Mike Pence Is WRONG!

On January 6th, 2021, the insurrectionists Trump had summoned to Washington to storm the Capitol constructed a noose outside the Capitol and began chanting “Hang Mike Pence.”  When informed that they were threatening to hang Mike Pence, his own Vice President, Donald Trump replied, “Mike deserves it” and said that those rioters were not doing anything wrong.  Since then, Donald Trump has contended that the responsibility for the attempted coup on January 6th was the fault of Mike Pence …

“Had he sent the votes back to the legislatures, they wouldn’t have had a problem with Jan. 6, so in many ways you can blame him for Jan. 6.”

In March of this year, Pence said at the Gridiron dinner in Washington …

“His reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day. And I know that history will hold Donald Trump accountable.”

Now, against that backdrop, here is what Mike Pence said on Wednesday regarding the indictment that would be handed down the next day (yesterday) …

“I hope the DOJ thinks better of it and resolves these issues without an indictment. No. 1, I think it would be terribly divisive to the country.”

“ I think it would also send a terrible message to the wider world. I mean, we’re the emblem of democracy. We’re the symbol of justice in the world.”

Take a minute to process that … and to pick your jaw up off the floor.

First … “divisive to the country”???  Seriously???  Has Pence turned on the news, picked up a paper, or gone online for the past two years???  Thanks in large part to Trump’s never-ending spew of hate speech, this nation is more divided than it has ever been since the end of the Civil War!  There is no longer ANY middle ground. Trump being convicted and sentenced to prison would be the best thing that could happen to the country.

Second … Donald Trump intentionally and with malice put Pence and his family in serious danger.  He put the entire nation in serious danger.  But Pence’s excuse smells like what comes out of the rear end of a bull!

Indicting a ‘man’ who placed the entire nation in danger, a ‘man’ who grievously harmed that democracy that Pence says we are an emblem of, a ‘man’ who engaged in criminal misconduct, a ‘man’ who has lied to the people who placed their trust, their lives into his hands, is not a black mark, it merely shows the world that we made a mistake and we’re attempting to rectify it!  It says to the world that we will not tolerate a crooked regime, one who acts out of self-interest.  It shows the world we realize we are not infallible, but that we will hold everyone, regardless of who they are or what position they served in, accountable for their actions.

If we fail to hold Trump accountable for his crimes, the message we send to the world is that we are no longer a democracy, that we are a corrupt regime that is willing to re-install a criminal in the highest office of the land.  We will have proven that we are no better than Hungary, North Korea, or maybe even Iran.

But third … how in the Sam Hell does Pence think the Department of Justice could “resolve these issues without an indictment?”  Does he think there’s a magic wand that Attorney General Garland can wave that will make the whole document theft simply disappear, erase everyone’s memory of it?  This is not a damned board game where you can just swipe the board clean and set it up afresh!

And then Pence went on to say, “I don’t know the facts of the former president’s case.”  He doesn’t know the facts, but he knows it could be resolved without an indictment?  Isn’t that somewhat like a doctor trying to diagnose cancer over the phone?

We the People have been waiting for this indictment for a long time, and no doubt there will be turmoil and chaos in the coming months, most of it caused by Trump himself and his rabid followers, but at the end of the day, all we want is justice.  We want to know for a fact that there is equal justice under the law, no matter who you are, no matter how much money you have, and no matter if you were once called ‘Mr. President.’

Mike Pence once earned a degree of respect in my eyes for doing his job and certifying the 2020 election rather than doing as his boss demanded and throwing the nation into chaos.  However, for him to deny accountability to his former boss is disrespectful to We the People and to the nation.

George Santos — The Face Of Today’s GOP?

Yesterday, I noted in a brief snippet that serial liar George Santos had been arrested on 13 counts of financial crimes such as wire fraud and money-laundering.  George Santos seems to have studied at the Trump School of Cons & Liars, doesn’t he?  Today, I share with you Joyce Vance’s deeper dive into the charges, causes, and potential penalties for these crimes.  Ms. Vance is an attorney and a Distinguished Visiting Lecturer in Law, teaching in the areas of criminal justice reform, criminal procedure, and civil rights, so she knows of what she speaks. Kevin McCarthy, desperate to keep his very narrow majority in the House of Representatives, is refusing to demand Santos’ resignation, and Santos is claiming he will remain in his seat in the House.  Governance???  HAH!   More like a clown show!

The Tragicomedy of George Santos and the GOP

Also, understanding the crimes Santos is charged with

Joyce Vance

10 May 2023

What is the worst fate that could befall a political party? Leaving Donald Trump (sexual assaulter, twice-impeached, insurrectionist, former president who badly lost his effort to hold onto the office and is still denying it on national television, thanks to CNN and their misguided “town hall” Wednesday night) for the moment, it’s George Santos, also a serial liar. Instead of offloading him at the first possible moment, when news of who he really is came to light, Republicans held onto him. They supported him. They wanted his vote in Congress so badly that they revealed to us who they’ve become through their embrace of him. Of course, most of us already knew. We’ve understood the truth about what the Grand Old Party has become for some time.

What could be more plain than the tragedy for a political party of having a George, or is it Devolder, in your ranks? The tragedy of the post-Trump Republican Party is summed up, very tidily, in the person of George Santos.

He lied about his mother’s death and tried to claim the mantle of sympathy for victims of 9/11. He claimed to be Jewish and, then, Jew-ish. There’s nothing George Santos won’t stoop to. Today we learned what DOJ believes it can prove to a jury, beyond a reasonable doubt.

Ahead of Santos’s first appearance in court this morning, DOJ unsealed a 13-count indictment charging him with seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, one count of theft of public funds, and two counts of making materially false statements to the House of Representatives. Read the full indictment here. And the press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York, which further explains the charges they brought along with DOJ’s Criminal Division, here.

Santos has almost inevitably pleaded guilty to try to limit his time in custody. While some of the charges will place him in a sentencing guideline range where at least some time in prison is required, he could plead, for instance to the false statements charges, where that might not be the case. However, his prior criminal history is murky and he may end up in a category where no matter what, he has to spend at least some period of time in custody. Here’s hoping.

Prosecutors have also requested the seizure of assets Santos obtained as a result of his crimes. If they can’t be located, substitute assets in their value can be seized.

Let’s take a first look at what these charges require the government to prove.

Wire fraud: The elements of wire fraud are (1) that the defendant voluntarily and intentionally devised or participated in a scheme to defraud someone out of money; (2) that the defendant had the intent to defraud; (3) that the defendant knew or should have foreseen that interstate wire communications would be used; and (4) that interstate wire communications were in fact used. What differentiates wire fraud from other federal fraud crimes like mail fraud or bank fraud is proof that the defendant made an interstate phone call or electronic communication to execute the scheme. In other words, sending a potential donor an email.

The maximum statutory sentence for wire fraud is 20 years, or 30 years if “the violation occurs in relation to, or involving any benefit authorized, transported, transmitted, transferred, disbursed, or paid in connection with, a presidentially declared major disaster or emergency.” There was speculation before we saw the indictment that the 30-year penalty could come into play because of Covid. Although counts 1 through 5 of the indictment charge wire fraud, they are in connection with illegal campaign contributions Santos sought. But counts 10 and 11 involved his fraudulent application for and receipt of Covid-related unemployment benefits and they could well trigger the longer provision.

Money laundering: 18 U.S.C. § 1957 is a companion to § 1956, the primary federal money laundering statute. Section 1957 prohibits depositing or spending more than $10,000 of the proceeds from a “predicate offense.” The statutory maximum penalty is 10 years in custody. Santos is charged in connection with transfers of money obtained through illegal campaign contributions to accounts he accessed for personal use.

There, the government has to prove five elements to establish this crime: (1) the defendant knowingly engaged or attempted to engage in a monetary transaction; (2) the defendant knew that the transaction involved criminally derived property (they don’t have to know exactly what the crime was, though); (3) the criminally derived property must have a value that exceeds $10,000; (4) the criminally derived property has to been obtained through the commission of an unlawful activity specified in the money-laundering provisions; and the monetary transaction must have taken place, for purposes of this case, in the United States.

Theft of government property: Title 18 U.S.C. § 641 provides that whoever “steals” any “thing of value of the United States or of any department or agency thereof” shall be fined and imprisoned no more than 10 years so long as the value of the stolen property is over $1,000. If it’s less than that, the crime becomes a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison. The charge here relates to the unemployment benefits Santos obtained by lying about his employment status during Covid, and assuming the government can prove its contention that he obtained over $1,000 he wasn’t entitled to, this is another felony charge.

The government will have to prove Santos stole government property—benefits like this typically qualify under this provision—with the intent to keep them permanently. 

False statements: Republicans may not be intent on holding Santos responsible for the false statements he made on his disclosure forms, but DOJ wants a word here, charging Santos with false statements on both his 2020 and 2022 disclosure forms.

Section 1001’s statutory terms are violated if a defendant knowingly makes false, fictitious, or fraudulent statements or representations about a material matter to an agency or department of the United States. The maximum penalty is five years in custody.

“Materiality” is a hot issue in 1001 cases. To be criminal, the statement has to have been capable of influencing the outcome of the endeavor the false statement was submitted in support of. An easy way to understand this is to think about a passport application. If you submit one using a false name and statement about being a citizen, those false statements would be material to the State Department’s decision as to whether to grant a passport. That explains why the test for materiality isn’t whether the false statement actually influenced a government function but whether it had the capacity to influence. The government alleges Santos made false statements about his earnings that were submitted to the House Ethics Committee. It’s not difficult to envision some question about whether Santos’s false statements in this regard are material given that Committee’s seeming inertia.

That’s a quick layout of the legal elements the government will have to prove to convict on each of these charges. More likely, they will be reciting those elements and the evidence they have to support them for whichever charges are selected for Santos to plead to.

Santos is a garden-variety con man. It’s likely no one was more surprised than Santos himself when he won the election. He was campaigning for the grift. He would have kept his ill-gotten gains if he’d lost. His unemployment benefits fraud likely would not have come to light. It was his electoral success that set the events that led to his prosecution in motion. Had Santos lost, it’s unlikely any of this would have ever come to light. But Republicans’ unvetted support for him—Elise Stefanik, the Harvard-educated lawyer in the Republican leadership, was a key fundraiser—and insistence that he remain in office has brought about this result. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has declined to demand his resignation. You are what you tolerate. Whether it’s George Santos or Donald Trump, who took center stage on CNN tonight to repeat his lies and spew his hate, we can know the Republican Party by the company it keeps.

Trump’s performance tonight, and the laughing audience that seemingly enjoyed his denigration of the criminal justice system and of democracy itself, frighten me. We have a lot of hard work ahead of us, something I say a lot but that is nonetheless true if we’re going to hold onto this democracy.

We’re in this together

The Republican Taliban?

It would be a misstatement to say that Republican males hate women.  They don’t hate us, but they also don’t see us as equals, either physically, intellectually, or culturally.  We are, it would appear, put on this earth for their pleasure, to meet all their needs – sexually, taking care of their homes, cooking their meals, etc.  Sadly, they have convinced many Republican women that this is the case, and those women dutifully, as Loretta Lynn once sang, Stand By Your Man.  Thus, the majority of Republicans are trying in this, the 21st century, to return women to their ‘place’ as they were in the last century and before.  When we speak of “women’s rights”, Republicans roll their eyes as if we were ignorant children and completely ignore the laws that have given us such rights as equality in the workplace, the right to vote, to own property, divorce our husbands, and the rights to make our own healthcare decisions, just as men do.  We women would be well-advised to stock up on clothes hangers before they ban those, too!

Joyce Vance of Substack, has written of the latest decision by a Texas judge to further strip us of our rights, and she does so far better than I could …

No More Mifepristone

Joyce Vance

08 April 2023

On the Friday before Easter, just after the end of the work week in Texas, a federal judge in Amarillo decided that Mifepristone, one of two key drugs used for medicated abortion, should be banned. This despite 20 years of data showing it’s safe and effective. Mifepristone has a lower rate of complications than Tylenol.

The judge also entered a stay, which means his order won’t go into effect for seven days. He did it to give the government an opportunity to appeal. But if neither the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, deeply conservative after a tranche of Trump appointments, nor the Supreme Court orders a lengthier extension, legal access to Mifepristone will come to an end. Not just in Texas, but nationwide.

The government didn’t need seven days. It filed its appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals a few hours after the decision.

DOJ was prepared to file immediately because they understood the inevitable ruling in this case. Judge Kacsmaryk, who the plaintiffs judge-shopped for by filing this case in the Amarillo division where virtually all cases are assigned to him, has a background of deep antagonism to letting pregnant people make their own decisions. Kacsmaryk’s legal ruling affects the entire country, not just Texas. A federal district judge in Washington state entered a ruling ordering the FDA to keep Mifepristone on the market, just moments after the Texas ruling.  But Kacsmaryk  entered a nationwide injunction that rescinds the FDA’s approval of Mifepristone nationwide—even in states where abortion is still legal and without exception for the mother’s health.

That’s not the legal landscape the Supreme Court said it was creating when it ended 50 years of abortion rights under Roe v. Wade in the Dobbs case. When the Court decided Dobbs, it said decisions about whether and under what circumstances abortion should be legal would be left up to each state. But now, Judge Kacsmaryk has made that decision for all of us—you and me, for our mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts and friends, regardless of medical necessity or our personal religious and moral beliefs. Judge Kacsmaryk knows best.

Challenged legal rulings are typically stayed to preserve the status quo while appeals work their way through the courts. But the post-Trump, uber-conservative Supreme Court has always had a different jurisprudence when it comes to abortion, permitting restrictive measures like Texas’s SB-8 vigilante justice law to go into effect while the appeal was pending. Nothing says “result-oriented” like special rules for anti-abortion litigants (to say nothing of reversing the long-standing precedent of Roe that had worked well to balance rights and did not meet the Court’s test for when precedent should be reversed). It’s tempting to think the Court might decide the Mifepristone decision is a bridge too far, if not based on legal principles and the expectations it set when it decided Dobbs, then out of purely pragmatic political considerations some of Justice Clarence Thomas’s billionaire friends might want to see in order to avoid steep Republican losses at the polls following yet another anti-abortion decision. But it’s difficult to imagine this Court walking it back so close to its goal of extinguishing abortion rights. DOJ has strong arguments to make on appeal—compelling ones on threshold issues like whether the plaintiffs had standing to bring this case, as well as on the merits. Whether the Court will give them a fair hearing is an entirely different matter.

Soon, we’ll find out if the Court meant it when it said abortion would be up to the states. Or, can one judge in Texas resurrect the long-disfavored Comstock Act and terminate people’s rights across America. The Act is an 1873 law that makes it illegal to advertise or mail anything, including information, related to preventing contraception or producing abortion (as well as outlawing sending “obscene, lewd or lascivious,” “immoral,” or “indecent” publications). The Comstock Act fell into disuse because of its effect on 1st Amendment rights—it involves prior restraint by the government on speech. The prohibition on materials and items related to contraception was removed after the Supreme Court’s 1965 decision in Griswold v. Connecticut, which held that Connecticut’s “mini-Comstock” law unconstitutionally invaded the privacy rights of married couples. Be concerned about where a resuscitation of this law could lead.

Restricting abortion today does not seem to be about good faith conservative values and protecting the sanctity of life. It’s hard to believe that a party that denies access to basic medical care and education, and that lets school kids die at the hands of mass shooters in the name of the Second Amendment is deeply committed to unborn children, unless it’s become somehow morally righteous to protect them only until they leave the womb. Ending abortion is a political rallying cry, used to bring voters to the polls and raise money, with a healthy side-effect of owning uppity liberal women.

It’s really not that difficult. If you’re against abortion, don’t get one. We live in a pluralistic society and there are religions other than conservative Christianity, for instance Judaism, that command their followers to protect the life of a mother over that of an unborn fetus. Somehow, their rights are now ignored, while a minority that has gained control of the Supreme Court dictates to the rest of us.

Interestingly, banning Mifepristone isn’t just part of the trend to make abortion less available, it’s also part of the trend to make it less safe and to endanger women’s lives. I spoke with Jesanna Cooper, a friend and a doctor in Birmingham, who is an experienced Ob-Gyn. She told me, “the take home is that without mifepristone more people will hemorrhage and/or get septic from incomplete expulsion of the products of conception.” Using Misoprostol, the other drug used in a medication abortion procedure, alone is “less effective,” she told me. It involves the “same amount of pain but [is] more likely to be incomplete, which can be dangerous.” It doesn’t sound very pro-life.

More information about the two drugs, if you want to read some of the science, here.

In 1996, then-Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder (D-CO), tried to convince the House to take the Comstock Act off the books. They didn’t. But her floor speech has resonance today. She explained that the Act was named for a man named Anthony Comstock, who “was one of these people who decided only he knew what was virtuous and right, and somehow he managed to convince all sorts of people that this was correct.” That sounds familiar.

She continued, “Anthony Comstock was a religious fanatic who spent his life in a personal crusade for moral purity–as defined, of course, by himself. This crusade resulted in the arrest and imprisonment of a multitude of Americans whose only crime was to exercise their constitutional right of free speech in ways that offended Anthony Comstock. Women seemed to particularly offend Anthony Comstock, most particularly women who believed in the right to plan their families through the use of contraceptives, or in the right of women to engage in discussions and debate about matters involving sexuality, including contraception and abortion.” We don’t need a new Anthony Comstock and we don’t need Judge Kacsmaryk to dictate the health care—or absence of it—to people across the country.

You know what the solution is: go vote. Democrats will need sufficient majorities in both houses of Congress to restore protections for abortion. It’s not enough to win the House or the Senate, Democrats must take both to ensure access to abortion, and 2024 is not that far off.

We’re in this together,


Joyce Vance is an American lawyer who served as the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama from 2009 to 2017. She was one of the first five U.S. Attorneys, and the first female U.S. Attorney, nominated by President Barack Obama.

Our good friend Annie also has an excellent take on this that I hope you’ll take time to read.

The Case For “Justice For All”

Last night, as I read Charles Blow’s latest column, I found myself in complete agreement with every word.  In particular, I nodded loudly when I read, “The justice system must be untethered from political implications and consequences, even the possibility of disruptive consequences.”  Indeed so!  Justice cannot be held hostage by those who threaten violence!!!  Read on for his extremely intelligent assessment of why Donald Trump MUST be prosecuted …

Donald Trump Must Be Prosecuted

By Charles M. Blow

15 March 2023

Donald Trump may finally be indicted. Finally!

The Manhattan district attorney’s office has signaled that charges, related to Trump’s reported hush-money payments to the porn star Stormy Daniels, are likely.

But there’s also hand-wringing: about whether this is the best case to be the first among those in which Trump is likely to be criminally charged, the strength of this case compared to others and the historic implications of indicting a former president for anything.

And with regard to those implications, the central considerations always seem to be the importance of any precedent set by prosecuting a former president and the broader political significance — what damage it might do to the country. Often left out of that calculus, it seems to me, is the damage Trump has already done and is poised to continue to do.

Prosecution is not the problem; Trump himself is. And any pretense that the allegations of his marauding criminality are a sideshow to the political stakes and were, therefore, remedied in 2020 at the ballot box rather than in a jury box, is itself a miscarriage of justice and does incalculable damage.

Last year, around the time the House Jan. 6 committee was holding hearings, Elaine Kamarck, the founding director of the Center for Effective Public Management at the Brookings Institution, wrote: “Prosecuting Trump is not a simple matter of determining whether the evidence is there. It is a question embedded in the larger issue of how to restore and defend American democracy.”

I don’t see it that way. Any case against Trump must hang on the evidence and the principle that justice is blind. The political considerations, including gaming out what might be the ideal sequence of cases, across jurisdictions and by their gravity, only serve to distort the judicial process.

The justice system must be untethered from political implications and consequences, even the possibility of disruptive consequences.

For instance, could an indictment and prosecution of Trump cause consternation and possibly even unrest? Absolutely. Trump has been preparing his followers for his martyrdom for years and evangelizing to them the idea that any sanctioning of him is an attack on them. This transference of feelings of persecution and pain from manufactured victimhood is a classic psychological device of a cult leader.

Trump uses the passions he has inflamed as a political threat against those pursuing him: In 2019, when he was facing impeachment, he took to Twitter, citing a quote from Pastor Robert Jeffress, who’d appeared on Fox News and recklessly posited that if Trump were removed from office “it will cause a Civil War-like fracture in this nation from which this country will never heal.”

Last year, on a conservative talk radio show, Trump said that if he were indicted in connection with his alleged mishandling of classified documents, “I think you’d have problems in this country the likes of which perhaps we’ve never seen before. I don’t think the people of the United States would stand for it.”

Over and over, Trump has goaded his supporters in this direction: whether during the 2016 presidential race, urging rallygoers to “knock the crap out of” people who might disrupt the proceedings, or telling the Proud Boys, during a 2020 debate, to “stand back and stand by.”

On Jan. 6, 2021, he waited and watched the attack on the Capitol for hours, resisting pleas from his own advisers to try to stop it. When Trump finally made a statement, he downplayed the insurrection and reluctantly told the rioters to go home, but not without adding: “We love you. You’re very special.”

Trump is the impresario of incitement. He’ll use any attempt to hold him accountable to agitate and activate his loyalists.

That’s not a reason to avoid vigorously and swiftly pursuing him legally, but rather a reason to do it. If we establish a precedent that amassing a significant threat to society is a ward against enforcement of the law, it makes a mockery of the law.

It would reinforce what was already a persistent problem in the criminal justice system: unequal treatment of the rich and powerful, compared to that of the poor and powerless.

A series of studies from more than a decade ago in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that upper-income people were more likely to lie, cheat and literally take candy meant to be given to children. The researchers postulated that several factors could have contributed to this, including a lowered perception of risk, plenty of money to deal with the “downstream costs” of their behavior, feelings of entitlement, less concern about what other people think and a general sense that greed is good.

At the same time, as Jeffrey Reiman and Paul Leighton write in their book, “The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison,” “The criminal justice system is biased from start to finish in a way that guarantees that, for the same crimes, members of the lower classes are much more likely than members of the middle and upper classes to be arrested, convicted and imprisoned.”

The authors go further, theorizing that the goal of the criminal justice system isn’t even to prevent crime or provide justice, but rather to “project to the American public a credible image of the threat of crime as a threat from the poor.” When you think of it that way, it’s not hard to see how Trump and many of his admirers choose to see him as above the law. Indeed, if he weren’t rich and powerful, charges would almost surely have been filed long ago.

Prosecuting Trump wouldn’t break the country. On the contrary, it would be a step toward mending it, a step toward undergirding the flimsy promise of “equal justice under law.”

The eyes of the country are on these cases — the eyes of all those who’ve been badgered for minor violations, who’ve had the book thrown at them for crimes that others either got away with or served no time for. Not only are they watching, but so are their loved ones and their communities.

They, too, are America, and further damaging their faith in the country should matter as much as damaging the faith of any other part of our body politic.

To rehabilitate American justice, Trump must be prosecuted.

Oh Please, Merrick Garland, SOS!

Robert Reich’s first three sentences of his newsletter this morning echoes my own sentiments exactly.  I don’t want to write about him, don’t want to hear his name or see his ugly mug, and I will go one step further on the third point … I wish he didn’t exist.  Never in my 71 years has a single person disgusted and sickened me as much as the former guy.  But the reality is … we cannot afford to ignore him.

Trump Redux

He looms over the 2022 midterm elections. He cannot be ignored or wished away.

By Robert Reich

24 October 2022

I really don’t want to write about him any more. I’d rather not even think about him. Honestly, I’d rather forget he existed.

But he looms over the 2022 elections like a sword of Damocles. Trump continues to dominate all political coverage. In many respects, he is still the center of American politics — if anything, bigger and more dangerous than he was when he left the White House.

First, consider all the action in federal and state courts.

Just within the last two weeks, Trump has been subpoenaed to appear before the January 6 committee, his appeal to the Supreme Court challenging the FBI’s seizure at Mar-a-Lago of secret documents he stole from the White House was rejected, his former aide Steve Bannon was sentenced to four months in prison for contempt of Congress, a federal appeals court denied a request by Sen. Lindsey Graham to be shielded from testifying in an investigation into Trump’s interference in the 2020 election in Georgia, other aides were observed after testifying before a grand jury in the criminal investigation of Jan. 6, his name was featured in text messages read aloud at the Oath Keepers trial, and his decision to form a new company (Trump Organization II) was criticized by the New York attorney general, who is suing him.

Never before in history has a former president, his aides, and supporters in Congress been as entangled in legal proceedings stretching years beyond his administration. Never have the legal maneuvers attracted more media attention.

Second is the continuing speculation about whether Merrick Garland will indict him.

The Jan 6 committee has done an outstanding job, but it has also helped Trump become a more historically significant. As Politico’s John Harris noted,  

“The usual journalistic crutch when assessing political legacies is ‘for better or worse,’ but in this case it is only for worse. Trump’s historic significance flows from how effectively he has made people doubt what was previously beyond doubt — that American democracy is on the level — and how brilliantly he has illuminated just how much this generation of Americans looks at one another with mutual contempt and mutual incomprehension.”

While the Jan. 6 committee has dismantled Trump’s deceptions and denialism surrounding the 2020 election, it has also helped build Trump into something larger than he appeared two years ago — a political force too serious to forget. That’s not a bad thing; we must not allow ourselves to forget what he has done to America. But it does cast his shadow over our future in ways few former presidents have ever managed.

Third is the groundwork for an undemocratic coup that Trump and his henchmen continue to lay.

That groundwork is being prepared step by step. A majority of Republican candidates for office in the 2020 midterms are election deniers, including several candidates for the crucial election jobs of secretaries of state and governors.  

The tactics they and their supporters used in primary elections force us to brace for a range of new challenges in the upcoming midterms and in 2024, including disruptive poll watchers and workers, aggressive litigation strategies, voter and ballot challenges and vigilante searches for fraud.

He will almost certainly declare his candidacy for president in 2024 within the next few months.

Just as menacingly for 2024 and beyond, the Supreme Court has taken up the “independent state legislature” doctrine. If upheld, this doctrine would allow state legislatures to do exactly what Trump tried to do in December 2020 — appoint their own slates of electors, regardless of the popular vote.

Finally, Twitter and Facebook are poised to allow Trump back on — to continue to spread his lies on the largest megaphones in the world.

Trump is not only a sociopath. He is also a masterful conman. Social media will soon allow him to continue to spread his lies and hate. (Elon Musk has virtually guaranteed it for Twitter if, as expected, Musk takes over that platform. Facebook has signaled it will do the same.)

A sociopathic conman on social media is terrifying.

It is our terrible misfortune that Trump came to power and continues to infect America and the world just as the tangled weave of other crises — near-record inequality, bigotry (racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia), the climate, the pandemic — have made many Americans vulnerable to his demagoguery.

I didn’t want to write about him today or even think about him. But none of us dares turn our eyes away in revulsion.

Rather than ignore him, we must demand that Trump be prosecuted. Instead of pretending the poison he released into the American system is behind us, we must acknowledge that it is spreading.

As opposed to dismissing him, we must deal with him and the lawmakers who are enabling him head-on — and stop him, and them, through every non-violent means possible.

A Horrendous Ruling …

Are we getting tired yet?  Are we sickened by all we see coming out of the extreme right, the former guy & his minions, and the exaggerated evangelicals?  Would we like to just go somewhere ‘far away from the madding crowd’ and live out our days in peace?  Yeah … me too.  But guess what?  That’s what they’re counting on … the right-wingers who would replace our Constitution with their bible, and replace our democracy with their theocracy are hoping we’ll get so exhausted by it that we’ll tuck our tails between our legs and slink off, leaving them to do as they will.  But NO!!! We’re gonna all take a few nice deep breaths and remind ourselves what’s at stake here, then get back in the saddle and do whatever we can to stamp “PAID” on the lunacy that resides in the U.S. today.

I was enraged and incensed by the news that U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon ruled to appoint a special master to review the Mar-a-Lago search, possibly delaying the Justice Department’s work that is certain to result in charges against Trump.  The first thing I said was to call her a not-very-nice word meaning prostitute, for in my book she has prostituted herself … she indebted herself to Trump in exchange for a prestigious judicial appointment.  And this week, he called in the debt.  And she paid it, even though her decision goes against the people of this nation, goes against the rule of law, goes against everything she learned in her tenure at University of Michigan Law School.

I share here Robert Hubbell’s views of the horrendous decision …

Judge Cannon did everyone a favor.

Robert Hubbell

7 September 2022

In one respect, Judge Aileen Cannon did everyone a favor in her decision to appoint a special master to review the Mar-a-Lago search. She wrote an opinion so awful and bereft of legal reasoning that commentators on all sides of the political spectrum are panning the opinion as an abomination. Indeed, they are falling over themselves to find adjectives, comparisons, and metaphors that adequately describe the havoc of her decision. Here is a fair sampling:

          And then there is Bill Barr, a man who destroyed his legacy to support Trump. Here is what Bill Barr told Trump’s supporters during an appearance on Fox News:

  • The opinion, I think, was wrong, and I think the government should appeal it. It’s deeply flawed in a number of ways.
  • [T]he government has very strong evidence of what it really needs to determine whether charges are appropriate . . . there’s some evidence to suggest that they were deceived.
  • [N]one of [the government’s case] really relates to the content of documents. It relates to the fact that there were documents [at Mar-a-Lago] and the fact that they were classified and the fact that they were subpoenaed and never delivered.

My point is not to trash Judge Cannon’s integrity, intelligence, or fairness. She has already done so beyond my meager ability to add to the opprobrium already heaped upon her. Rather, the point is that Judge Cannon now understands she is universally regarded as the most incompetent, biased, and clueless federal district judge in the nation—and that is saying something!

          How Judge Cannon responds to that stomach-churning realization is what matters. Will Judge Cannon attempt to undo her grotesque error by revising her order? Will she reject efforts by Trump’s team to exploit the legal gruel disguised as analysis in her opinion? Or will she redouble her efforts to serve as Trump’s surrogate defense counsel from her position on the bench in the Southern District of Florida?

          The next few days will provide much more information about Judge Cannon’s intentions. I infer (read: speculate) that she is in legal waters way above her head and tried to kludge a remedy unsupported by the law. The result is a Frankenstein’s monster that will haunt her for the remainder of her career. Her decision is already being cited as “The Loose Cannon Rule,” under which criminal defendants can seek a stay of federal criminal proceedings whenever evidence is seized under a search warrant.

          The DOJ has many paths forward, most of which are legally complicated and equally unsatisfactory. But as Bill Barr also noted in his comments to Fox News, the decision is more like a “rain delay.” One of the most likely steps is for Merrick Garland to proceed with the special master process and appeal the order staying the investigation—which is a constitutional insult of the highest order.

          In her order, Judge Cannon has told the Article II branch of the government that it may not perform the duties granted to it by the Constitution. As Neal Katyal noted yesterday on MSNBC, none of his first-year law students at Georgetown would suggest such an outlandish and unsupported violation of separation of powers. Although the University of Michigan Law School is not the guarantor of the future performance of its graduates, the faculty at the U.Mich.Law should be revising their syllabi to add a few extra sessions on separation of powers—not to mention a deep dive into US v. Nixon. And judicial ethics. And legal research. And common sense.

          In the end, Judge Cannon’s decision is so bad it cannot stand. The DOJ will find a way to circumvent the worst parts of her ruling. Trump stole classified documents, concealed them, lied about it, and refused to return them after being served with a grand jury subpoena. He is in deep trouble. If past is prologue, Trump will make his predicament worse by uttering new lies and issuing new admissions.

Beyond my Understanding.

You’ve all heard that expression “Can’t see the forest for the trees.” And to an extent, it’s true … here in the U.S. we are so bombarded with the latest horrors that happen on a daily … nay, an HOURLY basis now that it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture. So, when someone from across the pond weighs in, it is often with more clarity and focus than we can have. Our friend David has done just that with a post he wrote in his sleepless hours last night, and it is well worth the read. He cuts to the chase, leaves aside the minutiae, and clarifies the main thing that needs to happen. Since David is still having trouble getting his comment section working, feel free to leave him your thoughts here and I’ll make sure he sees them. Thank you, David, for your well-stated views!


I’ve been reading about the disclosures made by the House Select Committee investigating Jan 6th and I confess that it’s blown my mind, In the past I’ve made mention that Trump is a con-man though on large scale with his Trump University Scam and his Trump Charity Scam. I can maybe see how a man with the Gift of the Gab could get away with things for so long but now, not to such a degree.

Donald Trump asked for donations to fund his ‘Official Election Defence Fund’ to pay legal fees to challenge and overturn the ‘stolen’ 2020 Election results. He received 250 million in donations for a fund that didn’t exist then….or since which means he committed Wire fraud. Of that money, 13 million went to pay court expenses. The rest went to organisations run by Trump staffers, The Trump Hotel Collections or to the fiancee of Donald…

View original post 278 more words

Republican Voices of Experience Speak Loudly

It’s one thing for someone like me, a mere political observer, to say that Donald Trump must be prosecuted for his crimes, particularly the crime of inciting an attempted coup to overturn an election, to kill the voices of We the People.  You and I can say it all we want, but our words carry little or no weight with the courts or the Department of Justice, the people who really matter.  However, when former Justice Department officials who served in Republican administrations say it, then it carries weight and significance.

The following article, published in The Atlantic, was penned by the trio of Donald Ayer, Stuart M. Gerson, and Dennis Aftergut.  Ayer and Gerson worked in the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. Gerson also briefly served as the acting attorney general under President Bill Clinton, while Aftergut is a former federal prosecutor and former chief assistant city attorney for San Francisco.  Their words are powerful and I hope that those who need to listen … are listening.

The DOJ Must Prosecute Trump

The January 6 committee has provided overwhelming evidence that the former president was not some bit player along for the ride, but the central driver of a nefarious plot.

By Donald Ayer, Stuart Gerson, and Dennis Aftergut

After seven hearings held by the January 6 committee thus far this summer, doubts as to who is responsible have been resolved. The evidence is now overwhelming that Donald Trump was the driving force behind a massive criminal conspiracy to interfere with the official January 6 congressional proceeding and to defraud the United States of a fair election outcome.

The evidence is clearer and more robust than we as former federal prosecutors—two of us as Department of Justice officials in Republican administrations—thought possible before the hearings began. Trump was not just a willing beneficiary of a complex plot in which others played most of the primary roles. While in office, he himself was the principal actor in nearly all of its phases, personally executing key parts of most of its elements and aware of or involved in its worst features, including the use of violence on Capitol Hill. Most remarkably, he did so over vehement objections raised at every turn, even by his sycophantic and loyal handpicked team. This was Trump’s project all along.

Everyone knew before the hearings began that we were dealing with perhaps the gravest imaginable offense against the nation short of secession—a serious nationwide effort pursued at multiple levels to overturn the unambiguous outcome of a national election. We all knew as well that efforts were and are unfolding nationwide to change laws and undermine electoral processes with the specific objective of succeeding at the same project in 2024 and after. But each hearing has sharpened our understanding that Donald Trump himself is the one who made it happen.

As former prosecutors, we recognize the legitimacy of concerns that electoral winners prosecuting their defeated opponents may look like something out of a banana republic rather than the United States of America; that doing so might be viewed as opening the door to prosecutorial retaliation by future presidential winners; and that, in the case of this former president, it might lead to civil unrest.

But given the record now before us, all of these considerations must give way to the urgency of achieving a public reckoning for Donald Trump. The damage to America’s future that would be inflicted by giving him a pass far outweighs the risks of prosecuting him.

The committee’s evidence to date establishes multiple significant points for prosecutors. (A comprehensive summary of the evidence—offense by offense—is available at Just Security’s “Criminal Evidence Tracker.”)

First, contrary to speculation that Trump may have genuinely believed he won the election, and thus in his own mind was seeking rough justice in trying to change the outcome, the committee has demonstrated repeatedly that he knew beyond all doubt that he had lost fair and square. Trump’s former attorney general Bill Barr told the president that claims of widespread voter fraud were “bullshit.” Numerous reinforcements of that message were delivered by many others, including Barr’s successor, former Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen; former Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue; and multiple Trump-campaign officials.

Second, Trump’s involvement in carrying out the scheme was systematic, expansive, and extraordinarily personal. As if to illustrate how personal his intervention was (and is), Republican Liz Cheney, the committee’s vice chair and the representative from Wyoming, dropped a bombshell at the end of Tuesday’s hearing: Sometime since the previous hearing on June 28, Trump himself had contacted a witness, something that his lawyers certainly could have told him could easily lead to charges of witness tampering. Cheney announced that the committee has notified the Justice Department of Trump’s latest misconduct.

The committee’s previous hearings showed that in the months after the 2020 election, Trump himself—not some aide or lawyer or other ally—tried to interfere with the state vote-counting processes. Among the most memorable incidents was his 67-minute January 2 call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger asking him to “find” 11,780 nonexistent votes, creating a Trump win. Trump himself also called to try to influence the state’s chief elections investigator, Frances Watson, and spoke with Georgia Governor Brian Kemp to urge him to call a special legislative session to appoint alternative electors.

There is also evidence that Trump spoke with Republican Pennsylvania House Speaker Bryan Cutler after he had declined repeated calls from Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis, two Trump-campaign attorneys, to bring the legislature into session to decertify the state’s election results. And Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel and Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, also a Republican, both testified that Trump phoned them in December to ask for their help in implementing the infamous bogus-elector scheme. (John Eastman, another Trump lawyer, and Giuliani were also involved with those calls.)

Trump tried persistently to obtain the help of the Department of Justice in creating a false public impression that the election had been fraudulent. After he failed in mid-December to persuade Bill Barr to assert election fraud, Trump called Rosen, Barr’s successor, nearly every day in the same pursuit. And when this effort too failed, at a White House meeting on January 3, he undertook to replace Rosen with Jeffrey Clark, a second-tier DOJ official whom Trump had spoken with personally and found more compliant. This effort failed only when Donoghue and Rosen told Trump that the entire department’s leadership would resign if Clark were installed.

Crucial to the whole plot, of course, was the unlawful scheme to pressure Vice President Mike Pence into rejecting or delaying the electoral count. Multiple witnesses testified about being present to hear Trump’s “heated” call with Pence on the morning of January 6. One witness said that Trump called Pence a “wimp.” Ivanka Trump testified that she had never previously heard her father treat Pence that way, and she told another witness that Trump had used the “P-word” to denigrate the vice president’s manhood.

Ample evidence has also shown Trump well knew that Pence could not properly do as Trump urged. Mike Pence’s counsel, Greg Jacob, testified that Trump was present at a January 4 White House meeting where John Eastman admitted the unlawfulness of his and Trump’s plan to have the vice president not certify the electoral count two days later.

A third significant point for prosecutors is that the hearings have put into sharp focus Trump’s personal involvement and advance knowledge of the dangerous circumstances surrounding the January 6 insurrection. Cassidy Hutchinson, who was the principal aide to Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, testified that she overheard Trump complain just before his January 6 speech on the Ellipse that supporters were not being allowed into the security area for his speech while armed, and thus were staying outside. She recalled Trump asking to have the magnetometers removed, saying that he did not care if attendees were armed, because “they’re not here to hurt me.”

Hutchinson also testified that Trump expected to go to the Capitol after his speech and was angry when the Secret Service denied his request to do so, testimony that others have corroborated. He wanted to be part of and lead an armed mob aimed, at minimum, at intimidating Congress and Mike Pence. That is significant evidence demonstrating criminal intent in connection with the crime of inciting an insurrection. Told that the mob had threatened to hang the vice president, Trump apparently responded that he “deserves” it.

Finally, the committee has persuasively established that Trump continued to facilitate the insurrection, even after he returned to the White House once the Secret Service refused to take him to Capitol Hill. Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley testified that during the violence, Pence called him to request the National Guard to restore order; Trump made no such call. In fact, Trump did nothing for more than three hours to quell the insurrectionists.

To the contrary, Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Matthews testified that by tweeting that Pence “didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done” to overturn the election, Trump was “pouring gasoline on the fire.”

All of that was enough to show Trump’s personal leadership of the Big Lie effort and his complicity in the violence of January 6. But in addition, at Tuesday’s hearing, the committee focused attention on Trump’s December 19 tweet inviting his supporters to a “big protest in D.C. on January 6th.” He added, “Be there, will be wild!” The committee showed evidence of communications among the militant Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, and Three Percenters hours after the tweet demonstrating that it was the signal that prompted previously unaligned groups to cooperate in developing military-style operational tactics for the violent Capitol invasion.

In assessing the importance and priority to be given to a DOJ decision to prosecute, the Justice Department Manual lists three factors with special relevance here: “the nature and seriousness of the offense,” “the deterrent effect of the prosecution,” and “the person’s culpability in connection with the offense.”

On the first point, it is hard to imagine an offense that would more urgently call for criminal accountability by federal prosecution than a concerted and nearly successful effort to overthrow the result of a presidential election. It is an offense against the entire nation, by which Trump sought to reverse a 235-year-old constitutional tradition of presidential power transferring lawfully and peacefully.

The fact that a related state grand-jury investigation is proceeding in Fulton County, Georgia, relating to the part of the plot aimed at the Georgia vote count and certification process does not alter or lessen the urgency of this federal interest. Separate state and federal prosecutions can and should proceed when federal interests are as strong or stronger than the local interest.

Nor can there be any doubt about the crucial need to deter future attempts to overthrow the government. For the past 18 months, and presently, Trump himself and his supporters have been engaged in concerted efforts across the country to prepare for a similar, but better-planned, effort to overcome the minority status of Trump’s support and put him back in the White House. Moreover, if the efforts of the former president and his supporters garner a pass from the federal authorities, even in the face of such overwhelming evidence, Trump will not be the only one ready to play this game for another round.

As many have pointed out, deterrence requires that the quest for accountability succeed in achieving a conviction before a jury—here most likely made up of citizens of the District of Columbia. And the Department’s regulations make the odds of the prosecution’s success an important consideration in determining whether to go forward. In the case of a person who has made a career out of escaping the consequences of his misconduct, this is no small issue for the attorney general to take into account.

But as former prosecutors, we have faith that the evidence of personal culpability is so overwhelming that the case can be made to the satisfaction of such a jury. One of us—Gerson—has tried many difficult cases before D.C. juries with success. As a defendant, Donald Trump would open the door to all sorts of things that wouldn’t come into a normal trial, and the prosecutor could have a field day in argument about how this would-be tyrant tried to overthrow the government that has kept our nation free for two and a quarter centuries. Bottom line: Given what is at stake, even with the risk of a hung jury—leaving room for a second trial—there is no realistic alternative but to go forward.

Any argument that Donald Trump lacked provable criminal intent is contradicted by the facts elicited by the January 6 committee. And the tradition of not prosecuting a former president must yield to the manifest need to protect our constitutional form of government and to ensure that the violent effort to overthrow it is never repeated.

And Speaking of Voting Rights …

I had considered doing a Saturday Surprise post today, but … frankly, my heart wasn’t in it and my mind kept going back to an editorial I read yesterday by Attorney General Merrick Garland.  Perhaps there might be a Sunday Surprise tomorrow, but for today, please read AG Garland’s words, think about them, put them into the context of the post I wrote yesterday about Freedom Summer in Mississippi in 1964.  Then ask yourself … WHERE are we headed?  WHY should a person’s right to vote be infringed upon because of the colour of their skin?  And WHAT, if anything, can We the People do to stop this runaway train that will disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of law-abiding, tax-paying citizens, rob them of their voice in our country’s government?

Merrick Garland: It is time for Congress to act again to protect the right to vote

Opinion by Merrick B. Garland

Friday, 06 August 2021

Merrick B. Garland is attorney general of the United States.

Our society is shaped not only by the rights it declares but also by its willingness to protect and enforce those rights. Nowhere is this clearer than in the area of voting rights.

Fifty-six years ago Friday, the Voting Rights Act became law. At the signing ceremony, President Lyndon B. Johnson rightly called it “one of the most monumental laws in the entire history of American freedom.”

Prior attempts to protect voting rights informed his assessment. The 15th Amendment promised that no American citizen would be denied the right to vote on account of race. Yet for nearly a century following the amendment’s ratification, the right to vote remained illusory for far too many.

The Civil Rights Act of 1957 marked Congress’s first major civil rights legislation since Reconstruction. That law authorized the attorney general to sue to enjoin racially discriminatory denials of the right to vote. Although the Justice Department immediately put the law to use, it quickly learned that bringing case-by-case challenges was no match for systematic voter suppression.

Things would not have changed without the civil rights movement’s persistent call to action. By the time a 25-year-old John Lewis was beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., the Justice Department had been embroiled in voting rights litigation against the surrounding county for four years. Although the county had approximately 15,000 Black citizens of voting age, the number of Black registered voters had only risen from 156 to 383 during those years.

By 1965, it was clear that protecting the right to vote required stronger tools. The Voting Rights Act provided them. Central to the law was its “preclearance” provision, which prevented jurisdictions with a history of discriminatory voting practices from adopting new voting rules until they could show the Justice Department or a federal court that the change would have neither a racially discriminatory purpose nor a racially discriminatory result.

By any measure, the preclearance regime was enormously effective. While it was in place, the Justice Department blocked thousands of discriminatory voting changes that would have curtailed the voting rights of millions of citizens in jurisdictions large and small.

One thwarted change involved McComb, Miss. A large group of Black residents in the city had long voted at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, which was close to their homes on the east side of railroad tracks that run through the city. In 1997, the city tried to move that group’s assigned polling place to the American Legion Hut on the west side of the tracks. To cross those tracks, Black voters on the east side — many of whom lacked transportation — would have had to travel substantial distances to find a safe crossing. Recognizing that difficulty, the Justice Department blocked the change.

While the Voting Rights Act gave the Justice Department robust authority, it also imposed checks on that power. Jurisdictions had the option to go to federal court to show that their voting changes were lawful. This ensured fairness and accountability, but without the inefficiencies and ineffectiveness that existed prior to 1965. It was a balance that worked and received broad support: Congressional reauthorizations of the act were signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon in 1970, President Gerald Ford in 1975, President Ronald Reagan in 1982 and President George W. Bush in 2006.

That invaluable framework was upended in 2013, when the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder effectively eliminated the act’s preclearance protections. Without that authority, the Justice Department has been unable to stop discriminatory practices before they occur. Instead, the Justice Department has been left with costly, time-consuming tools that have many of the shortcomings that plagued federal law prior to 1965.

Notwithstanding these setbacks, the Justice Department is using all its current legal authorities to combat a new wave of restrictive voting laws. But if the Voting Rights Act’s preclearance provision were still operative, many of those laws would likely not have taken effect in the first place.

In a column published after his death, Lewis recalled an important lesson taught by Martin Luther King Jr.: “Each of us has a moral obligation to stand up, speak up and speak out. When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something.”

On this anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, we must say again that it is not right to erect barriers that make it harder for millions of eligible Americans to vote. And it is time for Congress to act again to protect that fundamental right.

A Bombshell That Few Noticed

Last week, we found out that the former guy had instructed then-acting-attorney general Jeffrey Rosen to “Just say the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R congressmen.”  I saw this headline in numerous news sites that I visit daily, and like most of the rest of you, I growled a bit, called him a few choice names, then moved on to other stories.  But as Robert Reich points out … that was the wrong move.  This is THE story that is most important in its implications.  I’ll let Mr. Reich explain …

A Trump bombshell quietly dropped last week. And it should shock us all

Robert Reich

A newly released memo shows that Trump told the acting attorney general: ‘Just say the election was corrupt [and] leave the rest to me and the [Republican] congressmen’

We’ve become so inured to Donald Trump’s proto-fascism that we barely blink an eye when we learn that he tried to manipulate the 2020 election. Yet the most recent revelation should frighten every American to their core.

On Friday, the House oversight committee released notes of a 27 December telephone call from Trump to then acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen, in which Trump told Rosen: “Just say the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R congressmen.” The notes were taken by Richard Donoghue, Rosen’s deputy, who was also on the call.

The release of these notes has barely made a stir. The weekend news was filled with more immediate things – infrastructure! The Delta strain! Inflation! Wildfires! In light of everything else going on, Trump’s bizarre efforts in the last weeks of his presidency seem wearily irrelevant. Didn’t we already know how desperate he was?

In a word, no. This revelation is hugely important.

Rosen obviously rejected Trump’s request. But what if Rosen had obeyed Trump and said to the American public that the election was corrupt – and then “left the rest” to Trump and the Republican congressmen? What would Trump’s and the Republicans’ next moves have been? And which Republican congressmen were in cahoots with Trump in this attempted coup d’état?

Make no mistake: this was an attempted coup.

Trump knew it. Just weeks earlier, then attorney general William Barr said the justice department had found no evidence of widespread fraud that could have overturned the results.

And a few days after Trump’s call to Rosen – on 2 January – Trump told Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, to “find” votes to change the election outcome. He berated Raffensperger for not doing more to overturn the election.

Emails released last month also show that Trump and his allies in the last weeks of his presidency pressured the justice department to investigate totally unsubstantiated claims of widespread election fraud – forwarding them conspiracy theories and even a draft legal brief they hoped would be filed with the supreme court.

Some people, especially Republican officeholders, believe we should simply forget these sordid details. We must not.

For the first time in the history of the United States we did not have a peaceful transition of power. For the first time in American history, a president refused – still refuses – to concede, and continues to claim, with no basis in fact, that the election was “stolen” from him. For the first time in history, a president actively plotted a coup.

It would have been bad enough were Trump a mere crackpot acting on his own pathetic stage – a would-be dictator who accidentally became president and then, when he lost re-election, went bonkers – after which he was swept into the dustbin of history.

We might then merely regret this temporary lapse in American presidential history. At best, Trump would be seen as a fool and the whole affair an embarrassment to the country.

But Trump was no accident and he’s not in any dustbin. He has turned one of America’s two major parties into his own cult. He has cast the major political division in the US as a clash between those who believe him about the 2020 election and those who do not. He has emboldened state Republicans to execute the most brazen attack on voting rights since Jim Crow. Most Republican senators and representatives dare not cross him. Some of his followers continue to threaten violence against the government. By all accounts, he is running for president again in 2024.

Donald Trump’s proto-fascism poses the largest internal threat to American democracy since the civil war.

What to do about it? Fight it, and the sooner the better.

This final revelation – Trump’s 27 December call to the acting attorney general in which he pleads “Just say the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me” – should trigger section 3 of the 14th amendment, which bars anyone from holding office who “engaged in insurrection” against the US. The current attorney general of the United States, Merrick Garland, should issue an advisory opinion clearly stating this. If Trump wants to take it to the supreme court, fine.