I find it noteworthy that Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) has – from a purely cynical point of view – navigated the politics of the last few weeks with more deftness than either Ted Cruz or Josh Hawley.
After the Raffensperger call was released but before the Georgia defeats and the Capitol insurrection Cotton announced that he would not be part of challenging the electoral college results. Now he is, unsurprisingly, saying he won’t convict Trump in a new impeachment trial. But note that he isn’t defending Trump on the merits. He is saying that it is constitutionally inappropriate to hold an impeachment trial of a President after he leaves office. There’s some plausible logic to that. But it’s mainly just a canny dodge. He’s not defending Trump in any bright line way (no figure prints on the horrors of the last weeks) but also avoiding any vote or position that would make him toxic to Trump-supporting Republicans.
As you can see, the tempo of events is moving rapidly now. Donald Trump not finishing his term of office now seems like a real possibility, as astonishing as that may seem. A number of developments are coming together, like converging waves that build on each other.
There are two things I think we should be thinking about as developments which led to this quickening.
There is a simple chain of events that even news outlets doing the best work are still tiptoeing around. After President Trump gave his speech to the insurrectionists on Wednesday he returned to the White House and excitedly watched the storming of the Capitol on TV. As members of Congress were besieged and then retreated to a secure undisclosed location, Trump received numerous pleas from members of Congress to send reinforcements or call on his supporters to disperse. He refused because he liked what he was seeing.
In his first truly public comments since the events of last Wednesday (setting aside pre-taped video clips released by the White House), President Trump railed against impeachment and threatened more violence from his supporters if he is indeed impeached (for inciting violence).
Trump threatens more violence if he's impeached. Impeachment "causing tremendous anger, tremendous danger." pic.twitter.com/Jk6gskCJ4v
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) January 12, 2021
One of the most chilling, disgraceful episodes of the events of last Wednesday came in the ‘undisclosed, secure location’ members of Congress were taken to after they were evacuated from the House and Senate Chambers. This is by definition, a relatively small space crowded with large numbers of people. It’s designed for terror attacks, not COVID mitigation. While there, numerous Republican members still refused to don masks. Indeed, especially seniors from the Democratic caucus, repeatedly begged them to put on masks. They refused and in cases even mocked the requests. Now two members, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D), 55, and Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D), 75 and a cancer survivor, have both tested positive for COVID. They received positive test results on Monday, five days after the insurrection, which is the average time to become symptomatic for COVID.
Here’s video. The blonde women in this scene is Rep. Marjorie Greene, the new Qanon-supporting member from Georgia.
We can’t know for certain that these members were infected during the siege. But it seems highly, highly likely. It’s also quite likely we’ll see more infections in the coming days.
A month ago I made a point that I and others have been making in various ways and in various contexts for years, but with renewed urgency. After Trump Democrats must exercise great discipline not to operate within or engage with the bad faith arguments of Republicans who remain unwilling to come to grips with or take accountability for what they’ve done to the country. Today we see, predictably, the same pattern: it has taken Republicans only three or four days to resolve that they are the primary victims of the events of the last week. We’ve skipped ahead from the “stolen election” lie to claims Republicans are the new Jews being trained off to concentration camps because their months-old pet social network Parler became too radioactive for the hosting service it ran on.
One thought I keep returning to: if there were a functioning federal government we’d be seeing regular press conferences updating the public on on-going arrests, health status of the injured, progress of the investigation. As far as I can tell there hasn’t been a single one. Nothing from DOJ, FBI, Capitol Police, the Pentagon. Normally you might expect such information to be channeled through press conferences at the White House. But, not to put too fine a point on it, it’s not clear or perhaps too clear which side the White House is on.
The US is in the midst of the gravest crisis of executive authority in its almost 250 year history. We may later learn that some of these reports are incomplete or even erroneous. But based on reliable reporting, the Vice President is considering or at least “not ruling out” removing the President from office, pursuant to the 25th Amendment. The Speaker of the House has conferred with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff about protecting the country’s nuclear arsenal from the President. (Just as importantly she announced this publicly, with the tacit silence of the country’s top general.) The House is moving rapidly toward impeaching the President and while it still seems unlikely it is now by no means impossible that the Senate will vote to remove him from office. Over just the first days of January President Trump has committed a number of acts which are reasonably viewed as statutory felonies – solicitation of election fraud, obstruction of justice, incitement to riot, et al.
Events are moving so rapidly that commentary becomes dated almost immediately. So I want to step back a bit to see the events of the last week from a more distant perspective, particularly the interrelationship between three critical events. It is how I think history will likely eventually see them.
President Trump’s coup plot reached a high water mark at the end of last week when Republicans in Congress rushed to join efforts to contest the lawful electoral college vote which made Joe Biden the next President of the United States. It was at this point when first Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and then Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) rushed forward to become the leaders of the coup on Capitol Hill as a way to burnish their Trumpite presidential resumes.
If Donald Trump had posted his latest video yesterday it would have bought him a lot of credit, unfortunately. The fact that he released it this evening is a measure of just how tenuous his position has become. Two events from just the last couple hours demonstrate why. We now learn that a Capitol Police officer was beaten to death by his insurrectionist supporters. And now The Wall Street Journal editorial page, even in advance of that news, has called for him to resign or be impeached.