Why the GOP continues to cling to their January 6th lie

Wednesday, the House of Representatives approved awarding Congressional Gold Medals to members of the Capitol Police for their defense of the Capitol on January 6. Four hundred and thirteen members voted in favor, and 12 Republicans opposed the measure. A number of party members took offense at the language in the bill, which referred to the Capitol as "the temple of our American Democracy" and called the rioters "a mob of insurrectionists."

Part of their objection comes from their eagerness to downplay what happened on January 6 and to redefine it as a much less important event than it was.

Last week, six top Republican senators expressed dismay to the acting chief of the Capitol Police, Yogananda Pittman, over the continued presence of nearly 2300 National Guardsmen and a fence topped with razor wire around the Capitol. While security experts are concerned about ongoing threats, especially around the time of Biden's expected address to a joint session of Congress, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) says the security is "overdone." In a letter to Pittman, the five say it is "entirely unclear" why the fencing remains. They say it "sends a terrible message to American citizens, as well as to our allies and adversaries."

The fencing reminds Americans of what happened on January 6 and the Republicans' complicity in that attack, refusing, as they did, to hold Trump accountable for inciting the insurrection. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) did not sign the letter to Pittman, but he told a right-wing talk radio host that he was not frightened by the rioters on January 6 because they were "people that love this country, that truly respect law enforcement, would never do anything to break the law." In contrast, though, he said he would have been worried if the rioters were "Black Lives Matter and Antifa protesters."

The events of January 6 left several people, including three police officers, dead, and more than 100 law enforcement officers wounded. Hundreds of people have been charged with crimes.

Johnson's version of the insurrection was pretty transparently an attempt to rewrite the history of January 6 to whitewash the role of Trump supporters and instead blame those opposed to Trump. His version of the events of the day is false. The insurrection was the logical result of months of lies from Republican lawmakers and media figures insisting that Democrats had stolen the 2020 election and that it was imperative for Trump's supporters to stop the count of the electoral votes to—somehow—give Trump a second term. (That part of the plan has always seemed fuzzy to me, and yet the fact that the three people in line for the presidency after Trump were all in danger on January 6 seems to me an odd coincidence.)

Yesterday, we learned that much of what Republican politicians and pundits were saying in the months leading up to the election echoed the efforts of Russian intelligence agents to influence the 2020 election. Russia is eager to weaken the U.S. in order to force us to bargain as it seeks to expand its influence in the world.

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines declassified the assessment of the intelligence community of foreign threats to the 2020 U.S. federal elections that had been provided to the previous administration and congressional leadership on January 7. The community assessed that Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized influence operations, which "a range of Russian government organizations conducted," "aimed at denigrating President Biden's candidacy and the Democratic Party, supporting former President Trump, undermining public confidence in the electoral process, and exacerbating sociopolitical divisions in the U.S."

Russia did not meddle in election infrastructure, the report said, but instead focused on pushing narratives— including lies about Biden and his son, Hunter, suggesting they had engaged in corrupt behavior in Ukraine– "to US media organizations, US officials, and prominent US individuals, including some close to former President Trump and his administration."

The intelligence report assesses that, throughout the election season, Russia's online trolls "sought to amplify mistrust in the electoral process by denigrating mail-in ballots, highlighting alleged irregularies, and accusing the Democratic Party of voter fraud." They also "promoted conspiratorial narratives about the COVID-19 pandemic, made allegations of social media censorship, and highlighted US divisions surrounding protests about racial justice."

"Even after the election," the report says, "Russian online influence actors continued to promote narratives questioning the election results and disparaging President Biden and the Democratic Party. These efforts parallel plans Moscow had in place in 2016 to discredit a potential incoming Clinton administration, but which it scrapped after former President Trump's victory." (Remember that Trump associate Roger Stone insisted that Trump was being cheated way back in the 2016 primaries, and then launched a "Stop the Steal" website before the 2016 general election, calling for donations by saying, "If this election is close, THEY WILL STEAL IT.")

No one, though, accessed election infrastructure… just as Christopher Krebs, the former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency in the Department of Homeland Security, said (and got fired for saying it, by Trump, over Twitter).

This report was released to the former administration and leading members of Congress on January 7, the day after the Capitol riot.

And yet, many of them have yet to agree that the election was legitimate and that President Biden won it. Instead, they are suggesting that the insurrection that this rhetoric produced was not really a profound attack on our democracy.

It was.

Republicans are dangerously close to killing something the American public loves – and desperately needs

In the wee hours of Saturday morning, the House of Representatives passed the American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill requested by the Biden administration. The vote was 219 to 212, with two Democrats — Jared Golden (D-ME) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR) — voting no. Not a single Republican voted for the bill.

This article was originally published at Letters from an American

The coronavirus relief bill illustrates a crisis in our democracy.

This measure is enormously popular. On Thursday, the day before the House took up the bill, a poll by Morning Consult/Politico showed that 76% of Americans liked the measure, including 60% of Republicans. It includes $1400 stimulus checks which, together with the $600 checks in the previous package, get us to the $2000 checks that former president Trump, a Republican, demanded.

It includes increased unemployment benefits of $400 weekly, provides $350 billion in aid to state and local governments, establishes tax credits for children, provides money to reopen schools, funds $8.5 billion to distribute vaccines, and gives small business relief.

The bill is popular among Republican mayors and governors, whose governments cannot borrow to make up for tax revenue lost because of the pandemic and who are facing deficits of $80 to $100 billion even with money from the last relief packages. The deficits will require devastating cuts on top of the 1.3 million jobs that have already been cut in the past year. Relief is "not a Republican issue or a Democrat issue," Fresno, California, mayor Jerry Dyer told Griff Witte of the Washington Post earlier this month. "It's a public health issue. It's an economic issue. And it's a public safety issue."

Those in favor of the measure note that while there is still close to $1 trillion unspent from previous coronavirus relief bills, currently unspent money has been assigned already: it is distributed among programs that are designed to spend it over a period of time. This includes federal employment benefits, which are distributed weekly; the Paycheck Protection Program, which is held in reserve for employers to apply for funds from it; enhanced medical matching funds to be distributed as the pandemic requires; and tax breaks to be spent as people file their tax returns.

The chair of the Federal Reserve, which oversees our banking system, Jerome H. Powell, has backed the idea of increased federal spending; so has Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. Powell was nominated to his current position by Trump (he was nominated to the Federal Reserve Board by President Barack Obama); Yellen is a Biden appointee.

This is a bill that should have gotten some Republican votes in the House of Representatives.

But it didn't. Republican lawmakers are complaining about the partisan vote and scoffing that President Biden promised to unify the country. But the problem is not the bill. The problem is the Republican lawmakers, who are determined to oppose anything the Democrats propose.

The American Rescue Plan bill now goes to the Senate, where Republican senators appear to be united against it. In a statement, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) complained about the Democrats' "deliberately partisan process" in writing the bill, but the Republicans willing to meet with President Biden — McConnell was not one of them– proposed a measure that provided less than one-third the relief in the present bill. There is enormous urgency to passing the bill quickly, since current federal unemployment benefits expire on March 14.

The Senate is evenly split between the Democrats and the Republicans, with each party holding 50 seats (technically, Senators Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont are Independents, but they currently work with the Democrats). Although each party effectively holds 50 seats, the Democrats represent 41.5 million more Americans than the Republicans do, in nation that has 328.2 million people.

In addition to their disproportionate power in the Senate, the Republicans can stop legislation through the filibuster. This is a holdover from an earlier era, in which a senator could stop a bill approved by a majority by refusing to stop talking about it, which would prevent the bill from coming to a vote unless senators voted to invoke "cloture," a process that limits consideration of a pending bill to 30 additional hours. Today, cloture requires 60 votes.

The filibuster was rarely used before about 1960; in the early twentieth century, southern senators used it primarily to stop civil rights legislation. But as the volume of business in the Senate raised the need to streamline debate, the Senate reformed the filibuster so that a senator could simply threaten a filibuster to kill a bill.

Our current Republican lawmakers use these "holds" to kill any measure that cannot muster 60 votes, effectively turning the Senate into a body that requires not a majority to pass legislation, but rather a supermajority. Those who defend the filibuster argue that this supermajority requirement will make senators create bills that are bipartisan, but in fact it has meant that a small minority controls the Senate.

So Democrats will have to pass the American Rescue Plan through a procedure known as "reconciliation," which enables certain budget bills to pass with a simple majority rather than the 60 votes currently necessary for a regular bill. But the Senate can only pass three bills a year through this process, and there are strict limits to what can be in them. The Senate parliamentarian, a nonpartisan judge of the procedural rules of the Senate, has decided that the $15-an-hour federal minimum wage in the current bill does not meet the requirements of reconciliation. Fifty-nine percent of Americans like the idea of raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2025, as the bill sets out, but the hike cannot be included in the convoluted process necessary to get the bill through without the supermajority the current filibuster system requires.

Senate leadership can overrule or fire the parliamentarian, but that really doesn't matter in this case because at least one Democrat, Senate Joe Manchin (D-WV), opposes the increased minimum wage. His opposition would sink the entire measure because the Democrats need every one of their 50 votes.

The American Rescue Plan will likely pass—without the increased minimum wage—but it will do so only because the Democrats won both Georgia Senate seats in January, giving them an equal number of senators to the Republicans.

The Democrats will be able to pass a bill popular with more than 3 out of 4 of us only because they have a slight majority in the House and can use a special budget measure to work around the Republican senators who represent 41.5 million fewer Americans than the Democrats do.

The coronavirus relief bill illustrates just how dangerously close we are to minority rule.

The difference between yelling fire and setting one

"This case is much worse than someone who falsely shouts fire in a crowded theater. It's more like a case where the town fire chief, who's paid to put out fires, sends a mob not to yell fire in a crowded theater, but to actually set the theater on fire."

This was how lead House impeachment manager Jamie Raskin (D-MD) explained Trump's role in the January 6 insurrection to the senators trying the former president Trump for inciting that insurrection.

Over the course of today, the House impeachment managers laid out a devastating timeline of the former president's effort, beginning even before the 2020 election, to prime his supporters to believe the only way he could lose was if the Democrats cheated. Manager Joseph Neguse (D-CO) used the rioters' own words to show that they were responding to Trump's calls to fight for his reelection. Manager Eric Swalwell (D-CA) pointed out that the Trump camp spent $50 million on national "STOP THE STEAL!" ads that ran until the planned "big protest" on January 6. That presentation alone was powerful, as the managers put videos of rally speeches and tweets together to let the story tell itself.

But the tale grew riveting when impeachment manager Stacey Plaskett, a Democratic delegate from the U.S. Virgin Islands, took the story into the Capitol building itself. She followed the rioters using footage from their own cellphones and the cameras of journalists who recorded their actions. But she had more than those videos. Plaskett used previously unseen video from security cameras to illustrate just how close the rioters came to capturing Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, both of whom they were searching for specifically, as well as lawmakers in general. In some cases, the congress members and their staffs were within seconds of being caught.

The mocking, singsong, drawn out calls for "Nancy" from a rioter searching for the House Speaker as if he were a monster stalking a victim in a horror movie, and the angry chants to "Hang Mike Pence!" from rioters who had hung a noose from a gallows they constructed outside the Capitol, left little doubt the rioters were deadly. Richard Barnett, the man photographed with his feet on Pelosi's desk, carried a 950,000-volt stun gun.

Impeachment manager David Cicilline (D-RI) took the baton from Plaskett, hammering home that Trump had continued to stoke the crowd's anger against Pence even as the vice president was in lockdown at the Capitol, and that he refused to stop the riot despite pleading from his aides and allies. Manager Joaquin Castro (D-TX) brought the argument home: "On January 6, President Trump left everyone in this Capitol for dead."

It was a riveting, damning presentation, showing just how close we came to an event even worse than the day turned out to be. In one particularly dramatic new scene from the security cameras, we saw Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman, who later lured the rioters away from the Senate chamber to give the lawmakers enough time—barely—to get to safety, prevent Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) from walking into the mob, likely saving his life.

The story the managers told set out quite clearly that the insurrection was not only planned, it was timed to disrupt the counting of the electoral votes that would make Joe Biden president. As impeachment manager Ted Lieu (D-CA) put it, Trump "ran out of nonviolent options to maintain power…. What you saw was a man so desperate to try to cling to power that he tried everything he could to keep it, and when he ran out of nonviolent measures, he turned to the violent mob that attacked your Senate chamber on January 6."

The House managers tried to make it possible for Republican senators to convict Trump. They focused on him alone, leaving untouched the fact that some of the senators in the chamber had themselves spread the lie that the election had been marred by massive fraud. (The one apparently in deepest, Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, refused to watch the presentation.)

They held up Vice President Pence as a principled leader attacked while trying to do his constitutional duty, offering Republican senators a choice not between their party and the Democrats, but rather between Trump and Pence, Republicans both. They also detailed the attack on Capitol police officers, offering the chance for Republicans to side against Trump and with the officers.

In their defense of Pence, the impeachment managers made clear a curious thing: the popular anger at Pence was entirely manufactured. Pence's role on January 6 was largely ceremonial; he could not challenge the counting of the electoral votes, and he said so, both in person and in writing, as Trump continued to pressure him to. Trump's deliberate stoking of fury at the vice president meant the crowd was actively hunting for Vice President Pence and House Speaker Pelosi, the next two people in line for the presidency should Trump be removed from office.

And yet, there are signs that none of this matters to the Republican senators who have already decided to acquit the president. On Twitter, Senator Lindsey Graham tonight called the day's presentation "offensive and absurd."

Still others say that, even if what happened is horrific, the trial is unconstitutional because Trump is no longer president, although the fact the Senate voted that it is constitutional should mean that point is settled. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) told CNN correspondent Ryan Nobles, "I'm learning things. But, again, my basic point is we shouldn't be having this trial."

It seems likely that they are contemplating the experience of Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA), whose state Republican Party pounced on his vote yesterday in favor of the constitutionality of the trial, saying it was "profoundly disappointed."

But those doubling down on Trump's leadership of the party have their own troubles. In the 25 states that have accessible data, nearly 140,000 Republicans have left the party since January 6, and tonight, Reuters broke the story that "former elected Republicans, former officials in the Republican administrations of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Trump, ex-Republican ambassadors and Republican strategists," are in talks to form a new center-right political party. While Trump spokesman Jason Miller called the people involved "losers," they are savvy enough at political strategy to plan to make their influence felt not necessarily by running third-party candidates, but by endorsing the non-Trump candidate in a race, regardless of party.

While almost all eyes are on the Senate impeachment trial, Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill is working its way through the relevant House committees. Today, by a party-line vote, the House Education and Labor Committee moved its portion along with a provision to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025.

At the White House, Biden spoke on the telephone for the first time with Chinese President Xi Jinping, whom he knows from his days as vice president. The two discussed areas of shared interest, such as the pandemic, global health, and climate change. Biden also called the Chinese leader out for "coercive and unfair economic practices," as well as the anti-democratic crackdown in Hong Kong and, in Xinjiang, human rights abuses.

The people who are really on trial are the 50 Republican senators judging Trump’s guilt

Today began the second impeachment trial for former president Donald J. Trump, this time for incitement of insurrection against the American government.

Still, the people who are really on trial are the 50 Republican senators judging Trump's guilt.

The impeachment trial today covered whether it is constitutional to try a former official. This angle was designed to get Republican senators off the hook: if not, they could avoid voting on the article of impeachment.

The proceedings went badly for the defense. Lead House impeachment manager Jamie Raskin (D-MD) began the session by pointing out that Trump's lawyers were arguing for a brand new "January exception to the Constitution of the United States of America." Constitutional lawyers from across the political spectrum, he pointed out, agree that former officials must be held accountable for their actions after they leave office. Otherwise, officeholders could commit high crimes and misdemeanors and then promptly resign, putting themselves beyond reach of impeachment.

"It's an invitation to the president to take his best shot at anything he may want to do on his way out the door, including using violent means to lock that door to hang on the Oval Office at all costs and to block the peaceful transfer of power," Raskin said. "In other words, the January exception is an invitation to our Founders' worst nightmare. And if we buy this radical argument… we risk allowing January 6 to become our future."

What would that look like? Raskin answered his own question with a thirteen-minute video that revisited exactly what happened on January 6. Using footage and tweets from the attack on the Capitol, the video laid out the direct relationship between Trump's speech at his rally that day and his supporters' attack on Congress. It was devastating. Seeing the events of the day laid out in chronological order, with Trump's words echoing from the mouths of furious insurrectionists attacking the Capitol, was even worse than seeing it happen in real time on January 6.

After the video, Raskin and the impeachment manager who followed him, Representative Joseph Neguse (D-CO) laid out, in historical detail, that the Framers certainly intended for impeachment to include officials who had already left office. They pointed both to a case that was underway in Britain when the Framers were including impeachment in the Constitution and to the case of Secretary of War William Belknap, who was impeached in 1876 after he resigned from office in the midst of a scandal.

The goal behind impeachment, Neguse said, is to guarantee accountability and stop corruption. There is, he said, no merit to Trump's claim that he can incite an insurrection and then insist weeks later that the Senate lacks power to hold a trial.

Like Raskin and Neguse, Representative David Cicilline (D-RI) emphasized that there is no "January exception" to the Constitution. He pointed out that Trump committed a terrible constitutional offense when he incited an armed angry mob to riot in the Capitol.

Cicilline also pointed out that Trump did not back down. At the end of that fateful day, he tweeted: "These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!" It is no wonder Trump's lawyers want to talk about jurisdiction rather than facts, he said.

After their presentations, Raskin gave an emotional plea to senators to defend American democracy.

After a recess, it was Trump's lawyers' turn. It didn't go well.

The two men, Bruce Castor and David Schoen, only joined the defense team a little over a week ago, after Trump's original team leaders all quit, and so have had little time to prepare. They were also apparently surprised by the quality of the prosecution's presentation today, and so tried to change their own presentations on the fly.

Castor spoke first, coming across as condescending and meandering—Schoen later defended him by saying Castor had not known he would be speaking today. Even Trump supporter Alan Dershowitz, who defended Trump in his first impeachment trial, seemed put off. "I have no idea what he's doing," Dershowitz told Newsmax.

Next up was Schoen, who insisted that the Trump voters whose candidate lost the election must be heard. He appeared to threaten the senators with civil war. "This trial will tear the country apart, perhaps like we've only ever seen once in history."

The two men seemed badly outmatched, rambling and unprepared. While the Democrats' presentations were clear, organized, and illustrated with slick videos and graphics, the defense had none of that. Watching from Florida, the former president was allegedly irate. The goal for the defense today was simply to give cover to Republicans who wanted to avoid voting on the merits of the case by giving them room to dismiss the case on the grounds it was unconstitutional. Castor and Schoen did not give them that cover.

At the end of the presentations, the Senate voted that it was constitutional to proceed with the trial by a vote of 56 to 44. Six Republicans, one more than had voted yes on a similar vote in Congress, joined the Democratic majority. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) said the defense lawyers had not provided a convincing argument that such a trial was unconstitutional. When pressed by reporters about why he thought the defense was poor, he said: "Did you listen to it? It was disorganized, random—they talked about many things, but they didn't talk about the issue at hand."

The defense lawyers' problem, of course, is that they are being asked to defend the indefensible. They know it; we know it; Republican senators who have been defended Trump know it. During the video of the insurrection, Trump supporters Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) looked at papers on their desks, Rick Scott (R-FL) looked at papers on his lap, and Rand Paul (R-KY) doodled.

Republican Senators willing to excuse Trump for his incitement of an insurrection that attacked our peaceful transfer of power are tying the Republican party to the former president and to an ideology that would end our democracy.

What led the rioters on January 6, 2021, to try to hurt our elected officials and overturn the legal results of the 2020 election was Trump's long-time assertion that he won in a landslide and the presidency had been stolen from him. This big lie, as observers are calling it, is not one of Trump's many and random lies, it is the rallying cry for a movement to destroy American democracy. He is building a movement based on the idea that his supporters are the only ones truly defending the nation, because they—not the people who certified the 2020 election—are the ones who know the true outcome of the election. He is creating a narrative in which he is the only legitimate leader of the nation and anyone who disagrees is a traitor to the Constitution.

As Cicilline noted, even after the riot Trump refused to repudiate that big lie. And now, even in the face of impeachment he has not repudiated it. Indeed, he has doubled down on it, refusing to admit he is a "former" president. His supporters haven't admitted it, either, including his supporters who sit in Congress. None of those who challenged the counting of the electoral votes on January 6 and 7 has admitted it was a political stunt. Now, they are arguing that impeachment is a partisan attack on the part of Democrats.

If Republican senators permit Trump to get away with the big lie, it must, logically, take over the Republican Party. It's no wonder that he lost his first defense team because he insisted they use their media time to argue that he had won the election in a landslide. Trump is not trying to win just this trial: he is trying to win control of the Republican Party and, through it, the country.

Tomorrow, the Senate impeachment managers will begin to argue their case.

Experts say Trump will be acquitted -- but don't be so sure

Pundits are saying that the Senate will vote to acquit former President Donald Trump at the end of his second impeachment trial, set to start on Tuesday.

I'm not so sure.

After the January 6 attack on the Capitol, the House of Representatives passed an article of impeachment against Trump for "incitement of insurrection." The article accuses the former president of engaging in high crimes and misdemeanors "by inciting violence against the Government of the United States." It charges him with lying about voter fraud, trying to get the Georgia secretary of state to falsify election results, and encouraging his supporters to attack the Capitol to stop the process that would certify Biden's victory.

The article charges that the former president "has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security, democracy, and the Constitution… and has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law…. [He] warrants… disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States."

The House passed this article of impeachment with 232 representatives voting yes and 197 voting no. Ten Republicans joined 222 Democrats to impeach Trump in his last days in office. The Senate will hold a trial to determine whether to convict the former president of this charge. If all 100 senators are present, the number needed to convict is seventeen. But there is no requirement that all senators be present.

Pundits are basing their belief that senators will vote to acquit on the fact that 45 Republican senators voted against a motion proposed by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), calling for a debate over the constitutionality of trying a former president. Paul insisted that vote was a proxy for conviction, but a vote immediately after that one, on the structure for the trial, drew only 17 no votes from Republicans. Thirty-three voted yes. My guess is that neither vote is a definitive sign of what is to come.

There are a number of things going on.

This trial brings into public view the fight for control of the Republican Party. Business Republicans, led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), have run the Republican Party since the 1980s. They cultivated the populists for their votes, but business Republicans never intended to give them power.

The two wings jockeyed along together because both like tax cuts and originalist judges, who reject the idea of business regulation and government protection of civil rights. But that uneasy alliance is wrenching apart. Trump gave his populist supporters a taste of power, and they do not want to give it up. The Trump wing has become a personality cult, embracing violence and an attack on the rule of law in order to keep the former president in office.

Business Republicans cozied up to the Trumpers because they need the votes Trump turned out and the money he raised. But it is no longer clear that he can keep commanding votes or raising big money.

Since the January 6 coup attempt, social media giants Twitter and Facebook, as well as others, have banned the former president, taking away his ability to marshal his troops. Lawsuits from voting machine companies that Trump surrogates attacked have shut up media personalities, hampering the Trump team's ability to spread their narrative.

Trump and his inner circle have also lost their access to major publishing venues: the last major publisher willing to buy books from Trump's people turned away from them after January 6, handing them back to smaller publishers.

At the same time, Trump supporters increasingly look unhinged. Their face is the new Georgia representative who has, in the past, embraced political violence and QAnon. Since January 6, Republican voters have been leaving the party. Their timing is a red flag: voters usually only change parties before an election.

Voters are not the only ones disgusted by the riot. Major Republican donors have announced that they will not donate to anyone who voted to challenge the counting of the electoral votes on January 6 and 7. Others have announced at least a temporary hold on political donations.

So for a Republican senator, what's the political calculation on impeachment?

The course for Trump Republicans is easy: they will defend their man. Today, in what appeared to be a coordinated publicity maneuver, Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) and former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows tried to argue that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is to blame for the January 6 attack on the Capitol. (Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani blamed "Antifa" and "BLM.")

But the calculation for the business Republicans is not so clear. They don't want to alienate either Trump voters or anti-Trump voters, and they need to raise money.

Trump and his supporters have tried to lock up the party apparatus. The former president controls money and email lists, and is trying to put his people into positions of power at the state level. They are publicly challenging the ten Republican representatives who voted to impeach Trump. Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) actually traveled to Wyoming to urge voters to turn Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY), the third-ranking member of the Republican House leadership, out of office. It is likely the Trump wing will launch primary challengers against anyone who votes to convict the former president.

At the same time, Trump's support is falling. An ABC News/Ipsos poll released today shows that 56% of Americans believe that Trump should be convicted and barred from ever holding office again. By a 17-point margin, Americans say that the Republican Party has more radical extremists than the Democrats.

There is another problem: it is likely that the more we learn about what happened on January 6, the worse the participants are going to look. And, if indeed the Department of Justice decides to use RICO, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, against those who participated in the insurrection, it might well sweep in Republican lawmakers or operatives who spoke at, raised money for, or planned the January 6 rally. In that case, a vote to acquit the president would tie a senator who is not associated with the rally to those that are.

Republican senators have tried to stay quiet about the upcoming trial. When forced to comment, some leading business Republicans have pushed back against the Trump wing. McConnell has called the right-wing fringe a cancer that must be cut out, and today Cheney — who won Gaetz's challenge to remove her from leadership by a 2-1 vote — went for Trump himself, saying he "does not have a role as a leader of our party going forward." On "Fox News Sunday," Cheney told host Chris Wallace that Trump lied when he said the election had been rigged. She warned that Republicans had to face reality or face defeat in the future.

In contrast, Democrats are operating from a position of strength. It seems likely they will use the impeachment trial to explain to the American people what happened on January 6. Using videos and the words of those who were in the Capitol when the mob stormed in, they will paint a picture of an attempted coup, incited by a former President of the United States.

GOP at the crossroads: There's a war between two factions for the future of the Republican Party

My guess is that the story of today that will stand the test of time is that President Biden is governing according to our traditional practices while he pushes the country into the future.

Biden hit the ground running. In the first three days of his presidency, he has taken 30 executive actions (these are orders, memoranda, and directives). Most of these are directed toward fighting the coronavirus pandemic, but he has also overturned some of Trump's policies: he has stopped construction of the border wall, ended the Muslim travel ban, cancelled the Keystone XL pipeline, rejoined the Paris climate accord, and rejoined the World Health Organization. He also ended the ban on transgender soldiers in the military. These measures fulfill campaign promises and are widely popular.

Today, Biden also launched out in a new direction. He signed an executive order requiring the federal government to buy more of the things it needs here in the United States, rather than buying cheaper products overseas. The directive is a middle ground between protectionism and free trade. The plan is to protect the supply chains for goods the federal government sees as vital, thus bolstering manufacturing in crucial areas.

Recently, the United States has been more willing than other nations to buy foreign goods for government contracts in the interests of keeping federal costs down. This measure will increase costs, but will give that money to Americans. The president of the labor organization the AFL-CIO called the measure "a good first step in revitalizing U.S. manufacturing," but the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said it would increase the costs of government procurement and was unlikely to create jobs.

Today the new administration also swore in the first Black secretary of defense, retired general Lloyd Austin, and the Senate confirmed Janet Yellen as the first woman to hold the position of treasury secretary.

But what is taking oxygen today is the war between the two factions of the Republican Party: the Trump faction and the business faction. Republican leaders embraced Trump—unwillingly—in 2016 because he promised to bring energized voters to a party whose pro-business policies were increasingly unpopular.

During his presidency, Trump delivered to business Republicans their wish list: tax cuts and appointments of right-wing judges who are generally opposed to federal government power, which will benefit the businesses who oppose regulation. Trump played to his base and did his best to politicize the U.S. government and make it loyal to him. He seemed eager to turn the government into an oligarchy overseen by him and his children. Business Republicans looked the other way, refusing to convict him in his first impeachment trial.

But when Trump botched the coronavirus response, tanking the economy and turning the U.S. into an international laughingstock, business Republicans began to slide away from the Trump administration. His increasingly unhinged behavior over the course of the past year increased their discomfort. And then, his refusal to accept the outcome of the 2020 election sparked their alarm.

In contrast, Republicans who were hoping to pick up Trump's supporters in future elections signed on to his challenge of the election outcome. For some of them, pushing the idea that there were questions about the election was a safe way to signal support for Trump and his supporters, knowing that argument would fail. Others, though, apparently intended to take that idea forward to attack our government.

The January 6 attack on the Capitol split the party. It was a profound attack on our government, in which a group of the president's supporters overpowered police, broke into the Capitol while Congress was counting the electoral votes, and threatened the lives of the elected representatives who refused to throw out the results of the election and name Trump president.

The attack implicated a number of Republicans: the president, of course, and also Senators Josh Hawley (R-MO), who was the first senator to agree to challenge the counting of the certified electoral votes for Biden, and Ted Cruz (R-TX), who jumped on board the challenge, along with about ten other senators. More than 100 Republican representatives also signed onto the challenge.

Arizona Republican representatives Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs reportedly asked Trump for pardons before he left office because of their participation in the events leading up to the attack on the Capitol. Seven Democratic senators filed a complaint with the Senate Committee on Ethics asking for an investigation of how Hawley and Cruz might have contributed to the January 6 attack. Hawley is trying to brazen it out: today he filed a counter-complaint continuing his objection to the election results and attacking the seven senators who asked for the investigation.

The actions of the insurgents spurred corporate donors to flee, refusing to donate money either to them or to the Republican Party, at least in the short term. Today, Dominion Voting Systems, the company Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani and other supporters accused of falsifying the election results, announced it was suing Giuliani for defamation, seeking damages of more than $1.3 billion.

In contrast, Republicans who care about the survival of our democracy joined Democrats to impeach Trump for inciting an insurrection. Some Republicans are taking a principled stand. Others are aware that Trump's attack on our government destabilizes the country and hurts business. Further, they are aware that, if Trump or his supporters do manage to put a dictator in charge, the end to the rule of law would make it impossible to do business in this country. Finally, some business Republicans—like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell—are furious with Trump for working against Republican Senate candidates in Georgia in his attempt to pressure party members to overturn the election results for him. Trump now has nothing to offer that they want.

The two Republican factions are struggling for control over the party. The Trump faction is organizing around the former president, who is launching broadsides at business Republicans he fears will vote to convict him in his upcoming impeachment trial. Over the weekend, he threatened to start a new political party—the Patriot Party—with the idea of backing Trump challengers to Republican politicians in upcoming Republican primaries. He took in a lot of money after the election on the promise to fight for his reelection; he may or may not have significant money to spend on new candidates. Determined to continue to pressure Republicans, today he launched an unprecedented "Office of the Former President."

His supporters—including the Republicans implicated in the January 6 insurrection—are downplaying the attack on our government and suggesting that impeaching the president or holding accountable the lawmakers who helped the attack is "cancel culture." They are insisting that questioning the election is simply free speech. "Give the man a break… move on," former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley said in opposition to Trump's conviction in the Senate.

With Trump blocked from most major social media channels, state Republican parties are acting on his behalf. This weekend the Arizona Republican Party voted to censure Republicans Jeff Flake, the former Senator; Cindy McCain, Senator John McCain's widow; and current Governor Doug Ducey, who got swept up in their dislike of Trump opponents because he didn't try to switch the state's electoral votes to Trump. The Oregon Republican Party did them one better, suggesting that the January 6 insurrection was a "false flag" operation by Democrats to discredit Trump. The Texas Republican Party is now openly supporting the QAnon conspiracy theorists.

Other Republicans are running away from the party as it becomes a personality cult. More than 2000 Florida Republicans switched parties after January 6, and today former Representative David Jolly of Florida, a Republican who has criticized Trump, floated the idea of running for Congress as an independent. About 7500 Republicans switched parties in Arizona. In North Carolina, 6000 Republicans switched out. An ABC News/Washington Post poll from January 10-13 discovered that almost 70% of Americans said the Republican Party should move away from Trump.

But business Republicans still need Trump voters, and the Wall Street Journal today urged them back into the fold. It will not be an easy sell: they are now wedded to Trump, not the party, and his interests are in pressuring Republican senators not to convict him in his upcoming impeachment trial and in keeping his supporters loyal to whatever he decides to do next.

Republicans have a problem. As an aide to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told Alayna Treene of Axios, "We're eating sh*t for breakfast, lunch, and dinner right now."

Lawmakers will soon have to make a choice about where they stand. The House managers took the article of impeachment to the Senate this evening.

Inside the roots of modern America's home-grown right-wing extremism

Since right-wing insurrectionists stormed the Capitol on January 6 with the vague but violent idea of taking over the government, observers are paying renewed attention to the threat of right-wing violence in our midst.

For all our focus on fighting socialism and communism, right-wing authoritarianism is actually quite an old threat in our country. The nation's focus on fighting "socialism" began in 1871, but what its opponents stood against was not government control of the means of production — an idea that never took hold in America — but the popular public policies which cost tax dollars and thus made wealthier people pay for programs that would benefit everyone. Public benefits like highways and hospitals, opponents argued, amounted to a redistribution of wealth, and thus were a leftist assault on American freedom.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that fight against "socialism" took the form of opposition to unionization and Black rights. In the 1920s, after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia had given shape to the American fear of socialism, making sure that system never came to America meant destroying the government regulation put in place during the Progressive Era and putting businessmen in charge of the government.

When Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt established business regulation, a basic social safety net, and government-funded infrastructure in the 1930s to combat the Great Depression that had laid ordinary Americans low, one right-wing senator wrote to a colleague: "This is despotism, this is tyranny, this is the annihilation of liberty…. The ordinary American is thus reduced to the status of a robot. The president has not merely signed the death warrant of capitalism, but has ordained the mutilation of the Constitution, unless the friends of liberty, regardless of party, band themselves together to regain their lost freedom."

The roots of modern right-wing extremism lie in the post-World War II reaction to FDR's New Deal and the Republican embrace of it under President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Opponents of an active government insisted that it undermined American liberty by redistributing tax dollars from hardworking white men to those eager for a handout—usually Black men, in their telling. Modern government, they insisted, was bringing socialism to America. They set out to combat it, trying to slash the government back to the form it took in the 1920s.

Their job got easier after 1987, when the Fairness Doctrine ended. That Federal Communications Commission policy had required public media channels to base their stories on fact and to present both sides of a question. When it was gone, talk radio took off, hosted by radio jocks like Rush Limbaugh who contrasted their ideal country with what they saw as the socialism around them: a world in which hardworking white men who took care of their wives and children were hemmed in by government that was taxing them to give benefits to lazy people of color and "Feminazis." These "Liberals" were undermining the country and the family, aided and abetted by lawmakers building a big government that sucked tax dollars.

In August 1992, the idea that hardworking white men trying to take care of their families were endangered by an intrusive government took shape at Ruby Ridge, Idaho. Randy Weaver, a former factory worker who had moved his family to northern Idaho to escape what he saw as the corruption of American society, failed to show up for trial on a firearms charge. When federal marshals tried to arrest him, a firefight left Weaver's fourteen-year-old son and a deputy marshal dead. In the af­termath of the shooting, federal and local officers laid an 11-day siege to the Weavers' cabin, and a sniper wounded Weaver and killed his wife, Vicki.

Right-wing activists and neo-Nazis from a nearby Aryan Nations compound swarmed to Ruby Ridge to protest the government's at­tack on what they saw as a man protecting his family. Negotiators eventually brought Weaver out, but the standoff at Ruby Ridge convinced western men they had to arm themselves to fight off the government.

In February of the next year, during the Democratic Bill Clinton administration, the same theme played out in Waco, Texas, when officers stormed the compound of a religious cult whose former members reported that their leader, David Koresh, was stockpiling weapons. A gun battle and a fire ended the 51-day siege on April 19, 1993. Seventy-six people died.

While a Republican investigation cited "overwhelming evidence" that exonerated the government of wrongdoing, talk radio hosts nonetheless railed against the Democratic administration, especially Attorney General Janet Reno, for the events at Waco. What happened there fit neatly into what was by then the Republican narrative of an overreaching government that crushed individuals, and political figures harped on that idea.

Rush Limbaugh stoked his listeners' anger with reports of the "Waco invasion" and talked of the government's "murder" of citizens, making much of the idea that a group of Christians had been killed by a female government official who was single and— as opponents made much of — unfeminine (re­actionary rocker Ted Nugent featured an obscene caricature of her for years in his stage version of "Kiss My Glock").

Horrified by the government's attempt to break into the cult's compound, Alex Jones, who would go on to become an important conspiracy theorist and founder of InfoWars, dropped out of community college to start a talk show on which he warned that Reno had "murdered" the people at Waco and that the government was about to impose martial law. The modern militia movement took off.

The combination of political rhetoric and violence radicalized a former Army gunner, Timothy McVeigh, who decided to bring the war home to the government. "Taxes are a joke," he wrote to a newspaper in 1992. "More taxes are always the answer to government mismanagement…. Is a Civil War Imminent? Do we have to shed blood to reform the current system? I hope it doesn't come to that. But it might."

On April 19, 1995, a date chosen to honor the Waco standoff, McVeigh set off a bomb at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The blast killed 168 people, including 19 children younger than six, and wounded more than 800. When the police captured McVeigh, he was wearing a T-shirt with a picture of Abraham Lincoln and the words "Sic Semper Tyrannis." The same words John Wilkes Booth shouted after he assassinated Lincoln, they mean "thus always to tyrants," and are the words attributed to Brutus after he and his supporters murdered Caesar.

By 1995, right-wing terrorists envisioned themselves as protectors of American individualism in the face of a socialist government, but the reality was that their complaints were not about government activism. They were about who benefited from that activism.

In 2014, Nevada cattle rancher Cliven Bundy brought the contradictions in this individualist image to light when he fought the government over the impoundment of the cattle that he had been grazing on public land for more than 20 years. Bundy owed the government more than $1 million in grazing fees for running his cattle on public land, but he disparaged the "Negro" who lived in government housing and "didn't have nothing to do." Black people's laziness led them to abort their children and send their young men to jail, he told a reporter, and he wondered: "are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life… or are they better off under government subsidy?"

Convinced that he was a hardworking individualist, Bundy announced he did not recognize federal power over the land on which he grazed his cattle. The government impounded his animals in 2014, but officials backed down when Bundy and his supporters showed up armed. Republican Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) called Bundy and his supporters "patriots"; Democrat Harry Reid (D-NV), the Senate Majority Leader at the time, called them "domestic terrorists" and warned, "it's not over. We can't have an American people that violate the law and then just walk away from it. So it's not over."

It wasn't. Two years later, Bundy's son Ammon was at the forefront of the right-wing takeover of Oregon's Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, arguing that the federal government must turn over all public lands to the states to open them to private development. The terrorists called themselves "Citizens for Constitutional Freedom."

For the past four years, Trump and his enablers have tried to insist that unrest in the country is caused by "Antifa," an unorganized group of anti-fascists who show up at rallies to confront right-wing protesters. But the Department of Homeland Security this summer identified "anarchist and anti-government extremists" as "the most significant threat… against law enforcement." According to DHS, they are motivated by "their belief that their liberties are being taken away by the perceived unconstitutional or otherwise illegitimate actions of government officials or law enforcement." Those anti-government protesters are now joined quite naturally by white supremacists, as well as other affiliated groups.

Right-wing terrorism in American has very deep roots, and those roots have grown since the 1990s as Republican rhetorical attacks on the federal government have fed them. The January 6 assault on the Capitol is not an aberration. It has been coming for a very long time.

The Trump administration appears to be falling apart as Republicans ignite deliberate mayhem

A year ago today, the House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald J. Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

In his plea to Senators to convict the president, Adam Schiff (D-CA), the lead impeachment manager for the House, warned "you know you can't trust this president to do what's right for this country." Schiff asked: "How much damage can Donald Trump do between now and the next election?" and then answered his own question: "A lot. A lot of damage." "Can you have the least bit of confidence that Donald Trump will… protect our national interest over his own personal interest?" Schiff asked the senators who were about to vote on Trump's guilt. "You know you can't, which makes him dangerous to this country.''

Republicans took offense at Schiff's passionate words, seeing them as criticism of themselves. They voted to acquit Trump of the charges the House had levied against him.

And a year later, here we are. A pandemic has killed more than 312,000 of us, and numbers of infections and deaths are spiking. Today we hit a new single-day record of reported coronavirus cases with 246,914, our third daily record in a row. The economy is in shambles, with more than 6 million Americans applying for unemployment benefits. And the government has been hobbled by a massive hack from foreign operatives, likely Russians, who have hit many of our key departments.

Today it began to feel as if the Trump administration was falling apart as journalists began digging into a number of troubling stories.

Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, appointed by Trump after he fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper by tweet on November 9, this morning abruptly halted the transition briefings the Pentagon had been providing, as required by law, to the incoming Biden team. Observers were taken aback by this unprecedented halt to the transition process, as well as by the stated excuse: that Defense Department officials were overwhelmed by the number of meetings the transition required. Retired four-star general Barry R. McCaffrey, a military analyst for NBC and MSNBC, tweeted: "Pentagon abruptly halts Biden transition—MAKES NO SENSE. CLAIM THEY ARE OVERWHELMED. DOD GOES OPAQUE. TRUMP-MILLER UP TO NO GOOD. DANGER."

After Axios published the story and outrage was building, Miller issued a statement saying the two sides had decided on a "mutually-agreed upon holiday, which begins tomorrow." Biden transition director Yohannes Abraham promptly told reporters: "Let me be clear: there was no mutually agreed upon holiday break. In fact, we think it's important that briefings and other engagements continue during this period as there's no time to spare, and that's particularly true in the aftermath of ascertainment delay," a reference to the delay in the administration's recognition of Biden's election.

Later, the administration suggested the sudden end to the transition briefings was because Trump was angry that the Washington Post on Wednesday had published a story showing how much money Biden could save by stopping the construction of Trump's border wall. Anger over a story from two days ago seems like a stretch, a justification after the briefings had been cancelled for other reasons. The big story of the day, and the week, and the month, and the year, and probably of this administration, is the sweeping hack of our government by a hostile foreign power. The abrupt end to the briefings might reflect that the administration isn't keen on giving Biden access to the crime scene.

Republicans appear to be trying to cripple the Biden administration more broadly. The country has been thrilled by the arrival of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine that promises an end to the scourge under which we're suffering. Just tonight, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized a second vaccine, produced by Moderna, for emergency authorization use. This vaccine does not require ultracold temperatures for shipping the way the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine does. Two vaccines for the coronavirus are extraordinarily good news.

But this week, as the first Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines were being given, states learned that the doses the federal government had promised were not going to arrive, and no one is quite sure why. The government blamed Pfizer, which promptly blasted the government, saying it had plenty of vaccines in warehouses but had received no information about where to send them. Then the White House said there was confusion over scheduling.

Josh Kovensky at Talking Points Memo has been following this story, and concluded a day or so ago that the administration had made no plans for vaccine distribution beyond February 1, when the problem would be Biden's. Kovensky also noted that it appears the administration promised vaccine distribution on an impossible timeline, deliberately raising hopes for vaccine availability that Biden couldn't possibly fulfill. Today Kovensky noted that there are apparently doses missing and unaccounted for, but no one seems to know where they might be.

Today suggested yet another instance of Republican bad faith. With Americans hungry and increasingly homeless, the nation is desperate for another coronavirus relief bill. The House passed one last May, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to take it up. Throughout the summer and fall, negotiations on a different bill failed as Republicans demanded liability protection for businesses whose employees got coronavirus after they reopened, and Democrats demanded federal aid to states and local governments, pinched as tax revenue has fallen off during the pandemic. Now, though, with many Americans at the end of their rope, McConnell indicated he would be willing to cut a deal because the lack of a relief package is hurting the Republican Senate candidates before the runoff election in Georgia on January 5. Both sides seemed on the verge of a deal.

That deal fell apart this afternoon after Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) with the blessing of McConnell, suddenly insisted on limiting the ability of the Federal Reserve to lend money to help businesses and towns stay afloat. These were tools the Trump administration had and used, but Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin tried to kill them after Trump lost the election. The Federal Reserve's ability to manage fiscal markets is key to addressing recessions. Removing that power would gravely hamper Biden's ability to help the nation climb out of the recession during his administration.

It's hard not to see this as a move by McConnell and Senate Republicans to take away Biden's power—power enjoyed by presidents in general, and by Trump in particular—to combat the recession in order to hobble the economy and hurt the Democrats before the 2022 election.

Money was in the news in another way today, too. Business Insider broke the story that the Trump campaign used a shell company approved by Jared Kushner to pay campaign expenses without having to disclose them to federal election regulators. The company was called American Made Media Consultants LLC. Trump's daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, was president, and Vice President Mike Pence's nephew, John Pence, was vice president until the two apparently stepped down in late 2019 to work on the campaign. The treasurer was the chief financial officer of the Trump campaign, Sean Dollman.

The Trump campaign spent more than $700 million of the $1.26 billion of campaign cash it raised in the 2020 cycle through AMMC, but to whom it paid that money is hidden. Former Republican Federal Election Commission Chairman Trevor Potter is trying to take up the slack left by the currently crippled Federal Elections Commission. His organization, the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan clean election group, last July accused the Trump campaign of "disguising" campaign funding of about $170 million "by laundering the funds" through AMMC.

This news adds to our understanding that Trump is leaving the White House with a large amount of cash. He has raised more than $250 million since November 3, urging his supporters to donate to his election challenges, but much of the money has gone to his own new political action committee or to the Republican National Committee. Recently, he has begged supporters to give to a "Georgia Election Fund," suggesting that the money will go to the runoff elections for Georgia's two senators, but 75% of the money actually goes to Trump's new political action committee and 25% to the Republican National Committee.

Shane Goldmacher and Maggie Haberman at the New York Times note that there are very few limits to how Trump can spend the money from his new PAC.

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