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.

DOJ Moves Towards Parallel Conspiracy Prosecutions of the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys

As noted, on January 27, DOJ indicted three Oath Keepers, Thomas Edward Caldwell, Donovan Ray Crowl, and Jessica Marie Watkins, in a conspiracy to hinder Congress’ certification of the Electoral College vote. FBI seems to be working on identifying the other people who were marching in formation with Watkins and Crowl on January 6, as well as building out a larger prosecution team (which includes, among others, one of the women who worked the Russian side of the Mueller cases).

Meanwhile, yesterday, DOJ announced the arrest of yet another Proud Boy — Ethan Nordean — and the indictment of two other Proud Boys, Nicholas DeCarlo and Nicholas Ochs, in a conspiracy to hinder Congress’ certification of the Electoral College vote. Of particular note, in DOJ’s request for detention with Nordean, they invoked the list of crimes that can merit a terrorist enhancement. (h/t FM)

They don’t say which of the terrorist enhancement crimes they have in mind, but several are possibilities:

  • 351 (relating to congressional, cabinet, and Supreme Court assassination and kidnaping)
  • 844(f)(2) or (3) (relating to arson and bombing of Government property risking or causing death)
  • 930(c) (relating to killing or attempted killing during an attack on a Federal facility with a dangerous weapon)
  • 1114 (relating to killing or attempted killing of officers and employees of the United States)
  • 1203 (relating to hostage taking)
  • 1751(a), (b), (c), or (d) (relating to Presidential and Presidential staff assassination and kidnaping)
  • 2332f (relating to bombing of public places and facilities)

Update, 2/6: The detention memo for Nordean explains they’re using his 1361 charge to apply the terrorism enhancement.

That rebuttable presumption applies to Defendant because 18 U.S.C. § 1361 is specifically enumerated in 18 U.S.C. § 2332b(g)(5)(B) and carries a maximum sentence of ten years in prison where, as here, damage or attempted damage to property exceeds $1,000.

All of which is to say the government is treating Nordean’s arrest like he’s part of a terrorist group.

As suggested above, the DeCarlo and Ochs conspiracy indictment parallels the one obtained against the Oath Keepers.

The Object of the conspiracy is the same: “to stop, delay, and hinder Congress’ certification of the Electoral College vote.” And several of the overt means are the same: agreeing to participate in a January 6 operation, taking planning steps together, and forcibly storming past the police barricades to enter the Capitol.

The conspiracy indictment of Dominic Pezzola and William Pepe effectively charged they conspired to achieve one of the means in the DeCarlo and Ochs indictment, to,

obstruct, influence, impede, and interfere with law enforcement officers engaged in their official duties in protecting the U.S. Capitol and its grounds during the demonstrations planned for January 6, 2021.

The government has not, yet, charged Pepe with 18 USC 1512, obstructing an official proceeding (meaning the vote certification).

Meanwhile, the Nordean complaint cites the charges against Pezzola, Joe Biggs, and Robert Gieswein, tying all their actions together without (yet) claiming an agreement to act together.

But you can see where this is heading: to two parallel conspiracy prosecutions, each sharing the same object — to halt the vote certification — and each also sharing several of the same overt acts.

These conspiracy indictments are, for now, based off personal communication between the co-conspirators, for example the Zello communications that Watkins sent. But as I noted in the Oath Keepers post, there is someone with whom both these groups agreed with and pursued some of the same steps as: Donald Trump. These conspiracy indictments may build little by little based off what each group has done among themselves, but the framework for a much broader conspiracy is already in place.

The January 6 Investigation Remains in an Early Stage

A lot of people are talking about this report comparing the demographics of the January 6 arrestees with those of past right wing extremist arrests. The report has interesting data — most notably showing that those arrested after January 6 were disproportionately from counties that Biden won.

That said, the methodology behind the comparison is flawed because what would get someone arrested at a normal white supremacist event and what would get them arrested in the wake of January 6 are totally different.

Partly as a way to explain why — and to answer some questions I keep getting — I’d like to talk about what we know of the investigation.

Chain-of-command

First, let’s review who is in the chain-of-command of the investigation.

The investigation is being conducted out of FBI’s Washington Field Office, overseen by Steven M. D’Antuono, and the DC US Attorney’s Office, led by Acting US Attorney Michael Sherwin. Sherwin was Jeffrey Rosen’s hand-selected replacement for Bill Barr flunky Timothy Shea (who in turn replaced Jesse Liu, who did a good job and so was ousted), but unlike Shea (and Barr and Rosen), Sherwin is a career prosecutor with a background on national security cases. And while Sherwin oversaw some politicized shit (notably the later parts of the Mike Flynn gambit), others were involved in the day-to-day, which means, in part, that Sherwin doesn’t necessarily know about the altered documents and whatnot.

In any case, Ken Kohl, a fairly problematic career prosecutor in DC who was personally involved in the Flynn corruption, hasn’t been seen in any of the statements or court filings since the first days of the investigation, when he claimed the investigation wouldn’t incorporate those who incited the attack.

There might have been a concern in the first weeks of investigation that Trump’s dead-enders would limit it. But at this point, such a move would be reported on. Moreover, the top political appointee in DOJ until Merrick Garland or Lisa Monaco are confirmed is John Carlin, who served as Obama’s National Security Division head for the last two years of his Administration. He was a long-time prosecutor himself and would be as comfortable overseeing a terrorism investigation like the DC one as Monaco will be.

It’s unclear when Biden will get around to replacing Trump’s US Attorneys, including Sherwin. But until that time, every single indictment of a Trump terrorist will be signed by a Trump appointee, which may undercut any claims of politicization. And the pace or focus of the investigation is unlikely to change when Garland is finally confirmed (which might be just days away in any case). The major thing he might approve would be the inclusion of Trump or any other political target, and possibly of a broader seditious conspiracy case — but the latter, at least, already seems likely under Sherwin’s supervision.

The prosecution teams are still falling into place right now. Among the prosecutors for the Zip-Tie guy, though, is one of the people who prosecuted Maria Butina. Among the prosecutors for the Oath Keeper conspiracy is one of the women brought into the Mueller team to deal with the Russian defendants.

Triage

I get asked a lot whether the investigation will pick up once Garland is confirmed.

No.

One reason it won’t is because the investigation is already moving at a remarkable clip; even without certain bottlenecks due to COVID (such as limited grand jury time and the difficulties created by dial-in court hearings), it would be hard to investigate much more quickly.

I think people may misunderstand that because of the steady clip of arrests since the attack, with around 178 of around 800 people who were in the Capitol during the attack (181 have been charged so far, but that includes a few people who issued threats but didn’t make it into the Capitol).

DOJ has said that they’ve been mostly arresting the people who mugged on social media bragging about the insurrection. What DOJ did in these first weeks, then, is to focus on all the people whose Facebook friends tipped off the FBI or who did interviews or who otherwise came to easy attention. Many of those people (about half of all the people who’ve been arrested so far) have been charged with just the two trespassing statutes that everyone who stepped foot in the Capitol got charged with, 18 USC 1752 and 40 USC 5104. This is one reason why the study on demographics is not a sound comparison: because literally everyone who stepped in the Capitol committed that trespassing crime, and many of the people who did will never be charged with anything but misdemeanor trespassing charges.

Those people may have loathsome beliefs or be adherents to a cult (whether QAnon or Trump). But it seems that if people just rushed in with the crowds and didn’t damage anything and didn’t assault cops and weren’t privy to or instrumental in a plan to disrupt the vote, it’ll end there, with misdemeanor charges.

That said, as I laid out here, DOJ seems to be adding, at a minimum,  18 USC 1512(c)(2) charges for interfering with the certification of the vote to a subset of those initially charged with just the misdemeanors. They seem to be doing so with those who had a bigger role in delaying the vote count. If that’s all these people are charged with (a number are also charged with property damage or assault) and they don’t have a record, they might be facing 41 to 51 months in prison. I imagine there are some borderline people whom DOJ is suggesting should plead now to those misdemeanor charges to avoid the felony, and I imagine the felony charge(s) will be used to get some people to cooperate and to support keeping others in jail pre-trial.

Already for these defendants, we may not discover what DOJ saw that led them to believe the person merited more than a trespassing charge. In most cases, the FBI will be obtaining more legal process to understand better why a person showed up at the Capitol, what they did there, and what network got them to go to the riot in the first place, as well as any substantial ties to that network.

In other words, it’s likely the 1512 charge is itself a midway point, perhaps a terminal charge for those who were conspiring with others to overturn democracy, perhaps a bookmark as DOJ conducts further investigation.

Sealed investigative steps

Meanwhile, the FBI is conducting further investigation of the right wing networks that planned this attack, steps we’re just seeing hints of, such as with this report on a search of the homes of two people who organized the January 5 rally (and I’ve heard of a few more that haven’t been publicly reported).

The FBI recently raided the homes of two men who sponsored an invective-laced rally near the US Capitol a day before the deadly insurrection, the first known search warrants involving people who organized and spoke at rallies preceding the attack.

[snip]

FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller confirmed that federal agents executed search warrants last week at two properties in Orange County, California, which public records indicate belong to Russell Taylor and Alan Hostetter. The two men run the American Phoenix Project, which co-sponsored a pro-Donald Trump rally near the Supreme Court on January 5, one day before the attack.
Neither man has been charged with any crimes.
Footage of the rally shows the men spewing militant vitriol: Hostetter told the crowd to prepare for “war tomorrow” against “vipers” in Congress who refused to nullify President Joe Biden’s win. Taylor said, “We will not return to our peaceful way of life until this election is made right.”

With anyone who didn’t make it inside the Capitol, the government would need to do more to charge them. And for some networks (for example, we know there were around 40 Oath Keepers at the rally, yet only 3 have been charged), the government may want to wait before it starts charging one after another person. It may pick and choose which members of a known network — like the Proud Boys — it charges when.

The thing is, a lot of these people are going to have better operational security than the people who posed for selfies (or managed to destroy evidence). A lot of them are going to be somewhat more difficult to implicate in the insurrection. And a lot of the investigative work will take more time, potentially a lot more time (and require cooperators). You shouldn’t want DOJ to rush it because it’s the kind of thing that good lawyers will mount a First Amendment challenge to.

It will take some time. But that’s not because Billy Barr has come back from whatever corporate boardroom he’s sitting in and sabotaged things. It will take some time because it will take some time.

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.

The Mob Party

Responding to the calls for understanding coming from unctuous Republicans, I have once again made an effort to understand the freak show that is the Republican party of today. Tradition dictates a separation between the relatively normal politicians, people like Mitt Romney, Brad Raffesnperger, and Susan Collins, and the rabble we call the base of the party. This is an artificial distinction. The entire party fears and loves the base, or at least tolerates it, because the base is their sole hope for power.

There are two parts to the base: the action wing and the support wing.

The support wing is composed of two parts: Sympathizers, those who agree with the action wing but haven’t yet joined in because of age or fear of consequences; and Normies, who really can’t stand any of the rest but need their votes to gain power. Even the vulgar Trump thought his Capitol rioters were low class.

The action wing consists of three main groups, the QQQrazies, the Evangelical Militants, and the Armed Thugs. The QQQrazies are a crowd of gullible people sucked into a reality-denying mash-up of recycled blood libels created by an anonymous Q. [1] The principal lie is a fantasy lurking in the diseased parts of society and translated into less obvious anti-Semitism. The QQQrazies believe certain Democratic politicians and liberal elites drink the blood of children, or use them in some hideous satanic ritual, or keep them for sexual abuse, and that Trump is going to arrest them and either hang them in a public spectacle, or send tham to Guantanamo. Or maybe both. The idea that Trump would lift a finger for anyone besides himself is laughably stupid.

The Evangelical Militants are discussed in detail here. The Elmer Gantries from the religio/political segment of Evangelicals decided that The Almighty sent Trump to lead the way to the New Jerusalem. They authorized and directed their flocks to vote for a thrice-married, porn-star screwing, narcissistic reality TV performer, and then doubled down at every step of Trump’s increasingly obvious fascism. Then they authorized their flock to support his insurrection.

Most of these Evangelical Militants and QQQrazies are relatively harmless. They served as fodder in the Capitol Insurrection, and provided cover for the real dangers, the Armed Thugs. This group includes the Proud Boys, the 3 Percenters. the Oath Keepers, the Boogaloo Bois, and the wannabes like a the dolts on TheDonald.win, now Patriots.win. The Armed Thugs also include other militias like the people who attacked the Michigan legislature, and those who allegedly hatched plans to murder the Governor of Michigan. Trump worked to prevent law enforcement from keeping close watch on these people, insisting that right-wing terrorism was nothing compared to Antifa, whatever that is. It’s becoming clear that the Armed Thugs were the really dangerous people in the Capitol Insurrection.

The active wing of the Base is not interested in politics. They just want what they want. [2] They have no actual policy goals, and no reason to seek power, except to deny it to others.

So far, I’ve just described the Base. On its own, it’s a formless mob, capable of eruptions of violence and individual acts of terror but not an existential threat to democracy. Like any mob, it needs leadership before it becomes truly dangerous. So I turn to the organizational structure.

Trump is the Capo dei Capo, the undisputed and only leader. The mob is devoted to him, attentive to his every word, his every desire.

His Consigliere are Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz. They are both graduates of elite universities and law schools, and served in SCOTUS clerkships. Cruz earned his bona fides by kissing the ring after Trump insulted his father and his wife in ugly personal terms; he’s a weakling. Hawley never crossed Trump. He’s a self-motivated lickspittle. They create spurious arguments that serve as crutches for the weaker Republican Senators, who use them as a pretend justification for their own ring-kissing.

The muscle is provided by Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor-Greene, who carry big guns and talk like gangsters about their rights and the magnificence of their Capo.

Matt Gaetz is Fredo. There are also many sub-Fredos. There’s Mo Brooks and Madison Cawthorn, who showed up at Trump’s incitement rally to scream at the mob to go forth and defend freedom against the grave danger posed by majority rule. There’s Rudy Giuliani, sweating in the role of the horse’s behind, the part with no head. There’s the Trump spawn, Don Jr and Eric, who hold coats and pretend to be real boys.

There it is folks, the Party of Lincoln has devolved into the Mob Party.
=====
[1] Apparently our vaunted spies can’t figure out who Q is.
[2] Astonishingly, 19 of the insurrectionists were elected officials according to the New York Times. Also, there were cops and military among the rioters.

Trump’s Impeachment Defense Is Silent about His Unconstitutional Demand of Mike Pence

There are some weaknesses and gaps in the House impeachment case against the former President (which I’ll probably return to).

But there’s one giant gap in Trump’s defense.

Generally, Trump argues three things: his incitement was speech protected by the First Amendment. The House moved too quickly to impeach but having impeached him while he was still President the Senate can’t now try him, as required by the Constitution. Along the way he makes a soft case that his attempts to undermine the election results can’t be proven to be unjustified (in at least two places, those claims are demonstrably false).

But I’m most struck by Trump’s silence about his treatment of Mike Pence.

The House brief mentions Pence, by title and sometimes by name, 36 times. Those mentions include a description of how Pence was presiding over the counting of the electoral vote, how he fled when Trump’s mobsters flooded into the Capitol, how the attackers targeted him by name, how Secret Service barely kept him safe, how Trump’s own actions made Pence’s danger worse.

The House brief dedicates a section to how Pence refused to do what Trump explicitly asked him to do, to unilaterally discount certain electoral votes.

C. Vice President Pence Refuses to Overturn the Election Results

By the time the rally began, President Trump had nearly run out of options. He had only one card left to play: his Vice President. But in an act that President Trump saw as an unforgivable betrayal, Vice President Pence refused to violate his oath and constitutional duty—and, just hours later, had to be rushed from the Senate chamber to escape an armed mob seeking vengeance.

In the weeks leading up to the rally, President Trump had furiously lobbied Vice President Pence to refuse to count electoral votes for President Biden from any of the swing states.68 These demands ignored the reality that the Vice President has no constitutional or statutory authority to take that step. Over and over again, President Trump publicly declared that if Vice President Pence refused to block the Joint Session from finalizing President Biden’s victory, then the election, the party, and the country would be lost. “I hope Mike Pence comes through for us, I have to tell you,” President Trump said in Georgia on January 4.69 The next day, he tweeted: “If Vice President @Mike_Pence comes through for us, we will win the Presidency.”70 President Trump reiterated this demand just hours before the rally: “States want to correct their votes, which they now know were based on irregularities and fraud, plus corrupt process never received legislative approval. All Mike Pence has to do is send them back to the States, AND WE WIN. Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!”71 On the morning of January 6, President Trump reportedly told Vice President Pence, “You can either go down in history as a patriot, or you can go down in history as a pussy.”72

Later that day, while President Trump was speaking at his rally, Vice President Pence issued a public letter rejecting President Trump’s threats. “It is my considered judgment,” he wrote, “that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not.”73

This letter sounded the death knell to any peaceful methods of overturning the election outcome. It was well known that the House and Senate were going to count the lawfully certified electoral votes they had received. President Trump’s efforts to coerce election officials, state legislatures, the DOJ, Members of Congress, and his own Vice President had all failed. But he had long made it clear that he would never accept defeat. He would fight until the bitter end. And all that remained for President Trump was the seething crowd before him—known to be poised for violence at his instigation—and the Capitol building just a short march away, where Vice President Pence presided over the final, definitive accounting of President Trump’s electoral loss.

The House brief describes how, even as Pence released his letter saying that he could not, constitutionally, do what Trump asked, Trump demanded again that the Vice President do anything besides certify the vote.

He also demanded again that Vice President Pence illegally interfere with the work of the Joint Session—a position that the Vice President rejected even as President Trump spoke.

The House brief then describes how the rioters threatened to, “hang Mike Pence” and left targeted threats for him.

Videos of the events show that dozens of the insurrectionists specifically hunted Vice President Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi—the first and second in the line of Presidential succession, respectively. “Once we found out Pence turned on us and that they had stolen the election, like, officially, the crowd went crazy,” said one rioter. “I mean, it became a mob.”98 Rioters chanted, “Hang Mike Pence!” 99 Another shouted, “Mike Pence, we’re coming for you … fucking traitor!”100

[snip]

One of them shouted “Trump won that election!” on the Senate dais where Vice President Pence had presided. 115 Another rioter climbed onto the dais, announcing that “I’m gonna take a seat in this chair, because Mike Pence is a fucking traitor.”116 He left a note on the Vice President’s desk stating, “ITS ONLY A MATTER OF TIME / JUSTICE IS COMING.”117

It describes how, even as the attack was going on, Trump continued to complain that Pence had upheld his own oath to the Constitution.

Just over thirty minutes later, at 2:24 PM, while rioters were still attacking police and after Vice President Pence had been evacuated from the Senate floor, President Trump again tweeted to excoriate the Vice President for refusing to obstruct the Joint Session: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.”144 President Trump thus singled out Vice President Pence for direct criticism at the very same time the Vice President and his family were hiding from a violent mob provoked by President Trump. [emphasis original]

In other words, a key part of the House brief describes Trump giving Pence an illegal order, and then, after Pence refused to follow that order and announced he would do his own Constitutional duty, Trump took actions to focus the anger of the mob on his own Vice President.

It’s not just what Trump said about Pence, the incitement of an assassination attempt against his Vice President that Trump claims is protected by the First Amendment, but it’s about an illegal order Trump gave to Pence, which Pence duly ignored.

That order was unconstitutional, and as such is not protected by the First Amendment.

Trump’s brief, by contrast, mentions the Vice President (only by title) just three times, two of which are simply citations from the House brief. The sole mention of the man he almost got hanged involves a concession that the Vice President was, indeed, presiding over the counting of the votes.

It is admitted that on January 6, 2021 a joint session of Congress met with the Vice President, the House and the Senate, to count the votes of the Electoral College.

But in response to the second citation from the House brief mentioning Pence, Trump instead pivots to defending the Republican members of Congress challenging state results. As part of that discussion, Trump denies any intention of interfering with the counting of Electoral votes. That denial focuses exclusively on the actions of Members of Congress, not Pence.

6. He also willfully made statements that, in context, encouraged – and foreseeably resulted in – lawless action at then Capitol, such as: “if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore.” Thus, incited by President Trump, members of the crowd he had addressed, in an attempt to, among other objectives, interfere with the Joint Session’s solemn constitutional duty to certify the results of the 2020 Presidential election, unlawfully breached and vandalized the Capitol, injured and killed law enforcement personnel, menaced Members of Congress, the Vice President, and Congressional personnel, and engaged in other violent, deadly, destructive, and seditious act.

Answer 6: Admitted in Part, denied in part. It is admitted that persons unlawfully breached and vandalized the Capitol, that people were injured and killed, and that law enforcement is currently investigating and prosecuting those who were responsible. “Seditious acts” is a term of art with a legal meaning and the use of that phrase in the article of impeachment is thus denied in the context in which it was used. It is denied that President Trump incited the crowd to engage in destructive behavior. It is denied that the phrase “if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore” had anything to do with the action at the Capitol as it was clearly about the need to fight for election security in general, as evidenced by the recording of the speech. It is denied that President Trump intended to interfere with the counting of Electoral votes. As is customary, Members of Congress challenged electoral vote submissions by state under a process written into Congressional rules allowing for the respective Houses of Congress to debate whether a state’s submitted electoral votes should be counted. In 2017, Democratic Members of Congress repeatedly challenged the electoral votes submitted from states where President Trump prevailed. In 2021, Republican Members of Congress challenged the electoral votes submitted from states where President Biden prevailed. The purpose of the Joint Sessions of Congress in 2017 and on January 6, 2021 was for Members of Congress to fulfill their duty to be certain the Electoral College votes were properly submitted, and any challenges thereto properly addressed under Congressional rules. Congress’ duty, therefore, was not just to certify the presidential election. Its duty was to first determine whether certification of the presidential election vote was warranted and permissible under its rules. [my italics]

Trump undoubtedly solicited Members of Congress to do just that, challenging individual states, which was itself an abuse of power (indeed, one weakness of the House brief is they don’t mention Rudy Giuliani’s second attempt to call Tommy Tuberville asking for a specific delay on vote counting, which shows that Trump was indeed trying to use the mob to delay the certification).

But Trump also made an explicit demand of Pence, one Pence refused. That demand, by itself, was proof that Trump intended to interfere with the Constitutional counting of votes.

And he doesn’t address that — speech which is in no way protected — in his defense.

Nor does he address how he almost got Pence killed.

The Selfie Cops: Obstructing an Official Proceeding

Yesterday, DOJ unsealed an indictment against the two selfie cops, Thomas Robertson and Jacob Fracker. The two were originally charged on January 12 — among the first to be charged — after they shared pictures of their exploits with colleagues at the Rocky Mount, VA police department, who in turn alerted the FBI.

Both are military veterans and Fracker remained in the VA National Guard when he was arrested.

The two were originally charged with two trespassing charges, 18 USC 1752 and 40 USC 5104. But the indictment adds the more serious obstruction charge DOJ has used against other more dangerous defendants, 1512(c)(2), along with an aiding and abetting charge for the same, 18 USC 2. That’s a felony that, if they’re convicted, will mean the two men will no longer be able to own guns (and probably won’t work in law enforcement anymore).

I want to look at how DOJ seems to be using that charge, because I expect more people will have it added as their case move to indictment.

The charge is an unusual application of what is normally treated as a witness tampering statute, which most people think of in conjunction with investigations and prosecutions. But the certification of the vote is every bit as much an “official proceeding” as an investigation or trial is. The standard boilerplate being used in insurrectionist charging documents establishes that the vote certification was suspended from 2:20PM, literally minutes after rioters first breached the Capitol, until shortly after 8PM.

Shortly thereafter, at approximately 2:20 p.m. members of the United States House of Representatives and United States Senate, including the President of the Senate, Vice President Mike Pence, were instructed to—and did—evacuate the chambers. Accordingly, the joint session of the United States Congress was effectively suspended until shortly after 8:00 p.m. Vice President Pence remained in the United States Capitol from the time he was evacuated from the Senate Chamber until the sessions resumed.

Up until the indictment against the cops was unsealed, DOJ had used the 1512 charge primarily with people who, in their charging documents, were shown to have done more (there were around 28 before these cops were charged with it). They include:

  • The Oath Keeper defendants
  • Many of the Proud Boy defendants
  • Some, but not all the people, who were accused of assault, damaging property, or interfering with cops
  • Those — like Gina Bisignano and Riley Williams — who were organizing traffic
  • People — like William Calhoun — whose promise of violence and intent to interfere with vote counting was explicit
  • People — like Leo Kelly — who got to the Senate or Speaker’s lobby (though not all who did were charged with 1512)

Aside from serving as a way to bring felony charges against a defendant, perhaps because the government believes the person to be a greater threat, there’s no clear rhyme or reason to this.

The primary hint of the Selfie Cops doing something like that came, after the fact, in boasts from Robertson claiming to have “attacked the government.”

“CNN and the Left are just mad because we actually attacked the government who is the problem and not some random small business … The right IN ONE DAY took the f***** U.S. Capitol. Keep poking us.” He also stated that he was “proud” of the photo in an Instagram Post that was shared to Facebook, because he was “willing to put skin in the game”

But it is also the case that the initial complaints seemed to function as a kind of triage, a way to get participants in the insurrection into the legal system to allow more focused investigation of them. Undoubtedly, the FBI continued to investigate after the initial charges.

And such an investigation — especially for people whose initial arrest didn’t rely on search warrants and who were arrested before the shape of the attack became more clear — might reveal evidence that these two cops had something more in common with the others charged with 1512, such as explicit plans to shut down the vote count or ties to a militia organization. And unlike the arrest affidavits, which put so much evidence in a few pages, we shouldn’t expect to see any of that evidence for a charge in an indictment until a litigation leading up to a trial. Indeed, that may be why DOJ feels free to include the charge in order to raise the stakes on the prosecution: because they can do so without having to tip their hand to other coup conspirators.

I expect we’ll see more 1512 charges, which will separate the people DOJ is truly concerned about from those who stupidly trespassed in support of their idol Donald Trump.

Update: DOJ did the same thing with Richard “Bigo” Barnett. In his case, he’s facing enhancements on some of these charges because he had a stun gun walking stick with him.

The Role of Trump’s Incitement in Providing Violent Foot Soldiers [Updated]

As I’ve covered, in addition to a conspiracy charge tying Zip-Tie Guy’s actions to his mother’s cheering of violence, the government has thus far charged two sets of defendants from organized gangs in the January 6 insurrection — three members of the Oath Keepers and two of the Proud Boys. While Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola is charged with assault for his efforts to steal the police shield he used to bash open a window, his co-defendant William Pepe and most other defendants identified as Proud Boys were not charged with assault (Robert Gieswein, who was indicted on his own, did allegedly assault cops with a baseball bat; he appears in videos with the Proud Boys that day, though was not identified as such in his charging documents).

Thus far at least, the most violent actions from that day aren’t known to have been perpetrated by the right wing militias, members of which appear to have, instead, channeled the violence of others, possibly while pursuing more tactical goals (like locating members of Congress).

That makes the way in which the government describes that other violence important, as it may or may not tie everything together (and tie it back to those who incited the violence).

Take Emanuel Jackson, a 20-year old black guy from DC who was twice caught assaulting cops on video. First, he was caught on film punching a cop, an assault which charging documents describe helped break the police line allowing others to stream in.

The defendant, EMANUEL JACKSON, is observed on U.S. Capitol video surveillance footage making a fist and repeatedly striking a U.S. Capitol Police officer on his person while attempting to forcefully enter the building. United States Capitol Police officers are designated as officers of the United States under 18 U.S.C. 1114.

At approximately 2:48 p.m., the large crowd that was being restrained by law enforcement overpowered the officers and gained entry. One of the first individuals observed entering the doorway is the defendant.

Then, later that day, he attempted to get back into the Capitol wielding a baseball bat.

At 4:50 p.m., the violent and aggressive crowd continued to confront law enforcement at the West Terrace entrance. The crowd was armed with various weapons and multiple individuals are observed assaulting law enforcement in the entranceway. The defendant is clearly observed in surveillance video of this entrance, wearing the same clothing described above and observed in earlier footage, and armed with a metal baseball bat. The defendant is observed repeatedly striking a group of both U.S. Capitol and Metropolitan Police Department uniformed officers with the baseball bat.

These two alleged assaults happening two hours after each other, the first unarmed, the second armed, attest to the sustained violence of the riot, as well as a possible intensification of it as violence came to incorporate additional weapons. Over those two hours, Rudy Giuliani was calling Senators asking for delay.

While Jackson did have a backpack on him during the riot, there’s nothing in Jackson’s file that suggests any organizational affiliation with known extremist groups (nor is there any explanation of why a 20-year old black guy would ruin his life for Donald Trump). According to a government detention motion, in an interview, Jackson described attending Trump’s rally and going from there to the Capitol.

During the defendant’s post-arrest interview, he clearly articulated that he attended former President Trump’s rally earlier that day, and that he joined the thousands of individuals who descended on the U.S. Capitol to protest the election results.

That ties his later actions to the events at the rally.

That’s important, because Jackson confessed that his goal in storming the Capitol was to delay the counting of the vote (and he was charged with obstructing an official proceeding as a result, which itself carries a steep sentence if violence is involved).

During the interview, the defendant stated that his purpose in joining the violent mob was to enter the U.S. Capitol and disrupt the vote count of the Electoral College as it met to certify the results of the 2020 Presidential Election. Thus the defendant combined his criminal intention to interfere with the functioning of Congress with multiple violent assaults – one with a dangerous weapon – on the law enforcement officers trying to protect that function.

The detention motion describes how his initial assault made it possible for him and others to storm the building.

The defendant was part of a group that tore out windows, ripped open the blocked entrance, and then physically attacked law enforcement in an effort to gain entry. The law enforcement officers are in full uniform with the word “police” clearly visible. At approximately 2:48 p.m., the defendant is observed physically striking a law enforcement officer with his fist. The punching continues for several strikes and seconds later, the mob forces their way into the entranceway and overruns the group of law enforcement officers. The defendant’s assaultive behavior in part allowed the large mob of individuals to successfully breach the U.S. Capitol, putting additional law enforcement officers and members and staff of Congress at grave risk. The defendant’s actions allowed other rioters to commit multiple other criminal acts inside the building.

So at least on this thin record, it appears that Jackson went to the rally, got riled up to disrupt the certification of the vote, and then took repeated violent actions in service of doing just that. As the detention motion describes, Jackson was one spoke in a wheel that together thwarted democracy.

The defendant was a spoke in the wheel that caused the historic events of January 6, 2021,

On January 27, Jackson’s attorney asked for a one month continuance, with the government’s consent. That generally indicates the defendant is preparing to plead before indictment (which isn’t surprising given that, before he got a lawyer, Jackson confessed to his assaults).

That means it’s possible that by the time Trump’s impeachment trial starts, Emanuel Jackson will have pled guilty to being inspired by Donald Trump to halt the vote certification, walking down Pennsylvania Avenue and then assaulting two cops in an effort to help Trump steal the election.

Update:  Hunter Seefried, whose dad was the one caught carrying a Confederate flag through the Capitol, played a key role in cleaning out the window many streamed through. The father and son pair marched over after listening to Trump.

Defendant Kevin Seefried told law enforcement that he had traveled with his family from Delaware to the District of Columbia to hear President Trump speak and that he and Hunter Seefried participated in a march from the White House to the Capitol led by an individual with a bull horn.

Finally, I have reviewed video footage posted to Twitter which shows Hunter Seefried punching out glass in a window in the Capitol complex after people adjacent to him in the crowd broke it with a wooden 2 x 4. Kevin Seefried confirmed to law enforcement agents that Hunter Seefried was asked by an individual unknown to the Seefrieds to assist with clearing the window because Hunter Seefried was wearing gloves. After Hunter Seefried complied, people from the crowd outside, to include the Seefrieds, were able to access the interior of the Capitol Building.

Barton Wade Shively, a former Marine who admitted to assaulting several cops, also came down for the rally and then walked to the Capitol afterwards.

During the interview, SHIVELY admitted to driving to Washington, D.C. with friends to attend the Trump rally on January 6, 2021. SHIVELY further stated that he and his friends walked to the U.S. Capitol grounds and that a significant number of protestors broke through the first set of barricades. After which, SHIVELY explained that he was in the back of the crowd, but once the barricades were broken down by other rioters, SHIVELY walked over the broken-down police barriers and up the U.S. Capitol steps where law enforcement officers were standing protecting the U.S. Capitol. SHIVELY stated that when he confronted the law enforcement officers, he was pushed back, SHIVELY admitted he became angered at that time. SHIVELY admitted “I got caught up in the moment.” and grabbed a police officer by his jacket and began yelling at the officer.

[snip]

During the interview with agents, SHIVELY admitted to a second incident physical and assaultive encounter with law enforcement officers. SHIVELY stated he was walking down a line of officers who were protecting the U.S. Capitol from rioters, when an officer repeatedly pushed SHIVELY with his baton and commanded SHIVELY to move away. SHIVELY admitted to punching the officer on the officer’s riot helmet.

Spaz: More than Just a Thumb Drive [Updated]

The government released its motion for detention for Dominic Pezzola, AKA “Spaz,” the Proud Boy who was among the first to break into the Capitol.

As a Marine with ties to the Proud Boys, it’s easy to see why the government thinks he’s dangerous.

To support their claim he is, though, the government made two arguments that probably aren’t the main reasons. First, they treat his use of a police shield to break open the door of the Capitol as a crime of violence.

Felony destruction of government property is a crime of violence. For purposes of the bail statute, as relevant to these offenses, a crime of violence is defined as “an offense that has an element of the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another,” if that crime is punishable by ten years or more in prison. See 18 U.S.C. § 3142(f)(1)(A) & 16. Section 1361 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code meets those requirements. It is punishable by ten years if the property damage was greater than $1,000, and its elements include the use of physical force against the property of another.

More spectacularly, they point to the bomb-making materials they found at his home.

The FBI also executed a search warrant at the defendant’s residence at the time of his arrest. Agents recovered, from a room that appeared to be used exclusively by the defendant, a thumb drive that contained hundreds of .pdf files. While some of those files are related to seemingly innocuous topics, a significant number of those .pdfs provide detailed instructions for making homemade firearms, poisons, and/or explosives. A sample of titles includes, but is not limited to: (1) multiple serials of a series entitled “Advanced Improvised Explosives,” those serials including “Explosive Dusts” and “Incendiaries;” (2) “The Box Tube MAC-11,” with subtitle, “The Ultimate DIY Machine Pistol;” (3) “Ragnar’s Big Book of Homemade Weapons;” and (4) “The Advanced Anarchist’s Arsenal: Recipes for Improvised Incendiaries and Explosives.” All of the above examples contain detailed instructions for how to make the subject matter reflected in their titles, and they are but four of hundreds of similarly titled .pdf files on the recovered thumb drive.

But I’m more interested, as is my wont, in the ways that the government points to something more.

It does so, first of all, by hinting at additional charges to come — though lays out charges that are likely not the ones DOJ has in mind for Pezzola.

The defendant currently stands charged with violations of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1361, 1512(c)(2), and 1752(a), stemming from his role in the violent events that took place at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.

[snip]

The defendant is currently charged by complaint with one crime of violence—breaking the window of the Capitol with the shield—and the evidence as laid out above would establish probable cause to believe that he committed another crime of violence a short time earlier, robbery of U.S. government property, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2112.

[snip]

The evidence as laid out above would also establish that the defendant violated 18 U.S.C. § 2112, robbery of U.S. Government property, and § 111, assault on a federal officer, among other things. The government acknowledges that the defendant is not charged with these offenses at the time this memorandum is submitted.

More importantly, the government repeatedly talks about how he coordinated his actions.

The defendant’s actions show planning, determination, and coordination.

It uses the language of conspiracy — persons known and unknown — to describe his actions leading the mob towards the Capitol.

At around 1:00 p.m. EST, on January 6, 2021, known and unknown individuals broke through the police lines, toppled the outside barricades protecting the U.S. Capitol, and pushed past U.S. Capitol Police (“USCP”) and supporting law enforcement officers there to protect the U.S. Capitol.

The motion describes how he walked up to the barriers with others, including this guy in a flag bandana.

It shows how, at the moment he breaks in the window through which the Capitol was breached, he was wearing an earpiece.

The government describes how that first group of people immediately turned to “where they counting the votes?” (though were distracted from finding them by Officer Goodman).

Pezzola was part of a group that turned to the right and eventually confronted USCP Officer Eugene Goodman, demanding to know “where they meeting at, where they counting the votes?” It is unclear from the video which member of the mob shouted that question at Officer Goodman.

And the motion describes Pezzola talking about a “we” who had taken the Capitol.

“Victory smoke in the Capitol, boys. This is f***ing awesome. I knew we could take this motherf***er over [if we] just tried hard enough.”

While the motion lays out its argument for detention by emphasizing other things, the argument it is really making is that Pezzola, as a key member of the conspiracy (and as someone with the operational security to flee), he needs to be detained.

It’s not surprising that the government points to evidence of a conspiracy. After all, he’s associated with the Proud Boys, a key focus of their attention (and the motion cites a W-1 who is clearly privy to their plans).

It’s just telling how the government only hints at that argument while pointing to other things that make Spaz dangerous.

Update: DOJ announced the conspiracy indictment of Pazzola with William Pepe, the guy in the flag bandana pictured above.

 Dominic Pezzola, 43, of Rochester, New York, and William Pepe, 31, of Beacon, New York, were indicted today in federal court in the District of Columbia on charges of conspiracy; civil disorder; unlawfully entering restricted buildings or grounds; and disorderly and disruptive conduct in restricted buildings or grounds. Pezzola was also charged with obstruction of an official proceeding; additional counts of civil disorder and aiding and abetting civil disorder; robbery of personal property of the United States; assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers; destruction of government property; and engaging in physical violence in a restricted buildings or grounds.

The prosecution team includes the guy who prosecuted Maria Butina, Erik Kenerson, along with a CT prosecutor from NSD.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jason McCullough and Erik Kenerson of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and Taryn Meeks of the Department of Justice National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section. Valuable assistance was provided by the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the Western and Southern Districts of New York. The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office, with assistance by the FBI’s Buffalo Field Office and the FBI’s New York Field Office.

Update: Here’s the indictment itself. It is very narrowly drawn, describing the conspiracy to cover just their successful entry past the cops at the second barrier.

The object of the conspiracy was to obstruct, influence, impede, and interfere with law enforcement officers engaged in their official duties in protecting the U.S. Capitol and its grounds during the demonstrations planned for January 6, 2021.

I suspect DOJ did this, in part, to have a way to keep Pepe detained. He’s not even accused of entering the Capitol, nor is he charged with stealing anything or assaulting a copy. But by being charged in a conspiracy with Pazzola, he’s on the hook for Pazzola’s more obviously violent acts.

Trump’s Role in a Seditious Conspiracy Won’t Go Away with an Impeachment Vote

There’s a conventional wisdom about the Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial, scheduled to start in ten days. WaPo predicts that impeachment will leave no more than a “bitter aftertaste.”

The Senate is hurtling toward an impeachment trial that will accomplish almost nothing by design and likely leave everyone with a bitter aftertaste.

Democratic voters will be furious that GOP senators refused to hold former president Donald Trump accountable for his role in encouraging supporters to march to the Capitol on Jan. 6. Republicans will be upset that congressional Democrats went through with an impeachment trial three weeks after Trump left the White House.

And independent voters, more focused on the health and economic crises fueled by the coronavirus pandemic, will wonder why Congress prioritized an impeachment process at all.

Perhaps most telling, WaPo describes Trump’s role as “encouraging” his supporters to march to the Capitol.

It’s true the word, “encouraged” appears in the article of impeachment against Trump.

He also willfully made statements that, in context, encouraged—and foreseeably resulted in—lawless action at the Capitol, such as: ‘‘if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore’’. Thus incited by President Trump, members of the crowd he had addressed, in an attempt to, among other objectives, interfere with the Joint Session’s solemn constitutional duty to certify the results of the 2020 Presidential election, unlawfully breached and vandalized the Capitol, injured and killed law enforcement personnel, menaced Members of Congress, the Vice President, and Congressional personnel, and engaged in other violent, deadly, destructive, and seditious acts. [my emphasis]

But that description skips the “foreseeably result[ing]” in the interruption of the certification of the vote, the threats to Members of Congress, the deadly sedition that are also included in the article of impeachment.

Moreover, it ignores the other part of the article of impeachment, Trump’s other efforts to subvert democracy (the article describes his January 2 call to Brad Raffensberger explicitly), to say nothing of the description of Trump as a threat to national security.

President Trump’s conduct on January 6, 2021, followed his prior efforts to subvert and obstruct the certification of the results of the 2020 Presidential election.

[snip]

Wherefore, Donald John Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security, democracy, and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office, and has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law.

That’s a notable oversight, particularly given the — inexplicable — claim from ascendant Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin that we may never learn the full extent of Trump’s role in the coup attempt.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), the incoming chairman, said he would leave procedural questions up to the House managers.“I’m waiting to hear what their proposal is, but for us to suggest a trial strategy for the House managers, I don’t think that’s our job,” Durbin said.

So, instead, the Senate will rush through a trial in which the only evidence likely to be presented will be the stuff that senators themselves already lived, video clips of rioters breaking into the Capitol as senators fled through underground tunnels to their secure location.

Senators will likely not even attempt to answer the fundamental questions of every impeachment trial — what did the president know and when did he know it?

“It will be surprising to me if we ever know the answers to that,” Durbin said.

It may be true that impeachment managers will restrict themselves to the public record, though even that might include testimony from Raffensperger and evidence collected as part of the prosecution of insurrectionists. Q-Shaman Jacob Chansley even says he’d be willing to testify.

Lawyer Albert Watkins said he hasn’t spoken to any member in the Senate since announcing his offer to have Jacob Chansley testify at Trump’s trial, which is scheduled to begin the week of Feb. 8. Watkins said it’s important for senators to hear the voice of someone who was incited by Trump.

Watkins said his client was previously “horrendously smitten” by Trump but now feels let down after Trump’s refusal to grant Chansley and others who participated in the insurrection a pardon. “He felt like he was betrayed by the president,” Watkins said.

The words of Trump supporters who are accused of participating in the riot may end up being used against him in the impeachment trial. Chansley and at least four others people who are facing federal charges stemming from the riot have suggested they were taking orders from Trump.

If insurrectionists were to testify in person, the attendant security of orange jumpsuits and leg manacles might provide some sobering visuals (though COVID and real security concerns almost certainly rules that out).

But it seems foolish for any Senator to assume that the vote they’ll cast in a few weeks will make this thing go away forever.

That’s not even true for their Ukraine impeachment votes. Yesterday, Ukraine announced (much to Lev Parnas’ glee that Rudy Giuliani finally got Ukraine to announce an investigation) that it is launching a criminal probe into those — inside and outside Ukraine — who attempted to interfere in the 2020 election.

Andriy Yermak, the head of the office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said on January 28 that Ukraine would do everything in its power to bring to justice forces within the country and outside it who attempted to damage relations between Ukraine and the United States.

“The State Bureau of Investigation has opened a criminal case,” Yermak was quoted as saying in an interview to the Ukrainian news outlet NV that was posted on the presidential website.

“The investigation is under way, and we are waiting for its results. The investigation must answer a lot of questions,” Yermak added.

Without anyone in the United States lifting a finger, then, Ukraine may provide damning new evidence about Trump’s attempt to coerce assistance on his “perfect phone call” with Volodymyr Zelensky that will make GOP negligence during the last impeachment more damning.

And in the case of the January 6 insurrection, DOJ has already mapped out a conspiracy charge that Trump could easily be charged under as well.

PURPOSE OF THE CONSPIRACY

18. The purpose of the conspiracy was to stop, delay, and hinder Congress’s certification of the Electoral College vote.

MANNER AND MEANS

19. CALDWELL, CROWL, and WATKINS, with others known and unknown, carried out the conspiracy through the following manner and means, among others, by:

a. Agreeing to participate in and taking steps to plan an operation to interfere with the official Congressional proceeding on January 6, 2021 (the “January 6 operation”);

b. Using social media, text messaging, and messaging applications to send incendiary messages aimed at recruiting as large a following as possible to go to Washington, D.C., to support the January 6 operation;

Meanwhile, Acting DC US Attorney Michael Sherwin has repeatedly refused to rule out incitement charges. Indeed, I’ve argued that DOJ almost certainly will need to incorporate at least Mike Flynn, if not Trump himself, in their description of the crimes of January 6, if only to distinguish the events of that day from other protected First Amendment activity — and at least some prosecutors in DC closer to the overall investigation seem to be doing that.

There’s no guarantee that Merrick Garland’s DOJ will have the courage to pursue Trump’s role in this (though thus far, Bill Barr appointee Michael Sherwin has not shied from such an investigation, and if he oversaw such a decision it would mitigate the political blowback). There’s no sign, yet, that DOJ has identified how the coup attempt tied into Rudy’s attempts to delay the certification.

But no Senator serving as juror in this impeachment should assume the investigation won’t, inevitably, disclose the machinations that tied Trump’s efforts to stay in office to the death and destruction on January 6. Indeed, there’s no guarantee that the actions of key jurors — like Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz for inciting the mob, Tommy Tuberville for his direct coordination with Rudy, and Lindsey Graham for his own efforts to throw out votes in Georgia and his meeting with accused insurrectionist Joe Biggs — won’t ultimately be incorporated into the larger conspiracy.

And so while it may be easy for lazy political journalism to spout conventional wisdom about everyone wanting to move on, this time around it is as likely as not that the votes cast next month will age poorly as the investigation into how Trump’s action ties to the death and destruction continues.

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