Members Of Congress Walk Free

While I was pleased to see the January 6th committee issue recommendations on four counts of criminality for Donald Trump (see Keith’s post for an excellent summation), I must admit to being a bit disappointed on one front.  The committee did make recommendations that four members of Congress should be investigated by the House Ethics Committee, not for their roles in the January 6th attempted coup, but for refusing to testify before the committee.  Numerous members of Congress did, in fact, participate in the attempts to overturn the election and silence the voices of the majority, and personally I consider it a slap in the face to We the People that they are to be allowed to keep their seats in Congress with no accountability for their actions.  Philip Bump, writing for The Washington Post, summed it up well …


Trump’s Jan. 6 enablers in Congress can now exhale

Philip Bump

20 December 2022

The House select committee investigating the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, concluded its work on Monday, releasing part of its report on its findings and a clutch of referrals to the Justice Department for possible criminal investigation. It also released a less explosive set of recommendations: that four members of Congress should be investigated by the House Ethics Committee for failing to comply with the committee’s inquiry.

With that, the door apparently closed on one of the most titillating aspects of the riot, that members of Congress might have been somehow directly involved in the day’s violence. But the door also seems to have closed on another aspect of the post-election period: accountability for members of Congress who eagerly worked to assist Donald Trump’s effort to retain power despite his election loss.

That group had already sidestepped one mechanism for accountability. As The Washington Post reported last week, nearly every member of the House who voted in opposition to recognizing electors from Arizona or Pennsylvania in the hours after the riot — trying to effect through their votes what the mob had been trying to achieve through force — were reelected in last month’s midterm elections. In fact, there’s no obvious evidence that they suffered any political effect for their participation in the effort to block those electors.

But not all of those members of Congress were equivalently invested in preserving Trump’s power. A smaller group, generally closer to the caucus’s rightmost fringe, worked directly with outside groups on promoting the idea that the 2020 election had been stolen and worked with the White House on boosting Trump’s bid to derail his election loss.

Reporting from Talking Points Memo indicates that more than 30 Republican members of Congress communicated with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to offer moral or structural support for Trump’s effort. They passed along unfounded claims of fraud, sent messages of encouragement to the president or, at times, called for a more forceful response to block Joe Biden’s inauguration. In many cases, those legislators were also amplifying false claims about the election to their supporters.

On Nov. 4, 2020, the day after the election, the Twitter account of Rep.-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) was flagged 19 times for sharing false or baseless claims about the election results. She continued to make similar claims in the months that followed; she continues to do so to this day. Greene also participated in a briefing at the White House about the election results (despite not yet serving in Congress) on Dec. 21, 2020, along with a number of other House Republicans including Reps. Mo Brooks (Ala.), Brian Babin (Tex.), Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Paul A. Gosar (Ariz.), Andy Harris (Md.), Jody Hice (Ga.), Scott Perry (Pa.) and Jim Jordan (Ohio).

Organizers had planned a series of events centered on Jan. 6 in the weeks before the Capitol riot. One, scheduled for Capitol Hill just as the counting of electoral votes began on that day, was put together by fringe activists working under the “Stop the Steal” banner. The lead organizer, Ali Alexander, identified Greene as a friend who was engaged in trying to prevent Biden’s inauguration.

He also claimed that Biggs, Brooks and Gosar had been involved in planning his event. Alexander is not a trustworthy source of information, and the Capitol Hill rally never materialized as planned. (Greene denied involvement in planning an event, as did Biggs and Brooks. Gosar has not addressed the claim.) A potential lineup of speakers submitted with the group’s permit application, though, lists Greene, Gosar, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) and others as speakers. Another organizer of the combined event program for the day (including Trump’s speech) offered a similar list of elected officials as having participated in the discussions: Biggs, Boebert, Brooks, Gosar and Rep.-elect Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.).

(In the immediate aftermath of the Capitol riot, there was an enormous amount of attention paid to tours of the Capitol complex given by Republican legislators in the days before the riot. There’s no evidence that this was nefarious; it appears to have been primarily a function of unlucky timing.)

These details, though, distract from the broader effort to bolster Trump’s rhetoric. The post-election period offered Republican leaders a choice: build political capital with right-wing voters by siding with Trump’s obviously false and baseless claims of fraud or challenge the sitting president’s rhetoric — including by refusing to amplify it. The elected officials listed above had no qualms about sharing misinformation about the election. In fact, their messages to Meadows often indicate that they may actually have believed the quickly debunked claims they were spreading. Even on Jan. 6 itself, Greene and at least one other elected Republican tried to blame the riot on the political left.

While we talk about the House select committee as being focused on the Capitol riot, the committee’s work covered much of the post-election effort by Trump to retain power. The preliminary report released on Monday explores not only the immediate triggers for the riot but also other parallel efforts by Trump and his allies to keep him in office.

Which makes the committee’s limited condemnations of other elected officials more notable. Despite those legislators having been actively involved in the broader effort and serving in positions that require an oath of fealty to the Constitution, the committee offered only formal objections over the failure of four legislators — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Biggs, Jordan and Perry — to comply with the committee’s requests for information. Instead of doing so, several of them were explicit in casting the committee as illegitimate or partisan, intentionally weakening the potency of the committee’s work.

It’s unlikely that the Ethics Committee will offer much of a slap on the wrist, if any, particularly since that bipartisan committee will soon be chaired by a Republican. Those members of the House who amplified Trump’s false claims, worked to assist with his efforts to retain power, voted to block electors from Arizona and Pennsylvania and then blocked or minimized the investigation undertaken by their colleagues will simply continue to serve in Congress.

On Jan. 3, they will once again take a sworn oath to defend the Constitution, as they did on the same day two years prior.

Prove Me Wrong — PLEASE!

Joe Biden has promised to do everything in his power to heal the wounds that divide the people of this nation, to bring unity where there is only separation and hate.  I fully believe he will try, but we all have to do our part … he cannot do it alone.  And today, it seems to me that nearly half the nation does not want unity, though they claim they do.  Perhaps they are defining ‘unity’ as everyone bending to their own views.

In an early morning text from a friend, there was this …

“… the “new” President call 74 MILLION Americans…. white suprematists. He’s off to a great start. Unity? I think not a chance in hell now.”

And that was only the beginning.  Senator Rand Paul said in a morning interview with Fox News …

“If you read his speech and listen to it carefully, much of it is thinly veiled innuendo. Calling us white supremacists, calling us racists, calling us every name in the book. Calling us people who don’t tell the truth.  ‘And going forward we’re not going to have manufactured or manipulated truth.’ That’s another way of saying ‘All of my opponents manufacture or manipulate the truth and are liars.’”

And speaking of Fox, ol’ Tucker Carlson just had to throw a bucket of fuel on the fire, saying …

“Now that we’re waging war on white supremacists. Can somebody tell us in very clear language what a white supremacist is? Biden has now declared war. So, we should know specifically and precisely who exactly he has declared war on. We have a right to know that innocent people could be hurt in this war. They usually are.”

Joe Biden offered an olive branch, and some republicans are determined to destroy it rather than accept it.  It’s almost as if they take great pleasure from the current atmosphere of hate and divisiveness.  Biden wasn’t looping Republicans generally in with white supremacists and extremists. Carlson is doing that. Paul is doing that.

I’m sure there is a large contingent of republicans who are hopeful that Biden can, in fact, lessen the tensions, find common ground on the issues that divide us, and helps us find the path to mutual respect, but they aren’t speaking loudly enough, if at all.  The only republican voices I’m hearing are those who aren’t even willing to give peace a chance.

From an OpEd by Philip Bump writing for The Washington Post …

It’s important to note that this is clearly not what Biden was talking about. He was talking about the rise of white nationalist extremism and violence of the sort that has been manifested occasionally in recent years and which the Department of Homeland Security (under Trump) identified as the most significant terrorism threat in the country. He was talking about the sort of extremism that contributed to what happened at the Capitol.

There is some undercurrent of sympathy among Republicans generally for what happened there. Most Americans reject the mob’s actions in storming the Capitol, though, as a Washington Post-ABC News poll found, 15 percent of Republicans at least somewhat support the storming of the Capitol itself. A HuffPost-YouGov poll taken shortly after the attack found that most Republicans viewed the mob’s actions as being mostly right or simply having gone too far in pursuit of a valid point.

I remember a time when being a republican or a democrat was not a divisive feature.  Sure, there have always been ideological differences – hence the reason for two distinct political parties.  But it wasn’t the thing that defined us, as it appears to be today.  This nation is split in half, though not by any physical boundaries, but rather by prejudice and intolerance.  President Joe Biden wants to start to put us back together, but it can only work if people on both sides of the issues are willing to make it work.  Taking his words, twisting them to mean something entirely different, then spewing hateful remarks is not the answer, people!

I call on every person, whether democrat, republican, or independent, to give Joe a chance, for Pete’s sake!  Within twelve hours of him taking his Oath of Office, people were already denigrating and swearing that they would not even listen to his actual words, would not be open to trying to help make his attempts at healing the Great Divide work.  Do these people actually crave violence, want a damn civil war?  I’ve said many times in the last four years that this is no longer a country I recognize.  I was hoping that would change under a President Biden, but it can only change if we all want it to.  Do we still have any shared values in this country?  Today, I have my doubts.  PLEASE prove me wrong!