Congress versus the Constitution: Merrick Garland’s Second Reconstruction

Early morning Eastern Time on January 6, I wrote a post arguing that Merrick Garland was a better Attorney General pick than a lot of people assumed. By the end of the day, the January 6 insurrection made him look like an even better pick, based on his successful prosecution of right wing terrorist Timothy McVeigh. When he testified on Monday, Garland surpassed even those expectations, in large part because he described as his mission the same one DOJ had when originally founded 151 years ago: protecting the rights of people of color in the face of right wing terrorism.

Celebrating DOJ’s 150th year reminds us of the origins of the Department, which was founded during Reconstruction, in the aftermath of the Civil War, to secure the civil rights promised by the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments. The first Attorney General appointed by President Grant to head the new Department led it in a concerted battle to protect black voting rights from the violence of white supremacists, successfully prosecuting hundreds of cases against members of the Ku Klux Klan.

Almost a century later, the Civil Rights Act of 1957 created the Department’s Civil Rights Division, with the mission “to uphold the civil and constitutional rights of all Americans, particularly some of the most vulnerable members of our society.”

That mission remains urgent because we do not yet have equal justice. Communities of color and other minorities still face discrimination in housing, education, employment, and the criminal justice system; and bear the brunt of the harm caused by pandemic, pollution, and climate change.

150 years after the Department’s founding, battling extremist attacks on our democratic institutions also remains central to its mission. From 1995 to 1997, I supervised the prosecution of the perpetrators of the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, who sought to spark a revolution that would topple the federal government. If confirmed, I will supervise the prosecution of white supremacists and others who stormed the Capitol on January 6 — a heinous attack that sought to disrupt a cornerstone of our democracy: the peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected government.

This mission is all the more important — and optimistic — given the strains on Congress in the wake of January 6.

Given the delay caused by the former President’s attempted coup, impeachment, the delayed Senate organizing resolution, and a recess, this week, kicked off by Garland’s hearing, has been the first week where the 117th Congress has moved to account for the events of January 6. How Congress responds — and its effect on mid-term elections in 2022 — will have a key role in deciding whether the Republic survives Trump’s efforts to steal an election, or whether those events just harbor a decline into white supremacist authoritarianism.

How Congress responds to the events of January 6 is especially critical given disputes about the form of a 9/11 style commission to assess the event. Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell disagree on key details: whether Democrats should have more representatives on the commission, and how broad the scope will be.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell slammed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s draft proposal for a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, calling it “partisan by design.”

The Kentucky Republican said he agrees the siege on the Capitol warrants a “serious and thorough review,” but said he thinks Pelosi’s proposal falls short of the standard set by the commission established after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, upon which Pelosi said she would model this new panel.

“The 9/11 Commission was intentionally built to be bipartisan, 50-50 bipartisan split of the commissioners was a key feature,” McConnell said Wednesday on the Senate floor. “It both helped the effectiveness of the investigation itself, and help give the whole country confidence in its work, and its recommendations.”

It’s unclear whether the two sides can come up with a plan for a 9/11 type commission, both because there’s virtually no comity between the two parties and because Republicans have prioritized protecting Trump, their party, and the members of Congress who played a role (with another member implicated yesterday by her spouse’s Three Percenter truck decal). I suspect such a commission may have to wait until other events change the GOP’s current commitment to Donald Trump.

One thing that might change the GOP’s current capture by Trump is the DOJ investigation.

While there are some DOJ decisions that raise questions for me and while it is not yet clear how the courts will finally decide to treat January 6, Merrick Garland’s confirmation will presumably only raise confidence in DOJ’s actions. Virtually all members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, for example, praised his role in the prosecution of Timothy McVeigh during his confirmation hearing (see my live tweet here). Unless DOJ really bolloxes key cases — or unless they shy away from witnesses like James Sullivan, Ali Alexander, and Enrique Tarrio, who can tie the insurrection directly to Trump’s close associates — I expect the investigation and eventually prosecution of those responsible will make the GOP’s continued support of Trump far more toxic (as a few of the GOPers who’ve been censured for their vote to convict Trump have suggested will happen).

The prosecution of January 6 will be the easy part.

The real question, I think, is how Garland weathers GOP attempts to demand prosecutions that Billy Barr primed them to expect.

For example, numerous members (especially Lindsey Graham and Chuck Grassley, whose shared staffer Barbara Ledeen and her spouse were implicated in the Russian investigation) demanded that Garland promise to keep John Durham on, citing Barr’s promise to keep Mueller on during his confirmation hearing, at a point when Barr had already made public statements about the investigation while admitted he knew fuckall about the actual facts.

Garland repeated, over and over, that he can’t make such a commitment until he speaks with Durham. No one knows what Durham continues to pursue that has made his investigation last as long as the Mueller investigation. What is known is that Durham hasn’t interviewed key witnesses and his public filings exhibit fundamental misconceptions about the Russian investigation and precisely the kind of bias he purports to be investigating. Garland repeatedly answered that he didn’t know of any reason to remove Durham early. But he also noted that precisely what Graham and others are demanding about Page — some kind of investigation — happened with the Horowitz report. Notably, Garland knew a detail Republicans refuse to acknowledge: that Horowitz’s ongoing investigation into FISA reveals that the problems in the Carter Page Woods file were no different than other FISA applications, and the more general problems may be a pattern as well.

Given Garland’s emphasis on civil rights, I was at least as interested in Republican attempts to undermine such an effort. Most pathetically, John Kennedy engaged in a colloquy about whether systematic racism exists, whether he, himself, can be racist if he doesn’t think he is, “who wins,” as if equality is a zero sum game. Tom Cotton tried to play games about the difference between racial equality and racial equity.

Finally, there will be GOP pressure to either both-sides political violence, equating actions they claim without evidence were perpetuated by Antifa with January 6, or to limit the extent of the prosecution. With regards to the latter, Garland argued that this investigation will proceed like all investigations, working their way up if the evidence dictates it. That is a position utterly consistent with support for prosecuting Trump’s associates, or maybe even Trump.

With regards to efforts to both-sides political violence — which was Trump’s defense to impeachment and has already played a key role in Republican efforts to dodge accountability for their role in January 6 — Garland gave the kind of judicious answer to Josh Hawley that every Democrat should be prepared to offer. The violence in Portland was criminal (and to the extent it was, it was prosecuted). But it was not an attempt to interrupt the processes of government, such as by interrupting trials.

The Republicans have for years successfully pressured DOJ to try to criminalize their political opponents. As DOJ continues its massive investigation into the insurrection, these efforts will grow more urgent.

Merrick Garland will be confirmed without cowing to Republican efforts to equate their own assault on the Constitution with Democratic politics. But such efforts will intensify after he assumes office, particularly if Durham fails to find the crimes that really don’t exist and as DOJ gets closer to Trump or members of Congress. DOJ has about 18 months to right itself after Bill Barr’s damage, and we shall see how long Garland continues to retain the goodwill of Republicans.

On Conspiracy

In comments, Harpie went back to Elizabeth de la Vega’s summary of conspiracy.

Since Eureka brought this up above, I figured it might be timely to post it again:

Conspiracy Law – Eight Things You Need to Know.
One: Co-conspirators don’t have to explicitly agree to conspire & there doesn’t need to be a written agreement; in fact, they almost never explicitly agree to conspire & it would be nuts to have a written agreement!
Two: Conspiracies can have more than one object- i.e. conspiracy to defraud U.S. and to obstruct justice. The object is the goal. Members could have completely different reasons (motives) for wanting to achieve that goal.
Three: All co-conspirators have to agree on at least one object of the conspiracy.
Four: Co-conspirators can use multiple means to carry out the conspiracy, i.e., releasing stolen emails, collaborating on fraudulent social media ops, laundering campaign contributions.
Five: Co-conspirators don’t have to know precisely what the others are doing, and, in large conspiracies, they rarely do.
Six: Once someone is found to have knowingly joined a conspiracy, he/she is responsible for all acts of other co-conspirators.
Seven: Statements of any co-conspirator made to further the conspiracy may be introduced into evidence against any other co-conspirator.
Eight: Overt Acts taken in furtherance of a conspiracy need not be illegal. A POTUS’ public statement that “Russia is a hoax,” e.g., might not be illegal (or even make any sense), but it could be an overt act in furtherance of a conspiracy to obstruct justice.

de la Vega has been consistently good on conspiracy going back to the first failed impeachment effort and the lead up to it. I posted this at least once before, think on a post I penned, but not sure, so am going to put this out here again.

At any rate, here are a set of model jury instructions (that I have previously patterned off of for real trials) for a conspiracy case. They are for a drug case, but conspiracy is conspiracy, and the law is pretty much the same, and has long been. What Harpie cited from de la Vega is correct. But to give you a look at how it actually goes down in a court, check out actual pattern jury instructions, because real instructions are always the guide in a real criminal trial. Substitute in the elements for 18 USC §373 and 18 USC §2101, or any of the other various putative crimes being discussed ad nauseam and you will get the picture.

As you read through them, keep in mind the question of “what holes could a competent criminal defense attorney drive a truck through here given a beyond a reasonable doubt burden?”

Now would Trump acquire an actually competent criminal defense attorney were, in the unlikely event he is really charged? Now there is a great question! But, if he were to, there are currently still a LOT of holes. People are getting ahead of themselves. Read the instructions, they scan pretty fast. But keep in mind that once you charge and put a defendant, any defendant, on trial, things are not as easy as they are here or on social media.

Flashbacks to the 2015 Campaign

Katy Tur at SXSW
[h/t nrkbeta Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) ]

Several years ago, I got Mrs Dr Peterr Katy Tur’s book Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History. Tur had been the NBC reporter assigned to the Trump campaign in 2015 and 2016, and listening to the impeachment coverage yesterday and the coverage this morning, one episode she recounted in the book came flashing back . . .

In Dec 2015, three days before Trump announced his pledge to institute a Muslim travel ban, Trump got rattled at a rally in Raleigh NC where protesters coordinated their efforts and threw him off his game, interrupting his speech every couple of minutes from different parts of the arena. Disgusted, Trump abruptly left the podium and started shaking hands offstage, and Tur sent out a simple tweet describing what had happened.

Right before lunch the next day, Hope Hicks wrote her to say “Katy, Mr. Trump thought your tweets from last night were disgraceful. Not nice! Best, Hope.” Shortly thereafter, the media gets the word about the travel ban Trump intended to announce that night, and that becomes the big story of the day with Katy doing liveshots all afternoon. That evening, before a rally inside the USS Yorktown (an aircraft carrier-turned-museum in Charleston harbor), Trump blasted her with four attack tweets in the span of four minutes.

Tur says the rally’s specific location was a surprise, in that it wasn’t held on the carrier deck but inside the belly of the ship, with the media crowded into a pen.

Yes, we are in a pen: a makeshift enclosure made of bicycle racks and jammed full of desks, reporters, and camera equipment. We’re in the middle of the carrier, slammed against the right side wall. As usual, almost all of Trump’s supporters are white and a lot of them are looking at us, not exactly kindly. The campaign and Secret Service force us to stay inside the pen while Trump is onstage. They even discourage bathroom breaks. None of them have a good explanation for why we’re kept separate from the supporters. Are we the threat or are they?

Trump starts his rambling speech, and the crowd eats it up. Then Trump opens up on the media.

“The mainstream media,” Trump says. “These people back here, they’re the worst. They are so dishonest.”

Hoots and hollers.

And then I hear my name.

“She’s back there, little Katy. She’s back there.”

Trump then calls her a liar several times, and a third rate reporter several times as well, before pivoting to a more general attack on the media. Finally, once he’s got the crowd sufficiently whipped up, he formally announces the Muslim ban, and the crowd which she described earlier as looking at her like “a large animal, angry and unchained” went nuts.

She goes live with Chris Matthews as Trump leaves the stage, and when she’s done with that, Chris Hayes takes over and wants to keep her on the air for the lead story on his show that followed Matthews’.

[Trump] supporters are taking their time to leave. They’re still whipped up. I know someone is going to start yelling at me as soon as I start talking. So I do what I always do. I find the pinhole deep in the back of the lens and I tune everything else out.

A couple of minutes later, I’m done. The crowd that had gathered behind my live shot is gone except for a few stragglers, yelling at me. They’re five feet away, held back by those lousy bicycle racks. A Trump staffer shoos them away. MSNBC has cleared me and my bosses want [her cameraman/sound tech] Anthony and me to get out of there as quickly as we can. I don’t quite understand why until we pack up and start to head out. A Trump staffer stops me and says “These guys are going to walk you out.”

I look over and see two Secret Service agents. Thank goodness. They walk Anthony and me along the gangway back to our car. It’s pitch black and I’m nervous. We’re parked with the crowd.

Once we’re moving, I take a look at my phone. My mom has called. And called. And called. I dial her back. “Are you okay? Where are you staying? Can someone stay with you? You need security!? She is crying. And it hits me.

I’m a target.

On that day in December 2015, the security professionals of the US Secret Service recognized that Trump was dangerously inciting a mob, and stepped in to protect the target he had singled out.

On January 6, 2021, Trump again incited a mob, and this time there was no one to stop them.

Failing At Democracy

Posts in this series.

One of the reasons I read old books is that they help me understand the chaotic events of our current times. In The Public And Its Problems, John Dewey lays out a theory of the democratic state, and as we shall see, we are doing badly at it.

Recall that the public is a group of people who have common interests that need to be addressed, usually arising from the actions of other people. The public empowers certain of its members with the task of representing and protecting those interests. We call the aggregate of those people the state. [1]

The origins of the state.

This description implicitly separates “the state” from specific forms of government. Any reasonably large group of people has some form of government, and the bigger the group the more complex the government. In order for there to be a state, there must be a public.

It may be said that not until recently have publics been conscious that they were publics, so that it is absurd to speak of their organizing themselves to protect and secure their interests. Hence states are a recent development. Chapter 3, The Democratic State, p. 116.

One way to think about this is that the modern self-aware public evolved from prior traditional societies. The serfs in a feudal society generally do not see themselves as participants in government, but as fulfilling pre-ordained social roles.

What is a Democratic State?

Dewey likes this definition:

Democracy is a word of many meanings. … But one of the meanings is distinctly political, for it denotes a mode of government, a specified practice in selecting officials and regulating their conduct as officials. P. 121.

It’s not a soaring aspiration. It’s a functional description of what has to be done. The democratic state needs two things: 1) a system for the public to select its officials; and 2) a system for regulating the conduct of officials.

Selection of officials.

In the US, we elect a small group of officials, and they in turn select others for subsidiary roles. The public, all of us, are responsible for selecting officials who will represent our interests in conflicts with individuals or groups of people, as corporations and militias. The public may fail at its task by selecting people who use their position to enrich themselves and their cronies at the expense of the public or otherwise. Dewey says the crucial step is the selection of the right people. [2]

Regulating the Conduct of Officials.

The US Constitution provides two methods for regulating officials. These are impeachment, in the case of the executive and judicial branches, and expulsion, for the legislative branch. These are supplemented by rules that allow for sanctions short of removal, such as censure, and formal means for investigation through committees. There are statutes and formal regulations that constrain conduct of other officials, and many informal rules, now called norms. These laws and rules provide for sanctions.

The evolution of political democracy.

Political democratic states in Western Europe and North America evolved from older forms of government as the result of many small non-political developments. Dewey emphatically denies that these changes were driven by some overarching cause, such as an innate desire for democracy, or by dramatic changes in philosophical theories.

But theories of the nature of the individual and his rights, of freedom and authority, progress and order, liberty and law, of the common good and a general will, of democracy itself, did not produce the movement. They reflected it in thought; after they emerged, they entered into subsequent strivings and had practical effect. P. 123.

As an example, the ideas of John Locke were one of the theoretical sources for the Founding Fathers. His ideas are grounded in the rising economics of mercantilism, the attenuation of religious hegemony, and rising scientific understanding. He seems to be arguing against earlier thinkers grounded in earlier social, cultural, and intellectual structures. [3] Democracy was not the driving force of any of these changes. It emerged as a solution to the societal problems these non-political changes created.

Dewey doesn’t try to explain the entire evolution. He points to just two factors. First, the changes that led to democracy were driven by a fear of government and a desire to keep it to a minimum. This seems like a plausible reaction to an all-powerful monarchy, as existed in England and France, for example. Earlier governments were tied into other institutions, like the Church, and these too were feared or loathed. These institutions came to be seen as oppressive, not to groups of people but to individuals. There was already a growing tendency to think of the individual as the atomic unit. [4[ For Dewey, individualism was the result. [5]

The second important factor is the rise of science and technology. Over time it created changes in the nature of productive work and increased the range of consumer goods. People of all classes wanted more. The old rules became obstacles, and people began to question these rules and the system that produced them.

The old conception of Natural Law as the source of morality merged with the new idea that laissez-faire economics was a natural law in a synthesis that opposed artificial political laws. This led to the conclusion that government interference in property was bad, if not a moral evil, and the role of government should be little more than to protect property rights and personal integrity.

This is an overly simplified history, even more simplified by me, but it gives an idea of the genesis democracy as Dewey defines it. It leads to the conclusion that government officials are likely to be bad, so we should have short terms and serious control.

Problems arising from large organizations.

In earlier times, people’s primary relationships were face-to-face, family, friends, co-workers, church members, local people. The government was hardly relevant in day-to-day life. Its primary impact was taxes, the occasional war, and a few laws. By the time Dewey is writing, the primary relationships were impersonal, the individual was facing large corporate organizations in many aspects of life, including productive work. The state acted directly acted on individuals, touching their lives in many ways.

Group, or conjoint, action through business entities rivals the government in impact on individuals. Businesses “reach out to grasp the agencies of government;” not out of evil intent necessarily, but because they are the best organized groups of people. Even so, the power of these organizations has been controlled and directed by the state to some extent, and more is possible.

Discussion.

The second impeachment of Trump shows us that as a nation we have done badly at democracy. We elected unfit officials, people who are stupid, venal, conspiracy-ridden, power-maddened or a combination. Unfit legislators have for decades let the executive branch do monstrous things and refused to hold any of them accountable. The unfit people who staff our courts at all levels, but especially the unconstrained ideologues of SCOTUS have stymied legislative power, and have limited accountability of government and business elites with their pronouncements. Prosecutors are at fault as well, because they refuse even to investigate powerful private entities and their executives.

We fail democracy if we do not carry out our responsibility to regulate the conduct of our officials, and continue to select unfit people as our officials.

======
[1] I discuss these matter in detail in earlier posts, especially … and ….

[2] Dewey discusses different ways in which leaders were selected in earlier times, which I skip. It’s worth noting that we still elect people who met those irrelevant criteria: military and religious leaders, children of officials, charismatic people, and old white men. Pp. 117-9.

[3] I agree with Dewey about this, but it’s very far afield.

[4] Think of Descartes, sunk in self-contemplation. We also see it in Locke.

[5] Individualism lies at the heart of social contract theory and neoliberalism. Dewey rejects social contract theory.

Republicans Prepare to Sanction a President Doing Nothing as the Country Was Assaulted by Terrorists

Joaquin Castro ended his second speech last night with these words:

He swore on a Bible to preserve, protect, and defend. And who among us can honestly say they believe that he upheld that oath? And who among us will let his utter dereliction of duty stand?

According to CNN, Republican Senators, while admitting that the Democratic description of the attack on the Capitol is compelling, are still inventing excuses for voting against convicting Donald Trump for it.

For most Republican senators, Wednesday’s presentation did not seem to affect how they’ll vote. Many are on record decrying the trial as unconstitutional since Trump is now a former president, and the punishment for conviction is removal. If convicted, however, Trump could also face a vote in the Senate barring him from ever again serving in public office.

Yet GOP senators including Marco Rubio of Florida would only say Trump bears “some responsibility” for the riot and argued the Senate should have no role in trying a former president.

“Who wouldn’t be?” asked Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, when questioned if he was shaken by the footage he saw on Wednesday.

But when asked if he held Trump accountable, Johnson said, “I hold those people responsible.”

That means it remains likely that Trump will be acquitted in the Senate.

Which is why the import of what Castro said is so important. It’s not just what Trump did do that makes him so dangerous: it’s what he didn’t do. Trump chose to do nothing to protect the Capitol as it was attacked by terrorists.

And most members of the Republican Party are okay with that, with a President who did nothing as the nation was attacked by terrorists.

Laughing in the Face of Denial

TOPSHOT – Trump supporters engaging in healing the country at the US Capitol in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021. –  (Photo by Joseph Prezioso / AFP) (Photo by JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images)

Not this again.

From Trump lawyer David Schoen on day one of the second Trump impeachment trial:

[The House impeachment managers] tell us that we have to have this impeachment trial, such as it is, to bring about unity. But they don’t want unity, and they know this so-called trial will tear this country in half, leaving tens of millions of Americans feeling left out of the nation’s agenda as dictated by one political party that now holds the power in the White House and our national legislature. But they are proud Americans, who never quit getting back up when they are down and they don’t take dictates from another party based on partisan force-feeding. This trial will tear this country apart, perhaps like we have seen only once before in our history.

*sigh*

Long ago, as a young pastor, a couple came to me about concerns with their marriage. The husband had slept with someone else, and when his wife threatened to file for divorce, they came to me together for advice. After some pleasantries at the beginning of the conversation, the tone quickly shifted. Filled with righteous indignation, the husband said “She’s going to file for divorce and break up our family! Whatever happened to forgiveness? Tell her she can’t do that!”

I laughed out loud.

Not a chuckle, not a single snort, but a good 15 seconds of laughter. (I said I was young.) They both looked at me in absolute shock. When I quelled my laughter, I said “*She* is going to break up your family? Please. *You* broke up the relationship when you slept around. That relationship is dead. You have to decide if you are willing to take responsibility for that and make the effort to repair it, or if you want to live in denial that breaking your marriage vows wasn’t that big a deal and sleeping around really didn’t hurt anyone.”

This was met with silence, so I plunged on.

Still speaking to the husband (but with the wife listening closely), I said “You don’t get to decide the terms of how she forgives anyone. Forgiveness doesn’t mean everything goes back to the way it was. It means that she quits seeing you as a monster, and quits letting the pain you caused her continue to govern her life. If she forgives you, it doesn’t automatically mean that you two will stay married. It just means she is done with letting what you did continue to hurt her. If you want this relationship to be healed and this marriage to be rebuilt, that starts with honesty, not denial. Honesty about what happened, honesty about how damaging and painful it was, and honesty about what you are or are not willing to do going forward.”

No, that husband was not David Schoen — but in listening to Schoen yesterday, the two of them sure sound a lot alike. The more Schoen and the defenders of Trump talk about unity and moving on without acknowledging anything about Trump’s role in the insurrection, the more they show they have no interest in unity or healing.

But we already knew that.

In one of my former congregations, I had a parishioner who was a psychologist who worked with men who had been convicted of child abuse, and the two of us had a number of long conversations around abuse and denial. When someone is accused of child abuse, my parishioner told me, he would see the same dynamic play out with each one. First, they deny that the abuse happened. “I didn’t do it!” When presented with evidence that they did indeed do it, the denial shifts to avoiding judgment: “OK, but it’s no big deal. No one got hurt. She/he came on to me. He/she had it coming. You have no right to judge me for that.” When that doesn’t work, denial pulls out the big trump card to avoid any consequences: “You have to forgive me!”

Perpetrators of abuse turn to denial because if there are consequences to their actions, something will have to die – their image of themselves, their relationships with others, and more. Denial is how they hope that nothing in their lives will have to change, with no consequences for their damaging actions.

Honesty, on the other hand, is where perpetrators of abuse turn if they are truly interested in healing and moving on. From everything I heard yesterday, the abusers and their enablers have no interest in healing. Power? Absolutely. Healing? Not so much.

This trial will not tear this country apart. Trump has already torn it apart.

The question now is whether the Senate wants to honestly acknowledge that reality and begin to deal with it by holding Trump accountable, or if they want to remain in denial and encourage the tear in our country to continue growing.

 

Trump Impeachment II – The Beginning

And so it begins any minute now. Don’t fret, it will not take long, because Pelosi, Schumer and the Dems have so decreed out of political cowardice. Is that politically expedient at the start of the nascent Biden Administration? Maybe! But they all took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, not their political expediency.

So where are we at the onset of proceedings?

The tentative schedule is this:

First, there will be a debate over the “Constitutionality” of even holding and impeachment trial at all. This is a ridiculous argument, and will fail, but with much cowardly GOP Senate support.

There will be up to four hours equally divided between the impeachment managers and the president’s counsel to debate the constitutionality of the trial. Again, that will fail as to Trump. Then there will be sixteen hours per side to argue their case. It will be predictable baloney from both sides, with no actual evidence submitted and admitted. And, no, “video presentations” do not count, that is simply argument by propaganda. Each party’s arguments are delimited by not being able to go over two days, and cannot exceed eight hours each.

“After the presentations are done, senators will have a total of four hours to question both sides. Then there will be four hours divided equally between the parties for arguments on whether the Senate will consider motions to subpoena witnesses and documents, if requested by the managers.

There will be up to four hours equally divided for closing arguments, along with deliberation time if requested by the senators before the vote takes place.”

Much of the above, though not all, came from an excellent report by Barbara Sprunt and Diedre Walsh at NPR.

Is this year another stupid and truncated show trial by Pelosi, Schumer and the Dems, in order to look like they are doing something while they are cowering? Of course it is. Same as it ever was.

There will also be discussion of an “organizing resolution”. Don’t fall for that, the parameters have already been agreed to behind the scenes.

Lastly, while joint stipulations may always be made, otherwise the general parameters are controlled by the extant Senate Rules on Impeachment. They are here for your reference.

And here is Leahy’s feckless “Dear Colleagues” letter.

In His Impeachment Defense, Trump Cites Mike Pence Admitting Trump Made an Unconstitutional Demand

Eleven pages into his 75-page impeachment defense, Trump makes this claim:

President Trump did not direct anyone to commit lawless actions,

In context, he’s speaking about his speech before the riot, claiming that his invocation that his mobsters “fight” didn’t mean he wanted them to fight illegally. His defense only addresses the meaning of that word, “fight,” in his speech, while treating impeachment over and over as akin to the passage of a law restricting First Amendment protected speech and not the political act that impeachment is.

But this brief, like in the 14-page answer brief he submitted last week, barely addresses one of the times he quite clearly did direct people to commit lawless action, first, when he called Brad Raffensperger and asked him to find him votes that didn’t exist.

The article also discusses in passing other “statements” of Mr. Trump as well as a telephone call to the secretary of state of Georgia.

[snip]

The allegation that Mr. Trump should be convicted for “incitement of insurrection” based upon the telephone call to the Georgia secretary of state rests on even shakier ground. The allegations of “threats of death and violence” come not from Mr. Trump at all; they come from other individuals from the internet, not identified (nor identifiable) in the House Trial Memorandum, who took it upon themselves to make inane internet threats, which were not urged or “incited” by Mr. Trump in any way shape or form.150 Examining the discussion with the Georgia secretary of state under the standard of “incitement,” leads to the same conclusion as the January 6, 2021 statements of Mr. Trump: there is nothing said by Mr. Trump that urges “use of force” or “law violation” directed to producing imminent lawless action.151

More strikingly, given the greater length of this brief, Trump again completely ignores a key part of the article of impeachment against him: his actions targeting Mike Pence, both his demand that Pence commit an unconstitutional act by throwing out the votes of key swing states, and his comments that specifically riled up the crowd against Pence, even after the rioters started looking for him at the Capitol to assassinate him.

Instead of addressing the actions he took that got Pence targeted for assassination, Trump mentions Pence only in the context of discussions about the 25th Amendment.

The very next day, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer called on Vice-President Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment concluding – without any investigation – that Mr. Trump incited the insurrection and continued to pose an imminent danger if he remained in office as President.12

[snip]

First, in an attempt to usurp Constitutional power that is not in any way hers, the Speaker demanded that Vice-President Michael Pence or the White House Cabinet invoke the 25th Amendment, threatening to launch an impeachment proceeding if they refused. Four days later, on January 11, 2021, an Article of Impeachment was introduced, which charged President Trump with “incitement of insurrection” against the United States government and “lawless action at the Capitol.” See H. Res. 24 (117th Congress (2021-2022). The Speaker made good on her extortionate threat.

[snip]

After the Article was introduced, Speaker Pelosi again gave Vice President Pence an ultimatum: either he invokes the 25th Amendment within twenty-four hours or the impeachment proceedings would proceed. Vice-President Pence responded in a letter to Speaker Pelosi the following day stating that he would not allow her to usurp constitutional authority that is not hers and extort him (and by extension the Nation) to invoke the 25th Amendment because he believed to do so would not “be in the best interest of our Nation or consistent with our Constitution.”29 Vice-President Pence also noted that Speaker Pelosi was being hypocritical, as she had previously stated that in utilizing the 25th Amendment, “we must be ‘[v]ery respectful of not making a judgment on the basis of a comment or behavior that we don’t like, but [rather must base such a decision] on a medical decision.”30

I suspect Trump’s lawyers will try to defer any questions about Trump’s attacks on Pence by suggesting that Pelosi’s decision to impeach because Pence didn’t invoke the 25th Amendment is just like Trump’s incitement of violence targeted at Pence. With their use of the words, “usurp” and “extort,” Trump’s lawyers grossly overstate the force of language Pence himself used to compare the two:

Last week, I did not yield to pressure to exert power beyond my constitutional authority to determine the outcome of the election, and I will not now yield to efforts in the House of Representatives to play political games at a time so serious to the life of our Nation.

But there are several problems with this: Congress was already intent on impeaching Trump for his actions before the request that Pence intervene. More importantly, even in Pence’s treatment comparing these two, he calls one — Trump’s demand — unconstitutional but the other — Pelosi’s request — a “political game.”

So in one place in his impeachment defense, Donald Trump’s lawyers claim, “President Trump did not direct anyone to commit lawless actions.” Elsewhere, however, they cite a letter in which Mike Pence says he did, that he made a demand, “beyond [his] constitutional authority.”

And with this apparent effort to deflect a key accusation against him, Trump entirely ignores the specific, targeted action he used to lead the mob to attempt to assassinate his Vice President.

Raskin’s Gambit

Until today, the conventional wisdom was that Senate Republicans would hide behind their claim that it was not constitutional to try Donald Trump on the single count of impeachment for inciting an insurrection, and Democrats would lose badly in an effort to convict Donald Trump. That’s still likely.

But Donald Trump’s inability to follow good legal advice and Jamie Raskin’s exploitation of that weakness may change that.

In response to the opening brief Trump’s lawyers submitted earlier this week, in which Trump went beyond a claim that the entire trial was unconstitutional and feigned responses to the actual facts alleged, Lead Impeachment Manager Raskin invited Trump to testify.

Two days ago, you filed an Answer in which you denied many factual allegations set forth in the article of impeachment. You have thus attempted to put critical facts at issue notwithstanding the clear and overwhelming evidence of your constitutional offense. In light of your disputing those factual allegations, I write to invite you to provide testimony under oath, either before or during the Senate impeachment trial, concerning your conduct on January 6, 2021. We would propose that you provide your testimony (of course including cross-examination) as early as Monday, February 8, 2021, and not later than Thursday, February 11, 2021. We would be pleased to arrange such testimony at a mutually convenient time and place.

Presidents Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton both provided testimony while in office–and the Supreme Court held just last year that you were not immune from legal process while serving as President–so there is no doubt you can testify in these proceedings.

[snip]

If you decline this invitation, we reserve any and all rights, including the right to establish at trial that your refusal to testify supports a strong adverse inference regarding your actions (and inaction) on January 6, 2021.

It’s not clear which specific claims Raskin has in mind. The letter specifically asks about January 6 and not Trump’s claims he fashions as “Answer 4,” that he didn’t lie about winning the election — though Trump reiterates that claim in Answer 6, claiming that he denies that his January 6 expression of “his opinion that the election results were suspect … is factually in error.” Still, he presents that as an opinion, not a knowingly false claim. Then there’s a claim about his January 2 call to Brad Raffensperger, so unrelated to the January 6 questions mentioned in Raskin’s letter, but which would nevertheless make great fodder for questioning under oath.

The more factual claims about January 6 that Trump made include:

  • It is denied that President Trump intended to interfere with the counting of the Electoral votes. [Answer 6]
  •  It is denied he threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transfer of power, and imperiled a coequal branch [sic] Government. [Answer 8]
  • To the extent there are factual allegations made against the 45th President of the United States contained in Article I that are not specifically addressed above, the allegations are denied and strict proof at time of hearing is demanded. [Answer 8]

To some degree, for Raskin’s gambit to work, which false claims in specific he has in mind don’t matter.

But given that Trump’s response entirely blew off the allegations about Mike Pence in the article of impeachment, which include factual observations about Trump riling up the mob against Pence in particular, Trump has effectively, with the language in the last bullet above, denied an attack on Pence which goes well beyond any First Amendment speech.

As I said, though, it doesn’t matter, because the gambit (even ignoring that Trump is constitutionally incapable of telling the truth, under oath or not) is about forcing Trump to adopt an impossible position. The safest response to this letter would be to refuse, and let the House assume Trump’s entire claim to offering any factual response is false (as it is). But because Trump is Trump, he’s likely to choose between two more dangerous options:

  • Invoke the Fifth, thereby admitting that his First Amendment speech might expose him criminally
  • Testify, thereby undoubtedly setting up sworn lies

The former will get him in trouble for any civil suits arising out of the January 6 insurrection, the very thing that (per reports) Trump was trying to avoid with his decision not to self-pardon.

The latter will set Trump up for (at best) a perjury prosecution and at worst more substantial criminal prosecution based on his responses. Plus, it might pave the way for Mike Pence testimony, which would be compelling.

And by inviting Trump this way, without a subpoena, Raskin avoids all the drama Lindsey Graham has been trying to set up about contentious votes on witnesses. It is Trump’s choice, with no coercion.

Trump got through the Mueller investigation and Impeachment 1.0 by successfully avoiding something like this. It may finally be that the third time’s a charm.

Update: Trump has responded, claiming without legal citation that there is no negative inference in this proceeding.

The Soft Bigotry of Expecting the Commander in Chief to Only Tweet

Based on what source does the lawyer for Donald Trump — a client who never listened to security briefings when he used to be President — state (in an interview with Maggie Haberman, but not in his written defense) that the January 6 insurrectionists planned their attack in advance?

Mr. Schoen pointed to another potential argument that could help Mr. Trump, one not related to free speech: that at least some of the Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol planned their attack in advance, suggesting that Mr. Trump was not the inciting force.

“I have no reason to believe anyone involved with Trump was in the know,” he said of the violence that unfolded at the Capitol.

This defense doesn’t help Doug Schoen as much as he thinks. After all, the House brief lays out how, even before the Proud Boys were overtly planning for the insurrection (and meeting with Lindsey Graham and finding a spot on a tour of the White House), Trump had called on the extremist group to

During a debate on September 29, for instance, he told the Proud Boys— a violent extremist group with ties to white nationalism—to “stand back and stand by.”48

[snip]

On January 2, for example, Fox News reported on a social media declaration by Proud Boys Leader Enrique Tarrio that the Proud Boys would come to the January 6 rally prepared for violence.59 Another Proud Boys organizer said, “We are going to smell like you, move like you, and look like you. The only thing we’ll do that’s us is think like us! Jan 6th is gonna be epic.”60

As someone who has spent much of the last four weeks tracking what is publicly known about the terrorist attack, anyone following closely enough to know how the Proud Boys, especially, plotted in advance also knows that Trump was coordinating with them going back months and his rat-fucker Roger Stone was coordinating with them even longer, also knows that the mobs breaking into the Capitol timed their move closely with (among other things) Trump’s speech, and knows as well that Trump and Rudy were both coordinating with events on the Hill using the mob as a delaying tactic.

But Schoen seems to be considering talking about what someone who refused briefing knew and did not know about an attack while he was still President.

I especially find Schoen’s certainty about what an ongoing investigation shows given a fairly remarkable passage in the House trial brief. There’s an 11-paragraph section describing, “President Trump’s Dereliction of Duty During the Attack.” The first describes how Trump watched in delight.

As armed insurrectionists breached the Capitol—and as Vice President Pence, the Congress, and the Capitol Police feared for their lives—President Trump was described by those around him as “borderline enthusiastic because it meant the certification was being derailed.”141 Senior administration officials described President Trump as “delighted” and reported that he was “walking around the White House confused about why other people on his team weren’t as excited as he was as you had rioters pushing against Capitol Police trying to get into the building.”142

But it’s another five paragraphs before the House brief mentions that Trump was the Commander in Chief.

During this time, not only did President Trump fail to issue unequivocal statements ordering the insurrectionists to leave the Capitol; he also failed in his duties as Commander in Chief by not immediately taking action to protect Congress and the Capitol. This failure occurred despite multiple members of Congress, from both parties, including on national television, vehemently urging President Trump to take immediate action.

That is, the House brief focuses on what Trump did or didn’t tweet, and what victims he never called (while calling Tommy Tuberville to coordinate his delaying tactics).

But it barely mentions that Trump sat in the White House watching an attack on the Nation’s Capitol — one his lawyer now suggests he had some knowledge of — and he did literally nothing to intervene. True, there is a thoroughly unreliable Vanity Fair piece quoting Trump’s flunkies claiming that Trump made preparations the night before. But that account doesn’t match the known events, nor does it accord with the long delay in deploying the Guard troops.

In the middle of the impeachment case against Trump is a tacit admission not just that Trump did nothing as he watched a terrorist attack on the Capitol, but no one expected him to be able to do more than Tweet.

The former President’s defense claims, with no proof, that he faithfully executed his duty to protect and defend the Constitution and served to the best of his ability.

To the contrary, at all times, Donald J. Trump fully and faithfully executed his duties as President of the United States, and at all times acted to the best of his ability to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, while never engaging in any high Crimes or Misdemeanors

[snip]

It is denied he betrayed his trust as President, to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Rather, the 45th President of the United States performed admirably in his role as president, at all times doing what he thought was in the best interests of the American people. The 45th President believes and therefore avers that in the United States, the people choose their President, and that he was properly chosen in 2016 and sworn into office in 2017, serving his term to the best of his ability in comportment with his oath of office.

Perhaps that’s right. But if that’s true, it’s a confession that when the nation’s capital came under attack, Trump was helpless to do the least demanded of him as Commander in Chief.

Yes, the case against Trump is deeply rooted in his Tweets inciting terrorists and he should be impeached based just on those and his speech. But along the way, all sides seem to admit that Trump didn’t even consider doing anything as Commander in Chief as the country was attacked.

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