Matt Gaetz Sex Scandal

April 1, 2021

By Terrance Turner

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) is under fire (and investigation) for his alleged relationship with a 17-year-old girl. On March 30, a New York Times story revealed that Mr. Gaetz is being investigated by the Justice Department over whether he had a sexual relationship with the girl and paid for her to travel to him. If true, Gaetz has violated several federal trafficking laws, including the Mann Act, which prohibits transporting a minor across state lines for sex or other “immoral purposes”.

The findings are part of a larger investigation into Mr. Gaetz’s associate Joel Greenberg, a former tax collector in Florida. Federal authorities seized Greenberg’s phone and laptop, finding evidence of fake ID cards for him and a teenage girl. (They also found holograms associated with concealed handguns, per the Times.) Mr. Greenberg was indicted last summer on a varity of charges, including sex trafficking. He pled not guilty and was sent to jail last month for violating terms of his bail. His trial is set for June. It is not clear how he and Gaetz know each other.

Significantly, Matt Gaetz was the only House member to vote against a 2017 bill that would’ve given the federal government more power to combat sex trafficking.

Gaetz, 38, strongly denied the allegations. “It is veritably false that I have traveled with a 17-year-old woman,” he said on Tuesday, March 30. He then went even farther, claiming to be the victim of an extortion plot. He tweeted Tuesday: “Over the past several weeks my family and I have been the victims of an organized criminal extortion involving a former DOJ official seeking $25 million while threatening to smear my name.” He added that “my father has even been wearing a wire at the FBI’s direction to catch these criminals.”

He further defended himself in an interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson. “It is a horrible allegation, and it is false,” Gaetz insisted. “Providing for flights and for hotel rooms for people that you’re dating is not a crime.” He added: “I can say that actually, you and I went to dinner about two years ago — your wife was there. And I brought a friend of mine — you’ll remember her — and she was actually threatened by the FBI.”

“I don’t remember the woman you’re speaking of, or the context, at all,” Carlson responded.

Today, the saga reached a shocking new height. CNN is quoting multiple sources who say Gaetz allegedly showed off photos and videos of nude women whom he said he had slept with, including on the House floor. One video showed a naked woman with a hula hoop. “It was a point of pride,” one source said.

Now, the Times has learned that cash payments are involved. The Hill confirms: “Receipts on mobile payments apps reviewed by the Times show money from Gaetz and Greenberg was sent to one of the women, who told friends it was for having sex with both men.” The Times reports:

Investigators believe Joel Greenberg, the former tax collector in Seminole County, Fla., who was indicted last year on a federal sex trafficking charge and other crimes, initially met the women through websites that connect people who go on dates in exchange for gifts, fine dining, travel and allowances, according to three people with knowledge of the encounters. Mr. Greenberg introduced the women to Mr. Gaetz, who also had sex with them, the people said.

One of the women who had sex with both men also agreed to have sex with an unidentified associate of theirs in Florida Republican politics, according to a person familiar with the arrangement. Mr. Greenberg had initially contacted her online and introduced her to Mr. Gaetz, the person said.

From “DOJ Probe Into Gaetz Involves Cash Payments”

Mr. Gaetz got engaged to girlfriend Ginger Luckey, 26, on New Year’s Eve, per the Pensacola News Journal. He proposed to her at Trump’s Mar-A-Lago ranch, according to the Times. Gaetz has been a vocal defender of Trump, storming congressional offices during his first impeachment and opposing certification of the 2020 election. But Trump’s response to the plight of his devoted ally has so far been radio silence.

UPDATE (April 8, 2021): After The Times reported yesterday that Gaetz sought a preemptive pardon from the White House and was rejected, Trump issued a short statement. “Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon,” Trump said. “It must also be remembered that he has totally denied the accusations against him.”

Gaetz remains firm in his denial: “My lifestyle of yesteryear may be different from how I live now, but it was not and is not illegal,” he wrote in a column in the Washington Examiner on Monday. “First, I have never, ever paid for sex,” he stated. “And second, I, as an adult man, have not slept with a 17-year-old.”

Today, word broke that Greenberg may be cooperating with federal prosecutors. Politico reports that prosecutors and a defense attorney for Greenberg appeared before a judge today to discuss the next steps in a recently expanded criminal case charging Greenberg with sex trafficking of a minor, as well as stalking, bribery and defrauding the Paycheck Protection Program.

“We believe this case is going to be a plea,” federal prosecutor Roger Handberg said at the outset of the brief hearing. Greenberg’s defense attorney, Fritz Scheller, agreed. “I expect this case to be resolved with a plea,” the lawyer told reporters after the hearing. He added: “I am sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today.” 

Gaetz’s discomfort will likely be amplified by a lurid report in The Daily Beast. “In two late-night Venmo transactions in May 2018, Rep. Matt Gaetz sent his friend, the accused sex trafficker Joel Greenberg, $900. The next morning, over the course of eight minutes, Greenberg used the same app to send three young women varying sums of money,” write reporters Jose Pagliery and Roger Sollenberger. “In total, the transactions amounted to $900.”

The memo field for the first of Gaetz’s transactions to Greenberg was titled “Test.” In the second, the Florida GOP congressman wrote “hit up ___.” But instead of a blank, Gaetz wrote a nickname for one of the recipients. (The Daily Beast is not sharing that nickname because the teenager had only turned 18 less than six months before.) When Greenberg then made his Venmo payments to these three young women, he described the money as being for “Tuition,” “School,” and “School.”

“Gaetz Paid Accused Sex Trafficker, Who Then Venmo’d Teen”

The Daily Beast obtained Greenberg’s past online transactions (partially) through a source and also obtained credit card data that paints a damning portrait: “Greenberg and Gaetz are also connected on Venmo to at least one other woman that Greenberg paid with taxpayer funds using a government-issued credit card. Seminole County auditors flagged hundreds of those payments as ‘questioned or unaccounted for,’ and in total found more than $300,000 in suspicious or unjustified expenses. The Daily Beast was able to obtain that credit card data through a public records request.”

Biden Announces “American Jobs Plan”

Photo from the Tribune Review.

By Terrance Turner

March 31, 2021

Today, at a union training center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, President Joe Biden introudced the American Jobs Act. The sprawling, ambitious bill will invest about $2 trillion over the next eight years (amounting to about 1 percent of America’s GDP per year) to repair, rebuild, and reinvent infrastructure in the United States. Its goals are multifold, from roads and bridges to caregiving and climate change.

“It’s time to build our economy from the bottom up and the middle out,” Biden said, emphasizing the need for more good paying and union jobs. “Wall Street didn’t build this country; you, the middle class, built this country. And unions built the middle class.”

The White House fact sheet on the bill outlines the reasons for its creation: “The United States of America is the wealthiest country in the world, yet we rank 13th when it comes to the overall quality of our infrastructure. After decades of disinvestment, our roads, bridges, and water systems are crumbling. Our electric grid is vulnerable to catastrophic outages. Too many lack access to affordable, high-speed Internet and to quality housing […] The American Jobs Plan will invest in America in a way we have not invested since we built the interstate highways and won the Space Race.”

“It is not a plan that tinkers around the edges,” Mr. Biden said, quoted by the New York Times. “It is a once-in-a-generation investment in America. Unlike anything we have seen or done, since we built the interstate highway system and the space race decades ago.” In fact, Biden said today, it is “the largest American jobs investment since World War II.”

Vox has compiled a list of the bill’s highlights, which I have augmented by selections from the White House Fact Sheet. Here are the toplines of what’s in the American Jobs Plan:

  • “The $621 billion in infrastructure spending is the largest chunk of Biden’s plan, aiming to modernize 20,000 miles of highways, roads, and main streets, fix the 10 most economically significant bridges in the country, and repair 10,000 smaller bridges. Biden’s plan calls for $85 billion to modernize public transit and $80 billion to be put toward Amtrak for repairs and improving train corridors.” – Vox
    • The Department of Transportation states that there’s a “repair backlog” of over $105 billion, including 24,000 buses and 5,000 rail cars.
    • The American Rescue Plan will double federal spending for public transit and work to end the repair backlog.
  • “One in five miles, or 173,000 total miles, of our highways and major roads are in poor condition, as well as 45,000 bridges,” the White House says. Thus the President’s plan proposes $115 billion to modernize bridges, highways, roads, and main streets that are in need of repair. As summarized below:
    • “The President’s plan will modernize 20,000 miles of highways, roads, and main-streets.”
    • “It will fix the ten most economically significant bridges in the country in need of reconstruction.”
    • “It also will repair the worst 10,000 smaller bridges, providing critical linkages to communities.”
  • Invests $174 billion in the electric vehicle market, building out a network of 500,000 EV chargers on roads by 2030.
    • Plan will support U.S. workers to make batteries and electric vehicles (EVs)
    • Establish grant/incentive programs for local government/private sector to build 500,000 EV chargers by 2030
  • The plan also calls for the electrification of 20 percent of the school bus fleet, and using federal procurement to electrify the entire federal fleet, including the US Postal Service,” Vox says.
    • “It also talks about giving consumers point of sale rebates and tax incentives to buy American-made electric vehicles, incorporating a plan from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).”

An estimated 6-10 million homes still receive drinking water through lead pipes and service lines, according to the White House Fact Sheet. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintain that there is no safe level of lead exposure for children. Lead exposure can slow learning and cause kidney/brain damage in children. Thus, Biden’s plan:

  • Eliminates all lead pipes and service lines in drinking water systems, and puts $56 billion in grants and flexible loans to states, tribes, and territories to upgrade drinking, wastewater, and stormwater systems.
  • Calls on the federal government to contribute $45 billion in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, a federal-state partnership to ensure safe drinking water.
  • Invests $100 billion to build out the nation’s high-speed broadband infrastructure to 100 percent coverage, including in remote and rural areas. Biden’s plan also commits to working with Congress to reduce the price of broadband, but doesn’t specify exactly how.
  • Invests $213 billion to build and retrofit over 2 million homes and commercial buildings, including community colleges, aging schools, child care facilities, veterans’ hospitals, and federal buildings.
    • Biden’s plan calls for 1 million affordable housing units to be produced or retrofitted, and over 500,000 homes for low- and middle-income homebuyers to be built or rehabilitated.
    • The plan also calls for the elimination of exclusionary zoning.

“As the recent Texas power outages demonstrated, our aging electric grid needs urgent modernization. A Department of Energy study found that power outages cost the U.S. economy up to $70 billion annually,” the White House said. “The President’s plan will create a more resilient grid, lower energy bills for middle class Americans, improve air quality and public health outcomes, and create good jobs, with a choice to join a union, on the path to achieving 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2035.” President Biden is calling on Congress to invest $100 billion to build a more resilient electric transmission system.

  • Primary goal: creation of a “targeted investment tax credit” that incentivizes buildout of at least 20 gigawatts of high-voltage capacity power lines.
  • Puts $16 billion toward plugging “orphan” oil and gas wells (which have been abandoned by defunct companies that can’t afford to plug them) and abandoned coal and uranium mines
  • Plan also works towards funding environmental resiliency jobs including restoring forests, wetlands, and watersheds.
  • The plan calls for $10 billion to create a Civilian Climate Corps to conserve public lands and waters, one of Biden’s campaign promises. Conservation advocates argued that environmental restoration and resilience jobs like these can put people to work even more quickly than clean energy jobs.
    • “Some of the earliest job wins you’re going to see are going to be in the restoration space,” Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, told Vox. “They don’t require materials or construction, new fabrication of different goods and materials. The only thing that’s needed is money.”
  • Invests $100 billion to modernize the nation’s electrical grid, and extend and expand the production and investment tax credits to accelerate clean energy jobs and projects in wind, solar, and other forms of renewable energy.

Per Vox, “The bill also includes some ideas that might stretch the traditional definition of infrastructure:

  • Bolsters unions by calling on Congress to pass the pro-union Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. Biden’s plan similarly asks Congress to tie federal investments in clean energy and infrastructure to prevailing wage laws, and requires that investments in transportation meet existing transit labor protections.
  • Bans “exclusionary zoning” and harmful land-use policies, including minimum lot sizes, mandatory parking requirements, and prohibitions on multifamily housing.
  • Expands long-term care under Medicaid,increasing access to home and community-based services and giving more people the chance to receive care at home. The Biden administration’s plan aims to increase the quality of care-giving jobs and offer home health workers more chances to unionize and increase their wages.
  • As part of a plan to target workforce development in underserved communities, Biden’s plan would put$5 billion over eight years to support evidence-based community violence prevention programs, and invest in job training for formerly incarcerated individuals.
  •  $400 billion toward expanding access to quality, affordable home- or community-based care for aging relatives and people with disabilities.

“It’s worth repeating that this wide-ranging plan is Biden’s opening bid, not a final product,” Vox noted. “The next few months of negotiations with Congress will ultimately determine how many of these provisions will make it into a final bill — and it will take even more negotiations to get that bill passed.”

Biden said his proposal would be paid for in 15 years by raising taxes on corporations, NPR reports. The corporate tax rate would be raised from 21% to 28%, and Biden’s “Made in America” tax plan would close loopholes that allow businesses to store money in offshore accounts. The president said he’s open to other ideas, but Biden vowed Wednesday that no one making less than $400,000 a year would see their taxes increased — “period.”

Sen. Joe Manchin Catches Flak for Opposing Biden’s OMB Nominee

By Terrance Turner

Photo from Getty Images.

Feb. 19, 2021

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has said he will oppose the confirmation of Neera Tanden, President Biden’s nominee for the Office of Management and Budget. This imperils her nomination: unless a Republican joins Democrats in voting for Tanden, she will not be confirmed. Manchin cited negative comments about Republicans that Tanden tweeted while running the left-leaning think tank Center for American Progress.

Slate detailed the controversy over Tanden’s tweets. She says she regrets calling Mitch McConnell “Voldemort,” and Sen. Susan Collins “the worst,” or tweeting that “vampires have more heart than Ted Cruz.” She regretted tweets insinuating that Russians hacked actual voting machines, to Donald Trump’s benefit, in the 2016 election. The social media remarks have been scrutinized, largely on the right, since her nomination. But she was also criticized by the left for tangling publicly with Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT). (She also regrets fighting with pro-Sanders Twitter accounts about the prudence of pursuing single-payer health care legislation.)

Manchin said he thinks Tanden’s tweets will adversely affect congressional relations. “I believe her overtly partisan statements will have a toxic and detrimental impact on the important working relationship between members of Congress and the next director of the Office of Management and Budget. For this reason, I cannot support her nomination,” said Manchin.

As NPR noted, Manchin has a history of breaking with his party. (He also expressed opposition to the $2000 checks in Biden’s COVID-19 relief bill — widely supported by Democrats and many Americans.) But Manchin’s vote this time is drawing the ire of many political observers. They point out that he voted to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, despite the credible allegation of sexual assault against him. Manchin also voted to confirm former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who used the Bible to defend snatching immigrant children from their parents and who infamously “joked” that he thought “the Klan was OK until I found out they smoked pot.”

Manchin is being attacked on Twitter for what looks like a glaring double standard.

Sen. Ted Cruz Flies To Cancun As Texas Freezes (UPDATED)

Photo courtesy of Reuters.

By Terrance Turner

Feb. 18, 2021

On Monday, a historic winter storm blanketed the state of Texas. A mix of rain, snow and sleet fell on the ground in Texas as temperatures reached historic lows. By Tuesday morning, the temperature was 9 degrees, as opposed to the normal low of 47 degrees. Texas had 4.3 million power outages that morning — more than any other state, according to ABC 13. (By 12:15 pm Tuesday, 4.5 million Texans — 35% of state residents — had lost power, according to the New York Times.)

The extreme weather disrupted water service for more than 12 million residents, per MSN, forcing many of the more than 680 water systems in Texas to issue boil water notices. Pipes began to burst, flooding the homes of Texas residents. That further exacerbated the situation for Texans, already without wifi, lights or heating. Without power or heat, some Texans posted videos on social media of them burning old furniture to stay warm. Others shared images of flooding caused by burst pipes and collapsed ceilings.

The New York Times revealed that burst pipes even extended to a Dallas domestic violence center. “The power had been out for two days when the waterlogged ceiling caved in at the Family Place, a domestic violence shelter in Dallas, unleashing a freezing waterfall onto the 120 women and children seeking refuge there on Tuesday,” the Times reported. The clothes of vulnerable women and children were soaked, their important legal documents ruined.

“They lost basically everything,” said Shelbi Driver, a resident advocate at the shelter. The Times added that three other shelters in the area had to be evacuated due to burst pipes. Here in Houston, pipe-bursting cold was a problem for residents, too. I know this problem all too well.

On Tuesday morning, I noticed dripping water coming from a light fixture in my laundry room. The dripping rapidly intensified into a heavy downpour. Though I tried to absorb the water by placing laundry baskets under the leak, the leak became a deluge. Within minutes, the roof had collapsed, destroying the layers of sheet rock that used to be my roof.

My pipes burst. (Photo courtesy of the author.)

While water flooded the homes of Texas residents, the drinking water remained unsafe to drink or even cook with. According to the Associated Press, “Texas officials ordered 7 million people — one-quarter of the population of the nation’s second-largest state — to boil tap water before drinking the water, after days of record low temperatures that damaged infrastructure and froze pipes.”

While his city froze, Texas Senator Ted Cruz hopped on a flight to Cancun.

Sen. Cruz flew to Cancun, Mexico for a family vacation on Wednesday, as thousands of his constituents were literally freezing in their homes. Photos emerged of Cruz at Bush Intercontinental Airport (which canceled flights earlier this week, due to ice on the roads. The airport was also under a boil water notice, per ABC 13). Then cameras caught him on board a flight to Mexico. (The CDC has advised that individuals “should avoid all travel to Mexico” due to the coronavirus pandemic.)

Yet there Cruz was, on a flight to Mexico. His staff reached out to the Houston Police Department to confirm the senator’s arrival at the airport, according to HPD spokeswoman Jodi Silva. She said that the officers were present to “monitor” Cruz’s movements as he prepared to fly away. (By the time pictures of Cruz surfaced on Wednesday night, blackouts in Texas had affected 1.8 million customers Wednesday night, according to tracking website poweroutage.us. That number was down to just over 511,000 as of 11:28 a.m. local time, the site said.)

In Houston, more than 1 million people remained without power Wednesday, Mayor Sylvester Turner said, adding that service would not be restored fully for another couple of days. The city has been under a boil water notice since Wednesday morning. It is not clear whether Cruz knew (or cared) about any of this when he jet-setted to Cancun.

As Microsoft News noted, “Mr. Cruz had been acutely aware of the possible crisis in advance. In a radio interview on Monday, he said the state could see 100 or more deaths this week. ‘So don’t risk it. Keep your family safe and just stay home and hug your kids,’ he said. More recently, in December, Mr. Cruz had attacked a Democrat, Mayor Stephen Adler of Austin, for taking a trip to Cabo while telling constituents to “stay home” during the pandemic.

“Hypocrites,” Mr. Cruz wrote on Twitter. “Complete and utter hypocrites.”

As one might expect, Cruz’s actions were met with opprobrium:

Sen. Cruz issued a statement in response to the reports, claiming that he took the trip per a request from his daughters. The statement reads, in part:

With school cancelled for the week, our girls asked to take a trip with friends. Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon. My staff and I are in constant communication with state and local leaders to get to the bottom of what happened in Texas. We want our power back, our water on, and our homes warm. My team and I will continue using all our resources to keep Texans informed and safe.

Sen. Ted Cruz

UPDATE (4:11 pm): Sen. Cruz has now returned to Houston. He was spotted in Bush IAH just minutes ago:

Meanwhile, part of Texas is still under a boil water notice. ABC reporter Steve Campion noted that it is not safe to drink, eat with or cook with the water at this point. The Houston Chronicle noted: “A boil water notice is still in effect for the city of Houston, which means that all water consumed by residents and pets should be boiled to kill potential bacteria. This includes water used for cooking, brushing your teeth, preparing baby formula, preparing food or given to pets for drinking. Even water used for hot beverages, like coffee made with a coffee maker, should be boiled beforehand. It’s also a good idea to throw away any ice that may have been contaminated.”

The Chronicle added: “Once boil water notices are lifted, flush home plumbing systems by running cold water through all faucets for at least five minutes. Residents should also flush out all appliances connected to the water line, such as refrigerators and dishwaters.” 

According to the New York Times, the boil water notices aren’t just limited to Houston. “About 13 million Texans remain under a boil-water advisory, and 797 water providers are reporting problems, Toby Baker, executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, said at a news briefing on Thursday.” The Times added that the state capital of Austin is also under a “boil water” notice.

Houston and Galveston remain under a “hard freeze” warning from midnight through 9 am on Friday. Lows are broadcast in the mid-20s for at least the next two days, KTRK says.

At least 25 deaths have been attributed to the storm. 11 of the victims were from Texas, according to CBS News. Widespread outages left over 3 million without power this week, although most had been restored. More than 500,000 residents were still without power as of Thursday afternoon. As the sun goes down and the struggles continue, Cruz tried to do damage control today with some inelegant spin.

“I certainly regret that this has become a distraction,” Cruz said today, about a distraction that he created. “I started having second thoughts almost the moment I sat down on the plane.” He stressed that “leaving when so many Texans were hurting didn’t feel right,” which prompted his return to Houston today.

In his statement issued earlier today, Cruz said his daughters wanted to take a trip; he said he and his wife flew to Cancun, dropped them off, and flew back to Texas. In an interview with KTRK, he admitted that he had, in fact, planned to stay through the weekend. Beyond that obvious contradiction lay a seamy report. Cruz said his intention wasn’t to abandon constituents: “My intention was to take care of my family,” he insisted. But that explanation rang especially hollow after some bombshell reporting by the Times.

“Text messages sent from Ms. Cruz to friends and Houston neighbors on Wednesday revealed a hastily planned trip. Their house was ‘FREEZING,’ as Ms. Cruz put it — and she proposed a getaway until Sunday,” wrote Times reporters Shane Goldmacher and Nicholas Fandos. “Ms. Cruz invited others to join them at the Ritz-Carlton in Cancún, where they had stayed ‘many times,’ noting the room price this week ($309 per night) and its good security. The text messages were provided to The New York Times and confirmed by a second person on the thread, who declined to be identified because of the private nature of the texts.”

Goldmacher appeared on CNN’s AC360 to detail the report further. He claimed that Mrs. Cruz’s texts did not mention their daughters’ wishes. “This is a multilayered issue for Ted Cruz,” Goldmacher said, noting the obvious issue with Cruz leaving in the middle of this crisis in Texas and the additional issue that we are still in a pandemic. He echoed Cooper’s sentiment about the CDC’s warning against travel to Mexico.

UPDATE (Feb, 19, 2021): There are now 22 confirmed deaths from the winter storm in Texas. One of them was a local Vietnam War vet with COPD. He relied on an electric oxygen tank to live. But the lack of electricity — then a water main break — led to Mr. Anderson going to his truck in search of power. He died from hypothermia. “He’s gonna be missed terribly,” sobbed his widow in an interview with KTRK.

UPDATE (Feb. 26): While President Joe Biden is heading to Houston to survey the damage, Ted Cruz is in Orlando, Florida, speaking at the CPAC conference. Cruz made light of his trip to Cancun before the crowd. “I gotta say, Orlando is awesome. It’s not as nice as Cancun, but it’s nice,” Cruz quipped in his speech, titled “Bill of Rights, Liberty, and Cancel Culture.”

Cruz also criticized physicians who recommend mask-wearing: “This is just dumb,” Cruz said, downplaying the importance of wearing a mask to curtail the spread of COVID-19. “We’re gonna wear masks for the next 300 years. And by the way, not just one mask—two, three, four—you can’t have too many masks! How much virtue do you wanna signal?”

As if that weren’t enough, Cruz also took aim at Black Lives Matter, a favorite target of conservatives: “In Houston where I live, I have to tell you: there weren’t any rioters because let’s be very clear, if there had been, they would discover what the state of Texas thinks about the 2nd amendment right to keep and bear arms.” Cruz appeared not to remember the 60,000 protesters who gathered in Houston (peacefully) to march for George Floyd.

He also conveniently forgot to mention that 93% of Black Lives Matter demonstrations were peaceful — yet Black people were still assailed as “violent thugs” on the right and met with tear gas and hand-to-hand combat by police officers. A report by the Armed Conflict Location and Data Project found that police “disproportionately used force while intervening in demonstrations associated with the BLM movement, relative to other types of demonstrations.” That seems not to matter to Cruz or Rand Paul or Jim Jordan — all of whom took special care to cast aspersions on Black Lives Matter during (and after) the impeachment trial.

Black History Month

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

By Terrance Turner

Feb. 1, 2021

Today is the first day of Black History Month. It is also the 150th anniversary of a historic day in Black History. On February 1, 1871, Jefferson Franklin Long became the first Black congressman to speak before the House of Representatives.

According to the House of Representatives’ archives, Jefferson Long was born to a slave mother on March 3, 1836, in Knoxville, a small town in west–central Georgia. (Long’s father was believed to have been the son of a local white man.) “Defying the law, Long learned to read and write. Trained as a tailor, he opened a successful business in Macon, Georgia, after his emancipation following the end of the Civil War.”

Shortly after the war, Long married Lucinda Carhart, and they raised seven children. One of Long’s sons later helped run his business. (Significantly, most of Long’s clients were white — they were often the only ones able to afford custom-made clothing.)

Long’s tailor shop catered to politically connected clients and provided him the resources to become involved in Republican politics. Starting in 1866, Long began promoting literacy among African Americans, encouraging them to learn to read and write just as he had done. In 1869, he served on the Republican state committee and was a leader in the Georgia Labor Convention, which organized black agricultural workers to demand better wages, better jobs, and better working conditions.

The Georgia Republican Party nominated Long for a seat on the 41st Congress (1869-1871). According to Congress.gov, Long was selected to fill the vacancy caused by the House declaring Samuel F. Gove not entitled to the seat. (The state of Georgia was not re-admitted to the Union until 1870 because it refused to ratify the 14th Amendment. Some Congress members were expelled in the interim.)

Long won a special election for the seat on Dec. 12, 1870. But he wasn’t sworn in until a month later due to complications in Georgia’s re-entry into the Union. Still, he made history. Long was the first Black man to represent Georgia in Congress. According to the book Black Firsts, Long was the second Black man elected to Congress, the first (and only) one from Georgia elected during Reconstruction. (John Willis Menard was the first Black man elected to Congress, but he was never seated. An elections committee ruled that it was too early to admit a black man to Congress. He did, however, become the first Black man to address the House.) Long served from January to March 1871.

On February 1, 1871, Jefferson Franklin Long became the first black congressman to speak on the House floor. He spoke out against the Amnesty Bill, which would allow former Confederate politicians to return to Congress. According to the House Archives, the bill would exempt them from swearing allegiance to the Constitution.

Long pointed out that many of the Confederates were members of the Ku Klux Klan. “If this House removes the disabilities of disloyal men,” Long warned, “I venture to prophesy you will again have trouble from the very same men who gave you trouble before.” Long’s words fell on deaf ears. The bill passed anyway. But Long’s words were reported far and wide in major newspapers.

Long left Congress when his term expired on March 3, 1871. (Georgia didn’t elect another Black congressman until Andrew Young in 1972!) Long returned to his tailoring business and served as a delegate to the Republican National Conventions from 1872 to 1880. Long left politics altogether in the 1880s, per the Archives. He remained self-employed until his death in Georgia on Feb. 4, 1901.

House Votes to Impeach Trump — Again (Updated)

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By Terrance Turner

Jan. 13, 2021

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) walking to the House Floor for a vote at the U.S. Capitol on January 13, 2021 in Washington, DC. The House of Representatives voted 232-197 to impeach Donald Trump. (Photo by Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images)

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives have cast votes to impeach President Trump again in a historic first, according to CNN. The final vote was 232-197. “On this vote, the ayes are 232; the nays are 197. The resolution is adopted,” said Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, banging her gavel. The impeachment resolution charges Trump with a single article, “incitement of insurrection,” for his role in last week’s deadly Capitol riot.

In the end, 232 House members voted to impeach the President, including 10 (!) Republicans. They are: Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (Ohio), Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (Wash.), Rep. John Katko (N.Y.), Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), Rep. Peter Meijer (Mich.), Rep. Dan Newhouse (Wash.), Rep. Tom Rice (S.C.), Rep. Fred Upton (Mich.), and Rep. David Valadao (Calif.). “This is the most bipartisan impeachment vote in the history of the United States,” said CNN reporter Phil Mattingly.

The next step is a trial. But the soonest Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell would start an impeachment trial is next Tuesday, the day before Trump is set to leave the White House, McConnell’s office told the Associated Press. Though Trump won’t be convicted before his term is up, impeachment is also intended to prevent Trump from ever running for office again. (If convicted, Trump would lose funding for traveling and office staff, according to lawyer and View co-host Sunny Hostin. Trump would also lose the presidential pension: $200,000 a year, for life.)

McConnell believes Trump committed impeachable offenses, a Republican strategist told The Associated Press on Wednesday. McConnell told major donors over the weekend that he was through with Trump, said the strategist. But in a note to colleagues Wednesday, McConnell said he had “not made a final decision on how I will vote.”

As soon as the gavel came down, Trump became the only President in history to be impeached twice. The vote took place after hours of vigorous and often heated debate.

At around 11:15 am, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi opened debate with a poignant seven-minute speech. In her remarks, Pelosi noted that “in his annual address to our predecessors in Congress in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln spoke of the duty of the Patriot, in an hour of decisive crisis for the American people. ‘Fellow citizens,’ he said, ‘we cannot escape history. We will be remembered in spite of ourselves; no personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation. We, even we here,’ he said, ‘hold the power and bear the responsibility.’ In the Bible St. Paul wrote, ‘Think on these things.’ We must think on what Lincoln told us,” Pelosi said.

“We, even here — even us, here — hold the power and bear the responsibility. We, you and I, hold and trust the power that derives most directly from the people of the United States, and we bear the responsibility to fulfill that oath that we all swear before God and before one another: that oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, so help us God.

We know that we face enemies of the Constitution; we know that we experienced the insurrection that violated the sanctity of the people’s Capitol and attempted to overturn the duly recorded will of the American people. And we know that the president of the United States incited this insurrection, this armed rebellion against our common country. He must go. He is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love.”

Pelosi continued: “Since the presidential election in November — an election the president lost — he has repeatedly lied about the outcome, sowed self-serving doubt about democracy, and unconstitutionally sought to influence state officials to repeal reality. And then came that day of fire we all experienced.

The president must be impeached, and I believe the president must be convicted by the Senate, a constitutional remedy that will ensure that the Republic will be safe from this man who was so resolutely determined to tear down the things that we hold dear, and that hold us together.

It gives me no pleasure to say this. It breaks my heart. It should break your heart. It should break all of our hearts, for your presence in this hallowed chamber is testament to your love for our country, for America, and to your faith in the work of our founders to create a more perfect union.

Those insurrectionists were not patriots. They were not part of a political base to be catered to and managed. They were domestic terrorists, and justice must prevail. But they did not appear out of a vacuum. They were sent here by the president with words such as a cry to ‘Fight like hell.’ Words matter. Truth matters. Accountability matters. In his public exhortations to them, the president saw the insurrectionists, not as the foes of freedom, as they are, but as the means to a terrible goal, the goal of his personally clinging to power, the goal of thwarting the will of the people,” Pelosi said.

Pelosi asked her colleagues: “I ask you to search your souls and answer these questions. Is the president’s war on democracy in keeping with the Constitution? Were his words and insurrectionary mob a high crime and misdemeanor? Do we not have the duty to our oath to do all we constitutionally can do to protect our nation and our democracy from the appetites and ambitions of a man who has self-evidently demonstrated that he is a vital threat to liberty, to self-government, and to the rule of law?”

Rep. Jim Jordan answered none of those questions. Instead, he talked about a four-year-old article in a local paper. “On Jan. 20, 2017, 19 minutes into President Trump’s administration, at 12:19 p.m., The Washington Post’s headline was ‘Campaign to impeach President Trump has begun.’ Now, with just one week left, they are still trying.” Jordan argued that the impeachment was an example of “cancel culture”, that Democrats were trying to cancel the president.

Jordan offered little commentary about the riot itself. Instead, he threw out false equivalence between the Capitol riots and the Black Lives Matter protests this summer: “Riots are OK for some,” he claimed. “Democrats can raise bail for rioters and looters this summer. But somehow when Republicans condemn all the violence, the violence this summer, the violence last week, somehow we’re wrong.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: 93% of Black Lives Matter protests this summer were peaceful. Yet black protesters were met with chemical dispersants, rubber bullets and hand-to-hand combat from police. More than 14,000 arrests were made, per the Associated Press. But when pro-Trump white people stormed the Capitol — swarming steps, climbing walls, smashing windows, breaking glass, throwing fire extinguishers, acting like BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD — police welcomed them through barricades and in some cases took selfies with them. Barely more than a few dozen arrests. Members of a wild mob were escorted from the premises, some not even in handcuffs. But Rep. Jordan didn’t mention that.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy was more measured. He not only condemned the riots but held Trump accountable for them. “Madam Speaker, let me be clear: last week’s violent attack on the Capitol was undemocratic, un-American and criminal. Violence is never a legitimate form of protest. Freedom of speech and assembly under the constitution is rooted in non-violence. Yet the violent mob that descended upon this body was neither peaceful nor democratic. It acted to disrupt Congress’s constitutional responsibility.” He, too, quoted Lincoln:  “A young lawyer named Abraham Lincoln famously said, ‘There is no grievance that is a fit object of redress by mob law.’ Yet for several hours last week, mob law tried to interfere with constitutional law.”

McCarthy added: “The President bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.” But he added: “I believe impeaching the President in such a short timeframe would be a mistake.” That line was echoed by Republicans throughout the day.

They maintained their opposition even in the face of stirring rhetoric by Democrats. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) made the case in bold-faced terms. “Donald Trump is the most dangerous man to ever occupy the Oval Office,” Rep. Castro said. “I want to take you back one week ago today, when people were barging through these doors, breaking the windows — with weapons. Armed. Pipe bombs. Coming here to harm all of you. To harm the Senate. To harm the Speaker.” He asked his fellow lawmakers: “What do you think they would have done if they had gotten in? What do you think they would have done to you? And who do you think sent them here? Thw most dangerous man to ever occupy the Oval Office.”

“If inciting a deadly insurrection is not enough to get a president impeached, then what is?” Mr. Castro asked. “All of us must answer that question today. The Constitution requires us to impeach and remove Donald John Trump.”

But few Republicans seemed swayed — until that afternoon. “Madam Speaker, this is a sad day. But not as sad or disheartening as the violence we witnessed in the Capitol last Wednesday. We are all responsible,” said Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA). “We must all do better,” he said.

“These articles of impeachment are flawed,” Newhouse continued. “But I will not use process as an excuse. There is no excuse for President Trump’s actions. The President took an oath to protect the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Last week, there was a domestic threat at the door of the Capitol, and he did nothing to stop it. That is why, with a heavy heart and clear resolve, I will vote yes on these articles of impeachment.”

A stunned House burst into applause.

UPDATE (Jan 25, 2021): The House of Representatives delivered the article of impeachment to the Senate roughly an hour ago, in a procession broadcast as a CBS Special Report. Rep. Jamie Raskin read the article aloud on the Senate floor. “In his conduct while President of the United States and in violation of his consitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States […] and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, Donald John Trump engaged in high crimes and misdemeanors by incitng violence against the Government of the United States,” Raskin read.

Article I, “Incitement of Insurrection,” formally charges the president with inciting a violent attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6. With this motion, former president Donald Trump becomes the first president in history to be impeached twice. His trial begins next month.

UPDATE (8:40 pm): In an exclusive interview with MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says that the trial negotiations are still underway. Asked whether it’s been decided that there will be no witnesses in the trail, Schumer said no. “We have only negotiated the preliminary motions in the trial,” Schumer said. That includes the date, which will be Feb. 8.

In a telling aside, Schumer told Maddow: “I don’t think there’s a need for a whole lot of witnesses. We were all witnesses.” He asked rhetorically: “Who were the witnesses? The entire American people.”

UPDATE (Jan. 26):45 Republican senators voted to declare the impeachment trial unconstitutional this afternoon. Backing Sen. Rand Paul, the senators voted against allowing the trial to go forward. Senator Paul,(R-Kentucky) forced the vote after arguing that it was unconstitutional to hold an impeachment trial of a former president. But that assertion widely disputed by scholars and even the Senate itself in the past, as the New York Times points out.

In the end, the trial will proceed. The Senate voted 55 to 45 in favor of its continuation. But that means that it is unlikely enough Republicans will vote to convict Donald Trump. Two-thirds of the Senate must agree to conviction, meaning 17 Republican senators would have to join Democrats in a vote. But only five Republicans voted today to continue the trial: Senators Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Susan Collins (Maine), Mitt Romney (Utah), Ben Sasse (Nebraska) and Patrick Toomey (Pennsylvania).

In a typical display of defiance, Sen. Paul also refused to wear a mask on the Senate floor today, even though President Biden signed an order requiring them in federal buildings. Biden made mention of this in remarks today:

UPDATE (8:11 PM, Jan. 31): CNN reported last night that all five of the lawyers on Trump’s impeachment defense team have left. “Butch Bowers and Deborah Barbier, who were expected to be two of the lead attorneys, are no longer on the team. A source familiar with the changes said it was a mutual decision for both to leave,” CNN said. “As the lead attorney, Bowers assembled the team. Josh Howard, a North Carolina attorney who was recently added to the team, has also left, according to another source familiar with the changes. Johnny Gasser and Greg Harris, from South Carolina, are no longer involved with the case, either.”

The move leaves the former president with no lawyers on his defense — barely a week before the impeachment trial is scheduled to begin. In the absence of any trained lawyers, Trump was at one point considering defending himself. CNN analyst Maggie Haberman wrote:

IUPDATE (Feb. 4, 2021): The former president will not testify at his impeachment trial next week. House Democrat and impeachment manager Jamie Raskin wrote a letter to Trump requesting that he testify:

“Two days ago, you filed an Answer in which you denied many factual allegations set forth in the article of impeachment. You have thus attempted to put critical facts at issue notwithstanding the clear and overwhelming evidence of your constitutional offense,” Raskin wrote in the letter.

“In light of your disputing these factual allegations, I write to invite you to provide testimony under oath, either before or during the Senate impeachment trial, concerning your conduct on January 6, 2021. We would propose that you provide your testimony (of course including cross-examination) as early as Monday, February 8, 2021, and not later than Thursday, February 11, 2021. We would be pleased to arrange such testimony at a mutually convenient time and place.”

Hours after the letter was released, Trump adviser Jason Miller told NPR that “the president will not testify in an unconstitutional proceeding.” Separately, Trump’s lawyers dismissed the request as a “public relations stunt.” After his legal team quit on Saturday, Trump did manage to secure two lawyers: David Schoen and Bruce Castor.

Please watch this space for further updates.

Trump Banned From Twitter; House Dems Prepare to Impeach Him (Again)

By Terrance Turner

Jan. 8, 2021

US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, holds her weekly press conference at the US Capitol on January 7, 2021, in Washington, DC. Pelosi called for the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to be invoked, following the attack on the US Capitol. (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

“In calling for this seditious act, the President has committed an unspeakable assault on our nation and our people. I join the Senate Democratic leader in calling on the Vice President to remove this president by immediately invoking the 25th Amendment. If the Vice President and Cabinet do not act, the Congress may be prepared to move forward with impeachment.”

With these words, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi made clear her intention to hold the President accountable for inciting a deadly, seditious riot on Wednesday afternoon. But Democratic Reps. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Ted Lieu of California and Jamie Raskin of Maryland have already distributed a draft article of impeachment titled “Incitement of Insurrection,” according to NBC News. The article, which at present is singular, begins: “Resolved, that Donald John Trump, President of the United States, is impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Article I: “Incitement of Insurrection,” reminds the reader that the House of Representatives has the sole power to impeach a President, based on the rather nebulous “high crimes and misdemeanors”. It continues as follows: “In his conduct of the office of President to the United States — and in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States,” they write, “Donald John Trump engaged in high crimes and misdemeanors by willfully inciting violence against the Government of the United States.”

On Jan. 6, 2021, Trump addressed his supporters at a rally, ahead of a congressional vote that would cement the victory of his opponent. During that rally, he repeated a variety of false claims. “We won this election, and we won it by a landslide,” he lied. “They rigged it like they’ve never rigged an election before.” He encouraged the crowds to march on the Capitol in protest of what he insisted was a “stolen” election: “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” He spoke to the misplaced anger and victimhood the supporters felt, inflaming it further: “Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore […] You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.”

While Congress was meeting to certify Biden’s win as President-Elect,, the mob of Trump supporters showed their strength — by swarming the Capitol building and bursting inside. The House members credit Trump with emboldening the mob, writing that he “willfully made statements that encouraged — and foreseeably resulted in — imminent lawless action at the Capitol.”

“Incited by President Trump, a mob unlawfully breached the Capitol, injured law enforcement, menaced members of Congress and the Vice President [and] engaged in violent, deadly, destructive, and seditious acts,” the Article of Insurrection reads. Indeed, the mob stormed the steps, forced their way into the building, and even scuffled with law enforcement (on video!). They climbed the walls and broke glass windows. They trespassed into government offices and put their feet up on desks. They vandalized doors and even stole furniture. In the end, five people died in the melee yesterday, including a Capitol Police officer.

But far from being upset by the fracas, Trump seemed to relish it. A video has emerged of him and his family watching the carnage onscreen, with son Don, Jr. live-streaming the event; his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle is seen dancing to the ’80s hit “Gloria”. And CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins said the President was “enthusiastic” about it: “He did not come out outright and condemn it. Actually, they had to convince him to send in the National Guard. He was very resistant to that at the beginning. And I’m told by one person that he was borderline enthusiastic over watching people wearing his sweatshirts, waving his flags going up to Capitol Hill and derailing the certification process, which is what the president wanted,” she told Don Lemon.

One Republican senator backed up Collins’ account. “As this was unfolding on television, Donald Trump was walking around the White House confused about why other people on his team weren’t as excited as he was as you had rioters pushing against Capitol Police trying to get into the building,” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska) told conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt in an interview. “That was happening. He was delighted.”

House Reps. Lieu, Raskin and Cicilline write that Trump’s actions were part of a pattern of behavior intended to subvert the election. “Those efforts include, but are not limited to, a phone call on Jan. 2, 2021, in which the President of the United States urged Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn the Georgia presidential election results and threatened Mr. Raffensperger if he failed to do so.” Now, a bombshell CNN report reveals that Trump made other calls to achieve his goal.

CNN says that while riots raged at the Capitol, Trump was calling senators in yet another attempt to overturn the election. Trump called Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) Wednesday afternoon, thinking he was calling Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Alabama). “Trump first called the personal cell phone of Lee, a Utah Republican, shortly after 2 p.m. ET. At that time the senators had been evacuated from the Senate floor and were in a temporary holding room, as a pro-Trump mob began breaching the Capitol. Lee picked up the phone and Trump identified himself, and it became clear he was looking for Tuberville and had been given the wrong number. Lee, keeping the President on hold, went to find his colleague and handed Tuberville his phone, telling him the President was on the line and had been trying to reach him.”

Tuberville spoke with Trump for less than 10 minutes, CNN says. Trump tried to convince him to object further to the Electoral College vote, in a futile effort to block Congress’ certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s win, according to a source familiar with the call. The call was cut off because senators were asked to move to a secure location.

In the wake of this seditious activity, social media platforms are taking action. After temporarily suspending him, Twitter announced today that it is banning Donald Trump from posting on the platform. “After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence,” Twitter said. “In the context of horrific events this week, we made it clear on Wednesday that additional violations of the Twitter Rules would potentially result in this very course of action.” The ban does not apply, however, to the @POTUS account.

But it’s the latest in a series of blows to Trump on social media. After Trump recorded a video urging protesters to go home — saying, “We love you. You are very special” — Facebook and YouTube took down the video, with Facebook also banning Trump from posting for 24 hours. Snapchat and Instagram locked Trump’s account.

UPDATE: Trump has begun tweeting from the @POTUS account, insisting that “We will not be SILENCED!!!” He added that he would “also look at the possibilities of building out our own platform in the near future.” Twitter has taken the tweets down.

UPDATE (Jan. 11, 2021): The representatives have introduced an updated version of the impeachment resolution. The language is largely reminiscent of the earlier draft. As in the previous version, this version alleges that Trump’s incitement of the riot is part of a pattern of behavior: “President Trump’s conduct on Jan. 6, 2021, followed his prior efforts to subvert and obstruct the certification of the results of the 2020 presidential election. Those prior efforts included a phone call on Jan. 2, 2021, during which President Trump urged the secretary of state of Georgia, Brad Raffensperger, to ‘find’ enough votes to overturn the Georgia Presidential election results and threatened Secretary Raffensperger if he failed to do so.”

UPDATE (Jan. 12, 2021): A bombshell new report from the New York Times alleges that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is actually pleased with House Democrats’ impeachment of President Trump. “Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, has told associates that he believes President Trump committed impeachable offenses and that he is pleased that Democrats are moving to impeach him, believing that it will make it easier to purge him from the party, according to people familiar with his thinking. The House is voting on Wednesday to formally charge Mr. Trump with inciting violence against the country,” the Times reports.

At the same time, House Minority Leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-California), has asked other Republicans whether he should call on Mr. Trump to resign after the riot at the Capitol last week, according to three Republican officials briefed on the conversations. Despite being one of Trump’s most steadfast allies in Congress, McCarthy is considering joining fellow Republicans like Sen Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Rep. Adam Kinzinger in requesting the President’s resignation. While Mr. McCarthy has said he is personally opposed to impeachment, he and other party leaders have decided not to formally lobby Republicans to vote “no,” the Times added. An aide to Mr. McCarthy said he was open to a measure censuring Mr. Trump for his conduct.

And one House Republican says he will even vote for impeachment. According to syracuse.com, U.S. Rep. John Katko said today he will vote to impeach President Donald Trump for inciting a riot last week at the U.S. Capitol. Rep. Katko is the first House Republican to acknowledge that he will join at least 218 House Democrats who signed onto an impeachment resolution. “To allow the president of the United States to incite this attack without consequence is a direct threat to the future of our democracy,” Katko said in a statement. 

BREAKING: Republican Rep. Liz Cheney (of Wyoming) says that she will vote to impeach the President. The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing. None of this would have happened without the President,” Cheney said in a statement. “There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”

JUST IN (7:11 pm): In a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Vice President Mike Pence says he will not invoke the 25th Amendment to have Trump removed from office: “Every American was shocked and saddened by the attack on our Nation’s Capitol last week, and I am grateful for the leadership that you and other congressional leaders provided in reconvening Congress to complete the people’s business on the very same day,” Pence writes. “But now, with just eight days left in the President’s term, you and the Democratic Caucus are demanding that the Cabinet and I invoke the 25th Amendment.”

“I do not believe that such a course of action is in the best interest of our Nation or consistent with our Constitution,” Pence declares. “I will not now yield to efforts in the House of Representatives to play political games at a time so serious in the life of our Nation.” Pence argues that invoking the 25th now would “set a terrible precedent”. He concludes:

“I urge you and every member of Congress to avoid actions that would further divide and inflame the passions of the moment. Work with us to lower the temperature and unite our country as we prepare to inaugurate President-elect Joe Biden as the next President of the United States.”

This move sets up a showdown in Congress, as the House is set to vote on impeachment tomorrow. Today, Rep. Adam Kinzinger joined fellow Republicans Liz Cheney and John Katko in saying that he would vote for impeachment. They join over 100 House Republicans who have pledged to do the same.

Tonight, in a statement on her website, Speaker Nancy Pelosi named Impeachment Managers. “Tonight, I have the solemn privilege of naming the Managers of the impeachment trial of Donald Trump,” said Speaker Pelosi.  “It is their constitutional and patriotic duty to present the case for the President’s impeachment and removal.  They will do so guided by their great love of country, determination to protect our democracy and loyalty to our oath to the Constitution.  Our Managers will honor their duty to defend democracy For The People with great solemnity, prayerfulness and urgency.”

The Impeachment Managers include:

Congressman Jamie Raskin, Lead Manager: Congressman Jamie Raskin is a member of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, where he serves as Chair of Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and on the Judiciary Committee, where he serves as Vice Chair of the Subcommittee on the Constitution. Before his time in Congress, Raskin was a three-term State Senator in Maryland and a professor of constitutional law at American University’s Washington College of Law for more than 25 years.

Congressman David Cicilline: Congressman Cicilline is a member of the Judiciary Committee. He also serves on the Foreign Affairs Committee.  He is serving his sixth term in Congress.  Early in his career, Cicilline served as a public defender in D.C. He served two terms as Mayor of Providence and four terms in the Rhode Island House of Representatives.

Congressman Ted Lieu: Congressman Lieu serves on the Judiciary Committee and the Committee on Foreign Affairs.  He is a former active-duty officer in the U.S. Air Force who served as a prosecutor in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, and currently serves as a Colonel in the Reserves.  He is serving his fourth term in Congress.

Congressman Joaquin Castro: Congressman Castro serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and on the Foreign Affairs Committee, where he is also Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.  He is serving his fifth term in Congress.  Prior to his election to Congress, he served five terms in the Texas Legislature and served as a litigator in private practice.

Congressman Eric Swalwell: Congressman Swalwell serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and on the Judiciary Committee.  He is a former prosecutor and is the son and brother of law enforcement officers.  He is serving his fifth term in Congress.

Congresswoman Diana DeGette: Congresswoman DeGette serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee as Chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.  She is serving her 13th term in office. Before serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, DeGette was an attorney focusing on civil rights.

UPDATE: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi will transmit the article of impeachment on Monday. The House still plans to deliver its impeachment charge at 7 p.m. Monday evening, per the New York Times, and senators will be sworn in for the trial the following day. But the trial will not begin for some time.

Newly installed Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said the chamber will pause until the week of Feb. 8 to give the prosecution and defense time to draft and exchange written legal briefs. “During that period, the Senate will continue to do other business for the American people, such as cabinet nominations and the COVID-19 relief bill, which would provide relief for millions of Americans who are suffering during this pandemic,” Mr. Schumer said in a speech on the Senate floor.

Please watch this space for any continuing updates.

Pro-Trump Mob Storms U.S. Capitol; National Guard Activated

By Terrance Turner

Jan. 6, 2021

A horde of pro-Trump protesters insurrectionists have descended on the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. They breached police lines to gather on the Capitol steps and have now entered the building. Their presence en masse has interrupted Congressional proceedings on certifying President-Elect Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election. Violence has erupted; the Virginia state police and the entire National Guard have been activated.

According to Axios, “Capitol police ordered lawmakers and reporters to shelter in place within the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, as protesters at a “March for Trump” breached the building following Congress beginning to certify Electoral College votes for Joe Biden. Where it stands: The House and Senate are in recess and all the doors are now closed in the House Chambers, per Axios reporters on the ground. Vice President Mike Pence, overseeing the certification of Electoral College votes, left the Senate chamber shortly after 2 p.m.” (All times are in Eastern Standard Time.)

CNN is now reporting (as of approx. 2:50 pm EST) that an armed standoff is occurring at the door of the front door of the House building. That detail has now been confirmed by Bloomberg News reporter Erik Wasson:

Shortly afterward, some of the protesters have begun scuffling with law enforcement:

Video has emerged of police ALLOWING these insurrectionists to breach police blockades and enter the Capitol, which laid the groundwork for them to gather near the Senate chamber:

https://twitter.com/kylenabecker/status/1346938352138903552

UPDATE (2:25 pm): Live on CNN, rioters were shown breaking into the Capitol building, breaking a window and climbing inside:

The incident occurred roughly 40 minutes ago. In the past hour, word broke that shots had been fired inside the Capitol building. A woman is reportedly in critical condition after being shot in the chest while inside the building.

BREAKING (4:13 PM): President-Elect Joe Biden is speaking live on the violent siege at the Capitol: “This is not dissent. It’s disorder, it’s chaos. It borders on sedition, and it must end now. I call on this mob to pull back and allow the work of democracy to go forward,” he says. He calls on President Trump to address the nation on television and call for an end to the violence: “”I call on President trump to go on national television now ,and demand an end to this siege,” he says. “I call on the president to go on national television right now and uphold his oath to defend the constitution.”

Biden continues his remarks by quoting Abraham Lincoln: “We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just — a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless.” He concludes: “I’m not concerned about my safety, security or the inauguration. The American people are going to stand up now. Enough is enough is enough.”

As he speaks, more is developing. The News Station Managing editor Matt Lasslo tweeted at 3:11 pm: “BREAKING: PROTESTERS JUST BREACHED THE NORTH DOOR OF THE CAPITOL. AGAIN. ‘Really? Again?’ one of the heroic, exhausted and frustrated Capitol Police officers escorting me and a crew of others out of the complex just said to his colleagues.”

The President has spoken — finally. In a recorded video message, he urged supporters to go home — and repeated the lie about his election loss. “This was a fraudulent election,” Trump insisted. “But you have to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law & order.”

It s a cruel irony that the “law and order president” somehow presided over a violent insurrection that endangered scores of elected officials and the officers who were injured trying to control the crowds. “Where are the arrests?” asked CNN commentator Gloria Borger. “When it was Black Lives Matter, they had people in riot gear ringing the Capitol, as if it was gonna be stormed,” Anderson Cooper noted. By contrast, mostly white pro-Trump protesters stormed the Capitol steps and broke into the building, and police were shown on camera observing.

Many are noting the contrast in how these protesters are acting — and have been treated — versus Black Lives Matter protesters. When Black Lives Matter protesters were blocks away from the Capitol, a massive National Guard presence was there on the steps. Police were quick to subdue and arrest them. But when pro-Trump white people stormed the capitol — climbing walls, breaking glass, stealing podiums, acting like beasts of the Southern wild — it took hours for the National Guard to arrive. Police let them in and in some cases stood by, watching, as they ransacked the Capitol.

When BLM protests broke out over the summer in response to the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, pundits (many conservative) assailed the protesters as violent thugs. Arrests, tear-gassing, and even rubber bullets became commonplace. Peaceful protesters were tear-gassed in D.C. so that Trump could pose with a Bible for a photo-op back in June. But it was these pro-Trump protesters who stormed the Capitol and breached barricades in a thuggish display of opposition. And they were allowed to do so. CNN anchor Don Lemon pointed out the dichotomy:

UPDATE (app. 5pm EST): Riot gear police have FINALLY arrived on the scene and are assembling on the Capitol steps. They are walking, slowly, down the stairs and dispersing the crowds from the stairs. This has only occurred after HOURS of mayhem by the MAGA crowd.

UPDATE: 5:13 pm CST: The woman who was shot in the chest during today’s melee has died. That’s according to two officials familiar with the matter who spoke to The Associated Press on Wednesday on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly.

Nancy Pelosi says that Congress will proceed with today’s scheduled vote on certification. Congress will certify Joe Biden’s victory, she says. It is unclear whether or not the 13 senators who pledged to object will continue to do so. It remains to be seen whether those senators will commit to the idiotic and futile plan that engendered today’s violence.

In the meantime, Donald Trump faces criticism for encouraging the rebellion: he had, after all, told his supporters at a rally today to march to the Capitol. But instead of apologize for ginning up this melee, Trump sent a tweet that justifies the violence and mayhem this afternoon. “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long,” he tweeted. Twitter removed the tweet due to a violation of its rules. But the damage is done.

The publication Mother Jones is declaring Trump a “terrorist leader“. There is talk of enacting the 25th Amendment, which removes a president from office if he proves to be unfit. But one menber of Congress has other plans for Trump. Rep. Ilhan Omar says she is drafting articles of impeachment. “Donald J. Trump should be impeached by the House of Representatives & removed from office by the United States Senate,” wrote Omar, a Democrat from Minnesota. “We can’t allow him to remain in office, it’s a matter of preserving our Republic and we need to fulfill our oath.”

UPDATE: D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has declared a state of emergency in D.C. for 15 days — extending through the end of Trump’s term.

Biden Nominates Merrick Garland for Attorney General

By Terrance Turner

Jan. 6, 2021

Photo from Politico.

President-Elect Joe Biden has selected Judge Merrick Garland to serve as Attorney General. Politico confirmed the news with two sources familiar with the decision.

In 2016, then-President Barack Obama nominated Judge Garland to serve on the Supreme Court, filling the vacancy left by late Justice Antonin Scalia. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) blocked Garland’s nomination. McConnell refused to even bring the nomination up for a vote, letting him languish in limbo for a whole year. When President Trump took office, he nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill that seat.

McConnell blocked Garland on the pretense of not filling a Supreme Court seat during an election year. But that excuse went out the window after the death of legendary Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. McConnell sped through Justice Amy Comey Barrett’s confirmation within mere days — despite it being mere weeks before the election. Now, however, McConnell faces the prospect of being Minority Leader, and Garland has been selected for the nation’s highest law enforcement slot.

Garland, 68, is a graduate of Harvard Law School. According to Axios, he has served on the U.S. District Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia since 1997. He served as chief judge from 2013 to Feb. 2020, according to The New York Times. He is a moderate, and he has gotten praise for high-quality opinions — clear, reasoned, and attentive to precedent — per the Times.

In a press conference on Jan. 7, Biden introduced Garland as his pick. Observers noted that Garland has prosecuted domestic terrorists such as the Oklahoma City bombers and the Olympic bombing in Atlanta. That experience proves especially valuable in light of yesterday’s terrorist attack on the Capitol. Biden spoke at length about the riot in his remarks today. “They weren’t protestors. Don’t dare call them protestors. They were a riotous mob […] domestic terrorists,” Biden asserted. He also noted that Garland had pointed out a little-known fact: the Department of Justice was originally formed to combat the Ku Klux Klan, to enforce the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments.

Biden emphasized that Garland would serve “not as a personal attorney for the president, but the people’s lawyer.” Biden added: “You won’t work for me. You are not the president or the vice president’s lawyer. Your loyalty is not to me, it’s to the law, the Constitution, the people of this nation to guarantee justice.”

UPDATE: Merrick Garland is currently answering questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of his confirmation hearings. Garland grew emotional as he talked about his motivation for becoming attorney general: “I come from a family where my grandparents fled anti-Semitism and persecution. The country took us in and protected us,” he said, his voice breaking. And I feel an obligation to the country to pay back….This is the highest, best use of my own set of skills to pay back.”

“I want very much to become the kind of Attorney General you’re saying I could become, Garland continued, fighting back tears: “I’ll do my best to try to be that kind of Attorney General.”

Garland said that handling prosecution for the Jan. 6 Capitol riot would be his first priority if confirmed. “I think this was the most heinous attack on the democratic processes that I’ve ever seen, and one that I never expected to see in my lifetime,” Judge Garland told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday. He added that the current investigation into the riot—which, to date, has 250 people facing criminal charges—appeared to be “extremely aggressive and perfectly appropriate.”

According to the Associated Press, “His nomination has gained public support on both sides of the political aisle, from more than 150 former Justice Department officials — including former attorneys general Loretta Lynch, Michael Mukasey and Alberto Gonzales, along with 61 former federal judges. Others, including two sons of former Attorney General Edward Levi, have also written letters of support to Congress.”

One member of the Senate Judiciary Committee says that Garland’s position is a crucial development: “There have been few moments in history where the role of attorney general — and the occupant of that post — have mattered more,” the committee’s chairman, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said.

UPDATE (March 10, 2021): Merrick Garland was confirmed today by the Senate. The vote was 70-30.

Rev. Raphael Warnock Wins Senate Runoff; Ossoff Wins

By Terrance Turner

Jan. 5, 2021 (updated Jan. 6)

Rev. Raphael Warnock has won the Georgia runoff election. He will become the first Black senator ever to represent Georgia. Rev. Warnock’s victory, combined with a convincing lead by Democrat Jon Ossoff, all but assures that Democrats will take back control of the Senate.

Warnock maintains a 50.5% lead to Sen. Kelly Loeffner’s 49.5% — a full percentage point, more than twice the 0.5% margin that would trigger a recount. While the other race has still not been called, Ossoff, who leads Republican David Perdue by about 16,000 votes in the Georgia runoff that could give Democrats control of the U.S. Senate. UPDATE: Jon Ossoff has won the Georgia runoff race, according to multiple sources including NPR and the New York Times. The victory became official at approx. 3:20 pm Wednesday.)

He claimed victory Wednesday morning, according to an NPR report at about 8:40 AM ET. The Associated Press, which NPR relies on for its results, has not yet called the contest. However, Ossoff thanked supporters in a message that sounds rather definitive. “It is with humility that I thank the people of Georgia for electing me to serve you in the United States Senate,” Ossoff said in remarks Wednesday morning.

This is an updated and developing story. Original content follows below:

Tonight, the ultra-important Senate runoffs take place in Georgia. The races will determine which party — Republican or Democrat — will control the U.S. Senate. If Democrats win both Senate seats, they will control the Senate. The result will be 50-50, but Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris will be the tie-breaking vote. This election determines how much of President-Elect Joe Biden’s agenda will be enacted. It also determines the fate of the $2000 stimulus checks that Senate Mahority Leader (for now) Mitch McConnell has blocked repeatedly.

Republican senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffner are both up for re-election. Their opponents are Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, respectively. Rev. Warnock (born 1969) is one of twelve children, a man who obtained a B.A. in psychology from Morehouse College and a Ph.D. from Union Theological Seminary. He is also a pastor who came to prominence in Atlanta, after becoming pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in 2005. He became the youngest ever called to be senior pastor of Ebenezer, at age 35, according to HeritageHouse.org. It was the same church in which Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. once preached.

In 2014, Warnock gained national attention after he helped lead a sit-in inside the Georgia State Capitol. He initiated the direct action to convince lawmakers to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. (Under the ACA, all U.S. residents up to 133% of the poverty line would qualify for coverage. It will cost Georgia more to cover residents under partial expansion than if it simply expanded Medicaid fully, as the ACA calls for.)

Warnock was among dozens arrested as a result of the sit-in. But he remains a supporter of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and a government-run public option. “Jesus spent a lot of time healing the sick,” he said. “Even those with pre-existing conditions.” Warnock also supports abortion rights and gay marriage, per the New York Times. That makes him a unique candidate: will Georgians endorse a religious progressive? And will they make him the first Black senator ever to represent Georgia?

Thomas Jonathan Ossoff (b. 1987) was born to a Jewish owner of a publishing company and an Australian imnigrant management consultant. While in high school, he interned for legendary civil rights leader and U.S. House Representative John Lewis. “If anyone can do it, you can,” Lewis told Ossoff, encouraging him to run in Georgia’s conservative 6th district. He did.

Ossoff attended Georgetown University and in 2013 became CEO of a documentary film company. The films produced include a feature on ISIS war crimes in Iraq. His background in journalism marks a surprising shift to politics. But Ossoff has a clear platform. “What Ossoff stands for is an economy-first pragmatism buttressed by unqualified support for liberal causes, including Planned Parenthood and reproductive rights,” writes the Daily Beast. Indeed, Ossoff is pro-choice and supports both marriage equality and the Equality Act. Significantly, both Ossoff and Warnock support $2000 stimulus checks for Americans affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The races have shifted several times over the course of the night. With 79% of the vote in, Sen. Kelly Loeffner lead Rep. Raphael Warnock, 50.6% to 49.4%. Sen. David Perdue led Jon Ossoff by a 51% to 49% margin. The largest batch of votes, as of 9:05 pm, were in DeKalb County (which only had 37% of the vote in). DeKalb County is a majority-black county. It contains about 10% of the city of Atlanta, It’s the fourth-largest county in the state, per Wolf Blitzer.

CNN reporter Pamela Brown said that 171,000 early in-person votes still had yet to be counted (as of 9:17 pm). Those votes are still being counted. By 10:25 pm, both races were down to the same margin. Warnock led by 50.2% to Loeffner’s 49.8%. Perdue led Ossoff by 50.2% to 49.8%. But the race has since tightened — and expanded.

As it currently stands, Warnock has a slight but solid lead over Loeffner. He currently has 50.4% of the vote, compared with Loeffner’s 49.6%. By contrast, the Perdue-Ossoff race is a virtual dead heat: both maintain roughly 50% of the vote apiece. That race has been a near-tie for over an hour, with Perdue’s lead numbering only 456 votes at one point at 10:43 pm.

As of 12:30 am, there are 19,000 in-person early votes in DeKalb County that are still uncounted. There are technical glitches that are causing a delay with the votes, CNN reports. NBC News adds that there is a problem with the memory cards; thus workers in Decatur are now counting ballots by hand. Results incoming….

UPDATE (1:20 AM): Rev. Raphael Warnock has won the Senate seat in Georgia. NBC News projected Warnock as the winner roughly 10 minutes ago.

With Democratic wins looking increasingly certain, many are thanking former Rep. Stacey Abrams.

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A meme on Twitter has given Abrams credit for vanquishing Donald Trump and his GOP.

Abrams was in the Georgia House of Representatives from 2007 to 2017. She ran for governor of Georgia in 2018. Abrams was running to become Georgia’s first black female governor. Her opponent was Brian Kemp, who was Georgia Secretary of State until two days post-election and was in charge of state voter rolls. According to the New York Times, about 670,000 voters were purged from voter rolls in 2017. The Guardian charged that, of those, 340,134 voters were removed from the rolls improperly — by Kemp. Journalist Greg Palast reported that voters were removed on the basis that they had moved — but they actually still lived at their registration address.

“The registration is cancelled. Not pending, not inactive — cancelled,” Palast said. 53,000 voter registration applications a month before the election. Abrams lost to Kemp by about 53,000 votes, but refused to concede. Instead, Abrams sued state election officials, alleging that they “grossly mismanaged” the election.

Abrams also launched Fair Fight 2018, a voting rights organization to promote fair elections around the country. Fair Fight encourages voter participation and educates voters about their rights. Also, the organization raised $34.5 million in just 39 days from late October to the last week of November, funneling a large chunk of the money into helping Democratic candidates, per the Atlanta-Journal Constitution.

It was Abrams’ efforts that helped re-enfranchise Georgia voters. Vox credited her with helping a record surge of Georgia voters to the polls in November. “Abrams’s group Fair Fight and other voting rights groups like the New Georgia Project have been putting a ton of effort into registering and turning out Black voters at high rates this year. And those efforts have been successful. The state has already hit record registration levels, with about 7.6 million voters registered. And since early voting started, more than 2.7 million voters have cast ballots — at least 1 million of whom were Black.”

UPDATE: Ossoff has won the Georgia runoff. Multiple sources including NPR have confirmed that Ossoff has won, sealing control of the Senate for the Democratic Party. Ossoff is the youngest man elected to the Senate since Joe Biden in 1973.