The 43 Senators of the Republican Sedition Caucus Are Every Bit As Guilty as Donald Trump

Voters must be reminded in 2022 that senators like Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson chose partisanship over their constitutional duty.

re printed from The Nation

February 18, 2021

by John Nichols

The 43 Republican senators who blocked the conviction of Donald Trump for the high crime of inciting insurrection to overturn the results of the 2020 election refused—for reasons of ideological delusion and blind partisanship—to hold a guilty man to account.

Despite Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell’s pathetic attempt to suggest otherwise—in one of the most intellectually dishonest speeches ever delivered in a chamber that has considerable experience of intellectual dishonesty—the senators who sided with Trump are now every bit as guilty as the seditious former president to whom they sold their political souls.

For that to happen, however, Democrats must recognize the genius of impeachment: that the impeaching of a president occurs on two levels. There is the formal process that occurs in the House and the Senate. And there is the informal process of indicting an errant president, and his defenders, in the eyes of the American people.

The 43 Republican senators who blocked the conviction of Donald Trump for the high crime of inciting insurrection to overturn the results of the 2020 election refused—for reasons of ideological delusion and blind partisanship—to hold a guilty man to account.

Despite Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell’s pathetic attempt to suggest otherwise—in one of the most intellectually dishonest speeches ever delivered in a chamber that has considerable experience of intellectual dishonesty—the senators who sided with Trump are now every bit as guilty as the seditious former president to whom they sold their political souls.

And every bit as deserving of electoral rejection.

For that to happen, however, Democrats must recognize the genius of impeachment: that the impeaching of a president occurs on two levels. There is the formal process that occurs in the House and the Senate. And there is the informal process of indicting an errant president, and his defenders, in the eyes of the American people.

History tells us that impeachments do not have to conclude with a conviction, or even a Senate trial, to matter. They can continue for so long as the people demand accountability. The fight simply moves from the Capitol to the polling place—as it did in 1974 when Richard Nixon quit the White House and avoided a House impeachment vote and a Senate trial, only to see Republicans lose four Senate seats and 48 House seats.

The 1974 election results remind us that one of the vital aspects of any meaningful impeachment is the extension of the indictment beyond the president who has committed specific high crimes to include those members of Congress who engage in the high crime of defending a guilty man. The key is to recognize that a process that may not bring accountability in the Capitol can do so at the ballot box.

AN ELECTORAL RECKONING

Voters in 2022, 2024, and 2026 can and should punish the 43 Republican senators who now make up the chamber’s sedition caucus. A few of the senators who protect Trump will avoid political justice by choosing not to run again. The rest must face an electoral reckoning.

In some states, the work has already begun. A billboard outside Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson’s hometown identifies the Trump-aligned Republican as “Treason Johnson” and stamps the word “Resign” across his face. It was erected by Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, one of a number of Democrats who are preparing to challenge the incumbent. “The trial may be over, but we won’t forget this,” Nelson said on Saturday. “The billboard I put up is a reminder that Ron Johnson should be held accountable for today’s vote and his traitorous actions. He should resign, and if he doesn’t, I’ll be the one to beat him in 2022.”

In Missouri, Democrat Scott Sifton launched his challenge to Senator Roy Blount, the chair of the Republican Policy Committee, with a double-pronged assault on Blount and the state’s most controversial Trump sycophant, Senator Josh Hawley. A former legislator, Sifton produced a powerful video that opens with an image of Hawley raising his fist in solidarity with the fascist mob that was preparing to storm the Capitol on January 6. “When he raised his fist and betrayed our democracy, Josh Hawley showed us who he really is. And when Senator Blunt was too weak to stand up to his party’s lies, he showed us who he is too,” says Sifton. “So next year when that Senate seat is on the ballot, we, the people of Missouri, need to show who we are.”

Nelson and Sifton are doing it right. So is the Florida Democratic Party, which ripped into Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who embarrassed himself during the trial by floating the delusional suggestion that if Trump were convicted as an immediately former president, then Hillary Clinton could be impeached as a distantly former secretary of state. Florida Democratic Party chair Manny Diaz argued that Rubio had “declared open season on our democracy by voting to condone an insurrectionist attack on our government, an attack unquestionably incited by Donald Trump.” Along with the state’s other Republican senator, Rick Scott, Diaz said that Rubio had “pledged loyalty to Trump above their duty to our country and the Constitutional oath they swore to uphold before God.”

RON JOHNSON’S CONSPIRACY THEORIES

On the top of any list of vulnerable Republicans is Ron Johnson. Like Missouri Senator Hawley and Texas Senator Ted Cruz—both of who are serving terms that run through the 2024 election—Johnson positioned himself during the impeachment trial as a belligerent Trump loyalist. On Saturday, the Wisconsinite yelled at a fellow Republican, Utah Senator Mitt Romney, for voting to hear witnesses. After the clash, Johnson complained that hearing the facts would only “inflame the situation” and screeched, “We never should have had this impeachment trial. It’s just like opening up a wound and just rubbing salt in it.”

On Monday, he tried to explain away his vote by questioning the seriousness of the attack on the Capitol, telling a Wisconsin right-wing radio host, “This didn’t seem like an armed insurrection to me.”

Why was Johnson so determined to downplay the violence that shocked the world on January 6? Why was he so aggressive in seeking to block witnesses and avert accountability? Because the senator knew that an honest examination of Trump’s guilt would shed light on his own culpability as an inciter of insurrection. In December, when he still chaired the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Johnson fed the hysteria that culminated in the attack on the Capitol by organizing a hearing that entertained the most outrageous of the lies Trump was promoting with regard to the election.

Since then, Johnson has continued to peddle conspiracy theories—speculating before the trial that Democrats were impeaching Trump in order to divert attention from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s supposed “blame” for the deadly riot. The senator offered no evidence to support his claim about the California Democrat, who was a target of the insurrectionists. Yet he asked, “Is this another diversionary operation? Is this meant to deflect away from potentially what the speaker knew and when she knew it?” A breathless Johnson concluded, “I don’t know, but I’m suspicious.”

What was suspicious was the senator’s ludicrous speculation. The same could be said of his claim that the Democrats were guilty of mounting a “vindictive and divisive political impeachment” that got in the way of “healing.” By Johnson’s standard, no political figure would ever be held to account—not even for inciting deadly violence.

THE PEOPLE ARE WHAT COUNT

Johnson and the other 42 Republicans who opposed accountability now want to “move on.”

But voters should never forget that these Republican senators refused to respect the essential calculus of the Constitution.

Lead impeachment manager Representative Jamie Raskin laid out that calculus: “Our Framers were so fearful of presidents becoming tyrants and wanting to become kings that they put the Oath of Office into the Constitution. They inscribed it into the Constitution to ‘preserve, protect and defend’ the Constitution of the United States.”

While the founders hoped that the oath would inspire honorable leaders to “faithfully execute the office of President of the United States,” Raskin explained, they were not so naive as to imagine a future in which only the honorable would occupy the Oval Office. So they awarded policing authority to the Congress.

“We’ve got the power to impeach the president, but the president doesn’t have the power to impeach us. Think about that. The popular branch of government has the power to impeach the president; the president does not have the power to impeach us,” said Raskin, continuing: “All of us who aspire [to] and attain a public office are nothing but the servants of the people. And the way the framers would have it is: The moment that we no longer act as servants of the people but as masters of the people, as violators of the people’s rights, that is the time to impeach, remove, convict, disqualify, start all over again. Because the interests of the people are so much greater than the interests of one person, any one person, even the greatest person in the country. The interests of the people are what count.”

 

 

Our democracy faced a near-death experience. Here’s how to revive it.

Washington Post

Opinion: Stacey Abrams

Feb. 7, 2021 at 9:00 a.m. EST

The violent Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, coupled with ongoing threats to election officials, election orkers and lawmakers at all levels, represent unprecedented attacks on the foundations of our democracy. Certainly, President Donald Trump and others in his party who inspired the attacks must be held accountable through all available means. But accountability alone will not be nearly enough.

Only meaningful reforms can undo the damage done — and establish a government that is truly representative of the people. The next real test of our democracy comes now.

Make no mistake: Democracy may have survived this year, but President Biden and Vice President Harris were elected despite, not thanks to, weakened electoral systems. Together with the Democratic Congress, they now have the opportunity to implement reforms that reaffirm our nation’s promises that our country represents and works for everyone. We as Democrats must act before it is too late.

Our democratic system faces extraordinary threats today because of sustained attacks from Republican leaders who throw up roadblocks to voting and, among the worst actors, stoke the flames of white supremacy and hyper-nationalism to cling to power. There can be no clearer example than the covid-19 pandemic. The deaths of more than 450,000 people in the richest country in the world are symptomatic of a democracy in crisis and a political system that rewards cronyism over competence. Despite strong public support for the Centers for Disease Control’s work, the Affordable Care Act, and other economic justice and safety-net policies that could save lives, millions nevertheless continue to contract the disease without adequate access to health care.

No thinking person can deny that the communities of color disproportionately suffering and dying from this pandemic are also the people whose votes — and ability to hold failed leaders accountable — have been continuously suppressed.

The pandemic has been a collision of tragedy and corroded institutions, and the challenge is in how we respond. We can either engage in collective amnesia about what we have just lived through, and leave an unaccountable government in place, or we can rise to meet this moment by fixing the broken social compact. Defeating Trump was not enough. Meaningful progress on health care, racial justice and the economy requires aggressive action on voting rights, partisan gerrymandering and campaign finance.

One of the first steps must be an overhaul of the Senate filibuster, which has long been wielded as a cudgel against the needs of millions who struggle. Today, the parliamentary trick creates a more sinister threat to our nation: the ability of a minority of senators, who represent 41.5 million fewer people than the Senate majority, to block progress favored by most Americans.

Democrats in Congress must fully embrace their mandate to fast-track democracy reforms that give voters a fair fight, rather than allowing undemocratic systems to be used as tools and excuses to perpetuate that same system. This is a moment of both historic imperative and, with unified Democratic control of the White House and Congress, historic opportunity.

The agenda to restore democracy also includes passing the For the People Act to protect and expand voting rights, fight gerrymandering and reduce the influence of money in politics; the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to restore the full protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act; and the Protecting Our Democracy Act to constrain the corruption of future presidents who deem themselves above the law. These landmark bills have broad-based support, and would have passed long ago were it not for obstructionist leaders who fear losing their own influence if the American people have more power of their own.

Further, fixing our democracy requires we finally allow our fellow Americans in D.C. and Puerto Rico, the vast majority of whom are people of color, to have full access to our democracy. That means D.C. statehood and binding self-determination for Puerto Rico. In the District, as white extremist mobs destroyed the Capitol, murdered a police officer, and threatened the lives of elected officials and residents, Washingtonians were left defenseless because D.C. is not a state and its chief executive had no authority to deploy the National Guard.

Time is short. The forces standing against a democracy agenda seek to preserve and expand paths to power by shrinking the voting pool rather than winning voters over. In reaction to the historic turnout of 2020 and Democratic victories in places such as Georgia, already this year more than 100 bills have been put forward in state legislatures seeking to restrict voting access. Those efforts will not end without a fight.

We don’t know how many chances we will get to reverse our democracy’s near-death experience. We must not waste this one. We must go big — the future of democracy demands it.

Stacey Abrams is a former minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives and founder of the group Fair Fight.

Trump actions illustrate why Congress must pass the For the People Act

reprinted from The Hill

BY Matt Keller, opinion contributor

01/22/21 04:30 PM EST 253

https://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/politics/535431-trump-actions-illustrate-why-congress-must-pass-the-for-the?fbclid=IwAR2bDa06Hxcfwa0NWe5PFkeFUln-JVuM6A5OHTG49S5N6TS3bd8Kod_L6AM

President Trump took the United States down the path trod by scores of developing-world nations which — after letting their guard down for just a second — ended up on a path of violence, insurrection and dictatorship.

When Trump began sowing the seeds of doubt in vote by mail and absentee balloting, he set the stage for both inciting and organizing an insurrection whose violence is not yet over. Before this, his shameless purges of administration officials who questioned both the legality and the morality of his attempts to pressure Ukraine into assisting his reelection campaign were done to clear his administration of any pesky naysayers who might give voice to democratic values.

These ploys are reminiscent of the various strongmen who have ruled many foreign nations for decades. In my 16 years of work that stretched from Libya to South Africa, from Sri Lanka to Brazil, from Afghanistan to Moscow, I saw the same brazen lying, the same awful cynicism, and the same clear-eyed contempt for any rule designed to check absolute power. In many of these countries, the playbook is the same. Sophisticated propaganda methods, force, denigration of the press, and a contemptible cabal of enablers who live in the reflected sunlight of the great man they choose to serve.

And let’s not forget the equally brazen ways in which Trump — like those same strongmen — enriched himself while in office.

Let’s not forget Vice President Mike Pence staying at a Trump property on the west coast of Ireland while his meetings were across the country in the east. Let’s not forget the hundreds of foreign dignitaries paying thousands of dollars to stay at the Trump Hotel just blocks from the White House, directly benefiting the president. Let’s not forget the ugly and brazen nepotism as the president appointed family members to key positions in his administration even though they are unable to pass basic background checks. These appointments are for jobs that demand extensive background checks precisely because they require access to highly classified material.

And let’s never forget candidate Trump taking from his charitable foundation to enrich both himself and his campaign. Some of these charitable contributions were used to buy a nine-foot portrait of Trump that he later had displayed at one of his country clubs. As any tin-pot dictator will tell you: Above all, omnipresence.

Zimbabwe’s late dictator Robert Mugabe and a dozen other corrupt leaders like him were masters of no-bid contracts, and of tribute payments to the strong man. Mugabe’s government was infamous for using public money entrusted to the government for personal and political gain.

Trump and the late Mugabe would probably have a good laugh about how easy it is to get away with self-dealing right in plain sight. Indeed, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington cites over 2,000 conflicts of interest involving Trump and his administration, his businesses and those seeking to influence him.

Our duty as reformers is to root out corruption by officeholders and government officials at every level of government. We must demand that all future presidents divest themselves completely of any assets or holdings that can be used to benefit them monetarily during their time in office. And we must pass the kinds of comprehensive campaign finance laws that restore faith in the men and women who represent us in the United States Congress.

Many of the provisions of H.R. 1 — the For the People Act — would go a long way in ensuring that the representatives we send to Washington would work for the common good, and not primarily for their own political advantages or personal financial gain. Other H.R. 1 provisions would bolster much-needed election integrity measures so that a master propogandist crying foul will never be taken seriously again.

Now is not the time for small steps or half-measures designed to provide incremental solutions to the deep wounds that the lawless and utterly corrupt Trump administration has inflicted upon our nation.

Now is the time to act.

If we don’t, then we will become indistinguishable from those countries where corruption and violence are simply a matter of course. Countries where corrupt strong men rule, and notions of democratic representation are thrown aside. Where the strong man’s personal gain is put ahead of the people he is entrusted to serve.

If we do nothing after watching the president of the United States enrich himself, lie about the election, and use the tools at his disposal to incite unspeakable violence against the American people, then the specters of corruption and violence that have haunted the Trump administration will never be put to rest. They will be as embedded in the American system of government as they are in any country ruled by those for whom corruption and violence are a way of life.

The For the People Act can help us make sure that a would-be tinpot dictator can never take advantage of our political system again.

Matt Keller is Vice President of Democracy 21 in Washington, DC, former Executive Director of the Global Learning XPRIZE, and legal counsel at the United Nations World Food Programme.

Progressive group urges corporations to halt donations to conservative Federalist Society after riot

Published Fri, Jan 15 20211:29 PM EST

  • Demand Justice told CNBC that it wants corporations to stop giving to the Federalist Society after senior member John Eastman, a lawyer and former law professor at Chapman University, spoke at the rally.
  • At the rally, Eastman and pushed the claim that there was voter fraud in the past election. President Trump has erroneously claimed that the election was stolen from him.
  • Eastman reportedly tried to convince Vice President Mike Pence that he had the authority to stop Congress from validating the election.

A progressive group is urging corporations to stop contributing to the Federalist Society after one of the conservative legal organization’s leaders was featured at last week’s rally that preceded the deadly riot on Capitol Hill. Demand Justice told CNBC that it wants corporations to stop giving to the Federalist Society after member John Eastman, a lawyer and former law professor at Chapman University, spoke at the rally.

Several of the companies that have given to the Federalist Society as recently as 2019 have said they would either not contribute to Republicans who challenged the results of the presidential election, or would reevaluate or pause donations from their corporate political action committees. These companies and groups include Facebook, Google, T-Mobile, Verizon and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The Federalist Society’s 2019 annual report shows that the five companies combined to give up to $400,000 to the group. The group finished that fiscal year with over $25 million in revenue. That report is the most recent available on the Federalist Society’s website. It is not clear whether these companies donated money to the Federalist Society recently. The next disclosure of donors could come later this year.

“These corporations can either take a stand against those who have supported acts of sedition or they can continue funding the Federalist Society, but they can’t do both,” Brian Fallon, the executive director of Demand Justice, told CNBC.

In a statement to CNBC, End Citizens United, a political action committee that has advocated for big money to be taken out of politics, blamed Eastman and the Federalist Society for the riot that occurred at the U.S. Capitol. Tiffany Muller, the group’s president, noted they are going to pressure corporations to end cut off funding for the group.

“We will make sure no one forgets the Federalist Society’s role on that dark day, and we’ll continue pressuring corporations to cease their funding to all traitors and terrorists,” Muller said.

None of the companies mentioned in this story responded to a request for comment. The Federalist Society did not return CNBC’s requests for comment.

The Federalist Society lists Eastman as chairman of its Federalism & Separation of Powers practice group. The Federalist Society’s board of directors includes Leonard Leo, who acted as an outside judicial advisor to President Donald Trump.

At the rally, Eastman pushed the claim that there was voter fraud in the past election. Trump has erroneously claimed that the election was stolen from him. Federal and state officials, including former U.S. Attorney General William Barr, have said there was no widespread voter fraud during the 2020 election.

“We know there was fraud. Traditional fraud that occurred. We know that dead people voted. But we now know because we caught it live last time in real time, how the machines contributed to that fraud,” Eastman said at the rally, while standing next to Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani. Part of Eastman’s speech was included in a tweet by Liz Harrington, a former spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee.

Later, as Congress attempted to confirm Joe Biden as the president, Trump’s supporters marched on the Capitol. Scores broke in, and the ensuing riot left five dead, including a police officer. House Democrats, along with 10 Republicans, voted to impeach Trump earlier this week for inciting the riot.

“It is alarming that a senior official in the Federalist Society was goading Vice President Pence to mount an illegal coup, and corporations should stop supporting this organization the same way they’ve stopped donations to members of Congress,” said Demand Justice’s Fallon. Demand Justice is a 501(c)(4) dark money group that does not publicly disclose its donors.

Eastman reportedly tried to convince Vice President Mike Pence that he had the authority to stop Congress from validating the election. Pence, who presided over the joint session of Congress that eventually confirmed Biden’s victory, has said that he did not have such authority.

This angered Trump, who tweeted criticism of Pence while the attack on the Capitol was unfolding. Rioters were caught on video chanting “Hang Mike Pence!”

Eastman recently left Chapman University after his remarks.

Eastman was also reportedly in line to join Trump’s impeachment defense team.

December 30, 2020 letter to Biden and Harris

 

December 30, 2020

The Honorable Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
President-Elect of the United States
Biden-Harris Transition Team
1401 Constitution Ave NW Washington, DC 20230

The Honorable Kamala Harris
Vice President-Elect of the United States
Biden-Harris Transition Team
1401 Constitution Ave NW Washington, DC 20230

Dear President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Harris,

Congratulations on your decisive victory in November. By a record number, the American people voted for the candidate who believes our democracy works best when every voice is heard and every vote is counted.

From leadership failures during the COVID-19 crisis to the corruption that many Americans believe pervades every corner of government, it’s critical for you to chart a new way forward. As members of the Declaration for American Democracy coalition—a 170+ member coalition of organizations across the issue spectrum representing tens of millions of Americans—we believe strongly that the way to do this is through prioritizing and working to implement comprehensive democracy reform policies, both through the legislative process and executive actions.

These efforts must include:

  • Protecting voting rights by ensuring every eligible voter is able to cast their ballots safely and securely, free from discrimination and voter
  • Ending the corrupting power of big money in politics through reforms that will empower small donors in politics, bring dark money into the light, and strengthen oversight of our
  • Restoring ethics and accountability in Washington by reducing the power of lobbyists and strengthening oversight and enforcement of federal conflict-of- interest rules.
  • Protecting the rule of law by restoring our Constitutional system of checks-and- balances and ensuring that no one in this country is above the law, even the president and his

From your first days in the U.S. Senate through the presidential campaign, both of you have fought to end the dominance of big money in politics and protect the right to vote.

President-elect Biden announced his support for the For the People Act (H.R. 1) during the presidential campaign and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris cosponsored the legislation in 2019.

The For the People Act is the most comprehensive package of anti-corruption and voting reforms since the Watergate reforms Biden supported in the 1970s. It would end the dominance of big money in politics, protect and expand the right to vote, and ensure public officials are working in the public interest.

We urge you to fully endorse this landmark legislation as it’s introduced and debated in the 117th Congress, call for its passage, and use the bully pulpit of the presidency to build public support for it.

In addition to legislative solutions, you can offer a clean break from the corruption of the Trump administration through a series of executive orders and appointments to address these issues.

This starts with signing a robust ethics order for your appointments on day one of your administration to prevent conflicts of interest, undue lobbyist influence, and ensure transparency to guarantee that your administration is focused solely on working for all Americans.

Your administration should also sign an executive order calling for contractors to disclose their political spending, encourage agencies to require more disclosure of corporate spending in our elections, restore and expand upon the precedent of releasing White House visitor logs, and appoint Department of Justice leadership committed to proactively enforce the Voting Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Help America Vote Act, among other things.

The prioritization and implementation of these issues would benefit greatly from the appointment of a White House senior staffer and affiliated office focused on a coordinated effort to address democracy reform issues across the government.

Too many Americans have lost faith that their elected officials can address our country’s challenges—from COVID-19 failures to tackling climate change and addressing the scourge of gun violence—because of the power of wealthy special interests in politics.

By supporting, championing, and prioritizing bold reforms like H.R 1 and implementing comprehensive ethics and transparency plans for your administration, we can restore ethics and accountability in government and protect the right to vote.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Signed,

Declaration for American Democracy
20/20 Vision
All On The Line
Alliance for Youth Action
American Oversight
American Promise
Blue Future
Brave New Films
Center for American Progress Action Fund
Center for Popular Democracy
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)
Clean Elections Texas
Common Cause
Democracy 21
Democracy Matters
Demos
End Citizens United / Let America Vote Action Fund
Fix Democracy First
Franciscan Action Network
Free Speech For People
Government Accountability Project Greenpeace USA
Indivisible
International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR)
Lawyers for Good Government (L4GG)
League of Conservation Voters
Maine Citizens for Clean Elections
MapLight
MomsRising
MoveOn
NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice
Next Up Action Fund
North Carolina Asian Americans Together
Patriotic Millionaires
Peace Action
People For the American Way
Progressive Turnout Project
Protect Democracy
Public Citizen
RepresentUs
RepresentUs New Mexico
Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
Stand Up America
Take on Wall Street
The Workers Circle
Union of Concerned Scientists Voices for Progress