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Two Sides Now

TPM alum Greg Sargent has a column up at the Post looking at the work of experts in the field of democratic breakdown. Not collapse — that’s a bit different. We hear a lot of predictions about a coming U.S. civil war. But if the analog is the civil war of the 1860s that’s never been realistic. If nothing else the political geography doesn’t work. This would rather be an era of chronic political violence and instability: with episodes of paramilitary violence often egged on by elected leaders, assassinations, bombings, political crises, claimed stolen elections and actual stolen elections.

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The Curious Jan 6 Moonwalk of ‘Team Normal’

There he was, on tape if not in person: Bill Stepien, the very campaign manager of Donald Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign, explaining calmly and matter of factly that President Trump lost, he and the candidate knew he had lost and every conspiracy theory and false claim and desperate attempt to stay in power was in the words of Bill Barr, bullshit. It wasn’t even begrudging nor presented as an admission. Just matter of fact.

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Very Interesting Prime Badge

I’m not sure I agree with all of this. But TPM Reader JB captures an important part of what’s happening in these hearings.

Politically, the best thing about hearings is the optics.   So important.

Dems are in charge.  They sit on high and Trumpers come before them, either in person or video, and are asked to explain their behavior in public. 

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Remind Me Why We Have Sheriffs? Prime Badge

I hope you get a chance to read Matt Shuham’s feature piece today about “constitutional sheriff” Dar Leaf. It really brings together the current rage for Trump era “voter fraud” conspiracy theories and our much longer-term interest in far-right anti-government radicalism. When I got to thinking about this a few weeks ago it suddenly occurred to me that almost always when there was one of these figures it was a sheriff. In this case I’m not talking about the so-called “constitutional sheriffs,” though that’s a big part of it. I’m talking about Joe Arpaio in Maricopa County, Arizona or Alex Villanueva in LA County, David Clarke in Milwaukee. Like I said, these guys are always the sheriffs.

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MBS Broke Us Prime Badge

Sometimes the biggest things happening in the world are happening out of view. Sometimes they’re hidden but just as often they simply don’t get the attention they should because they don’t have traction as news stories. Or perhaps all the players have their own interests in not drawing attention to them. You may have noticed that Joe Biden is traveling to Saudi Arabia next month and that he plans to hold a summit with the de facto ruler of the country, Mohammed bin Salman — usually called MBS. He’s going to Riyadh. MBS is not coming to Washington. This is presented as a full reset of relations between the two countries and — though this is stated less directly — a full reset with MBS. So all that human-rights, Yemen-war, Jamal-Khashoggi-being-dismembered-at-a-consulate-in-Istanbul stuff is done with. That was then. This is now.

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Awkward Prime Badge

There was quite a bit of subtle storytelling and repositioning going on through this morning’s testimony. Perhaps especially from Bill Barr. But there was one moment from Barr that struck me as revealing. During his testimony, Barr was describing the run-up to one visit to the White House when it was clear that Trump wasn’t going to acknowledge he had lost. Barr said that it was getting a bit “awkward.” That’s probably an understatement.

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What Does Trump Believe? Prime Badge

I was about to respond to this email from TPM Reader JR. But I decided it made more sense to respond here.

Lots being written about the importance of establishing whether Trump “knew” he lost.  Greg Sargeant this morning, Slate over the weekend (does Trump really ever “know” anything”) etc etc.  I don’t touch criminal law but it seems to me that focus is too narrow.  I would think Trump could have had the requisite criminal intent to use illegal means to overturn an election even if he “believed” the election was being stolen from him. That is, if he knew or was wilfully blind to the fact that he or his team were using unlawful means to “contest” the election, wouldn;t that be enough?  If he had warnings his words and actions would incite the violence1/6 or were in coordination with plans for the assault on the Capitol, why does it matter whether he “knew” he lost or not?  

Like JR, I’m not a lawyer. So I can’t speak to the internal logic of particular case law or legal standards about mens rea and consciousness of guilt. But I think the way to approach this question is to work it from the other side, as it were.

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