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Trump accepts zero blame for deaths in his mob's U.S. Capitol putsch

Michael Sherwin, acting U.S. attorney for the District

Michael Sherwin, acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, speaks Tuesday about last week's U.S. Capitol riot. Credit: Pool / AFP via Getty Images / Sarah Silbiger

Still king of denial

Did you expect 74-year-old Donald Trump, who's president for another week at the most, to suddenly accept responsibility for his words and actions? Forget it. That will never be his style.

On Tuesday, he stayed true to form, telling reporters, "It's been analyzed, and people thought that what I said was totally appropriate" when Trump and his loyalists urged rallygoers last Wednesday to march to the U.S. Capitol and "fight like hell," "save America" and "do trial by combat." Trump's call to action was based on his huge, repeated lie that he'd won the election, for which Congress was about to begin affirming President-elect Joe Biden as winner.

Believe Trump's words were "appropriate," and you can't blame him for causing the death of one Capitol Police officer by mob violence, another officer's fatal shooting of a woman veteran who was trying to breach a barricaded doorway near the House chamber, another participant evidently trampled in the chaos, the subsequent suicide of yet another police officer and the death of two other people unlikely to have received quick medical help.

Trump's own words on Jan. 6 — see the videos and full transcript — contradict his self-praise. But on Tuesday, he spewed his habitual doses of blame on others. He denounced the eleventh-hour move by congressional leaders to impeach and convict him, which began gaining real momentum for the first time. "For Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to continue on this path, I think it’s causing tremendous danger to our country, and it’s causing tremendous anger," Trump said.

In case fanatics read that as another call to arms, Trump may have built in a bit of deniability by also saying: "I want no violence." But none of the Trumpian excuses seem to be slowing GOP momentum toward dumping and distancing from a president who has even turned on his own loyal-to-a-fault vice president, Mike Pence.

For further deflection, Trump on Tuesday used his standby claim of a "witch hunt." He cited "horrible riots in Portland and Seattle" over the summer, and he attacked tech companies and media that now deny him his accustomed platforms with the rationale that he uses them to provoke violence with deliberate, incendiary lies.

He even sought to project his own crisis onto Big Tech. "Big mistake, they shouldn't be doing it," he said of the social media shutout. "But there's always a countermove when they do that. I've never seen such anger as I see right now, and that's a terrible thing. Terrible thing." Tuesday night, YouTube suspended his account for at least seven days.

Mitch works a very late shift

Nearly one year after leading the rescue of Trump from impeachment over the Ukraine scandal, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has let it be known that he is pleased that House Democrats are moving forward Wednesday on a second impeachment — the better to purge a now-pariah president from the Grand Old Party.

The collapse of Trump allies picked up speed elsewhere in Congress. Perhaps 10 House Republicans were reported ready to support it. Included are Reps. John Katko of upstate Camillus, Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.

There are sober worries about how Trump might abuse his power if he stays any longer in office, including nuclear showdown, further incitements, inappropriate pardons and other unstable actions. Newsday's Tom Brune describes the concerns.

But conviction in this historic second impeachment could be tricky to pull off in the Senate due to rules governing its calendar. And McConnell on Tuesday didn't say he'd vote for conviction.

FBI and a warning of 'war'

The day before rioters stormed Congress, an FBI office in Virginia issued an explicit internal warning that extremists were preparing to travel to Washington to commit violence and "war," according to an internal document cited by The Washington Post.

"As of 5 January 2021, FBI Norfolk received information indicating calls for violence in response to ‘unlawful lockdowns’ to begin on 6 January 2021 in Washington. D.C.," the document states. "An online thread discussed specific calls for violence to include stating ‘Be ready to fight. Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in, and blood from their BLM and Pantifa slave soldiers being spilled.’ "

" ‘Get violent...’ "

" ‘Stop calling this a march, or rally, or a protest. Go there ready for war. We get our President or we die. NOTHING else will achieve this goal.’ "

Trump has downplayed FBI warnings that domestic terrorism warrants more priority.

That plot against America

Aaron Mostofsky, 34, the son of New York State Supreme Court Justice Steven "Shlomo" Mostofsky, was taken into custody by FBI agents at his brother’s Brooklyn home, Newsday's Robert Kessler reports. Photos of the judge's son wearing fur pelts and a police vest during the Capitol trespass went viral last week.

Aaron Mostofsky was charged with four counts, including theft of government property; unlawful entry and disorderly conduct; knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority; and knowingly with intent to impede government buildings or officials' functions, engaging in disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.

But he's a relatively minor if showy member of the motley cast.

Officials on Tuesday characterized the storming of the Capitol as a plot to overthrow the government, with top uniformed officers calling it "a direct assault on the U.S. Congress, the Capitol building, and our constitutional process."

Federal prosecutors are examining more than 160 cases and are mulling charges including sedition, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Misdemeanor counts against some of the dozens arrested so far may still be upgraded to sedition charges that are punishable by up to 20 years in prison and that carry the grave accusation of inciting an effort to overthrow the government, said Michael Sherwin, acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.

"This is only the beginning," he said.

Highest alert for Biden inaugural

The Secret Service and federal law enforcement agencies are bracing for a possible violent assault against the Jan. 20 inauguration, launching a security mobilization that will be unlike any in modern U.S. history, The Washington Post reports.

The high-alert security posture is starting six days earlier than planned to coordinate roles for the FBI, National Guard, U.S. Marshals Service and a host of other federal agencies that will fall under Secret Service command.

Meanwhile, National Guard troops pouring into Washington to secure the Capitol for the event will be armed, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy has decided.

Spreading more than chaos

Three House Democrats announced they tested positive for COVID-19, prompting concern that last week’s insurrection became a superspreader event threatening lawmakers and their staffers as many took shelter in close quarters.

Video surfaced of multiple Republican lawmakers refusing to wear face masks even when offered one while they were grouped with others during the forced security emergency. The three latest to test positive are Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) and Brad Schneider (D-Ill.).

Meanwhile Tuesday, in an about-face, the Trump administration announced it will make all of the U.S. coronavirus vaccine supply immediately available to states, rather than reserving required booster shots for those who've already had their first dose. Then it told states, which have been awaiting not only guidance but also funding and other support, to provide shots to anyone 65 and older. The national vaccine rollout has been disjointed. COVID-19 deaths have been surging.

Trump's Pence offense

Pence said in a Tuesday letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that he opposes invoking the 25th Amendment to kick Trump out early. "I do not believe that such a course of action is in the best interest of our Nation or consistent with our Constitution," Pence wrote.

Meanwhile Trump was quoted by The New York Times' White House sources as telling Pence who'd refused to violate the law to reverse the election: "You can either go down in history as a patriot or you can go down in history as a [expletive]."

Later, Trump tweeted abuse against Pence as he sheltered with others at the Capitol during the disturbances last week.

Despite Pence's resistance to invoking the amendment, the House passed a resolution Tuesday night, giving him 24 hours to do it or the chamber would begin Trump's impeachment proceedings.

Bordering on fantasy

Trump's first outing since the Capitol riot was a Tuesday trip to Alamo, Texas, for a visit to a section of the incomplete border barrier, which for years he has called his signature "wall," claiming that Mexico would pay for it. Funding was siphoned from the U.S. military budget after Congress denied it in a standoff. Only 47 miles of metal fencing have been built where no barrier previously existed, of the 400-plus miles that did get replaced, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. There was also a scandal involving one privately funded portion of the project.

Trump pretended anyway.

"They said it couldn’t be done and we got it done. One of the largest infrastructure projects in the history of our country," he said, later adding: "We gave you 100% of what you wanted so now you have no excuses."

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:

  • The Biden administration will focus on decreasing wait times to obtain citizenship, granting automatic green cards to protected undocumented immigrants and adding immigration judges to decrease backlogs, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris said.
  • Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino mogul and big financial backer of Trump and other Republicans, died Monday night at 87 after a long illness.
  • Two top Trump operatives, businessman Steve Wynn and lawyer Lin Wood, are embroiled in a spat related to their big-dollar private business.
  • New York State law enforcement is preparing for possible unrest in Albany after the FBI warned of violent protests nationwide ahead of Biden's inaugural.
  • A woman heckled Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer with loopy right-wing invectives at a news conference where he called for an airline travel ban for Capitol rioters.
  • Ex-Trump administration officials and anti-Trump Republicans vowed to raise $50 million to help reelect Republican lawmakers who support the outgoing president's impeachment.

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