[Audio edition here.]
In opening remarks to the fourth hearing of the January 6th Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff said that our democracy held in 2020 “because people of courage did their jobs.” All it takes for democracy to endure is for people of courage to do their jobs. We cannot lose sight of that simple and searing truth. The hearing demonstrated the “people of courage” who saved democracy in 2020 were ordinary Americans who put country before party and the rule of law before fealty to an aspiring autocrat. They stood up to personal attacks by the president of the United States, to threats of violence, and to harassment at home, by phone, and online. In their ordinariness, in showing up for work, they defeated a tyrant.
Let’s skip to the end: The fourth hearing established that Trump personally directed the effort to overturn state elections by advancing the “false electors” scheme. See NBC News, Trump had ‘direct and personal role’ in pushing states to overturn Biden win, Jan. 6 panel says. The hearing also presented evidence that Trump knew the false electors scheme was illegal. And, against all odds, the fourth hearing may have been the most compelling and illuminating hearing to date. It was a superb effort marshaled by Rep. Adam Schiff.
For those who doubt the urgent need to indict Trump, he delivered a stark reminder on Tuesday, hours before the fourth hearing began. Trump issued a preemptive statement claiming that witness Rusty Bowers, Speaker of the Arizona House, told him that the election in Arizona was “rigged” and that Trump had “won.” Adam Schiff read Trump’s statement to Bowers during the Tuesday hearing. Bowers testified in response that Trump’s statement was false. Bowers said emphatically that he never told anyone that the election was rigged.
Here’s the point: Trump is still lying, still pushing a false narrative of massive fraud, and still trying to overturn the 2020 election. It is time for the DOJ to indict him for his ongoing coup against the United States.
Bowers testified that Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Jenna Ellis, and Donald Trump repeatedly asked him to appoint an alternative slate of electors. Bowers refused their multiple entreaties, saying they were asking him to violate his oath to the US Constitution and the laws of Arizona. In response, armed MAGA supporters harassed Bowers and his neighbors. They stood outside Bowers’ house with a loudspeaker and accused him of being a “pedophile, pervert, and corrupt politician.” The MAGA protests and slurs were overheard by Bowers’ terminally ill daughter inside Bowers’ home. She died weeks later, with the ugly slurs of Trump’s shock troopers still fresh in mind.
The room listened in rapt attention, hanging on every word of an honest man speaking the truth. Unlike the cowards and revisionists who did not stand up to Trump, Rusty Bowers spoke the truth in the moment when it mattered. As one commentator noted, Bowers is “a genuine profile in courage and integrity.” He deserves a place of honor in American history. You can watch his remarkable testimony here: Full testimony from AZ House Speaker Rusty Bowers to the Jan. 6 committee.
The second panel of witnesses included Brad Raffensperger, Georgia Secretary of State. Raffensperger refuted Trump’s wild claims of voter fraud and refused to “find” just 11,780 votes for Trump—as Trump demanded on a 68-minute phone call. Raffensperger repeatedly told Trump that the votes had been counted three times and there were no votes “to find.” In response, Trump threatened Raffensperger with criminal liability for allegedly “shredding ballots”—a baseless claim fabricated by Trump. Raffensperger stood firm in the face of intense pressure by a rogue president.
The most compelling testimony came from Shaye Moss (live) and her mother, Ruby Freeman (via video). Ms. Freeman runs a small business in Georgia and is known as “Lady Ruby.” Shaye Moss and Lady Ruby responded to the call of civic duty by serving as election workers in Fulton County, Georgia. Both became the object of a vile conspiracy theory promoted by Trump and Giuliani. The president and his lawyer claimed Moss and Lady Ruby brought in “suitcases of ballots” stuffed with 18,000 votes for Joe Biden. Trump promoted that falsehood after being told by Bill Barr and Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue that there were no mysterious suitcases. Instead, Ms. Moss and Lady Ruby were accessing secure boxes in which ballots were delivered to be counted by election workers, including Shaye Moss and Lady Ruby.
Rudy Giuliani added an ugly racist cast to the conspiracy theory by claiming that Ms. Moss and Lady Ruby were seen passing a USB thumb drive between themselves “like it was vials of heroin and cocaine.” In fact, the video shows Lady Ruby giving her daughter a ginger mint.
During Trump’s recorded call with Brad Raffensperger, Trump described Lady Ruby as a “professional vote scammer and hustler.” As a result, Lady Ruby and Shaye Moss were subjected to thousands of threats. The FBI told Lady Ruby to move out of her house in advance of January 6th. She did. On January 6th, a mob assembled outside of her house and demanded that she address their baseless claims of fraud. Another mob pushed its way into Shaye’s grandmother’s house as they attempted to make a “citizen’s arrest” of Shaye.
Other shocking revelations included the fact that the Republican National Committee supported the fake electors scheme and that Senator Ron Johnson offered to hand-deliver the fake certificates to Vice President Pence. White House Counsel Pat Cipollone told Mark Meadows and Rudy Giuliani that the fake electors scheme was unlawful. Trump’s campaign lawyers washed their hands of the fake electors scheme, leaving it to John Eastman and Rudy Giuliani to carry the plot forward. The fake electors were left in the dark about the doubts of Trump’s lawyers—leading one fake elector to say he felt “duped” by the failure of Trump’s lawyers to inform him that the scheme was illegal.
Lady Ruby was given the last word in the hearing. Testifying by videotape, she described what it was like to be targeted by the president of the United States. She described herself as a “small business owner and proud American” who was trying to do the right thing. The video is here: C-SPAN, Fulton County Election Worker “Lady Ruby” Freeman on Being Targeted By President Trump. Lady Ruby says, in part,
There is nowhere I feel safe. Nowhere. Do you know how it feels to have the president of the United States target you? The president of the United States is supposed to represent every American, not target one. But he targeted me, Lady Ruby, a small business owner, a mother, a proud American citizen who stood up to help Fulton County run an election in the middle of a pandemic.
No American president has ever viciously attacked a private citizen for performing a civic duty as Trump attacked Lady Ruby. Trump’s attack on Lady Ruby was reprehensible, racist, and unforgivable.
Lady Ruby is an American hero and the face of Lady Liberty in this tragic chapter in American history. Americans like Lady Ruby are the last line of defense to Trump’s effort to overturn the rule of law. Today’s hearing demonstrated that democracy held “because people of courage did their jobs.” We cannot lose sight of that simple and searing truth.
A video of the entire hearing is here (starting at the 1-hour mark): PBS Newshour, Jan. 6 Panel Hearing, Round Four: MAGALand’s Pressure Campaign On The States. A transcript of the hearing is here: NCPR, Here’s every word from the fourth Jan. 6 committee hearing on its investigation.
America’s gun problem.
The tragedy in Uvalde is being compounded by the endless finger-pointing between various Texas law enforcement agencies. But as each agency seeks to cast blame on another agency, the revelations become uglier with each passing day. On Tuesday, the Texas Department of Public Safety revealed that officers were on the scene with appropriate weapons and gear to “locate, confront, and eliminate” the shooter within three minutes. Instead, all of the officers on the scene waited nearly an hour as children and teachers were executed. See NYTimes, Police Response to Uvalde Shooting Was ‘Abject Failure,’ Says Steven McCraw.
Against the horror of the atrocious law enforcement response in Uvalde, the Senate has finalized a proposed bill relating to “gun safety”. See CNN, Senate advances newly released bipartisan gun safety bill in key vote. Major points include:
Grants $750 million to help states fund crisis intervention programs;
Closes the so-called boyfriend loophole in domestic violence law;
Requires more gun sellers to register as Federally Licensed Firearm Dealers;
Requires more thorough reviews of people aged 18-21 who want to buy guns; and
Increases funding for mental health programs and school security.
All of the above are laudable achievements. None of them restrict the sale of weapons of war designed to kill people. No one should take a victory lap over this legislation. It is the bare minimum that any decent society should do to protect its children from further harm.
More on the alleged “difficulties of prosecuting Trump.”
In addition to the NYTimes op-ed by Professor Jack Goldman (addressed in yesterday’s newsletter), the Times also published an article by Maggie Haberman and Michael Schmidt that focused on the criminal intent necessary to prosecute Trump. See NYTimes, Despite Growing Evidence, a Prosecution of Trump Would Face Challenges. Haberman and Schmidt seem to accept the premise that the DOJ must prove that “Trump intended to commit a crime” by showing that he knew the election was not stolen but sought to overturn it nonetheless.
I would have said that Haberman and Schmidt are wrong in their description of the intent requirement necessary to convict Trump. But lawyer and blogger Luppe B. Luppen was more direct in his analysis of the NYTimes article. Regarding the assertion that prosecutors must prove Trump knew the election was not stolen, Luppen writes: “This is, not to put too fine a point on it, horseshit.”
Despite Mr. Luppen’s blunt comment, the rest of his analysis is lawyerly and nuanced. If you are a lawyer steeped in the law of criminal intent or otherwise want to read a fine piece of legal analysis, I recommend Luppen’s essay, What’s Really Stopping a Trump Prosecution? / Hurdles, real and imagined. Spoiler alert: You cannot use wrongful means to achieve a lawful goal. More to the point: You can’t use wrongful means to achieve an unlawful goal. Words to live by!
The Supreme Court.
The Court issued a troubling decision on the separation of church and state on Tuesday in Carson v. Makin. The Court ruled that Maine must fund religious schools in areas where it offers state funding to subsidize secular private schools. See Mark Joseph Stern in Slate, The Supreme Court Just Forced Maine to Fund Religious Education. It Won’t Stop There. Stern’s opening paragraph is bracing:
The Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority effectively declared on Tuesday that the separation of church and state—a principle enshrined in the Constitution—is, itself, unconstitutional. . . As Justice Stephen Breyer noted in dissent, [the decision] has the potential to dismantle secular public education in the United States.
About 37 states have amendments to their constitutions that bar government funding of religious institutions, including schools. Carson essentially invalidates those laws while undermining the broader constitutional basis for the nation’s public school system.
As a reminder, the First Amendment provides, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Maine’s funding of secular private schools does not prohibit the free exercise of religion, the Court’s requirement that Maine fund religious schools sure sounds like a law “respecting an establishment of a religion.” So much for “originalism” and “textualism.”
Until Democrats recognize that expansion of the Court is a necessity, we should prepare ourselves for decades more of the same from the reactionary majority.
When protestors gathered near Justice Kavanaugh’s home three weeks ago, Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor and demanded passage of bill “before sunset today” to fund expanded protection for Supreme Court justices. When protestors drew in chalk on a sidewalk near the home of Senator Susan Collins, she called the police to report “defacement of public property.”
When Trump-incited MAGA foot soldiers invaded the homes of innocent Georgia election workers to make a “citizen’s arrest” of public servants, Mitch McConnell and Susan Collins could not be bothered to comment. Nor did they stir from their stupor when MAGA terrorists harassed Rusty Bowers and Brad Raffensperger because they upheld the Constitution.
Violence as a political tool is wrong. Always. But the same alarm that was sounded over protests near the homes of Kavanaugh and Collins should apply with equal force to election workers targeted by the president of the United States.
A disappointing aspect of today’s J6 Committee hearing is that none of the Fulton County election officials who suffered harassment at the hands of Trump are still employed by Georgia. To that limited extent, Trump’s threats of violence and harassment achieved their intended effect. But that must not be the end of the story. Shaye Moss and Lady Ruby have served their time on the front lines and rightly ask to be relieved. We must step into their shoes.
For every election worker who quit after 2020 because of harassment, we must supply two reinforcements. If democracy endures, it will be “because people of courage did their jobs.” That would be you! Now is the time to volunteer to be an election worker. See Become a Poll Worker | U.S. Election Assistance Commission. Shaye Moss and Lady Ruby stood in the breach when it mattered most. Let’s continue their work by following in their footsteps!
Talk to you tomorrow!
Yes, today's hearing showed us a couple of beautiful and inspiring profiles in courage. It will take me some time to process what I heard today. Maybe it is the realization how much Truth Matters and how much giving ourselves to helping others is inherent and essential to our sense of well being like Shaye Moss illustrated so well. She loved helping others. Having purpose in our lives that is larger than ourselves gives our lives meaning like nothing else does. It is essential that we help each other be loving and nurturing of all that surrounds us. We, the People all of us this time in kindness and light.
For me this was the most heart breaking moment of this entire hearing, really of tRump's entire attempt to control this country. It was sickening to hear these two women recount what has happened to them. Too tragic for words.