• Trump’s Impeachment Prosecutors Wrap Up, Saying the Evidence “Has Only Grown Stronger”

    House impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., speaks during the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump in the U.S. Senate, Feb. 11, 2021. Senate Television/AP

    After winning a call for witnesses on Saturday morning, Democrats agreed not to call any and instead enter a statement from Republican Congresswoman Jamie Herrera Beutler detailing how Trump was asked by Kevin McCarthy to call off the mob and refused to do so. In so doing, Democrats chose not to prolong the trial even though their party controls the Senate, paving the way for a Trump acquittal Saturday evening.  

    House managers said the evidence they had presented over the course of the week had proved sufficient. Lead House impeachment manager Jamie Raskin quoted GOP Congresswoman Liz Cheney, who said while voting to impeach the president in January that “there has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”

    “She based her vote on the facts, on the evidence, and on the Constitution, and the evidence—the video, documentary, eyewitnesses—has only grown stronger and stronger and more detailed right up to today, right up to 10 minutes ago, over the course of this Senate trial,” Raskin said.

    Beyond the information offered by Herrera Beutler, evidence introduced at trial included previously unseen Capitol security footage showing how close the mob got to top leaders, including Vice President Mike Pence, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and GOP Senator Mitt Romney. “President Trump supported the actions of the mob and he must be convicted,” Raskin said.

    Still, the House managers’ presentation seems to have failed to move more than, at most, a half dozen Republicans, with 44 Senate Republicans holding ahead of the trial that the exercise was unconstitutional since Trump has left office, and with similar numbers voting against a call for witnesses and now expected to vote against conviction.

    But that vote won’t bring an end to inquires into Trump’s actions after losing the election. Pelosi has called for a “9/11-type Commission” to look into the Capitol insurrection. And Fulton County prosecutor Fani Willis has opened a criminal investigation into Trump’s effort to overturn Georgia’s election results, including his phone call pressuring Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find 11,780 votes.” 

    Trump will be acquitted today. But his legal problems are far from over.

  • Senate Votes to Hear Witness Testimony

    Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) in 2018.

    House Democratic impeachment manager Jamie Raskin won a motion on Saturday morning to subpoena witness testimony in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial after telling the Senate that Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler, a Washington state Republican, had information and contemporaneous notes detailing a January 6 call between House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and the former president. According to press reports and a statement released Friday by Herrera Beutler, the call grew heated after the president claimed his supporters weren’t responsible for the riot and failed to immediately respond to McCarthy’s request for help.

    The Senate approved the Raskin’s motion on Saturday morning by a vote of 55 to 45. Just four Republicans—Senators Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, and Ben Sasse—initially sided with Senate Democrats. (Lindsey Graham later changed his vote, a move suggesting he will back attempts by Trump’s lawyers to call their own witnesses.)

    According to Herrera Beutler, McCarthy called Trump on January 6 and asked him to tell the rioters to tell stand down. Trump told McCarthy the rioters were from Antifa. When McCarthy told the president they were Trump supporters, Trump allegedly told McCarthy “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”

    McCarthy responded, “Who the f–k do you think you are talking to?” according to CNN.

    Herrara Beutler cited this conversation as reason why she voted to impeach Trump on January 12.

    “Needless to say, this is an additional critical piece of corroborating evidence further confirming the charges before you, as well as the president’s willful dereliction of duty,” Raskin said on Saturday morning. 

    The information relayed by Herrera Beutler further indicates the president knew the Capitol was under attack, was being begged for help, and still sat on the sidelines. He also may have endangered the life of his vice president by attacking him on Twitter when Trump insurrectionists were chanting “hang Mike Pence.”

    During the riot, Trump spoke with Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville by phone, asking him to delay the certification of the Electoral College. “Mr. President, they’ve taken the vice president out,” Tuberville told Trump. “They want me to get off the phone, I gotta go.”

    In response to Raskin’s subpoena request, Trump lawyer Michael van der Veen said he would seek to depose Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in his Philadelphia law office, which prompted mocking laughter in the Senate chamber.

    This post has been updated to reflect Graham’s vote in favor of witnesses.

  • Mitch McConnell Delayed Trump’s Impeachment Trial. Now He Says the Delay Makes It Unconstitutional.

    Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call/AP

    Mitch McConnell refused to hold an impeachment trial while Donald Trump was in office. And on Saturday morning, he told his colleagues he would acquit Trump because the trial is unconstitutional since Trump is no longer in office.

    “While a close call, I am persuaded that impeachments are a tool primarily of removal and we therefore lack jurisdiction,” McConnell wrote to Senate Republicans. (He joined 44 Senate Republicans earlier in the week in voting that the trial was unconstitutional.)  

    Of course, McConnell helped created the very timeline he’s now claims is forcing his hand. A week after Trump incited a violent insurrection at the US Capitol, Democratic leader Chuck Schumer asked McConnell to hold an emergency trial, but McConnell refused to bring the Senate back from recess.

    Much was made of how McConnell might vote to convict Trump. He sharply denounced Trump for his actions on the Senate floor. “The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people,” he said on January 19.

    But in many ways McConnell had spent weeks helping embolden Trump’s Big Lie. On November 9, after the media had called the election for Joe Biden, McConnell said “President Trump is 100% within his rights to look into allegations of irregularities and weigh his legal options.” McConnell didn’t recognize Biden as the president-elect until after the Electoral College certified Biden’s victory on December 14.

    During that time, Trump filed dozens of frivolous lawsuits, which amplified the conspiracy theories about a stolen election that ultimately led to the insurrection at the Capitol.

  • Donald Trump’s Lawyer Told a Huge Lie About the Russia Scandal

    Michael van der Veen, an attorney for former President Donald Trump, speaks during the second impeachment trial of Trump in the Senate on Friday.Senate Television/AP

    History will determine the biggest lie of Donald Trump’s presidency. But the foundational fibs were about Russia. In 2016, and ever since, Trump has refused to admit that Russia interfered on his behalf in the 2016 election by hacking and then leaking Democratic emails. Trump also claimed that he had no business interests in Russia, and that his campaign had no contact at all with Russians. Years of ensuing investigation and reporting proved those were big, consequential lies. Russian intelligence helped Trump in 2016 by giving stolen emails to WikiLeaks. While running for president, Trump okayed efforts by aides to seek Vladimir Putin’s help landing a lucrative real estate deal in Moscow. And Trump’s campaign had “numerous links” with Russia and “expected it would benefit” from their help, according to Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

    But Trump and his defenders largely succeeded in obscuring this reality by treating Mueller’s failure to find an overt conspiracy between the Kremlin and Trump as evidence that the entire scandal was made up. This disinformation effort showed Trump’s power to declare known facts to be a “hoax” and have his supporters parrot his false claims. Trump’s success in selling a false narrative contributed to the conduct that led to his two impeachments. Getting away with blaming the Russia scandal on his critics seemed to empower Trump to engage in even more mendacious conduct. Just days after Mueller’s widely-panned public testimony before House members, the effective end of a probe that left the president largely undamaged, Trump tried to shakedown Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch bogus investigations targeting Joe Biden and into the 2016 election hack. Trump correctly anticipated that he could declare his damning phone call “perfect” and watch boosters defend it. Trump’s months of lies about mail-in voting and election fraud in turn relied on the presumption his supporters and Republican lawmakers would echo them. Trump’s Russia lies and the so-called “Big Lie” were part of the same false reality Trump concocted. To protect it, Trump supporters engaged in violence on January 6. The lies that began with Russia led to the rampage in the Capitol.

    In a sense, it was fitting that Trump lawyer Michael van der Veen on Friday brought up Russia to defend Trump against inciting the attack on Congress. The attorney claimed “the entire Democratic Party and national news media spent the last four years repeating without any evidence that the 2016 election had been hacked. Van der Veen was arguing for excusing Trump’s actions because Democrats, he said, had also used “reckless dangerous and inflammatory rhetoric” about Russia. The implication was a simple equivalency: Democrats pushed the Russia hoax to overturn the 2016 election. Trump pushed the election lie in 2020. It’s a wash.

    But van der Veen, in a particularly diabolical piece of bullshit, was repeating Trump’s lies about the “Russia hoax” in a bid to excuse Trump’s lies about the election. Russians did hack Democratic emails, and they did so to help Trump, as every US intelligence agency, Mueller, and the then-GOP led Senate Intelligence Committee found. Trump did try to benefit from that help. And he lied, dangled and later dispensed pardons and obstructed justice to conceal his conduct.

    It is no coincidence that many of the key figures in advancing Trump’s lies about Russia—Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, Flynn’s conspiracy theorizing lawyer Sidney Powell, Steve Bannon, and Rudy Giuliani —were also enthusiastic boosters of Trump’s election fraud lies. The Russia lie and the Big Lie, bookends to Trump’s presidency, were part of the same misleading endeavor.

    Van deer Veen’s references to Russia were something of an admission. In repeating Trump’s false claims about Russia—not to mention blaming Antifa for the Capitol riot and misrepresenting Trump’s 2017 comments about white nationalists in Charlottesville—Trump’s lawyers passed on seriously defending his conduct. This was more like joining in it.

  • Trump’s Lawyer Won’t Say What Trump Knew or Did During the Capitol Attack

    In this screenshot taken from a congress.gov webcast, Michael van der Veen, lawyer for former President Donald Trump, speaks at the second impeachment trial on February 12, 2021 in Washington, DC. congress.gov/Getty

    Donald Trump’s legal team told senators Friday that it had no idea when on January 6 their client learned of the attack on the Capitol or what Trump did to protect those in Congress who were being assaulted. Moreover, Trump lawyer Michael van der Veen blamed his crew’s ignorance on the House impeachment managers, saying they should have uncovered what Trump knew and what he did during their own investigation. He omitted the fact that the House managers had asked Trump to testify but Trump declined that invitation. His remark also suggested that Trump’s own lawyers had not done the basic work of constructing a chronology of their client’s actions on the day in question. 

    But on a related question, van der Veen took a much different approach. After Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) asked whether Trump knew that Vice President Mike Pence had been evacuated when he sent a tweet at 2:24 pm assailing his veep, van der Veen replied that he did know what Trump knew about this. “At no point was the president informed the vice president was in any danger,” van der Veen said.

    Trump’s lawyer did not explain how he was aware of this part of the story but not the more basic points. Moreover, his statement was disputed by the known timeline of events, which includes the statement of Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala), who has said that he told Trump shortly after 2:00 pm that Pence had been evacuated. 


    Van der Veen went on to make a statement in defense of Trump that was actually damning. “What the president did know is that there was a violent riot happening at the Capitol,” he said. “That’s why he repeatedly called via tweet and via video for the riots to stop.” That is, Trump realized a violent insurrection was occurring, and he did nothing but tweet and share a video. He took no other steps, such as arranging for military and law enforcement support. That’s not much of a case for van der Veen’s client. 

  • We’re Obsessed With the Britney Spears Documentary

    Britney Spears at the VMAs in 2016Dennis Van Tine/UPPA/Zuma

    Like everyone on the internet, we at Mother Jones have been unable to stop talking about Framing Britney Spears, the New York Times documentary released on Hulu and FX a week ago. The film seemed to provide more questions than answers: How does Britney currently feel about her conservatorship? How should the media change its coverage of pop stars going forward? And is all this renewed attention helping or hurting Britney?

    In a Slack conversation yesterday, a few members of our staff tried to make sense of the documentary and how it fits into our current cultural moment. Follow along below:

    Abigail Weinberg, senior fellow: What were your initial thoughts on the documentary? Did it teach you anything you didn’t already know about Britney’s life or the media coverage of her, or did it change your thoughts about her in any way?

    Molly Schwartz, senior fellow: In some ways there weren’t any huge surprises in the documentary—Baby One More Time was my first CD! I lived through most of this. But seeing the whole sequence stitched together felt infuriating in a way that I didn’t understand living through it as a child and teen.

    Grace Molteni, senior designer: First initial thought was: rage. Pure rage and ready to fight many people.

    I think the luxury of retrospect and age was seeing how much the media warped both her experience as an artist and our experience of her. I certainly remember feeling put off by her actions and now I am like SHE WAS DOING HER BEST/LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE.

    As a kid I didn’t think about the people hounding her to get those pictures, I only thought about the pictures.

    MS: Exactly, Grace! Watching those clips of her media interviews made me feel pure, unadulterated RAGE.

    Sam Van Pykeren, senior fellow: I really think my initial impression was just WOW.

    GM: I want to fight Matt Lauer for many reasons, but this was also one of them.

    MS: The Matt Lauer clip was one of the absolute worst things I’ve ever had to watch.

    SVP: I don’t have a lot of conscious memory around the beginning of her career as a younger person, so it was really helpful to get the type of timeline they presented, but I also know that was one of the documentary’s huge faults.

    GM: Overall this did feel like a teaser documentary. Like…we need more—both in coverage and also in-depth analysis.

    AW: Totally. From her, from her family, from her boyfriend. It didn’t really teach me anything I didn’t already know.

    MS: Exactly! I left with so many questions.

    AW: And it didn’t really give me any answers about her conservatorship.

    GM: Also, tabloids were problematic—but not just them. Where’s your self-reflection, New York Times? (Though Wesley Morris can stay.)

    SVP: Yeah, I’m of two minds: It’s a great entry point for people unfamiliar or who are fans but don’t really know the details of her early pop years. It’s also completely lacking in actual depth. One of my friends (shoutout to Kyle Turner!) wrote that the NYT, in trying to frame this tabloid-esque POV, ended up recreating it. And it’s true, the whole thing felt a little tabloid-y.

    MS: A lot of this was already public information. I feel like one of the biggest scoops/pieces of new information was the interview with the lawyer she tried to hire (who is related to Barbra Streisand!).

    GM: He touched on a lot of things that I thought were very poignant and insightful, and I want to listen to him for 1,000 more hours.

    MS: And the interview with the paparazzo who took the umbrella photo.

    GM: I could smack that dude.

    MS: Seeing the behind-the-scenes clips of how that photo happened was so powerful. I also would have beat up his car.

    AW: When he said that Britney had never given any indication that she wanted to be left alone, and the interviewer said, “What about when she said, ‘Leave me alone?’”

    MS: That was so good!

    GM: One thing I found incredible about that interview with him was where he goes something like, “She liked it, she never said ‘no’ or, ‘leave me alone.’ And when she said, ‘leave me alone,’ she just meant for the day!”

    I feel like every woman watching her knows the difference between enjoying something and feeling like you have to tolerate something. I felt so much rage and empathy in those moments.

    GM: Also I just want to say: SHE WASN’T BALD, SHE HAD A SHAVED HEAD. And also SHE LOOKED SO FREE IN THAT MOMENT WITH THE CLIPPERS.

    MS: I AGREE. First of all, she rocked the look. And secondly, that was great commentary accompanying it, that anyone who didn’t see the meaning in that act was totally missing the point.

    AW: My mom shaves her head, like as a haircut, and I remember being so confused when Britney shaved her head what the big deal was.

    MS: I love that, Abigail!

    GM: That’s dope as hell. I love it.

    AW: I do think that in Britney’s context it happened in a moment of instability, but still, who cares if a woman shaves her head? The response was so overblown and ridiculous, and came with so much malice rather than concern.

    GM: I also want to see a side by side of how the media dealt with women and their “unraveling” at that time (Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Bynes) and if that was reciprocal coverage for famous men going through it.

    SVP: I also think there was a complete lack of acknowledgment of how social media plays a role in this. Like, if Britney had Instagram when she and Justin Timberlake broke up, she would’ve been able to actually tell her side of the story and connect with fans in a way she controlled. What did they have in the early aught? Just the tabloids. All people’s info was coming from a misogynistic media that would not let up on her.

    GM: Totally. I think they touched on social media a tiny bit at the end, but not in a reflective way.

    SVP: She had no outlet other than her music (and even that’s debatable) to really tell her story.

    MS: That’s a really strong point, Grace. Something that I kept coming back to watching this documentary was that I felt like something was happening in the ways that people talked about and made fun of Britney that gets at this deeper misogyny. She was so talented and vivacious and had so much personality. But interviewers were constantly putting her down—commenting on her “slutty” clothing and her breasts—in a way that made it feel like they were trying to humiliate her. It was like they were saying, “Remember who gives you your power. You didn’t earn your spotlight. It was granted to you by your fans and the male gaze, and we will always remind you of that. Everything you have earned, we can take away.”

    GM: Exactly, Molly. They weren’t doing a journalism, they were doing a misogyny, a shaming.

    SVP: I mean, Britney has always been “America’s Sweetheart” right? Quotation marks for a reason. We love to own women.

    AW: And it speaks to the double standard women are held to. There’s this pressure to be sexy because sex sells, but also this standard of wholesomeness that a pop star is supposed to be held to. It almost reminds me of Miley Cyrus. She spent so long cultivating this “good girl” persona and there was such outrage when she finally said, “Fuck it.”

    MS: Totally! It’s such an ugly bind. Everyone knows they are doing a performance that involves charisma and sexuality, and then they get mad at them for it.

    AW: What did you think of the caption on her Instagram post this week? She wrote: “Can’t believe this performance of Toxic is from 3 years ago !!! I’ll always love being on stage …. but I am taking the time to learn and be a normal person ….. I love simply enjoying the basics of every day life !!!! Each person has their story and their take on other people’s stories !!!! We all have so many different bright beautiful lives !!! Remember, no matter what we think we know about a person’s life it is nothing compared to the actual person living behind the lens !!!!”

    SVP: I’m not here for the over-analysis of her gram. I get it. I don’t want to totally disregard it, but also, haven’t we over analyzed the woman enough? Leave her be, she just wants to post kinetic sand videos lol

    MS: There are a lot of questions about her gram and whether she even controls it. IDK. I just hope there’s not something scary going on behind the scenes.

    AW: I was looking at her gram last night and thought it was wacky how all the commenters thought she was being recorded through a two-way mirror.

    SVP: All this we’re talking about, it seems like the doc couldn’t be bothered to interrogate more in-depth.

    MS: In so many ways this doc felt like a conversation starter for a conversation I’m glad we’re finally having.

    SVP: Yeah, just a way to recycle a conversation that’s been long overdue.

    MS: True. And look more critically at the 90s, which really wasn’t a great time for women.

    GM: Very not great.

    SVP: I have very brief memories of people around me always talking shit about her—all from a very misogynistic, or internalized, spot. So, to see some of those same people now be like…oh shit. From a media literacy point, I think it did wonders. We can and should still hold people responsible, but let this be a lesson in making your own opinions.

    MS: Same! I have so many memories of people constantly trying to discredit her. Some of which, of course, comes with the territory of being a celebrity. I remember people saying she couldn’t actually sing and that she lip synced during her performances.

    GM: Yes, I remember that too.

    MS: She was always being compared unfavorably to Christina Aguilera in terms of musical talent.

    GM: Or, degrading the style and the breathiness of it, as if there can only be one kind of pop.

    MS: YES. She became a joke early on.

    AW: I liked that the doc made it very clear at the beginning that she was preternaturally talented.

    MS: Same. And that was clear because no matter how much people loved to hate, she was the kind of person everyone was drawn to watch. Her songs were bangers. Her music videos were iconic.

    GM: I think in general we are not a culture that is particularly good at retrospect and unpacking our past behaviors. So, if nothing else, I feel like this doc was using something very timely to do a snappy but shallow dig into the background on all of these.

    AW: It seems like even the #FreeBritney people are falling into the same trap of not leaving Britney alone.

    GM: It was fascinating to me that even the people who want to help her still benefit from her existence/situation (the Britney’s Gram podcast folks).

    SVP: Let’s talk labor in the doc, the point they made about business and conservatorship.

    Laura Thompson, senior fellow: I wish it had been more heavy-handed on the labor thing and less focused on the big-picture flaws of conservatorship. Yes, conservatorship deserves critical analysis, but Britney isn’t the best example. She’s not even a common example.

    SVP: Her story really is about labor, what we as a society think we’re owed from individuals, and how gender is a defining factor in that.

    GM: I think that was the part that was most illuminating: how much she is still working and still making money, how she literally pays for her conservatorship, her lawyers, AND the conservatorship’s lawyers.

    AW: Right, like, does her dad determine how much money she gets? Is she getting like an allowance?

    MS: I wish they had thrown some reportorial weight behind those questions. It’s really so sad. I just imagine her like this cash cow surrounded by all these people ruining her life just to get a drop of the “easy money.”

    GM: Either she’s not well enough to perform and work and do what she loves on a stage, or she is well enough to both earn her money and make creative and financial decisions, and to find someone she trusts to manage it.

    MS: Exactly Grace! You can’t have it both ways.

    GM: It’s interesting to see it posed as: Britney wants full control of her money and she can’t be trusted with it? When it reality it just seems like she wants Jamie Spears, her Mom, out of the picture?

    AW: All right, we’ve exhausted all the questions I had written down and touched on the ones that I didn’t directly ask. Any closing thoughts? Hopes for Britney in the future?

    LT: Normalize mental breakdowns.

    SVP: I just hope she sees this as more of a reckoning, and harnesses this for her happiness—whether that’s releasing more music or disappearing and never owing anything to anyone ever again.

    MS: I hope that it makes us re-think the treatment of celebrities in the media. I think sometimes we equate fame and money with power, when Britney is a really interesting example of how that’s not always the case. Just because someone is famous or rich doesn’t mean they’re just a vessel for selling magazines.

    GM: Some hopes, realistic or not:

    • A shift in media coverage on mental health, for celebs and otherwise
    • Some formal apologies, from publications or comedians or celebs for how they treated her
    • A TED Talk someday where she can tell her story
    • Some fucking peace (from both her haters and her fans)
    • Better custody agreements with her kids
    • Release from her conservatorship, or just appointing someone she feels comfortable with and trusts
  • Trump’s Lawyer Falsely Blames Insurrection on Antifa, Directly Contradicting FBI

    AP

    Michael van der Veen, an attorney for Donald Trump’s defense in his second impeachment trial, suggested on Friday that Antifa was responsible for the January 6 Capitol insurrection—a false accusation that blatantly contradicts the assessment of the FBI

    The lie echoes House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who asserted last month that “everybody across this country” bears responsibility for the Capitol attack. These are attempts to obscure the fact that the former president fomented his supporters to unleash violence in order to stop the election certification while recalling Trump’s infamous claim that “both sides”—left and right—were to blame for the white supremacist-borne violence in Charlottesville in 2017. (Later on Friday, Trump’s lawyers made the mind-boggling decision to re-air Trump’s Charlottesville meltdown to once again rewrite that history.) 

    As I wrote at the time, by extending blame for the Capitol insurrection to everyone, McCarthy has rendered responsibility a moot point. Trump’s defense team has now one-upped that by falsely accusing extremists of “various different stripes and political persuasions” were behind the pro-Trump Capitol attack last month when countless pieces of video evidence, charging documents, and law enforcement assessments rebut that bold lie. But with a defense so weak that debuted dead on arrival, who can afford to care about the truth?

  • Trump’s Lawyers Want to Compare His Words to Those of Dems. They Already Screwed That Up.

    David Schoen, counsel to former US President Donald Trump in the Senate on February 9, 2021.US Senate TV/CNP/ZUMA

    Aides to Democratic impeachment managers say that they are prepared for former President Trump’s lawyers, who will mount their defense today, to ignore the context of President Trump’s statements on January 6 and falsely compare his words to Democratic politicians who may also urged for backers to “fight.” Trump, of course, didn’t speak in a void. He had primed his supporters for violence by lying for months about the election results, urged them to march on the Capitol, and had good reason to anticipate telling his backers to “fight” to “stop the steal” would cause violence against Congress.

    But a senior Democratic aide noted Friday that Democrats were surprised that one of Trump’s lawyers had admitted this week that Trump’s “comments to his followers are different than comments by Democrats.” The context matters.

    “They’re using rhetoric that is just as inflammatory or more so,” David Schoen, one of Trump’s lawyers, told Sean Hannity on Fox News Tuesday. “The problem is, they don’t really have followers, you know, the dedicated followers…when they give their speeches.”

    Schoen there seemed to admit here that Trump’s words came in a far different context than speeches the lawyers may cite today. “Trump’s own lawyer [was] acknowledging that the circumstances are completely different, acknowledging Trump’s special connection to his followers who would do something” when he told them to, the aide said. Oops.

  • In His Closing Argument, Raskin Posed 5 Questions for Trump’s Lawyers

    The Impeachment Managers, led by United States Representative Jamie Raskin (D-Md) walk through the Capitol Rotunda to begin the impeachment trial at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, February 9, 2021. Rod Lamkey/CNP/ZUMA

    Former President Donald Trump refused to testify during his Senate impeachment trial. So in closing the prosecution’s case on Thursday afternoon, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md), the lead House manager, listed the questions he would have asked Trump. He urged Trump’s lawyers to respond to them when they present their defense of Trump, which will begin on Friday.

    1. Why did President Trump not tell his supporters to stop the attack on the Capitol as soon as he learned of it?
    2. Why did President Trump do nothing to stop the attack for at least two hours after the attack began?
    3. As our constitutional commander-in-chief, why did he do nothing to send help to our overwhelmed and besieged law enforcement officers for at least two hours…after the attack began?
    4. Why did President Trump—not at any point that day—condemn the violent insurrection and the insurrectionists?
    5. If a president incited a violent insurrection against our government, would that be a high crime and misdemeanor? Can we all agree at least on that?

    As Raskin finished, he quoted Thomas Paine and told the senators, “We need to exercise our common sense about what happened.”

  • Attack on Michigan Capitol Was a “Preview” of January 6, Impeachment Prosecutors Argue

    Lead Impeachment Manager Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) speaks on the third day of former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial at the U.S. Capitol on February 11, 2021.Congress.gov/Getty

    Democrats argued Thursday that former President Donald Trump knew his supporters were willing to commit violence at his urging, a power he previewed for the country last spring when his supporters stormed the Michigan state capitol and he praised them as “very good people.”

    “The siege of the Michigan Statehouse was effectively a state-level dress rehearsal for the siege of the U.S. Capitol,” argued lead impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md).

    After the attack on the Michigan capitol, the FBI stopped a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, whom Trump had demonized for months over her response to the coronavirus pandemic. Even long after it was broken up, Raskin points out that Trump could not bring himself to condemn the violent plan. 

    “Trump knew exactly what he was doing in inciting the January 6th mob,” Raskin said. The violence in Michigan showed “the clear foreseeability of the violent harm that he unleashed” on January 6. “This was his state of mind… his M.O.” Raskin then showed a Trump tweet in which he praised his supporters as “most loyal supporters that we have seen in our countries [sic] history.” 

    If Trump gets back into office and again incites such violence, Raskin warned in closing, “we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves.”

  • Democrats Show Trump Knew Pence Was in Danger and Incited Rioters Targeting the Veep

    A noose is seen on makeshift gallows as supporters of US President Donald Trump gather on the West side of the US Capitol in Washington DC on January 6, 2021. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty

    During the impeachment trial on Wednesday, Democrats demonstrated a powerful point: President Donald Trump knew Vice President Mike Pence was in danger during the January 6 assault on the Capitol and, rather than call off the murderous mob, Trump chose to attack Pence in a tweet and further incite the marauders against his own veep. 

    During his speech before the riot, Trump let it be known that he was counting on Pence to stop the electoral vote count scheduled for that day. But Pence released a statement that he would not do so, and the rioters at the Capitol cast Pence as an enemy. Pence and his family were rushed to a hiding place, as rioters inside the building searched for him. “Hang Pence,” some yelled

    In his presentation, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), one of the House managers prosecuting the impeachment case, outlined a damning chronology. He noted the insurrectionists had turned on Pence by 2:15 p.m. that day and that their attempt to find Pence in the Capitol was being reported on television—which Trump was undoubtedly watching. But instead of urging his supporters to end the assault and protecting his vice president, Trump at 2:24 p.m. tweeted an attack on Pence. “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.” While his veep was fearing for his life, Trump put him in even greater jeopardy. 

    The message was received. Castro showed a video of one rioter reading Trump’s tweet to the crowd using a bullhorn. 

    “They were paying attention,” Castro said. “And they also followed instructions.”

    That Trump tweet stoked the rage of the rampagers. Castro played video in which rioters denounced Pence as a traitor and called for his assassination. A gallows was erected on the Capitol grounds. The rioters were listening to Trump. He was their leader, and he was fueling the violence and pursuing his main goal: stopping the vote certification. Pence’s safety was of no concern for Trump. 

  • The Biden Administration Is Telling Asylum Seekers They Still Have to Wait

    Asylum seeking families stuck south of the border amid the pandemic. Ross D. Franklin/AP

    On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the Biden administration will continue to expel asylum seekers under a Trump-era policy that effectively had shut down the southern border. “Due to the pandemic and the fact that we have not had time as an administration to put in place a humane, comprehensive process for processing individuals who are coming to the border,” Psaki said, “now is not the time to come.” She added that processing asylum seekers will not occur immediately and the “vast majority of people will be turned away.” 

    For months immigration lawyers and advocates have condemned and fought the summary expulsions that were taking place under an order known as Title 42 of the US code. Public health experts, including senior officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have determined there is no scientific justification for turning away asylum seekers and unaccompanied minors—often to face danger—under the guise of public health concerns.

    Back in December, public health experts also issued recommendations for the incoming administration to safely process asylum cases. Their suggestions included ramping up testing, quarantine, and isolation capacities and increasing the funding for humanitarian and public health organizations on both sides of the border. Since the policy was first enacted last March, as many as 400,000 expulsions have taken place under the Title 42 order.  

    In a letter from early February, dozens of organizations wrote to the new president to remind him of his campaign commitment to “end inhumane Trump administration border policies, uphold US laws and treaty obligations to protect refugees and immigrant children, and adopt COVID-19 measures based in science.” They greeted the announcement today with both disappointment and outrage.

    Instead of overturning the policy, as many immigrant rights groups had hoped, the Biden administration has ordered the CDC and the Department of Homeland Security to review the order. As the new administration demands time to figure out a plan, lawyers and advocates say migrants seeking protection at the border can’t afford to wait. 

  • WATCH: Officer Eugene Goodman Saves Mitt Romney From Capitol Mob

    Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) walks to the Senate Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021. Stefani Reynolds - Pool Via Cnp/CNP via ZUMA

    Officer Eugene Goodman has been hailed for his heroism in keeping a cluster of rioters away from the Senate floor when senators were still inside. In new footage shown during the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, Goodman is seen directing Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) away from the mob. Romney was headed directly toward the insurrectionists. Goodman may have saved Romney’s life.

    The video evidence came during the second day of the impeachment trial, when Democratic House Manager Del. Stacey Plaskett of the US Virgin Islands laid out, step-by-step, how the rioters violently attacked the Capitol. 

    Romney has frequently broken with the Republican Party when it comes to Trump’s conduct and would have been a recognizable target for the rioters, some of whom were open about their desire to kill Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. But every lawmaker’s life that day was in danger.

  • Trump’s Own Lawyer Argues That “Tired” and “Fed Up” Voters Kicked Trump Out of Office

    Chip Somodevilla/Zuma

    Donald Trump spent the dying weeks of his presidency vehemently denying the obvious fact that he had lost the 2020 election. In fact, his insistence that his “stolen victory” be his major defense in the impeachment trial against him was one reason why several lawyers decided not to represent him. 

    But today, in a rambling and disjointed speech, Bruce Castor, who is one of two attorneys representing the former president, admitted that Trump was indeed voted out by “fed up” voters last November. Castor repeated this fact three times, directly contradicting one of the former president’s most-repeated lies.

    Something tells me a certain someone is not gonna be happy with this performance. Maybe Rudy Giuliani should be standing by.

    Watch for yourself:

  • Will Someone Please Explain What the Heck Trump’s Opening Defense Was About?

    US Senate TV/CNP/Zuma

    Bruce Castor, former President Trump’s impeachment attorney—and the former Pennsylvania attorney general who is best known for declining to prosecute Bill Cosby—opened his defense with a befuddling, 28-minute, non sequitur-filled rant.

    He began with a childhood recollection of listening to a record—remember vinyl?—of Sen. Everett Dirksen, who served as Senate Minority Leader from 1959 to 1969. What this has to do with Trump’s impeachment is beyond us—sorry.

    Castor proceeded to expound upon the virtues of pride in one’s state.

    He seemed to admit that Americans were “fed up” with his client, and that his loss of the presidential election negates the need for impeachment—a point that House impeachment managers repeatedly refuted earlier in the day.

    He doesn’t even seem to deny that Trump incited an insurrection, instead suggesting that “after he’s out of office, you go and arrest him.” He continued, “The Department of Justice does know what to do with such people, and so far, I haven’t seen any activity in that direction.”

    You couldn’t make this stuff up.

  • Jamie Raskin’s Tearful Testimony of Surviving the Insurrection With His Family Is Just Gutting

    Starmax/Newscom/Zuma

    In a heartbreaking moment in Trump’s second impeachment trial, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the lead House impeachment manager, detailed his family’s harrowing experience at the Capitol on January 6, one day after he’d buried his 25-year-old son.

    Raskin’s youngest daughter and his son-in-law accompanied him to the Capitol for the tallying of electoral votes: “They wanted to be together with me in the middle of a devastating week for our family,” he said. “I invited them instead to come with me to witness this historic event, the peaceful transfer of power in America.”

    But instead of witnessing a routine and peaceful democratic process, the family encountered sheer terror.

    “Here is a sound I will never forget,” Raskin said, “the sound of pounding on the door like a battering ram.”

    As insurrectionists stormed the Capitol, Raskin’s daughter and son-in-law barricaded themselves in an office. Raskin described “the kids hiding under the desk, placing what they thought were their final texts and whispered phone calls to say their goodbyes.” He added, “They thought they were gonna die.”

    But the most devastating moment for Raskin was when he told his daughter that her next visit to the Capitol would be better. Recounting her response, Raskin broke down. “She said, ‘Dad, I don’t want to come back to the Capitol again,'” he recalled. “Of all the terrible, brutal things I heard and I saw on that day and since then, that one hit me the hardest.”

    Watch Raskin’s gutting testimony:

  • Democrats Open Trump’s Impeachment Trial With the Most Damning Video of the Capitol Insurrection Yet

    The second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump kicked off on Tuesday with a powerful, unflinching video montage chronicling the events leading up to the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol attack—and the harrowing violence that ensued once pro-Trump insurrectionists stormed the Capitol building.

    The video, presented by Democrats’ lead impeachment manager Jamie Raskin as a straight, “just the facts” play-by-play of the deadly event, was immediately damning, even for those well-acquainted with the most familiar images from the murderous attack. It also included Trump’s remarks encouraging his supporters to take matters into their own hands while he repeated his false claims that the election had been stolen from him. “We love you,” Trump is seen telling the insurrectionists in a video just two hours after the attack. “You’re very special.”

    “You ask what a high crime and misdemeanor is under our Constitution?” Raskin said once the video ended. “That’s a high crime and misdemeanor. If that’s not an impeachable offense, then there’s no such thing.”

  • Jazmine Sullivan’s “Heaux Tales”: An Album About Owning It

    Jazmine Sullivan performs the national anthem prior to Sunday's Super Bowl. Ben Liebenberg/AP

    “Gotta stop getting fucked up. What did I have in my cup? I don’t know where I woke up. I keep on pressing my luck.”

    Those are the opening lines of Heaux Tales, the newest LP from Jazmine Sullivan. The track is called “Bodies,” and in it the singer addresses herself like someone evaluating a hangover in the mirror. “Bitch, get it together, bitch,” she sings. “You don’t know who you went home with.” She is chiding herself, but there is also a touch of celebration in the way her voice jumps when she sings of “piling on bodies on bodies on bodies.”

    Heaux Tales is an honest, prismatic evaluation of what it means to be a hoe. Sullivan’s subject is the promiscuity myth that all women know but Black women know better than anyone. The album is about the sex, but it’s also about the emotions that surround it—regret, lust, shame, satisfaction—and about the women who bear them, then get labeled hoes for their troubles. These are usually Black women, and like the narrator of “Bodies” they are full of contradictory feelings, alternately resisting the designation and celebrating it on their own terms.

    Obviously, “Heaux” is not a misspelling. Sullivan is imploring Black women to reanimate the concept of the hoe, not reclaim it. With Heaux Tales, she is stripping the word “hoe” from its usual context and reshaping it to fit the perspective of a Black woman, the woman who feels like there was never any other option than to be a hoe. Stereotyped as Jezebels, mistresses, and—a personal favorite—”pass-arounds,” Black women have long been stamped with a scarlet “h” for “hoe”; the specific slurs may change from generation to generation, but the intent is always the same—to justify the sexual abuse of Black women by suggesting they are willing, even eager participants, and to relegate women who dare to be unabashed in their sexual experiences to the underbelly of society. A “hoe” is something a white patriarchal society says you are; a “heau” is a label you can embrace. The word is Frenchified, refined, divorced from its sullied connotations and infused with a Black woman’s sense of herself.

    Heaux Tales is indeed an album by, for, and about Black women, from the R&B notes Sullivan hits to themes such as ascending from poverty. After “Bodies,” Antoinette Henry has the first of six “tales.” These are spoken-word interludes by women in Sullivan’s life that tackle an aspect of hoedom. Each is followed by an R&B interpretation of the same topic. Sullivan, who sang the national anthem before Sunday’s Super Bowl, explores plenty of things anyone can relate to, but there is no taking this album from the mouth and perspective of a Black woman. She discusses gendered double standards and the need for women to claim their own vaginas, a truly radical idea for plenty of women, as Antoinette emphasizes when she says: “And really it’s our fault. We’re out here telling them that the pussy is theirs, when in reality—it’s ours.” Sullivan follows it with the uptempo, groovy, and slightly dancey “Pick Up Your Feelings,” a call for women to guard their emotions, and to dismiss men who play with them, and even be as unconcerned as men in their pursuits.

    “Put It Down” and “On It” are the sort of classic, explicitly sexy ballads one can always expect from an R&B album, but they follow Ari Lennox’s riveting tale about being “dickmatized,” which explores the utterly ridiculous—and embarrassingly true—notion that a woman would put up with almost anything for the right type of pleasurable experience. “I was damn near willing to let him just talk to me crazy. Like, yes, daddy, yes, okay,” she says. “Like, I was literally willing to ruin my career. Um, if this ever came out, who it was, you would be like, ‘Bitch, do you know what Google says?'”

    Been there, done that. This is a moment for all women who have dealt with a terrible man, which is to say the average woman. She knows that the pickings of worthy men are slim. When it comes to sex, women just do not need or care to be the moral epicenters of the world. “That dick spoke life into me,” she goes on. “Invigoration, blessings, soul, turmoil. But, heaven, Jesus, Allah, sorry. Please, God, understand. This is just my truth.” Ari is making a confession, but not as a penitent. And she leaves a couple questions unasked: Why should she be judged for sleeping with an apparently terrible man? Why not judge the man for being terrible? As Antoinette states earlier, “We are sexual beings, too.”

    The album works from themes surrounding sexuality that have been explored by other Black women. Years ago there was Lil Kim, announcing on Hard Core, “I used to be scared of the dick, now I throw lips to the shit,” knocking down the wall that stopped Black women from openly and explicitly expressing their sexuality, and then there was Beyoncé, unashamedly telling the listener what she finds pleasurable (“Rocket,” “Blow”). SZA, in 2017’s “Doves in the Wind,” told men they “do not deserve pussy.” And now here is Sullivan, describing sex in the blunt transactional terms that are always available to men but typically denied to women, particularly Black women.

    “Bitch, every time you sleep with—even if you married—you have tricked in your fuckin’ marriage,” Donna declares in another tale. “You fuckin’ your husband, so you can get what the fuck you want!”

    Let the church reluctantly say, “Amen.”

    A hoe wants something in return; so does the average woman who enters a marriage. The former transaction is demonized; the latter is a sacrament. Heaux Tales isn’t interested in exposing the hypocrisy so much as showing how the social order needs its demons—marriage isn’t marriage without hoes to give it meaning.

    Heaux Tales is deeply unsentimental about sex, but that does not mean it is callous, as “Rashida’s Tale” and “Lost One” demonstrate. The two tracks are the emotional crux of the album. Rashida regales the listener with the story of how she hurt someone she loved (notably, another woman) by cheating on her, describing the flood of emotions that came with the betrayal. It hurts to hurt people. It especially hurts to hurt a person you love, and it hurts when you find yourself pleading: “Just hear me out before you let it go. There is one thing I need for you to know. Just don’t have too much fun without me.”

    What does it mean to hurt someone else? Why do things that have no good consequences? Why do we self-destruct and self-sabotage? Why do we act without thinking? Sullivan is digging deep into her emotional intelligence as she comes out with uncomfortable answers, as therapy often produces. “I know I’m a selfish bitch, but I want you to know I’ve been working on it,” she sings. The album is a kind of therapy for people who intimately know the love-and-sex hustle and who feel its social burdens in everything they do. It is for the women who alternate between vulnerable introspection and brassy self-assertion on any given day.

    “Money makes me cum,” Precious says in her tale, describing her attraction when she sees “a man thriving, out here hustling….I’m not dealing with anyone who does not have money, because I know my worth.” Sullivan keeps pressing on this idea in “The Other Side,” telling the story of the Black woman’s hustle and what a woman might do to have a better life. “I’ma move to Atlanta,” she sings. “Ima find me a rapper. He gon’ buy me a booty.” 

    She is describing heauxing for what it is: work. Society presents such an avenue as one of the few viable options for a better life yet denigrates those who choose to take it. Sullivan’s album is a declaration of owning that choice and all the feelings that come with it.

  • Impeachment Expert Says Trump’s Lawyers “Misrepresent” His View

    President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021.Al Drago - Pool Via CNP via ZUMA

    To avoid conviction at former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, Trump’s lawyers will argue that the impeachment itself is unconstitutional. But one scholar whose work they are relying on to make that claim has weighed in to say the lawyers “misrepresent what I wrote quite badly.”

    In a brief written for the Senate and submitted Monday, they argue that because Trump is no longer in office, he can no longer be impeached. For Republicans hoping to acquit Trump, letting him off on a technicality without focusing on the horrific events of January 6 has obvious appeal. But the notion that Trump cannot be convicted once out of office is a minority view among constitutional scholars—and it is not the view of Brian Kalt, one scholar Trump’s lawyers repeatedly cited. An impeachment expert, Kalt wrote a 2001 article that endorsed the constitutionality of a so-called “late impeachment.” But he is used again and again in Trump’s brief to argue the opposite.

    Perhaps Professor Kalt would make a good witness at trial—for the prosecution.

  • This Cheesy Documentary About the US Capitol Dome Sure Hits Differently These Days

    /Architect of the Capitol

    There isn’t much to do on a Saturday night these days. So last night I found myself down a YouTube rabbit hole, learning about the history of the US Capitol building. I stumbled across a video published by the Architect of the Capitol, the federal agency responsible for maintaining the entire US Capitol Complex. It’s the sort of timpani-laced propaganda flick that practically bleeds cheese. But instead of finding my eyes rolling, I found them, I hate to admit it, misty? I’m not the only one. As YouTube commenter “BN” notes, “This hits different in 2021.” Sure does, BN. Another commenter, four weeks ago: “Made my eyes water considering what just happened a few days ago.”

    The video is about the $59.5 million restoration of the Capitol’s dome that began in 2013, and was completed in November 2016—and the loving craftsmanship applied to every detail, overlaid with some heavy-handed patriotism and bipartisan bonhomie from a cast of top leaders. Put aside the nostalgia for a time of party unity that never actually existed, and focus on the preservation science, the moments of real archeology (analyzing paint layers!), and notes of genuine can-do pride from the expert workers. (The Architect of the Capitol’s blog also provides this compelling and detailed account of how they cleaned up and repaired widespread damage after the January 6 insurrection. It’s a great read.)

    Remarking on the vastness of the restoration project, and the dome’s sheer heft, one conservator notes in the film, “What we’re trying to preserve here is the solidness of our country.” Good to ponder, before a week in which we will be inundated by images of the Capitol under attack, during Trump’s second impeachment trial.

    (Am I being too sentimental? Happy to field your cynicism in the comments.)