Merrick Garland is finally getting his day in court.
While the most eye roll-inducing moments thus far involve Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) daring to harp on the importance of an apolitical Department of Justice, Garland’s opening statement gave us a pretty clear sign of what to expect out of a Garland-run DOJ.
Since the earliest reports of the high efficacy of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines there’s been a significant asterisk attached to that good news. While the vaccines are extremely effective at preventing illness and death – close to full proof on the latter – it wasn’t clear whether they prevented the further spread of the disease. So a vaccine protects you from getting sick but possibly you could still spread the disease to others.
When I first heard about this possibility in an article by TPM’s Josh Kovensky I was baffled. How could that possibly be true, even logically speaking?
This issue is one of the deepest sources of confusion and inaccurate messaging tied to COVID vaccines.
From TPM Reader WH …
I thought I’d share this short connection I have to the late Rush Limbaugh:
Around 2014 I got a part-time job as a “linguistic annotator”. The employer was a language-related research and development nonprofit. I worked on a DARPA project called “DEFT Anomaly”, an “automated, deep natural-language processing technology … for more efficiently processing text information and enabling understanding connections in text that might not be readily apparent to humans” … in other words, helping computers learn to pick up nuance and implicit meaning in text.
From TPM Reader BC …
Hearing the news that Rush died struck me a bit differently because we worked together at KFBK/KAER in Sacramento. I was there from 1983 to 1990. Just before Rush, KFBK had Morton Downey Jr. in that time slot, who soon self-immolated via a “joke” about “Chinamen”. Mort was the oiliest, sleaziest human I have ever known. But Rush succeeded, and in part because meanness was just ramping up in conservative circles in the 80’s, and because he knew which people to stomp on.
The Trump presidency was chock-full of scandal, slimy misdeeds, worrying and outright deadly events that we still don’t fully understand. It’s hard to keep each straight in hindsight. There’s so much we didn’t know or couldn’t confirm as the events were unfolding in front of us — from the details of the family separation policy to Trump’s conversations with Putin to the government’s response to natural disasters such as Hurricane Maria.
But slowly and surely we will begin to learn more about some of the Trump era’s worst offenses. Coming soon: an official accounting of the jarring details behind the 2018 killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
After the news of Rush Limbaugh’s death broke Wednesday, there was an immediate challenge for those who loathed the man: how to respond to his death at age 70. Many simply celebrated, which is … paradoxically, very much in the spirit of the man. I can’t celebrate anyone’s passing. Death is too central to the human condition. It casts too great a pall of grief over too many people beyond the deceased. The part of this I got involved in is noting that Limbaugh was a very talented broadcaster. He was also funny, though often in cruel and malevolent ways. Maybe not funny to you. But funny. Besides catching clips of his latest outrage from TPM or Media Matters I hadn’t listened to Rush in decades. But during his early years I listened a lot. I also watched his short lived TV show. Basically a failure. A face for radio. He was uniquely talented in his medium. This isn’t praise. These are facts. And they’re worth repeating because while they are certainly not the most important things about Limbaugh’s role in American public life you can’t really understand that role without recognizing these parts of it.
I raise these facts because they have an import beyond Limbaugh.
I believe I predicted as much in the latest episode of the podcast, which dropped yesterday evening. Mitch McConnell’s response to ex-President Trump’s screed? Apparently nothing. He doesn’t plan to respond to even talk to Trump again. That’s the power move. And that fits because he has the power in that relationship.
As Kate Riga reported yesterday, on the day of the insurrection, ex-President Trump’s more loyal right-wing media hosts and lawmakers in Congress were casting about for an explanation for how the violent attack on the Capitol could have happened that didn’t blame Trump.
They settled on a usual suspect: Antifa.
Before you get your hackles up, no … this isn’t a post inducting Mitch McConnell into the Resistance. It’s not a post painting McConnell as part of some institutionalist, non-Trump GOP. It’s none of those things. McConnell is just as awful as you and I always thought and in many ways critically responsible for sustaining Trump through his four years in office. My point is a different one, but I think important. I had writing this post in mind before ex-President Trump’s tirade yesterday. But his tirade for me cast the whole reality in a starker and clarifying relief.
The House GOP especially has had a series of weak, often feckless leaders, with Kevin McCarthy being just the latest, weakest and least fecked. But as I wrote back on the 11th, this isn’t really about bad luck or weak character. It’s built into the structure of the modern GOP. The GOP has weak leaders because weak, figurehead leaders are part and parcel of the GOP being a rightist, revanchist party while masquerading as a center-right party of government. The Jim Jordans and Steve Kings and Louis Gohmerts of the GOP prefer to run their party from the back benches or committee chairs under nominal leaders like McCarthy because it gives them power without accountability, a combination which is the mother’s milk of today’s conservative politics. McCarthy, famously and notoriously, went from privately telling colleagues that he believed Trump was literally on Vladimir Putin’s payroll to becoming one of Trump’s most committed and lickspittleyest toadies.
If you’ve been following Republican talking points closely, you’d assume the concept of “cancel culture” — not the pandemic or the uprising of violent domestic extremists — is the main threat facing the nation today.
Unsurprisingly, men who like to walk around civilian areas with long guns or semi-automatic rifles have a tendency to end up committing mass murder or other terrorist attacks. Back in 2016 we reported that a young man named Conor Climo was marching around a suburban Las Vegas subdivision kitted up in camo and carrying an AR-15. He told reporters he was there to patrol the neighborhood to deter crime. Three years later he was arrested for plotting either a mass shooting or a bomb attack on a Las Vegas area synagogue or gay night club. This is but one example and it’s certainly no surprise that someone who gets excited by terrorizing people – which the heart of open carry performance art – eventually progresses to mass violence.
TPM Reader JG, a law professor, adds this dissent to my comments below …
I think your take on “Dems cave on witnesses” is simply wrong. The managers said they wanted one witness — a one hour deposition of Herrera Beutler. They leaked the fact that no one around Trump or Pence with direct knowledge of Trump’s actions would agree to testify. So with the stipulation that admitted H-B’s statement into the impeachment record, they have an evidentiary basis to argue that Trump fomented insurrection after the fact as well. If they had more witnesses they would have wanted their testimony! I don’t think it has much to do with the threat to call Pelosi, etc. I think the only objection to their strategy is that with more time — a delay to depose H-B, etc., more folks with knowledge would have agreed to come forward. Also not unlikely: McCarthy could come under pressure to dispute H-B (her testimony is hearsay, after all) and could have put in a counter-affidavit disavowing the truth of what she said. So net: the managers’ added to their case. The externals may look messy but it’s up to folks like you to focus on the bottom line.
Senate Democrats decision to forego witnesses earlier this afternoon came as a jolt, inexplicable and maddening, to many or most Democrats outside the chamber because Democrats appeared to hold all the cards and all the votes and yet capitulated entirely. The final decision was simply to enter Rep. Herrera Beutler’s statement into the record and move on.
Before getting to what this means let me be candid and tell you that through most of this trial and what led up to it I’ve been ambivalent about calling witnesses. In the abstract of course you should call witnesses. But we’re not living in the abstract. The national interest and the Democrats’ partisan interests rests overwhelmingly on rapidly passing a bold COVID relief bill to end the Pandemic and resurrect the economy.
That is not needed simply in the direct sense of getting shots in arms and dollars in hands. Coming out of the moral and civic catastrophe of the last four years it is critical to vindicate the idea that people’s votes, their electoral exertions can and will translate into tangible benefits in their lives. This is a Newtonian cause and effect with which civic life withers and dies or gives way to obscurantism and authoritarian temptation.
To the extent witnesses or an extended trial delayed that to more than a trivial degree, just push through the trial and get on to repairing the country. This is all the more the case since the chances of conviction are as infinitesimally small as the scope of the evidence is vast.
From the closing argument of impeachment manager Madeleine Dean (D-PA):
For those who say we need to get past this, we need to come together, we need to unify, if we don’t set this right and call it what it was, the highest of constitutional crimes by the president of the United States, the past will not be past. The past will become our future.
Correction: I initially misidentified Dean.
Well, that didn’t last long.
Dems seemed to have seized the advantage, backed by five GOP senators, to present at least some witnesses in the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump. The fierce reaction of GOP senators to what House impeachment managers and Dem senators wanted to do testified to the the advantage Dems had taken hold of.
Very surprising, very dramatic events just in the last half hour of the impeachment trial. The Senate has voted to call witnesses, something that seemed all but ruled out just last night. The trial was supposed to end today with a vote to acquit. The shift was triggered by the revelations of Rep. Herrera Beutler (R) of Washington who heard from Rep. Kevin McCarthy of an exchange the day of the insurrection in which President Trump defended the insurrectionists to McCarthy when McCarthy called Trump begging him to call off the mob.
Big unexpected news this morning as the Senate has voted 55-45, with five Republicans joining all 50 Democrats, to consider witnesses subpoenas. This was on the heels of last night’s CNN report that put into sharper focus the phone call between President Trump and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) during the Capitol siege.
Even though the last two days of the impeachment trial have included new information about the fact that former President Trump put his veep in harms way, Vice President Mike Pence is standing by his man.
At least five people died during the events of January 6th on Capitol Hill. More than 100 Capitol Police officers were injured, at least 15 of whom required hospitalization. Two Capitol Police officers took their own lives in the days immediately following the assault, presumably spurred by trauma and/or guilt over the insurrection. But the death of Officer Brian Sicknick has loomed over the events of the January 6th like no other. While others were bludgeoned or attacked and could have died of their injuries the fact that Sicknick did die added a gravity to the events of January 6th it would not, for better or worse, otherwise have had.
Because of this, a new ‘truth movement’ has begun to crop up on the right suggesting Sicknick’s death was unrelated to the insurrection and may even be part of a cover-up to tarnish the reputation of Donald Trump and the MAGA movement. It’s ugly and utterly predictable.
We just started the second day of House impeachment managers’ arguments as they seek to persuade a jury of senators to convict Trump of inciting the insurrection. All eyes, of course, are on the Republicans in the chamber.
Donald Trump’s trial for incitement to insurrection is bound by two key facts. First is the fact that all but three or four Republican senators will vote to acquit him no matter what. The second is the nature of ‘incitement’ as a crime. Incitement is at the outer bounds of what we normally consider to be criminal actions inasmuch as it amounts to using words to get other people to do things absent compulsion. It is a crime, as it should be, but in a criminal trial context it is a high bar for prosecutors to meet. Still, we are left to consider how much the President inspired and directed what happened on January 6th, 2021.
The House managers are doing a good job of it. But in terms of what the President thought he was doing … well, he told us in real time.
From TPM Reader CB …
I wanted to share my De-Trumping story, because I think it’s fairly unique.
Like a lot of people, I swore before the 2016 election I’d leave the United States if Trump got elected. Unlike a lot of people, I followed through. It took a little bit, but I switched to a job I could work remotely, sold my stuff, and left in mid-2018.
Kevin McCarthy is far and away the weakest congressional leader, in either party or house of Congress, in living memory. Indeed, you have to go deep into American history to find anyone comparable. And if you go too far back you get to periods when the role of House and Senate leaders were just too different to make any comparisons. So with this fact in hand, I’ve heard a number of people ask just how it is he manages to remain leader. But this question mistakes the structure of the current Republican congressional party, especially in the House. McCarthy is leader precisely because he is as weak as he is. It’s a feature, not a bug.
Scanning the channels I’m seeing lots of commentators saying it “just got a lot harder to vote to acquit.” Alas, with the exception of three or four who already signaled an openness to conviction, Republican senators won’t to find it hard at all.
It was an incredibly powerful presentation – and a lot of it is still coming. But the real audience for this is outside the chamber. Inside the chamber, with the possible exception of some of the Republican senators who voted for the constitutionality of the trial I would be quite surprised if any minds were changed by today’s presentation.
It’s a bleak commentary. But that is the reality we find ourselves in.
As if we needed more evidence after yesterday’s performance that Trump’s hodge-podge legal defense wasn’t going great, this morning we learned that one of his own lawyers sued him last year.
And he sued him over the very issue that he will be defending the ex-president against.
If you’re a regular TPM Reader the topic of militias and rightist paramilitaries, which have been in the news since January 6th, is nothing new to you. Many of us have been watching this development going back at least 25 years. The roots of the phenomenon of course go back decades further. It has been a hallmark of our coverage for twenty years that ‘fringe’ right wing groups are much more central to what drives national politics than establishment reportage allows. Today we see that reality come to the fore in a newly visible way as state Republican parties especially cultivate highly armed paramilitaries as auxiliaries to their work in electoral politics.
From TPM Reader AB …
I hadn’t fully realized what the change for me personally was until this afternoon while watching the video that the House Managers showed of the insurrection. It wasn’t seeing the terrorists storming the building, it was before that. It was listening to him speak as President on the Ellipse. At that moment I realized how he had affected me. I remembered how hard it was to listen to him speak without getting angry in a way that no other politician, Republican or Democrat, had done. Then after that moment seeing the video of the insurrection reminded me of the rage I felt on the sixth. I finally understand in just a small way, how people with PTSD are triggered. The feeling was visceral and frightening. Again, this was not just the video of the mob, it was also video of the President’s speech. I now realize the relief that I felt, while slow to materialize, is real, and way bigger than I thought it was.