Mainstreaming the extreme
In a Republican Party once organized around broadly shared principles — smaller government, lower taxes and strong national defense — it increasingly seems nothing matters as much as fealty to their principal figure of the last four years, former President Donald Trump.
For the ascendant far-right forces, there is a litmus test: Profess belief in Trump's lies that the election was stolen from him and support him against impeachment — or face ostracism and punishment.
Republican Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona found himself censured by his state's party last week for defending the integrity of the state's election results that helped seal Joe Biden's presidential victory. In Oregon, the state's party embraced the delusional theory that the U.S. Capitol insurrection attack on Jan. 6 was a left-wing "false flag" plot to frame Trump supporters.
In a meeting of House Republicans on Wednesday, Trump loyalists will try to oust GOP Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming from her leadership post after she voted to impeach Trump last month on a charge of inciting the deadly insurrection. Their leader, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, even campaigned against Cheney by flying last week to a rally in Wyoming, where Donald Trump Jr. called in via speakerphone.
Meanwhile, few House Republican voices have been raised against Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the QAnon-aligned freshman Georgia Republican who in recent years has fantasized with followers about executing Democratic officials such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, spouted racial and religious bigotry and suggested mass shootings at schools such as in Newtown, Connecticut, and Parkland, Florida, were staged. (After a flood of new revelations about her past provocations, Greene now says the school shootings were real.)
House Democratic leaders plan to deliver an ultimatum to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy this week that if his caucus doesn't strip Greene of her committee assignments in 72 hours, the Democrats will seek such action on the House floor, CNN reported. A McCarthy spokesman called Greene's comments "deeply disturbing" but said the GOP leader wants to meet with her to discuss them, and there was no signal he was prepared to act against her.
For her part, Greene is claiming Trump's seal of approval. Last week, she said the former president called her and supported her. On Monday, Greene said she would soon be visiting Trump at Mar-a-Lago; there was no confirmation or denial from Trump. McCarthy and Trump met last week at the Florida club, pledging to work together for GOP candidates in 2022, but Trump's desire for revenge against Cheney and other Republicans is at odds with McCarthy's pleas for party unity.
McConnell: 'Loony' Greene a 'cancer'
While Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will play no role in how House Republicans handle Greene or Cheney, he decided to weigh in hard on both.
Greene’s embrace of "loony lies and conspiracy theories" is a "cancer for the Republican Party," McConnell said Monday night in a statement.
"Somebody who’s suggested that perhaps no airplane hit the Pentagon on 9/11, that horrifying school shootings were pre-staged, and that the Clintons crashed JFK Jr.'s airplane is not living in reality," said McConnell. Greene responded on Twitter, writing that "the real cancer for the Republican Party is weak Republicans who only know how to lose gracefully."
Separately, McConnell in a statement to CNN praised Cheney as "a leader with deep convictions and the courage to act on them."
McConnell's long reticence to speak up against Trump allies ended with the Trump-inspired Jan. 6 insurrection.
Democrats: Incitement months in the making
The Democratic House impeachment managers are preparing a case for next week's Senate impeachment trial to argue that Trump acted intentionally in a monthslong effort to subvert the will of the voters, culminating in incitement of the Capitol riot, CNN reported.
The House's pretrial impeachment brief on Tuesday will lay the legal groundwork for a case in which the managers plan to illustrate the horrors of the Capitol attack in visceral detail, the report said, and to tie the carnage back to Trump's words and actions spreading disinformation and stirring anger from his supporters. The managers still haven't decided whether to call witnesses.
Trump's new legal team, David Schoen and Bruce Castor, also is scheduled to file its response to the impeachment trial summons on Tuesday. Trump's previous team reportedly resisted his desire to make his baseless fraud claims a focus of his defense, but Schoen told The Washington Post he would not make the fraud argument. A former colleague said he couldn’t see Castor touching Trump’s "preposterous" claims either.
Janison: A real art of a deal?
Chances appear stronger, at least in theory, for serious cross-partisan negotiations on a new COVID-19 stimulus plan, writes Newsday's Dan Janison. The outcome will depend in part on how much Biden and congressional Democrats, who now have the upper hand, see fit to yield on the massive $1.9 trillion price tag.
Democrats speak of sticking firmly to the number. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer cited the financial crisis 12 years ago when he said Congress was "too timid and constrained in its response." In 2017, Republicans in control of both houses steamrollered over Democratic reservations to enact a massive $1.5 trillion multiyear tax-cut package signed by Trump.
But the players and circumstances have changed. Although the $618 billion coronavirus-aid counteroffer touted by a group of 10 Senate Republicans, who met with Biden on Monday evening for more than two hours, remains a nonstarter, the public rhetoric seems less than barbed.
"Clearly," White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Monday, Biden "thinks the package size needs to be closer to what he proposed than smaller." That's very different from saying the final funding commitment cannot and must not come out to a dollar less than proposed.
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a leader of the GOP group, said the conversation with the president was "frank and very useful" and the discussions will continue. A statement from Psaki on Monday night said, "While there were areas of agreement, the President also reiterated his view that Congress must respond boldly and urgently, and noted many areas which the Republican senators' proposal does not address." Biden also told the group that going ahead with the Democratic plan without GOP help remains an option.
How to catch an insurrectionist
Many of the accused Capitol rioters made it easy for the FBI to track them down because of their maskless faces plastered all over social media, sometimes in selfies.
The Washington Times writes that it analyzed 160 criminal cases filed from the siege, of which more than 100 of them included the help of a tipster or cooperating witness. In most instances, the tipster was the one who put the FBI on the trail. Among those dropping dimes were former lovers, Facebook friends, work colleagues, casual acquaintances, a probation officer and, in one case, a defense lawyer.
Three weeks into the investigation, nearly all of the new cases involve tipsters. Steven M. D’Antuono, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington field office, told reporters that tipsters were playing "a critical role" in arrests.
It didn't take CSI-level detective work to find Troy Faulkner of Whitehall, Ohio. Charging documents state that a video showed him kicking in a reinforced window shutter at the Capitol while wearing a sweatshirt promoting "Faulkner Painting," his personal business, on the back, along with the company's phone number.
No halt to deportations
Biden’s administration has deported hundreds of immigrants in its early days, despite his campaign pledge to stop removing most people in the U.S. illegally at the beginning of his term, The Associated Press reported.
A federal judge last week ordered the administration not to enforce a 100-day moratorium on deportations, but the ruling did not require the government to schedule them. In recent days, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement has deported immigrants to at least three countries — Jamaica, Guatemala and Honduras.
It’s unclear how many of those people are considered national security or public safety threats or had recently crossed the border illegally, the priority under new guidance from the Department of Homeland Security.
In the border city of El Paso, Texas, immigration authorities on Friday deported a woman who was to be a trial witness against the gunman in a 2019 massacre that left 22 people dead at a Walmart. The woman was pulled over Wednesday for a broken brake light, detained based on previous traffic warrants, then transferred to ICE, which deported her before she could reach her attorney, according to an agency that provide migrants with legal services.
More coronavirus news
See a roundup of the latest regional pandemic developments by Newsday's reporting staff, written by Bart Jones. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.
What else is happening:
- At least eight of the people who are now facing criminal charges for their involvement in the events at the Capitol did not vote in the November presidential election, according to a CNN analysis of voting records.
- Biden and his administration don’t spend a lot of time thinking about Trump, and "I can’t say we miss him on Twitter," Psaki said at her briefing Monday.
- Psaki said Biden's national security team has not yet determined whether to allow Trump as a former president to receive classified intelligence briefings. Some Democrats in Congress call Trump a security risk, and Psaki said the policy is "obviously" under review.
- Biden on Monday threatened new sanctions on Myanmar after its military staged a coup and arrested the civilian leaders of its government. A statement from the president called it a "direct assault on the country’s transition to democracy and rule of law." The U.S. for years encouraged the democratization process in Myanmar while seeking to pull it from China’s orbit.
- The first Marist poll of Biden's term finds he has an approval rating of 49%, while 35% disapprove and 16% are unsure.
- The Biden administration is placing hopes on Vice President Kamala Harris for persuading skeptical communities — mainly people of color — to get COVID-19 vaccines in their arms, Politico reports.