Today’s Edition: Subverting Justice

October 8, 2021

          The Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee issued a damning report on the efforts of Trump and members of the Department of Justice to overturn the 2020 election. The report is here: Senate Judiciary Committee Staff Report, “Subverting Justice: How the Former President and His Allies Pressured the DOJ to Overturn the 2020 Election.”  The Report is an important document that deserves to be read in its original form, free from spin by the media. At the very least, read pages 2 to 6, which contain the “Key Findings.” If you don’t have time to read the original Key Findings in the Report, here they are:

  • President Trump repeatedly asked DOJ leadership to endorse his false claims that the election was stolen and to assist his efforts to overturn the election results.

  • White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows asked Acting Attorney General Rosen to initiate election fraud investigations on multiple occasions, violating longstanding restrictions on White House-DOJ communications about specific law-enforcement matters.

  • After personally meeting with Trump, Jeffrey Bossert Clark pushed Rosen and Donoghue to assist Trump’s election subversion scheme—and told Rosen he would decline Trump’s potential offer to install him as Acting Attorney General if Rosen agreed to aid that scheme.

  • Trump allies with links to the “Stop the Steal” movement and the January 6 insurrection participated in the pressure campaign against DOJ.

  • Trump forced the resignation of U.S. Attorney Byung Jin (“BJay”) Pak, whom he believed was not doing enough to address false claims of election fraud in Georgia.

  • By pursuing false claims of election fraud before votes were certified, DOJ deviated from longstanding practice meant to avoid inserting DOJ itself as an issue in the election.

          The Report is important for several reasons.

          First, it documents the specific ways in which Trump weaponized the Department of Justice in his attempted coup. The fact that some members of the DOJ ultimately stopped Trump’s effort by threatening a mass resignation is both comforting and troubling. Trump came very close to subverting the Justice Department. The fact that we narrowly escaped the collapse of the DOJ demands immediate reform of the Department and punishment or prosecution of those in the DOJ who cooperated with Trump’s illegal efforts.

          Second, the Report highlights the fact that crimes were committed by members of the Administration and the DOJ. The Judiciary Committee was able to compile the information from witness interviews of current and former members of the DOJ who are cooperating with the investigation. The fact that the DOJ itself has failed to indict the co-conspirators and principals in the attempted coup is rising to the level of scandal.

          Third, the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee have begun a disinformation campaign by issuing a minority report that argues Trump acted appropriately in his dealings with the DOJ. The minority report is here, “Minority Staff Report - Senate Judiciary Committee.” Here is a sample of the “findings” of the minority report: “President Trump expressed concerns related to the U.S. electoral system writ large rather than concerns about his campaign or himself personally.” Anyone who has listened to Trump since Election Night 2020 knows that the minority’s “finding” is a lie. Recall that Trump incited an insurrection on January 6th by asking his supporters to “stop the steal,” saying, “Today I will lay out just some of the evidence proving that we won this election and we won it by a landslide.” Although the minority report is filled with easily disprovable lies, it will receive more coverage on right-wing media than the majority’s report. Therefore, it is vitally important to educate ourselves about the facts. Read the Judiciary Committee’s Report, “Subverting Justice: How the Former President and His Allies Pressured the DOJ to Overturn the 2020 Election.”

          The report covers a lot of ground, but the most consequential findings relate to the effort by Jeffrey Clark to use the DOJ to convince GOP legislatures to overturn the certified results of their elections. Trump tried to install Clark as Acting Attorney General and relented only when Jeffrey Rosen and other senior DOJ officials threatened a mass resignation. Here are the key passages from the Report (at pages 14-15):

          Rosen and Donoghue both recalled telling Trump that DOJ was doing its job, with Rosen at one point saying that DOJ “can’t and won’t just flip a switch and change the election.” In response, according to Donoghue’s testimony and contemporaneous notes, Trump asked that DOJ “just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the [Republican] Congressmen,” whom Donoghue understood to be the Republican House Members who would be challenging the Electoral College certification on January 6.

          Clark reiterated the points from his email and said he wanted Rosen to hold a press conference where he announced that “there was corruption.” Clark gave no indication. whether he was working with others on the letter, either within DOJ or at the White House. According to Donoghue, however, [Clark] did make some reference to his Oval Office meeting with Trump, and to the fact that Trump was considering a leadership change at DOJ.

          Those passages lay out the heart of the coup attempt. When those efforts failed, Trump resorted to inciting violence. We know the facts. It is time for the DOJ to act.

Senate passes bill to raise debt ceiling—and Manchin promptly kneecaps Democrats.

          The Democratic caucus in the Senate plus ten Republicans voted to close debate on a short-term bill to increase the debt ceiling. The sixty votes ended the debate by invoking cloture, commonly known as “the filibuster rule.” Democrats can now pass the bill on a straight party-line vote. The increase in the debt limit will give the U.S. only two months before the next crisis. “See NYTimes, “Senate Approves Bill to Raise Debt Ceiling and Avert Default, for Now.”  Per the Times, “The bill would raise the statutory debt limit by $480 billion, an amount the Treasury Department estimates would be enough to allow the government to continue borrowing through at least Dec. 3.”

          Democrats achieved this result by threatening to carve-out an exception to the filibuster for votes on debt limits. Senator Joe Manchin removed that negotiating leverage immediately after Republicans caved on their filibuster threat by saying, “The filibuster is the only thread we have in America to keep democracy alive and well.”  It is difficult to imagine a more cynical and dishonest description of the filibuster. The good news is that no one believes Manchin on this point. The filibuster was used by Republicans to push the nation to the brink of a first-ever default. That is the antithesis of “keeping democracy alive and well.”

Trump attorney tells his former aides not to cooperate with House Select Committee on January 6th.

          The House Select Committee on January 6th issued subpoenas to four Trump aides: Mark Meadows, Kash Patel, Steve Bannon, and Dan Scavino. The letter from Trump’s attorney asserted privileges that do not apply or cannot be asserted by a former president. See The Washington Post, “Trump lawyer tells former aides not to cooperate with Jan. 6 committee.”

          The House Select Committee should pursue criminal contempt charges against the four former aides, ASAP. We cannot allow this important proceeding to be delayed by co-conspirators and enablers of a coup who are still acting at Trump’s direction. For a discussion of the current status of efforts by the House Select Committee and the need to speed things along, see Business Insider, “Jan. 6 Investigators Worried Work Is Pointless If They Don't Hurry up.”

Interesting Development: The right-wing media comes to Facebook’s defense.

          As whistleblower Frances Haugen is bringing scrutiny to Facebook’s practices, the social media platform has found an ally in the right-wing conspiracy theory crowd. See Slate, “Why Facebook is being defended by right-wingers like Dan Bongino and Ben Shapiro.” In short, right-wingers realize that their fact-free disinformation on Facebook is threatened if Facebook is forced to give a damn about the garbage that it amplifies.

          As usual, the right-wing media has resorted to personal attacks on those who challenge conservative talking points. One right-wing commentator made “a series of sexual and derogatory jokes about Haugen’s appearance” before claiming that Facebook suppressed stories about Hunter Biden’s laptop.

          Ms. Haugen is about to turn up the heat on Facebook and its right-wing darlings. She is reportedly in talks with the House Select Committee about Facebook’s role in amplifying messages encouraging violence and insurrection on January 6th. Good.

Concluding Thoughts.

          It has been a week filled with high-drama and averted crises. It was less than a week ago that Democrats delayed their vote on the infrastructure bill to October 31st and began serious negotiations over the Build Back Better reconciliation package. Democrats avoided driving the economy off a cliff by calling McConnell’s bluff, forcing him to round up eleven Republican Senators to end the filibuster over the debt ceiling. The Texas anti-abortion bill (SB 8) was enjoined, the Supreme Court began a term that will be momentous, and a consortium of media outlets released a trove of documents showing that the billionaires, dictators, and crooks use offshore accounts and shell companies to evade taxes and criminal liability.

          It is not your imagination: The velocity and freneticism of the news is increasing. Let me end the week with my advice from Monday: Take a breath, settle in, and let Democrats in Congress do the heavy lifting. Against substantial odds, they made good progress this week. On that high note, here’s hoping that you have a restful and restorative weekend.

          Talk to you on Monday!

Postscript: Temperatures in the high 20s and light rain has slowed the advance of the fire up the Mineral King Valley. CalFire remains stationed in the mountain communities in the MK Valley, preparing for “direct action” against the fire when it arrives.