A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo. Sign up for the email version.
Meadows And Immunity
The biggest news in the Trump prosecutions yesterday was the ABC News report that Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows was given immunity by Special Counsel Jack Smith and then testified to the DC grand jury investigating Jan. 6.
A lot of confusion about what this means, what it reveals, and what remains unknown. The big point of contention over the course of the afternoon yesterday was whether this was Meadows flipping and becoming a witness against Trump. The answer is more nuanced than that.
Meadows was compelled to testify, i.e., he did not so so willingly. Rather, prosecutors gave him immunity to testify, meaning they wouldn’t prosecute him using anything incriminating in his testimony. This gets them around him taking the 5th, and it lets Meadows have a shot of maintaining his viability as a conservative mover and shaker. He was forced to do it; he wasn’t a snitch.
ABC News later updated its story to note that the Meadows testimony came back in March. (ABC News had previously reported that Meadows testified to a grand jury in April in matters related to the Mar-a-Lago documents case.) This suggests that Meadows’ testimony was already baked in when Jack Smith indicted Trump in the Jan. 6 case back in August.
More on what it all means:
Witness Tampering? What Witness Tampering?
Donald Trump reacted to the Mark Meadows news in a way that is sure to get the attention of U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who already issued a limited gag order in the Jan. 6 case to prevent exactly this kind of thing, but then paused it to consider whether to impose it while Trump is appealing her decision:
Jenna Ellis Flips!
The second biggest news of the day in the Trump prosecutions was the plea deal in the Georgia RICO case for former Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis:
- Aaron Blake: Jenna Ellis’s tearful guilty plea should worry Rudy Giuliani
- NYT: Latest Figure to Flip in Election Case Had Direct Ties to Trump and Giuliani
- Philip Bump: The layers of falsehoods that led to Jenna Ellis’s plea deal
Michael Cohen Testifies Against Trump
On a normal day, this would have been the biggest news in Trump accountability world. Not so this time.
- NYT: Cohen Denounces Trump During Courtroom Face-Off
- WSJ: Michael Cohen Testifies Trump Ordered Him to Inflate Wealth
House GOP Goes On A Wild Ride
A long, long day on the Hill yesterday, and perhaps no better way to catch you up on the day’s chaos than a brief timeline (all times ET):
Approx. 9:55 a.m. House GOP begins voting for a new speaker nominee.
12:15 p.m. On the fifth ballot, Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN) is selected by the House GOP as speaker nominee, winning 117 votes. Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) finishes second, with 97 votes.
12:19 p.m. Emmer immediately calls for a roll call vote within the House GOP conference to gauge his support for a floor vote. He needs virtually unanimous GOP support to win the necessary 217 votes on the floor without Democratic help.
Approx. 1 p.m. Emmer loses 26 votes in the roll call vote; gets to work trying to convert the holdouts.
Approx. 4:24 p.m. Emmer’s run as speaker-designee barely made it past the four hour mark before he dropped out and left the building without a word.
5:30 p.m. The deadline for anyone on planet Earth to submit their name for consideration by the House GOP as the next speaker.
6 p.m. House GOP holds yet another speaker candidate forum with the lucky six candidates for the least desirable post in DC.
Approx 8:40 p.m. House GOP begins voting for new speaker nominee.
Approx 9:54 p.m. On the third ballot, Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) is nominated for speaker, meaning the guy who came in second some nine hours earlier somehow emerges from the chaos as the winner. Johnson is the fourth GOP nominee for speaker in the past three weeks.
Approx. 10 p.m. Rather than waiting until morning, as originally planned, Johnson immediately holds a roll call vote among Republicans to assess his strength on the House floors.
Approx. 10:30 p.m. Johnson wins the roll call with zero no votes and 3 present votes. In what may or may not be an ominous sign, 20 GOP members don’t show up for the vote.
What Happened Next
After Johnson secured the nomination, he and the House GOP conference made an ostentatious show of unity, inviting reporters into the room and gathering around the new nominee. Here’s how it went:
Let’s see the video proof (set aside, if you can, the House GOP’s blinding whiteness):
Mike Johnson’s “We’re not doing any policy tonight” stands as a marker of the era, a truth all the truer for the obliviousness with which it was delivered. All hail the speaker of truth.
Where Do Things Stand Now?
We’re in the fourth week of no speaker of the House. The House GOP has flailed spectacularly in public that whole time, riven by internal divisions, crippled by a deep aversion to governing, and fundamentally opposed to basic democratic principles, such as abiding by the results of elections.
Despite all that – and especially after the wild ride of yesterday – it actually appears this morning that Mike Johnson is more likely than not to win a floor vote expected shortly after noon E.T. today.
What makes Johnson viable? First off, I’m not 100% sure he really is, but what makes it seems plausible that he will win is that he is as conservative as they come, with deep roots in the Christian right and a pro-insurrectionist bent – but he’s not as bombastic, wild-eyed, and loaded with baggage as Jim Jordan.
So he’s convinced the House Freedom Caucus types that he’s one of them, but hasn’t been crazy enough to scare off more vulnerable members. It’s a delicate balance, but it may be enough to get him elected speaker today. Just remember, there are about two dozen House GOP members who showed some possible signs of flaking on Johnson last night, and he can only afford to lose a handful of them on the floor.
Mike Johnson’s Jan. 6 Record
Not only did Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA), the new speaker designee, vote against certifying the 2020 election results, he was the architect of a slightly more palatable “theory” for why House Republicans shouldn’t certify the results, as the NYT reported a year ago:
In formal statements justifying their votes, about three-quarters relied on the arguments of a low-profile Louisiana congressman, Representative Mike Johnson, the most important architect of the Electoral College objections.
On the eve of the Jan. 6 votes, he presented colleagues with what he called a “third option.” He faulted the way some states had changed voting procedures during the pandemic, saying it was unconstitutional, without supporting the outlandish claims of Mr. Trump’s most vocal supporters. His Republican critics called it a Trojan horse that allowed lawmakers to vote with the president while hiding behind a more defensible case.
Even lawmakers who had been among the noisiest “stop the steal” firebrands took refuge in Mr. Johnson’s narrow and lawyerly claims, though his nuanced argument was lost on the mob storming the Capitol, and over time it was the vision of the rioters — that a Democratic conspiracy had defrauded America — that prevailed in many Republican circles.
So there’s that.
Keep An Eye On Acapulco
One of the most extraordinary weather events in recent memory occurred yesterday on the Pacific Coast of Mexico where sleepy Tropical Storm Otis, originally forecast to be little more than a nuisance, rapidly intensified at record rates and slammed into Acapulco with little warning as a Category 5 hurricane, with 165 m.p.h. winds at landfall.
It wasn’t just that the forecast models entirely missed it or that the intensification rate was off the charts. Historically there was no precedent for a storm this strong on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, and even less precedent for a storm like this in Acapulco, which had never experienced anyhing stronger than a Category 1 hurricane.
The language of the normally staid National Hurricane Center was apocalyptic as the storm bore down on the coast last night:
Initial reports on the damage are just now emerging as the sun comes up. Stay tuned.
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