Why are reporters so dense about these issues?

There’s an article up at Rolling Stone about how Trump’s lawyers are preparing for possible criminal charges.

Then I ran across the following sentence, which reporters love to include with any mention of Trump being prosecuted.

Criminal charges against a former president would mark the first time in American history that a former president has been prosecuted for crimes committed in office. 

Of course it’s the first time! It’s the first time a sitting president — or any president, for that matter — has committed treason while in office!

You’d think that would be important to add every time you write about this “the first time” bullshit.

I don’t know why that is so hard to internalize for reporters. It’s not as if it’s not an integral part of any discussion about prosecuting the Orange Menace from Mar-A-Lago.

It not a bad article other than that glaring omission.

You can read it here.

Jan. 6 committee taking (apparently limited) look at law enforcement failures leading up to insurrection

Well, at least the House committee is looking at something related to how so many law enforcement agencies could be so wrong and utterly unprepared for the Jan. 6 treasonous riot.

They will walk on tippy toes so as not to be accused of being anti-cop, of course.

Due to late-breaking revelations, the committee’s public presentations in June and July skewed more toward Trump’s actions before and during the Capitol attack. But there’s a lot that got left on the cutting room floor, including new information gathered by the “blue team,” which has focused on law enforcement failures leading up to the attack, as NBC News reported back in January.

A committee aide told NBC News last week that this team of investigators is singularly focused on the preparedness of and response by law enforcement, intelligence agencies and the military.

“The team has conducted more than 100 interviews and depositions touching on these matters of security and intelligence across several federal and local agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Homeland Security, Fusion Centers, Office of Intelligence & Analysis, among others,” the aide said. “The team is looking into what intelligence these agencies had at their disposal; how that intelligence was analyzed, stitched together, and distributed; and whether law enforcement operationalized that intelligence.”

The “blue team,” a separate source told NBC News, is headed by Soumya Dayananda, who spent more than a decade as a federal prosecutor — and worked the case against Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán — before joining the committee.

Liz Cheney said in an interview on Fox News last Sunday that the blue team’s work would be featured in the committee’s final report and would “likely” be included in upcoming hearings.

“What we aren’t going to do … is blame the Capitol Police, blame those in law enforcement, for Donald Trump’s armed mob that he sent to the Capitol,” Cheney said. “Clearly there were intelligence failures, clearly the security should have operated better than it did. But this was a mob Donald Trump sent to the Capitol, and I think that’s important to keep our eye on.”

That last part is not promising. It indicates that they will not be looking at perhaps one of the most important aspects of the entire plot to overthrow the election.

Many officers and agents in federal, state and local law enforcement are supporters of the Proud Boys and other white nationalist groups, some of them are secretly members, and many of them wanted to see the Jan. 6 insurrection succeed. We already know some Capitol police welcomed the rioters with open arms and pats on the back.

Top GOP strategist says the Jan. 6 hearings are changing some Republican minds

The Atlantic has an interesting piece up by Sarah Longwell, a Republican political strategist and publisher of the neoconservative news and opinion website The Bulwark. She is the founder of Republican Voters Against Trump (now the Republican Accountability Project), which spent millions of dollars to defeat President Trump in 2020.

Longwell writes:

I conducted dozens of focus groups of Trump 2020 voters in the 17 months between the storming of the Capitol on January 6 and when the hearings began in June. One measure was consistent: At least half of the respondents in each group wanted Trump to run again in 2024. The prevailing belief was that the 2020 election was stolen—or at least unfair in some way—and Trump should get another shot.

But since June, I’ve observed a shift. I’ve conducted nine focus groups during this period, and found that only 14 percent of Trump 2020 voters wanted him to run in 2024, with a few others on the fence. In four of the groups, zero people wanted Trump to run again. Their reasoning is clear: They’re now uncertain that Trump can win again.

“He’s just too divisive and controversial,” a participant in Washington State said about Trump. “There are good candidates out there waiting to shine.”

A participant in Wyoming said, “I feel like there’s too many people against him right now. He’s never gonna make it … So I feel like somebody else needs to step in that has similar views, but not as big of an ego—who people like, I guess.”

“At first I thought I would” want him to run again, an Arizona participant said. “I think it’s time to move on.”

In a focus group the very next day, a participant in Georgia said, “They keep talking about the results of the election. And I feel like even when he’s doing his road show, he keeps bringing that up … I just feel like we’ve moved past that.”

One of the reasons some Trump voters want to “move on” from Trump is that they find him—and the resulting chaotic media environment—exhausting. In a focus group with Ohio voters, one participant said, “I do not want four more years of ‘orange man bad’ and everybody screaming about every time he tweets—and believe me, he did some really bad tweets. I don’t want four more years of that.”

This comment prompted another participant to say, “After hearing what you said, it makes more sense to maybe not want Trump there for certain reasons. When you bring back all of that, it makes me think again.”

These voters have roughly the same attitude toward the January 6 hearings that they did to both impeachments (during which I also regularly conducted focus groups). They believe they’re a witch hunt and a “dog and pony show.” They believe they are designed to make Trump and Republicans look bad. Only a few had watched some of the hearings before turning them off in disgust.

But unlike the impeachment hearings, which in some ways made GOP voters more defensive of Trump, the accumulating drama of the January 6 hearings—which they can’t avoid in social-media feeds—seems to be facilitating not a wholesale collapse of support, but a soft permission to move on.

I have mixed feelings about all this.

On the one hand, having Trump on the 2024 ticket might be the best gift Democrats could hope for. If all of what Longwell writes is true, Trump would a definite liability.

On the other hand, everyone underestimated him prior to the 2020 election.

You can read the rest of Longwell’s piece at this link.

Guy in charge of GOP’s “election integrity” office was involved in fake electors planning

The rot in the GOP continues up the Republican ladder in the two federal investigations into the Jan. 6 insurrection and the effort to overthrow the 2020 election.

Politico is reporting that Joshua Findlay, who is now the RNC’s national director for election integrity, has become a focus of the Justice Department’s Jan. 6 probe.

Politico reviewed the subpoena sent to the Georgia witness after the Washington Post published copies of two Arizona subpoenas. Findlay’s appearance in the documents means the Justice Department has taken interest in his communications as part of its probe related to pro-Trump GOP officials and activists who presented themselves as legitimate electors from states where Joe Biden won.

Findlay worked for Trump’s 2020 campaign in multiple capacities. In January 2019, the campaign announced he was joining the team that would handle the 2020 Republican National Convention. After the convention, he worked as an attorney on the Trump campaign’s legal team.

The three subpoenas order the witnesses to share all documents and communications from October 2020 on, “[t]o, from, with, or including” a list of people, including Findlay.

While Findlay is not a central figure in the Jan. 6 select committee’s investigation, the head of the Trump campaign’s legal team, Matt Morgan, mentioned him in testimony to the panel. At a hearing on June 21, the panel played a video clip where one of its investigators, Casey Lucier, said some Trump campaign lawyers “became convinced that convening electors in states that Trump lost was no longer appropriate.”

Findlay’s visibility into plans regarding alternate electors didn’t end on Election Day. Politico reviewed an email sent to him on December 12, 2020, showing David Shafer — head of the Georgia Republican Party, and himself an alternate elector — directing one of his subordinates to contact Findlay about the alternate elector plans.

Let’s hope this continues to put the rest any questions about whether the coup plot had the official backing of GOP leaders from top to bottom.

Some of them are trying to back away now that it’s clear the Jan. 6 House committee is continuing to lay the groundwork for criminal prosecutions.

There can be no doubt the coup effort was supported from the top echelons of the Republican Party apparatus.

You can read the rest of Politico’s article by Betsy Woodruff Swan at this link.

The NY Times just put up an article uncovering more dirt on Trump’s hack lawyers

This is why I still subscribe to the New York Times despite some of the genuinely shallow and self-serving reporters and columnists they have working at that newspaper.

They posted a story today — titled ‘Kind of Wild/Creative’: Emails Shed Light on Trump Fake Electors Plan — that names names in a kind of rogues gallery of all the shady lawyers and other Trump operatives who’ve now been fingered in a big way in the plot to overthrow the government.

Previously undisclosed emails provide an inside look at the increasingly desperate and often slapdash efforts by advisers to President Donald J. Trump to reverse his election defeat in the weeks before the Jan. 6 attack, including acknowledgments that a key element of their plan was of dubious legality and lived up to its billing as “fake.”

The dozens of emails among people connected to the Trump campaign, outside advisers and close associates of Mr. Trump show a particular focus on assembling lists of people who would claim — with no basis — to be Electoral College electors on his behalf in battleground states that he had lost.

In emails reviewed by The New York Times and authenticated by people who had worked with the Trump campaign at the time, one lawyer involved in the detailed discussions repeatedly used the word “fake” to refer to the so-called electors, who were intended to provide Vice President Mike Pence and Mr. Trump’s allies in Congress a rationale for derailing the congressional process of certifying the outcome. And lawyers working on the proposal made clear they knew that the pro-Trump electors they were putting forward might not hold up to legal scrutiny.

It’s a crazy article, even by the standards of the nutty shit that’s come out so far about Trump’s plot to stage a coup.

Some of these people have to be sweating bullets, even if they weren’t before, about how this might play out in criminal investigations or with questions about their fitness for membership in various state bars.

You can read the rest of the article here.

If I were these numbskulls — many of whom wrote openly and joked about their ongoing fraud — I’d be looking to take a deal in exchange for my testimony.

Boris Epshteyn, a Russian lawyer heavily involved in the fake electors plan.

Fox News allows Liz Cheney on Sunday show to talk (mostly) unimpeded about Jan. 6

First the Wall Street Journal, then the New York Post, and now … Fox News?

You cannot tell me the first two have nothing to do with Fox News bringing Liz Cheney onto its flagship Sunday morning news program to talk about Jan. 6, for the most part without the host taking over the interview.

That doesn’t mean that Bret Baier didn’t try to gaslight her, first with talk about whether her committee is going to investigate Nancy Pelosi and the Capitol Police:

“We have an entire team — we have five different teams in the investigation — one of them is totally focused on all of those issues of security at the Capitol and the response of Capitol Police, the response of the National Guard, the response of the Capitol Police board, what was going on at the Pentagon that day,” Cheney said. “It’s an entire focus of the investigation, you will see it in our report, you will likely see an upcoming hearing.”

Then she brought down the hammer: “But what we aren’t gonna do, Bret, is blame the Capitol Police, blame those in law enforcement, for Donald Trump’s armed mob that he sent to the Capitol.”

Cheney also debunked Baier’s assertion that Trump offered National Guard troops to defend the Capitol, citing public testimony by Trump’s own acting secretary of defense at the time, Chris Miller.

“We also know that on Jan. 6 while the attack was underway, Donald Trump did not place a single phone call to anyone at the Pentagon. He didn’t place a single phone call to anyone at the Justice Department to say, ‘Deploy law enforcement,’” Cheney said, adding, “The notion that somehow he issued an order is not consistent with the facts.”

Cheney also shot down Baier’s blathering about the committee being lopsided with Democrats.

In fact, Baier’s attempts to derail the conversation were so weak, I wonder if someone somewhere has given Fox News marching orders about not going all-in on Trump any longer.

You can read the rest at this link or watch it below.

Cato Institute, “think tank” mouthpiece for Wall Street and Republicans since 1977, promotes detailed report saying 2020 election was not stolen

First it was the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post editorial boards saying Trump is not fit for office.

Now comes the Cato Insititute the right-wing … er, I mean smarmy libertarian “think tank” finding its spine just enough to start promoting a just-issued report from some prominent Republicans debunking the notion that Trump really won the 2020 election:

“Lost, Not Stolen” is a new 72‐​page report from a group of prominent conservative legal and political figures that knocks down some of the more frequently heard claims from Donald Trump and allies that the 2020 election was stolen or illegitimate. Their “unequivocal” conclusion is that Trump lost; in fact, they find no credible evidence that fraud changed the outcome even in a single precinct, let alone in any state.

Most of the report consists of a state‐​by‐​state refutation of claims circulated about voting results in Arizona and Georgia (six claims apiece), Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Note that the last‐​named of these states has already been the subject of a useful report from the right‐​leaning Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, which I wrote about here, and that Republican authorities in states like Georgia have also carried out extensive audits and reviews regarding those states’ votes.

The new report’s signers include three prominent retired federal judges (Thomas Griffith, Mike McConnell, Michael Luttig), former Solicitor General Ted Olson, Republican election lawyer Ben Ginsberg, former senators John Danforth and Gordon Smith, and longtime Congressional staff chief David Hoppe. I should mention that I have known three of these figures at various times over decades (McConnell, Ted Olson, Hoppe) and admired each for their insight, analytical skills, and dedication to principle.

There is no defensible case that Trump won the 2020 election. “We urge our fellow conservatives to cease obsessing over the results of the 2020 election, and to focus instead on presenting candidates and ideas that offer a positive vision for overcoming our current difficulties and bringing greater peace, prosperity, and liberty to our nation.”

You can read the entire report here.

Better late than never, I guess.

But let’s never forget that a lot of these guys who’ve had their Come To Jesus moment on Trump’s dangers were also the ones who helped elect him in the first place despite all evidence that he was totally unfit for office.

Trump White House staffers who resigned in disgust Jan. 6 are scheduled to testify in prime time Thursday night

This ought to be interesting:

Matthew Pottinger, who was deputy national security adviser under President Donald J. Trump and the highest-ranking White House official to resign on Jan. 6, 2021, is expected to testify about that day at the House select committee’s prime-time hearing on Thursday, people familiar with the planning said.

Mr. Pottinger, who was in the White House much of the day of the riot, is one of the live witnesses for the hearing, which is expected to focus on the more than three hours in which Mr. Trump watched the violence unfold without taking any substantial steps to call off his supporters even as they threatened Vice President Mike Pence.

Mr. Pottinger and Sarah Matthews, a former White House deputy press secretary who also resigned on Jan. 6, are expected to help narrate what was unfolding inside the West Wing during those 187 minutes, in a hearing that the committee sees as the capstone to a series of public sessions in which it has laid out in detail Mr. Trump’s efforts to remain in office despite his defeat and how they led to the storming of the Capitol.

The hearing, scheduled for 8 p.m., is expected to give a detailed account of how Mr. Trump resisted multiple pleas from staff members, lawyers and even his own family to call off the attack.

You can read the rest here.

Getting Trump’s ear was a matter of simply giving him someone to hate

Now comes this from an article in the New York Times (by Maggie Haberman and Luke Broadwater) in which they detail the influence of right-wing attorney William Olson, who appeared mysteriously on the scene and began whispering in Trump’s ear about those who were betraying him:

The involvement of a person like Mr. Olson, who now represents the conspiracy theorist and MyPillow chief executive Mike Lindell, underscores how the system that would normally insulate a president from rogue actors operating outside of official channels had broken down within weeks after the 2020 election.

That left Mr. Trump in direct contact with people who promoted conspiracy theories or questionable legal ideas, telling him not only what he wanted to hear, but also that they — not the public servants advising him — were the only ones he could trust.

“In our long conversation earlier this week, I could hear the shameful and dismissive attitude of the lawyer from White House Counsel’s Office toward you personally — but more importantly toward the Office of the President of the United States itself,” Mr. Olson wrote to Mr. Trump. “This is unacceptable.”

So, in the end, it was no longer enough just to be obsequious toward Trump. You had to kiss his ass, flatter him extravagantly AND you had to give him names of people who were allegedly working against him. Trump is nothing if not predictable and simple in his motivations.

I’m sure the enemies of the U.S. were taking notes about this the entire time, ready to use it should Trump have won the 2020 election.

We will never know how much these character flaws in Trump were already being used by operatives of, say, Russia and North Korea.

William J. Olson in his younger days interning for the master of dirty tricks in the White House, Richard Nixon.

Steve Bannon may be the most dangerous man to democracy’s future

Right-wing bomb thrower Steve Bannon has arguably been the chief architect of the far Right’s burn-it-all-down philosophy and tactics. He wants to destroy Democrats, of course. But he also wants to destroy much of the GOP in the process. He revels in political and social anarchy as means to his ends.

So, news that he might testify before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection has caused much in the way of speculation as to his motives. Is he hoping to influence outcomes in his related legal battles? Will he try to obfuscate the committee’s findings and sow discord about its motives? Is he simply trying to raise his profile for the many shady ways he raises money from dupes in red America while he lives in fancy houses, stays in opulent hotels, and luxuriates on private yachts?

There’s a good article up at Vox by Sean Illing that tries to examine Bannon and the many ways in which he is opaque by design, and what he might be up to next.

Illing interviews Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Jennifer Senior who has written extensively about Bannon.

Here’s an excerpt:

Sean Illing

Well, it’s interesting that you use the word televangelist there [to describe Bannon]. When I think of a televangelist, I think of a bullshit artist, I think of a religious entrepreneur.

Do you think he is just a complete grifter? I mean, I honestly don’t know if he’s a revolutionary or just a well-financed shitposter. I guess I’m asking if you think he really believes in what he’s doing. I think he knows when he’s full of shit, but the question is, does he see it as a means to some noble end or is it just the grift and nothing besides?

Jennifer Senior

It’s the best question. And it’s what I set out to answer.

The problem is that when somebody is as practiced at bullshitting as he is, the answer in some ways has to be both. Because you can’t have two sets of books for very long without, in some way, trying to intellectually reconcile them, so that you’ve only lied once. And then afterwards you believe your own lie. I think that that might just be the psychology of grifting.

We know that he’s living very lavishly, thanks to others. He’s got houses all over the place. He’s partial to nice hotels. When he was trying to get the European populist nationalist movement off the ground, he stayed in all these fabulous luxury suites financed by others. He takes private jets that are owned by others. The Mercers underwrote him.

So I think it’s kind of not a choice. It might be both.

What is interesting is, if you ask anybody around Steve, if you ask the people who know him and who like him, does he truly believe that the election was stolen? The number who will say, yes… Did anyone say yes to me, now that I think about it? Oh my God. I mean, so many people, if they’re trying to protect him, they’ll say they don’t know.

No smart people, no people who live within the Beltway who know how politics works, no one who really knows anything about elections believes this election was stolen. That’s the bottom line.

And the January 6 hearings played this out.

You can read the rest here. I learned new things about Bannon, and that’s saying a lot because I’ve read a lot about him.