Headlines: January 12, 2021
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House Democrats have set up a vote on their Article of Impeachment against President Donald Trump for Wednesday. On Tuesday the House will vote on a bill formally calling on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove Trump from office. But even though he has received death threats from Trump supporters Mr. Pence has signaled he will remain loyal to Trump and will refuse to invoke the 25th. But support for Trump among Republicans appears to be eroding as at least one GOP Congressman, Rep. Peter Meijer of Michigan said he would consider voting to impeach. Tom Reed of New York opined that although he does not support impeachment, he thinks the President should be censured. Rank and file Republican voters are demanding Trump’s immediate removal, taking to social media to post videos of themselves denouncing his actions. Trump unsurprisingly dug his heels in over his remarks to tens of thousands of supporters last Wednesday just before a faction of them went on a violent rampage of the Capitol building. In remarks to reporters he asserted that his speech was “totally appropriate.” Pivoting to anti-immigrant hatred, as he has often done to deflect attention from his misdeeds, Trump headed to Texas after days of remaining at the White House. He plans to boast about his border wall.
The Washington Post on Tuesday published a timeline of the 6 hour-riot during which President Trump did nothing to call of his supporters attacking the Capitol, even as House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy and his own adviser Kellyanne Conway vainly tried to reach him by phone. According to the Post, “as senators and House members trapped inside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday begged for immediate help during the siege, they struggled to get through to the president, who — safely ensconced in the West Wing — was too busy watching fiery TV images of the crisis unfolding around them to act or even bother to hear their pleas.” In an interview, Senator Lindsey Graham, who also desperately tried to reach the White House, said, “The president saw these people as allies in his journey and sympathetic to the idea that the election was stolen.” Graham has been one of Trump’s most ardent loyalists and enablers. Axios reported that in a private phone call between Trump and McCarthy, the President is now insisting that the rioters were leftwing “Antifa.”
House Democrats are also considering a measure to remove those of their Republican colleagues who voted to overturn the election. Newly seated Representative Cori Bush began drafting the measure while she remained huddled with other lawmakers during the Capitol riot last week. The measure already has 47 co-sponsors. Even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, usually loathe to take strong measures, implicitly thanked Democrats behind the effort to expel seditious members of Congress. Ahead of the riot, many Republican lawmakers boosted Trump’s efforts to mobilize the rioters egging them on to “fight.” The Intercept reports that House Freedom Caucus chair Andy Biggs of Arizona helped to organize the riot, an assertion made by a known lead organizer named Ali Alexander. Mr. Alexander, who is now in hiding, was found to have named Biggs and two other House Republicans as co-organizers in a social media broadcast.
One of those killed was a Capitol police officer who died of injuries sustained after a rioter hit him with a fire extinguisher. Republican Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana has released photos of the suspect. Post-mortems of the riot show that the violence could have been much worse. Huffington Post reports that rioters came armed with, “Molotov cocktails, an ammunition cache and a plan for violence.” Among the weapons uncovered were also assault rifles, hand guns, knives, tasers, and brass knuckles. Capitol Police on Monday briefed lawmakers on at least 3 violent plots that are in the works including a plan to surround the Capitol and kill Democrats and some Republicans, as well as encircling the White House in order to protect their president. Additionally the FBI has issued a warning of armed protests that could turn into deadly riots at all 50 state capitols and courthouses later this week starting as soon as January 16th. President elect Joe Biden will be inaugurated on January 20th and security preparations have already begun in light of the potential for violence. Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf announced the planned deployment of 15,000 National Guard troops to Washington D.C. Mr. Wolf then said he was resigning from his position, joining several other Trump loyalists who are attempting to salvage their reputations.
A side-effect of the Capitol riot has been the spreading of Covid-19 among lawmakers who were forced to huddle near one another as the rioters mobbed their chambers. Mask-wearing Democrats begged their mask-refusing Republican colleagues to cover their faces but were dismissed. Now, 3 Democrats have tested positive for the virus including the popular progressive Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. She tweeted, “Republicans refused to wear masks and mocked us for doing so—creating a superspreader event on top of a deadly attack…. Fine members who refuse to wear a mask and remove them from the floor.” Meanwhile, one of Trump’s ardent supporters, a doctor who had touted an unproven treatment method for the coronavirus, Simone Gold was confirmed to have been one of the Capitol rioters.
In news from the pandemic, the Trump administration has reversed its stance in holding back those vaccine doses it had been saving for second shots. The move came soon after President elect Biden said he would release all doses in order to speed up vaccinations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday issued new guidelines recommending that states begin vaccinating all people aged 65 or older as well as younger people with co-morbidities such as diabetes. Meanwhile there are alarming reports from Indian country about tribal elders succumbing at very high rates to infections and deaths from Covid-19. Native American communities are reeling from the loss of life as well as the cultural crisis of losing the language and ritual knowledge of elders.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has accused Iran of having ties to Al Qaeda in what is being seen as a last-ditch attempt of the Trump administration to foment war. He presented no hard evidence. Pompeo is also facing criticism for making a deeply politicized speech to Voice of America employees during which he accused them of “demeaning America,” while failing to mention the pandemic or the Capitol riot. And, he added Cuba to the State Department’s list of “state sponsors of terrorism,” a designation that Cuba had once been marked by and that by any measure applies to the U.S. and many of its allies.
A judge has stayed the execution of the only woman on the federal prison system’s Death Row. Lisa Montgomery was scheduled for executions as part of Trump’s late push to kill as many Death Row inmates as possible before leaving office. Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen is been urged to halt all executions in the last 10 days of the Trump government.
A manatee has been found off the coast of Florida with “TRUMP” etched into the algae on its back. The story has prompted shock and a reward by the Center for Biological Diversity for information about the violation of the protected animal. Federal authorities are investigating the incident.
Finally, conservative billionaire, Republican megadonor, and Trump enabler Sheldon Adelson has died. Accused of fanning the flames of hate with his moneyed influence of American politics, Adelson leaves behind a legacy that was on full display last week at the Capitol. He was 87 years old.