Thursday, January 14, 2021

'A lot of damage'

Here are concluding paragraphs from the [January 13, 2021 edition] of Letters from an American by Heather Cox Richardson.

In the next week, Trump Republicans might be able to convince Americans that holding Republican insurrectionists responsible for their actions is Democratic overreaction. In that case, the Republicans can avoid taking a stand either for or against Trump while they turn this moment into a referendum on the Democrats just as they take power in the national government. They are running this play headlong, complaining bitterly, for example, about the new metal detectors installed at the entrance to the House chamber– even as National Guard personnel patrolled the Capitol to protect them– and complaining about “censorship” to television cameras after Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube removed QAnon accounts and Trump’s accounts.

It could also be that, as more information comes out, the story will get even worse, and it will be easier for senators to vote to convict, especially once Trump is out of office. Yesterday’s briefings by the FBI and acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Michael Sherwin gave notice that the evolving story of what happened on January 6 will be shocking and could well involve figures in government. More than 30 House Democrats have called attention to an unusual number of Capitol tours held on January 5, at a time when coronavirus restrictions have largely ended tours. Those tours, combined with the fact that the insurrectionists appeared to have a detailed knowledge of the Capitol complex, have led to suspicions that some members of Congress might have offered aid to the rioters.

A sign that there is something big still hanging out there came tonight in the form of a taped video by Trump himself, emphasizing that he disavowed violence and defending the right to free speech protected in the First Amendment to the Constitution. It sounded like a charge and a defense. To release such a video means he must be worried indeed about his legal exposure.

Another sign is that virtually no one in the White House tried to defend Trump from today’s impeachment. There were no talking points, no briefings, no interviews, no calls to lawmakers. Even White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, who defended the president at his first impeachment last year, wanted people to know he was not defending him this time.

Furious and isolated, Trump is lashing out at those he blamed for getting him into this mess. He has told aides that he wants personally to approve any expenses his lawyer Rudy Giuliani ran up as he traveled around the country to challenge election results, and he has told them not to pay Giuliani’s legal fees.

Trump had largely given up governing after the election anyway, but now our government seems to be operating haphazardly. Today, Israeli warplanes hit Iranian and Iranian-backed militia positions in Syria. Israeli forces are often active in this area, but this was the hardest attack in years, hitting missiles recently brought to the area and killing around 40 people. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wanted Trump to pressure Iran before he left office, and this strike seems intended to demonstrate a U.S.-Israeli partnership against Iran. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Yossi Cohen, the head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, made this message obvious by being seen together Monday at CafĂ© Milano in Washington, D.C., a restaurant the Washington Post described as “Washington’s ultimate place to see and be seen.”

Also yesterday, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced new coronavirus vaccine schedule guidelines, as the U.S. reported 4,327 deaths from Covid–19. In the first 13 days of 2021, we have seen more than 3 million new infections. More than 23 million Americans have been infected so far.

Almost exactly a year ago, on January 23, 2020, Adam Schiff urged Senate Republicans to convict Trump for abusing his power and obstructing Congress, and to remove him from office. “Now,” he said, “you may be asking how much damage can he really do in the next several months until the election?

“A lot,” Schiff said. “A lot of damage.”

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