Suddenly America

People need to get out more. Conservatives need to hang with the inner-city kids and their moms, or visit with a Honduran family on a Sunday afternoon after church, or visit an actual mosque to see what’s up, and just chat with folks. Liberals need to sit a spell with a few rednecks, drink some beer, or sip something stronger, and talk about the kids and the weather. Mellow out. Country music isn’t that bad. These people aren’t your enemy. And the country isn’t seething in anger. Folks are just living their lives. And their lives aren’t political. Life is good.

And that means the big-city newspapers should send their reporters out in the field, perhaps out in actual fields, to see what’s up in the real America, the warm-hearted good America, where things aren’t all that bad. That’s what the New York Times did. The Times sent Lisa Lerer and Reid Epstein out there. Cool. But they found this:

In Cleveland County, Okla., the chairman of the local Republican Party openly wondered “why violence is unacceptable,” just hours before a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol last week. “What the crap do you think the American revolution was?” he posted on Facebook. “A game of friggin pattycake?”

Two days later, the Republican chairman of Nye County in Nevada posted a conspiracy-theory-filled letter on the local committee website, accusing Vice President Mike Pence of treason and calling the rioting a “staged event meant to blame Trump supporters.”

And this week in Virginia, Amanda Chase, a two-term Republican state senator running for governor, maintained that President Trump might still be sworn into a second term on Jan. 20 and that Republicans who blocked that “alternative plan” would be punished by the president’s supporters.

“They’ve got Mitch McConnell up there selling out the Republican Party,” Ms. Chase, who spoke at the protest in Washington last week, said in an interview. “The insurrection is actually the deep state with the politicians working against the people to overthrow our government.”

Okay. Scratch the warm-hearted good America theory. This is Donald Trump’s America:

Interviews with more than 40 Republican state and local leaders conducted after the siege at the Capitol show that a vocal wing of the party maintains an almost-religious devotion to the president, and that these supporters don’t hold him responsible for the mob violence last week. The opposition to him emerging among some Republicans has only bolstered their support of him.

And while some Republican leaders and strategists are eager to dismiss these loyalists as a fringe element of their party, many of them hold influential roles at the state and local level. These local officials are not only the conduits between voters and federal Republicans, but they also serve as the party’s next generation of higher-level elected officials, and would bring a devotion to Trumpism should they ascend to Washington.

Yes, this is the future:

The continued support for the president is likely to maintain Mr. Trump’s influence long after he leaves office. That could hamper the ability of the party to unify and reshape its agenda to help woo back moderate suburban voters who play a decisive role in winning battleground states and presidential elections.

At the same time, stepping away from the president could cost the party his supporters – millions of new working-class voters who helped Mr. Trump capture more votes than any other Republican presidential candidate in history.

Republicans need those moderate suburban voters more than ever. Go after them and lose those millions of new working-class voters forever. Choose. And by the way, get rid of the usual Republicans while you’re at it:

Several House Republicans also called for Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, a high-profile voice for impeachment, to step down from her leadership position in the party’s caucus.

Anthony Sabatini, a Florida state representative, described Ms. Cheney and other Republicans who voted for impeachment as “artifacts,” saying they were out of step in a party that has embraced a more populist platform opposed to foreign interventions and skeptical of free trade.

“She’s like a fossil,” he said of Ms. Cheney. “The party is completely and totally realigned. Mitt Romney wouldn’t win in a primary today. He would not be able to be elected dogcatcher today.”

Republicans now understand the problem:

In the New Jersey State Senate, Republicans were split on a resolution condemning Mr. Trump for inciting the crowd that attacked the Capitol. The majority of Republicans chose to abstain, and many used their time on the floor to try to flip the debate to the protests against racial injustice over the summer, and had to be reprimanded by the Senate president for veering off topic.

They squirmed. They had nowhere to hide. The country had changed:

The siege at the Capitol last week has drawn an even brighter line dividing the party. State legislators from more than a dozen states attended the protest, with at least one facing criminal charges for breaching the Capitol as part of the riot. Meshawn Maddock, an activist who is poised to be the incoming Michigan Republican Party co-chairwoman, helped organize busloads of supporters from her state to travel to the Capitol. In the days after the violence, she joined a conservative online group where some participants openly discussed civil war and martial law.

Many continue to defend their role in the event.

“Those who hold sway in Congress today look out on much of the country with disdain. Trump has never done that,” said State Representative David Eastman of Alaska, who attended the protest. “I, along with nearly a million other Americans, was glad to travel to D.C. to hear the president speak and thank him for his four years in office. Those in today’s ruling class will never truly understand why.”

They do need to get out more, but as Politico reports, they do need to be careful:

Lawmakers who interacted with the pro-Trump protesters who rioted at the Capitol last week could face criminal charges and will almost certainly come under close scrutiny in the burgeoning federal investigation into the assault, former prosecutors said.

“This is incredibly serious,” said Ron Machen, a former U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C. “Although you would need compelling evidence before charging a member of Congress with anything related to the breach of the Capitol that day, this has to be investigated.”

Unlike with the president, there’s no Justice Department policy shielding members of Congress from legal accountability while in office.

“I’d say those are potentially viable prosecutions,” added Peter Zeidenberg, another former federal prosecutor in Washington. “I’d say those guys should be worried.”

And this isn’t hypothetical:

The role members of Congress may have played in facilitating the deadly attack drew intense attention this week after Democratic lawmakers alleged that some of their Republican colleagues facilitated tours of the Capitol on January 5 – one day before demonstrators engaged in the assault that terrorized lawmakers, ransacked congressional offices and left as many as five people dead.

Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.) sent a letter Wednesday formally asking the Capitol Police and congressional officials to investigate the tours, which she said were unusual. In a Facebook video, she said the visits amounted to “a reconnaissance of the next day.”

“The tours being conducted on Tuesday, January 5, were a noticeable and concerning departure from the procedures in place as of March 2020 that limited the number of visitors to the Capitol,” Sherrill and 33 colleagues wrote. “The visitors encountered by some of the Members of Congress on this letter appeared to be associated with the rally at the White House the following day.”

Sherrill suggested that access raised the possibility that the visitors were casing the building for the assault that unfolded the next day.

That’s becoming more obvious and awaiting smoking-gun proof soon, and there’s implicit reverse proof:

The chief organizer of Stop the Steal, one of the groups behind the Jan. 6 protests that ended in a violent assault on the Capitol, has claimed to be working with several Republican members of the House to organize the event. But it remains to be seen whether any coordination ahead of last week’s rally extends to complicity in the storming of Congress.

Democrats have raised several potential means for punishing GOP lawmakers who may have been involved in either fomenting or directing the riot – from congressional investigation to criminal sanction.

And then there’s the president:

Some lawyers have said that inflammatory speeches by President Donald Trump, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) to the crowd that joined in the riot a short time later may be protected by the First Amendment. Fiery speeches are not uncommon at political events and making speakers responsible for all actions taken by audience members could chill public debate, scholars argue.

But ex-prosecutors say any criminal case against Trump or lawmakers would not be based solely on the speeches, but on other public and private communications – emails and texts exchanged with organizers and supporters in the days leading up to the rally and on the day of the shocking attack. Investigators will be looking for discussion of a physical assault on the Capitol building and for indications that individual members were specifically targeted.

Suddenly, America is a dangerous place:

A rehearsal for Joe Biden’s inauguration scheduled for Sunday has been postponed because of security concerns, according to two people with knowledge of the decision.

After last week’s riots in Washington, security officials have locked down the Capitol complex, and the National Guard is expected to deploy more than 20,000 troops to assist with security. Top lawmakers and Homeland Security officials have been alarmed about the rising threats around the inauguration, and the FBI warned this weekend of armed protests in all 50 states.

The rehearsal is now planned for Monday, the people said.

The president-elect’s team has also canceled an Amtrak trip from Wilmington to Washington planned for Monday because of heightened security concerns.

Biden could get killed out there. Anyone could get killed out there. But don’t start any panic:

The presidential inaugural committee declined to comment on the changes, and the Secret Service and the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies did not respond to requests for comment.

That might keep things calm, but there’s always one more unnerving story. The Associated Press ran this one:

A retired Air Force officer who was part of the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol last week carried plastic zip-tie handcuffs because he intended “to take hostages,” a prosecutor said in a Texas court on Thursday.

“He means to take hostages. He means to kidnap, restrain, perhaps try, perhaps execute members of the U.S. government,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Weimer said of retired Lt. Col. Larry Rendall Brock Jr. without providing specifics.

The prosecutor had argued that Brock should be detained, but Magistrate Judge Jeffrey L. Cureton said he would release Brock to home confinement. Cureton ordered Brock to surrender any firearms and said he could have only limited internet access as conditions of that release.

“I need to put you on a very short rope,” Cureton said. “These are strange times for our country and the concerns raised by the government do not fall on deaf ears.”

The government did raise concerns:

Weimer read a termination letter from Brock’s former employer that said he had talked in the workplace about killing people of a “particular religion and or race.” Weimer also read social media posts in which Brock referred to a coming civil war and the election being stolen from President Donald Trump.

Weimer said Brock’s posts also referenced the far-right and anti-government Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters, a loose anti-government network that’s part of the militia movement. The Oath Keepers claim to count thousands of current and former law enforcement officials and military veterans as members.

That’s a bit of a worry, and NBC News’ Benjy Sarlin offers this:

After last week’s deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump, members of Congress are expressing something once unthinkable: that some of their own colleagues may be endangering their lives. Not in a rhetorical sense, but in a direct and immediate way.

“It’s the most poisonous I’ve ever seen,” Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., said in an interview. “There’s the overall sense that maybe if some of them have guns – and likely the ones who are more into conspiracy theories and QAnon with the pedophilic satanic rings – are we safe from them?”

The odds are against that:

Since the deadly riot Jan. 6, lawmakers have suggested – not, so far, backed up by evidence – that far-right colleagues may have helped plan or guide the attack. There are particular concerns about some newly elected members who have espoused extremist views, including comments supportive of the QAnon lie that accuses perceived enemies of Trump of being part of a child-abusing cult.

It’s more than that. Those enemies of Trump murder those little children and then drink their blood and chop up their little bodies and eat them. Those enemies of Trump are cannibals. Tom Hanks is one of them. Lady Gaga is one of them and Hillary Clinton started it all. And by the way, at least one third of the bureaucrats working in government are actually lizard-people from outer space. That’s the real deep state.

These people carry guns:

One House freshman is pushing to carry firearms on Capitol grounds, and another one recounts being armed during the attack, further putting their colleagues on edge. With the support of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., security officials have installed metal detectors outside the House floor, causing tension among some Republicans and effectively suggesting that members themselves may pose a danger.

Democrats are outraged at 147 Republicans who they say abided by the rioters’ calls and voted to overturn the election results even after the violent attack, which left five people dead and forced lawmakers to hide in their offices and safe rooms.

And now no one trusts anyone:

With lawmakers traumatized, hundreds of members of the National Guard sleeping in congressional hallways and warnings from authorities about continued threats, suspicion and rumor are running rampant.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., has said she feared for her life, in part because she doubted the motives of unnamed colleagues who were sheltering with her.

“There were QAnon and white supremacist sympathizers, and frankly white supremacist members of Congress, in that extraction point who I have felt would disclose my location and would create opportunities to allow me to be hurt, kidnapped, etc.,” Ocasio-Cortez, a highly visible progressive and frequent target of conservative media, said in a speech Tuesday streamed live on Instagram.

She was mocked for that. What if her colleagues told the mob exactly where she was and watched as they beat her to death? Politics is dangerous. She should have known that. She should stop whining, or maybe not:

A trio of GOP freshmen have drawn particular attention and concern from colleagues: Reps. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.

Some lawmakers have suggested that Boebert, a Second Amendment advocate and past QAnon sympathizer, may have deliberately revealed Pelosi’s location during the attack on Twitter. Boebert also tweeted “Today is 1776” the morning of the rally.

The concerns are not limited to Democrats. Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., called Boebert “culpable” in the attack in an interview with National Journal, citing her tweet about Pelosi.

Boebert has denied any involvement in the assault, including claims that she sought to draw attention to Pelosi’s whereabouts, saying her tweet was posted after Pelosi had moved on and did not mention her secure location.

Does that make everything all better? Sarlin asks around:

It’s hard to find historical precedent for this level of visceral worry about danger among lawmakers.

Joanne Freeman, who is a historian at Yale University and the author of “The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War,” likened the atmosphere to the decades before the Civil War, when fistfights often broke out on the House floor and a Northern senator was caned by a Southern House member.

Freeman cautioned against drawing too many direct parallels, as it was a more violent time in America across the board. But, she said, the violence in Congress both reflected and encouraged violence outside its walls: It took place as slave owners were brutalizing Black Americans and engaging in limited warfare with abolitionists in the territories.

“Everything that happens in the Capitol and Congress has a symbolic representative nature, and that’s some of what we saw this week and some of what we’re responding to,” Freeman said.

The panicked white folks are fighting back? It’s more than that:

Two lawmakers, Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., and freshman Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Mich., both claim that some GOP colleagues voted to overturn the election results or against impeaching Trump out of fear that their families’ lives may be put in danger. Other Republicans urged against impeachment in part to avoid inciting further violence, effectively conceding that pro-Trump extremists pose a continuing threat.

Meijer said in an appearance on MSNBC that he and other members were buying body armor.

“It’s sad that we have to get to that point, but our expectation is that someone may try to kill us,” he said.

Of course they will. This is Trump’s America:

Kim Lane Scheppele, a professor of sociology and international affairs at Princeton University who studies how democracies slide into authoritarianism, said the atmosphere was disturbingly similar to those in governments in which dissident politicians live in fear of death threats, including fears that pro-regime extremists might target them with tacit support from government leaders or state security.

“In the atmosphere of threat, a lot of people quit,” she said. “By the time you’re at the endgame, you only have the people who say they refuse to be bullied and will risk their lives and those that are so bullied they can’t even open their mouths.”

America is getting there, and Paul Waldman offers this:

Republicans are no longer just afraid that their base will force them to defend the politically indefensible or send them packing in a primary challenge.

They’re afraid that their base, or at least certain elements of it, will literally kill them.

In the GOP, that dynamic is now being shaped by QAnon, the new face of the Republican opposition…

This has now been incorporated into the thinking of every Republican as they navigate each new controversy: not just, “Will this vote anger my constituents and get me a primary challenge from the right?”, but also, “If I oppose my party’s base on this, will they murder me and my family?”

This is not an exaggeration or a metaphor. In December, the majority leader of the Pennsylvania Senate said that if she didn’t support Republican efforts to nullify the state’s electoral votes, “I’d get my house bombed tonight.”

With the attack on the Capitol, the murderous threat to the life of every elected official came home for members of Congress.

That’s America now. Suddenly people get it:

Just hours after Trump supporters rampaged through the Capitol to overturn the election through violence, eight senators and 139 members of the House – fully two-thirds of the GOP caucus in the lower chamber – voted to reject legitimate electoral votes, essentially telling the rioters that they were right.

Why did they do it? Some might actually believe the conspiracy theories, while others are contemptible opportunists. But others did it because they feared for their lives.

Rep. Peter Meijer (Mich.), one of 10 Republicans who later voted to impeach President Trump for inciting the riot, wrote about a Republican colleague who knew GOP efforts to overturn the election were wrong but joined them anyway. Why? “My colleague feared for family members, and the danger the vote would put them in. Profoundly shaken, my colleague voted to overturn.”

The same fears were at play a week later on the question of impeachment. Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.) said on Wednesday that his GOP colleagues are “paralyzed with fear,” noting that in his conversations with Republican members, “A couple of them broke down in tears, talking to me and saying that they are afraid for their lives if they vote for this impeachment.” Tim Alberta of Politico confirmed that, tweeting, “I know for a fact several members ‘want’ to impeach but fear casting that vote could get them or their families murdered.”

So, this is what’s out there:

For many months, the way QAnon and its beliefs about a global conspiracy of Satan-worshipping pedophile cannibals were steadily infecting the Republican Party was bizarre and disturbing. But now it is defining the party’s relationship with its base – and the threat of violence is at the core of that relationship.

The public confrontations we now see between conspiracy-minded Trump supporters and members of Congress now have an undercurrent of potential violence that they didn’t have before. Interactions that used to be spirited or even angry now hum with the threat that they could end in murder.

Suddenly, America is a dangerous place. But it wasn’t all that sudden. This took four years. And now it’s here forever.

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Count Him Out

That didn’t take long. History isn’t supposed to be made in just one day, and a shortened day at that. But what had happened was clear, and what should happen was clear enough. The president had tried to overturn or nullify a certified election he had officially lost. And he had gone too far. He had sent what was, in effect, his informal army of angry thugs, down the street to shut down that rather boring counting of votes, to shut down the government. But that got out of hand. They went looking for the vice president, there to preside over the count. They wanted to hang him. And some wanted to beat House Speaker Pelosi to death right then and there. And he watched from afar, wondering why his people didn’t love what they were all seeing on Fox News. He did. The mob was trashing the Capitol Building. They beat a Capitol Hill cop to death with a fire extinguisher. And they were doing all this for him. Look! They love me!

He was wrong. His sample-size was too small. Everyone else was appalled. There was no point in discussing this any further. It was time to impeach this guy. That took just one day:

The House made history Wednesday by impeaching a president for a second time, indicting President Trump a week before he leaves office for inciting a riot with false claims of a stolen election that led to the storming of the Capitol and five deaths.

Unlike Trump’s first impeachment, which proceeded with almost no GOP support, Wednesday’s effort attracted 10 Republicans, including Rep. Liz Cheney, the No. 3 party leader in the House. The Senate now appears likely to hold a trial after Trump’s departure, an unprecedented scenario that could end with lawmakers barring him from holding the presidency again.

The final vote was 232 to 197.

And that was that. No president can use his own private armed militias to run the country, but somehow that notion was now controversial:

One of the final dramas of a tumultuous presidency, the impeachment unfolded against the backdrop of near-chaos in the House and uncertainty about where Trump’s exit leaves the GOP. Democrats and Republicans exchanged accusations and name-calling throughout the day, while Trump loyalists were livid at fellow Republicans who broke ranks – especially Cheney – leaving the party’s leadership shaken.

But despite the emotions stirred by the Capitol assault, the great majority of Republicans stood by the president, including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). He argued on the House floor that while Trump bears responsibility for the attack on the Capitol, the snap impeachment would only “further fan the flames of partisan division.”

McCarthy for the first time publicly endorsed a censure for Trump, but the call came too late to serve as an effective alternative to impeachment.

There were no other options, only next steps:

With just seven days remaining in Trump’s term, it became increasingly certain Wednesday that Trump would not be removed from office prematurely. The impeachment resolution for “incitement of insurrection,” however, also seeks Trump’s future “disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.”

The focus will now turn to how the trial will unfold in the Senate, which has never before held an impeachme trial for a former president.

The House and Senate are working on that. The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman and Michael Schmidt report that Donald Trump is working on this:

Under heavy pressure from his advisers, President Trump on Wednesday released a five-minute video recorded in the Oval Office condemning last week’s mob violence at the Capitol and urging his supporters to stand down from further rioting next week.

The video was made public hours after Mr. Trump was impeached a second time and was the result, advisers said, of his realization of the catastrophic fallout from the deadly siege, which also left lawmakers fearing for their lives in the seat of American democracy.

The fallout was catastrophic. More and more Republicans were saying that they voted on the side of Trump because they knew a vote for impeachment would be deadly. Trump would send his angry people. You’d be dead. So would your family. Trump had to stop that talk:

The president offered no note of humility, regret or self-reflection about his two months of false claims that the election was stolen from him. But it was also a broader condemnation of the violence than he has offered so far.

A week ago, hours after the rampage began, Mr. Trump told his supporters who had stormed the Capitol: “We love you. You’re very special.”

The president’s aides have warned him that he faces potential legal exposure for the riot, which was committed by his supporters immediately after a speech in which he urged them to “fight” the results of the election. The House impeached him on a single article, accusing him of “inciting violence against the government of the United States.”

So, tell everyone that’s just not true:

Several officials urged Mr. Trump to shoot the video, with Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and adviser, enlisting aides and even Vice President Mike Pence to tell him it was the right move. Even after it was recorded and posted, Mr. Trump still had to be reassured, according to administration officials.

But this had to be done:

The release of the video, which was filmed after the House impeachment vote, came after the president’s company, the Trump Organization, faced canceled contracts in New York, and after Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, told allies he was pleased by the Democrats’ impeachment efforts and let it be known publicly that he was considering voting to convict the president in a Senate trial.

Trump had to turn that around. He could do that. He never said what everyone had heard him say:

“As I have said, the incursion of the U.S. Capitol struck at the very heart of our republic,” Mr. Trump said. “It angered and appalled millions of Americans across the political spectrum.”

“I want to be very clear: I unequivocally condemn the violence that we saw last week,” he added. “Violence and vandalism have absolutely no place in our country. And no place in our movement. Making America great again has always been about defending the rule of law” and supporting law enforcement officials.

“Mob violence goes against everything I believe in and everything our movement stands for. No true supporter of mine could ever endorse political violence,” he said.

“If you do any of these things you are not supporting our movement. You are attacking it and you are attacking our country,” Mr. Trump said. “We cannot tolerate it.”

And the nation shrugged:

Mr. Trump did not mention the name of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., he did not concede the election and he did not talk about Mr. Biden’s inauguration, which is to take place next week under extraordinary security because of the threats inspired by the Capitol breach. He also made no mention of the impeachment vote.

He did, however, denounce what he called restrictions of free speech, referring not just to social media platforms that have banned him…

And then all of that was over and it was back to hurting the disloyal:

During the day, Mr. Trump periodically watched the impeachment debate in the House and told advisers he was furious with Mr. McConnell and felt blindsided by him. Yet his deeper anger was at the House minority leader, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, for publicly condemning him, people close to him said.

His relationship with his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, who encouraged him to believe conspiracy theories about widespread election fraud, has frayed, one adviser said. The president was offended by Mr. Giuliani’s request for $20,000 a day to represent him in the election fight, which Mr. Giuliani denied making but which was in writing, and told aides not to pay him at all, an adviser to Mr. Trump said, confirming a report by The Washington Post.

White House officials have started blocking Mr. Giuliani’s calls to the president, another adviser said.

Trump lashes out. He is who he is:

Some advisers discussed the possibility of Mr. Trump resigning a few days early, in part because it would allow him to have the option of running again in 2024 and perhaps avoid the risk of being convicted and barred from future office by the Senate.

But Mr. Trump has been dismissive of any suggestion that he leave the presidency early and told White House aides that President Richard M. Nixon, whose influence in the party ended when he resigned, did not have much to show for it.

Advisers said that Mr. Trump had to be dissuaded from going to the House floor to try to defend himself during Wednesday’s impeachment proceedings, something he wanted to do during his first impeachment in December 2019, advisers said.

He wanted to storm in and, on the House floor, sneer and scream at all of them, to get them to stop this crap. His advisers talked him down. Things don’t work that way. And as for the Washington Post, Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey and Ashley Parker offer this:

When Donald Trump on Wednesday became the first president ever impeached twice, he did so as a leader increasingly isolated, sullen and vengeful.

With less than seven days remaining in his presidency, Trump’s inner circle is shrinking, offices in his White House are emptying, and the president is lashing out at some of those who remain. He is angry that his allies have not mounted a more forceful defense of his incitement of the mob that stormed the Capitol last week, advisers and associates said.

Though Trump has been exceptionally furious with Vice President Pence, his relationship with lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of his most steadfast defenders, is also fracturing, according to people with knowledge of the dynamics between the men.

Trump has instructed aides not to pay Giuliani’s legal fees, two officials said, and has demanded that he personally approve any reimbursements for the expenses Giuliani incurred while traveling on the president’s behalf to challenge election results in key states. They said Trump has privately expressed concern with some of Giuliani’s moves and did not appreciate a demand from Giuliani for $20,000 a day in fees for his work attempting to overturn the election.

This was a mess:

As he watched impeachment quickly gain steam, Trump was upset generally that virtually nobody is defending him —including press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, economic adviser Larry Kudlow, national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien and Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, according to a senior administration official.

“The president is pretty wound up,” said the senior administration official, who, like some others interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid. “No one is out there.”

Well, almost no one:

One of Trump’s few confidants these days is Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who broke with the president last week over attempts to overturn the election only to be welcomed back in the president’s good graces a couple of days later. Graham traveled to Texas on Tuesday in what was Trump’s last scheduled presidential trip, spending hours with Trump aboard Air Force One talking about impeachment and planning how Trump should spend his final days in office.

“The president has come to grips with it’s over,” Graham said, referring to the election. “That’s tough. He thinks he was cheated, but nothing’s going to change that.”

But some things may change that:

In a stark illustration of Trump’s isolation, the White House did not mount a vigorous defense Wednesday as House members debated his fitness for office and, ultimately, voted to impeach him. The president’s aides did not blast out talking points to allies. His press secretary did not hold a briefing with reporters. His advisers did not do television interviews from the White House’s North Lawn. His lawyers and legislative affairs staffers did not whip votes or seek to persuade lawmakers to vote against impeachment.

This is both because there was no organized campaign to block impeachment and because many of his aides believe Trump’s incitement of the riot was too odious to defend. White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, who was central to the president’s defense in his first impeachment a year ago, told other staffers to make sure word got out that he was not involved in defending Trump this time, according to one aide.

“I just think this is the logical conclusion of someone who will only accept people in his inner orbit if they are willing to completely set themselves on fire on his behalf, and you’ve just reached a point to where everyone is burned out,” a senior administration official said.

Well, not everyone:

One of Trump’s only White House defenses came from Jason Miller, a senior political adviser. He did not defend the president’s conduct but rather argued that those who voted to impeach him would pay a political price. Miller sent reporters a two-page polling memo from Trump campaign pollster John McLaughlin saying that a majority of voters in presidential battleground states were opposed to impeachment and to “Big Tech censorship,” a reference to Twitter and other social media companies suspending Trump’s accounts.

“It’s a massive miscalculation by the Democrats and the Liz Cheneys of the world who are massively disconnected from the grass roots that votes in primaries,” Miller said.

“The grass roots and the base support is strong for him,” Miller added. “That’s really what matters. Washington is a very fickle town, and President Trump has never staked his strength as being in the nation’s capital. It’s always been out with the real people.”

Who are these real people? There’s only this:

Trump’s public schedule has been empty, and he is said to be doing little these days besides watching television and fulminating with this coterie of loyalists about Republicans not defending him enough.

Several aides laid blame for the situation not only on Trump but also on Meadows, because the chief of staff indulged Trump’s delusion that the election was rigged and fed him misinformation about alleged voter fraud.

“He is the one who kept bringing kook after kook after kook in there to talk to him,” one adviser said.

That is a problem, and Peter Baker offers this:

Not since the dark days of the Civil War and its aftermath has Washington seen a day quite like Wednesday.

In a Capitol bristling with heavily armed soldiers and newly installed metal detectors, with the physical wreckage of last week’s siege cleaned up but the emotional and political wreckage still on display, the president of the United States was impeached for trying to topple American democracy.

Somehow, it felt like the preordained coda of a presidency that repeatedly pressed all limits and frayed the bonds of the body politic. With less than a week to go, President Trump’s term is climaxing in violence and recrimination at a time when the country has fractured deeply and lost a sense of itself. Notions of truth and reality have been atomized. Faith in the system has eroded. Anger is the one common ground.

As if it were not enough that Mr. Trump became the only president impeached twice or that lawmakers were trying to remove him with days left in his term, Washington devolved into a miasma of suspicion and conflict. A Democratic member of Congress accused Republican colleagues of helping the mob last week scout the building in advance. Some Republican members sidestepped magnetometers intended to keep guns off the House floor or kept going even after setting them off.

All of this was taking place against the backdrop of a pandemic that, while attention has drifted away, has grown catastrophically worse in the closing weeks of Mr. Trump’s presidency.

Yes, that does sound like the end of the world, and maybe it is:

More than 4,400 people in the United States died of the coronavirus the day before the House vote, more in one day than were killed at Pearl Harbor or on Sept. 11, 2001, or during the Battle of Antietam. Only after several members of Congress were infected during the attack on the Capitol and new rules were put in place did they finally consistently wear masks during Wednesday’s debate.

And that makes all of this new:

Historians have struggled to define this moment. They compare it with other periods of enormous challenge like the Great Depression, World War II, the Civil War, the McCarthy era and Watergate. They recall the caning of Charles Sumner on the floor of the Senate and the operation to sneak Abraham Lincoln into Washington for his inauguration for fear of an attack.

They cite the horrific year of 1968 when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated while campuses and inner cities erupted over the Vietnam War and civil rights. And they think of the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, when further violent death on a mass scale seemed inevitable. And yet none of them is quite the same.

“I wish I could give you a wise analogy, but I honestly don’t think anything quite like this has happened before,” said Geoffrey C. Ward, one of the nation’s most venerable historians. “If you’d told me that a president of the United States would have encouraged a delusional mob to march on our Capitol howling for blood, I would have said you were deluded.”

But that did happen:

All of which leaves the United States’ reputation on the world stage at a low ebb, rendering what President Ronald Reagan liked to call the “shining city upon a hill” a scuffed-up case study in the challenges that even a mature democratic power can face.

“The historical moment when we were a model is basically over,” said Timothy Snyder, a Yale historian of authoritarianism. “We now have to earn our credibility again, which might not be such a bad thing.”

But that might be a confusing thing:

As Democrats demanded accountability, many Republicans pushed back and assailed them for a rush to judgment without hearings or evidence or even much debate. Mr. Trump’s accusers cited his inflammatory words at a rally just before the attack. His defenders cited provocative words by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Representative Maxine Waters and even Robert De Niro and Madonna to maintain there was a double standard.

That the comparisons were apples and oranges did not matter so much as the prisms through which they were reflected. Mr. Trump sought to overturn a democratic election that he lost with false claims of widespread fraud, pressuring other Republicans and even his vice president to go along with him and dispatching an unruly crowd of supporters to march on the Capitol and “fight like hell.” But his allies complained that he had long been the target of what they considered unfair partisan attacks and investigations.

“Donald Trump is the most dangerous man to ever occupy the Oval Office,” declared Representative Joaquin Castro, Democrat of Texas.

“The left in America has incited far more political violence than the right,” declared Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida.

The starkly disparate views encapsulated America in the Trump era. And at one point Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the Democratic majority leader, expressed exasperation at the other side’s depiction of events. “You’re not living in the same country I am,” he exclaimed.

Who is? That’s the only question now. This did end badly. But as for Trump, count him out.

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