What Would Nellis Say?

June 2022

Four takeaways from the fourth Jan. 6 hearing.
 
The House committee probing the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol held its fourth hearing Tuesday afternoon June 21st, focusing on President Donald Trump’s pressure campaign on state and local officials to help overturn the 2020 election results, along with his team’s “fake electors” plot.  Below are some takeaways from a June 21, 2022 Washington Post report.

ONE:  Rusty Bowers compelling testimony:  More evidence the Trump team knew its effort was illegal.
 

Arizona House Speaker Russell “Rusty” Bowers (R) provided some of the most compelling testimony. In doing so, he added to the growing volume of evidence that Trump’s team was told its plot to overturn the election was illegal.  Bowers said Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani asked him to look into potentially removing Joe Biden’s electors in Bowers’s state, at which point he bucked.

 

“He pressed that point, and I said, ‘Look, you are asking me to do something that is counter to my oath, when I swore to the Constitution to uphold it. And I also swore to the Constitution and the laws of the state of Arizona. And this is totally foreign as an idea or a theory to me. And I would never do anything of such magnitude without deep consultation with qualified attorneys,’” Bowers said. “And I said, ‘I’ve got some good attorneys, and I’m going to give you their names. But you’re asking me to do something against my oath and I will not break my oath.’”

 

TWO:  RNC chair links Trump to fake-elector plot.

 

At one point in Tuesday’s hearing, the committee shared evidence that Trump was pretty directly involved in the fake-elector plan.  Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said Trump, on a conference call, introduced Eastman to talk about having the fake electors in place as a contingency.

 

“Essentially, he turned the call over to Mr. Eastman, who then proceeded to talk about the importance of the RNC helping the campaign gather these contingent electors in case any of the legal challenges that were ongoing changed the result of any of the states,” McDaniel testified.

 

McDaniel didn’t say Trump himself was involved in designating the potentially illegal electors. But it suggests Trump was clued in on this part of the effort early on. And since those fake electors might have been illegal even at that early juncture — and were ultimately used as part of the Jan. 6 plot — that matters.

 

 

THREE:  Officials talk about intense pressure, protesters near families.

 

To start the hearing Tuesday, the committee laid out new evidence showing just how much pressure — and even, in some cases, apparent harassment — the Trump team’s allies subjected state officials to.  To wit:

 

  • Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R) said he received “just shy of 4,000 text messages over a short period of time calling [me] to take action” after Trump retweeted his phone number. Shirkey said the people who texted “were believing things that were not true.”

 

  • Pennsylvania House Speaker Bryan Cutler (R) received daily calls from Trump’s legal team, to the point where he had his lawyers ask for it to stop because it was inappropriate, according to the committee. But Giuliani kept calling. Cutler also said his 15-year-old son was home by himself during an early protest at their residence.

 

  • Bowers said his office received 20,000 emails and “tens of thousands” of voice mails. He said in one case there was a man with “three bars on his chest” (apparently a reference to the Three Percenters) “and he had a pistol and was threatening my neighbor — not with the pistol, but just vocally.” Bowers added that “at the same time on some of these, we had a daughter who was gravely ill, who was upset by what was happening outside.” (Bowers’s daughter died weeks after Jan. 6.)

 

  • Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) testified about protesters gathering near her house: “My stomach sunk, and I thought, ‘It’s me. … Are they coming with guns? Are they going to attack my house? I’m in here with my kid. I’m trying to put him to bed.' And so that was the scariest moment — just not knowing what was going to happen.”

 

  • Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) described his wife as having been harassed and added that “some people broke into my daughter-in-law’s home.” He added that “my son has passed, [so] she’s a widow and has two kids.”

 

FOUR:  Another member of the GOP testifies about Trump’s false statements.

 

On top of the evidence that Trump and his team were told that their voter-fraud claims were false and made them anyway, we now have evidence that they have not told the truth about what their own GOP allies were saying.

 

Greg Jacob, then general counsel to Pence, testified that the Trump campaign’s Jan. 5, 2021, statement saying that Pence was “in total agreement that the vice president has the power to act” on Jan. 6 was “categorically untrue.” In a taped deposition, Trump campaign aide Jason Miller testified that Trump “dictated most of” that statement.

 

Bowers called out another example. Shortly before Bowers’s testimony, Trump put out a statement attacking him. Trump claimed that Bowers told him in November 2020 that the Arizona vote was “rigged” and that he won the state. Bowers said it never happened. “I did have a conversation with the president; that certainly isn’t it,” he said, calling the allegation “false.”

What would Nellis say?

Americans should pay attention to this small but dangerous piece of the plot to overthrow the election. Big-Lie candidates are running for governor, Secretary of State, legislative seats, and other election officials in many states, who will decide the outcome of the next elections. They are dedicated to invalidating enough Democratic ballots to ensure that the radical Republican candidates will win. If they succeed, they will control the electoral leavers and the power to invalidate YOUR VOTE! Know the policies of the candidates that you support and vote to defend our democracy!

January 6 Hearing:  Trump told Justice Dept. to call election ‘corrupt.”

A June 23rd Associated Press report describes how Donald Trump hounded the Justice Department to pursue his false election fraud claims, striving in vain to enlist top law enforcement officials in his desperate bid to stay in power and relenting only when warned in the Oval Office of mass resignations, according to the House panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot.

Three Trump-era Justice Department officials recounted persistent badgering from the president including day after day of directives to chase baseless allegations that the election won by Democrat Joe Biden had been stolen.  They said they swept aside each demand from Trump because there was no evidence of widespread fraud, then banded together when the president weighed whether to replace the department’s top lawyer with a lower-level official eager to help undo the results.

All the while, Republican loyalists in Congress trumpeted the president's claims – and several later sought pardons from the White House after the effort failed and the Capitol was breached in a day of violence, the committee revealed Thursday.

The hearing, the fifth by the panel probing the assault on the Capitol made clear that Trump’s sweeping pressure campaign targeted not only statewide election officials but also his own executive branch agencies. The witnesses solemnly described the constant contact from the president as an extraordinary breach of protocol, especially since the Justice Department has long cherished its independence from the White House and looked to steer clear of partisan considerations in investigative decisions.

It's the latest account of how perilously close the United States could have come to a constitutional crisis if the Justice Department leaders had not threatened to resign over the scheme and the defeated Trump had been able to orchestrate a plan for the U.S. government to overturn election results in several pivotal states according to the Associated Press.

The witnesses solemnly described the constant contact from the president as an extraordinary breach of protocol, especially since the Justice Department has long cherished its independence from the White House and looked to steer clear of partisan considerations in investigative decisions.

“When you damage our fundamental institutions, it’s not easy to repair them,” said Jeffrey Rosen the acting attorney general in the final days of the Trump administration.  “So, I thought this was a really important issue, to try to make sure that the Justice Department was able to stay on the right course.”

The hearing focused on a memorably tumultuous time at the department after the December 2020 departure of Attorney General William Barr, who drew Trump’s ire with his public proclamation that there was no evidence of fraud that could have changed the election results.

The testimony showed that Trump did, however, find a willing ally inside the department in the form of an environmental enforcement lawyer who’d become the leader of the agency’s civil division.

The attorney, Jeffrey Clark, had been introduced to Trump by a Republican congressman and postured himself as an eager advocate for election fraud claims.  In a contentious Oval Office meeting on the night of Jan. 3, 2021, just three days before the insurrection, Trump even toyed with replacing Rosen with Clark but backed down amid warnings of mass resignations.

 

Clark’s name was referenced often at the hearing, with Rep, Adam Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican and committee member deriding him as a lawyer whose sole qualification was his fealty to Trump and his willingness to do whatever the president wanted, “including overthrowing a free and fair democratic election.”

What would Nellis Gray say?

Trump and his cronies employed every available tool of government to subvert the election results and support the insurgency at the Capitol. In spite of the White House packing the upper ranks of the Justice Department with loyal toadies, the institutionalists defended the independence of the agency and remained true to their oaths to the Constitution. His administration left no doubt that dismantling and demolishing every agency of government was considered a high priority, to eliminate regulations and taxation as payback to a federation of the richest Americans who have poured billions into creating a fascist autocracy to replace our democracy. Given a win in the coming elections, expect them to succeed.

We must not be afraid to prosecute Trump.  

In the face of growing evidence that former President Donald Trump violated laws and the Constitution in his effort to stay in office after the 2020 election, should he be prosecuted?

That is the wrong question says John Crips in a June 19th commentary in the Albany Democrat-herald.   

The right question is are we able to justify NOT prosecuting him?

The answer seems obvious: In a nation that aspires to operate according to the rule of law, if one breaks the law, one must be held to account according to a June 29th John Crisp commentary in the Albany Democrat-herald 

In fact, you and I, ordinary citizens, reasonably expect that if we get caught breaking the law, we will be prosecuted. But a former president isn’t an ordinary citizen. There are reasons to hesitate before bringing charges against Trump.

For one thing, prosecuting political rivals is the most basic instinct of authoritarians. For example, just before the 2020 election, President Trump publicly pressured Attorney General William Barr to bring charges against Obama-era officials that Trump accused — without evidence — of spying on his campaign.

And few elements of Trump’s presidency are more unseemly, threatening and less American than Trump and his subalterns leading chants at his rallies of “lock her up!  Lock her up!

So, prosecuting political rivals – no matter how guilty they are – is a path that Democrats must tread very cautiously.

This is the wrong question.  The right question is:  Are we able to justify NOT prosecuting him.

Further, prosecuting Trump will do nothing to reconcile our deeply divided body politic.  A Surprising number of Americans share with Trump his delusion that the election was stolen.

 

Many of them have not watched the testimony before the Jan. 6 House committee. Many are angry and well-armed.  Many are uninterested in the evidence against Trump and are bound to see any attempt to prosecute him as a purely political attack.

Do we really want to prod that disgruntled sleeping bear?

But again, the question is not whether we should prosecute Trump.  The question is:  How do we fail to prosecute him and still call ourselves a nation of laws?

The evidence against Trump becomes clearer at every Jan. 6 hearing. Against the counsel of his advisers — except Rudy Giuliani — Trump mounted a systematic, if somewhat clumsy, campaign to overturn the 2020 election. Jan. 6 House committee chair Bennie Thompson used the apt term “coup” to describe Trump’s attempt to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to delay the certification of the Electoral College votes, the brazen effort to submit false rosters of electors from battleground states, the effort to pressure Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” 11,780 votes and Trump’s incitement of a mob to march on the Capitol and “fight like hell.”

Trump’s defenders note that the coup didn’t succeed; Joe Biden was duly inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2021. Perhaps, in the interest of national comity, it would be better to judge Trump “not guilty” by reason of ineptitude and move on.

The problem, of course, is that the coup is still in motion. Trump has yet to concede the election, and a staggering number of Republicans still argue that the election was stolen. Republicans are running for office on that lie and are making organized efforts to install election deniers in positions of power. The coup that failed may have much better prospects in 2024.

The metaphors are a bit overused, but I cannot think of better ones: Trump Republicans are playing hardball. They’ve taken the gloves off. The thirst for power is clearly illustrated by the maneuvers that resulted in the overturning of Roe v. Wade last week. Democrats are terribly naïve to think that Republicans devoted to Trump will hesitate to use any measure, democratic or not, to acquire a firm hold on all branches of government.

Our republic’s founding required courage. If the revolution of 1776 had failed, as Ben Franklin put it, “most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” The Founders’ lives were on the line.

But maintaining our republic requires courage, as well. Democracy is not for the faint-hearted. If our republic is to survive, power must be met with power. In the case of Trump, Democrats have the force of law and justice behind them. They must not be afraid to use it.

What would Nellis Gray say?

Nixon escaped justice and a prison sentence by the grace of Gerald Ford's pardon. Trump and his many co-conspirators must be indicted and convicted for their fumbling attempt to overturn the results of the election, if our institutions of justice are to survive to protect our Constitution from the next onslaught of fascists.

If the Rule of Law is to stand for anything in the future, a guilty president should receive the same protections and sentences as any other criminal who tried to overthrow the government.

The shame of the Supreme Court.

The six Republican appointees are intent on returning America to the stone age.

If there’s any doubt about the extremism of the Supreme Court’s six Republican appointees, it was on full display June 24th with their opinion in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization which overrules Roe v Wade, establishing the right to an abortion.   Roe had been the law of the land for almost fifty years says Robert Reich in his June 24th column.

Even more ominous is Clarence Thomas’s concurring opinion, in which he argues that the same rationale the court used to overrule Roe should be used to overturn cases establishing rights to contraception, same-sex consensual relations and same-sex marriage.  Thomas is pointing the way for the radicals on the court to take in the future.

If the due process clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution doesn’t protect abortion, says Thomas, the court “should reconsider” other cases that rely on the same clause:  Griswold v Connecticut, a 1965 decision that declared married couples have a right to contraception; Lawrence v. Texas, a 2003 case invalidating sodomy laws and making same-sex sexual activity legal across the country; and Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 case establishing the right of gay couples to marry.

Thomas says the court has a duty to “correct the error” established in those precedents.  That’s not all.  After “overruling these demonstrably erroneous decisions, the question would remain whether other constitutional provisions protected the rights they established, says Thomas.

I was in law school in 1973 when the Supreme Court decided Roe v Wade, says Thomas.  Also in my class at the time was Clarence Thomas, along with Hillary Rodham (later Hillary Clinton) and Bill Clinton.

Our law professors used the “Socratic method” – asking hard questions about the cases they were discussing and waiting for students to raise their hands in response, and then criticizing the responses.  It was a hair-raising, but effective, way to learn the law.

One of the principles guiding those discussion is called stare decisis – Latin for “to standby things decided.”  It’s the doctrine of judicial precedent.  If a court has already ruled on an issue (say, on reproductive rights or gay marriage), future courts should decide similar cases the same way.  The Supreme Court can change its mind and rule differently than before, but it needs good reasons to do so, and it helps if the justice’s opinion is unanimous or nearly so. Otherwise, the rulings appear (and are) arbitrary – even, shall we say? – political. 

In those classroom discussions almost fifty years ago, Hillary’s hand was always first in the air.  When she was called upon, she gave perfect answers -whole paragraphs, precisely phrased.  She distinguished one case from another, using precedents and stare decisis to guide her thinking.  I was awed.

My hand was in the air about half the time, and when called on, my answers were meh.

Clarence’s hand was never in the air.  I don’t recall him saying anything, ever.

Bill was never in class.

Only one of us now sits on the Supreme Court.  He and five of his colleagues – all appointed by Republican presidents, five by presidents who lost the popular vote, three by a president who instigated a coup against the United States – are no violating stare decisis.  They have not given a clear and convincing argument for why.  Thomas wants the court to reverse more than a half century of rights.

The Supreme Court is now firmly in the hands of radicals, eager to throw stare decisis out the window.  They are part of the anti-democracy movement now threatening America.

What would Nellis Gray say?

The Heritage Foundation was instituted and funded with the sole aim of packing the Federal Courts with bigots dedicated to protecting their paymasters and eliminating every right or benefit passed by Congress since 1850…and they are succeeding and they intend to continue to roll back historic decisions until the Court is nothing more than a radical instrument of Republican oppression.