Changing the conversation about Trump.
June 20, 2022
[No audio version for this edition]
After last Thursday’s January 6th hearing proved that Trump ordered Pence to overturn the 2020 election, Trump took to his vanity platform, Truth Social, to deny the charge. But in denying he ordered Pence to overturn the election, Trump confessed his guilt. As the Committee proved on Thursday, the Constitution commands the VP and Congress to do two things with the electoral ballots: Open and count them. But last Friday, Trump posted,
Such LIES & MISREPRESENTATION [by the Committee . . . I never asked V.P. Pence to ‘overturn’ the election . . . but that he send the votes back to the Legislatures so that they could determine if the irregularities and Fraud were as widespread and significant as they seemed.
Pence’s constitutional duty was to “open and count” the electoral ballots but Trump asked him to “send the ballots back to the states”—violating the 12th Amendment. Trump asked Pence to invalidate the first election and grant him a “do-over” in five states Trump lost. Trump’s comment is nothing less than an admission of his criminal culpability for seditious conspiracy. Trump then supercharged his admission by engaging in witness tampering, saying that he was “very, very seriously” considering granting pardons to January 6th insurrectionists if he is reelected.
As George Conway said over the weekend,
From a prosecutor’s standpoint, let him keep talking. He basically is still admitting that he put pressure on [former Vice President] Mike Pence to do something that was completely illegal. Somebody should tell him that he has the right to remain silent and anything he says can and will be used against him in a court of law.
Of course, Trump made the same statements (and worse) in the two months following the election—which is why the delay by the DOJ in indicting Trump is maddening. Trump committed his crimes in public, on audiotape and videotape. But the good news is that the superb presentation by the Committee is persuading the DOJ that it act. See The Guardian, Searing testimony increases odds of charges against Trump, experts say. Indeed, the DOJ has demanded that the Committee turn over 1,000 deposition transcripts to aid the DOJ in its investigations.
The hearings have moved public opinion in favor of indicting Trump. See ABC News, 6 in 10 Americans say Trump should be charged for Jan. 6 riot: POLL. The ABC poll shows only a modest increase in support for indicting Trump (about 6%), but that is the most that can be expected in a highly polarized electorate. The decision to indict Trump should not be based on public opinion, but the hearings are changing the conversation surrounding Trump. They are preparing the public for an indictment of Trump, even though that is not the aim of the hearings. Good.
Moreover, they are giving some Republicans an “offramp” to finally abandon Trump. See Juliette Kayyem in The Atlantic, The January 6 Committee Is Giving Trumpers an Off-Ramp. As Kayyem writes,
[L]ongtime Trump skeptics aren’t the Committee’s target audience. The message to his remaining supporters is: Trump has peaked. His best days are behind him. You won’t be the first to take the off-ramp, but you don’t want to be the last.
A single congressional committee cannot make Trump’s most violent supporters better, kinder, more accepting of America’s diversity. But it can help separate the former president from elites, donors, and those who would support him simply because they don’t like the alternative.
The hearings are designed to establish the facts beyond dispute. In that, they have succeeded. But they are changing the conversation around Trump in a way that presages his defeat and accountability. The work of the Committee is not done, and the DOJ must now rise to the challenge of prosecuting a former president. And while the Committee won’t change the minds of every skeptical American, it does not need to do so. It need only change the minds of enough of them to defang and destabilize Trump. His competitors in the GOP will relegate him to his rightful status as a one-term, twice impeached, coup-plotting, indicted former president.
The Supreme Court.
The scandal with Ginni Thomas is exploding. Last Friday, NBC News reported on a Facebook group titled “Frontliners for Liberty” that appeared to organize state-level leaders dedicated to overturning the 2020 election. See CNBC, Ginni Thomas-tied Facebook group’ FrontLiners for Liberty’ could be a new focus in Jan. 6 investigation. In December 2021, Trump attorney John Eastman spoke to the Facebook group. The thesis of Eastman’s talk was, “State legislative actions that can reverse the media-called election for Joe Biden.’” Per CNBC, “Another speaker gave an ‘update on [state] legislature actions regarding electoral votes.”
In other words, the Facebook group run by Ginni Thomas seemed to be dedicated to spreading Eastman’s deeply flawed legal theories for overturning the election. The group was associated with the Facebook account of Virginia Thomas which contained numerous photos of Justice Clarence Thomas. Ginni Thomas’s Facebook account and group thus put Justice Clarence Thomas within 1 degree of separation from those plotting to overturn the 2020 election.
Chief Justice John Roberts should announce an investigation into Justice Thomas’s failure to disqualify himself from cases involving his wife’s correspondence with Mark Meadows and John Eastman.
The Supreme Court’s calendar.
The Supreme Court’s calendar lists only two “non-argument sessions” remaining—Tuesday, June 21st and Monday June 27th. It is likely that the Court will issue two important rulings on those days: Abortion (Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health) and gun control (NY Pistol and Rifle Ass’n v. Bruen). Both decisions will run counter to the political sentiments of the majority of Americans. And they will overturn long-standing precedent and principles of constitutional interpretation. The decisions will mark the beginning of a dark chapter in the Court’s history.
We have the power to repair a broken court. But it will be a decades-long project that must start with eliminating the filibuster and controlling Congress and the presidency. The most straightforward way to repair the Court (without a constitutional amendment) is to enlarge it to dilute the illegitimate majority appointed by Mitch McConnell.
I have not written about Ukraine in nearly four weeks because of the dramatic development in US politics and society. During that time, the media narrative switched from “Ukraine is winning” to “Putin is winning,” or “Putin will win eventually.” It is difficult to know the truth in a rapidly changing situation, but I think the media may have created a self-reinforcing narrative about a change in Ukraine’s fortunes. An article in The Bulwark addresses the media’s changing narrative and concludes that Ukraine continues to hold its own against Putin. See The Bulwark, Has the Tide Really Turned in Ukraine?
I write this newsletter on June 19th—Juneteenth—which commemorates the end of the legal enslavement of African Americans in the US. The day marks the announcement of General Order No. 3 by Union Army General Gordon Granger on June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas. Although Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation two years earlier and General Lee surrendered two months earlier, Texas continued the enslavement of nearly 200,000 African Americans through June 1865. Even then, Texas newspapers urged enslavers to oppose the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment.
We must never forget that only 157 years ago, white Americans could enslave African Americans because of the color of their skin. It is a disgraceful and painful legacy—one that many Republican-controlled states are attempting to erase from history lessons in primary and high schools. We cannot let that happen. Commemorate Juneteenth by remembering the history of enslavement and emancipation of African Americans in the US.
The GOP “shadow primary” for 2024 is in full swing. As noted above, Trump’s competitors are exploring challenges to Trump, looking for weakness, and hoping that Democrats will finally hold him accountable—thereby clearing the GOP presidential field of the GOP’s biggest liability. The shadow primary is causing contenders to run to the right of Trump as they try to capture his base. The result is ugly and disquieting.
Over the weekend, the Texas GOP announced its 2022 platform. As expected, the platform asserts that Joe Biden is not the legitimate president of the US. That plank, while disappointing, has become Republican orthodoxy. More disturbing is the position of Texas Republicans on LGBTQ people. The platform asserts that “Homosexuality is an abnormal lifestyle choice.”
In a single sentence, the Texas GOP seeks to dehumanize and stigmatize tens of millions of Americans. The statement is offensive, ignorant, and hateful. And yet, that grotesque position will be at the center of Governor Greg Abbott’s presidential run. And, of course, Ron DeSantis et al. cannot permit Abbott to occupy the moral low ground necessary to sway Trump’s base. So, we should expect something equally outrageous from DeSantis in the coming weeks. And then worse from Mike Pompeo, Nikki Haley, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley . . .
The rabid Republican attacks on LGBTQ people are understandably anxiety-producing, and each of us should do what we can to reassure and support LGBTQ people in our lives. But the grotesque Republican culture war on LGBTQ people will surely backfire. The tens of millions of LGBTQ Americans have millions of family members, friends, and coworkers. Surely they will punish Republicans for declaring that “homosexuality is an abnormal lifestyle choice.”
As we head into the midterms, Americans are concerned about inflation, no doubt. But they are also worried about gun violence, reproductive rights, the rule of law, human dignity, healthcare, student loan debt, and a clean environment—all of which are the targets of the Republican culture war. And most Americans will not favor a party that stands for division and hate above all else.
Remember, we do not need to convince every voter, just enough of them to win key victories in the House and Senate to maintain our majorities. Unfortunately, the next few weeks should go a long way to strengthening our resolve and motivating Democrats to get out the vote as never before.
Stay strong! Talk to you tomorrow!