Freeing the Vote

They loved him, they really loved him. They stormed the Capitol and made it impossible for Congress to tabulate the official state-certified final count of the votes in the presidential election from each of the fifty states and from the District of Columbia. This was a formality, but this would seal Donald Trump’s fate. This was the end. Joe Biden won. He lost. But formalities can be stopped. Maybe this wasn’t the end. If an angry mob shut down the House and Senate nothing could be “over” yet or maybe never be over at all. He could be president forever.

But of course he must have known that was a stupid idea. Nothing would change the result. But this was a message to everyone who had disrespected him. Look at these people! Look at what they’ll do for me, and just for me! They’ll tear down the Capitol. They’ll tear down your damned government, just for me. They love me that much, so don’t ever mess with me again! Donald Trump was loving this. Of course he wanted what he was seeing to go on and on. He’d show the world who was boss here!

Maybe that was the plan all along. He’d not stop this. That finally became obvious:

The commanding general of the D.C. National Guard told lawmakers Wednesday that restrictions the Pentagon placed on him in the run-up to the Capitol riot and lag time in decision-making by his chain of command prevented him from more quickly sending forces to help quell the violence.

Maj. Gen. William J. Walker said his hands were tied by the Pentagon for more than three hours after he received a call from the Capitol Police chief saying a request for backup was imminent, delaying the arrival of military forces at the premises as lawmakers evacuated or barricaded themselves in offices during one of the biggest national security failures since the 9/11 attacks.

Walker described how he had troops ready and waiting to be sent to the Capitol but did not have sign-off from the Pentagon, which in directives ahead of the events had restricted his leeway to respond to contingencies.

It may be that the word, from the top down, was let this ride, let the world see what people would do for Donald Trump. And this was now urgent again:

The quest by lawmakers to understand the failings that led to the Jan. 6 insurrection took on special urgency during the hearing, as the Capitol Police on Wednesday warned of a possible plot by a militant group to breach the Capitol on March 4, a day that some conspiracy theorists have baselessly declared the “true Inauguration Day” when former president Donald Trump will again assume power. Responding to the threat, the House scrapped plans for a Thursday session.

Why? Here’s how that works:

For some QAnon conspiracy theorists, March 4, 2021 is a date circled in red Sharpie on the calendar. The truly devoted believe that, on this special date, Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 19th president of the United States.

The theory borrows from the sovereign citizens movement, which espouses that a law enacted in 1871 secretly turned the U.S. into a corporation and ended the American government put in place by the founding fathers. Accordingly, the true inauguration date was not January 20, as the rest of the world believes. The conspiracy theorists contend that the real inauguration will happen on March 4, the date on which presidents were sworn in prior to the 1933 passage of the 20th amendment. QAnon followers believe that Trump will return to power on March 4 as the 19th president of the United States. The last true president, the theory goes, was Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th president, who was in office in 1871 when the United States turned into a corporation.

And of course March 4, 2021, will also be the day of “the storm” – the day of the arrest and public execution of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and George Soros, and Tom Hanks and Lady Gaga and Anderson Cooper and all the rest. At least that’s how the thinking goes. The secret cabal of Satan-worshipping, cannibalistic pedophiles running a global child sex-trafficking ring plotted against Donald Trump while he was in office, but Trump has been planning a day of reckoning, the Storm. January didn’t work out. Now it’s in March. Be there!

But back to the hearing:

Walker’s testimony, which expanded on comments he first made to The Washington Post in late January, brought the Pentagon back to the center of a furor over the government’s preparations for and response to the Jan. 6 events and increased pressure on Congress to hold a public hearing with the uniformed and civilian leaders who were overseeing the U.S. military from the Pentagon that day.

But they weren’t talking. They sent a flunky:

The Defense Department sent a career official to the hearing, Robert Salesses, who was not one of the main operational decision-makers at the Pentagon on Jan. 6. The top civilian and uniformed leaders who were in charge that day have not testified publicly but have defended their actions in comments to the media. They have described the military’s response as rapid, given that neither the Capitol Police nor any other federal law enforcement agency had requested help from the military in advance and that city officials had asked for Guard troops to assist only with traffic and crowd management.

But they’re not going to say anything under oath. Keep ‘em guessing:

Much of the hearing before the Senate’s Rules Committee and its Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee focused on how long it took the Pentagon to give the members of the D.C. Guard who were already deployed on Jan. 6 a new mission and send them to the Capitol.

Walker’s comments bolstered critics of the Defense Department who say the U.S. military leadership moved too slowly in getting the National Guard to the Capitol and laid bare the tension between the D.C. Guard and the Pentagon about how the military should have responded.

There’s something to that:

Walker said he did not receive permission from his chain of command at the Pentagon to send forces to the Capitol until three hours and 19 minutes after receiving an urgent call at 1:49 p.m. Jan. 6 from the Capitol Police chief saying a request for Guard backup was imminent. But the call came only about 25 minutes before rioters breached the building, raising the possibility that the situation was already too far gone by the time the military was summoned.

The acting defense secretary at the time, Christopher C. Miller, activated the full D.C. Guard shortly after 3 p.m. in response to the riot, calling up troops who had not been mobilized, but he did not assign the already deployed members a new mission and send them to the Capitol until 4:32 p.m., according to Salesses. Walker said he did not receive word that he could go to the Capitol until 5:08 p.m., more than half an hour later.

And that led to this:

“How is that possible?” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) asked incredulously, noting the time gap.

“I think that’s an issue,” Salesses said, offering no explanation.

The Guard arrived at 5:20 p.m.

“It shouldn’t take three hours to either say yes or no to an urgent request from either the Capitol Police, the Park Police, the Metropolitan Police Department,” Walker said.

But wait, there’s more:

In a Jan. 5 memo, then-Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, Walker’s direct superior in the chain of command, prohibited him from deploying a quick-reaction force composed of 40 soldiers on his own and said any rollout of that standby group would first require a “concept of operation,” an exceptional requirement given that the force is supposed to respond to emergencies.

In the Jan. 4 memo, the Army secretary himself was prohibited from deploying D.C. Guard members with weapons, helmets, body armor or riot control agents without the defense secretary’s approval but retained the power to deploy the quick-reaction force, “only as a last resort.”

Had he not been restricted by Pentagon directives, Walker said, he could have sent about 150 soldiers to aid police at the Capitol within about 20 minutes – a force that may not have changed the outcome of the day, given the lateness of the call for backup, but that Walker said would have helped.

“I believe that number could have made a difference,” Walker said. “We could have helped extend the perimeter and helped push back the crowd.”

He called the memo that restricted him unlike anything he had seen in his career.

That’s because it was bullshit:

“The memo was unusual in that it required me to seek authorization from the secretary of the Army and the secretary of defense to essentially even protect my Guardsmen,” Walker said, referring to restrictions placed on his ability to deploy the 40-person quick-reaction force if members of the Guard deployed for the traffic and crowd-control mission that day had ended up in distress.

But it doesn’t matter now:

Miller, who served as acting defense secretary for two and a half months, has rejected criticism that the Pentagon was too slow in responding to the riot, saying in an interview with Vanity Fair that any suggestion the Defense Department dragged its feet “is complete horseshit.” He said the Pentagon leadership “had their game together.”

Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in remarks to reporters this week that the Defense Department reacted at “sprint speed,” seeing as the military had not been asked to prepare contingency forces in advance and still got to the scene within hours.

No one bought that:

“The three-hour-and-19-minute delay in authorizing the deployment of the National Guard to respond to the Capitol to quell the violence was one that left police, members of Congress, staff and the public in danger and is without question completely unacceptable,” Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said at the conclusion of the hearing.

And then it got even stranger:

During the hearing, Walker also addressed a call on the afternoon of Jan. 6, during which he said top Army generals expressed reluctance to deploy the National Guard to the Capitol due to the optics, shocking him and officials from the Capitol Police, D.C. police and the D.C. government on the call.

Asked about those comments, Walker said they were made by Lt. Gen. Walter E. Piatt, the director of the Army staff, and Lt. Gen. Charles A. Flynn, the Army’s deputy chief of staff for operations and the brother of former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn.

“They both said it wouldn’t be in their best military advice to advise the secretary of the Army to have uniformed Guard members at the Capitol during the election confirmation,” Walker said.

But those two guys were useless:

Piatt initially denied making those comments but later told reporters he “may have said that,” though he said he did not recall using the word “optics.” Charles Flynn has said he does not remember whether he said anything during the call. He has said his relationship with his brother, who had been floating martial law and calling for the military to “rerun” the election ahead of the riot, had no impact on his actions.

For the record, on July 4, 2020, Michael Flynn, that former eccentric general and former national security adviser to President Trump, posted a video where he swears an oath to QAnon, not this government, not that that matters at the moment:

Neither Piatt nor Flynn was in the chain of command, and therefore they were not empowered to deploy the Guard to the Capitol or deny a deployment. Piatt has said he was attempting to talk through how the Guard deployment would work with the officials on the call, as the Army secretary ran down the hall to receive sign-off from the acting defense secretary to activate the Guard.

This was a mess, but Dana Milbank saw this:

At best, this was a catastrophic failure of government. At worst, political appointees and Trump loyalists at the Defense Department deliberately prevented the National Guard from defending the Capitol against a seditious mob.

The man ultimately responsible for the delay, Christopher Miller, had been a White House aide before Donald Trump installed him as acting defense secretary in November, as the president began his attempt to overturn his election defeat. Miller did Trump’s political bidding at another point during his 10-week tenure, forcing the National Security Agency to install a Republican political operative as chief counsel.

This did seem deliberate:

Representing the Pentagon on Wednesday fell to Robert Salesses, who haplessly tried to explain the delay. An hour and six minutes of the holdup was because then-Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy “was asking a lot of questions” about the mission. Another piece of the delay: The 36 minutes between when the Pentagon claims Miller authorized the action and when the D.C. Guard was informed of the decision. “That’s an issue,” Salesses allowed.

Curiously, the Pentagon claims Miller’s authorization came at 4:32 – 15 minutes after Trump told his “very special” insurrectionists to “go home in peace.” Was Miller waiting for Trump’s blessing before defending the Capitol?

The Pentagon’s 199-minute delay looks worse in light of a Jan. 4 memo Miller issued saying that without his “personal authorization” the D.C. Guard couldn’t “be issued weapons, ammunition, bayonets, batons or ballistic protection equipment such as helmets and body armor.”

The Army secretary added more restrictions the next day, saying in a memo that he would “withhold authority” for the D.C. Guard to deploy a “quick reaction force” and that he would “require a concept of operation” before allowing a quick reaction force to react. McCarthy even blocked the D.C. Guard in advance from redeploying to the Capitol guardsmen assigned to help the D.C. police elsewhere in Washington.

This had been planned all along:

The Pentagon claims the restrictions were in response to criticism of the heavy-handed deployment of the National Guard in Washington during racial justice protests last summer. Maybe so. But Walker testified that when the police chiefs “passionately pleaded” for the Guard’s help on Jan. 6, senior Army officials on the call said it wouldn’t be “a good optic.” They thought “it could incite the crowd” and advised against it.

During this moment of crisis – an attempted coup in the Capitol – the defense secretary and the Army secretary were “not available,” Walker testified.

Walker seems to be implying that those two knew that they had to keep Trump happy. Trump liked what he was seeing. Those people would kill for him. The world needed to see that.

But this was about the vote, only the vote, as Aaron Blake notes here:

On Jan. 6, supporters of President Donald Trump who latched on to his false claims of voter fraud stormed the Capitol, with some targeting Vice President Mike Pence. Unhappy that Pence declined to take the extraordinary step of trying to unilaterally overturn the presidential election, some even chanted, “Hang Mike Pence.”

Since then, Pence has been rather quiet, declining to address Trump’s attacks on him or apparent lack of interest in his welfare.

All that is about to be fixed. There will be no more talk of stolen elections. Biden took back the White House. Democrats took back the Senate. Democrats held onto the House. It’s time to fix the voting system. That’s the real plan:

The House late Wednesday night passed expansive legislation to create uniform national voting standards, overhaul campaign finance laws and outlaw partisan redistricting, advancing a centerpiece of the Democratic voting rights agenda amid fierce Republican attacks that threaten to stop it cold in the Senate.

The bill, titled the “For the People Act,” was given the symbolic designation of H.R. 1 by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and it largely mirrors a bill passed two years ago in the early weeks of the House Democratic majority.

This year, however, the bill has taken on additional significance because of the new Democratic majority in the Senate and President Biden’s November win, as well as the efforts underway in dozens of Republican-controlled state legislatures to roll back voting access in reaction to former president Donald Trump’s loss and his subsequent campaign to question the election results.

That can be fixed. Everyone gets to vote. That old idea is new again:

Democrat after Democrat said this week that the GOP’s state-level efforts made it more important than ever to act at the federal level to preserve expansive voting laws. Many invoked the gains won in the 1960s civil rights movement by activists including John Lewis, the Georgia Democrat who died of cancer last year.

“The right to vote is under attack,” said Rep. Terri A. Sewell (D-Ala.). “Voter suppression is alive and well. Old battles have become new again. The legacy of the foot soldiers like John Lewis requires that we pick up that baton – the baton of voter access, the baton of voter equality – and we continue the next leg. Their cause is now our cause, too.”

And to get specific:

The bill’s voting provisions would guarantee no-excuse mail voting and at least 15 days of early voting for federal elections; require states to use their existing government records to automatically register citizens to vote; restore voting rights to felons who have completed their prison sentences; and mandate the use of paper ballots.

Other provisions would create new disclosure requirements for “dark money” donations to political groups; require states to appoint independent commissions to draw congressional districts; and create new federal standards for election equipment vendors.

The bill also would require tech platforms to disclose political advertising information; establish a code of ethics for Supreme Court justices for the first time; restructure the Federal Election Commission to an odd number of members to break partisan deadlocks; and require presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns.

This opens up the process to everyone, but of course that’s the problem:

The bill has become a lightning rod for Republican opposition, spurring claims that it is a partisan attempt to rewrite federal election laws in Democrats’ favor. No Republicans voted for the bill in 2019 or Wednesday night, when it was approved 220 to 210.

“It is not designed to protect Americans’ vote — it is designed to put a thumb on the scale in every election in America, so that Democrats can turn a temporary majority into permanent control,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said during floor debate Tuesday. “It is an unparalleled political grab.”

Among the legion of Republicans objecting to the bill is Trump, who mounted a months-long campaign to criticize the expansion of mail-in voting and other efforts to deal with the challenges created by the pandemic. After the election, his campaign sued to block the counting of voters in multiple swing states, while Trump himself led a baseless effort to claim the election had been stolen by Democrats.

And none of it worked, so this must be stopped:

Former vice president Mike Pence also spoke out against the bill this week in a published column, calling the legislation an “unconstitutional, reckless, and anti-democratic bill that would erode those foundational principles and could permanently damage our republic.”

“Every single proposed change in HR 1 serves one goal, and one goal only: to give leftists a permanent, unfair, and unconstitutional advantage in our political system,” he said in the piece, which was published in the Daily Signal, a website affiliated with the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Unfair? If everyone votes? That may be the issue now:

Although virtually all Democrats, including Biden, have signaled support for the bill, the solid GOP opposition means the legislation is in deep peril in the Senate, whose rules allow a 41-vote minority to block most legislation from coming to a final vote. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has made clear that Republicans plan to fight tooth and nail against it.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said this week that she expects to usher companion legislation through the Senate Rules Committee later this spring and ultimately to bring it to the floor. Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) said, “If you’re ranking the most important legislation of the year, that is way up there.”

However, with Republicans firmly opposed, the bill’s only path into law may be through the willingness of Democrats to abandon the 60-vote filibuster rule.

Yeah, well, screw that:

Several Democratic lawmakers have openly discussed creating a limited exception for civil rights legislation, but key Democrats – including Sens. Joe Manchin III (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) – have said they will not entertain any changes.

But with GOP legislatures moving quickly ahead of the 2022 midterms, an internal pressure campaign among Democrats is likely to ensue regardless.

House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) said Tuesday that by turning to the filibuster, Republicans were “using the filibuster to deny progress” in a throwback to the early days of the civil right movement.

“We’re not going to just give in to these arcane methods of denying progress,” he said. “People of color will not be quiet on this issue.”

Fine. That might work. Trump’s militias may storm the Capitol and demand surrender.

Why do that?

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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