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35 Republicans Defy Trump and GOP Leaders to Push Capitol Riots Probe
Sam Brodey, Matt Fuller Wed, May 19, 2021, 6:53 PM Alex Wong Over the objections of GOP leaders, the House passed a bill Wednesday that would create a bipartisan and independent commission to examine the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
The House voted 252-175, with 35 Republicans joining all Democrats in support of the bill.
With 35 House Republicans voting for the commission, there’s a possibility Democrats in the Senate can find enough Republicans there to support the panel, but the odds are long. While the number of GOP defections is a bit of an embarrassment for Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and his leadership team, it’s probably not quite the jailbreak that Democrats needed to convince their Senate colleagues to go against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
Democrats would need 10 Republicans to overcome a GOP filibuster for 60 votes in the Senate, otherwise the bill establishing the commission won’t make it to President Joe Biden’s desk.
Still, Democrats found themselves surprised at the number of GOP defections. “That’s a good showing,” Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) told The Daily Beast. “It should be everyone. But given the death grip Donald Trump has on his party, I think it’s encouraging.”
Debate in the House on Wednesday was mostly one-sided. More Republicans spoke in support of the commission than those who spoke against it. But the GOP arguments against the legislation were particularly divorced from reality.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) implored Democrats to start being bipartisan and stop using “every tool as a partisan stick to beat Republicans.”
“Look, things have changed a lot since the 9/11 commission,” Gohmert said, “because back then, we did not have a problem on both—either side of the aisle condemning anti-semitic remarks.”
Fellow Texas Republican Rep. Chip Roy argued that an independent commission was unnecessary because Congress already has committees that could subpoena people and investigate Jan. 6.
“Let's use the powers that we have and the powers of this body and the committees we have to seek the truth to the information wherever it may lead,” Roy said.
But Democrats and some Republicans contended that an independent and high-profile commission—like the one Congress created after 9/11—was an important step toward accountability and future safety.
Schiff invoked that example to justify the Jan. 6 commission. He told The Daily Beast that Congress did important work to probe 9/11 but that the commission brought “tremendous added value” because it was outside the political process and was staffed with trusted figures.
“That's what we need here, so that the recommendations that come out of the commission will be broadly accepted by the public,” Schiff said.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) particularly took offense to the GOP contention that the commission ought to broaden its scope to all sorts of political violence, not just the violence that occurred on Jan. 6.
“It's vital that Congress establish a bipartisan, independent commission to investigate January 6. Not some other date,” Hoyer said. “That does not absolve any wrongdoing anywhere, any time. But it says that this unique insurrection is a danger to our democracy. Not to Republicans and Democrats. To our democracy. To our Congress. To the people's House and the United States Senate, which was occupied."
Rep. John Katko (R-NY)—the top Republican on the Homeland Security Committee who brokered the deal—also spoke in support of the bill, saying an independent commission was “critical for removing the politics around January 6.”
“The American people and the Capitol Police deserve answers and action as soon as possible to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again,” Katko said. “We must find answers to the many questions surrounding that day.”
All of this drama to create a bipartisan commission comes after four months of negotiations and a flurry of recent opposition from GOP leaders.
After Katko finalized a deal with Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) last week to create the commission, McCarthy promptly blew it up on Tuesday.
And although McConnell said later in the day on Tuesday that he was undecided, he woke up on Wednesday and himself called the proposal “slanted and unbalanced.”
The only thing that had seemed to change was that former President Donald Trump issued a statement Tuesday night calling the commission “partisan unfairness.”
While McConnell and Republican allies tried to come up with reasons on Wednesday why that was the case, their rationales didn’t seem to match up with the legislation.
The bill that the House passed Wednesday would create an independent commission composed of 10 people outside of government—five to be picked by Democratic leaders, and five to be picked by Republican leaders. The commission would have subpoena power, but only if the Democratic chair and GOP vice chair agreed, or absent that agreement, if a majority of the commission approved.
The one item of imbalance Republicans focused on Wednesday was the composition of the staff, which also seemed to be a mostly imagined complaint. The language for hiring staff was almost identical to the bipartisan 9/11 commission, as well as a bill from January establishing an independent commission that had more than 30 GOP cosponsors.
But not long after McConnell’s speech against the legislation Wednesday, those senators who had been undecided, or even supportive, changed their tune.
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD), who said on Tuesday that the insurrection could not be “swept under any rug,” said on Wednesday that he’d changed his mind after hearing directly from McCarthy. “Leadership in the House says it’s not bipartisan in nature,” Rounds said, even though the bill was the product of negotiations between Katko and Thompson—with McCarthy’s backing.
After Trump, McCarthy, and McConnell all came out in opposition to the commission, GOP leaders began explicitly laying out a key concern that’s percolated for weeks: that such a commission would damage them politically. “A lot of our members, and I think this is true of a lot of House Republicans, want to be moving forward and not looking backward,” said Sen. John Thune (R-SD), the No. 2 Republican in the Senate. “Anything that gets us rehashing the 2020 elections I think is a day lost on being able to draw a contrast between us and the Democrats’ very radical left-wing agenda.”
The 10 Republican votes needed to pass the bill in the Senate, then, will now be much tougher for Democrats to win. Even senators who would be the building blocks of any bipartisan vote, like Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), have said they want to see changes to the commission as it is structured.
The Senate GOP’s widespread opposition potentially sets up something momentous: the minority’s first use of the legislative filibuster since Democrats took power in January. The symbolism in such a move is not lost on Democrats. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) told The Daily Beast such a move would be in line with the GOP’s intent to filibuster voting rights legislation. “They’re just interested in blocking,” he said.
Democrats on both sides of the Capitol say they will plow ahead though, even if the path to establishing the commission is unclear.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) vowed on Wednesday to put the House’s bill to a vote, no matter what. And Hoyer told reporters that Democrats would find a lane for the review somehow—even if it meant creating a special committee in the House.
That would be a far more diminished version of the commission outlined in the bill, however.
Republicans have pointed to ongoing reviews of the Jan. 6 attack being conducted by congressional committees and various agencies from the federal government, saying their work would be more than sufficient in uncovering what happened and how to prevent it from happening again.
But Rep. Tim Ryan (R-OH), who chairs the House committee that oversees the Capitol Police, said Wednesday that would not be enough. “We're trying to govern the country, so we're trying to set this up,” Ryan said. “If there’s something better, be a part of it.”
“If we can’t get Republican votes on this,” Ryan added, “it’s indicative of what’s to come.”
GO RV, then BV
Ivanka Trump Gets the Pfizer Jab. Her Anti-Vax Fans Are Not Happy.
Alaina Demopoulos Wed, April 14, 2021, 6:07 PM via Twitter Ivanka Trump broke her post-inaugural social media silence with some personal news: she’s vaccinated. The former presidential advisor announced via Instagram, Twitter, and a statement sent to the AP that she had received her first Pfizer jab.
“Today, I got the shot!!! I hope that you do too! Thank you Nurse Torres!!!” Ivanka captioned a photo. In the snap, she wears a tie-dye face mask, white t-shirt and jeans while a nurse in pink scrubs administers the dose.
Per the AP, Ivanka received the vaccine in her adopted home state of Florida, where she moved with Jared Kushner and her children after leaving DC. Two sources said that she had the option to get her shot when her father was still in office, but chose to hold off.
Ivanka Trump, Miami Beach Bum, Plots Her Next Move
Unsurprisingly, not all fans of the woman whose father consistently downplayed the pandemic and scoffed at basic COVID safety precautions are happy with this news. Her Instagram post has devolved into a deluge of complaints regarding her choice to get the shot.
“Bummer. I was hoping you were above this kind of virtue signaling,” one person wrote on Instagram.
“Hell no. Quit telling perfectly healthy people to take this so called vaccine,” another added.
The resounding agreement in Ivanka’s comments section, per a few more Instagram users: “Disappointing.”
There were similar musings on Ivanka’s Facebook and Twitter announcements. “Love you! But going to decline,” a person wrote on Facebook.
Former vice president Mike Pence got his shot back in December via a televised press conference, for which he wore a rather unfortunate short sleeved shirt. Donald and Melania Trump received theirs, too, before leaving office in January—though they did not publicize the event and news broke after President Biden’s inauguration.
GO RV, then BV
Dominion Voting Systems Sues Fox News for $1.6 Billion for Pushing Trump’s Big Lie
Jamie Ross Fri, March 26, 2021, 7:18 AM Reuters/ Shannon Stapleton Dominion Voting Systems has filed a staggering $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News, alleging the cable network pushed false claims that the voting-machine company rigged the 2020 election.
It’s the latest in a string of massive lawsuits from Dominion, which was the target of a baseless and frankly bizarre Trumpist conspiracy theory that it switched millions of votes in order to help Joe Biden win the White House. Fox News joins Trump allies Sidney Powell, Rudy Giuliani, and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell in being chased for damages for spreading the claim.
In its suit against Fox News, Dominion alleges the network “sold a false story of election fraud in order to serve its own commercial purposes, severely injuring Dominion in the process.” Attorney Justin Nelson accuses Fox News of taking a “conscious, knowing business decision to endorse and repeat and broadcast these lies in order to keep its viewership.”
While some of Fox News’ more legitimate anchors pushed back on the relentless flow of Trumpist election conspiracies, others were perfectly happy to throw their weight behind them. For example, in the week after the election, Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer mulled that the Dominion theory being put forward by Powell and others “sounded convincing.”
According to the Associated Press, the Fox lawsuit could be followed by more against specific media personalities at the network, but Dominion wanted to target the entire network first. “The buck stops with Fox on this,” said attorney Stephen Shackelford. “Fox chose to put this on all of its many platforms. They rebroadcast, republished it on social media.”
The Trump campaign and its allies became fixated on voting machines from Dominion Voting Systems in the days after the election. The crackpot theory included the claim that Dominion voting machines were created in Venezuela to rig elections for Hugo Chavez, who died in 2013.
Powell—the pro-Trump lawyer and one of the main proponents of the conspiracy theory—effectively abandoned it earlier this week in the face of her own billion-dollar lawsuit. Her lawyers argue that “no reasonable person” would believe that her election-fraud claims were “statements of fact,” and that they relied upon “exaggeration and hyperbole.”
Fox News is yet to comment on the Dominion lawsuit.
Dominion concluded in its lawsuit: “If this case does not rise to the level of defamation by a broadcaster, then nothing does.”
GO RV, then BV
‘Resist Becoming Numb’: Biden Pays Tribute to the 500,000 Who Died—and Those They Left Behind
Scott Bixby, Erin Banco Mon, February 22, 2021, 7:23 PM Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty For the second time in 33 days, President Joe Biden gathered the nation on Monday to mourn a loss it can no longer fathom, to collectively grieve after a year of grief beyond imagining, as the nation’s death toll from the coronavirus pandemic officially crossed half a million people.
“We often hear people described as ‘ordinary Americans,’ but there’s no such thing,” Biden said, standing in the Cross Hall of the White House. “The people we lost were extraordinary.”
The pandemic year has seen more deaths, as the president noted in a proclamation commanding all U.S. flags be flown at half-mast until sundown on Friday, than the number of Americans who perished “in World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War combined.”
“That’s more lives lost to this virus than any other nation on earth,” Biden said. “They’re people we knew. They’re people we feel like we knew… The son who called his mom every night, just to check in. The father’s daughter who lit up his world. The best friend who was always there. The nurse—the nurses—the nurse who made her patients want to live.”
Biden, whose life and public service has been defined by moments of deep grief, urged Americans to learn from his losses, to “resist becoming numb to the sorrow” of an empty seat at the dinner table.
“I know all too well,” Biden said, appearing to keep back tears as he spoke. “I know what it’s like to not be there when it happens. I know what it’s like when you are there, holding their hands, as you look in their eye as they slip away.”
Biden concluded his remarks by asking Americans to “find purpose” in their grief, a purpose worthy of the lives lost in a terrible year.
“This nation will know joy again,” Biden said, before making his way to the candlelit South Portico, where the U.S. Marine Corps Band played “Amazing Grace.” The National Cathedral, 15 minutes away, had just finished tolling its 12-ton Bourdon Bell 500 times, once for every thousand lives lost in the United States. “We will get through this, I promise you.”
With the first lady, the vice president and the second gentleman at his side, each wearing a black face mask, Biden then led the country in a moment of silence to reflect on the darkest moment of the “dark winter” he’d warned would come. It was 100,000 more deaths since he last told the nation in January, on the eve of his inauguration, that “to heal we must remember,” and 200,000 more than when he told Americans in December that his heart went out to those about to enter the new year “with a black hole in your hearts—without the ones you loved at your side.”
The ceremony was, of course, largely symbolic. The nation’s death toll from the coronavirus pandemic almost certainly crossed the 500,000 mark weeks ago—excess deaths remain roughly 20 percent higher than the official death toll—and the total number of lives lost to the virus will probably continue to rise long even after the pandemic has finally receded, given the upwards revision of estimated death tolls for past pandemics.
What the moment did mark, however, is the cementing of the pandemic—and the government’s response to it—as Biden’s responsibility. Yes, he was left a national response that was in worse shape than he could have imagined, with millions of missing vaccine doses and an anti-inoculation movement that has run rampant on social media. His predecessor had lost interest in addressing the pandemic months before his term ended, turning attention to an unsuccessful coup attempt that his own task force warned would cost American lives.
But no president, alone in his thoughts during a moment of silence remembering 500,000 dead citizens, can plausibly go back to repeating the White House’s line from earlier days that he’s “only been here three and a half weeks,” or “only been here three weeks,” or “only been here two and a half weeks,” as White House press secretary Jen Psaki had told reporters in the last week.
It took weeks for the Biden COVID-19 task force to get its footing. For the first several days, the administration struggled to explain exactly how it would get vaccinations moving and why states across the country were canceling appointments en masse. Officials offered various answers, including that the administration was still trying to locate millions of doses and that the Trump administration had left them with a broken distribution playbook. In that time, thousands of people died, many of whom were infected before Biden took office. Still, the talking points at most press conferences on COVID-19 over the last several weeks have focused on the fact that case and death numbers across the country are steadily decreasing.
While the nation’s vaccination rate is improving and the administration has inked new deals with pharmaceutical companies to ensure doses flow throughout the next several months, health officials are still concerned about the emergence of new variants. Officials say while data suggests that the vaccines available to Americans work well against the United Kingdom and South African mutations, other, potentially more deadly variants could cause another surge this spring—and further delay any semblance of normalcy in American life.
Back to normal—children attending school in an actual school, adults making face-to-face small talk with colleagues, families eating at restaurants and celebrating weddings and gathering for funerals, and a White House where visitors aren’t tested for a virus as thoroughly as they are for firearms—has never seemed so far away. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the lone holdover from the Trump administration’s beleaguered COVID-19 firmament, appears perpetually on the verge of telling Americans that we’ll never have true “normal” again.
“It really depends on what you mean by ‘normality,’” Fauci said in an interview last weekend. “If ‘normality’ means exactly the way things were before we had this happen to us, I can’t predict that.”
Biden, too, has been cautious not to overpromise on timelines for vaccinations or school reopenings, lest he under-deliver or be thwarted by any number of the many factors beyond his control. It remains a giant question whether vaccinations stop the spread of the virus, or whether children can be effectively vaccinated, which means that “normal” for families will be delayed even longer. A third of people say they won’t get a vaccine, for reasons either understandable and moronic. Other once-in-a-century disasters, like the Texas deep freeze that delayed the delivery of tens of thousands of vaccinations, could further move “normal” out of reach.
The reality of that possibility comes as the nation’s grieving process has moved on from shock and denial and depression to, increasingly, anger. Violence against Asian Americans is increasing across the country. Voters are increasingly desperate that Congress won’t be able to send additional COVID relief to Biden’s desk until mid-March, even as he went the fast route rather than sacrifice, as one Biden insider put it, “two or three months of negotiation” that would have led to “only two or three Republican votes.”
Biden’s focus, Psaki told reporters ahead of Monday’s ceremony, is on passing the American Rescue Plan and ensuring that the nation has enough vaccines to inoculate 300 million Americans against the virus.
“But the American people have a role to play here as well,” Psaki said. “Wearing masks, social distancing. Everybody wants to get back to normal, but the president, the federal government can’t do that alone. It is going to take everybody participating in that process to get closer to normalcy.”
GO RV, then BV
Mike Pence Backs Away From the Trump Election ‘Fraud’ Train Wreck
Asawin Suebsaeng, Lachlan Markay, Sam Stein Wed, December 2, 2020, 8:00 PM EST Alex Wong/Getty Vice President Mike Pence has been a go-to fundraising draw for the president’s campaign, and since October, no more than a day passed without his name emblazoning a fundraising email for the Trump re-elect.
But that changed late last month. Since Nov. 25, not a single fundraising email from the Trump campaign or its Republican National Committee fundraising account has featured Pence’s name in the “from” field. And this week, that Republican National Committee joint fundraising committee, the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, made another subtle change: a handful of its emails swapped out the official Trump-Pence campaign logo for one featuring just the president’s name.
Trump Make America Great Again Committee At first blush, those may seem like minor tweaks to gimmicky portions of Team Trump’s fundraising strategy. A source familiar with the process said the fundraising emails do not go to Vice President Pence’s team for clearance and an RNC official said the digital team was merely testing a new logo around the end-of-the-month deadline. Indeed, some of the joint fundraising committee’s emails this week have included the original campaign logo with Pence’s name below Trump’s.
But several high-level sources say that the graphics change, along with Pence’s disappearance from the headers of President Donald Trump’s increasingly frantic and conspiratorial pleas, are not actually coincidental. According to four people with knowledge of the matter, they reflect an effort by the vice president and his team to distance Pence from some of the president’s more outlandish claims about a conspiracy to undermine the election and illegally deny him a second term in office.
“It is an open secret [in Trumpworld] that Vice President Pence absolutely does not feel the same way about the legal effort as President Trump does,” said a senior administration official. “The vice president doesn’t want to go down with this ship… and believes much of the legal work has been unhelpful.”
The Trump campaign declined to comment on this story. Devin O’Malley, a spokesman for Pence, said Wednesday night, “As he has for the last four years, the vice president is proud to stand with the president—in this case to ensure every legal vote is counted and every illegal vote is rejected. The Daily Beast’s anonymous sources have no real insight into what the vice president thinks on these matters.”
Trump Campaign Has Raised $150M Off Voter-Fraud Fiction Since Election
The political marriage between Trump and Pence was always based on simple tradeoff: Pence gave Trump credibility among establishment and religious types and, in exchange, shared the spoils of Trump’s far larger and more unorthodox coalition of voters. But in the aftermath of the 2020 elections, that deal has come under intense strain.
As Trump has tended to his own future, Pence has preferred to place his energies on the critical Senate runoff elections in Georgia. Pence, sources say, privately views the Rudy Giuliani-led legal operation to overturn the 2020 election through the mass disenfranchisement of votes as counterproductive and doomed. And, as a former governor himself, he has been particularly uncomfortable with Trump’s attacks on Republican governors in some of the key battleground states that he lost. The president has accused several GOP leaders of incompetence or negligence in their inability or unwillingness to stop the certification of their state’s election results.
“Pence deeply understands the position that [Ohio Gov. Mike] DeWine, [Arizona Gov. Dave] Ducey and [Georgia Gov. Brian] Kemp are in. He has tried to be an effective mediator and communicator between those parties and the president back and forth,” said one Pence ally. “Any time he’s played that role, it’s gone well. The president is satisfied with the facts they’ve provided. And then somehow, without hours or days, the president is publicly attacking them by being fed inaccurate information from other White House sources, which frustrates the VP. It’s not a good look for the president. And it’s only created division in the party at a time when unity is very important.”
The result has been a subtle but clear effort at creating political space.
Rudy’s Phony Fraud Hearing in Gettysburg Debuts Trump’s Shadow Government
Since Election Day, Pence has walked a rhetorical tightrope as he tries to publicly back Trump’s position in general terms while avoiding the more outlandish allegations that the president frequently floats on Twitter and in his few post-election public remarks. Pence has repeatedly demanded that “every legal vote” be counted and that alleged voter fraud be rooted out.
But he has studiously avoided backing Trump’s more conspiratorial allegations about election malfeasance, and declined to answer questions about his views on specific Trump statements. For example, a pool report from a Nov. 20 rally in Georgia, where Pence campaigned on behalf of Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, noted that the vice president “did not echo the president’s rhetoric on the election being ‘rigged.’”
The disconnect is also evident on Pence’s Twitter feed. While the president has fervently tweeted about the supposed conspiracy against him, Pence’s tweets on the matter have been far fewer and more muted. He’s devoted far more social-media space to the White House’s efforts to get a coronavirus vaccine out the door and to last month’s NASA rocket launch, which sent U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station.
Since Nov. 15, Pence has tweeted just three times about supposed election irregularities. Two of those tweets were links to news stories, shared without comment, about recount and vote audit efforts in Georgia, and one simply retweeted a reporter’s quotation of Pence’s comments at that Nov. 20 rally, where Pence declared that Trump would “keep fighting until every legal vote is counted” and “every illegal vote is thrown out.”
Pence made other similarly anodyne comments in his remarks that tiptoed around the president’s allegations of widespread voter fraud. But he also repeatedly called on Georgia Republicans to “defend the majority” in the U.S. Senate—a tacit acknowledgement that, if Democrats win both Georgia Senate seats, a Vice President Kamala Harris would break the upper chamber’s 50-50 split and give her party a majority.
That unspoken premise is a reality that Republican operatives and the party’s top donors have acknowledged even as the president remains obstinate.
“I have not seen any evidence yet that would convince me that [the Trump legal team] will be successful in getting this to the Supreme Court or even anything to an appeals court,” Ed Rollins, a veteran GOP strategist who chairs the pro-Trump group Great America PAC, said on Wednesday. “I’m disappointed in the effort, as someone who has been around the game for a long time. I’ve seen a lot of ranting and raving from them, but not any really good legal challenges. Neither Rudy nor Sidney [Powell] nor anybody else on the team is considered a first-rate election lawyer and I don’t see any on this team.”
On Wednesday, Pence went to Capitol Hill to participate in the swearing-in of Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ)—an act that implicitly conceded the validity of the elections in Arizona. Hours later, Trump put out a 46-minute-long speech in which he called for the results in six battleground states, including Arizona, to be overturned and for him to remain president. Pence was not by his side.
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