Monday, January 11, 2021


Weekend Roundup

Table of contents:

Last week, I found myself flashing back to scenes in the 1980 movie Airplane!. It was a very funny spoof of late-1970s disaster movies (especially Airport 1975, but the series of gags I most recall featured the air traffic controller (played by Lloyd Bridges), admitting "this was the wrong week to quit" various vices (cigarettes, booze, cocaine, sniffing glue -- by which point it was smeared all over his face and hair). Well, this was the wrong week to quit Weekend Roundup. My plan was to keep doing it through the Biden inauguration, then free up my weekends. I've collected my posts in four long book files. While I feel obligated to wrap up the Trump term, I'm too old and tired to contemplate doing this for another four years.

Still, last week was one for the book. I grabbed a couple items as early as Friday, but unfortunately I wasn't able to knuckle down and focus on this until mid-afternoon Sunday. So this will probably be shorter (and glibber?) than is deserved. The key events were:

  • A Trump rally in Georgia on the eve of the state's Senate runoff elections.
  • Georgia's election of two new Democratic Senators, which doesn't really give Democrats control of the Senate but gives them a fighting chance of getting appointments confirmed and passing legislation.
  • The extremist politicization of the previously routine counting of the electoral votes by Congress.
  • Trump fomenting an insurrection where his followers attacked, invaded, and (briefly) occupied the Capitol Building, disrupting the counting of electoral votes.
  • The restoration of order, and completion of the counting, showing once again that Biden won the election.
  • The reaction to the violence and disorder, and the still unfolding fallout.
  • Meanwhile, the pandemic got worse than ever, with daily death counts topping 4,000 for the first time.

I'm somewhat ambivalent about what to call the storming of the Capitol. In most regards it resembles the general unruliness of a riot, but the fact that the mob was organized and directed not at a mere symbol of state power but at the literal seat of democracy, where representatives were engaged in a process meant to insure the orderly transfer of power, marks it as an insurrection. Its target also underscores that it was not a protest against state power but a direct attack on democracy, and as such on the fundamental belief that the power of the state is rooted in the will of the people.

Whether it was a coup attempt is a somewhat messier question. Coups (from a French word for a sudden strike) are normally conflicts within the power structure, where one faction (usually from the military and/or the state security groups) moves to seize control of the state. That didn't happen, and I have no reason to think that the US military would do such a thing -- not that they, nor especially the CIA, have scruples about organizing and/or supporting coups abroad.

On the other hand, Trump made no secret of his desire that someone intervene to deliver his re-election. In his methods, he most resembles a monarch (or mob boss) who obliquely wonders whether someone will relieve him of some problem person, then feigns surprise when some underling kills the offender. Trump didn't care who would save him, nor did he worry about the means. He would have been happy had state election officials "found" enough votes to overcome the shortfall. He wanted state legislators to approve alternate electors, regardless of state laws. He repeatedly appealed to the courts. He urged his allies in Congress to challenge the counting, and he ordered his VP to throw the election to him. So when his mob stormed the Capitol, he was briefly optimistic. There is no reason to think he wouldn't have been thrilled to have the mob forced Congress at gunpoint to throw the election to him. And when all his efforts failed, he still gets to walk away pretending he never did anything wrong -- and that he is still the aggrieved party.


Ainsley Earhardt, the blonde sandwiched between the two douchebags at Fox & Friends, offered this emotional plea:

There are 75 million people that voted for President Trump. And they are scared. They are worried about what the future of this country looks like. They are confused and heartbroken that their candidate didn't win and they don't want to be forgotten.

Tony Karon cited this quote, then added:

Whiny white privilege knows no limits, eh? Especially when you monetize it, like FOX News, which profits off disseminating the lies and hatred driving this nonsense.

Actually, I'm all for respecting people's hurt feelings, but where is there any acknowledgement that the 82 million Biden voters care at least as much, as intensely, as existentially as those Trump voters? (Actual totals are closer to 81-to-74 million, but the margin is more than 7 million votes.) I shudder to think what the reaction would be if Trump somehow managed to steal this election, especially after all the damage he's done since unfairly, undemocratically seizing the election in 2016. And, like, we're the side that believes in peace, in equality, in civility, in law, in order, in community, and in reality.

Twitter Chatter

I wound up collecting enough of these to merit their own section (although note that I only started collecting them on Friday (and didn't keep it up), and I only follow a tiny number of feeds -- although retweets expand what I see significantly):

Stephen Colbert:
It'll be a shame if history allows one horrific event on this president's watch to overshadow all the other horrific events on this president's watch.
Kathleen Geier:
I know that 2021 has barely started but this has got to be in the running for headline of the year. [Hawley blames 'woke mob' for cancellation of book day after actual mob stormed Capitol]
Mike Konczal:
That the occupation of the Capitol was far more violent, and had the capacity for far more violence, than I understood while it was happening is the most jarring thing I've learned about the putsch over the subsequent days. It's terrifying.
Yousef Munayyer:
We spend $750 billion annually on "defense" and the center of American government fell in two hours to the duck dynasty and the guy in the chewbacca bikini.
Olivia Nuzzi:
A person who currently advises Donald Trump tells me: "It's all hit him since yesterday: 'You may have legal exposure from yesterday. You definitely have legal exposure from other things. You have less than two weeks to remain ensconced in here with executive privilege.'"
Jeff Sharlet:
A funny-because-it's-awful, awful-because-it's funny thing is that on Parler so many fascists, having finally achieved the uprising they could never before pull off, are doing everything they can to give all the credit to antifa. "What, us?" No, we can't organize shit."
Oliver Willis:
Hope Hicks resigning at this point is like Eva Braun walking out of the bunker and saying "ultimately, he went a little too far at the end."


Georgia and the End of the 2020 Election

On Tuesday, Georgia elected two new US Senators, with Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff defeating incumbents Kelly Loefler and David Perdue. See: Senate live results. Perdue and Loeffler led in the November election (which Trump lost by 11,789 votes), so one can take an extra pleasure in seeing how the runoff system, designed during the Jim Crow era to preserve white supremacy, finally opened the door. From what I can tell, it looks like turnout was more than 90% of the presidential election, which is remarkably high for a runoff election.

As I recall, on the night of the election, the Democrats jumped to an early lead, lost that late in the evening, then came back overnight. Ossoff's win wound up at about 45,000 votes, and Warnock did better (or Loeffler did worse), with a margin of 83,000 votes. There was a lot of speculation that Trump's post-election antics could cost Republicans in this race. I never put much stock in that, but what is unquestionably true is that Democrats stepped up and took the runoff very seriously.

This results in a 50-50 tie in the Senate. As the Vice President can break ties, that should give Democrats the ability to organize and run the processes. Still, as "control" goes that's a pretty tenuous margin, and depends a lot on keeping the most conservative senator(s) happy -- Joe Manchin is the obvious bottleneck here. Not much recent talk about ending the filibuster. If that doesn't happen (and Manchin is on record against changing the filibuster rule), it will be very hard to get any very progressive bills through the Senate. While the tie makes it harder for Republicans to obstruct everything, it relieves them of some of the pressure to cooperate with Biden. Republicans should be in a very good position to regain control of Congress in 2022, if they can avoid blame for whatever goes wrong -- which given the state they've left the nation in is quite a lot.

On Wednesday, Congress met to count and certify the Electoral College votes, with a substantial faction of Republicans trying to steal a win for Trump. Before they got very far, Trump's mob stormed the Capitol, disrupting the proceedings. I cover that in two later sections, but here I'll include stories that relate to the session, both before and after the disruption.


Vox [Dylan Matthews, Ella Nilsen, Zack Beauchamp, Andrew Prokop, Li Zhou, Ian Millhiser]: 5 winner and 2 losers from the Georgia Senate elections. Winners: Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff; Joe Manchin (as the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, he can play hardest-to-please, making him the bottleneck for Democratic votes); Stacey Abrams and Georgia organizers; Ketanji Brown Jackson (or Leondra Kruger); more stimulus. Losers: Mitch McConnell; Trump's election discrediting strategy.

Chas Danner: Trump made earlier call to pressure Georgia election investigator.

Jerusalem Demsas: The 14 Republican senators objecting to the Electoral College's certification.

Ella Nilsen: Democrats win the Senate -- by the slimmest margin possible.

Andrew Prokop:

Bill Scher: Electoral College certification is dividing the GOP. Good.

Dylan Scott: "Phenomenal" Black turnout won the Senate for Democrats in Georgia.

Nate Silver: Georgia was a disaster for Republicans, and it's not clear where they can go next.

After last week, though, I'm not sure I'd want to place a lot of money on the GOP in 2022, either. If the Georgia runoffs served as a quasi-midterm, they might suggest that the GOP can't count on the sort of gains that a party typically wins in midterms. As in the primaries leading up to 2010, the GOP is likely to have some vicious intraparty fights, possibly leading it to nominate suboptimal candidates in some races. And with the violence last week and Republican efforts to contest the Electoral College outcome in Congress, Democrats may be very motivated again in 2022, feeling -- not unreasonably -- as though democracy itself may be on the line.

Emily Stewart: David Perdue may follow the Trump playbook on Senate election loss: He ultimately didn't, as the margin of his loss grew throughout Wednesday, eventually hitting 45,000, so he finally conceded. Perdue and Loeffler also backed off from their promise to support Trump's ersatz electors, although Perdue's term had expired before the vote, and Loeffler's ends as soon as Georgia certifies Warnock's win.

Li Zhou: 147 Republican lawmakers still objected to the election results after the Capitol attack.

Trump's Insurrection

One thing I wish I had time to do was to dig up some of the video that exposes the actual and potential violence of the mob's storming of the Capitol Building. It's worth noting that rioters came armed with everything from zip-ties and pepper spray to pipe bombs and Molotov cocktails. Another thing I didn't get to is the threat of further "protests" and more violence around the inauguration.


Devlin Barrett: Trump's remarks before Capitol riot may be investigated, says acting US attorney in DC.

Dan Barry/Mike McIntire/Matthew Rosenberg: 'Our president wants us here': The mob that stormed the capitol.

Zack Beauchamp:

Kim Bellware: Police departments across the US open probes into whether their own members took part in the Capitol riot. I'd venture to say that if they purged the ones who did participate, that would help with some of the other problems that plague police departemnts. Normally I'd oppose any sort of politically-defined job restriction, but the people who actually participated in the violence and insurrection (as opposed to people who merely attended the rally) aren't fit to be police.

Aaron Blake: What Trump said before his supporters stormed the Capitol, annotated.

Sidney Blumenthal: Trump's MAGA insurrectionists were perverse US civil war re-enactors.

Jonathan Chait:

Fabiola Cineas:

  • Whiteness is at the core of the insurrection.

  • Donald Trump is the accelerant: "A comprehensive timeline of Trump encouraging hate groups and political violence." Much of this is familiar, but the sheer length is staggering. Latest entry:

    At an outdoor rally in Washington, DC, Trump turned on Republicans who refused to support his efforts to overturn the election results, calling them weak, and urged Vice President Mike Pence to reject the Electoral College results.

    Trump told listeners, "You will never take back our country with weakness." (Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani also delivered a speech in which he encouraged "trial by combat.") He encouraged them to head to the Capitol to support objections to certification of the vote.

    Hours of violence followed the speech when supporters stormed the US Capitol, as well as state capitols across the country. Capitol Police fatally shot Ashli Babbitt, a Trump supporter, as she and others tried to breach the halls of the Senate. Four others died, including a police officer. Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser imposed a city-wide curfew beginning at 6 pm, and few people were arrested, though many rioters violated the restriction.

    That evening, Trump again equivocated in messages to supporters, making little attempt to try to stop the violence. He later denounced the violence, but refused to clearly state he lost the election. According to the New York Times, he soon expressed regret to White House aides about committing to a peaceful transfer of power and condemning the Capitol attack.

    I don't normally copy links from within quoted text, but the last story seemed especially significant, and turns out to have a lot of information beyond its headline ("Democrats ready impeachment charge against Trump for inciting Capitol mob"). For instance:

    Mr. Trump had told advisers in the days before the march that he wanted to join his supporters in going to the Capitol, but White House officials said no, according to people briefed on the discussions. The president had also expressed interest beforehand in calling in the National Guard to hold off anti-Trump counterprotesters who might show up, the people said, only to turn around and resist calls for bringing those troops in after the rioting by his loyalists broke out.

Aaron C Davis/Rebecca Tan/Beth Reinhard: Several Capitol police officers suspended, more than a dozen under investigation over actions related to rally, riot.

Josh Dawsey/Ashley Parker: Inside the remarkable rift between Donald Trump and Mike Pence.

Jason Del Rey: Shopify hits President Trump where it hurts: His wallet: "The software firm has taken down President Trump's online stores."

Jerusalem Demsas:

Anthony DiMaggio: Fascism by gaslighting: Trump's coup and the grassroots insurrection strategy. Includes a revealing study of Trump speeches, wherein he "spent radically more time fixating on his partisan political opponents than did Obama or Bush."

Attempts to criminalize the Democratic Party via claims that it embraces criminal immigrant-based gang violence. This includes Trump's references to the Democrats as the "party of crime," the party that is "okay with crime" and with "open borders, which means lots of crime." In contrast Republicans and Trump "want tough, strong, powerful borders, and we want no crime." Trump depicts Democratically-controlled "sanctuary cities" -- "which the Democratic Party supports totally -- they love them" -- as the primary focal point "where crime pours in" to the country.

Trump's use of animal metaphors, his depiction of LatinX immigrants as criminals, and his claim that immigrants bring in "tremendous infectious disease," are indistinguishable from eliminationist Nazi propaganda, which characterized Jews as "rats," as a "poison[ous]," "filthy" and "infected" people, as a "plague," and as a criminal "arsonist" and "serpent[ine]" threat to public order and safety. That this simple yet damning comparison between Trumpian and Nazi propaganda is routinely downplayed in American political life is a sign of just how far our politics has deteriorated under Trump in the era of mass fascism-denialism.

Joshua Frank: Fools rush in: Trump, pardons and the tyrant's cult.

Understanding Trump as a cult leader is the only way to truly appreciate the power he wields and the idiocy he manifests. Few others could call upon their legions to storm government buildings with the dashing hope their efforts would make a difference, overturning what they falsely believed was a rigged election. No longer did police lives matter to these twisted Patriots. No longer did America's legal system matter, which shot down one election lawsuit after another. No longer did common sense matter, if the Capitol stormers had any to begin with. Only their President mattered. Only fulfilling his delusional fantasies mattered, and this was worth risking imprisonment and even death for. While the refrain may have been "Make America Great Again," the real mantra echoing through Washington last Wednesday was "Keep Trump President." He had not, after all, lost, according to them. The multiple logics here were murky at best, but the essence of their rhetoric was not.

Shirin Ghaffary: Why Twitter finally banned Trump: "The company suggested that Trump's tweets risk further violence during a critical time for democracy."

Melissa Gira Grant: This isn't an insurrection. It's an alliance.

Miranda Green: Who dies for Donald Trump? Profile of Ashli Babbitt, the one rioter shot and killed by Capitol Police while trying to take over the Capitol building.

Benjamin Hart: Capitol police officer dies after sustaining injuries in riot.

Rebecca Heilweil/Shirin Ghaffary: How Trump's internet built and broadcast the Capitol insurrection: "Online extremists started planning the chaos of January 6 months ago."

Sean Illing: The fantasy-industrial complex gave us the Capitol Hill insurrection: "This is America's brain on misinformation."

Kellie Carter Jackson: The inaction of Capitol Police was by design.

According to the Associated Press, the Capitol Police knew about the potential threat of the riot days before it took place, but rejected offers of help from the National Guard and the FBI. Officials said that they wanted to avoid using federal force against Americans, as they had done this summer. The choice to turn down help amid warnings of an insurrection is as revealing as it is disturbing: Why did law enforcement assume that they'd encounter violence from protesters marching for Black lives in June, but think that a largely white crowd of pro-Trump extremists and conspiracy theorists would remain peaceful? The difference in the Capitol Police's response shocked many who bemoaned the double standard. But police brutality against Black Americans and police inaction toward white Americans is not some surprising anomaly; it is the status quo.

Sarah Jones: This is what Trumpism without Trump looks like.

Peter Kafka: Fox News wants its viewers angry enough to watch but not angry enough to riot. "Guess what happens when you tell people, over and over, that they're being robbed? They may believe you." I don't think that's quite right: they don't care how angry you get; they just don't want to be held culpable for what you do with that anger. Maybe they should change their motto from "we report/you decide" to "we incite/you do the time"?

Robert Klemko/Kimberly Kindy/Kim Bellware/Derek Hawkins: Kid glove treatment of pro-Trump mob contrasts with strong-arm police tactics against Black Lives Matter, activists say.

Paul Krugman: How the Republican Party went feral, and Appeasement got us where we are: "It's time to stand up to the fascists among us."

Akela Lacy: Rep. Cori Bush on Republicans who fueled attack on Capitol: "That blood is on all of their hands".

Nancy LeTourneau: Why the GOP will remain a threat to democracy, even after Trump is gone: Posted Jan. 5, avant le deluge, but even as Trump surged to the forefront of our fears, a point worth remembering. The only thing that the GOP split over certifying electors proved is that Republicans may differ on tactics, but remain united on their fundamental goal of subverting democracy.

Eric Levitz: Impeach and remove Trump now. "He must be frog-marched out of our civic life in disgrace." Agreed, but impeachment won't do that. What's needed is to teach people to recognize what indulging Trump's vanities and paranoia has cost them, so they learn not to let people like Trump back in the halls of power ever again.

Adam Liptak: Can Twitter legally bar Trump? The first amendment says yes: "There are reasons to question the wisdom of recent actions by Twitter in barring President Trump from its site and Simon & Schuster in canceling the publication of Senator Josh Hawley's book. But the First Amendment is on their side."

Mike Ludwig: The Trumps have fueled a far right media monster that is not going away.

Jane Lytvynenko/Molly Hensley-Clancy: The rioters who took over the Capitol have been planning online in the open for weeks.

Andrew G McCabe/David C Williams: Trump's new criminal problem: "The president could face charges for inciting the Capitol riot -- and maybe even for inciting the murder of a Capitol Police officer."

Stephanie McNeal: Here are some of the most horrifying and stunning videos from the assault on the Capitol.

Ian Millhiser: 13 federal criminal laws that the pro-Trump mob may have violated, explained.

Parker Molloy: Desperate not to take responsibility for what they've set in motion, pro-Trump media pivot to conspiracy theories.

Sara Morrison: The Capitol rioters put themselves all over social media. Now they're getting arrested.

Tina Nguyen: MAGA activists plot revenge on Republican 'traitors': "The swift move to vengeance offers a preview of how Trump and his MAGA community plan to reshape the GOP in the coming months."

Anna North: Police bias explains the Capitol riot.

Anna North/Ella Nilsen: The catastrophic police failure at the US Capitol, explained.

Olivia Nuzzi:

Molly Olmstead: What new details tell us about the Capitol rioters' plans.

Ashley Parker/Josh Dawsey/Philip Rucker: Six hours of paralysis: Inside Trump's failure to act after a mob stormed the Capitol.

Madeline Peltz: YouTube terminated Steve Bannon's account. He had blood on his hands after months of calling for revolution and violence.

Andrew Perez/David Sirota: We should know exactly who funded last week's right-wing riot: "Last week's right-wing riot at the Capitol was egged on by politicians and organizations that have received substantial dark-money funding from corporate interests. It's past time to enact reforms to end the era of dark money -- and find out who exactly is bankrolling the anti-democratic far right."

Cameron Peters:

James Poniewozik:

Andrew Prokop: Republican senator: White House aides say Trump was "delighted" as Capitol was stormed: "Sen. Ben Sasse said that, according to senior White House officials, Trump was 'confused' why others weren't as excited."

Frank Rich: The trashing of the republic: "The only response to the carnage in Washington is to banish Trump and his traitorous collaborators from civil society." And how do you do that, given that you don't have the power, and they feed on contempt?

Alexander Reid Ross: Inside the alt-right meltdown after failed Capitol putsch.

Aaron Rupar:

  • Trump turns once and for all against Republicans who won't help him steal the election: "Speaking to protesters from the White House, Trump said, 'We have to primary the hell out of the ones that don't fight.'"

  • How Trump's speech led to the Capitol riot.

    Just before a MAGA mob descended on the US Capitol on Wednesday and caused a riot that killed five people, including a Capitol police officer who was beaten to death, President Donald Trump delivered a speech to his supporters in which he used the words "fight" or "fighting" at least 20 times.

    "We're going to have to fight much harder and Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us," Trump said at one point, alluding to Pence's ultimate refusal to attempt to steal the election for him during that day's hearing where the Electoral College made his loss official.

    "You'll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength. You have to be strong," he added during the speech in which he pushed long-debunked lies about Joe Biden's convincing victory over him being the product of fraud.

Andrea Salcedo: Republican AGs group sent robocalls urging protesters to the Capitol. GOP officials now insist they didn't know about it.

Neil Schoenherr: WashU Expert: Mob at US Capitol building amounts to insurrection: So says Greg Magarian.

Melody Schreiber: The actual death toll from the pro-Trump won't be known for weeks: "Many who stormed the Capitol in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic did not wear masks. Then they went back to D.C.'s hotels and shops." We've already seen two Democratic Representatives test positive after sheltering with Republicans who refused to wear masks -- Pramila Jayapal and Bonnie Watson.

Alex Shephard: The conservative media really wants you to think the Capitol riot is the left's fault.

Fran Shor: White chickens, coming home to roost. Her backfile includes the book, Weaponized Whiteness: The Constructions and Deconstructions of White Identity Politics, and The long life of institutional white supremacist terror.

Timothy Snyder: The American abyss: "A historian of fascism and political atrocity on Trump, the mob and what comes next."

Like historical fascist leaders, Trump has presented himself as the single source of truth. His use of the term "fake news" echoed the Nazi smear Lügenpresse ("lying press"); like the Nazis, he referred to reporters as "enemies of the people." . . .

Thanks to technological capacity and personal talent, Donald Trump lied at a pace perhaps unmatched by any other leader in history. For the most part these were small lies, and their main effect was cumulative. To believe in all of them was to accept the authority of a single man, because to believe in all of them was to disbelieve everything else. Once such personal authority was established, the president could treat everyone else as the liars; he even had the power to turn someone from a trusted adviser into a dishonest scoundrel with a single tweet.

Craig Timberg/Drew Harwell: Pro-Trump forums erupt with violent threats ahead of Wednesday's rally against the 2020 election.

Emily VanDerWerff: Is the country falling apart? Depends on where you get your news?

Alissa Wilkinson:

Jennifer Williams: Was the US Capitol attack "domestic terrorism"? Offers definitions by "analysts," "law enforcement," and "politicians/pundits," which vary somewhat. I have reservations, but one thing I'm sure of is that we'll be hearing a lot more about "domestic terrorism" in the near future, and the applicability of the term won't be debatable.

Jennifer Williams/Alex Ward: Trump has the authority to launch nuclear weapons -- whether Pelosi likes it or not: The authors are critical of Pelosi for talking to generals about limiting Trump's ability to launch nuclear weapons, arguing "there is no reason to think Trump plans to randomly nuke anybody." Given how fascinated Trump evidently is with nuclear weapons -- he's championed a budget of more than $1 trillion for new bombs, he threatened North Korea with them, he ended several treaties with Russia limiting them, he wondered whether we could use them on hurricanes -- and how deranged he currently is, I'd say Pelosi has something to worry about. Still, the problem is that no president should have this power -- not just an especially bad one. Unfortunately, that's not a problem Democrats have much power to fix right away. And one they may well forget exists when one of their own gets his itchy fingers on the trigger.

Impeachment and Aftermath

I think we should have learned two things from the impeachment of Clinton: that it's a cheap trick for a House majority to harass an president from the other party, and that it's not an effective way to deal with serious executive malfeasance. Part of the problem is that the constitutional bar is too low in the House and too high in the Senate, but the bigger problem is how both sides (but mostly, and most irrationally, the Republicans) have adopted blinders which allow them to see political opponents as criminals and traitors, and leave them blind to similar faults on their own side. Democrats have been itching to impeach and remove Trump ever since he slipped into office thanks only to the skewed Electoral College vote. And, frankly, he's done much to deserve such condemnation, while making zero effort to ingratiate himself with the majority of the country that voted against him (in 2016, and more emphatically in 2020). Still, I think we have to recognize that impeachment is a political matter, not a moral one. And it is unclear to me that impeaching Trump over the Ukraine scandal did the Democrats any good. So I'm skeptical that a rushed impeachment in the last two weeks of Trump's term is worth the trouble, even given his obvious culpability for the insurrection. Nonetheless, it looks like Democrats will seize on this gesture, as if doing so is the most necessary thing they can do to save democracy. I think they need to focus more on what it takes to win elections.


Erin Banco/Asawin Suebsaeng: Trump officials rush to keep him from sparking another conflict -- at home or abroad.

Charles M Blow: Trump's lackeys must also be punished.

Katelyn Burns: Top Democratic lawmaker says an impeachment vote will come this week: "House Majority Whip James Clyburn said Trump will likely face an impeachment vote by Wednesday."

Paul Campos: Pence should invoke 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office immediately. Pelosi has also argued this, and at this point this seems like the only alternative to her bringing an impeachment vote in the House. One question is whether Pence has the power to win a vote in the Cabinet to do this. I suspect he does, as he was the main person responsible for staffing decisions early on (but figure he lost two votes with the Chao and DeVos resignations). The bigger question is why should he bother. Why isn't it enough just to have his staff bottle Trump up? If Trump can't organize events, speak on camera, tweet, launch a war or a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the inauguration -- why turn him loose (where he can do all but the latter)? Democrats may argue that his behavior was so despicable he needs to be made an example of, but they don't really have the power to do that, and failure could be worse than doing nothing. (Still, how certain can you be that Trump is really bottled up?)

Marjorie Cohn: Trump can be indicted under federal, state and DC laws for his role in Jan. 6. She argues that "Trump must be impeached and removed from office," but I'm more intrigued by the title -- although the specific charges she mentions ("seditious conspiracy" and "inciting insurrection") strike me as a bit on the nebulous side. On the other hand, I don't see a problem with investigating such charges, even if indictment and conviction seem unlikely. Also, if Trump is immune from prosecution due to a self-pardon, wouldn't he lose his 5th Amendment protection to avoid having to answer questions? And wouldn't he still be liable should he perjure himself?

Sean Collins: Americans are divided on wether to remove Trump, according to the polls. The key number here is "69 percent of Republicans saying the president was either not at all or not very much to blame." Even more deranged: "52 percent of Republicans told YouGov that it was actually Biden's fault."

Nicholas Fandos: How to impeach a president in 12 days: Here's what it would take.

Bryan Garsten: Impeach and convict Trump. Congress must defend itself. The problem with this argument is that Congress hasn't defended its constitutional prerogatives for a long time. As they've ceded more and more power to the executive, and adopted the increasing political polarization of the public, members of Congress have reduced themselves to being political team players, subordinate to their party's president, or intractably opposed to an opposition party president. The Judiciary has done a somewhat better job of maintaining its independence, but that's unraveling as well.

John Judis: Democrats: Impeachment is a political trap.

What's the point? To make it impossible for Trump, then 78, to run for office again? Nothing would benefit the Democrats more than another Trump bid.

Politics is not a simple matter of right and wrong. It is a matter of priorities. Yes, Trump did wrong, he is a bad guy. But the country is in the grips of a pandemic -- over 4000 people died on Thursday -- and in December, the country lost 140,000 more jobs. The Democrats have to focus on that not on Trump. The country has spent four years focusing on Trump. It's what he loves. It's his briar patch. Enough is enough, as Lindsey Graham put it.

Fred Kaplan: Trup still has the power to blow up the world.

Annie Karni: On the way out, Melania Trump denounces attacks on her as 'shameful'.

Ed Kilgore:

Ian Millhiser: How Congress can permanently disqualify Trump from office after impeachment. OK, can be done, but odds against it are very steep, as it requires a second vote after a Senate conviction, which requires agreement by two-thirds (so at least 17 Republican Senators).

Ella Nilsen/Li Zhou: Why Democrats are moving toward impeachment -- 12 days before Trump leaves office.

Cameron Peters: Mitch McConnell outlines what a second Trump impeachment trial might look like. Basically, he sees it as a good, inconsequential way to kill time while avoiding dealing with appointments and legislation Biden wants to advance.

Andrew Prokop: Will Trump be impeached or face removal under the 25th Amendment?

Nathaniel Rakich: Slightly more Americans are ready to impeach Trump this time around.

Asha Rangappa: If Trump pardons himself now, he'll be walking into a trap: "Self-pardons threaten the rule of law. The Justice Department would have to charge him."

Katherine Stewart: The roots of Josh Hawley's rage: "Why do so many Republicans appear to be at war with both truth and democracy?" From her backfile, Stewart is author of The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism; also: Trump or no Trump, religious authoritarianism is here to stay, and Why Trump reigns as King Cyrus: "The Christian right doesn't like the president only for his judges. They like his style." More on Hawley:

Mimi Swartz: Never forget what Ted Cruz did: "The senator has been able to use his Ivy League pedigree as a cudgel. After last week, his credentials should condemn him."

JD Tuccille: Sedition charges are almost always a terrible idea.

Politics as Usual

Some pieces on resignations, regrets, and realignments wound up here, but not enough on the bad jobs report and the need for further economic relief legislation.


Katelyn Burns:

Jen Kirby: Here are the few Republicans who have called for Trump's removal.

Ian Millhiser: America's anti-democratic Senate, in one number: "Once Warnock and Ossoff take their seats, the Democratic half of the Senate will represent 41,549,808 more people than the Republican half."

Terry Nguyen: Millions of students and adult dependents won't receive a $600 stimulus payment.

Dylan Scott:

  • Trump officials are resigning over the US Capitol siege. Here's who's stepped down so far.

  • President Trump won't attend Joe Biden's inauguration. The last sitting US president to skip his successor's inauguration was Andrew Johnson in 1869, when Ulysses S Grant became president. Johnson and Trump have another thing in common: both were impeached, but escaped Senate conviction (Johnson very narrowly). Well, another thing they share is that they're both notorious for making their racism a big part of their public identity. My reaction on hearing this was "good riddance," but others (including the adjudicators at Twitter) took this as evidence that Trump was fomenting violence at the inaugural, and chickenshit that he is, didn't want to be in the line of fire.

Emily Stewart: "Buckle up": Democrats signal they're ready to go on stimulus.

Li Zhou: "I want him out": Lisa Murkowski calls for Trump's resignation. Further qualifications:

Biden's "Build Back"

See Building Biden's Cabinet for a survey of who's been selected for Biden's top administration positions, and who's being considered for still open slots. Another updated scorecard is Intelligencer's All of president-elect Joe Biden's cabinet nominees.


Quint Forgey/Natasha Bertrand: For CIA director, Biden taps veteran diplomat William Burns.

Umair Irfan: How Joe Biden plans to use executive powers to fight climate change.

Tyler Pager/Josh Gerstein/Kyle Cheney: Biden to tap Merrick Garland for attorney general.

The Covid-19 Pandemic Surge

Latest map and case count: 22.4 million+ cases (14 day change +34%, total up 1.9 million in last week), 374,389 deaths (+43%), 130,781 hospitalized (+11%). January 7 set records with over 4,100 deaths and more than 280,000 new cases. Vaccination first dose is up to 5.9 million. Vaccination is increasing at a slower rate than cases.


Ariel Gold: Is Israel practicing vaccine leadership or medical apartheid?

German Lopez: America's messy Covid-19 vaccine rollout, explained: "The US was supposed to vaccinate 20 million people in December. It didn't get to 5 million."

Josh Rogin: 1,100 State Department employees got vaccinated. At USAID, zero did.

Matt Stieb: US surpasses 4,000 Covid deaths in a day for the first time.

Around the World

Damelya Aitkhozhina: Russia is cracking down on political performance art. It should listen, not lash out.

Robert Herbst: Jonathan Kuttab's one state vision. Kuttab describes his vision in a short book, Beyond the Two-State Solution (ebook available from Nonviolence International).

John Hudson/Anthony Faiola/Karen DeYoung: On its way out the door, Trump administration names Cuba a state sponsor of terrorism.

The decision is a part of a blitz of 11th-hour moves by the Trump administration to push through hard-line policies championed by influential domestic political constituencies, despite the complications they will create for State Department lawyers, humanitarian interests abroad and the incoming Biden administration.

"This blatantly politicized designation makes a mockery of what had been a credible, objective measure of a foreign government's active support for terrorism," said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.). "Nothing remotely like that exists here. In fact, domestic terrorism in the United States poses a far greater threat to Americans than Cuba does."

Nino Pagliccia: Venezuela: The United States is experiencing what it has generated in other countries with its policies of aggression. The view from another nation Trump has tried to destroy democracy in.

Michael D Swaine: Pompeo makes last hour push to set the US up for confrontation with China.

Other Matters of Interest

Ron Charles: Conservatives crying 'Orwell' are downright Orwellian.

Patrick Cockburn: What Assange's victory really means: A judge in the UK ruled not to extradite Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to the US, where he would face espionage charges and a possible sentence of up to 175 years. Assange remains in jail in the UK. More:

Jariel Arvin: 2020 ties for the hottest year on record. Only surprise here is "ties." Note the map of "US 2020 Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters" (a record-breaking 22 of them).

Matt Gertz: Fox throws in the towel on its "news" side: Fox is shifting its primetime slots from "news" to "opinion."

The message is clear. Fox executives hold the "news"-side figures responsible for the criticism from Trump, outcry from viewers, and the ratings dip that followed the network's decision desk accurately calling first Arizona and then the 2020 election for President-elect Joe Biden. Rather than being rewarded for telling their audience the truth, they are being punished.

Ishmael Reed: The tragedy of Stanley Crouch.

Ben Smith: Heather Cox Richardson offers a break from the media maelstrom. It's working. On the historian's Substack newsletter. Probably worth reading if not for the hassle of the sales pitch.

Jacob Soll: This is the conservative tradition: "A new history traces an anti-democratic politics of hate, repression, paranoia, and revenge to its origins." Review of Edmund Fawcett's book, Conservatism: The Fight for a Tradition.

Jeffrey St Clair: Roaming charges: White riot, they wanna riot, they wanna riot of their own.

Matt Taibbi: We need a new media system: "If you sell culture war all day, don't be surprised by the real-world consequences." Conclusion is right, but adding just one channel that meets his definition of balance doesn't seem like much of an answer. Moreover, what makes you think he'd be happy if such a thing existed? He condemns the New York Times ("Criticism of Republicans is as baked into New York Times coverage as the lambasting of Democrats is at Fox"), even though their opinion pages are meticulously balanced between center-right and center-center, and they can be counted on to spread establishmentarian takes on everything.

Jeff Wise: Two-mile nose dive by a Boeing 737 in Indonesia as yet unexplained.


PS: A right-wing relative posted a meme saying "63 million Trump voters will never leave him! I am one of them. Are you one of us?" I rarely respond to taunts like that, but this time I commented:

I expect that most will leave him, and sooner rather than later. He's a loser, a whiny self-centered baby, a national embarrassment. Even if you once thought you liked him, before long you'll be glad to be rid of him.

I might have added that even the meme already allowed that 11 million Trump voters had already left him. He replied with something snarky, and I didn't pursue it further, but one other commenter said he didn't understand why folks were so hung up on Trump personally.