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Mike Lee Provides Key Evidence Implicating Trump in the Existing Criminal Conspiracy

Because Donald Trump’s Personal Injury lawyer, Michael Van der Veen, made a specious argument about the First Amendment to successfully give 43 Republicans cover to vote to acquit the Former President in his impeachment trial, the discussion about Trump’s potential criminal exposure for January 6 (which according to CNN he is concerned about) has largely focused on incitement charges.

That’s true even though the trial led Mike Lee to offer up evidence implicating Trump in the same conspiracy charges already charged against 10 defendants: conspiring to delay Congress’ official proceeding to certify the electoral college vote. As I have noted, DOJ has started mapping out conspiracy charges against both the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys:

While there are differences in the scope of the conspiracy and overt acts involved, all three charging documents charge defendants with conspiring “to stop, delay, and hinder Congress’ certification of the Electoral College vote,” effectively conspiring to commit 18 USC 1512, tampering with the official procedure of certifying the electoral college vote, an official procedure laid out in the Constitution.

And in spite of their votes to acquit the Former President last night, both Tommy Tuberville and Mike Lee provided evidence that the FBI might use to investigate Trump in that conspiracy. As I noted days after the attack, during the attack, Trump twice attempted to reach out to Tuberville to ask him to delay the count. The second time, Rudy Giuliani even left a message specifically asking for a delay as such, precisely the object of the already charged conspiracy charges.

I know they’re reconvening at 8 tonight, but it … the only strategy we can follow is to object to numerous states and raise issues so that we get ourselves into tomorrow—ideally until the end of tomorrow.

I know McConnell is doing everything he can to rush it, which is kind of a kick in the head because it’s one thing to oppose us, it’s another thing not to give us a fair opportunity to contest it. And he wants to try to get it down to only three states that we contest. But there are 10 states that we contest, not three. So 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, particularly after what McConnell did today. [snip]

Over the last few days, both Tuberville and Lee offered up more details on the earlier call. Tuberville confirmed the content of the call, including that he told the President that his Vice President had been evacuated.

Sen. Tommy Tuberville revealed late Wednesday that he spoke to Donald Trump on Jan. 6, just as a violent mob closed in on the the Senate, and informed the then-president directly that Vice President Mike Pence had just been evacuated from the chamber.

“I said ‘Mr. President, they just took the vice president out, I’ve got to go,’” Tuberville (R-Ala.) told POLITICO on Capitol Hill on Wednesday night, saying he cut the phone call short amid the chaos.

And Lee — who twice demanded that references to this call be removed from the Congressional record — ultimately provided phone records showing that even after Pence had been publicly rushed to safety, Trump was still working on delaying the vote rather than addressing the danger. Trump tweeted about Pence at 2:24, specifically complaining that Pence hadn’t given states a chance to “correct” facts, effectively a complaint that Pence had not disrupted the orderly counting of the vote.

Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!

And then, two minutes later, Trump attempted to call Tuberville and, after Lee turned over his phone to the former coach, spoke to him for four minutes. It matters that Tuberville told Trump about the evacuations, though it is highly unlikely he had not been informed both informally and formally at that point. But it matters just as much that even after the insurrectionists had breached the building, Trump took two overt acts to attempt to delay the vote.

A Trump defense might argue — as his Personal Injury Lawyer did this week — that he was just trying to count the votes, but Trump had already made an unconstitutional request of Mike Pence, something Trump’s team provided no defense for. And that’s before you consider the evidence that Rudy, at least, was in direct contact with James Sullivan, who is affiliated with the group, the Proud Boys, that has already been accused of conspiring to breach the Capitol (indeed, another conspiracy case, against Proud Boys Dominic Pezzola and William Pepe, charges that they conspired to interfere with cops trying to keep protestors out of the Capitol, and the Chrestman indictment also includes that as a separate conspiracy).

I’m not saying this will definitely happen. The bar to charging a Former President remains high.

But DOJ has already charged ten people for doing what Trump was also demonstrably doing that day. And, partly because of Mike Lee’s desperate effort to avoid having the record of him implicating Trump in the congressional record, Lee ended up making the timeline of the events public without the FBI having to breach speech and debate concerns to obtain it. By doing so, Lee made it easier for the FBI to make a case against Trump if they ever attempt to do so.

Mike Lee may have helped prevent Trump from being barred from running for President again. But Mike Lee also made it easier to prosecute Trump for those very same acts.

Update: NYT just posted a story showing that six of the Oath Keepers Roger Stone was palling around with leading up to the attack entered the Capitol on January 6.

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

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

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

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

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

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

[snip]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[snip]

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

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

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

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.

Why I Agreed to Stop Calling Liz Cheney “BabyDick”

I made a vow on Twitter one of these days that I would no longer refer to Liz Cheney as “BabyDick” if she voted for impeachment.

She is going to vote for impeachment — the second Republican House member to announce their vote.

So I’m on my last legs using the term that invokes her protection of her own father for torture. But this seems like an obviously smart strategic position, as I laid out in this thread;

  • Dems need to realize the GOP wants to be purged of Trumpism
  • After Trump lost, Mitch McConnell thought he could make demands as the senior elected GOP
  • That didn’t happen
  • Then Trump lost the GA vote
  • Then Trump almost got Mitch killed
  • That gives Dems an opportunity to demand the purge of insurrectionists like Mo Brooks, Paul Gosar, Andy Biggs, Boebert, Taylor Greene, Madison Cawthorn, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, and Tommy Tuberville
  • That means institutional Republicans — like “BabyDick” and McConnell — actually have an incentive to use impeachment to cleanse their party

It’s a small ask for the GOP, because they’d like to get their corporatist party back, thank you.

Liz “BabyDick” Cheney and I will never be friends. But she will have served a key leadership role in this troubled time in providing another path for the Republican party by voting to impeach an authoritarian.

May she help others feel safe in rejecting this scourge.

Investigate Tommy Tuberville’s Pre-Speech and Debate Actions

There has been a lot of press focus in the last two days on the role that Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz played in Wednesday’s insurgency. Hawley even lost his book deal for playing a part in inciting the mob.

There should be more focus, in my opinion, on Tommy Tuberville.

I say that for two reasons.

First, by all appearances, Hawley and Cruz were just being disgusting opportunists. They saw the populist mantle, which until Wednesday was assumed to be critical to winning a 2024 presidential primary, and ran to claim it. It’s unknown how closely they coordinated with Trump in their cynical attempts to exploit the moment.

Tuberville, however, appears to have been actively coordinating with Trump during the uprising.

And his involvement in this conspiracy dates to mid-December, weeks before he was sworn in, and so a time when his activities would have somewhat less investigative protection under the speech and debate clause. After he first floated serving as the then sole Senator who would challenge the certification of the vote, Trump reached out to Tuberville directly.

On Sunday, Trump said in a radio interview that he had spoken with Sen.-elect Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) about challenging the electoral vote count when the House and Senate convene on Jan. 6 to formally affirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

“He’s so excited,” Trump said of Tuberville. “He said, ‘You made me the most popular politician in the United States.’ He said, ‘I can’t believe it.’ He’s great. Great senator.”

Tuberville’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment on Trump’s statement, which the president made in an interview with Rudolph W. Giuliani, his personal lawyer, on New York’s WABC radio station.

Trump’s conversation with Tuberville is part of a much broader effort by the defeated president to invalidate the election. He is increasingly reaching out to allies like Giuliani and White House trade adviser Peter Navarro for ideas and searching his Twitter feed for information to promote, according to Trump advisers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

And we know that Tuberville remained in direct contact with the conspirators because on Wednesday, the geniuses trying to pull of this coup tried to call him twice. First, literally at the moment Senators were being evacuated because rioters had breached the building, Trump attempted to call Tuberville directly but instead dialed Mike Lee’s cell phone.

With a mob of election protesters laying siege to the U.S. Capitol, Sen. Mike Lee had just ended a prayer with some of his colleagues in the Senate chamber when his cellphone rang.

Caller ID showed the call originated from the White House. Lee thought it might be national security adviser Robert O’Brien, with whom he’d been playing phone tag on an unrelated issue. It wasn’t O’Brien. It was President Donald Trump.

“How’s it going, Tommy?” the president asked.

Taken a little aback, Lee said this isn’t Tommy.

“Well, who is this? Trump asked. “It’s Mike Lee,” the senator replied. “Oh, hi Mike. I called Tommy.”

Lee told the Deseret News he realized Trump was trying to call Sen. Tommy Tuberville, the newly elected Republican from Alabama and former Auburn University football coach. Lee walked his phone over to Tuberville who was talking to some colleagues.

“Hey, Tommy, I hate to interrupt but the president wants to speak with you,” Lee said.

Tuberville and Trump talked for about five to 10 minutes, Lee said, adding that he stood nearby because he didn’t want to lose his cellphone in the commotion. The two were still talking when panicked police ordered the Capitol to be evacuated because people had breached security.

As police were getting anxious for senators to leave, Lee walked over to retrieve his phone.

“I don’t want to interrupt your call with the president, but we’re being evacuated and I need my phone,” he said.

Tuberville said, “OK, Mr. President. I gotta go.”

Then, hours after Rudy Giuliani called for “trial by combat,” after the mob had already breached the building, after one of the insurgents had been killed, hours after Trump had released a video pretending to oppose the violence, possibly even after Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick suffered injuries that would ultimately kill him, Rudy attempted to call Tuberville. He also dialed the number of a different [unidentified] Senator. Rudy left a message suggesting that he expected Tuberville would heed his requests, a message that seemed to suggest the entire process was an attempt to buy President Trump’s disinformation teams a day to put together new false allegations.

Senator Tuberville? Or I should say Coach Tuberville. This is Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer. I’m calling you because I want to discuss with you how they’re trying to rush this hearing and how 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. And I know they’re reconvening at 8 tonight, but it … the only strategy we can follow is to object to numerous states and raise issues so that we get ourselves into tomorrow—ideally until the end of tomorrow.

I know McConnell is doing everything he can to rush it, which is kind of a kick in the head because it’s one thing to oppose us, it’s another thing not to give us a fair opportunity to contest it. And he wants to try to get it down to only three states that we contest. But there are 10 states that we contest, not three. So 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, particularly after what McConnell did today. It angered them, because they have written letters asking that you guys adjourn and send them back the questionable ones and they’ll fix them up.

So, this phone number, I’m available on all night, and it would be an honor to talk to you. Thank you.

This message is the most direct piece of evidence, thus far, that Trump and his co-conspirators planned to use the insurgency as a delay tactic to buy time to try to concoct new claims about the results. It shows that Rudy remained engaged with the attempt to obstruct the lawful counting of the vote after the violence that had delayed it.

Admittedly, both of these calls, like all communications involving either Hawley or Cruz, would be otherwise (if Trump and Rudy hadn’t fucked up) difficult to access given Tuberville’s speech and debate protections. But his communications with the President prior to being sworn in just days earlier would not have the same presumptive protections. And since Rudy was calling him directly, that wouldn’t be privileged either.

The place to start the investigation into Trump’s role in the coup attempt is not with Hawley and Cruz. It’s with Tuberville.