Trial and terror
Congressional Democrats on Sunday vowed to move quickly with a second impeachment trial of President Donald Trump for inciting the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, reports Newsday's Laura Figueroa Hernandez.
On CNN's "State of the Union," Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, one of the lead impeachment managers, described Trump’s role in the siege of Congress as "the most serious presidential crime in the history of the United States of America."
Said Raskin: "I don't think anybody would seriously argue that we should establish a precedent where every president on the way out the door has two weeks, or three weeks, or four weeks, to try to incite an armed insurrection against the union or organize a coup against the union, and, if it succeeds, he becomes a dictator, and, if it fails, he's not subject to impeachment or conviction because we just want to let bygones be bygones."
The bygones route sounded good to Sen. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican. In a letter to New York's Chuck Schumer, soon to be Senate majority leader, Graham said an impeachment trial will be to blame for "delaying indefinitely, if not forever, the healing of this great nation."
Trump has yet to pick a legal team to defend him. Lawyers who took up his first impeachment case want no part of this one, and over the weekend Rudy Giuliani visited the White House and pitched a legal strategy. It went like this: Argue it wasn't incitement for Trump to rile up his supporters at a rally before the storming of the U.S. Capitol with the claim the election was "stolen" because the election was "stolen." Giuliani said the Senate should hear the same loony conspiracy theories that got lawsuits by him and his allies thrown out of courts when they tried to overturn President-elect Joe Biden's victory.
"They basically claimed that anytime [Trump] says 'voter fraud, voter fraud' — or I do, or anybody else — we're inciting to violence; that those words are fighting words because it's totally untrue," Giuliani told Jonathan Karl of ABC News on Saturday. "Well, if you can prove that it's true, or at least true enough so it's a legitimate viewpoint, then they are no longer fighting words," Giuliani asserted.
But on Sunday night, Giuliani told Karl he won't be on Trump's defense team. "Because I gave an earlier speech [at the rally], I am a witness and therefore unable to participate in court or Senate chamber," Giuliani explained. That may have something to do with Giuliani calling on Trump supporters to "do trial by combat" during his Jan. 6 Trump rally speech. After he, Trump and others spoke, rioters went on the hunt for members of Congress and Vice President Mike Pence to try to prevent them from affirming Biden's Electoral College win that day.
Biden plans a running start
Biden will deliver an appeal to national unity when he is sworn in Wednesday, and he plans immediate moves in a 10-day blitz to combat the coronavirus pandemic and undo some of Trump’s most controversial policies, Biden's incoming chief of staff Ron Klain said Sunday on CNN’s "State of the Union."
To tackle COVID-19, the plan calls for a mask mandate on federal government property and for interstate travel, expanded vaccine access through both drugstore chains and independent pharmacies, reimbursing states that deploy the National Guard to support vaccinations and extending limits on evictions.
Also, Biden will rescind the travel ban on several predominantly Muslim countries, rejoin the Paris climate accord and order federal agencies to find ways to reunite children separated from their families after crossing the border.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and top advisers to Biden sought to project confidence Sunday that the two Democrats will take the oath of office on the steps of the Capitol on Inauguration Day Wednesday. About 25,000 National Guard troops have been authorized to fortify security around Washington in the aftermath of the insurrection. See Figueroa's story for Newsday.
Doom-scrolling no more?
The start of Biden's term should bring an end to almost four years of Americans' anxiety about what their president is tweeting, wrote incoming White House communications director Kate Bedingfield.
Introducing what will become Biden's presidential account, Bedingfield wrote on Twitter: "You should follow this account — but you also won’t have to wake up at night with a start to anxiously see what this account has tweeted."
Over the long run, writes The Associated Press, Biden wants to reshape the presidency from what Trump made it. Incendiary tweets are out, wonky policy briefings are in.
Janison: Heroes of the Trump times
At some point after the pandemic subsides, honors can be properly bestowed on citizens and civil servants who carried out their duties faithfully since 2017 despite harassment by a toxic president and his fevered fans, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.
Honor is due to brave police officers who stood against the lethal pro-Trump mob at the Capitol, including Brian Sicknick, who was killed by rioters; Eugene Goodman, who lured marauders away from the Senate chamber, giving officials time to flee; and Mike Fanone, who was pushed, shoved, dragged and tased by rioters.
Consider too the medical professionals who had to improvise, based on mutual intelligence, a way to treat COVID-19 while the White House seemed AWOL, and the low-paid workers who kept essential services running as mask-wearing, social distancing and other measures to safeguard their health were turned into a running joke by Trump & Co.
Also deserving of recognition are Republicans like Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who didn't buckle under weeks of pressure from Trump himself, members of Congress and others to rig the president's vote numbers. Recognition also should go to Tomeka Hart, the forewoman of the federal jury that convicted Trump operative Roger Stone on seven felony counts and became a target of Trump's rage tweets.
There are many more names — such as former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who got fired for resisting Giuliani's smear plot against Biden — that could make the honor roll of dutiful Americans who matter-of-factly spoke truth to power abusers in the course of a day's work.
Inside the insurrection
More harrowing and infuriating stories from the violent attack on the Capitol are being told.
The Washington Post examined text messages, photos and hundreds of videos to assemble a gripping video timeline, "41 minutes of fear." It shows how close the insurrectionists came to lawmakers — in some cases just feet apart or separated only by a handful of vastly outnumbered police officers.
In what could pass as a darkly comic moment amid the mayhem, a knot of rioters examined papers from the Senate-floor desk of Texas' Sen. Ted Cruz and one cried out: "He was gonna sell us out all along — look! ‘Objection to counting the electoral votes of the state of Arizona.’ " Then one of his less-slow-witted partners in pillage interjected: "No, wait, that's a good thing … He’s with us." Still another, rifling through papers, opined that Cruz, one of the senators leading the objection efforts, "would want us to do this."
The Wall Street Journal, writing on the far-right Proud Boys' lead role in the assault, said the group's members — told by Trump during a debate Sept. 29 to "stand back and stand by" — took the president's call to rally against the election results in Washington Jan. 6 as the green light they had been waiting for. Multiple Proud Boys members have been arrested or identified in footage from the Capitol attack.
ProPublica has posted more than 500 videos that were uploaded to Parler before that extremist-friendly social media platform was taken down.
What's in the polls
An ABC News/Washington Post poll finds that 68% of Americans oppose Trump pardoning himself for any federal crimes he may be accused of committing and 58% support Twitter's ban on Trump.
By 67% to 25%, Americans approve of the way Biden has handled the presidential transition — but just half are confident he'll make the right decisions for the country's future.
In a CBS News poll, 54% of Americans say the biggest threat to America's way of life comes from inside the country — "other people in America, and domestic enemies." Just 20% saw economic forces as the top threat; 17%, natural disasters and viruses; and 8%, foreign enemies.
More coronavirus news
The nation's coronavirus death toll, now approaching 400,000, is likely to reach 500,000 sometime in February, Klain said on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday. "It's going to take a while to turn this around," the next White House chief of staff said. For more, see Newsday's story by Scott Eidler.
See a roundup of the latest regional pandemic developments by Newsday's Lisa L. Colangelo and Nicholas Spangler. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.
What else is happening:
- Some Trump allies are collecting big fees from wealthy felons or their associates to push the White House for pardons or commutations, The New York Times reported. A onetime top campaign adviser, Karen Giorno, was paid $50,000 to help seek a pardon for John Kiriakou, a former CIA officer convicted of illegally disclosing classified information. Trump’s former personal lawyer John M. Dowd also has a piece of the pardon action, The Times said. Kiriakou claimed he was solicited to enlist Giuliani's help for a $2 million fee; Giuliani denied it.
- Sue Gordon, who was principal deputy director of national intelligence from 2017 to 2019 and personally conducted many of Trump's intelligence briefings, is urging Biden to cut Trump off from intel updates customarily provided to ex-presidents. Gordon, in a Washington Post op-ed, called Trump a "potential national security risk" who "might be unusually vulnerable to bad actors with ill intent" and "has significant business entanglements that involve foreign entities."
- Small groups of right-wing protesters — some of them carrying rifles — gathered outside heavily fortified statehouses around the country Sunday as National Guard troops and police made a show of force to prevent a repeat of the violence that erupted at the U.S. Capitol. Security was stepped up in recent days following FBI alerts. In Ohio, a group dispersed when it began to snow.
- Leaders of the fractured Republican Party are publicly clashing over Trump's future role in the party and whether he remains the GOP’s standard-bearer, writes Newsday's Figueroa. Count Long Island's Rep. Lee Zeldin among those who don't want a change. "Donald Trump isn’t going anywhere," Zeldin said in an interview with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham last week.
- Gidley, the Trump spokesman, said the president isn't saying more to denounce the Capitol rioters because he "can't" after social media platforms "have removed him." It's a short walk from the White House residence or Oval Office to the briefing room, where the president has a podium and TV cameras.
- Harris will resign as a U.S. senator from California on Monday, two days before she makes history for women and people of Black and Asian descent by taking the oath as vice president, but it's unlikely she's cast her last vote in that chamber. She will be a tiebreaker when there's a partisan split in a 50-50 Senate. She also is expected to take a lead role in Biden administration negotiations with Capitol Hill.
- At least half of the eight GOP senators who voted to object against Biden's Electoral College victory will be attending his inauguration, Fox News reports. They are Cruz, Roger Marshall of Kansas, Tommy Tuberville of Alabama and Rick Scott of Florida.
- Trump is thinking aloud about building his presidential library in Florida for $2 billion, by far the most expensive ever, with small-dollar donations from grassroots supporters, The Washington Post reported. His choice to run it is Dan Scavino, the former Trump golf caddie turned White House social media director who helped Trump stock his former Twitter feed with racist memes and winks to QAnon, the conspiracy cult that was a driving force behind the insurrection.