with the decision of a lower court, denying Trump’s request that the court stop the National Archives and Records Administration from releasing documents subpoenaed by the January 6th committee. The court gave Trump 14 days to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Also today, right-wing provocateur Ali Alexander testified before the January 6th committee for eight hours. Alexander had posted videos claiming that he had helped to plan the rallies in Washington, D.C., working with congressional representatives Mo Brooks (R-AL), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), and Andy Biggs (R-AZ); today Alexander claimed that he was completely uninvolved and was being accused because “[a]s a Black and Arab man, an American, it is common for people who look like me to be blamed for things we did not do." He said his videos had been taken out of context.

Kash Patel, a one-time aide to Representative Devin Nunes and a Trump loyalist, also testified for nearly five hours. On November 9, 2020, shortly after he lost the election, Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper by tweet and installed Christopher Miller as acting secretary of defense. Trump named Patel as Miller’s chief of staff, but observers told Washington Post reporter David Ignatius that Patel was really the lead civilian at the Pentagon. In December 2020, Trump considered putting Patel at the head of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Today the National Archives and Records Administration said that they are working with the lawyer for Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows to obtain presidential records that were not properly put into his official account. This news comes after the January 6th committee pointed out that some of the emails and texts Meadows supplied to it came from a personal account. It asked if those records had been properly forwarded to an official account and stored, as is required by law under the Presidential Records Act.

Evidently not.

Representative Liz Cheney today tweeted that the committee has met with nearly 300 witnesses and continues to collect testimony. It has received “exceptionally interesting and important documents”—including those from Meadows—and has now won against Trump in his executive privilege case. She says “[t]he investigation is firing on all cylinders,” and that the committee “will not let” Trump “hide what happened on January 6th and…delay and obstruct. The truth will come out.”

In his speech today at the Democracy Summit, Biden vowed to protect journalists around the world from persecution and to continue to fight for the passage of voting rights and election protection legislation. He mentioned by name the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would prevent voter suppression, make it easier to vote, and dismantle the 33 new restrictive elections laws that Republican-dominated legislatures in 19 states have passed.

“We should be making it easy for people to vote, not harder,” Biden said. “And that’s going to remain a priority for my administration until we get it done. Inaction is not an option.”

The House is doing its part. Today it passed the Protecting Our Democracy Act, which Adam Schiff (D-CA) introduced on September 21, 2021. This measure makes it faster and easier to enforce congressional subpoenas, stops abuse of the pardoning power, stops presidents from enriching themselves through the office, requires campaigns to disclose foreign contacts, and shores up the Hatch Act that keeps officials from using their offices to campaign. (The official name of the Hatch Act is “An Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities.”)

The measures in the bill are ones members of both parties have advocated for years, but since they are now perceived as a response to Trump’s norm-busting, only Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) got on board with all the Democrats to pass the measure by a vote of 220–208."

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Just funny! I needed a laugh today. As if.

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December 10, 2021 (Friday)

Today, in Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson, the Supreme Court undermined the federal protection of civil rights that has shaped our world since the 1950s.

The case asked whether opponents of Texas’s S.B. 8, the so-called Heartbeat Bill, could bring a federal case to block the law, which gets around normal challenges by putting private individuals, rather than the state itself, in charge of enforcing it. By a vote of 5 to 4, the court said they could sue, but it limited that ability so severely that the law itself will remain largely intact.

The state law, which went into effect on September 1, prohibits abortion after six weeks of a pregnancy, before most women know they’re pregnant. And yet, the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision of the Supreme Court affirmed that women have the constitutional right to abortion without undue restrictions, primarily in the first trimester of a pregnancy.

This case is about far more than abortion. It is about the federal protection of civil rights in the face of discriminatory state laws. That federal protection has been the key factor in advancing equal rights in America since the 1950s.

When the Framers wrote the Constitution in 1787, shortly after the American Revolution against a king colonists had come to believe was a tyrant, many leading Americans were still worried about concentrating too much power in the hands of a chief executive and a central government. In order to convince people to ratify the Constitution, leaders called for explicit limits to what the new national government could do to citizens. In 1791 the nation added ten amendments to the Constitution to protect individual freedom and rights, including, for example, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, protection from unreasonable searches and seizures, the right to a speedy trial, and so on.

These limits applied to the federal government alone.

States could still enact fiercely repressive laws, including, before the Civil War, laws throwing Indigenous Americans off their lands, denying rights to women (including access to their children in the rare instance of divorce), and enslaving Black Americans. In the wake of the war, legislatures in former Confederate states tried to reassert white control through “Black Codes” that severely limited the rights and protections for formerly enslaved people.

Congressmen recognized the need to use the power of the federal government to override state laws in order to protect equality. In 1866, it passed and sent off to the states for ratification another amendment to the Constitution: the Fourteenth.

The Fourteenth Amendment states that “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The amendment gave Congress the power to enforce the amendment “by appropriate legislation.”

Congress intended for the Fourteenth to enable the federal government to guarantee that Black Americans had the same rights as white Americans, even in states whose legislatures wanted to keep them in a form of quasi-slavery. The states ratified it and it became part of the Constitution in 1868.

In 1870, as white supremacists organized as the Ku Klux Klan terrorized their Black neighbors, Congress passed a law establishing the Department of Justice, which promptly set out to prosecute Klan members, eventually driving the organization underground.

But federal protection of civil rights was both limited and short lived. State legislatures kept or passed wide-ranging discriminatory laws, against Black Americans, for sure, and also against other minorities—Asian immigrants were explicitly prohibited from owning land, for example—and all women. By the early twentieth century, there were state laws against mixed-race marriages, against contraception, against integrated schools and housing, against abortion.

World War II changed the equation. Lawmakers had both to adjust to the demands of the minorities and women who had fought in the war and had kept the factories and fields operating, and to counter communists’ charges that American “democracy” sure didn’t look as equal as communism. To address discriminatory state laws, they turned to the federal government.

After World War II, under Chief Justice Earl Warren and Chief Justice Warren Burger (both appointed by Republicans), the Supreme Court set out to make all Americans equal before the law. They tried to end segregation through the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, decision prohibiting racial segregation in public schools. In 1965, they protected the right of married couples to use contraception. In 1967, they legalized interracial marriage. In 1973, with the Roe v. Wade decision, they tried to give women control over their own reproduction by legalizing abortion.

Justices in the Warren and Burger courts protected these civil rights by arguing that the Fourteenth Amendment required the Bill of Rights to apply to state governments as well as to the federal government. This is known as the “incorporation doctrine,” but the name matters less than the concept: it said that states cannot abridge an individual’s rights, any more than the federal government can. This doctrine dramatically expanded civil rights.

But opponents of the new decisions insisted that the court was engaging in “judicial activism,” taking away from voters the right to make their own decisions about how society should work. That said that justices were “legislating from the bench.” They insisted that the Constitution is limited by the views of its Framers and that the government can do nothing that is not explicitly written in that 1787 document. They wanted to replace the court’s interpretation of the Constitution with a view that preserved its “original” intent.

The 1987 fight over President Ronald Reagan’s nominee for the Supreme Court, originalist Robert Bork, was the first salvo in the attempt to roll back the court’s expansion of civil rights. Bork was extreme for his day—famously saying that the Constitution did not protect the right for married people to use birth control, for example—and six Republicans joined the Democrats to oppose him. But the swing toward originalism was underway.

Now, finally, thanks to the three Supreme Court justices nominated by Donald Trump and confirmed thanks to then–Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s breaking of the filibuster, the Republicans have cemented an originalist view of the Constitution on the Supreme Court. Their doctrine will send authority for civil rights back to the states to wither or thrive as different legislatures see fit.

In Texas the legislature has taken away from its citizens a right guaranteed by the Constitution, and the Supreme Court has declined to assert federal power to stop it.

In a partial dissent from today’s decision, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that “the clear purpose and actual effect of S.B. 8 has been to nullify this Court’s rulings,” and quoted an 1809 decision that said, “[i]f the legislatures of the several states may, at will, annul the judgments of the courts of the United States, and destroy the rights acquired under those judgments, the constitution itself becomes a solemn mockery.” Roberts warned his colleagues that “the role of the Supreme Court in our constitutional system…is at stake.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor was blunter. Texas has launched “a brazen challenge to our federal structure,” she said, one that “echoes the philosophy of John C. Calhoun, a virulent defender of the slaveholding South who insisted that States had the right to ‘veto’ or 'nullif[y]’ any federal law with which they disagreed.”

Under this old system, what civil rights will be off-limits?

The court’s “choice to shrink from Texas’ challenge to federal supremacy will have far-reaching repercussions,” Sotomayor wrote. “I doubt the Court, let alone the country, is prepared for them.”

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It strikes me that while some people believe this is about taking us back to the mid-century, in reality the goal is the late 19th and early 20th - basically prior to the New Deal era…

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Those who do learn history are doomed to watch it repeat around them…

1880s–1920s: Robber Barons and the Golden Age (And Dickensian society)
17C–18C: Divine Right of Kings, Louis XIV-XVI, the Georgians, the Inclosure Acts and the Highland Clearances

Of course, what they really want is a return to full-on Feudalism, with most people as serfs and servants, and them as Kings and nobility. They will maybe allow some into a third estate of the Church and right-wing thinktanks to convince the serfs to accept their place and argue why that’s the best and only way things can be.

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December 11, 2021 (Saturday)

The picture of what was happening at the White House in the days before the January 6 insurrection is becoming clearer. (While we also have a decent idea of what was happening at the Department of Justice, what was happening at the Pentagon remains unclear.)

Shortly after Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows announced on Tuesday that he would no longer cooperate with the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, committee chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) wrote a letter noting that Meadows had already shared material—thus indicating he did not consider it privileged—that he is now saying he won’t discuss. Thompson identified some of that material.

He said Meadows had provided the committee with an “email regarding a 38-page PowerPoint briefing titled ‘Election Fraud, Foreign Interference & Options for 6 JAN’ that was to be provided ‘on the hill’; and, among others, a January 5, 2021 email about having the National Guard on standby.”

Journalists immediately began looking for that PowerPoint. Slides began to surface, and then a whole slide deck appeared on the internet. The Guardian’s Hugo Lowell verified it on Friday. The fact that members of the president’s inner circle actually prepared a presentation for an audience about how to overturn an election crystallized just how close the nation came to a successful coup on January 6.

The PowerPoint presented three ways for then–Vice President Mike Pence to overturn Biden’s election and hand the presidency back to Trump. Pence could simply seat the slates of electors Trump supporters had organized to replace the official slates certified by the states. Pence could insist on rejecting all electronic ballots. Or Pence could delay the counting of the ballots long enough to throw the election into the House of Representatives, where each state gets one vote. Since there were more Republican-dominated states than Democratic-dominated states, Trump would be reelected.

Then, also on Friday, news dropped that Trump campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis had produced two memos—one previously unknown—outlining far-fetched legal arguments to justify Pence throwing the election to Trump. One, dated December 31, said he could simply refuse to open the envelopes containing the electoral votes of states whose results Trump contested.

A second, dated January 5, made a more complicated argument claiming for Pence more authority to determine the outcome of the election than the vice president has exercised since the 1887 Electoral Count Act.

Today, Robert Costa, the Washington Post reporter who wrote the book Peril with veteran journalist Bob Woodward about the fraught weeks surrounding the January 6 insurrection, laid out the timeline for early January in the White House.

In December, right-wing lawyer John Eastman began drafting the Eastman Memo calling for Pence to refuse to count electors from states Biden won and laying out a number of ways Pence could throw the election to Trump. (Trump’s own loyal attorney general, William Barr, and his deputy Jeffrey Rosen, who replaced Barr when he resigned on December 23, 2020, had already concluded the election was not fraudulent.) The plan, as Costa and Woodward put it in Peril, was: “Either have Pence declare Trump the winner, or make sure it is thrown to the House where Trump is guaranteed to win.”

The White House had the memo by January 1. Meadows was working with the Trump team to push the ideas in it. Someone in the White House gave it to Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and others on January 2. Meadows met with both Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani in Meadows’s office on January 2 to brief Graham, who was then the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on what they claimed was voter fraud. Graham demanded proof.

On January 3, Pence conferred with the Senate parliamentarian, who told him he was simply there to count the votes. It was clear he was not on board with Trump’s plan.

On January 4, Trump called Pence to the Oval Office to pressure him. Eastman presented his case to Pence; Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short; and Pence’s legal counsel, Greg Jacob. On that day, someone presented the PowerPoint to a number of Republican senators and members of the House.

Apparently, none of the people briefed called the attention of the FBI to the coming attempt to overturn the election.

On the evening of January 5, Trump called Pence to a meeting as his supporters were gathering on Freedom Plaza near the White House. The people in the streets were cheering and waving “Make America Great Again” flags. Trump asked Pence to throw the election to the House of Representatives; Pence again said he did not have authority to do anything other than count the certified electoral votes.

And then, according to Costa and Woodward in Peril, Trump asked: “Well, what if these people say you do?” gesturing to the crowds outside. “If these people say you had the power, wouldn’t you want to?”

Pence, who would have been the face of the insurrection if he had done as he was asked, still said no.

That night, Trump called his people in the so-called “war room” at the Willard Hotel, where loyalists had been trying to figure out a way to delay certification if Pence didn’t cave. He called the lawyers and the non-lawyers separately, since Giuliani wanted to preserve attorney-client privilege. “He’s arrogant,” Trump told his lieutenant Stephen Bannon.

They appear to have settled on a plan to get Republican lawmakers to raise enough objections that it would delay the counting long enough to throw the election into the House of Representatives. (This squares with the voicemail Giuliani left for newly elected Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) in the midst of the insurrection, saying: “The only strategy we can follow is to object to numerous states and raise issues so that we get ourselves into tomorrow—ideally until the end of tomorrow.”)

Since his memo became public, John Eastman has said it “was not being provided to Trump or Pence as my advice… The memo was designed to outline every single possible scenario that had been floated, so that we could talk about it.” When subpoenaed by the January 6 committee, Eastman declined to appear, asserting his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Since journalist Lowell broke the story of Trump’s calls to the Willard the night of January 5, Trump’s spokesperson has said that the account “is totally false” but provided no more information.

Since the story of the PowerPoint dropped, retired U.S. Army colonel Phil Waldron, who was working with the Trump team to challenge the election results, claimed authorship of it. Waldron told the Washington Post that he met with Meadows “maybe eight to 10 times” and was the one who briefed several members of Congress about the information in his presentation on January 5.

Since Politico dropped the story about her memos, Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis said: “At no time did I advocate for overturning the election or that Mike Pence had the authority to do so…. As part of my role as a campaign lawyer and counsel for President Trump, I explored legal options that might be available within the context of the U.S. Constitution and statutory law.”

Yesterday, the January 6 committee subpoenaed six more people who had been involved in planning the rallies in Washington on January 5 and January 6. Some of them communicated with Trump directly; one communicated with Representative Mo Brooks (R-AL). Subpoenas went to Bryan Lewis, Ed Martin, Kimberly Fletcher, Robert “Bobby” Peede Jr., Max Miller, and Brian Jack.

On Monday, December 6, we learned that Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, has been cooperating with the January 6 committee.

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They knew two days in advance and did nothing. :angry: I hope there will be charges… not gonna hold my breath, though. :weary:

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Subpoenas for sitting members of Congress? :crossed_fingers:

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it also caught my eye that they wanted to give the election to the house, relying on them to hand the country over to trump

that’s, frankly, stunning.

not just a few dozen people pushing hard for a coup. but an expectation that hundreds of republicans would vote to end democracy permanently. ( and then, that everyone else in the country would just be like: yeah, sure no problem. )

im glad we never got to find out

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December 12, 2021 (Sunday)

Tonight the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol released a report urging Congress to hold Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt of Congress after he has refused to honor a congressional subpoena.

It’s quite a document.

First of all, it pieces together a wide range of material from a number of different sources to lay out very clearly Meadows’s actions in the White House leading up to January 6. Anyone out there who is concerned that they have not heard much from the January 6 Committee will take heart from this comprehensive document, concerning, as it does, only one witness. The committee must have an astonishing amount of material and a number of talented personnel to produce such a report.

More specifically, though, the report places Meadows at key junctures in the lead-up to the January 6 insurrection and on January 6 itself. It places him with Trump on January 6.

But what jumps off the page in the report is the discussion of the National Guard’s response to the riot. The report says that “Mr. Meadows reportedly spoke with Kashyap Patel, who was then the chief of staff to former Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller, ‘nonstop’ throughout the day of January 6. And, among other things, Mr. Meadows apparently knows if and when Mr. Trump was engaged in discussions regarding the National Guard’s response to the Capitol riot.”

The committee also wrote that “Mr. Meadows sent an email to an individual about the events on January 6 and said that the National Guard would be present to ‘protect pro Trump people’ and that many more would be available on standby.”

Why it took more than three hours for the D.C. National Guard to deploy on January 6 remains a central question about what happened that day. Then–U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund began calling for help at 1:49 p.m., but the National Guard, whose chain of command had been reordered on January 5 to require Miller to approve mobilizing the guard, didn’t deploy until 5:08 p.m.

Army officials have said they moved as quickly as possible; National Guard officials have said they were held back by army leaders who complained about the “optics” of deploying the National Guard to the Capitol. As the title of Amanda Carpenter’s December 10 article in The Bulwark notes: “Someone is lying about why it took so long for the National Guard to deploy on January 6.”

The news that Meadows was on the phone “nonstop” to Miller’s chief of staff on January 6, and that he told someone that “the National Guard would be present to ‘protect pro Trump people’ and that many more would be available on standby,” adds more information to that muddled timeline, although still not enough to figure out what was actually going on.

Did the Trump team expect a counter-protest that day that would enable Trump to declare a state of emergency, as it appears all the living defense secretaries feared when they wrote an open letter on January 3 insisting that the military must stay out of the transition? “Acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller and his subordinates — political appointees, officers and civil servants—are each bound by oath, law and precedent to facilitate the entry into office of the incoming administration, and to do so wholeheartedly,” the ten living former defense secretaries wrote in a Washington Post op-ed on January 3. “They must also refrain from any political actions that undermine the results of the election or hinder the success of the new team.”

If counter-protesters had shown up, muddying the story of what was happening, the day might have played out very differently.

The report from the January 6 Committee also notes that Meadows apparently used an encrypted phone and that he communicated frequently with members of Congress about challenging the election.

The report demolishes Meadows’s argument that he cannot testify because of executive privilege. It notes that President Joe Biden has not asserted executive privilege over the matters about which Meadows would testify, and neither has former president Donald Trump. It appears Meadows is basing his refusal to testify on a letter from “former-President Trump’s counsel, Justin Clark, to Mr. Meadows’s then-counsel, Mr. Gast, expressing former-President Trump’s apparent belief that ‘Mr. Meadows is immune from compelled congressional testimony on matters related to his official responsibilities.’’’ The letter told Meadows not to testify or produce documents.

Such a letter does not officially assert privilege, even if Trump had the authority to do so, which it seems likely he does not (since it is the current president who asserts privilege to protect the office, and Biden has declined to do so).

The January 6 Committee also notes that Meadows is refusing to talk about material that he, himself, produced for the committee, and which he has discussed in his new book, thereby waiving any claims to privilege.

Lawyer Teri Kanefield today put together the timeline for Meadows’s production of documents and then abrupt refusal to testify. She notes that Meadows cooperated with the January 6 Committee over materials from his official work accounts. But then he discovered that the committee had subpoenaed the records from his private cell phone from Verizon, records that he had not transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration, as required by law. He stopped cooperating and sued to have the subpoena to Verizon blocked.

Considering how bad the materials Meadows gave to the committee are—both a PowerPoint outlining how to overturn the election and emails about the National Guard protecting pro-Trump protesters, as well as texts with members of Congress about undermining the election results—one can only wonder what’s in the material he is trying so desperately to protect.

The committee will vote tomorrow at 7:00 p.m. whether to hold Meadows in contempt based on the report; the matter will go to the House on Tuesday.

Former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro has also refused to comply with a subpoena, this one from the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis for documents concerning the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus. Navarro, who warned the White House in January 2020 that the coronavirus could become “a full-blown pandemic,” said Trump had given him “a direct order that I should not comply with the subpoena.” Navarro’s letter called the chair of the coronavirus committee, Representative James Clyburn (D-SC), “Representative Rayburn.” (The committee works out of the Rayburn House Office Building.)

Trump confirmed his opposition to the subpoena, saying, “The Communist Democrats are engaging in yet another Witch Hunt, this time going after my Administration’s unprecedented and incredible coronavirus response…. The Witch Hunts must end!"

Finally, Fox News Channel reporter Chris Wallace announced tonight that he was leaving FNC to join CNN+, a streaming service launching in 2022. An actual journalist on the channel whose terms of service explicitly announce it is “for your personal enjoyment and entertainment,” rather than news, Wallace lent legitimacy to the channel’s opinion personalities, who have increasingly slid toward right-wing propaganda.

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i finally agree with the shambling man on something!

every time i thought, no. he can do no worse than he’s already done, he sank to new astonishing lows. it was incredible. there was truly no precedent for his inept mismanagement

so: if he’s happy to go down in history as the worst president in modern history, i certainly concur. if he wants the record for worst president ever… he’s a strong contender

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December 13, 2021 (Monday)

Tonight, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol held a televised hearing to vote on whether to hold Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena. Their answer was yes, unanimously, by a vote of 9–0. More, even than that, though, was that in order to justify their votes they dropped some details about what happened on January 6.

What they revealed was eye-popping.

All members of the committee spoke tonight, underscoring the importance of the moment.

Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) grabbed the headlines, though, as she read text messages Meadows received on January 6. They included texts from lawmakers to Meadows begging Trump to call off the rioters, making it crystal clear that those closest to him understood that those attacking the Capitol would respond to his orders. Dozens of texts urged the president to act to stop the protesters: “Someone is going to get killed.” “POTUS needs to calm this sh*t down.”

Those writing the texts to Meadows about the president also included his son Donald Trump, Jr. (why was he communicating with his father through Meadows?), and Fox News Channel personalities Laura Ingraham, Brian Kilmeade, and Sean Hannity, revealing how dangerously intertwined the right-wing media system is with Republican lawmakers. “This is hurting all of us,” Ingraham wrote to Meadows during the insurrection.

Cheney said: “These texts leave no doubt: the White House knew exactly what was happening at the Capitol. Members of Congress, the press, and others wrote to Mark Meadows as the attack was underway."

And yet, Trump remained unmoved for 187 minutes while our Capitol was under attack and lawmakers hid from the mob. As Cheney said: “Hours passed without necessary action by the president. These non privileged texts are further evidence of President Trump’s supreme dereliction of duty during those 187 minutes.”

Cheney took the fight directly to Trump with her accusation of “dereliction of duty.” The Capitol was under attack, and the one person who everyone believed could stop the attack, the commander-in-chief, refused to. A number of lawmakers tossed the term “dereliction of duty” around immediately after the insurrection, but it has faded from conversation as Republicans have lined up again behind the former president. It is, though, an offense under the U.S. military code, and therefore is something that people understand is serious.

Cheney was more specific in another accusation of criminal behavior. After establishing that many lawmakers and media personalities begged then-president Trump to call off the rioters, she asked: “Did Donald Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress’s proceedings?”

What Cheney did tonight was courageous. She put herself on the line in the struggle to hold Trump and his loyalists accountable. As other lawmakers claim to be afraid to stand up to Trump out of fear for their safety, she has made herself a key target of the Trump loyalists in order to defend our democracy.

But that was not all that happened in the hearing.

To underscore that the material Meadows handed over was not privileged, Representative Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) explained that Meadows conducted business on a personal cell phone and over personal email accounts, as well as over Signal, a secure messaging system that encrypts messages so they cannot be unlocked by anyone but the receiver.

The committee members also increased pressure on those continuing to protect the former president.

Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) revealed other messages, from unnamed lawmakers, expressing sympathy for the insurrection. One lawmaker texted Meadows: “On January 6, 2021, Vice President Mike Pence, as President of the Senate, should call out all electoral votes that he believes are unconstitutional as no electoral votes at all.” A message from a lawmaker the next day read. “Yesterday was a terrible day. We tried everything we could in our objection to the 6 states. I’m sorry nothing worked.”

This evening, Thompson told reporters that “the information we received has been quite revealing about members of Congress involved in the activities of January 6th as well as staff.” He said the names of the lawmakers involved in the events of that day will come out. One of those involved is almost certainly Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH), who has been evasive about when and how many times he talked to Trump on January 6, although says with certainty he did.

Rolling Stone reported tonight that two people who helped to organize the January 6 rally at the Ellipse are saying they will cooperate with the committee fully. Dustin Stockton and Jennifer Lawrence, who have both been subpoenaed by the committee, are longtime activists who tended to operate on the margins of established politics.

CNN business journalist Brian Stelter noted that right-wing media channels—including the Fox News Channel, Newsmax, and One America News—did not cover the January 6 committee hearing at all tonight. Hannity, though, did interview Meadows, opening his show by telling viewers: “The hyperpartisan predetermined-outcome anti-Trump January 6 committee just voted 9 to 0 to hold Mark Meadows in contempt for refusing to comply with their orders.” He went on to ask Meadows why Congress is not investigating what Hannity painted as the terrible riots in the summer of 2020.

Their discomfort might reflect, in part, that they, too, were implicated in the events of January 6. After begging Trump to call off his supporters during the insurrection, the same personalities went in front of their audiences on camera and lied that Trump had nothing to do with the insurrection. Ingraham, for example, blamed Antifa for the attack on the Capitol, suggested the riot was staged by provocateurs, and suggested there were just three dozen people.

The suggestion that Antifa was the real culprit on January 6 might or might not have been related to the plan suggested yesterday that Trump had expected counter-protesters and had been prepared to use the ensuing violence as a pretext to declare martial law. At 5:25 p.m. on January 5, Trump tweeted: “Antifa is a Terrorist Organization, stay out of Washington. Law enforcement is watching you very closely!”

Just three days ago, on Friday, December 10, Ingraham interviewed Trump, who told her he wasn’t involved in the rioting on January 6 and that his words that day “were extremely calming.”

The resolution to hold Meadows in contempt will go to the full House tomorrow.

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December 14, 2021 (Tuesday)

The big story today continues to be the insurrection and the many people now seemingly swept up in the investigation of it.

The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol took to the House Rules Committee its resolution to hold Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt of Congress. This afternoon, the House Rules Committee voted along party lines by a vote of 8 to 4 to advance the contempt resolution to the House itself.

In the full House, where Republican leadership urged members to vote against the contempt charge, debate continued into the night. Shortly after 11:00, the House voted to refer Meadows to the Department of Justice for criminal contempt of Congress. The vote was 222 to 208, with only two Republicans—Representatives Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois—voting with the Democrats. Both Cheney and Kinzinger sit on the January 6 committee.

In the course of the debate, to make their case that Meadows’s testimony is vital to understand what happened on January 6, members of the committee continued to reveal pieces of the material they received from Meadows before he decided to stop cooperating.

One text in particular jumped out. A Republican member of the House texted Meadows on November 4, the day after the election, saying: “HERE’S an AGRESSIVE [sic] STRATEGY: Why can t [sic] the states of GA NC PENN and other R controlled state houses declare this is BS (where conflicts and election not called that night) and just send their own electors to vote and have it go to the SCOTUS[?]"

That is, a Republican member of Congress wanted Republican-dominated state legislatures not even to wait to see who had won the election—none of those states had been called by November 4—but simply to ignore the will of the voters, choose their own electors, and hope that the Supreme Court would hand the election to Trump as he had been saying for weeks it would.

Since the election, with the help and urging of some of Trump’s former lawyers, 19 of those Republican-dominated legislatures have passed laws making it harder for Democrats to vote and, in some cases, gotten rid of the nonpartisan election mechanisms to count votes and replaced them with partisan operatives. They have put in place a system that looks much like what this text called for.

In Georgia, for example, Republicans in the legislature changed the law to enable them to purge Black voters from county election boards, arguing that such reforms are necessary to restore faith in the system after the 2020 election. And today, a handful of lawmakers from Georgia’s legislature launched the Georgia Freedom Caucus with the goal of moving Georgia’s Republican Party further to the right.

Our democracy is at stake. In the Declaration of Independence, this nation’s Founders declared it “self-evident” that governments are legitimate only if those they govern consent to them. If lawmakers take it upon themselves to ignore the will of the voters and themselves decide who will hold power, we will have lost the ability to consent to our government. And that government will be far more extremist than polls suggest the vast majority of us want.

A number of voting rights bills have passed the House and are waiting for Senate action. But Republicans there do not want to pass them, and Democrats cannot do it with their razor-thin majority because the Senate filibuster means that Republicans can demand 60 votes even to take up a bill.

So right now, Democrats like Georgia’s Senator Raphael Warnock are pressing the Senate to reform the filibuster in order to pass voting rights protections with a simple majority. Democrats like Warnock are determined to pass voting rights legislation not least because they know that before the 1965 Voting Rights Act there were majority-Black counties in the South in which not a single Black person voted. In 1946, for example, 14,394 white people and 38,970 Black people lived in Leflore County, Mississippi. Of those folks, 4,345 white people were registered to vote, and they carried elections, since the 26 Black people registered to vote did not risk their safety by casting a ballot.

It is highly unlikely the Senate will agree to get rid of the filibuster altogether, but the argument for creating a carve-out for voting rights is an easy one to make, especially since the Senate voted today to approve a higher debt ceiling increase to $2.5 trillion on a simple majority vote of 50 to 49.

The torrent of news from the January 6 committee might give at least a few Republican lawmakers pause about continuing to shore up those who set out to undermine democracy, if not for their own principles, then for the reality that this will not play well during televised hearings next year. “We are all watching what is unfolding on the House side,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said today, “and it will be interesting to reveal all of the participants that were involved.”

Meanwhile, Meadows continues to talk to friendly media while saying he cannot talk to the January 6 committee, and after a day of ignoring the story about their texts altogether, tonight the Fox News Channel personalities identified yesterday in texts defended those texts, although they sounded nervous.

They are apparently not the only ones with reason to be nervous. In a lawsuit parallel to that of Meadows, lawyer John Eastman, author of the Eastman memo outlining a strategy for overturning the election, today sued members of the January 6 committee, the committee itself, and Verizon to try to keep his records secret.

Also today, a federal judge ruled that the House Ways and Means Committee has a legitimate reason to review Trump’s tax returns and that he must hand them over. Congress has been trying to get them since 2019. Federal law says that when the congressional committees that oversee taxation ask for an individual’s tax return, the Treasury Department and the IRS must turn it over, but Trump has fought the law on the grounds that the committee has no legitimate reason to look at his taxes and is only seeking to embarrass him. The judge gave Trump 14 days to appeal.

And finally, Karl A. Racine, the attorney general for the District of Columbia, today sued the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, as well as many of their leaders, for their roles in the January 6 insurrection. The suit charges that the defendants kept U.S. officials from doing their duties surrounding an election—in violation of a law written to stop the Ku Klux Klan during Reconstruction—and seeks monetary damages to bankrupt the organizations.

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December 15, 2021 (Wednesday)

A year ago today, Trump retweeted pro-Trump lawyer Lin Wood’s declaration that Georgia governor Brian Kemp and Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger would “soon be going to jail” because they would not overturn the election results in Georgia.

Today the House of Representatives sent its contempt resolution concerning Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to the Department of Justice.

The Federalist, a pro-Republican media outlet, exposed Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) as the author of the text to Meadows proposing that “On January 6, 2021, Vice President Mike Pence, as President of the Senate, should call out all electoral votes that he believes are unconstitutional as no electoral votes at all.”

In an attempt to defend Jordan, the author of an article in The Federalist claimed that Adam Schiff (D-CA) a member of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol and chair of the House Intelligence Committee, “misrepresent[ed]” and “doctored” the text message. The original, the author’s article explained, was actually Jordan forwarding a legal article that made this argument. While it’s not clear that forwarding the article is significantly less troubling than writing original words, The Federalist was also the first to identify Jordan as the sender.

Jordan’s office confirmed his authorship of the text but claimed the text was only him forwarding a legal theory by Joseph Schmitz, a Federalist Society lawyer who was President George W. Bush’s inspector general for the Defense Department; an executive officer with Erik Prince’s private military company, Blackwater Worldwide; and a foreign policy advisor for Trump’s 2016 campaign.

This, of course, raises other questions.

Hugo Lowell of The Guardian reported that a deposition scheduled tomorrow before the January 6 committee for Jeffrey Clark, the Justice Department lawyer who fed Trump’s attack on the 2020 election results, has been postponed for the second time because of Clark’s medical condition.

Today, before Clark revealed his ongoing illness, Clark’s former deputy, Kenneth Klukowski, testified before the committee.

The vice chair of the committee, Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY), continues to push the idea that Trump acted criminally. She emphasized today that Fox News Channel personalities Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham “are standing by the texts they sent to Meadows on January 6 urging that President Trump take immediate action to stop the violence.”

“…[F]or multiple hours, President Trump chose not to take the specific and immediate action many urged - as the violent mob besieged & invaded the Capitol, attacked & injured scores of Capitol Police, & obstructed Congress’s count of electoral votes,” she reiterated. “This was a supreme dereliction of the President’s duty….”

The texts showing lawmakers, as well as journalists, media personalities, and even the president’s own son, begging Trump to call off the rioters while he refused to do so for more than three hours add teeth to the question of whether Trump criminally obstructed an official proceeding of Congress. The committee is clearly contemplating this question.

Members of the committee say they are following the trail wherever it leads, and a piece today by New York Times reporters Katie Benner, Catie Edmondson, Luke Broadwater, and Alan Feuer identifies six members of the House Freedom Caucus, which Meadows co-founded when he entered Congress in 2015, whom they might find on that trail.

Representatives Jim Jordan, Scott Perry (R-PA), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), and Mo Brooks (R-AL), who wore a bullet-proof vest to give his speech at the Ellipse on January 6, were all actively involved in the attempt to stop Biden’s election.

The Fox News Channel is also under pressure for its role in the insurrection. It’s dealing with the news that three of its own personalities texted Meadows frantically on January 6 begging Trump to call off the rioters, then went on television that night and claimed those attacking the Capitol were left-wing activists.

It is also facing a demand from voting technology companies Dominion and Smartmatic to see emails from FNC’s top executives Rupert Murdoch and his son Lachlan, to prove either that the men knew the accusations on-air personalities were making against the technology companies were lies, or that they made no effort to determine whether they were real before airing them. The tech companies are suing FNC for defamation and are asking for billions in damages from FNC and Trump loyalists who pushed the Big Lie.

The Democrats continue to try to legislate in the midst of the storm of insurrection news. But they are bogged down in their attempts to pass the large infrastructure package known as the Build Back Better bill or the reconciliation package through the Senate, attempts that have dragged on for months. This was the bill that was supposed to move in tandem with the smaller, bipartisan infrastructure bill for traditional infrastructure measures like repairs to roads and bridges and the extension of broadband across the country.

With Republicans united in their opposition to the larger infrastructure package, progressive Democrats agreed to back the bipartisan measure in exchange for moderate Democrats’ support for a larger package that includes funding for child care and elder care, education, and measures to address climate change.

Biden signed the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill into law on November 15, but now Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia refuses to back the second measure unless it comes in under $1.75 trillion over the next ten years, significantly smaller than progressives wanted or than the $3.5 trillion Biden initially proposed. Manchin told CNN reporter Manu Raju that he objects to the bill’s inclusion of a one-year extension of the child tax credit because he believes it will likely be extended further and thus is far more expensive than projected. He says his limit is $1.75 trillion, and the Democrats must cut to reach that number, one way or another.

While Manchin is framing his objection as one about the budget, it is also a statement about the nation’s priorities. The monthly distribution of the child tax credit, included in Biden’s American Rescue Plan passed in March, by July had kept 3 million children out of poverty. It dropped the child poverty rate by almost 4% with the first payment alone.

In West Virginia, that translated to 170,000 children who became eligible for payments. Those payments dramatically lowered the food insecurity rate in households with children, which in July dropped from 11.6 percent to 8.4 percent. By September, 86 percent of West Virginians with children felt the payments had made a “huge difference.”

And yet, despite Republican and conservative Democratic concern about the deficit, today by a vote of 88 to 11 the Senate passed a $768 billion National Defense Authorization Act, which gives the Pentagon $25 billion more than Biden’s budget asked for in a measure that funds the military for only a single year. Progressives in the House tried to hold the bill down to the amount Biden requested but were overruled. It passed the House by a vote of 316 to 113.

The measure focuses on a growing threat from Russia and China, and seeks to bring the country’s military up to speed on emerging technologies, but lawmakers were also reluctant to let go of older technologies built by their constituents. The measure also includes funding for an investigation of the country’s 20-year war in Afghanistan and takes sexual assault prosecutions out of the chain of command of those accused, a practice that has been associated with whitewashing sexual assault.

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December 16, 2021 (Thursday)

As Trump’s fixer, Michael Cohen, testified before Congress, Trump was famous for never texting, never using email, and never actually saying he wanted criminal actions taken; rather, he would suggest a course of action that others carried out. As Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey, and Jacqueline Alemany of the Washington Post pointed out today, this puts Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in a tight spot, since he was the one standing between his boss and the world, the one people would call and text with messages for the president, whose fingerprints stayed off damning material.

For his part, Trump is not returning Meadows’s loyalty. He has called Meadows—and presumably his initial willingness to turn over documents to the the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol—“f**king stupid.”

Today, the January 6th committee subpoenaed retired army colonel Phil Waldron, who wrote the PowerPoint explaining how Republican members of Congress could throw the election to Trump by refusing to recognize Biden’s electors. Waldron claimed he met with Meadows six to eight times. He must turn over all relevant documents by January 10 and appear for a deposition on January 17.

Democrats have shelved the Build Back Better Act for the moment, although in a statement today President Biden committed to working out a way forward with Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), who insists on keeping the plan at or below $1.75 trillion and who believes the year-long extension of the child tax credit should actually be scored for a longer period, since he believes it will be so popular it will be extended further.

Biden highlighted in his statement the piece that is often missing in discussions of the bill: Republicans are united against it, despite the fact its components are very popular. “Build Back Better is urgently needed to lower the cost of prescription drugs, health care, child care, and elder care,” Biden said. “Notwithstanding the unrelenting Republican obstruction—not a single Republican is willing to move forward on the bill—I am determined to see this bill enacted into law, to give America’s families the breathing room they deserve. We also need urgent action on climate change and other priorities in the Build Back Better plan…. We will—we must—get Build Back Better passed, even in the face of Republican opposition.”

“At the same time,” he said, “we must also press forward on voting rights legislation, and make progress on this as quickly as possible…. Our democracy is at stake.”

With Build Back Better on the back burner, Democrats are pushing hard on voting rights. After all, the ability to vote, and to have our votes counted by nonpartisan officials, is the whole game.

Nineteen Republican-dominated states have changed their election laws since the 2020 election to hamstring the Democrats in a power grab that echoes that of Democrat-dominated states after the Civil War, which created an anti-democratic one-party political system for three generations.

A system that is rigged for the Republicans is rigged for Donald Trump, since the Republican National Committee (RNC) is now working for him. Washington Post reporters Josh Dawsey and David A. Fahrenthold underscored this reality yesterday when they broke the story that the RNC is covering up to $1.6 million of Trump’s private legal bills incurred as he fights investigations of his business practices in New York.

The Republicans’ executive committee voted “overwhelmingly” to approve the payments last summer. Finance experts say it is legal for them to choose to spend donors’ money this way, but it is “highly unusual,” according to observers (including a historian of the Republican Party), because, as the article’s authors say, “the spending has nothing to do with promoting the GOP’s policy agenda or political priorities, dealing with ongoing party business, or campaigning—and relates to investigations that are not about Trump’s time as president or his work in the White House.”

Restoring the normal operation of our voting machinery is vital to our democracy. NBC News congressional reporter Frank Thorp V tweeted today that President Biden and Vice President Harris met with a number of senators this morning over Zoom to discuss voting rights. Those participating included Senators Manchin, Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jon Tester (D-MT), Angus King (I-ME), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Raphael Warnock (D-GA).

According to Kaine, Biden was pressing the “urgency of getting something done, & asking us the progress that we’re making.”

Today, Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH), who is up for reelection in 2022 in a swing state and has stayed quiet about the filibuster, came out in favor of changing the rule in order to pass laws protecting voting rights. “Without free, fair, and impartially-administered elections, the United States of America as we know it would cease to exist. But right now, our right to vote is under attack,” she said. “We must change the rules, to allow a simple majority of this body, as our Founders intended, to pass laws that will protect the right to vote and protect American democracy.”

Tonight, Klobuchar took the floor of an almost-empty Senate to urge her colleagues not to go home for the holidays until they protect voting rights. Speaking for the Freedom to Vote Act, the compromise bill hammered out this summer with Manchin and a team of collaborators, she called for changes to the filibuster that would enable the Senate actually to do the work the American people want it to do, rather than having debate as well as legislation stifled by Republican filibusters.

She warned that voting, the “fundamental right that is the very foundation of our system of government[,] is under attack. Since the 2020 election, we have seen a persistent and coordinated assault on the freedom to vote in states across the country.” “Our nation was founded on the ideals of democracy,” she said, “and we’ve seen for ourselves in this building how we can’t afford to take it for granted…. We must stand up for the salvation of our democracy, and each day that we delay, it gets harder and harder to undo what is being done.”

In the midst of Republican obstruction of laws to protect our democracy, the Senate unanimously passed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. This measure prohibits all imports from the Xinjiang region in the far west of China “unless U.S. Customs and Border Protection certifies by clear and convincing evidence that goods were not produced with forced labor.” This is the first major pushback against the Chinese government’s human rights abuses.

Since 2014, the Chinese government has forced 1 million Uyghurs, members of a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority in Xinjiang, into internment camps for “reeducation,” a process that has included forced sterilization and forced labor. The Biden administration has called China’s treatment of ­the Uyghurs a genocide. China’s government has called the system “vocational training programs.”

The measure will impact U.S. supply chains, including the polysilicon used to make solar panels. The region produces nearly half of the world’s supply of it.

Also today, the Treasury Department barred U.S. investment in eight Chinese companies that are developing technologies to spy on and track Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities using biological data. A spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy said the ban was “groundless” and that “China’s development of biotechnology has always been for the well-being of mankind.”

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1ymvbd

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December 17, 2021 (Friday)

Tonight CNN broke the story that members of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol think they know who wrote one of the eye-popping texts to Trump’s White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows.

The text was the one sent the day after the election, before all the states had called the election, suggesting that Republicans should not wait for results in three states but should simply appoint their own electors. Then the whole mess would be thrown to the Supreme Court. Trump had frequently said that the Supreme Court, to which he had named three justices—including one at the very end of October, when the election was already underway—would decide in favor of him in the case of a contested election.

The text suggested that the Republicans should throw out the foundation of our democracy—the principle that we have a say in our government—and should simply decide on their own who had been elected.

CNN has confirmed from a number of sources that the phone number on that text belonged to former Texas governor and Trump energy secretary Rick Perry. Perry’s spokesperson says Perry denies that he wrote the text. The spokesperson could not explain why that phone number was registered to Perry’s name and email address.

The momentum behind the January 6th committee appears to be picking up. This morning, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told Spectrum News that the attack on the Capitol on January 6 “was a horrendous event and I think that what they’re seeking to find out is something the public needs to know.”

McConnell arranged Trump’s second impeachment to guarantee an acquittal, and he tried to scuttle an investigation of the insurrection. His wife, Elaine Chao, was transportation secretary in the Trump administration and resigned her position on January 7, 2021, saying that she “simply cannot set aside” how troubled she was “as supporters of the President stormed the Capitol building following a rally he addressed.”

The committee has been effective, interviewing hundreds of witnesses without leaks, issuing a broad range of subpoenas, and referring uncooperative witnesses to the Department of Justice for contempt of Congress. That efficiency is possible because the committee is not constantly fighting the sort of grandstanding and construction of false counternarratives we saw Republicans engaging in during the impeachment hearings.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) tried to keep that sort of disinformation in play by putting far-right Representatives Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Jim Banks (R-IN) on the committee, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) rejected them and put Representatives Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) on the committee instead.

Now it turns out that Jordan was part of the insurrection McCarthy wanted him to investigate: Jordan texted Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on November 5, offering a plan for how Vice President Mike Pence could toss out Biden’s electors and throw the election to Trump.

Trump’s longtime associate Roger Stone appeared today before the January 6th committee but invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination for every question. Today, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia filed a status report informing the court that four defendants who pleaded guilty in the Oath Keepers conspiracy case concerning the January 6 insurrection are still cooperating with the investigation. The Oath Keepers provided security for Stone in Washington at the time of the insurrection. Stone has asked supporters for donations to his “legal defense fund.”

In other news from January 6, today a judge sentenced Robert Palmer of Florida, who threw a fire extinguisher at police on January 6 in the worst of the fighting at the U.S. Capitol, to more than five years in prison, the longest sentence handed down so far. Palmer blamed Trump for lying to supporters that the election was stolen and calling on them to “stand up to tyranny.” More than 700 people have been charged in that attack.

It was a year ago this week that Sandra Lindsay received the nation’s first coronavirus vaccine, and yet, the politicization of the vaccine means that Republicans, especially, are unvaccinated and vulnerable, and we are once again in a surge of the disease that, as of this week, has already killed more than 800,000 Americans by the official count. That’s more people than live in Atlanta and Pittsburgh combined.

Today, the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis released a report detailing the Trump administration’s decision to abandon the idea of stopping the spread of Covid and instead embrace the idea of letting it spread freely until the U.S. achieved “herd immunity.” That idea was the pet theory of Dr. Scott Atlas, who joined the White House on August 10, 2020, after Trump saw him on the Fox News Channel.

The committee released an email from Dr. Deborah Birx, who served as the White House coronavirus response coordinator in 2020 and 2021 and who opposed the new policy. She wrote to refuse to participate in a “Medical Experts Roundtable” that would recommend herd immunity.

“I can’t be part of this with these people who believe in herd immunity and believe we are fine with only protecting the 1.5 [million] Americans in [long-term care facilities] and not the 80 [million] + with co-morbidities in the populations includ[ing] the unacceptable death toll among Native Americans, Hispanics and Blacks,” she wrote. “With our current mitigation scenario we end up near 300K by Christmas and 500K by the time we have [a] vaccine—close to the 600K live[s] lost with [the] 1918 Flu…. Without masks and social distancing in public and homes we end up with twice as many deaths—we are a very unhealthy nation with a lot of obesity etc.” She called those urging herd immunity “a fringe group without grounding in epidemics, public health or on the ground common sense experience.”

She offered to leave town rather than participate in the roundtable.

The committee also discovered evidence that the Trump administration had interfered with the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), removing references to face coverings and suggestions to suspend choirs, for example, in order to avoid offending faith communities.

This afternoon, anchor Martha MacCallum of the Fox News Channel asked Dr. Robert Redfield, who directed the CDC when the coronavirus crisis broke out and continued to direct it until President Biden took office, to respond to the report. He essentially confirmed it and deflected his own responsibility for permitting the tampering with public health information onto the White House. He said that the agency was replaced by the White House coronavirus task force, which “limited the CDC’s ability to communicate effectively to the American public,” and said, “I was very disappointed in that.”

President Biden has fought an uphill battle to contain the pandemic in the face of right-wing opposition to public health measures: more than 90% of adult Democrats have gotten the vaccine, while only 60% of adult Republicans have. Conservative courts have blocked the Biden administration’s attempts to mandate coronavirus vaccines or frequent testing for federal contractors, health care workers, and companies that employ more than 100 people.

Today the Biden administration won a significant victory when the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a decision blocking the Occupational Safety and Health Administration from requiring vaccines or frequent testing for companies with more than 100 employees. For now, the requirement will stand, but its opponents say they will take their challenge to the Supreme Court.

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and i’m sure mccarthy was completely surprised by this stunning revelation /s

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December 18, 2021 (Saturday)

I’d say I’m going to take tonight off, but I already did-- I’ve been asleep on the couch for hours (all the way through Bullitt!) and am just over here to post a picture so you all know I’m alive, and then I’m falling into bed.

Semester ended this week. Can you tell?

I’ll see you tomorrow.

[Photo by Buddy Poland. Mornings lately have been spectacular.]

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December 19, 2021 (Sunday)

“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”

These were the first lines in a pamphlet called The American Crisis that appeared in Philadelphia on December 19, 1776, at a time when the fortunes of the American patriots seemed at an all-time low. Just five months before, the members of the Second Continental Congress had adopted the Declaration of Independence, explaining to the world that “the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled…do…solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved.”

The nation’s founders went on to explain why it was necessary for them “​​to dissolve the political bands” which had connected them to the British crown.

They explained that their vision of human government was different from that of Great Britain. In contrast to the tradition of hereditary monarchy under which the American colonies had been organized, the representatives of the united states on the North American continent believed in a government organized according to the principles of natural law.

Such a government rested on the “self-evident” concept “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Governments were created to protect those rights and, rather than deserving loyalty because of tradition, religion, or heritage, they were legitimate only if those they governed consented to them. And the American colonists no longer consented to be governed by the British monarchy.

This new vision of human government was an exciting thing to declare in the heat of a Philadelphia summer after a year of skirmishing between the colonial army and British regulars, but by December 1776, enthusiasm for this daring new experiment was ebbing. Shortly after colonials had cheered news of independence in July as local leaders read copies of the Continental Congress’s declaration in meetinghouses and taverns in cities and small towns throughout the colonies, the British moved on General George Washington and the troops in New York City.

By September, the British had forced Washington and his soldiers to retreat from the city, and after a series of punishing skirmishes across Manhattan Island, by November the Redcoats had pushed the Americans into New Jersey. They chased the colonials all the way across the Delaware River into Pennsylvania.

By mid-December, it looked bleak for the Continental Army and the revolutionary government it backed. The 5000 soldiers with Washington who were still able to fight were demoralized from their repeated losses and retreats, and since the Continental Congress had kept enlistments short so they would not risk a standing army, many of the men would be free to leave the army at the end of the year, further weakening it.

As the British troops had taken over New York City and the Continental soldiers had retreated, many of the newly minted Americans outside the army were also having doubts about the whole enterprise of creating a new, independent nation based on the idea that all men were created equal. Then, things got worse: as the American soldiers crossed into Pennsylvania, the Continental Congress abandoned Philadelphia on December 12 out of fear of a British invasion, regrouping in Baltimore (which they complained was dirty and expensive).

“These are the times that try men’s souls.”

The author of The American Crisis was Thomas Paine, whose January 1776 pamphlet Common Sense had solidified the colonists’ irritation at the king’s ministers into a rejection of monarchy itself, a rejection not just of King George III, but of all kings. In early 1776, Paine had told the fledgling Americans, many of whom still prayed for a return to the comfortable neglect they had enjoyed from the British government before 1763, that the colonies must form their own independent government.

Now, he urged them to see the experiment through. He explained that he had been with the troops as they retreated across New Jersey and, describing the march for his readers, told them “that both officers and men, though greatly harassed and fatigued, frequently without rest, covering, or provision, the inevitable consequences of a long retreat, bore it with a manly and martial spirit. All their wishes centred in one, which was, that the country would turn out and help them to drive the enemy back.”

For that was the crux of it. Paine had no doubt that patriots would create a new nation, eventually, because the cause of human self-determination was just. But how long it took to establish that new nation would depend on how much effort people put into success. “I call not upon a few, but upon all: not on this state or that state, but on every state: up and help us; lay your shoulders to the wheel; better have too much force than too little, when so great an object is at stake,” Paine wrote. “Let it be told to the future world, that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet and to repulse it.”

In mid-December, British commander General William Howe had sent most of his soldiers back to New York to spend the winter, leaving garrisons across the river in New Jersey to guard against Washington advancing.

On Christmas night, having heard that the garrison at Trenton was made up of Hessian auxiliaries who were exhausted and unprepared for an attack, Washington crossed back over the icy Delaware River with 2400 soldiers in a winter storm. They marched nine miles to attack the garrison, the underdressed soldiers suffering from the cold and freezing rain. Reaching Trenton, they surprised the outnumbered Hessians, who fought briefly in the streets before they surrendered.

The victory at Trenton restored the colonials’ confidence in their cause. Soldiers reenlisted, and in early January, they surprised the British at Princeton, New Jersey, driving them back. The British abandoned their posts in central New Jersey, and by March, the Continental Congress moved back to Philadelphia. Historians credit the Battles of Trenton and Princeton with saving the Revolutionary cause.

There is no hard proof that Washington had officers read The American Crisis to his troops when it came out six days before the march to Trenton, as some writers have said, but there is little doubt they heard it one way or another. So, too, did those wavering loyalists.

“Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered,” Paine wrote in that fraught moment, “yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.”

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