It is the weekend, with Joe Biden as actual sworn-in President 75 hours ago. The impeachment articles have been forwarded to the Senate and the trial delayed two weeks. This delay, claims Mitch McConnell, gives Trump’s defense team more time to prepare. This delay, claims the Biden administration, allows for cabinet members to be installed and urgent legislation to be passed (perhaps). This delay places the horrific events of January 6th two weeks further in the past, further receding from immediate memory. This delay also enables further facts to be developed about that January 6th episode.
The Republicans are calling for unity, let bygones be bygones, healing; that all sides bear a role in the riots (Kevin McCarthy), that no way will 17 Senators EVER vote to convict Trump, and, most of all, that the entire trial is wrong because how can you impeach someone already removed from Office? Some believe we are seeing an enormous struggle between those who want to remain on the Trumpist train (and base) and those who want to cut Trump loose to save the Republican party.
As regards the question of impeaching someone after leaving office, this was done once before after the Civil War with a cabinet member. More important, people will argue that if Trump is not tried, then basically any future President will be able to commit crimes between an election and his or her successor’s swearing in, ie essentially promising that the circus we all just saw will happen every election.
I argued in the previous post that the impeachment trial should be delayed, if ever held, because each day of delay adds data to the evidence record. I would add that now some Democrats are speaking of the 14th amendment as a way to punish seditionists from forever holding office again – Trump and others – entirely separate from the impeachment process.
Now, what about the evidence? I am following four threads, each of which, if confirmed, might well be sufficient to convict Trump no matter what the political calculus, but each of which might also show nothing at all. There is a fifth thread, though, which in my opinion nobody is yet paying enough attention to, sitting right in front of our eyes.
Here are the four threads:
First, the near total lack of police and National Guard presence before the riot, during a well publicized protest which even the President said would be “wild,” and then the delay of calling out the National Guard once the riot and invasion began. The bureaucratic excuse seems to be the “fog of war” and a “lapse” and “missing the danger.” Others suggest that the police were withdrawn to enable the invasion. It seems that Mike Flynn, disgraced former National Security Advisor, liar to the FBI, pardoned by Trump, who called for martial law before the riots, has a brother, Charles, also in the Army, who was in a meeting of Army staff telling the Capitol Police and the DC Mayor that no, they would not get National Guard support. It might have even been Flynn’s brother who told the Mayor and the Chief of the Capitol Police the optics were bad for the National Guard. Coincidence? It seems the Army has changed its story of what happened at that meeting at least twice. Why? Trump fired Mark Esper, SecDef, November 9th, and replaced him with loyalists. Were any staff changes made at the office Flynn’s brother was in (the one taking those calls)?
Second, it has been revealed that a large number of individuals and groups closely linked to the Trump campaign were funded by the campaign coffers to organize and set up the January 6th gathering. Who were these people and were they coordinated? There is of course no crime in organizing a protest, and this all may well have been entirely innocent, but information is emerging that suggests a well organized effort to bring to DC a motivated, and angry, crowd of people enraged by an election Trump had falsely been declaring stolen for weeks. If this gathering was not spontaneous, or organically driven (as was, for example, the “pink hat” march in 2017 the day after Trump was sworn in, a million people marching peacefully) how much involvement did Trump or his minions have? One of the organizers, now on the run, is on video stating he organized this with three Republican Congressmen. This all could have been simply organizing a protest, but the fact that many of the organizers have been scrubbing their social media pages since raises questions.
Third, the FBI reports that some groups at the protest (The Oathkeepers? The Proud Boys? Other militias?) had preplanned the invasion, had shared data, used radios, had a specific plan to invade and capture, even kill, legislators and the Vice President, and it was recently disclosed that text messages or emails have surfaced showing real-time communication between the rioters and someone else telling the rioters where the legislators were hiding in the building. There is evidence at least one legislator gave a tour to many people the day before the riot, despite there being no tours because of Covid, perhaps to recon the layout of the building. Who was advising the rioters? Were these specific plans and efforts linked to the organizers of the march above?
Fourth, just last night the New York Times provided a detailed report that appears to confirm that Trump was trying to oust DOJ officials in Georgia right before this riot such that a new official, appointed by Trump, could force Georgia to disqualify its certified electoral count. This is not linked to the riot, of course, but is a clear crime and further another data point showing the breadth and depth of the efforts to stop the certification of an election Trump lost.
I am pretty sure that between now and February 8th when the impeachment trial is set to begin we will have much more information about the four items listed above. Maybe all this has been a colossal inept bureaucratic series of stupid errors, complicated because it does seem that some groups were in fact planning to raid the Capitol and cause mayhem, stop the certification, in which case get ready for Republicans to start talking about “excising bad apples” – among whom might be a few Congressmen or women. I have always been the first to argue that 99 times out of 100 a screw-up happens, not a conspiracy. However, in this case I think we need to be careful, mainly because of the fifth item, right in plain view:
As soon as the riot began, it was obvious something was out of control. Calls, desperate calls, were being made to the Army for National Guard help. Trump and his people were watching the riot unfold on screens at the White House. I know this because, before he went down to speak to the crowd, there is a video Don Junior made of everyone watching the screens. Junior’s girlfriend was dancing, everyone beaming, everyone giddy, it seemed, excited, almost as if they were expecting something to happen. So Trump could see on the screens before him the fighting, the damage, the tear gas. It is what he did then – or failed to do – that, in my mind, is most damaging of all. He did not step out and call an immediate press conference to order everyone to go home. He did not Tweet to the world to stop this, cease, stop the violence. He did not call his Army and ask where the hell the National Guard was.
Worse, he did not call Mike Pence or Nancy Pelosi or Mitch McConnell and ask them how they were doing, whether they were safe. Instead, and this is most damning of all, he was calling senators, who were in lock down hiding from a raging mob, and demanding they support objecting to the certification of the election.
Just as bad, in the days since, as far as I know NOT ONE of those Republicans who voted to overthrow the election even after being attacked by a mob has come forth to declare the election was valid, that Biden won fair and square, that the “stolen election” thesis was a lie. Not one. It thus almost looks as if at the best they were all happy to go along if the election WAS overturned, and at the worst some or many of them knew exactly what was going to happen and were fine with it. Just as, based on his behavior after the mob invaded the building, it seems Trump, too, at best was happy to accept the overturning if it happened and at worst has planned the whole thing himself, with his minions, weeks ago.
Now that, that is a conspiracy.