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Politico Claims It Embarrasses Joe Biden that Non-Violent Civil Disobedience Merits Little or No Jail Time

Last week, Politico reported as news that non-violent January 6 trespassers might get little to no jail time which — it further claimed — might embarrass the Biden Administration.

Many Capitol rioters unlikely to serve jail time

The cases could embarrass the Biden administration, which has portrayed the Jan. 6 siege as a dire threat to democracy.

I have tremendous respect for the reporters involved, Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney. Yet the fact that experienced DOJ beat reporters could claim, as news, that non-violent civil disobedience might get no jail time made me really rethink the reporting on January 6, including my own. It’s crazier still that reporters might claim — generally, or in this situation — that a Democratic President might be embarrassed by DOJ treating civil disobedience as a misdemeanor offense.

In fact, Gerstein and Cheney are reporting on a subset of all the January 6 defendants, fewer than 60 of the 230 who had been formally charged by the time they wrote this, which they nevertheless describe as “many” of them.

A POLITICO analysis of the Capitol riot-related cases shows that almost a quarter of the more than 230 defendants formally and publicly charged so far face only misdemeanors. Dozens of those arrested are awaiting formal charges, even as new cases are being unsealed nearly every day.

Then, four paragraphs later, Politico explains why (they say) this might embarrass the Biden Administration: because both Biden himself and Merrick Garland called the larger event — in which 1,000 people, including 200 for assault and 100 for roles in a militia conspiracy, many still at large, must now be suspects — as a heinous attack.

The prospect of dozens of Jan. 6 rioters cutting deals for minor sentences could be hard to explain for the Biden administration, which has characterized the Capitol Hill mob as a uniquely dangerous threat. Before assuming office, Biden said the rioters’ attempt to overturn the election results by force “borders on sedition”; Attorney General Merrick Garland has called the prosecutions his top early priority, describing the storming of Congress as “a heinous attack that sought to disrupt a cornerstone of our democracy, the peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected government.”

Nowhere in the article do they provide any evidence that the assault on the Capitol wasn’t a heinous attack.

They base their claim that Biden might be embarrassed on expectations that DOJ prosecutors set, without noting that the first charges were filed before Biden was inaugurated and long before Garland was confirmed.

Justice Department prosecutors sent expectations sky-high in early statements and court filings, describing elaborate plots to murder lawmakers — descriptions prosecutors have tempered as new details emerged.

Jacob “QAnon Shaman” Chansley was arrested on January 8 and indicted on January 11. Eric “Zip Tie Guy” Munchel was arrested on January 10 and indicted, with his mother, on February 12. Thomas Caldwell was arrested on January 19 and indicted along with Oath Keepers Jessica Watkins and Donovan Crowl on January 27. They (including Caldwell but not Watkins and Crowl) are the main defendants, of more than 350, about whom prosecutors can fairly be said to have tempered “sky-high” expectations. Their arrests and that expectation-setting happened under Jeffrey Rosen and Michael Sherwin, not under Biden and definitely not under Merrick Garland (under whom DOJ referred Sherwin to OPR for investigation after he did some expectation-setting on 60 Minutes). Even still, for all four (as well as other edge cases about whom the press set high expectations, like Riley June Williams), the investigation remains ongoing and there are reasons, including ties to the militia conspiracies, to believe there was some basis for the original suspicions about these people.

Likewise, the decision to arrest first and investigate later, a decision that led to the flood of arrests before prosecutors really knew who had done the most egregious things during the attack, also occurred under the prior Administration.

Indeed, under Garland (though not necessarily because of Garland or the departure of Sherwin), DOJ seems to have focused more of their ongoing misdemeanor arrests on suspects who might have video footage of interest to prosecutors or defense attorneys, with far more of a focus in recent weeks on arresting assault and militia suspects. And one of the reasons for the delays described in the story is that after Garland came in, DOJ asked for 60 days to catch up on discovery. We may yet learn that he and his subordinates decided to change the “arrest first, investigate later” approach adopted before he came in.

Sure, the press has claimed that the government has backed off some of its claims in the militia conspiracies. They did so, for example, when prosecutors backed off certain claims solely for the purpose of an Ethan Nordean detention hearing that, filings submitted weeks later suggested, may have been an effort to protect a pending conspiracy indictment and, probably, a cooperating witness. They’ve done so with the Oath Keepers, even though recent developments suggest even Jessica Watkins’ lawyer may now understand her role in what appears to be a larger conspiracy coordinated in Signal leadership chats is more damning than Watkins originally claimed. If anything, the Oath Keeper and Proud Boy conspiracies may be more sophisticated tactically than originally claimed, and that’s before any explanation about things like who paid for vans of Proud Boys to travel from FL and what happened at twin events in DC and Florida in December, in which conspirators (and key Trump figures) played central roles. That’s also while the person who laid a pipe bomb the night before the the attack remains at large.

To further back its claim that Biden might be embarrassed, Politico implies that all the plea deals expected in weeks ahead will be misdemeanor pleas without jail time, which will be “awkward” for DOJ to defend.

Prosecutors have signaled that plea offers for some defendants will be coming within days and have readily acknowledged that some of the cases are less complicated to resolve than others.

“I think we can work out a non-trial disposition in this case,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Emory Cole told Judge Dabney Friedrich last week in the case of Kevin Loftus, who was charged with unlawful presence and disrupting official business at the Capitol, among other offenses that have become the boilerplate set lodged against anyone who walked into the building that day without authorization.

The Justice Department will soon be in the awkward position of having to defend such deals, even as trials and lengthy sentences for those facing more serious charges could be a year or more away. [my emphasis]

Politico makes this claim even though at least some of the expected pleas may be cooperation agreements. For example, Ryan Samsel — who breached the west side of the Capitol in coordination with Proud Boys Dominic Pezzola and William Pepe, knocking out a cop along the way — asked for a continuance to discuss a plea. One of the main Oath Keeper prosecutors, Ahmed Baset, asked for a continuance before indicting Oath Keeper associate Jon Schaffer, who was among the worst treated defendants and who agreed to the continuance in spite of remaining in pre-trial detention. Kash Kelly, currently charged with trespassing but also someone raised in discussions between Proud Boys affiliate James Sullivan and Rudy Giuliani, got a continuance to discuss a plea. Bryan Betancur, a Proud Boy who got jailed for a probation violation after he lied to his probation officer to attend the event, also got a continuance to discuss a plea to resolve his trespassing charges. The aforementioned Riley Williams, who was charged with obstructing the vote count and stealing a laptop from Nancy Pelosi, was filmed directing movement inside the Capitol, and has ties with Nick Fuentes, also got a continuance to discuss pleading before indictment. All five of these people likely have information that would be of use to prosecutors. All could limit their prison time (which would likely be significant for Samsel, who is accused of assault, played a key role in the insurrection, and has a criminal record) by cooperating with prosecutors. If any of these people sign plea deals — especially Samsel — it will likely provide new insight into how the conspiracy worked. Even with a plea deal, Samsel may still face a stiff sentence.

In other places, Politico conflates the discussions about the fate of misdemeanor defendants with discussions about detention (which prosecutors have only requested with a few accused trespassers), discussions about discovery, and Speedy Trial, all different things, many more urgent issues for misdemeanor defendants not included among those the story is purportedly about.

After I went on a rant about this story on Twitter, Gerstein defended the story by saying that people (none of whom were quoted in the story) seem to be surprised.

I agree with Gerstein that people have certain expectations. But that was clear before the end end of January. The record laid out here shows that such expectations did not come from Garland or Biden. Even Sherwin, with his totally inappropriate 60 Minutes interview, also explained from the start that DOJ was arresting the low hanging fruit at first while further investigating more serious suspects.

The fault, instead, lies with journalists, myself and these Politico journalists included, for not consistently and repeatedly explaining the various different roles people played on January 6, including that there were a number — though currently a shrinking fraction of the total set of defendants — who neither pre-meditated any effort to stop the vote count nor assaulted cops. I have tried to engage in this nuance (I included a list of such posts below), but given the sheer amount of court filings, much of the focus is currently on the militia conspiracies, suggesting a gravity that the MAGA tourists don’t merit. But in this article, rather than simply laying out the full range of defendants, describing how the MAGA Tourists played a key role in the success of the more serious conspirators (explicitly so for the Proud Boys, who talked about getting “normies” to do stuff they otherwise wouldn’t have done), describing how violence spread among participants and often as not among people who aren’t militia members, this Politico piece further distorts the record, not least by using this subset of “MAGA Tourists” — calling them “many” even though they represent just a quarter of defendants who have been formally charged — to stand in for the larger investigation, while minimizing the import of those charged with obstruction (likening that role to a CodePink interruption of a congressional hearing) because, evidence shows, they premeditated an attempt to undermine the election outcome.

So even while the piece describes how both judges and prosecutors understand that the mob as a whole posed a grave threat while some individual defendants did no more than provide cover for the more dangerous defendants (and many of the DC judges presiding over these cases have made such comments), Politico claims that there’s some embarrassment to this, including some kind of political risk for Biden.

Judges are also attempting to reckon with separating the individual actions of rioters from the collective threat of the mob, which they have noted helped inspire and provide cover for violent assaults, property destruction and increased the overall terror and danger of the assorted crimes committed.

That reckoning is coming sooner rather than later, lawyers say, putting prosecutors in the position of wrist-slapping many participants in the riot despite framing the crimes as part of an insurrection that presented a grave threat to American democracy.

If the MAGA tourists provided cover and helped overwhelm cops, thereby serving a useful role in the plans of those who had a more nefarious and organized purpose, then that’s the story that should be told, not some kind of both-sides political spin, particularly one that pits Biden’s claims about the seriousness of this on the footing as Trump’s outright lies about it. In spite of the overwhelming number of defendants, the record shows, DOJ is still assessing each one on the merits, which is what should happen. Declaring that politically embarrassing is an abdication of fair reporting on the legal system.

I believe DOJ has gotten it wrong, in both directions, in some cases. In addition to those listed above, I think DOJ has gone too harshly on some people who have openly supported far right, even Nazi views. But I also think DOJ has only considered whether militia members were members of premeditated conspiracies, focusing less on localized activist networks that have been implicated in violent (often anti-mask) pro-Trump actions in the past, taken on leadership roles at the riot, and engaged in ongoing communications about plans to shut down the vote, just like militias did. I think DOJ hasn’t come to grips with the organizational import of QAnon even while arguing that individual adherents of the cult must be jailed because they are delusional. And until DOJ decides how it will treat Trump’s actions and those of some close associates — something they likely cannot do without more investigation and cooperation deals from key participants — parts of this investigation will remain unsettled.

There are definitely things DOJ has reason to be embarrassed about: Gerstein has written more than any journalist about the unforgivable delays in moving defendants around the country and getting them arraigned. This piece also focuses on one of the handful of misdemeanor defendants who has been detained since being charged. While I understand the complexity of an investigation in which so much of the evidence — both exculpatory and inculpatory — remains in the hands of participants, defendants have a right to complain about the delay, especially those in detention. Defendants — particularly those in detention — are entitled to a Speedy Trial, even if DOJ moved too quickly to arrest them. While many of these things were exacerbated by COVID, they also largely arise from a decision to arrest first on those trespassing charges, and investigate later (which also has led to more defendants being charged with obstruction after the fact).

But none of those things have to do with Biden or Garland’s views about the investigation, or even the prosecutors who made decisions that created some of these problems in the first place (in part, probably, to avoid their own embarrassment at missing all warning signs, in part because they hadn’t investigated these threats aggressively enough and so had to make mass arrests to mitigate any immediate follow-on threats).

In short, this piece is an (uncharacteristic) mess, shoehorning complexity into a simplistic claim of political conflict, one inventing embarrassment out of thin air for Biden. If Politico has evidence that this wasn’t an unprecedented disruption to Congress, one that could have had a far worse outcome, including a threat to our democracy, or that this right wing violence is less of a threat than FBI says it is, by all means they should present that. At the same time, they can reveal the identity of the pipe bomber and the role (if any) that person played in the plot, without which no one can claim to actually know how serious this was.

Until then, they and all experienced DOJ beat reporters would be far better off by simply laying out a description of the different kinds of defendants we’re seeing, the different roles they played in disrupting the vote count and assaulting or undermining law enforcement, and explaining how those defendants are the same or different from defendants that have gone before them, on a spectrum of severity that stretches from CodePink to ISIS terrorists.

If people are going to be surprised when the subset of participants in January 6 who engaged in non-violent civil disobedience are treated as misdemeanor offenders, it’s not Joe Biden’s fault. It is a failure of journalism, my own included, for not making that more clear starting in January and reiterating it since then.

Update: Meanwhile, Jon Schaffer just agreed to two more weeks in jail.

Update: Corrected Munchel’s arrest date, which was January 10.

Update: Christopher Kelly (no relation to Kash) is another person with a consent continuance to discuss what would almost certainly be a cooperation agreement. He drove to and from the insurrection with some Proud Boys.


Posts attempting to contextualize the investigation

Here are some past attempts I’ve made at explaining how the parts of the January 6 investigation fit together:

Unpacking a January 6 Phone Warrant

Given the focus on legal authorities used in the January 6 investigation, I wanted to look at a search warrant affidavit for the phone of Karl Dresch, a Yooper arrested on January 19 for trespassing and obstructing the vote certification. FBI obtained it Wednesday and executed it yesterday.

The investigation into Dresch arose, as most of the January 6 investigations have, when some informed the FBI — in his case, on January 7 — that Dresch had posted about busting into the Capitol on Facebook. The FBI obtained a warrant for Dresch’s Facebook content, and then, on January 19, arrested him on trespass and obstruction charges. On January 22, in part because of his Facebook posts promising “we will be back” and in part because he had a 2013 arrest and felony conviction for a high speed chase to avoid arrest in Wisconsin, he was ordered detained pending trial. Shortly thereafter, the Houghton County Sheriff, Brian McLean, who knows both Karl and his father (who helped bust the Oklahoma City bombing terrorists), told a reporter Karl should have gotten released on bail.

His father, Stephen Dresch, who died in 2006, provided the FBI information a year prior that led agents to a stash of explosives one of the Oklahoma City bombers had hidden away at his since-vacated Kansas home.

[snip]

Despite the polar opposite outcomes, Houghton County Sheriff Brian J. McLean, who knows the Dresch family, called Stephen Dresch’s son “a chip off the old block.”

[snip]

Stephen Dresch, whom McLean described as a “brilliant, sharp guy,” and his son were “very vocal” about their beliefs, the sheriff of 24 years said. Karl Dresch “likes to give his opinion, whether other people want to hear it or not,” he said.

Houghton County deputies have dealt with Karl Dresch on “minor nuisance calls,” but never anything serious, and he wouldn’t be on a “list of people we’re concerned about,” McLean said.

[snip]

Sheriff McLean disagrees with the risk assessment. He said Karl Dresch doesn’t pose a significant risk to the public and “absolutely” should have received bond.

Since then there’s little else that has happened in this case. On February 3 he was indicted — again for the obstruction and trespassing charges, but still not an illegal possession charge tied to having two guns as a felon. On February 19, a CJA attorney filed an appearance for him. But there’s not even (in the docket) notice of his arraignment.

Now, over forty days after seizing the phone that the FBI believes he had with him on January 6, they have taken steps to access it, stating that they believe they will find evidence relating to his existing charges (trespassing and obstruction) along with unlawful possession.

Search warrant boilerplate for January 6 is slightly more comprehensive than for arrest warrants. In this case, it includes details of people calling out for Nancy Pelosi and other Members of Congress, a description of the note that Jacob Chansley left for Mike Pence in the Senate Chamber: “Justice is Coming.” It describes Eric Munchel and others wandering around with zip ties. That is, it culls the evidence from various insurrectionists that hints towards a more malign plot against Congress, without stating that explicitly. It is the story that DOJ may believe they will one day tell.

In this case, too, it includes details on the exact location and the size of the Capitol, including the Visitor’s Center.

U.S. Capitol Police (USCP), the FBI, and assisting law enforcement agencies are investigating a riot and related offenses that occurred at the United States Capitol Building, located at 1 First Street, NW, Washington, D.C., 20510 at latitude 38.88997 and longitude -77.00906 on January 6, 2021.

At the U.S. Capitol, the building itself has 540 rooms covering 175,170 square feet of ground, roughly four acres. The building is 751 feet long (roughly 228 meters) from north to south and 350 feet wide (106 meters) at its widest point. The U.S. Capitol Visitor Center is 580,000 square feet and is located underground on the east side of the Capitol.

I note the inclusion of these details because these measurements would be really useful in an affidavit that relied on details — such as the ones in Jeremy Groseclose’s arrest affidavit — that talk about the granularity of the location data the FBI is obtaining. In Groseclose’s case, a Google warrant IDed his presence in the Crypt to within 34 meters at 68% confidence. Given the size of the Capitol, then, a Google result like that would fairly clearly show the target in the Capitol, and (given a room the size of the Visitor’s Center) in the room in question.

The Visitor’s Center is one of two places inside the Capitol (the other is the Crypt) where Dresch took pictures and videos he later posted to Facebook, including this one, which court documents describe Facebook data doesn’t include the time for, but which he posted later that night.

So that may be one thing the FBI hopes to find by accessing this phone: More details about the photos Dresch took while in the Capitol. For example, there may be something on the video he took that implicates either him or others, and so want better evidence for trial.

But that’s one of the interesting absences in this affidavit. The warrant notes that Dresch used Verizon, but it doesn’t mention anything about his Verizon call records or — more especially — his location data. Presumably they have that, but have chosen not to include it.

It’s possible (indeed, the government has asserted they think they’ll find) more on the guns he has, in particular any evidence he brought them to DC either on January 6 or some follow-up trip, the one suggested by a second hotel receipt (note, in the existing affidavits, the FBI doesn’t say whom Dresch told, “we have your back give the word and we will be back even stronger,” after January 6, but Facebook surely has that).  If the FBI had reason to believe they could place someone at the Capitol with a gun, that would be an important investigative addition.

There are also his interlocutors, especially the guy, USER 2, with whom he was sharing information about what was going on in the Capitol during the event. The FBI undoubtedly knows who that is, but it’s possible FBI has reason to believe there may be more (such as deleted content) on the phone itself.

Finally, one reason the government is always going to want to exploit a phone is to obtain encrypted communications (like Signal) that wouldn’t be accessible from a provider.

None of this is at all momentous: Just an affidavit to search the phone of one presumably very minor guy, and one that can’t be all that operationally interesting (or else they would have sealed it, as virtually all search warrants currently are). Just one case among 300. At least on its face, just an effort to add another charge or learn more about other insurrectionists.

Timeline

December 16, 2020: Dresch posting about January 6: “1/6/2021=7/4/1771”

January 3: Dresch posts that he’s headed to DC: “NO EXCUSES! NO RETREAT! NO SURRENDER! TAKE THE STREETS! TAKE BACK OUR COUNTRY! 1/6/2021=7/4/1776”

January 7: Tip that Dresch posted on Facebook about entering the Capitol.

January 12: Warrant for Facebook account.

January 13: FBI obtains Facebook content. Among other things it shows the following posts from January 6 and 7:

  • January 6, 2:26: Picture 3 taken with a Moto e6 in the Crypt, which is under the Rotunda
  • 2:43: USER 2 messages Dresch that, Patriots are in the Capitol building now”
  • 2:44: Dresch responds to USER 2: I am, with picture of Capitol Visitor’s Center
  • 2:48: USER 2 messages Dresch that, “Word is police are getting ready to use teach gas.
  • 2:48: Dresch responds, “Been using it. Mask up.”
  • 3:13: Dresch posts, “Who’s house? OUR HOUSE!”
  • 3:14: Dresch posts Picture 3 with caption, “We are in”
  • 4:46: Dresch responds to comments saying “It was peaceful … still got a lil gas tho … mask on for safety
  • 5:17, 5:18: Dresch sends USER 3 two pictures with the caption, “That’s right outside the house of representative … we got in! Took a lil gas … wtf I love masks now!” Had the cops booking it”
  • 6:09: Dresch responds to comments saying, “we broke no glass no shoving I seen”
  • 8:32: Dresch posts crowd at Washington Monument, “Total Victory!”
  • 8:44: Dresch posts “I’m excited”
  • January 7, 12:11 AM: Dresch posts image from Visitor’s Center stating that “antifa did not take the capitol. that was Patriots. … those traitors Know who’s really in charge”
  • 8:32PM: Dresch posts to another post, “Mike Pence gave our country to the communist hordes, traitor scum like the rest of them, we have your back give the word and we will be back even stronger”

January 15: FBI obtains arrest warrant for Dresch

January 19: FBI surveils Dresch’s residence and then arrests him outside it, searches his home, finding:

  • A Motorola that may be a Moto e6
  • A bag that Dresch had with him in one of the photos he posted to Facebook, including:
    • A receipt from a hotel in Washington DC (no date described)
    • Eight boxes of ammunition
    • A CB radio
    • A Whistler laser/radar detector
    • A DC Metro Pass
    • A hotel receipt for a hotel in Chantilly, VA for arrival on January 5 and departure on January 7
  • A Russian SKS-type rifle with a bayonet
  • A shotgun

January 22: Because of prior felony involving evading arrest, Dresch detained pending trial

March 3: Warrant obtained

March 4: Warrant executed

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.