Posts

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.

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.

Crowdsourced Timeline: Tick-Tock to Insurrection and Beyond [UPDATE-3]

[NB: Check the byline. Updates or changes to this timeline will be emphasized (note dark blue font). /~Rayne]

You’ll recall Marcy’s January 8 post, “Investigate Tommy Tuberville’s Pre-Speech and Debate Actions” in which she wrote about Rudy Giuliani’s January 6 phone calls intended for Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL).

EDIT: One The first call was received by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), which he handed over to Tuberville even as they were preparing to evacuate the Senate chambers. The caller was Trump.

Giuliani’s The second call, from Rudy Giuliani, was left instead on another unnamed senator’s phone.

Giuliani’s voicemail message asked Tuberville to slow down the election certification process on January 6, buying Team Trump time to get more information from states to contest multiple states’ elections with the aim for states to pull their certifications of their elections altogether.

How this would all come together and result in an overturned election wasn’t clear. What was the mechanism by which the states, which had already certified their elections, would reverse those certifications?

Last evening a missing piece dropped, deep in the Friday night news dump zone. The New York Times reported Trump and a little-known Department of Justice attorney, Jeffrey Clark, attempted a takeover of the DOJ, with the intent to use the department’s powers to persuade the state of Georgia to overturn its election results.

Overturning Georgia’s results and fraudulently awarding the state’s electoral votes to Trump wouldn’t have been enough to give Trump the election. But the same powers might have been used to pressure other states or to provide cover for states with GOP elected officials or legislature which favored Trump. We really need to know if Trump made calls to other states like the one he made to Georgia’s secretary of state to lean on him for 11,780 votes.

~ ~ ~

The following timeline has been pulled together from community members harpie’s and Eureka’s comments over the last several weeks as reports were published about the events leading up to and during the January 6 Capitol Building insurrection.

11/12/2020 — Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Director Chris Krebs said he expected he would be fired for CISA’s website dedicated to debunking election-related disinformation, much of which was spread by Trump and campaign associates.

11/17/2020 — Krebs was fired by Trump tweet after Krebs tweeted, “59 election security experts all agree, ‘in every case of which we are aware, these claims (of fraud) either have been unsubstantiated or are technically incoherent.’”

11/17/2020 — Michigan election officials certified the state’s election.

11/18/2020 — 8:04 AM – Trump tweets that Michigan can’t certify its election because of voter fraud.

11/18/2020 — GOP Michigan election officials attempt unsuccessfully to rescind their certification of the state’s election.

11/25/20 — Sham “hearing” in Gettysburg, PA (Rudy, Jenna, Trump via phone).

11/25/2020 — Michael Flynn pardoned by Trump.

11/30/2020 — Trump nominated Charles Flynn to be the Army’s “deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and training.”  submitted a nomination for elevation of Lt. Gen. Charles Flynn to full general. Flynn began his current and ongoing role as Deputy Chief of Staff G3/5/7 in June 2019; he is retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn’s sibling.

12/01/2020 — Attorney General Bill Barr told Associated Press there was no widespread voter fraud during the November 2020 election, disputing Trump’s claims to the contrary.

12/01/2020 — Michigan’s state senate oversight committee held a 7-hour long hearing listening to testimony about the conduct of the November general election.

12/02/2020 — Rudy Giuliani appeared before Michigan’s state house oversight committee in a hearing about the conduct of the November general election; Giuliani maintained Trump won the election. Neither state senate or house oversight committees “have the power or authority to mandate a recount, audit or review of vote processes anywhere in the state.”

12/08/2020 — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton files suit with U.S. Supreme Court against Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin in an effort to force elections in these states back to their respective states’ legislatures where they could be invalidated.

12/11/2020 — Texas v. Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin dismissed by SCOTUS for lack of standing; Trump escalates pressure on DOJ leadership officials (*including Barr* and Rosen) to file suit in Supreme Court to overturn relevant states.

12/12/2020 — General Michael Flynn and Family speak at Jericho March in DC.

12/12/2020 — 8:47 AM Trump tweets, WE HAVE JUST BEGUN TO FIGHT!!! [time stamp subject to confirmation]

12/12/2020 — approx. 9:00 AM Proud Boy leader Enrique Tarrio posts a photo (which appears to be taken by someone else) on Parler social media platform. 

12/14/2020 — Jacob Chansley (now recognized as the buffalo-headed shirtless insurrectionist) was reported to Capitol Police for 12/14 for carrying a weapon on Capitol Grounds; “higher ups” okay’d him being there.
[see https://twitter.com/mcbyrne/status/1350137671084089345]

12/14/2020 — Trump announced by tweet AG Bill Barr’s resignation effective 12/23/2020. Barr confirmed his resignation by letter to Trump.

12/15/2020 — Trump summons Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen to the Oval Office and makes requests detailed in NYT article; Rosen refuses; he “reiterated what Mr. Barr had privately told Mr. Trump: The department had investigated voting irregularities and found no evidence of widespread fraud.”

After 12/15/20 — [Date(s) TBD] Trump continues to press Rosen in phone calls and in person.

Mid December  — [Date(s) TBD] Clark had been introduced to Mr. Trump by  Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA); he told the president that he agreed that fraud had affected the election results. Mr. Trump quickly embraced Mr. Clark, who had been appointed with Rosen’s assistance the acting head of DOJ’s civil division in September; Clark was also the head of the department’s environmental and natural resources division, confirmed October 2018.

Mid to Late December — [Date(s) TBD] Trump complains about U.S. Attorney-Northern District of Georgia Byung J. “BJay” Pak. Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue warns Pak.

Mid to Late December — [Date(s) TBD] Clark drafts a letter that he wants Rosen to send to Georgia state legislators. Rosen and Donoghue again reject Mr. Clark’s proposal

12/19/2020 — Trump, Sydney Powell and Mike Flynn meet at WH [NYT].

“During an appearance on the conservative Newsmax channel this week, Mr. Flynn pushed for Mr. Trump to impose martial law and deploy the military to ‘rerun’ the election. At one point in the meeting on Friday, Mr. Trump asked about that idea. […]”

12/19/2020 — Trump tweets about the Solar Winds hack.
[see https://twitter.com/emptywheel/status/1340666651658899457 ]

12/20/2020 — Charles Flynn‘s elevation to full general from lt. general confirmed by the Senate by voice vote to be Army’s “deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and training.”.

12/21/2020 — Sidney Powell was back at the White House again, for third time in four days [NYT]

12/23/2020 — Bill Barr’s last day as AG.

12/23/2020 — Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Charles Kushner, and 23 other individuals were pardoned by Trump.

12/23/2020 — Trump arrived late evening at Mar-a-Lago for vacation through New Year’s Day.

12/30/2020 — Trump to quit FL vacation early, return to DC on 31st:

“The White House announced the abrupt change in the president’s schedule late Wednesday, hours after Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said he would raise objections next week when Congress meets to affirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the November election.”
[see https://apnews.com/article/donald-trump-politics-florida-coronavirus-pandemic-mar-a-lago-87a839746b4d1a6dca7441791bbc20bc]

12/31/2020Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) and 10 other plaintiffs from across the GOP filed suit in Texas federal court against Vice President Mike Pence, asking the court to find Pence has the authority to certify the election, possibly throwing out the results in states previously contested by TX AG Paxton.
[see https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/31/us/politics/justice-department-mike-pence-louie-gohmert.html]

12/31/2020 — DOJ’s Rosen, Donoghue, and Clark meet to discuss Clark’s refusal to hew to the department’s conclusion that the election results were valid. Donoghue is blunt and tells Mr. Clark that what he was doing was wrong.

01/01/2021 — Trump appointee U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Kernodle dismissed Rep. Louie Gohmert’s lawsuit against VP Pence for lack of standing.

01/01/2021 — Clark tells Rosen that he was going to discuss his strategy with the president early the next week. [How and when was this decision made?] [But this meeting ended up happening “over the weekend”: Saturday 1/2/21, Sunday 1/3/21]

01/01/2021 and/or 2 — Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund confers with D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III, who offered to lend a hand if trouble arose.

01/02/2021 — “Roughly a dozen Republican senators are in talks to join Missouri Senator Josh Hawley in objecting to the electoral college results when congress meets Wednesday, according to multiple Republican sources familiar with the ongoing talks.”
[see https://twitter.com/johnkruzel/status/1349198860573421568]

01/02/2021 — Trump along with on the call were WH Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, attorney Cleta Mitchell calls Georgia’s secretary of state Brad Raffensperger and the GA legal counsel Ryan Germany, pressuring him to “find 11,780 votes” in order to change the outcome of Georgia’s election. Raffensperger and Germany refute Trump’s claims he won GA’s election.

01/02/2021 and/or 01/03/2021 — [Date(s) TBD] Clark meets with Trump.

01/03/2021 — 8:57 AM – Trump tweets about the call to GA-SoS Raffensperger. Raffensperger tweets a reply, saying, “Respectfully, President Trump: What you’re saying is not true.”

01/03/2021 — Midday [time TBD] Clark informs Rosen that he had met with Trump and that the president intended to replace him with Clark, who could then try to stop Congress from certifying the Electoral College results. He says that Rosen could stay on as his deputy attorney general. Rosen insisted on talking with Trump.

01/03/2021 — Early afternoon – The Washington Post releases a story along with a roughly one-hour-long audio recording of Trump’s conversation with Raffensperger the previous evening.

01/03/2021 — Afternoon – Rosen works with Cipollone, to convene a meeting with Trump for early that evening.

01/03/2021 — Later afternoon – Donoghue convenes a call with the department’s remaining senior leaders, laying out Clark’s efforts to replace Rosen. Should  Rosen be fired, they all agreed to resign en masse.

01/03/2021 — 6PM – 9PM White House meeting convened with Trump, Rosen, Donoghue, Clark, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, Deputy Counsel Pat Philbin, Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel Steve Engel, “and other lawyers.”

01/04/2021 — Sund called House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving and Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger to ask for permission to request that the National Guard be put on emergency standby. Irving didn’t like the idea, Sund said; he said it would look bad because it would communicate that they presumed an emergency. He said he’d have to ask House leaders. [DID HE ASK PELOSI?] [Questionable if that was necessary. See 1:15 PM, 1/6/21]

01/04/2021 — Following Stenger’s advice, Sund calls Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, the head of the 1,000-member D.C. National Guard, to tell him that he might call on him for help. Walker says he thought he could send 125 personnel fairly quickly.

01/05/2021 — Sund [said he] briefed Irving and Stenger, who said that backup seemed sufficient.

01/05/2021 — More than 100 representatives from Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Georgia asked for at least 10 more days, so they could investigate and then vote on the election in their state legislatures. The two-page letter with more than 60 pages of attachments was sent to Pence to purportedly show “the illegalities present in the 2020 election” and provide “evidence of a coordinated and structured multi-state effort to undermine state law protecting election integrity.”
[see https://wisconsinexaminer.com/2021/01/14/these-15-state-legislators-asked-pence-not-to-certify-election-results/]

01/05/2021 — Capitol Building CCTV feeds showed Reps. Louie Gohmert R-TX, Jim Jordan R-OH, Matt Gaetz R-FL, Lauren Boebert R-CO, Marjorie Taylor Greene R-GA, Paul Gosar R-AZ, Andy Biggs R-AZ were involved in giving ‘reconnaissance’ tours to groups 1/5.
[Disclosed on 01/13/2021 via https://twitter.com/FrankSowa1/status/1349574338060685312]  Claim regarding CCTV not verified. Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) later shared via Facebook live broadcast that she had seen “members of Congress who had groups coming through the Capitol that I saw on January 5th as a reconnaissance for the next day”; she and 33 other House Dems later requested an investigation into these tour(s). 

01/05/2021 — Georgia’s U.S. Attorney Bjay Pak resigned unexpectedly. A “Never-Trumper” U.S. Attorney was mentioned but not named in Trump’s phone call to Georgia’s SoS Raffensperger on January 2; it’s believed Pak was the subject.

01/05/2021 — VP Pence tells Trump he doesn’t have the authority to overturn election results. Trump rejects this. (This needs to be validated as perspectives in multiple outlets are sourced to NYT’s Haberman.)

—————

01/06/2021 — Day of Capitol Building insurrection

TBD — Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) was photographed at the Women for America First event during the rally in front of the White House. [Exact time TBD; unclear how and when she gets to the Capitol Building ahead of the rioters.]

Just before 12 PM — Sund was monitoring Trump’s speech to the crowd on the Ellipse when he was called away by reports of two pipe bombs — near the Capitol grounds.

12:40 PM — The first wave of rioters arrived at the Capitol Building roughly 40 minutes after Trump had begun speaking at the Ellipse.

1:00 PM — Sund called Contee, who sent 100 District of Columbia (DCPD) police officers to the scene

1:09 PM — Sund [said he] called Irving and Stenger, telling them it was time to call in the Guard.

He wanted an emergency declaration. Both men said they would “run it up the chain” and get back to him, he said. [Questionable if that was necessary. See 1:15 PM, 1/6/21] // Sund said he called Irving twice more and Stenger once to check on their progress.

1:10 PM — Some officers arrive from DCPD.

[1:15 PM?] — [Minutes later] aides to the top congressional leaders were called to Stenger’s office for an update on the situation — and were infuriated to learn that the sergeants at arms had not yet called in the National Guard or any other reinforcements, as was their responsibility to do without seeking approval from leaders.

1:50 PM — Sund called Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, the head of the 1,000-member D.C. National Guard to tell him to get ready to bring the Guard.

1:59 PM — The Capitol Building was breached. D.C. police had hundreds of officers on the scene.

2:10 PM — Irving called back with formal approval. By then, plainclothes Capitol Police agents were barricading the door to the Speaker’s Lobby just off the House chamber to keep the marauders from charging in.

2:10 PM (est.)Rudy Giuliani Trump called Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) around this time, before senators were evacuated, but reached Sen. Mike Lee’s (R-UT) phone. Lee handed his cell phone to Tuberville who spoke with Giuliani Trump briefly.

2:13 PM — Vice President Pence was escorted off the Senate floor. Sen. Charles E. Grassley begins presiding, but almost immediately calls a recess.

2:15 PM — Senate sealed. [WaPo]

2:17 PM — [Boebert tweets] We were locked in the House Chambers

2:18 PM — [Boebert tweets] The Speaker has been removed from the chambers.

2:XX PM — Exact time TBD – Rep. Ayanna Pressley and staff notice the panic button for her office had been removed without any notice. The button had been functional and used previously.

2:20 PM — Capitol was on lockdown. [NOTE: I have to find a cite for this]

2:21 PM — Jim Acosta from CNN tweets (link to tweet needed):

“A source close to the White House who is in touch with some of the rioters at the Capitol said it’s the goal of those involved to stay inside the Capitol through the night.”

2:22 PM — Capitol Police chief Sund requests National Guard support.

2:23 PM — A dense group of protestors rioters* has shattered the windows of the Capitol. We can hear roaring chants of “USA” outside. [VIDEO]

2:24 PM — [TRUMP TWEETS about PENCE / ECHOES CROWD: “USA”]

CROWD: ‘Where is Pence? Find Pence!’ ” and also “Fight for Trump!” [NYT]

2:26 PM — CONFERENCE CALL organized by D.C’s homeland security director, Chris Rodriguez. Among those on the screen were the District’s police chief, [D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III] mayor [Bowser] and Walker. [head of the 1,000-member D.C. National Guard]

3:04 PM — [DOD said] Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller verbally authorized the activation of the entire D.C. Guard

3:45 PM — Stenger told Sund that he would ask his boss, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), for help getting the National Guard authorized more quickly. Sund never learned the result.

More of Contee’s officers had arrived and were helping remove rioters from the grounds. Capitol Police worked with other federal authorities, including the Secret Service, the Park Police and the FBI, to secure lawmakers, eject rioters and sweep the building so lawmakers could return to finish counting the electoral college votes that would allow them to formally recognize Biden’s victory later that night.

5:40PM — First National Guard personnel arrive at the Capitol.

About 7:00 PM — Rudy Giuliani leaves a voicemail message for Sen. Tuberville but on a senator’s phone.

[RUDY:] “We need you, our Republican friends, to try to just slow it down so we can get these legislatures to get more information to you.”
“If you could object to every state and, along with a congressman, get a hearing for every state, I know we would delay you a lot, but it would give us the opportunity to get the legislators who are very, very close to pulling their vote.”

After 8:00 PM — Congress reconvenes and completes certification of the election.

—————

01/13/2021 — Trump tells staff not to pay any more of Giuliani’s legal fees (unclear if this is campaign, Trump org, or White House staff, or all of the above).

01/15/2021 — MyPillow CEO Michael Lindell has a meeting in the afternoon at White House; his notes are caught on camera.

7 NOW as Acting National Security
8 him with getting the evidence of ALL the
9 as the election and all information regarding
10 people he knows who already have security
11 done massive research on these issues
12 Fort Mead. He is an attorney with Cyber-
13 and is up to speed on election issues.
14
15 [insurrection?] Act now as a result of the assault on the
16 marial law if necessary upon the first hint of any
17
18
19 Sidney Powell, Bill Olsen, Kurt Olsen.
20 Move Kash Patel to CIA Acting.
21
22 up Foreign Interference in the election. Trigger
23 powers. Make clear this is China/Iran
24 used domestic actors. Instruct Frank
25 evidence on [—–] the [—-]broad
26 account [————–]-ary
27 the line [—————] evidence
28 caus [——————-] attorney

01/16/2021 — WaPo: Acting Defense Secretary Orders NSA director to immediately install former GOP operative as agency’s top lawyer

01/17/2021 — The NSA is ‘moving forward’ to install Michael Ellis, a former GOP operative, as its top lawyer
[see https://twitter.com/nakashimae/status/1350855207270445059]

01/20/2021 — Ellis placed on leave pending an investigation.

“He will remain on administrative leave while his hiring is investigated by the Pentagon’s inspector general.”

~ ~ ~

What seemed random a week or more ago looks much less so today. If you have any item you believe is relevant to this developing timeline, please feel free to share in comments.

NOTE: Please restrict comments in this thread to content germane to this timeline. Thanks.

~ ~ ~

UPDATE-1 — 11:45 AM 23-JAN-2021 —

  • Corrections made re: first known phone call to Tuberville – call was from Trump, not Giuliani, who made the second call left on a senator’s voicemail.
  • Strike claim about CCTV of Capitol Building tours on January 5, add Rep. Mikie Sherrill’s observation of tours that day along with House Dems’ request for investigation into the tours.
  • Added Trump’s 12/12/2020 tweet and Proud Boy Enrique Tarrio’s visit to White House same day.
  • Added link to Philadelphia Inquirer story about 11/25/2020 hearing.

~ ~ ~

UPDATE-2 — 2:15 PM 23-JAN-2021 —

  • 01/06/2021 2:21 PM tweet by CNN’s Acosta added
  • 01/20/2021 Michael Ellis’s change in status added

~ ~ ~

UPDATE-3 — 5:40 PM 25-JAN-2021 —

* Once they are engaged in destruction they are no longer protesters but rioters.

Added these items, tweaked others:

  • 11/17/2020 Michigan election officials certified the state’s election.
  • 11/18/2020 Trump tweets that Michigan can’t certify its election because of voter fraud.
  • 11/17/2020-11/18/2020Details about Michigan’s election certification and GOP officials attempt unsuccessfully to rescind their certification of the state’s election.
  • 12/08/2020-12/11/2020  Filing and dismissal of Texas lawsuit before SCOTUS.
  • 12/31/2020-01/01/2021 Rep. Gohmert’s Hail Mary lawsuit filed and tossed.
  • 01/06/2021 Rep. Pressley’s panic button discovered missing.
  • 01/02/2021-01/03/2021 More details about Trump’s call to Georgia secretary of state Raffensperger added.
  • 01/13/2021  Trump wants to stiff Rudy.

Triage and Impeachment: Prioritize a Legitimate Criminal Investigation into the Wider Plot over Impeachment

I want to talk about triage in the wake of the terrorist attack on Wednesday as it affects consideration of how to hold Trump accountable for his role in it.

First, some dates:

If Mike Pence were to invoke the 25th Amendment (with the approval of a bunch of Trump’s cabinet members), it could go into effect immediately for at least four days. Trump can challenge his determination, but if the same cabinet members hold with Pence, then Trump’s disqualification remains in place for 21 more days, enough to get through Joe Biden’s inauguration.

Both the House and Senate are not in session, and can’t deviate from the existing schedule without unanimous consent, meaning Mo Brooks in the House or Josh Hawley in the Senate could single-handedly prevent any business.

Because of that, impeachment in the House can’t be started until tomorrow. Right now, Pelosi is using the threat of impeachment as leverage to try to get Pence to act (or Trump to resign, though he won’t). If that doesn’t work, then the House seems prepared to move on a single article of impeachment tied to Trump’s attempts to cheat and his incitement of the insurrection. Pelosi won’t move forward on it until she’s sure it has the votes to succeed.

Even assuming a majority of the House votes to impeach Trump, that will have no impact on his authority to pardon co-conspirators, and he’ll surely attempt to pardon himself, one way or another. Because of Wednesday’s events, he will be doing that without the assistance of Pat Cipollone, which means he’s much more likely to make his plight worse.

Impeaching this week would, however, force Republicans to cast votes before it is clear how the post-insurrection politics will work out (indeed, while Trump still has the power of the Presidency). Significantly, a number of incoming members are angry that Kevin McCarthy advised them to support the insurrection. The vote may be as much an attempt to undo complicity with Wednesday’s actions as it is anything else. Done right, impeachment may exacerbate the fractures in the GOP; done wrong, it could have the opposite effect.

If the House does impeach, then the Senate will not — barring a change of heart from Hawley and everyone else who was still willing to be part of this insurrection — take up the impeachment until January 19 (the parliamentarian has already ruled on this point). That means, the trial for impeachment either happens in Joe Biden’s first week in office, or the House holds off on sending the article of impeachment over to the Senate until Chuck Schumer deems it a worthwhile time. He can also opt to have a committee consider it, calling witnesses and accruing evidence, which will provide the Senate (where there are more Republicans aiming to distance from Trump) a way to further elaborate Trump’s role in the terrorism.

Meanwhile, by losing all access to social media except Parler and with Amazon’s decision yesterday to stop hosting Parler (which will mean it’ll stay down at least a week, until January 17), Trump’s primary mouthpieces have been shut down. There’s reason to believe that the more sophisticated insurrectionists have moved onto more secure platforms like chat rooms and Signal. While that’ll pose some challenges for law enforcement trying to prevent follow-on attacks on January 17, 19, or 20, being on such less accessible platforms will limit their ability to mobilize the kinds of masses that came out on Wednesday. Trump has lost one of the most important weapons he can wield without demanding clearly criminal behavior from others. That said, the urgency of preventing those sophisticated plotters — and a good chunk of these people have military training — from engaging in more targeted strikes needs to be a priority.

But Trump is still President, with his hand on the nuclear codes, and in charge of the chain of command that goes through a bunch of Devin Nunes flunkies at DOD. Nancy Pelosi called Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mark Milley and come away with assurances that Trump won’t be able to deploy nukes.

Preventing an Unhinged President From Using the Nuclear Codes: This morning, I spoke to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley to discuss available precautions for preventing an unstable president from initiating military hostilities or accessing the launch codes and ordering a nuclear strike. The situation of this unhinged President could not be more dangerous, and we must do everything that we can to protect the American people from his unbalanced assault on our country and our democracy.

Nevertheless that still leaves Trump in charge of the vast federal bureaucracy, which has been emptied out and the filled back up with people who could pass Johnny McEntee’s loyalty oaths to Trump.

Because this is where we’re at, I have argued that there needs to be a higher priority on getting at least Biden’s operational nominees, along with Merrick Garland, confirmed over impeaching Trump — yet — in the Senate.

We have not yet heard why DOD and DHS and the FBI — on top of the Capitol Police — failed to prevent the terrorist attack on Wednesday (I’ll have more to say about this later). It will take a year to sort out all the conflicting claims. But as we attempt, via reporting, via oversight in Congress (including impeachment), and via a criminal investigation to figure that out, those same people who failed to prevent the attack remain in place. Indeed, most of these entities have offered little to no explanation for why they failed, which is a bad sign.

Because of that, I think Biden needs to prioritize getting at least Garland and Lisa Monaco confirmed as Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General at DOJ, along with a new Acting US Attorney for DC, as soon as possible. I have two specific concerns. First, while FBI has generally been good at policing white supremacists in recent months, they failed miserably here, when it mattered most. One effect of retaliating against anyone who investigated Trump for his “collusion” with Russia has been to install people who were either Trump loyalists or really skilled at avoiding any slight to Trump. Indeed, one of the most charitable possible excuses for FBI’s delayed response is that after years of badgering, otherwise reasonable people were loathe to get involved in something that Trump defined as an election issue.

I have more specific concerns about the DC US Attorney’s office. Michael Sherwin, who has been less awful as Acting US Attorney than Timothy Shea, originally said on the record all options in the investigation that will be led out of his office were on the table, including incitement by Trump. But then someone said off the record that Trump was not a focus of the investigation. I suspect that person is Ken Kohl, who as Acting First Assistant US Attorney is in charge of the investigation and has been cited in other announcements about the investigation.

Ken Kohl at least oversaw, if not participated in, the alteration of documents to help Trump get elected. I’ve been told he’s got a long history of being both corrupt and less than competent. The decisions he will oversee in upcoming weeks could have the effect of giving people the opportunity to destroy evidence that lays out a much broader conspiracy, all while rolling out showy charges against people who were so stupid they took selfies of themselves committing crimes. We want this investigation to go beyond a slew of trespassing charges to incorporate the actual plotting that made this attack possible. It’s not clear Kohl will do that.

Even assuming that people currently in DOJ are willing to collect evidence implicating Trump, short of having a confirmed Attorney General overseeing such decisions, we’re back in the same situation Andrew McCabe was in on May 10, 2017, an Acting official trying to decide what to do in the immediate aftermath of a Trump crime. Trump’s backers have exploited the fact that McCabe made the right choices albeit in urgent conditions, and they’ve done so with the willing participation of some of the people — notably, FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich — who are currently in charge of this investigation.

I’m happy to entertain a range of possible courses going forward, so long as all of them involve holding Trump accountable to the utmost degree possible. I assume Nancy Pelosi, whatever else she’ll be doing, will also be counting the votes to understand precisely what is possible, given the schedule.

But I also know that I’d far rather have Trump and those he directly conspired with criminally charged than have an impeachment delay the thorough fumigation of a government riddled with people who may have had a role in this plot. And that’s not going to happen if the investigation is scoped in such a way in the days ahead to rule out his involvement.

Update: Here’s a much-cited interview with Michael Sherwin. He adopts all the right language (pointedly disavowing labels of sedition or coup, saying he’s just looking at crimes) and repeats his statement that if there’s evidence Trump is involved he’ll be investigated.

On Thursday you were quoted saying the conduct of “all actors” would be examined, which was interpreted to mean President Trump might face charges. Is that what you meant — the man who gave the speech at the start of the day could be looking at charges?

Look, I meant what I said before. In any criminal investigation, I don’t care if it’s a drug trafficking conspiracy case, a human trafficking case or the Capitol — all persons will be looked at, OK? If the evidence is there, great. If it’s not, you move on. But we follow the evidence. If the evidence leads to any actor that may have had a role in this and if that evidence meets the four corners of a federal charge or a local charge, we’re going to pursue it.

Update: This story describes how a senior McConnell aide called Bill Barr’s Chief of Staff who called David Bowdich who then deployed three quick reaction teams in response.

The senior McConnell adviser reached a former law firm colleague who had just left the Justice Department: Will Levi, who had served as Attorney General William P. Barr’s chief of staff.

They needed help — now, he told Levi.

From his home, Levi immediately called FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich, who was in the command center in the FBI’s Washington Field Office.

Capitol police had lost control of the building, Levi told Bowdich.

The FBI official had been hearing radio traffic of aggressive protesters pushing through the perimeter, but Levi said it had gone even further: The mob had already crashed the gates and lives were at risk.

Capitol police had said previously they didn’t need help, but Bowdich decided he couldn’t wait for a formal invitation.

He dispatched the first of three tactical teams, including one from the Washington field office to secure the safety of U.S. senators and provide whatever aid they could. He instructed two more SWAT teams to follow, including one that raced from Baltimore.

These teams typically gather at a staging area off-site to coordinate and plan, and then rush together to the area where they are needed. Bowdich told their commander there was no time.

“Get their asses over there. Go now,” he said to the first team’s commander. “We don’t have time to huddle.”

Not explained: why Bowdich was watching protestors get through the perimeter without deploying teams on his own. Again, I’m not saying he was complicit. I’m saying he has spent the last four years by letting Trump’s claims about politicization direct the Bureau, and can see how that habit might have led to a delayed response here.

Second Impeachment Ahead: Articles Have Been Drafted [UPDATE-3]

[NB: Update(s) at the bottom of this post. /~Rayne]

Representatives David Cicilline, Ted Lieu, and Jamie Raskin have drafted articles of impeachment against Trump which are now circulating among House members.

Here’s a transcript:

         Resolved, That Donald John Trump, President of the
United States, is impeached for high crimes and mis-
demeanors and that the following articles of impeachment
be exhibited to the United States Senate.

Article of impeachment exhibited by the House of
Representatives of the United States of America in the
name of itself and of the people of the United States of
America, against Donald John Trump, President of the
United States of America, in maintenance and support of
its impeachment against him for high crimes and mis-
demeanors.

ARTICLE I: ABUSE OF POWER

          The Constitution provides that the House of Rep-
resentatives “shall have the sole Power of Impeachment”
and that the President “shall be removed from Office on
Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or
other high Crimes and Misdemeanors”. In his conduct of
the office of President of the United States—and in viola-
tion of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the of-
fice of President of the United States and, to the best of
his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution
of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional
duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed—
Donald J. Trump engaged in high Crimes and Mis-
demeanors by willfully inciting violence against the Gov-
ernment of the United States, in that:

On January 6, 2021, pursuant to the Twelfth
Amendment of the United States Constitution, the Vice
President of the United States, the House of Representa-
tives, and the Senate met at the United States Capitol
for a Joint Session of Congress to count the votes of the
Electoral College. Shortly before the Joint Session com-
menced, President Trump addressed a crowd of his polit-
ical supporters nearby. There, he reiterated false claims
that “we won this election, and we won it by a landslide”.
He also willfully made statements that encouraged—and
foreseeably resulted in—imminent lawless action at the
Capitol. Incited by President Trump, a mob unlawfully
breached the Capitol, injured law enforcement personnel,
menaced Members of Congress and the Vice President,
interfered with the Joint Session’s solemn constitutional
duty to certify the election results, and engaged in violent,
deadly, destructive, and seditious acts.

President Trump’s conduct on January 6m 2021 was
consistent with his prior efforts to subvert and obstruct
the certification of the results of the 2020 presidential
election. Those prior efforts include, but are not limited
to, a phone call on January 2, 2021, in which President
Trump urged Georgia Secretary of State Brad
Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn the
Georgia presidential election results and threatened Mr.
Raffensperger if he failed to do so.

In all of this, President Trump gravely endangered
the security of the United States and its institutions of
government. He threatened the integrity of the democratic
system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power,
and imperiled a coordinate branch of government. He
thereby betrayed his trust as President, to the manifest
injury of the people of the United States.

Wherefore President Trump, by such conduct, has
demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national se-
curity, democracy, and the Constitution if allowed to re-
main in office, and has acted in a manner grossly incom-
patible with self-governance and the rule of law. President
Trump thus warrants impeachment and trial, removal
from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any of-
fice of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.

It’s narrow in scope, doesn’t require investigation and subsequent hearings, because the act of incitement occurred in public and was recorded on video, distributed over broadcast and cable television as well as the internet.

The inclusion of the phone call to Georgia’s Secretary of State illustrates in most minimal fashion a pattern of behavior and intent.

These articles aren’t the only approach being taken to remove Trump. Earlier today both Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi called VP Mike Pence to ask for the invocation of the 25th Amendment:

They’ve since made public statements reiterating their demand for the 25th Amendment, and for impeachment leading to removal if the 25th isn’t invoked.

NBC reported earlier that Trump is fragile and feeling betrayed:

Fuck that. Trump is not the United States; Congress is not elected to fluff one delicate snowflake’s dementia-addled ego.

The United States, however, is now fragile, made so by the gross failings of a malignant narcissist in decline, who has spawned an attack on his own country with seditious incitement.

It’s time for Mike Pence to honor his oath to defend the Constitution by invoking the 25th Amendment.

If Pence should fail the republic yet again, it’s time for Congress to impeach, convict, and remove Trump before he does any further damage to this fragile democracy.

~ ~ ~

UPDATE-1 — 8:20 PM ET —

This is not good. It’s been wholly predictable to those who’ve assumed Trump suffers from a progressive neurological disorder like frontotemporal dementia on top of his malignant narcissism — but still not good.

It’s also increasingly urgent.

We need to hold Trump’s cabinet members accountable — including the “principal officers” of departments like the Acting Director in cases where the Director has left the government — for not demanding the invocation of the 25th Amendment. Pence may be resisting invocation but he’s not the only person responsible for its application and execution.

And if Pence and the cabinet aren’t going to address this, then it’s up to Congress to remove Trump from the ability to hurt this country.

All of them — Pence, the cabinet members and principal officers, members of Congress — have sworn an oath to the Constitution. It’s time to protect and defend it by removing Trump from office immediately.

Call your representative and ask them to support articles of impeachment because Trump has incited seditious behavior against the U.S. and he is acting increasingly unstable.

Call your senators and ask them to convict and remove Trump from office upon the presentation of the articles of impeachment from the House because Trump has incited seditious behavior against the U.S. and he is acting increasingly unstable.

Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121 — or use Resist.bot.

Time’s of the essence. Go. Leave word in comments if you’d care to share your experience.

~ ~ ~

UPDATE-2 — 10:42 PM ET —

Update on status of impeachment:

House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler supports impeachment and wants it to go directly to the House floor:

Head count is mounting.

The number 200 without context means doodley squat. We need two very specific numbers.

We need 218 House votes, or one more than half of 435. (This may be lower because there are two seats still open IIRC.)

We need 67 Senate votes, or two-thirds of the total 100 seats.

If you manage to reach your representative or senators, ask where they stand on impeaching Trump. Then ask them to support it if they don’t, or thank them if they do.

I hope we have the numbers by morning. What could go wrong the longer Congress drags its feet is incalculable.

~ ~ ~

UPDATE-3 — 12:52 AM ET 08-JAN-2021 —

Two cabinet members, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, have tendered their resignations. Chao’s exit is effective January 11; I haven’t checked DeVos’s exit date. Her resignation could have been effective immediately. Former White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney resigned from his role as Special Envoy for Northern Ireland. Four national security aides quit.

A police officer has died of injuries sustained during the Capitol Building riot. That’s more dead police than the entirety of George Floyd/BLM protests during the summer of 2020.

A family member acknowledged the death of a 34-year-old woman who participated in the Capitol Building riot but was crushed to death. She was likely one of the three accidental deaths tallied so far.

Displeased cabinet and staff members, dead police and mob member…not good, but there was something worse afoot.

Read this entire Twitter thread. And then recall the conspiracy against Michigan’s Gov. Whitmer.

Several accounts on Twitter have noted the rioters could be sorted into two groups: the tourist mob who did sightseeing and some vandalism, and some crypto-paramilitary persons who were prepared to do more than simply take selfies and smash furniture. They came armed with knives and zip ties and may have had more weapons on their persons. They were better masked than most of the tourist rioters.

There have been videos shared which appear to show Capitol Police actively encouraging the mob. Off-duty officers may not only have participated in the rioting but aided the paramilitary participants.

And there have been repeated remarks about coming back on the 19th — “I’d do it again, and I’d have a gas mask next time.

We should not forget there were two IEDs found, one at each of the RNC and DNC offices, as well as a suspicious vehicle which has been characterized as mobile bomb factory.

There were elements inside the rioters who wanted to do more damage and possibly seize and hurt members of Congress along with VP Pence.

We don’t know if they left any preparatory materials behind or whether law enforcement did an adequate sweep considering how poorly prepared they were for the breach of the Capitol Building by rioters.

Trump must be impeached before he can encourage worse. His statement this evening suggests he is willing to encourage more seditious acts, like those at statehouses across the country yesterday while a mob rioted inside the Capitol Building.

A Mike Pence Pardon of Trump for Flynn’s Pardon Would Obstruct the Mueller Investigation

Because of the way the Mike Flynn pardon is written (who wrote it, given that Bill Barr has said this kind of pardon would be a crime, remains a very interesting question), it makes it clear its goal is to make all consequences for Flynn associated with the Mueller investigation to just go away. Poof! It purports to pardon Flynn for any fact known to Mueller’s investigation and anything associated with Judge Emmet Sullivan’s docket.

Not only does the pardon raise vagueness problems (and attempts to pardon future crimes), but it makes it crystal clear that it is an attempt to invalidate the entire Mueller investigation.

That makes it all the more clear it is an attempt to obstruct that investigation and all subsidiary investigations that arose from it. It is an attempt to use Presidential power to ensure that no special counsel can investigate the President and have criminal charges associated with it stick. Joe Biden’s DOJ could easily incorporate this pardon into the obstruction charge that Mueller prepared, with the benefit of yet another new act that Barr did not consider in his (legally suspect) declination for Trump.

That means that if Mike Pence were to pardon Trump for actions that included this pardon, he would then be obstructing the Mueller and associated investigation. Trump’s legal jeopardy would become Pence’s. Mike Pence, who got through the entire Mueller investigation without any personal exposure, would finally be left holding the bag for at least a subset of the crimes identified by it and committed to cover it up.

Which is why I’m interested in the focus of this Carol Lee piece on Flynn. While it relies on interviews with 20 people involved, it doesn’t even cover the full scope of the public documents relating to Flynn’s actions, and in substantial part simply narrativizes what’s in the Mueller Report. Of particular note, it doesn’t mention the evidence that certain members of the Transition were fully briefed on Flynn’s actions, while others (like Pence, but also Tom Bossert) were not. It doesn’t mention how the White House scripted Steve Bannon to claim sanctions weren’t discussed at Mar-a-Lago. It doesn’t mention that Flynn told Russia Trump knew of his calls and that Flynn made the first one while with Trump.

Where it breaks new ground is its focus on Pence. Pence is mentioned 47 times, including a quote from someone describing his reaction to discovering he had been lied to. The most important new ground pertains to how Trump tried to make Pence responsible for firing Flynn, and how Pence deferred the decision to Trump.

One of the president’s top aides thought Trump was trying to shift the burden of deciding whether to fire Flynn onto Pence when he said: “Mike, he disappointed you. He let you down.” Flynn had apologized privately to Pence who wasn’t happy with him. Still, Pence told Trump he’d support whatever decision he made.

The purported reason for firing Flynn was that he lied to Pence (the real reason is that Trump was hoping to stave off any investigation into himself).

And yet, even in a story that focuses closely on Pence (and describes him smoldering while reading the Flynn transcripts), it claims that Pence played no part in this story (while stopping short of stating that he or his Chief of Staff Nick Ayers and his aide Marc Lotter, the latter two of whom are named, had no part in it).

Vice President Mike Pence has so far been silent about the pardon.

[snip]

The White House and Pence’s office had no comment.

[snip]

Trump never said publicly or privately that Flynn had lied to him. Just to Pence, and, in a tweet in December 2017, the FBI.

Here’s the thing. Not only would pardoning Trump for this pardon for the first time give Pence criminal exposure in the Mueller and subsequent investigations. But because Pence was left out of the loop of what was really going on with Russia during the Transition and afterwards — the back channels, the efforts to undermine sanctions, yet more back channels — he would have no idea what he was serving to cover up by pardoning Trump.

I find Pence’s silence in this very noisy NBC piece to be quite intriguing.

Four Things Judge Emmet Sullivan Should Do in the Wake of Flynn’s Pardon

As I noted, Trump attempted to be expansive with his pardon of Mike Flynn. He failed. I think the chances that Flynn does prison time are almost as high today as they were last week.

And while I think there is absolutely nothing defective in the pardon that Trump signed and while I’m certain that Judge Sullivan will honor that pardon (though DOJ is asking him to dismiss the charges with prejudice; Sullivan should dismiss them without prejudice), there are four things that Sullivan has the means of doing to raise the cost of Trump’s pardon. Those are:

  • Make Trump name Flynn’s crimes
  • Establish a record about whether Flynn or Sidney Powell traded electoral assistance for this pardon
  • Force DOJ to explain what went into the altered documents
  • Identify who wrote the pardon

Make Trump name Flynn’s crimes

While whoever wrote this pardon tried (but failed) to make it comprehensive, it only names one of Flynn’s crimes: false statements (indeed, that’s the only crime that DOJ lists for the pardon on its website).

But by moving to withdraw his plea, Flynn put his other crimes before Judge Sullivan. So Sullivan has every right to inquire whether this pardon includes all of Flynn’s crimes. He could issue an order for Trump to come before him to answer whether the pardon forgives Flynn for:

  • His lies about what he said to Sergey Kislyak during the transition
  • Serving as an undisclosed Foreign Agent for Turkey
  • Lying about serving as an undisclosed Foreign Agent for Turkey
  • Conspiring with others to hide that he was an undisclosed Foreign Agent of Turkey
  • Lying about his own guilt and the circumstances surrounding his guilty pleas
  • Lying about lying to Flynn’s Covington lawyers

The answer to all those questions is yes. Trump does mean to pardon Mike Flynn for secretly working for Turkey while getting classified briefings. Trump does mean to pardon Flynn for lying to Sullivan (and he does know that Flynn did lie to Sullivan). Sullivan has a need to know that explicitly and he should get Trump on the record.

Trump won’t show, of course.

Until he is made to, after January 20th.

Note, I’d also make Trump state, under oath, when he signed the pardon. It is dated with Wednesday’s date, but I highly doubt that DOJ had it written by then. If Trump signed it after having lunch with Mike Pence yesterday, it’s possible that Trump didn’t write it this broadly until broaching a pardon for himself with Pence.

Establish a record about whether Flynn or Sidney Powell traded electoral assistance for this pardon

Judge Sullivan also has reason to want to know if someone offered Trump something of value for this pardon. He has evidence they did — in the altered documents designed to serve as a campaign attack on Joe Biden. And the news is full of evidence that Sidney Powell may have offered further benefit, in her efforts to challenge Trump’s election loss.

Sullivan should put both Flynn and Powell under oath and require that they confirm or deny whether they have offered favors to Trump for the pardon.

They won’t show, of course.

Until they are made to, after January 20th.

None of this would invalidate the pardon, of course. But if Trump got some other benefit from Flynn’s lies that went into this pardon, especially efforts to undermine a legal election, then the Attorneys General in those states that already investigating Trump’s efforts to steal the election would have reason to want to know that, and Sullivan has the means to get them under oath to do that.

Force DOJ to explain what went into the altered documents

People at both FBI and DOJ altered documents submitted in Sullivan’s court, the FBI by adding false dates to exhibits and DOJ by redacting footers indicating that the documents were covered by the protective order. Sullivan has reason to ask how that happened and who was involved in the effort.

Even if Trump pardoned everyone involved, there would still be a means for Sullivan to punish most of those involved, because most of those involved have law licenses and can be disbarred.

Sullivan should schedule a hearing — no need to rush, he might as well schedule it for January 26, after everyone involved gets a COVID shot — to ask the following people if they had a role in altering the documents (or eliciting a corrupt interview with Bill Barnett):

  • AUSA Jocelyn Ballantine
  • AUSA Sayler Fleming
  • AUSA Ken Kohl
  • US Attorney Jeffrey Jensen
  • FBI Executive Assistant Director John Brown
  • FBI Agent Keith Kohne
  • Acting DEA Administrator Timothy Shea
  • AG Bill Barr
  • DAG Jeffrey Rosen

Again, most of these people have law licenses that Sullivan could put at issue, and he has good reason to want to hold someone accountable for altering documents in his court.

These people won’t want to show. But after January 20th, they may have no way of avoiding it.

Identify who wrote the pardon

In his confirmation hearing, Bill Barr said that pardoning someone for giving false testimony would be a crime. Trump just committed that crime. Whatever lawyer wrote up the pardon language — whether it’s Barr or White House Counsel Pat Cipollone — just conspired to commit a crime.

Judge Sullivan should identify everyone who had a role.

[Fourth item added after the original post.]

Trump Pardons an Undisclosed Agent of Turkey Along with a Thanksgiving Bird

Update: Trump has indeed pardoned the Agent of Turkey along with a farmyard turkey.

The significance of this, however, will depend on the wording of the pardon. 

At least three outlets (CNN, Axios, NYT) have reported the entirely unsurprising news that Trump is considering pardoning admitted liar and undisclosed Agent of Turkey, Mike Flynn. Only the NYT provides a reasonable account of what has happened since DOJ moved to dismiss the case, and only after repeating Trump’s false claims about the investigation.

None of the outlets reviewed how complex successfully pardoning Flynn will be, without making Trump’s — or Flynn’s son’s — fate worse. That’s true because the posture of the Flynn case before Judge Emmet Sullivan is such that Sullivan has multiple possible options for holding Flynn accountable, depending on when Sullivan moves and when Trump does.

If Trump pardoned Flynn for the crimes to which Flynn pled guilty, false statements, today, a Foreign Agent of Turkey pardoned right alongside a Thanksgiving turkey — then DOJ’s motion to dismiss the prosecution for Flynn’s false statements charges would likely be mooted. But there’s still a pending motion to withdraw Flynn’s plea before Judge Sullivan, which by itself mooted DOJ’s promises not to prosecute Flynn for hiding that he was working for the government of Turkey rather than just a foreign business in a FARA filing in March 2017. Plus, when Flynn pled, it was understood that would end the investigation, but given that he reneged on his plea, there’s nothing stopping DOJ from investigating Mike Jr for his involvement with Turkey, if Flynn were pardoned.

So to get Flynn out of immediate legal jeopardy, Trump would need to pardon Flynn for crimes to which he pled guilty — the false statements to hide Trump’s involvement in “colluding” with Russian to undermine US policy — but also the crime to which Flynn didn’t plead guilty, hiding that he was an Agent of Turkey while getting classified briefings during the 2016 campaign. That’s all the more true given that DOJ’s appeal of the Bijan Kian case is still unresolved (it is scheduled for oral argument on December 11), and trying Kian along with Mike Flynn, charged as a co-conspirator, would eliminate many of the legal difficulties from the first trial.

Trump might even have to pardon Flynn Jr.

But that’s still not adequate. Flynn made multiple materially conflicting statements before Judge Sullivan and the grand jury. When directing amicus John Gleeson on what he should consider, Sullivan asked whether he should hold Flynn in contempt. Gleeson said that, instead, he should consider those additional lies when sentencing him on the charged crimes. DOJ argued that Sullivan should, instead, refer the charges to DOJ. Even if Sullivan referred those charges today and Bill Barr declined prosecution (as DOJ made clear in hearings they would), Biden’s DOJ could reopen the case. So to get Flynn out of trouble for his efforts to blow up his own prosecution, Trump would have to pardon those crimes as well. But if Trump pardoned Flynn today, Sullivan could wait and ultimately hold Flynn in contempt; while Trump succeeded in freeing Joe Arpaio of criminal contempt with a pardon, it’s not clear whether that could work preemptively.

Assuming Trump does pardon Flynn for some or all of these crimes, it would add several overt actions to obstruction charges against himself. So unless he’s sure that Mike Pence would give him a last minute pardon (or certain that his own self-pardon would withstand legal review), then pardoning all Flynn’s crimes would pile up his own exposure.

Then, if Trump does pardon Flynn, it will surely become a matter for a hearing before one or the other of the Judiciary Committees into Trump’s abuse of the pardon power. Flynn will have no Fifth Amendment privilege and Biden’s DOJ will have the ability to enforce contempt motions from Congress. As I have noted, in the process of attempting to blow up Flynn’s prosecution, Ric Grenell and Sidney Powell and DOJ have released documents that will make it far harder for Mike Flynn to sustain his claim not to remember what Trump’s involvement in the “collusion” with Russia was. Public testimony (or even depositions run by staffers) might elicit evidence that would subject Trump himself to conspiracy charges or might result in new false statements charges.

Finally, there’s the matter of the documents that got altered as part of DOJ’s effort to blow up Flynn’s prosecution. There, Flynn is probably totally safe from legal jeopardy. But the lawyers might not be, at least at DOJ and possibly including Sidney Powell and Jenna Ellis. Importantly, at the time of that effort, there was no conceivable privilege protecting discussions between Flynn’s defense attorney and Trump’s campaign lawyer, nor between Powell and Trump. Since then, Powell’s involvement in Trump’s attempts to lie about the election have been contested (and Trump and Powell could both face consequences for their lies on that front). So Trump’s decision to pardon Flynn now after being told by Powell before September that Flynn didn’t want a pardon would raise questions about its tie to the election.

Don’t get me wrong: The pardon power is awesome, and assuming a competent lawyer like Pat Cipollone is involved in the process, Trump might manage to negotiate all these risks and successfully ensure that Flynn does no prison time for his crimes. But this is the kind of complexity that Trump will face as he tries to pay off those who protected him.

The DeVoses and a Pence Pardon for Trump

WaPo wrote a long story about how two DeVos machine Republicans, Mike Shirkey and Lee Chatfield, went to the White House and declined to join in Donald Trump’s coup attempt. The story either chose not to mention or simply preceded the reports that the lawmakers spent the night at Trump Hotel, running up big bills for Dom Perignon, which doesn’t seem like the thing you’d do if you had just turned down a bribe to steal the election.

Presumably because it was written for a national audience, the story didn’t get into what ruthless shitholes these men are. These are men who’ve presided over attempts to undermine Gretchen Whitmer’s COVID response and refused to prohibit guns from the capitol building. And while Chatfield knocked down an effort to impeach Whitmer, Shirkey has largely facilitated the kind of eliminationist rhetoric that led to an assassination plot against Whitmer (both condemned the plot after it was thwarted).

MI journalist Susan Demas did a thread on what awful untrustworthy men they are.

Amid reports that Ronna not-Romney McDaniel is the favorite to become RNC Chair again — which stalwarts view as Trump’s attempt to run the RNC as his own operation, undercutting any challengers in 2024 — I find this quote in the WaPo story particularly interesting.

A fresh indication that Trump’s options are dwindling came Friday from an organization with close ties to his education secretary, Betsy DeVos. The conservative Michigan Freedom Fund, which the DeVos family finances, issued the following statement Friday: “The election is over. The results are in, and here in Michigan, they’re not going to change.”

There have been hints that Betsy and Dick were tiring of Trump already. Betsy’s former Chief of Staff, Josh Venable, even joined one of the anti-Trump groups during the election.

That has interesting implications for the fate of two men — Betsy’s brother Erik Prince and Trump himself.

To my mind, Erik Prince is one of Trump’s easiest pardons, both for his exposure for false statements to Congress about his back channel with Russia and for his efforts to sell mercenary services to China. That’s true because, unlike some others (like Roger Stone), Prince successfully lied his way through testimony without generating any other known legal exposure. He told his lies, did his service to Trump, and so couldn’t be forced to testify differently once his Fifth Amendment privileges disappeared. And his exposure on China — to the extent that Billy Barr hasn’t already killed this investigation beyond repair — doesn’t implicate Trump, and so is easy and clean for a President seeking to pay back loyalty. Plus, Prince is a big donor. What’s not to like?!?!

But the DeVoses are also very close to Mike Pence (he got Betsy hired, not Trump). And many of Trump’s other pardons — of people that could implicate Trump himself in crimes if they lost their Fifth Amendment protections — require that he also limit his own legal exposure (and of course, he can only do this on federal cases). He may well be planning a self-pardon, but a safer legal option would be an early resignation followed by a pardon from Pence.

In my opinion, Pence has a real incentive against such a pardon. That’s true, in part, because giving a far less controversial pardon to Richard Nixon really doomed Gerald Ford’s otherwise reasonable legacy. Pence spends a lot of time in Grand Rapids, where Ford’s tainted history is palpable.

That’s also true because Pence has further political ambitions. They may not be real ambitions, but a former Vice President would always consider himself a candidate for the Presidency. And counterintuitively, pardoning Trump would actually hurt those ambitions. That’s true because he’s not the most obvious inheritor of Trump’s legacy. Mike Pompeo has a higher profile and the same cachet among the Evangelical right. Don Jr has even suggested he might run, and if he did he could tap right into the furor his father created. Unlike both of them, Pence has mostly been a background figurehead, one who will be blamed for Trump’s biggest failing, on COVID. So if Pence pardoned Trump, it would only serve to allow one of the other Trump flunkies from capitalizing on his brand to become the presumptive 2024 nominee; it would hurt his own chances.

Still, unlike Pompeo, Pence is not inextricably linked to Trump’s crimes. Indeed, one of the bravest witnesses during impeachment, Jennifer Williams, was his aide. She even corrected her testimony to provide damning details after the fact. Everything we’ve seen from the Mueller Report also makes it clear that Pence was not in the loop of some of the most devious efforts to undermine America.

But Pence likely knows of some of that crime. He has heard some of the details of the Russian “collusion.” More importantly, he surely knows how a series of Trump campaign managers have engaged in grift that pursue ever more outrageous ways of getting rich off the process of pitching Trump, with Brad Parscale’s version only the most recent. Assuming he’s as insulated from this potentially criminal behavior as I think he he is, refusing to pardon Trump would be a way to undercut Trump’s legacy without lifting a finger. Even if Joe Biden’s Attorney General didn’t aggressively pursue new investigations, there are so many known open ones as to make Trump’s ongoing criminal exposure hard to contain.

That puts Pence — and with him, his close allies the DeVoses — in a remarkable position. To be clear, they are every bit as evil as Trump. We should assume however they wield that power will do little to help average Americans. But (caveats about Erik aside), they are differently evil than Trump.

And if they’ve decided Trump’s time is up, they have leverage that others don’t.

2020 Vice Presidential Debate: In the Land of the Shoshone

This post is dedicated to discussion of the Vice Presidential debate between current VP Mike Pence and Democratic VP candidate Senator Kamala Harris.

The debate is scheduled to begin at 9:00 PM ET and will take place in the Nancy Peery Marriott Auditorium at the University of Utah’s Kingsbury Hall in Salt Lake City, Utah.

University of Utah’s efforts to prevent the dispersion of the candidates’ aerosolized exhalations — particularly those of Pence who has been in contact with infected persons within the last week — are absolutely laughable, evident in this photo of the stage (via NBC):

Harris had asked for a plexiglass partition between the candidates which the Commission on Presidential Debates approved though not without complaint by Team Pence. What the Commission furnished is a joke, clearing the candidates’ heads by no more than 18″.

Check-out clerks at major grocery store chains and banks have more protection than this.

I’m crossing my fingers that Harris’s people have reached out to SC Senate candidate Jaime Harrison to see if they could borrow the folding plexiglass screen he used when debating Lindsey Graham.

Or found a mask with a built-in mic (why hasn’t this become a thing?) so that she has more protection but is still audible.

~ ~ ~

Like the three Presidential debates, this event is booked in a red state venue. None of the events organized by the allegedly nonpartisan, nonprofit Commission on Presidential Debates is scheduled for a blue state.

Partisan bias could well explain the casual attitude toward infection control.

Utah’s state nickname is the Gateway to the West, but Native Americans know this is land taken from Ute, Paiute, and Shoshone tribes. Though some of the state falls under sketchy treaties, Salt Lake City itself is unceded land of the Northwestern Shoshone. Let’s hope this is recognized at some point during the evening.

USA Today’s Susan Page is the scheduled moderator, who has a conflict of interest:

… A potential conflict of interest has arisen in the vice-presidential debate. In late 2018, moderator Susan Page hosted a party in honor of Mike Pence’s protégé Seema Verma, who runs the Medicare and Medicaid programs for the Trump administration. As New York’s Ed Kilgore notes, the controversy centers on “whether a working journalist at Page’s level who has been hobnobbing with Mike Pence’s best-known associate in the Trump administration ought to be moderating his debate with Kamala Harris.” …

And in spite of the hubbub which arose when this conflict of interest was identified, Page and USA Today have refused to do anything about it — apparently there are no other journalists at USA Today covering the presidential race who are free of conflicts…? Or COVID-negative?

Sure hope it comes up in the debate that Mike Pence has had to return to DC when Air Force 2 was turned around mid-flight on its way to or from New Hampshire not once but twice in the last 18 months.

Has any journalist confirmed it was Air Force 2 hitting a bird which caused Pence to turn around on September 22 and not something else? Or did they leave it to Pence’s communications people to explain this?

~ ~ ~ 

Add these two dates to your calendar for the remaining two presidential debates — if Trump is healthy enough to participate:

Thursday 15-OCT-2020
9:00–10:30 p.m. ET
Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts
Miami, Florida
Moderator: Steve Scully, C-SPAN

Thursday 22-OCT-2020
8:00–9:30 p.m. ET
Curb Event Center at Belmont University
Nashville, Tennessee
Moderator: Kristen Welker, NBC

I’m not holding my breath for these.