Trump’s pardon of Manafort may cost taxpayers $11,000,000
Conservative Website Admits Its Stories About Dominion Were ‘Completely False’ in Massive Retraction
‘He has an obligation to them’: Attorney for ‘QAnon shaman’ asks Trump to pardon rioters
Jacob Chansley, a 33-year-old man from Phoenix, was one of the most recognizable perpetrators of the Capitol siege.
The lawyer for the “QAnon shaman” who was part of the deadly siege of the Capitol last week publicly petitioned President Donald Trump on Thursday to pardon his client.
In an interview on CNN, attorney Albert Watkins said his client, Jacob Chansley, “felt like he was answering the call of our president” when he stormed the nation’s seat of government last Wednesday during a riot that resulted in the deaths of at least five people.
Chansley, a 33-year-old man from Phoenix also known as Jake Angeli, was one of the most recognizable perpetrators of the Capitol siege. He carried a spear, wore a furry horned headdress and painted his face in shades of red, white and blue.
On Tuesday, Chansley became one of the first three people indicted by federal prosecutors in connection with the violence at the Capitol. He was charged with a felony violation of the Federal Anti-Riot Act, as well as obstruction of Congress and other offenses.
In a filing on Thursday, prosecutors said Chansley was as “an active participant in” and “the most prominent symbol of” what they described as a “violent insurrection.” Prosecutors also said Chansley had expressed his intention of returning to Washington, D.C., for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration next week.
The language in the filing suggests more severe charges, such as sedition or insurrection, could be coming for those involved in the siege.
Watkins, Chansley’s attorney, said on Thursday that his client, “like a lot of other disenfranchised people in our country, felt very, very, very solidly in sync” with the president — suggesting Chansley was incited to storm the Capitol in Trump’s name.
“He felt like his voice was, for the first time, being heard,” Watkins said. “And what ended up happening, over the course of the lead-up to the election, over the course of the period from the election to Jan. 6 — it was a driving force by a man he hung his hat on, he hitched his wagon to. He loved Trump. Every word, he listens to him.”
Prior to the Capitol siege, the president, his family members and his political allies riled up his supporters at a rally on the White House Ellipse. When it was his turn to speak, Trump urged those in attendance to march on the Capitol amid Congress’ certification of Biden’s Electoral College victory.
“If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” Trump said. He also said that “you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.”
On Thursday, Trump became the only president in American history to be impeached twice — this time, in a bipartisan vote on a single count of “incitement of insurrection.”
“We all have to understand that the words that were spoken by the president meant something, not just to my client. They meant something to a lot of people,” Watkins said in his interview.
“They listened to those words. And those words meant something to them. And they had a right to rely on the words of their president that was strewed forth worldwide,” he said. “And they did. And now they’re turning around [and] they’re getting arrested, as well many should be.”
Nevertheless, Trump “needs to stand up and own these people,” Watkins argued. “He has an obligation to them. He has an obligation to our nation. It’s not going to happen.”
Pressed by host Chris Cuomo on what exactly he would like Trump to do, Watkins replied: “Oh, give a pardon.”
As Chansley’s attorney, “my role is not to judge somebody. My role is to be an advocate,” Watkins said. “If there’s one iota of a chance that the guy who’s the president of our country — who invited everybody down Pennsylvania [Avenue] — will give my client a pardon, you know what? I’m going to do it.”
Watkins acknowledged, however, that his plea was unlikely to succeed. “Am I holding my breath thinking that Donald Trump is going to be sitting around going, ‘You know what? … What’s the name of that guy with the horns? Yeah … let’s give him a pardon.’”
But “with Trump, you never know,” Watkins said. “He may say, ‘I want the guy with the horns.’ Next thing you know, maybe he’s represented by the shaman instead of Rudy Giuliani.”
Watkins went on to compare the president’s supporters who stormed the Capitol to the Jonestown cult members who committed mass suicide at their settlement in Guyana in 1978: “You know the only thing different here? There’s no Kool-Aid.”
More activity relating to Trump Organization’s ownership of property in Westchester County and it’s over-inflated value that the Trump’s lied about. Manhattan DA is all over this.
The Manhattan district attorney’s office has expanded its criminal investigation into the Trump Organization’s finances to include the family’s compound in Westchester County, according to lawyers and people familiar with the investigation.
Prosecutors’ interest in the 212-acre property called Seven Springs is a significant widening of an investigation that began more than a year ago. It also draws closer to President Donald Trump’s son Eric Trump, executive vice president of the Trump Organization, who was directly involved in discussions about the property now under scrutiny, according to court filings.
Prosecutors sent grand jury subpoenas within the past two months to town officials seeking documents and communications that officials had with the Trump Organization relating to development plans it considered for the sprawling family property.
Roland Baroni, a lawyer for the town of North Castle, New York – one of three municipalities that the property straddles – confirmed the town received a subpoena “asking for the planning board files, any correspondence, any email” exchanged between the town and the Trump Organization. He told CNN that the town complied with the request and that prosecutors have not sought to interview any officials.
The Trump Organization has also been subpoenaed for information related to the property and tax deductions it took after donating a conservation easement to a public trust, according to people familiar with the investigation.
The criminal investigation poses a significant threat to Trump, his business and his family as he leaves the White House next week and will no longer have the shield of the presidency to delay or postpone lawsuits and investigations.
he President personally signed the conservation easement in his thick Sharpie marker, according to documents CNN obtained through a public records request.
The Seven Springs property is also part of a civil investigation conducted by the New York attorney general’s office, which has said it is looking into whether the Trump Organization “improperly inflated” the value of the Seven Springs estate.
The Trump Organization acquired the property in 1995 for $7.5 million. It was once owned by the father of Katharine Graham, the former publisher of the Washington Post.
Over the ensuring years, the organization made several attempts to develop on the property. Initially there were discussions to build a golf course on the grounds and then plans to build a subdivision of residential homes.
Those efforts were dropped, and by 2015, the Trump Organization decided to donate a conservation easement to a land trust. A conservation easement is a designated portion of the property that is preserved and not developed. By making a donation, it allows the donor to take a tax deduction based on the appraised value of the property. If it were improperly inflated, the donor could take a larger tax deduction than is allowed.
Trump granted a conservation easement of about 158 acres to the North American Land Trust, according to court filings. It was appraised at $21.1 million, according to the filings.
Investigators are scrutinizing the valuation and whether it was inflated.
“Valuations of Seven Springs were used to claim an apparent $21.1 million tax deduction for donating a conservation easement on the property in tax year 2015, and in submissions to financial institutions as a component of Mr. Trump’s net worth,” according to court filings in the New York attorney general’s investigation.
The blue wall has broken, as off-duty police who were part of the Capitol mob are turned in by their own, who see the insurrection as fundamentally anti-police, particularly with 2 dead and dozens hospitalized.
Off-duty police were part of the Capitol mob. Now police are turning in their own.
During the chaos at the Capitol, overwhelmed police officers confronted and combated a frenzied sea of rioters who transformed the seat of democracy into a battlefield. Now police chiefs across the country are confronting the uncomfortable reality that members in their own ranks were among the mob that faced off against other law enforcement officers.
At least 13 off-duty law enforcement officials are suspected of taking part in the riot, a tally that could grow as investigators continue to pore over footage and records to identify participants. Police leaders are turning in their own to the FBI and taking the striking step of reminding officers in their departments that criminal misconduct could push them off the force and behind bars.
The reckoning within police departments comes as plans for new demonstrations this weekend and on Inauguration Day are solidifying, with authorities warning of the potential for violence in state capitals. Participants are expected to protest election results that made Joe Biden president-elect.
“We are making clear that they have First Amendment rights like all Americans,” said Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, who on Thursday accepted the resignation of an 18-year veteran in his department due to his involvement in the riot, which followed a rally at which President Trump urged his supporters to not accept his defeat. “However, engaging in activity that crosses the line into criminal conduct will not be tolerated.”
The revelation that officers participated in the chaos was the latest hit for law enforcement’s reputation, coming on the heels of a year in which police violence spurred nationwide protests and activists called for cutting police funding. As photographs and videos of some off-duty officers at the riot emerged on social media, some residents back home felt betrayed, while police officials worried about a black eye for the entire profession’s credibility.
Acevedo, president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, said the behavior is so egregious that it is often fellow officers who are alerting police chiefs and others to their colleagues’ participation in last week’s mob attack on the Capitol.
It marks a notable break in the so-called “blue wall of silence,” an aspect of police culture that encourages officers to turn a blind eye to misconduct by fellow officers. Craig Futterman, who directs the University of Chicago Law Civil Rights and Police Accountability Project, said the Capitol riot was different.
“The ‘Code of Silence’ is fundamentally about loyalty to your fellow officer and that ‘no one understands what we’re going through but us,’ ” Futterman said. By contrast, there’s something “fundamentally anti-police” about storming the Capitol, he said.
That fellow police officers were the target of much of the mob’s brutality is another important factor that may have prompted whistleblowing. U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian D. Sicknick was among the five people killed as a result of the riot. Dozens of other police officers were injured.
While some officers have said they were merely at the pro-Trump rally, rather than participating in the riot, others were found to have gone farther.
In Rocky Mount, Va., the presence of two officers in the riot, which included displays of the Confederate battle flag, came to light after a colleague and another city official leaked photos of them inside the Capitol to an area activist. The president of the local Black Lives Matter chapter posted them on her Facebook page and one of the officers quickly defended himself and threatened future violence.
“A legitimate republic stands on 4 boxes,” Officer Thomas Robertson, 47, wrote in response on his Facebook page. “The soapbox, the ballot box, the jury box and then the cartridge box. We just moved to step 3. Step 4 will not be pretty…I’ve spent most of my adult life fighting a counter insurgency. Im about to become part of one, and a very effective one.”
Robertson and fellow officer Jacob Fracker, 27, were both arrested Wednesday by the FBI and are so far the only law enforcement officers facing federal charges, which include one count each of “knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority” and one count each of “violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.”
A Washington Post analysis shows that at least 29 current and former officers attended the Jan. 6 rally, with some proceeding to the Capitol, according to a review of officers’ social media accounts, FBI reports and news reports.
Of those, at least 13 officers are under investigation for possible participation in the rioting, as well more than a dozen Capitol Police officers who may have assisted the mob that seized the Capitol.
The officers — and at least one police chief — came from tiny departments with less than a handful of officers to large agencies with thousands on their force.
Reports of police among the rioters at the Capitol has police leaders worried about erosion of the public’s trust in law enforcement.
“It creates an issue where the public has a hard time believing that the . . . decisions they make off duty do not impact their choices and decisions they make while on duty,” said Andrew Walsh, a deputy chief with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. That force is investigating reports that “employees” may have been at the Capitol, he said.
Police keen on Trump
Since the start of his presidency, Trump styled himself as a champion of law enforcement who would restore to policing a level of respect, freedom and power he perceived to have been diminished under President Barack Obama.
Even before Trump declared himself the “law and order candidate” at a 2016 campaign event, he portrayed use of force against racial justice protesters and suspects in police custody as virtuous: As a candidate, he offered to pay the legal fees of his supporters who assaulted protesters disrupting his rallies. Not long after taking office in 2017, he told a crowd of police not to worry about injuring the people they arrest.
In the four years of Trump’s administration, he has reversed police reform efforts and curbed the use of “pattern and practice” investigations into police departments for civil rights violations — something that had been a staple of the Obama-era Justice Department and is expected to resume under Biden. Police were keen to return the favor when Trump ran for a second term with many police unions enthusiastically offering their endorsement.
Dennis Kenney, a former police officer and professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said he was “not too terribly surprised” police were among those at the rally that preceded the riot, citing what he called “some pretty strident” police union support for Trump and “an authoritarian sort of regime.”
Police unions and policing groups backed Trump in the 2020 election, with the head of the National Association of Police Organizations last summer deeming him “the most pro-law enforcement president we’ve ever had.”
However, union leaders said they are shocked by how some of their members appeared to cross the line at the Capitol. They also said officers who breached the Capitol should not expect their unions’ support in their legal battles.
“We took an oath to protect the constitution and the rule of law,” said Patrick Yoes, national president of the Fraternal Order of Police. “When people decide they are going to violate that — they are alone.”
Doug Griffith, president of the Houston Police Officers’ Union, said he had joked with Acevedo about how absurd it would be for any of the department’s 5,300 officers to be involved in the mob that stormed the Capitol.
He said the resignation of 48-year-old Tam Pham, after having been identified as having been at the Capitol, has not changed how he is communicating with his members. Griffith believes the line some officers crossed is so bright, it doesn’t need to be explained to the rest of the force. Attempts to reach Pham were not successful.
“We took an oath to uphold the law, not violate it,” Griffith said. “You have to have common sense and walk away. Think about it. There are [Capitol] officers being beaten. How, as an officer, do you not help out? How do you not understand that you shouldn’t be there?”
David Ellis, the police chief in Troy, N.H., attended the Trump rally. As he approached the Capitol and saw the mob was pushing past the Capitol Police, he understood he needed to turn away, he said.
As he boarded a charter bus at Union Station with the rioting underway, he gave an interview to New York magazine, saying the violence was “not going to solve a thing” and characterized the way the Capitol Police were being treated as “ridiculous.” He defended going to the rally, saying, “There’s a lot of Trump supporters that are awesome people. Like me.”
Ellis’s small department has three full-time officers, including him. Richard Thackston, chairman of the Troy Board of Selectmen, has defended Ellis. But the blowback on town officials was immediate and fierce. More than 100 people sent emails and voice-mail messages threatening violence. Troy Town Hall is now closed indefinitely.
“They are saying we are members of the Klan. They are calling us Nazis. They are saying we should be taken to a firing squad,” Thackston said. “There is a line for us. I don’t think we tell people they cannot attend rallies. They have First Amendment rights.”
‘I feel betrayed’
Chuck Wexler, director of the Police Executive Research Forum, said for years police chiefs have wrestled with racist, white supremacist and violent rhetoric that some officers post on social media.
In those instances, Wexler said disciplinary action may be taken since such actions are often considered “conduct unbecoming an officer.” It tarnishes the credibility of the officer, making it difficult for them to testify in their own criminal cases, impairing their ability to fulfill their job duties.
“This is an evolution, a big leap from the difficult waters that police departments have waded through in recent years as officers take to social media to express their political and sometimes racist views,” Wexler said. “What happened at the Capitol the other day is new territory. Going from freedom of speech to participating in a riot where a police officer dies, that takes it to a new level.”
Brian Levin, a former police officer and director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism in California, said white supremacy and far-right-wing groups are successfully recruiting local law enforcement officers. They also encourage their young members to enter law enforcement, he said.
“We are encountering a new insurgency, as far-right extremists become more active, as their connections to mainstream politics becomes attenuated, but police agencies have yet to adapt to this new threat which directly impacts their ranks and also national security,” he said.
People living in the communities where the officers work, who have forged relationships with them, say they are disappointed and hurt.
Bridgette Craighead saved videos of her dancing with Robertson, the Rocky Mount officer, at a Black Lives Matter event she organized in her Virginia hometown over the summer. She said she also became close to Officer Fracker.
She was proud of the relationship they forged.
“I thought we would be an example for the rest of the world,” Craighead said. “When we left our last protest, they told us they loved us. They escorted us home. Now I feel betrayed.”
On Jan. 9, three days after the riot, Craighead received a copy of a photo of Robertson and Fracker posing inside the Capitol during the siege. They were standing in front of a statute of Revolutionary War General John Stark, who is know for a toast he once wrote — “Live free or die.” Fracker is holding his middle finger up to the camera.
She quickly posted it on her Facebook page. The next day, the two officers were placed on paid leave and the FBI was notified, according to a joint statement by Police Chief Ken Criner and Town Manager C. James Ervin. Criner and Ervin did not return calls seeking additional comment.
In response to Craighead’s post, Robertson, who, according to local news reports is an Army veteran who received sniper training and served in Iraq, said he did not see a conflict or disparity between supporting local Black protesters and his protest that involved a breach of the Capitol.
“I can protest for what I believe in and still support your protest fro [sic] what you believe in,” he wrote. “Just saying…after all, I fought for the right to do it.”
Fracker, who military.com said previously served as a Marine, also defended himself on Facebook, saying he believed he did nothing wrong.
“Lol to anyone who’s possibly concerned about the picture of me going around,” he wrote. “Sorry I hate freedom? Not like I did anything illegal, way too much to lost [sic] to go there, but y’all do what you feel you need to do.”
Three days later, Fracker and Robertson were arrested by the FBI.
Former rapper-turned-alt-right troll Tim Gionet, who calls himself “Baked Alaska,” has been busted by the FBI for his involvement in the deadly seige at the U.S. Capitol, where he live-streamed the chaos as thousands breached the historic building.
The Anchorage-born Gionet, 33, was arrested by federal agents in Houston, Texas Saturday, the Associated Press reported, citing an unnamed official.
A Scottsdale, Arizona judge had already issued a warrant Friday for the social media gadfly who went from a libertarian to far right wingnut, the Arizona Republic reported. Gionet had been released from pretrial detention for charges involving a bar brawl in which he allegedly pepper-sprayed a bar worker. As part of the release, he promised he wouldn’t leave Arizona without a judge’s permission.
According to Business Insider, Gionet used the blockchain service DLive to livestream himself inside the Capitol during the stunning siege.
He leaves on Wednesday.
Trump loyalist and former GOP operative Michael Ellis started his new job as the National Security Agency’s top lawyer on Tuesday, despite Democratic opposition to his last-minute appointment.
A web page has been created for his official biography as the spy agency’s general counsel, and an NSA spokesperson confirmed that Ellis started Tuesday.
The appointment comes one day before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration and one day after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller demanding that he “immediately cease” his plans to install Ellis, calling the move "highly suspect.”
"The circumstances and timing — immediately after President [Donald] Trump’s defeat in the election — of the selection of Mr. Ellis, and this eleventh-hour effort to push this placement in the last three days of this administration are highly suspect,” Pelosi wrote on Monday.
“Further, the efforts to install him or ‘burrow’ him into a highly sensitive intelligence position 72 hours prior to the beginning of a new administration manifest a disturbing disregard for our national security,” she added. “Therefore, this placement should not move forward.”
Pelosi’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the fact that Ellis’ appointment had taken effect.
Because the role — one of the most senior at NSA — is a civil service position, not a political one, it could prove difficult for the incoming Biden administration to immediately remove Ellis. The new administration could reassign him to serve elsewhere, however.
The Biden transition team declined to comment.
Ellis worked for Rep. Devin Nunes, one of the president’s staunchest supporters, when the California Republican chaired the House Intelligence Committee. He served as a National Security Council lawyer and most recently as its senior director for intelligence.
The Pentagon’s general counsel selected Ellis for the NSA post in November, reportedly bypassing others who were more qualified. NSA chief Army Gen. Paul Nakasone then slow-walked the appointment, until Miller ordered him over the weekend to install Ellis.
Army falsely denied Flynn’s brother was involved in key part of military response to Capitol riot
While there is no indication that Charles Flynn shares his brother’s extreme views or discharged his duties at the Pentagon on Jan. 6 in any manner that was influenced by his brother, the fact that the Trump Pentagon lied about it is disturbing.
WASHINGTON ― New security measures outside the U.S. House chamber prevented a Republican lawmaker from bringing a gun onto the House floor Thursday.
Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), who has repeatedly flouted the magnetometers that were installed near the House chamber after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, set off the metal detectors while trying to enter. When an officer with a metal detector wand scanned him, a firearm was detected on Harris’s side, concealed by his suit coat. Police refused to let Harris in, and the officer signaled a security agent that Harris had a gun on him by motioning toward his own firearm.
HuffPost witnessed the interaction and later confirmed with a Capitol official that Harris was carrying a gun.
HuffPost watched Harris try to get another member to take the gun from him so he could go vote. The member, Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), told Harris he didn’t have “a license” and refused to hold the weapon for him.
HuffPost also heard Harris complain to some fellow members that he had asked his staff to remind him about the screenings and they hadn’t.
Harris then left on the elevators and 10 minutes later returned to the House chamber. He placed his cellphone and keys on a desk to the side, did not set off the magnetometer and was allowed to enter the House floor to vote on a waiver to allow retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin to serve as President Joe Biden’s defense secretary.
Congress has been in a heightened state of security since the Jan. 6 siege on the Capitol as both chambers of Congress were meeting to count states’ Electoral College votes. Even though President Joe Biden has been inaugurated, there are still two large fences around the perimeter of the Capitol, and National Guard troops remain on the grounds.
During a security briefing with Democratic members early last week, some lawmakers suggested that members should have to go through a metal detector to get on the House floor. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) has said she’ll carry a gun around D.C., which does not allow the open carrying of a firearm, and Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) told his local paper that he was armed when insurrectionists stormed the Capitol.
When House lawmakers came back Jan. 12 for their first votes after the attack, they found magnetometers outside entrances to the House chamber. Most members followed police orders and went through the metal detectors, but some Republicans sidestepped the machines or refused to be checked with wands after they set it off ― Harris among them.
In response, Capitol Police put desks and velvet ropes on the sides of the magnetometers to block members from walking around the machines, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she will fine members who bypass screenings $5,000 for their first offense and $10,000 for their second.
Those fines are not yet in effect, as the House hasn’t adopted those rules, and a few members continue to not comply with the screenings. On Thursday, HuffPost saw Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Rick Allen (R-Ga.) and Boebert all refuse to be wanded down after setting off the magnetometer.
But when Harris went through the metal detector Thursday and set it off, the police officer stepped in his way and directed Harris to spread his arms so he could use the handheld wand. Harris complied, and the officer found the gun on his side.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Capitol Police would only tell HuffPost that “USCP is investigating this matter,” and when we asked for clarification on whether the USCP was aware that Harris had attempted to bring a gun onto the House floor, the spokesperson said the agency couldn’t comment on “an ongoing investigation.”
Members are allowed to carry a gun in the office buildings, in the Capitol and on Capitol grounds, but they are expressly forbidden from carrying firearms onto the floor. And guns in the Capitol are not supposed to be loaded. Members can carry bullets separately.
Individual officers who witnessed the situation also wouldn’t comment. However, HuffPost heard officers talking about Harris having a weapon on him later Thursday afternoon.
Harris’s office did not return multiple requests for comment, nor did Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office.
HuffPost did ask Pelosi for comment Thursday afternoon as she walked by the House chamber, but she told reporters she wouldn’t be taking questions
Yes, Biden put newly deposited Trump appointee and Nunez ally. lawyer Michael Ellis on Administrative Leave from the NSA on Inauguration Day. He’s been benched.
Michael Ellis, the recently installed general counsel at the National Security Agency, was placed on administrative leave Wednesday because his appointment is now the subject of an investigation by the Defense Department Inspector General, according to two sources familiar with the matter. There is also a separate allegation that he mishandled classified information.
Last week, acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller directed that the position be filled by Ellis, a last-minute move that quickly sparked criticism from Democrats.
“I think it’s very clear this is part of the administration’s effort to embed people in the civil service who are political and partisan actors who don’t belong there,” said Representative Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, on “Face the Nation” on Sunday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday denounced the hire in a letter to Christopher Miller, the acting Defense Secretary under former President Trump. Pelosi cited reports that Ellis was involved in an effort to “launder intelligence information” and also “shield information” about Mr. Trump’s call with the president of Ukraine that ultimately led to his impeachment.
“The efforts to install him or ‘burrow’ him into a highly sensitive intelligence position 72 hours prior to the beginning of a new Administration manifest a disturbing disregard for our national security,” Pelosi wrote.
Ellis declined to comment. A spokesperson for the NSA said, “It’s not our policy to comment on personnel issues.”
#ETTD, even pardons. Apparently Trump messed up some of his pardons for figures such as Paul Manafort and Roger Stone, aiming them so narrowly that they, and possibly others, can still be charged for other crimes.
The House will transmit its article of impeachment for former President Donald Trump to the Senate on Monday, prompting the start of his trial.
The House will transmit its article of impeachment charging former President Donald J. Trump with “incitement of insurrection” to the Senate on Monday, triggering the start of a trial unlike any in American history, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York said on Friday.
Mr. Schumer, the majority leader, said the decision had been relayed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi but he declined to elaborate further on how the trial would run. Once the article arrives, Senate rules say the chamber must almost immediately be transformed into a court of impeachment and sit in judgment until a verdict is reached.
Mr. Schumer and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, his Republican counterpart, have been negotiating for days over further parameters for the trial in hopes of settling on bipartisan rules. Democrats are intent on trying to set up a dual track whereby the Senate could still confirm President Biden’s cabinet nominees before the trial starts each day to try to minimize the impact of the proceeding on his first days in office.
Ms. Pelosi’s decision to move on Monday, a little less than two weeks after the House’s bipartisan impeachment vote, rebuffed a request Mr. McConnell made on Thursday to delay the trial to provide Mr. Trump’s newly appointed legal team time to prepare. He had asked that the heart of the trial not begin until mid-February.
However, senators could still come to their own agreement to build in extra time for pretrial written briefs to delay the start of oral arguments in the Senate. Democrats involved in the planning indicated they were not entirely opposed to giving Mr. Trump’s team some time, out of fairness, and could use the lag to confirm more Biden nominees.
“I’ve been speaking to the Republican leader about the timing and duration of the trial,” Mr. Schumer said on Friday. “But make no mistake a trial will be held in the United States Senate and there will be a vote,” to determine Mr. Trump’s political fate.
Mr. McConnell acknowledged Friday that his request had been turned down, at least in part. But he continued to argue Republicans would insist that the president’s team be given ample time.
“Senate Republicans strongly believe we need a full and fair process where the former president can mount a defense,” he said.
The imminent arrival of the article now gives the two leaders a deadline to agree to set of trial rules to replace the default arrangement already codified in the Senate. It could also hasten along a stalled power sharing agreement that will more broadly govern the Senate this term.
To understand why the filibuster is so important, here is a good explainer.
From historian Heather Cox Richardson (and commentator for Bill Moyers.com)
The other story from today with a long history behind it is that the Senate is currently unable to organize itself because Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is insisting that the Democrats commit to leaving the filibuster intact. The filibuster is peculiar to the Senate, and is a procedure designed to draw out the session to prevent a vote on a measure. It is an old system, but it is not exactly hallowed: it was a bit of a mistake.
The Constitution provides for the Senate to pass most measures by a simple majority. It also permits each house of Congress to write its own rules. According to historian Brian Bixby, the House discovered early on that it needed a procedure to stop debate and get on with a vote. The Senate, a much smaller body, did not.
In the 1830s, senators in the minority discovered they could prevent votes on issues they disliked simply by talking the issue to death. In 1917, when both President Woodrow Wilson and the American people turned against the filibuster after senators used it to stop Wilson from preparing for war, the Senate reluctantly adopted a procedure to end a filibuster using a process called “cloture,” but that process is slow and it takes a majority of three-fifths of all members. Today, that is 60 votes.
From 1917 to 1964, senators filibustered primarily to stop civil rights legislation. The process was grueling: a senator had to talk for hours, as South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond did in 1957, when he spoke for 24 hours straight to stand against a civil rights act. But the need to speed up Senate business meant that in the 1960s and 1970s, senators settled on procedural filibusters that enabled an individual senator to kill a measure simply by declaring opposition, rather than through the old-fashioned system of all-night speeches. The Senate also declared some measures, such as budget resolutions, immune to filibusters. Effectively, this means that it takes 60 votes, rather than a simple majority, to get anything–other than absolutely imperative financial measures-- done.
In 2013, frustrated by the Republicans’ filibustering of President Obama’s judicial nominees and picks for a number of officials in the Executive Branch, then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) prohibited filibusters on certain Executive Branch and judicial nominees. In 2017, when Democrats tried to filibuster the nomination of Supreme Court Judge Neil Gorsuch, then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell killed the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, as well.
The filibuster remains in place for legislation.
The Democrats currently have no plans to try to kill the filibuster altogether—they do not have the votes, as Joe Manchin (D-WV) has openly opposed the idea and others are leery—but they want to keep the threat of killing it to prevent McConnell and the Republicans from abusing it and stopping all Democratic legislation.
This impasse means that senators are not organizing the Senate. New senators have not been added to existing committees, which leaves Republicans in the majority in key committees. This is slowing down Biden’s ability to get his nominees confirmed.
What’s at stake here is actually quite an interesting question. While the new Senate is split evenly—50 Democrats, 50 Republicans—the 50 Democrats in the Senate represent over 41.5 million more people than the 50 Republicans represent. The filibuster means that no legislation can pass Congress without the support of 10 Republicans. Essentially, then, the fight over the filibuster is a fight not just about the ability of the Democrats to get laws passed, but about whether McConnell and the Republicans, who represent a minority of the American people, can kill legislation endorsed by lawmakers who represent quite a large majority.
We are in an uncomfortable period in our history in which the mechanics of our democracy are functionally anti-democratic. The fight over the filibuster might seem dull, but it’s actually a pretty significant struggle as our lawmakers try to make the rules of our system fit our changing nation.