Today’s Edition: The lessons of January 6th.
July 7, 2021
Six months ago, former President Trump incited an assault on the Capitol. It was the most serious attack on American democracy in more than 150 years. Efforts at accountability have been slow and disjointed. It is not clear who represents America in seeking redress. The lack of clarity is understandable, in part. President Biden inherited a raging pandemic and a teetering economy. He rightly placed priority on containing the pandemic and righting the economy. Recovery efforts are well underway on both fronts as of July 2021. But the response to the Capitol Insurrection has been halting, politicized, and understated.
What is the lesson that Americans will take away from January 6th? The answer depends on whether and how the United States pursues justice against the perpetrators. One lesson could be that the most likely charge for assaulting the Capitol is trespassing. Another could be that attempting to interfere with a constitutional function of Congress will not be the basis of any charges against “trespassers.” Another could be that future insurrectionists should not document their crimes on social media because in the absence of such evidence, no prosecutor will pursue the “trespassers.” Yet another could be that elected officials who organize and incite violence against the United States can do so with impunity because America lacks the courage to hold them accountable.
To state the obvious, those are not the lessons that democracy-loving Americans want to draw from the aftermath of the Capitol Insurrection. But unless Congress, the President, and the Department of Justice begin to act with urgency and resolve, those may be the unwanted lessons that will be marked in the annals of American democracy. There is still time to get it right, but we must tell our congressional representatives and the President that we demand justice—so that the lesson of January 6th is not that the next insurrection need only be better organized but less publicized to succeed.
The natural place for the pursuit of justice for the perpetrators of the Capitol Insurrection is the Department of Justice. I have worn out my welcome with readers in criticizing Attorney General Merrick Garland’s failure to demonstrate leadership in pursuing justice against the perpetrators of the insurrection. So, let me recommend an opinion piece by Ankush Khardori in Politico, “What the DOJ Isn’t Telling Us About Jan. 6.” Khardori notes that although the DOJ has taken the lead in the response to January 6th by charging more than 500 participants, the only thing the public knows about the DOJ investigations is contained in the indictments of those defendants. While that information is helpful, scattered indictments tell us nothing about important questions, such as:
· [W]hether the department is undertaking any review of the conduct of White House officials, including former President Donald Trump himself; and
· [W]hether and to what extent the department is investigating Republican political officials’ potential connections to the attack.
As Khardori notes, all that is needed from the DOJ is an announcement of whether, if ever, the DOJ will investigate the above potential perpetrators and possible co-conspirators. As Khardori says, the announcement need not be a volatile disclosure. Rather, “a simple acknowledgement, without any suggestion that any conclusions have been reached, would suffice.” I agree. In the absence of any statement by Garland about his strategy, the most reasonable inference is that he has none.
The quiescence of the DOJ regarding those who incited the insurrection is offset by Joe Biden’s comments on the six-month anniversary of January 6th. Biden released a statement in which he called the perpetrators “insurrectionists” not “trespassers.” He said that they “posed an existential threat to our democracy” on the day when “our duly elected Congress carried out the sacred ritual of our republic and certified the Electoral College vote.” Biden did not name names of those who should be held to account. He cannot. To do so would repeat the norm-breaking interference with the DOJ committed by Trump. But if Merrick Garland is looking for general guidance about the policy of the President regarding the January 6th assault, he should read the President’s statement. It is available at WhiteHouse.gov, “Statement by President Joe Biden on the Six-Month Anniversary of the January 6th Insurrection on the Capitol.”
We have one chance to get this right. The lessons that are drawn from January 6th are under our control. We can lobby our congressional representatives to aggressively investigate the insurrection and we can help defeat everyone who ignores, rationalizes, or glorifies the events of January 6th—like Rep. Paul Gosar. See TPM, “Six Months After Jan. 6, Paul Gosar Demands Charges Against Cop Who Shot Ashli Babbitt.” We can force corporations to choose a side—for democracy or against it. There is no middle ground—as many corporations have begun to believe. See Business Insider, “Some companies pledged to halt donations to lawmakers who objected to certifying Biden's election win. They have not kept their promise.”
What happened on January 6th was a once-in-century assault on democracy. We cannot act as though it was a political demonstration that got out of hand. It was an attempt to subvert constitutional order. The price of prosecuting the politicians who incited the insurrection will be dear. The price of not prosecuting them may be fatal to our great experiment in democracy.
The Politics of Climate Change Denialism
Greenpeace ran a sting operation that resulted in a videotaped interview with Exxon’s senior director of federal relations. In the interview, the Exxon lobbyist said that although the company publicly supports efforts to reduce carbon emissions, many of those positions are simply for public consumption while Exxon secretly opposes such efforts through “shadow groups.” See NYTimes, “Lawmaker Threatens to Subpoena Exxon After Secret Video.” The internal lobbyist said that Exxon representatives were in touch with Senator Joe Manchin “weekly,” because “he’s not shy about staking his claim early and completely changing the debate.”
In a coincidence too coincidental to be a coincidence, Senator Manchin led the efforts to fashion a “bipartisan” infrastructure bill that removed most of President Biden’s green energy initiatives. Perhaps the self-styled saintly Joe Manchin is as venal as the rest. See The American Prospect, “Manchin Profits From Coal Sales to Utility Lobbying Group Members.”
Climate change denialists received good news on Monday as Rupert Murdoch (who owns Fox News and the Wall Street Journal) announced that he was starting “Fox Weather.” See Talking Point Memo, “Murdoch To Launch ‘Fox Weather’ Channel As Fox News Sows Doubt On Climate Science.” Murdoch describes himself as a “climate change skeptic” and has dismissed claims of man-made climate change as “endless alarmist nonsense.” Hmm. . . maybe he should target Exxon and Senator Joe Manchin’s reelection campaign as advertisers.
Finally, the odious Senator Ron Johnson claims that he “is not a climate change denier.” But in a videotaped presentation to the Republican Women of Greater Wisconsin, Johnson said that “climate change is bullsh*t.” See CNN, “GOP Sen. Ron Johnson mouths to GOP luncheon that climate change is 'bullsh*t'.”
Each of the above stories demonstrates that Democrats cannot assume that “someone else” will worry about climate change. Denying the fact of man-made climate change is an official position of the Republican Party. The GOP and their donors are actively and surreptitiously undermining the scientific consensus that human activity is changing the climate on a global scale. Climate change is an existential threat to our nation’s health, security, and prosperity. Support for candidates and legislation that fight climate change should be a tenet of every Democrat’s core principles.
Yesterday, the newsletter focused on the indictment of the Trump Organization. Whenever I write about Trump, I receive comments to the effect that I should “stop mentioning Trump because you are just giving him the attention he craves.” I understand the sentiment. I am sick of writing about Trump. But he is the leading contender for the GOP 2024 presidential nomination. Bad news for Trump is good news for Democrats. Moreover, regardless of whether Trump succeeds in becoming the nominee in 2024, he is the kingmaker in the Republican Party. I wish it were otherwise, but until it is, we must continue to call out his lies and highlight his corruption. People like Paul Gosar and Ron Johnson are fueled by Trump’s support for white nationalism and conspiracy theories. We must oppose the sickness of Trumpism wherever it appears. It is a challenging task, but if we do not accept the challenge, who will?
Talk to you tomorrow!