The plan was to ease him out of office. Donald Trump had lost. He wouldn’t have a second term. He has to leave now. But he’s a difficult man. Still, the world is changing:
After months of stoking anger about alleged election fraud, one of America’s largest talk-radio companies has decided on an abrupt change of direction… “We need to help induce national calm NOW,” Brian Philips, executive vice president of content for Cumulus, wrote in an internal memo, which was first reported by Inside Music Media. Cumulus and its program syndication arm, Westwood One, “will not tolerate any suggestion that the election has not ended. The election has been resolved and there are no alternate acceptable ‘paths.’” The memo adds: “If you transgress this policy, you can expect to separate from the company immediately.”
This won’t be easy:
Since the election, Cumulus has remained silent while some of its most popular hosts – which include Mark Levin and Dan Bongino – have amplified Trump’s lies that the vote was “rigged” or in some way fraudulent. On his program on Tuesday, the day before the march on the Capitol, for example, Levin fulminated about Congress’s certification of electoral votes for Biden, describing the normally routine vote as an act of “tyranny.”
“You think the framers of the Constitution sat there and said, ‘Congress has no choice to accept the votes, even if there’s fraud, even if there’s some court order, even if some legislature has violated the Constitution?’” Levin said, his voice rising to a shout.
Cumulus may have to fire their big stars. And they will. And someone has to talk to Donald Trump too, so, as Jonathan Swan reports, someone finally did just that:
President Trump on Monday privately – and falsely – blamed “Antifa people” for storming the Capitol, even though clear video and documentary evidence exists showing the rioters were overwhelmingly Trump supporters…
In a tense, 30-minute-plus phone call this morning with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Trump trotted out the Antifa line.
McCarthy would have none of it, telling the president: “It’s not Antifa, it’s MAGA. I know. I was there,” according to a White House official and another source familiar with the call.
The White House official said the call was tense and aggressive at times, with Trump ranting about election fraud and an exasperated McCarthy cutting in to say, “Stop it. It’s over. The election is over.”
Is he allowed to talk to Trump that way? He seems to think so. It’s his guilty conscience:
McCarthy, who is facing major blowback for his role in encouraging dissent over the election outcome, went further: He told Trump he should call Joe Biden, meet with the president-elect and follow tradition and leave a welcome letter in the Resolute Desk for his successor.
The president told him he hadn’t decided whether to do so for Biden.
That must have infuriated McCarthy:
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said on a conference call with members Monday that there is “undisputedly” no evidence that people linked to Antifa participated in last week’s deadly siege on the Capitol, per sources on the call, and told members he had urged President Trump to call President-elect Biden after Trump promised a transfer of power.
Earlier Monday, McCarthy sent a letter to rank and file House Republicans, saying he remains opposed to impeaching Trump over his actions around last week’s deadly Capitol siege, and laid out other responses that lawmakers could make, including censure.
He’s trying to save his party:
McCarthy is now trying to navigate how to bridge the factions within the party following Wednesday’s siege at the Capitol, and is treading carefully by telling members Trump is “partially” to blame for what happened without condemning him outright.
McCarthy’s comments come after law enforcement, including the FBI, said there was “no indication” of involvement by Antifa.
He’s trying to slip in a little reality, but a UK tabloid reported this:
Ivanka Trump had plans to attend Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20 – much to her father’s chagrin, according to a White House insider, in order to save her aspiring political career as the White House plunges further into chaos and is being dubbed a ‘circus on steroids.
‘Ivanka is worried that her promising political career is in jeopardy and she’s doing whatever she can to save her reputation,’ the source says.
But President Trump was up in arms about Ivanka’s decision.
‘He said it’s an insult that she would even want to engage with the crooks that are trying to bring him down,’ says the insider, adding that Trump said the family must stand together and put on a united front.
‘The president told his daughter that her presence at the inauguration will cost her thousands of supporters and would be the worst decision she could ever make,’ they say.
Ivanka was convinced that by attending Biden’s inauguration she would come across as ‘being a good sport and will gain future supporters,’ the source says.
That’s a great story, but for this:
Another White House source has denied that she plans to attend the inauguration.
Okay, that may have never happened at all, but it’s still a good story, of a little reality finally slipping in. And that’s happening all over now:
Law enforcement authorities, responding to threats of violence before the Jan. 20 presidential inauguration, will deploy up to 15,000 National Guard troops to the nation’s capital and set up checkpoints in the city to avoid the botched response that helped rioters overrun the Capitol last week.
Sixteen groups – some of them armed and most of them hardline supporters of President Trump – have registered to stage protests in Washington, prompting deep concern among federal officials about an event that has historically been a packed celebration of American democracy.
With coronavirus cases soaring and the deadly siege of the Capitol still fresh, the leaders of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia issued a joint statement asking Americans to stay away from the inauguration of Joseph R. Biden Jr. and instead tune in virtually.
That’s a nod to reality, and the FBI has notified local law enforcement of the potential for armed protests in all fifty state capitals, organized and promoted by these people who want to stop this nonsense. They just showed up to shut down Congress to keep those tyrants from recording the certified Electoral College votes of all fifty states – Biden had won – people died – that didn’t work. But now the idea is to shoot up Biden’s inauguration, to delay it or even stop it. The Chief Justice can’t very well swear in a dead man. And with all fifty state capitals in the hands of heavily armed Trump militias, who is going argue about this?
Biden doesn’t get it:
Despite the increasing alarm, Mr. Biden’s inaugural committee said he was determined to make an outdoor appearance at the event to call on a divided nation to come together at a time of political and public health crisis. The inauguration’s theme is “America United.”
Mr. Biden also plans to visit Arlington National Cemetery with three former presidents – Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama – adding another challenge for federal law enforcement authorities.
“I’m not afraid of taking the oath outside,” Mr. Biden said Monday.
And all four of them may be gunned down by angry patriots. Ivanka had called them patriots. And then she deleted that tweet. But now those in charge of security are leaving town:
Complicating the security effort further, Chad F. Wolf, the head of the Department of Homeland Security, announced on Monday that he would resign as acting secretary at midnight Monday. The department includes the Secret Service, which is leading inauguration security. Mr. Wolf will remain with the department as an undersecretary for policy, a position for which he was confirmed by the Senate.
Pete Gaynor, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will take on the role of acting secretary, Mr. Wolf said in a letter to employees.
Will he send in bottled water? There will be trouble:
“This inauguration is going to look differently than previous inaugurations. I think we all know that,” said Michael Plati, the Secret Service special agent in charge leading security planning for the inauguration, who referred to lessons learned from last Wednesday.
About 6,000 National Guard troops from six states have already arrived in Washington, Gen. Daniel Hokanson, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, said Monday; by this weekend, that number is expected to have grown to 10,000.
At the same time, Defense Department officials have expressed concern that some of the protesters who stormed the Capitol are former military members. While the department has not announced a specific search for deployed National Guard troops with sympathies for the pro-Trump protesters, officials said they were reviewing photographs and videos from the protests.
They know many of those there to protect Biden and the Constitution and the rules, and all the rest, are there in install Trump as president for life, by force. The rest may be for show:
The acting U.S. Capitol Police chief and sergeant-at-arms briefed House Democrats on Monday evening on a handful of specific threats to the Capitol and to lawmakers that authorities were monitoring in the days ahead, as well as security steps they had begun to put in place.
Beyond the Capitol, the Secret Service is establishing a “healthy, layered buffer” with vehicle checkpoints, metal detectors and additional security screenings to prevent another deadly siege, Mr. Plati said.
And they know all of that is porous:
With far-right extremists continuing to plot on online platforms, one senior Pentagon official called the security situation “unprecedented.”
Another Defense Department official said that law enforcement agencies were planning for any number of possible events, some of them horrific. Worst-case scenarios include snipers targeting inauguration dignitaries, “suicide-type aircraft” entering Washington’s restricted airspace and even remote-powered drones attacking the crowd. The officials said they were particularly worried about multiple active-shooter situations flaring up simultaneously.
Expect that. Trump wants to stay in power. Expect the worst:
Fliers circulated in encrypted WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram groups over the weekend calling for an “armed march on Capitol Hill and all state capitols” at noon Jan. 17. The fliers, which include the instruction to “come armed at your personal discretion,” also appeared on the chat sites Gab and Parler, which have attracted far-right voices. Various local militia groups in states like Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan have posted calls on those platforms for their members to come out in force.
Another group, “Let America Hear Us, Roar for Trump,” has requested a permit from the National Park Service for a demonstration of at least 300 people in downtown Washington. The Park Service on Monday shut down tours of the Washington Monument through Jan. 24, citing “credible threats to visitors and park resources.”
Far-right extremist groups continue to plot online. Nearly 400 people had joined a private group online dedicated to what is being billed as the Million Militia March, an event scheduled to take place in Washington on Jan. 20. Commenters have debated bringing baseball bats and body armor.
Biden may be a dead man walking, and then there’s Fiona Hill. She served as deputy assistant to the president and senior director for European and Russians affairs on the National Security Council from 2017 to 2019. Then the Russians told the Ukrainians she had to go. Then the Ukrainians told Rudy Giuliani that she had to go. Giuliani told Trump she had to go. Trump fired her. Putin smiled. She is currently a senior fellow in the Center on the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution, and she has this to say:
People have been arguing what to call what happened at the U.S. Capitol – was it a riot? An uprising? An insurrection? I’ve been public in calling it a coup, but others disagree.
Some have said it’s not a coup because the U.S. military and other armed groups weren’t involved, and some because Donald Trump didn’t invoke his presidential powers in support of the mob that broke into the Capitol. Others point out that no one has claimed or proved there was a secret plan directed by the president, and that Trump’s efforts to overturn the outcome of the 2020 presidential election could never have succeeded in the first place.
These observations are based on the idea that a coup is a sudden, violent seizure of power involving clandestine plots and military takeovers.
It’s not that at all:
Trump disguised what he was doing by operating in plain sight, talking openly about his intent. He normalized his actions so people would accept them. I’ve been studying authoritarian regimes for three decades, and I know the signs of a coup when I see them… Technically, what Trump attempted is what’s known as a “self-coup” and Trump isn’t the first leader to try it…
The storming of the Capitol building on January 6 was the culmination of a series of actions and events taken or instigated by Trump so he could retain the presidency that together amount to an attempt at a self-coup.
This was not a one-off or brief episode. Trump declared “election fraud” immediately on November 4 even while the votes were still being counted. He sought to recount and rerun the election so that he, not Joe Biden, was the winner. In Turkey, in 2015, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan successfully did the same thing; he had called elections to strengthen his presidency, but his party lost its majority in the Parliament. He challenged the results in the courts, marginalized the opposition and forced what he blatantly called a “re-run election.” He tried again in the Istanbul mayoral election in 2019 but was thwarted.
And that’s us now, where “the bad news is that his supporters still believe the false narrative” that this president won reelection after he and other Republicans have promoted unfounded claims that widespread voter fraud led to his loss.
“Trump has not repudiated it, nor have the House and Senate Republicans who voted against the Electoral College results,” she writes. “Millions of people still think the election was stolen. They still support Trump the person, not the Republican Party, and many are prepared to take further action on his behalf.”
“As in the case of other coup attempts, the president’s actions have put us on the brink of civil war,” Hill continued. “Trump did not overturn the election results, but, just as he intended, he disrupted the peaceful democratic transition of executive power.”
And that’s a coup. And this is a response:
House Democrats introduced an article of impeachment against President Trump on Monday for his role in inflaming a mob that attacked the Capitol, scheduling a Wednesday vote to charge the president with “inciting violence against the government of the United States” if Vice President Mike Pence refused to strip him of power first.
Moving with exceptional speed, top House leaders began summoning lawmakers still stunned by the attack back to Washington, promising the protection of National Guard troops and Federal Air Marshal escorts after last week’s stunning security failure.
That’s a response to the reality of this, once a little reality slips in:
In the House, a vote was scheduled for Tuesday evening to first formally call on Mr. Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment. Republicans had objected on Monday to unanimously passing the resolution, which asked the vice president to declare “president Donald J. Trump incapable of executing the duties of his office and to immediately exercise powers as acting president.”
The House is slated to begin debate on the impeachment resolution on Wednesday morning, marching toward a vote late in the day unless Mr. Pence intervenes beforehand.
“The president’s threat to America is urgent, and so too will be our action,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said, outlining a timetable that will most likely leave Mr. Trump impeached one week to the day after he encouraged his supporters to march to the Capitol as lawmakers met to formalize Mr. Biden’s victory.
And that would be that:
Mr. Trump met with the vice president on Monday for about an hour in the Oval Office, the first time since their falling out last week over the president’s effort to overturn the election and the mob assault on the Capitol that also put Mr. Pence in danger. A Trump administration official who declined to be identified speaking about the delicate situation said the two had “a good conversation” but would not say whether the issue of the 25th Amendment came up.
The vice president had already indicated that he was unlikely to act to force the president aside, and no one in either party expected Mr. Trump to step down. With that in mind, Democrats had already begun preparing a lengthier impeachment report documenting the president’s actions and the destruction that followed to accompany their charge.
They were confident they had the votes to make Mr. Trump the first president ever to be impeached twice.
And he shrugged:
House Democrats are poised to impeach him on Wednesday. But President Donald Trump is not expected to mount a forceful White House defense against charges he incited last week’s deadly riots inside the U.S. Capitol, according to a White House official.
Trump knows he’s unlikely to be removed from office with Republicans controlling the Senate until next week and only a few days left of his term. The president has also grown increasingly isolated, distrusting the same aides and advisers he had relied on during prior crises in his presidency, including White House Counsel Pat Cipollone.
“We’re not building out an aggressive operation to combat these impeachment charges,” a White House official said. “It’s just logistically impossible. Counsel’s office has hollowed out obviously, Cipollone hasn’t been in the president’s circle. Operationally, it’s just not going to look the same.”
In his final days of his term, Trump is still spending time railing against the election that he lost to Joe Biden in November and surrounding himself with a handful of loyalists – among them Rudy Giuliani – who have been with him since the start, according to interviews with eight current and former Trump aides.
“Since the election, the day-to-day stuff as far as signing [executive orders] and focusing on policy has definitely waned because his focus has been on the election and overturning those results,” said the White House official. “We’re not obviously pursuing any policy or anything like that.”
And since Twitter banned his account, Trump has been making more calls than usual – not, as one former Trump aide said, “to more people” but rather, “the same people over and over again.”
“He’s talking to people who are willing to indulge him,” a former senior administration official said.
And that’s all he’s doing:
Even more than usual, Trump has not been engaged in work of the presidency, leaving much of the official business to others, including Vice President Mike Pence, who presided over a White House coronavirus task force meeting Monday as the pandemic’s toll surges with more than 3,000 deaths a day in the United States.
“Things requiring a presidential signature slowed down for sure, and he was just supremely self-absorbed,” said a former senior administration official. The official said that many conversations with Trump, even those about policy issues, have devolved into the president complaining about an election that he still won’t publicly admit he lost.
“There was a feeling of a traffic jam and more and more initiatives that were piling up, and that’s frustrating for everybody,” the former official said.
So, it has come down to this:
The president’s daily public schedule has given no indication of actual events. Since Dec. 23, the schedule has included 15 variations of the language: “President Trump will work from early in the morning until late in the evening. He will make many calls and have many meetings.”
A former White House official said the language was inserted at Trump’s directive in order to give off the appearance of him being busy.
That’s all we have now. Expect reality later. It won’t be pretty.