Over the weekend, Donald Trump held a huge indoor rally in Arizona, called "Rally to Protect Our Elections," which in all likelihood will end up being a super-spreader event since so many of his followers are anti-vaccine and anti-mask. They showed up in great numbers, dressed in their flamboyant MAGA gear, excited and thrilled to be in the presence of their leader.
Trump made passing reference to the vaccines in his endless speech, taking credit for them and telling people he thinks they should get them but then going out of his way to say he respects those who choose not to do it. Of course, the crowd really only cheered the latter.
But the rally was billed as really about "election integrity," which in Trumpworld translates to the Big Lie about 2020. And he delivered. He went on and on about the so-called "fraud" spreading bogus details along the way, reinforcing his determination to organize the party around his lost cause. In the context of January 6th and Trump's ongoing Big Lie, there was a darker message as well.
"Our nation is up against the most sinister forces...This nation does not belong to them, this nation belongs to you," Trump said.
He wasn't talking about a foreign enemy. And the reference to 1776 was, as you'll no doubt recall, one of the insurrectionist rallying cries on January 6th, even pushed by GOP members of Congress on that day:
Let's just say that Donald Trump is not distancing himself from the insurrection. In fact, he is using code words and conspiracy theory signals to suggest that he's still as happy about it as he reportedly was when it happened.
Meanwhile, in Washington, we have seen the Republican Party do everything in its power to bury any investigation into that day. They've waged an ongoing tantrum over Speaker Nancy Pelosi's various attempts to put together a commission or select committee to gather a full account of what happened on that day. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy insists that no investigation that doesn't include Republicans who are pushing the Big Lie and are, therefore, complicit in the insurrection, can possibly be fair. (Would he would have wanted members of Al Qaeda on the 9/11 commission as well?)
While there's little doubt that a few GOP members of Congress are true believers, this is really all about one thing: the 2022 elections. And the last thing Republicans want to be talking about in that campaign is the trainwreck of January 6th. But even if they had been able to derail a congressional investigation, they can't shut up Donald Trump, and he can talk of nothing else — and the Republican establishment is increasingly worried about it.
CNN's Manu Raju asked South Dakota Republican Senator John Thune... about the former president's claim that the riot at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 was a "lovefest.""That's not what any of us here experienced," he responded. "Trying to rehash and revisit and re-litigate the past election is not a winning strategy for trying to get the majorities back in 2022."
Raju asked the South Dakota senator if Trump's claims of widespread fraud will hurt the party's chances in the 2022 midterms. "I mean, he's gonna keep saying it. There's not anything we can do about it," Thune said. "But like I said, anytime you're talking about the past, you're not talking about the future. And I think the future is where we're gonna live."
Trump spoke to this at the Arizona rally this past weekend:
I tell this to people. I tell it to Republicans and a lot of them are very good people and they say, "Well, sir, we have to get onto the future." Let me tell you, you're not going to have a future. First of all, our nation is being destroyed, but you're not going to have a future in '22 or '24 if you don't find out how they cheated with hundreds of thousands and even millions of votes, because you won't win anything. You won't win anything.
Whether they like it or not, the GOP strategy in 2022 is going to be about relitigating 2020. Trump is out there endorsing candidates who defended him and nixing anyone who may have balked, creating even more anxiety among Republican leaders. He is still in charge.
You might wonder why they are so nervous since Trump does get out their base and in the midterm that could be decisive. Well, they are probably aware that Trump continuing to dominate will also help Democratic turnout. And while it is very true that much depends on the Democrats' ability to deliver the material benefit they promised, negative partisanship is a very powerful motivator and nobody brings it out like Donald Trump.
CNN political analyst Ron Brownstein has written about this, noting that Democrats were able to produce exceptional turnout in 2018 and 2020 among people who don't always vote because of the deep antipathy to Trump. They have all the contact numbers for these folks and will be sure to let them know exactly what Trump is up to, even if they aren't paying close attention.
Michael Podhorzer, political director of the AFL-CIO, has said that the 7.7 million voters who didn't vote in 2016 but came out in the next two elections, along with the 18 million first-time voters in 2020 are key to success in 2022. According to the Catalyst election analysis, half of those first-time voters who cast a ballot for Biden, did so to vote against Trump. If he's out there talking his usual trash, the Democrats will likely have a much easier time persuading those voters to come out in 2022.
Beyond that, Mitch McConnell is almost certainly concerned about Trump's ongoing disparagement of the voting system. After all, he knows there's a good chance he lost the Senate because Trump's accusations of rampant electoral corruption resulted in Georgia Republicans failing to vote in the runoff that elected two Democratic senators. Trump has a very loyal base but there may be more than a few who figure it just isn't worth it when they hear the constant refrain about corrupt election systems.
Whether Democrats are able to take advantage of this opening remains to be seen. The official line is that they are going to depend upon a good economy and the proverbial "kitchen table issues" to get out the vote. But last week the president himself seemed to indicate that he understands that Democratic voters are still highly motivated by their loathing of the man who still insists he won the election. At a campaign rally for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, Biden threw down the gauntlet, calling McAuliffe's Republican opponent a "Trump acolyte."
Biden added: "I whipped Donald Trump in Virginia and so will Terry." He trolled Trump in a way designed to thrill the crowd, which it did:
He knew what he was doing. It was a subtle, but effective jab at the former president who famously had to hold his glass with two hands. Don't be surprised to see more of this. If Trump won't go away the Democrats wouldn't be fools not to take advantage of it.
On Monday night, former President Donald Trump endorsed Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton as he fights to keep his current position. George P. Bush, the commissioner of the Texas General Land Office and son of Jeb Bush, had publicly and enthusiastically sought out Trump's endorsement in the race, only to be rejected.
It was a humiliating blow for the man who had overlooked the demeaning treatment his family had received at Trump's hand in order to advance his own political prospects.
After all the overtures from George P. Bush, Trump gives his "complete and total endorsement" to incumbent Texas AG… https://t.co/hSbzUTnBGX— Andrew Solender (@Andrew Solender) 1627344393.0
Trump repeatedly mocked and shamed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in 2016 as they competed for the GOP presidential nomination, a race in which Bush had been seen by some as the favorite. Trump also repeatedly attacked former President George W. Bush, George P. Bush's uncle, and former President George H.W. Bush — his grandfather. Billy Bush, a nephew to the first President Bush, also lost his job when the infamous Access Hollywood video became public in the last days of the 2016 campaigning, showed him laughing as Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women — conduct Trump has never been punished for. Trump even insulted George P. Bush's mother:
Despite this bleak history with his family, George P. Bush went out of his way to make nice with Trump in order to win his favor.
As part of this demonstration, Bush even made light of the fact that Trump had publicly disparaged his family members:
Trump's choice of Paxton isn't particularly surprising — he's been a devoted sycophant and played a prominent if ultimately witless role in trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election — but the sitting attorney general's apparent weaknesses as a candidate only enhance Bush's humiliation. He is currently under indictment for securities fraud, and he has been accused of additional crimes, including bribery, by his own aides. He is reportedly under federal investigation apart from the existing indictment against him, to which he's pleaded not guilty.
Nevertheless, he's Trump's man, as the former president made clear Monday to Texas voters. Despite turning on his family, George P. Bush couldn't compete with that.
Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, who spoke at former President Donald Trump's "Stop the Steal" rally in Washington, D.C. on January 6, is named in a civil lawsuit alleging that he incited the violent mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol Building that day. Brooks is asking the U.S. Department of Justice to intervene in the case, insisting that he did nothing wrong on January 6. And Washington Post opinion writer Jennifer Rubin, this week in her column, argues that Attorney General Merrick Garland should not side with Brooks.
The civil lawsuit that Brooks is facing was filed by Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell and also names former President Trump, Donald Trump, Jr. and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
At the "Stop the Steal" rally, Brooks urged supporters of then-President Donald Trump to start "kicking ass" in response to Trump's election fraud claims — which had been repeatedly debunked. Swalwell's civil lawsuit alleges that Brooks was inciting the January 6 riot with such rhetoric. But Brooks contends his actions were legally protected.
"On Tuesday," Rubin explains, "the Justice Department and the House of Representatives will file briefs explaining to a federal court whether each believes that Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) was acting within the scope of his employment when he allegedly incited the violent attack on the Capitol and sought to subvert the peaceful transfer of power on January 6. This sounds absurd, but in effect, Brooks is asking the Justice Department to certify that he was acting in the scope of his duties when he tried to overthrow the government."
Rubin continues, "If he succeeds, he would be immune from suit, and the Justice Department would step in on behalf of the government in civil suits arising from the violent insurrection. It would be a gross error and invitation for future insurrections if either the House or Justice Department agreed that Brooks is protected. How can encouraging a mob to disrupt the Electoral College tabulation possibly be within Brooks' duties? That would be akin to saying Gen. Robert E. Lee was acting within the scope of his duties in the U.S. Army when he attacked Union troops. Sedition is not within the scope of any official's duties."
Rubin goes on to make her point by quoting an op-ed by attorney Laurence H. Tribe, an expert on constitutional law, that was published in the Boston Globe on July 19.
Tribe wrote, "If the attorney general decides to treat such action as merely one way of discharging official duties, then self-government will become a mirage — and those who are guilty of trashing it will have been placed beyond the reach of legal accountability to those they injure…. That would mean that popular sovereignty is dead, and the twin principles that no one is above the law and that every legal wrong deserves a remedy might as well be tossed into history's dust heap."
Ethics expert Walter Shaub, who isn't quoted in Rubin's column, has also been weighing in on Swalwell's lawsuit and the arguments Brooks is making to the DOJ.
In a recent newsletter, Shaub noted, "Here's how this lawsuit could spark serious long-term consequences when it comes to holding political leaders accountable for wildly incendiary speech: Brooks has asked Attorney General Garland to certify that he was acting within the scope of his official duties as a member of Congress when he spoke to the crowd…. If Garland grants this request and persuades the court to agree, the certification would effectively immunize Brooks by dismissing him from the lawsuit and substituting the government as a defendant."
Shaub argues that "if Garland certifies that Brooks was acting within the scope of a congressional representative's duties, he will be legitimizing the incitement of a mob" and sending a "message to elected officials" that "they can act with impunity, even when their actions are inconsistent with the oath they took to support and defend the Constitution."
Rubin concludes her op-ed by warning that if Garland agrees with Brooks, he will be sending out a message that Trump and his allies are above the law.
"We need an attorney general to aggressively pursue facts and bring actions against Trump and his supporters where warranted," Rubin writes. "If not, Garland would have inadvertently affirmed Trump's argument that he was above the law."
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