Friday, July 22, 2022

Trump fiddled while the Capitol was sacked

I haven’t watched much of the televised hearings of the January 6 committee, but I did watch last night. In fact, last night, was the first time that I had sat down to watch one of the hearings in its entirety. What I found was that to sit down and listen to the testimony and evidence being presented was infuriating.

It wasn’t infuriating because the Democrats were playing up the hearings for political advantage or were presenting “trumped up” evidence against The Former Guy (who I refuse to call “president”), but because there is clear and compelling evidence that Donald Trump encouraged the crowd of MAGA protesters to march on the Capitol and then refused to intervene as they attacked Congress and sought to kill Vice President Pence. This should be infuriating to any patriotic American who cares a whit about the Constitution, the rule of law, and keeping America great.

Last night’s hearing focused on the 187 minutes between Trump’s return to the White House from his speech at the Steal the Election rally at 1:10 pm and when he sent out a video asking his supporters to stand down at 4:17 pm. The answer seems to have been that the president was enjoying the chaos that he created.

One of the most poignant moments of the evening was when an anonymous White House witness testified that Secret Service agents on Vice President Pence’s protective detail were so in fear for their lives that they made calls and sent messages to say goodbye to their families as rioters entered the building. At one point, the insurrectionists came within 40 feet of the vice president and his guards. The insurrection was really a close thing.

Five people, including a Capitol Police officer, did die during the riot. Four other officers committed suicide following the attack.

"The security detail of the vice president was starting to fear for their own lives," the witness testified, adding that these seasoned agents were "screaming and saying goodbye to family."

It seems likely that these personal and panicked messages may have something to do with the mysterious deletion of Secret Service texts from January 6. The investigation into these missing messages is now a criminal investigation by the way.

While all this was going on, Donald Trump, who does not deserve the honorific title of president, sat and watched the Fox News coverage of the attack. He made no calls to leaders and White House photographers were told not to take pictures of him at this historic moment… er, in these historic hours. There were gaps in White House records and call logs that spanned the length of the riot.

The commission provides evidence that numerous White House officials including Pat Cipollone, Mark Meadows, and even Jared Kushner urged The Former Guy to stop the riot, yet Trump did nothing. Some officials were concerned about what Trump might say if he did speak, worrying that he would make the situation worse.

We already knew that it was Vice President Pence - not Donald Trump - who ultimately took the initiative to call out the National Guard to aid the beleaguered Capitol Police. Trump and Chief of Staff Mark Meadows were more concerned about appearances, telling Gen. Mark Milley, head of the Joint Chiefs, that they needed to “kill the narrative that the Vice President is making all the decisions.”

Jay Bookman of the Georgia Recorder described that situation succinctly in a tweet.

When Trump finally did speak out, he refused to read the script and clung to the Big Lie that the election was stolen. At 4:03 pm in the Rose Garden, Trump rejected the script calling for an end to the violence and spoke off the cuff telling the rioters to “go home in peace.” Trump said that he loved them.

I have heard rumors about outtake videos from Trump’s address for a long time, going almost back to the riot itself. Last night, the January 6 committee showed them to the world. On January 7, Trump again refused to condemn the rioters. Even after the Electoral vote was certified by Congress, Trump also refused to say that the election was over.

In fact, Trump refuses to acknowledge that the election is over even now. Last week, Wisconsin’s house speaker said that Trump called him “within the last week” still looking for the Badger State Republican to overturn the 2020 election.

If the continuing revelations about Trump’s coup attempt don’t make you livid, then maybe you aren’t the constitutionalist and patriot that you think you are. At this point, there seems to be adequate evidence to indict Trump on a series of charges that include some of the same crimes that insurrectionists are going to jail for. One obvious charge would be obstruction of federal proceedings, a crime that has sent many Trump supporters to prison, but fraud, witness tampering, and seditious conspiracy are other possible charges. Trump was derelict in his duty, but, for better or worse, that is only a crime for members of the military.

As I’ve said before, Americans owe a debt of gratitude to Republicans like Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger who are sacrificing their careers to do the right thing and hold Donald Trump and the MAGA insurrectionists accountable. I see very little indication that other Republicans wouldn’t still rally around Trump even if Mike Pence, members of Congress, and Secret Service agents had been overrun and killed by the mob.

The January 6 commission is what the (second) impeachment should have been. If Democrats had not rushed the process and instead methodically investigated the insurrection, the outcome of the Senate vote might have been different and American politics might be rid of Donald Trump. Unfortunately, the prospect of yet another Trump campaign is rearing its ugly head. Why can’t Republicans get past Mr. Trump, who is apparently living rent-free in their heads?

The investigation isn’t over. The committee will meet again in September to examine more evidence. Donald Trump might never be prosecuted (as he would be in a perfect world), but at the very least, his political career should be destroyed by the evidence of his gross corruption.

Donald Trump tried to steal the election. When that failed, he was more than willing to sit and gleefully watch the coverage on Fox News as he tried his best to burn down the American Republic. It is to the everlasting shame of the Republican Party that they are willing to excuse this abhorrent behavior and consider Trump for a third nomination.

The Republican Party that I used to belong to is dead.


IS DESANTIS FUELING INFLATION? Republicans blame pandemic stimulus for the heightened inflation of the past several months. A few weeks ago, when California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that Californians would receive gas-price stimulus checks, Republican pundits said that it was precisely the wrong thing to do and that it would make inflation worse.

Fast-forward to yesterday when Ron DeSantis unveiled stimulus checks of $450 per child to offset the cost of inflation.

"This one-time payment assists families who are being affected by rising inflation and preparing to send their children back to school," Laura Walthall, a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Children and Families, said in a statement to Business Insider

So which is it? Do stimulus payments fuel inflation or is it only stimulus payments sent by Democrats? Do the laws of economics apply to Republicans? (I could also point to the payments sent by Donald Trump during the pandemic with another $2,000 proposed by the lame duck.)

The Florida payments are coming out of funds the state received from the American Rescue Plan, the COVID relief bill passed in 2021. I have questions about the legality of using COVID relief to pump government money into the economy to fight inflation in addition to the plan’s economic wisdom.

From the Racket

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

The January 6 hearings are working... for Ron DeSantis

 A few weeks ago, I wrote that the January 6 hearings appeared to be working. Polling showed that opposition to a third Trump campaign was ticking up and that a majority of Americans favored prosecuting Donald Trump. Republicans seemed to be the holdouts who continued to deny the depth of Trump’s corruption.

Now it seems as though the message of the corruption and incompetence that culminated in the Capitol insurrection on January 6 is even penetrating to the Republican base. New polls show Trump’s support eroding and there is one primary beneficiary from The Former Guy’s decline. That person is Ron DeSantis.

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President Donald J. Trump looks at diagrams and photos during his meeting with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Tuesday, April 28, 2020, in the Oval Office of the White House. (Official Photo by Shealah Craighead)

A few months ago, Donald Trump was the clear favorite to win the 2024 Republican primary, but now the Florida governor is surging and the two are essentially neck-and-neck in a series of polls. There are still years to go before the election and I’ve cautioned in the past about placing too much emphasis on the details of polls, especially far ahead of elections, but polls are useful in showing trends. And the trend here is that Trump is fading and DeSantis is rising.

There seem to be two main reasons for that. First, the January 6 commission is exposing Trump’s true self to the world. The former president’s petulant personality, obsessive behavior, and deep corruption exceeded only by his incompetence, are on display. Americans don’t like it and Republicans are realizing, even if they still like Trump, that the odds are stacked against him.

At the same time, Ron DeSantis has shifted from being a somewhat traditional conservative governor to a Fox News culture warrior. Since the early days of the pandemic when Florida became one of the first states to reopen, DeSantis seems to have become addicted to the adoration of the Republican base. He has competed with Texas Governor Gregg Abbott to see who can shift their state farther to the right in a contest that has led to more and more outlandish - and unlawful - behavior. This culminated in a likely unconstitutional attack on Disney after the company opposed DeSantis’s bill aimed at gagging public school teachers.

In the newest poll, the Detroit News found the pair in a statistical tie with Trump’s favorability dropping eight points since May. This follows a June poll from the University of New Hampshire that showed the pair in another statistical tie in the early primary state.

I’m not a DeSantis fan, but any sign that the Republican Party is souring on Donald Trump is good for the country and the party. If Republicans can break the trance that Trump has held them in for the past six years, they might end up picking a decent candidate in 2024. And by decent candidate, I mean someone other than Ron DeSantis.

Looking back at past Republican primaries, often the presumed frontrunner flamed out quickly once the primary votes were tallied. Jeb Bush was presumed by many to be the preordained choice in 2016 and few would have predicted that John McCain would be the nominee in 2008 after trailing for most of the campaign. (To show how much things have changed, Rudy Giuliani was the frontrunner for most of 2008.)

I’m going to keep my fingers crossed that we see similar surprises in 2024.


Last week, it was revealed that the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General had accused the Secret Service of deleting text messages associated with the insurrection after the IG had requested the messages. The Secret Service denied the allegation and said the agency was cooperating and that the messages had been deleted as part of a device-migration plan the month before the request was received.

On Tuesday, the Secret Service produced a trove of documents related to the attack on the Capitol, but the missing texts were not among them. CNN reports that employees were supposed to back up their texts before the migration

"We continue to scrutinize our records, databases, and archives to ensure full compliance with the Committee's subpoena," spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in a statement. "We are taking all feasible steps to identify records responsive to the subpoena, to include forensic examinations of agency phones and other investigative techniques."

The Secret Service also denied knowledge of any missing messages, telling the committee, "We are currently unaware of text messages issued by Secret Service employees between December 7, 2020 and January 8, 2021 requested by OIG that were not retained as part of the Intune migration."

Meanwhile, the National Archives is investigating the “alleged unauthorized deletion” of messages relating to the attack. The Secret Service has 30 days to respond to the request from the National Archives and Records Administration, per Politico.

From the Racket