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A Strange Sort of Anniversary

Tomorrow, of course, will mark the one-year anniversary of the day that Donald Trump egged his supporters on in a speech, encouraging them to march on the Capitol in an effort to block the certification of Joe Biden's election as 46th president of the United States. They took him seriously, and stormed the building. At that time, Trump and his underlings claimed they were shocked—shocked, we tell you!—about what happened, and it looked like his reputation and his hold might be permanently destroyed. Now, it is clear that Trump & Co. knew exactly what they were doing, and that many of his lieutenants were pulling the strings from their "headquarters" at the Willard Hotel. Curiously, as we have gotten a fuller and more certain picture of Trump's guilt, his hold on the Republican Party has just gotten stronger. The poor historians of 2071 or 2121 that are going to have to try to make sense of all of this.

Those historians are in the future, however, and this is now. The key players in the events of 1/6 still walk among us, and they've got to decide what they are going to do tomorrow. The trickiest situation is the one faced by Joe Biden, who is scheduled to deliver remarks on the occasion. On one hand, he doesn't want to look like he's trying to score cheap political points. On the other hand, he doesn't want to take it easy on Trump and the insurrectionists. The President is getting lots and lots of advice, and it's pulling him in all different directions, so it will be interesting to see what he comes up with.

Meanwhile, the other president who was at the heart of 1/6 would seem to have a much easier choice, namely "lay low." But Trump has enormous trouble resisting: (1) a chance to fire up the base, (2) a chance to get the sort of publicity that he doesn't get much anymore, and (3) a chance to carp about how the election was stolen. So, Trump was planning to hold a press conference and to deliver a speech (undoubtedly, a rambling one) about how he is the rightful president of the United States.

You will notice that we described Trump's plans in past tense. That is because after days of begging and pleading from Republicans, he canceled his press conference. The announcement began like this:

In light of the total bias and dishonesty of the January 6th Unselect Committee of Democrats, two failed Republicans, and the Fake News Media, I am canceling the January 6th Press Conference at Mar-a-Lago on Thursday, and instead will discuss many of those important topics at my rally on Saturday, January 15th, in Arizona—It will be a big crowd! What has become more and more obvious to ALL is that the LameStream Media will not report the facts that Nancy Pelosi and the Capitol Sergeant-at-Arms denied requests for the D.C. National Guard or Military to be present at the Capitol. Their emails and correspondence with the Department of Defense exist, but the media won't ask for this evidence, or report the truth!

The rest of the statement, which you can read here, is in the same vein. Our guess is that someone wrote it on Trump's behalf, since all of the capitalizations are justifiable, and it seems improbable that he would mention the Sergeant-at-Arms, much less hyphenate the name of the office correctly.

It is not entirely clear why Trump changed course at the last minute. After all, the news was fake, the media was lame, and Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) was a failed Republican a week ago, and yet he was full speed ahead. He is not motivated by concern for the country, or for the Republican Party, so those things surely didn't give him pause. On the other hand, he is very much motivated by concern for Donald Trump. So, it is very likely that someone persuaded him that giving a speech like that right in the midst of his being investigated for inciting an insurrection might not be the best idea. In particular, it is likely that someone pointed out to Trump that it would be very bad for him if his speech about how he really won the election drove some of his partisans to commit violence. You know, the last time he gave a speech like that on 1/6. Postponing until the 15th lets him speak his mind, but with considerably less risk of violence. There will also be less attention paid to his remarks, but sacrifices must be made.

Meanwhile, it could be that the most interesting 1/6 speech will be delivered by one of the most boring men in Washington, namely AG Merrick Garland. We assume he's capable of speaking for more than 1 minute, but we don't know because we've never been able to stay awake that long. He's going to deliver an update on his department's work related to 1/6. Many people feel that the DoJ hasn't done enough, so maybe Garland will disabuse them of that notion. On the other hand, he will not speak about specific people or charges, so maybe not. We'll find out in roughly 24 hours. (Z)

Meanwhile, the 1/6 Committee Is Chugging Along

When it comes to 1/6, the Department of Justice may be doing a lot, or it may be doing very little—who knows? By contrast, it is clear that the House Select Committee is currently operating on all cylinders. It would appear that there is no fish too big for their net; the latest folks to receive requests for information or interviews or both are Sebastian Gorka, Sean Hannity, and... Mike Pence. It seems unlikely that any of them will cooperate voluntarily. Pence, in particular, does not need to give the base even more reason to slur him as a traitor.

In the interim, while waiting for those three gentlemen, and so many others, to make their choices, the Committee released a bunch of text messages from Hannity that were sent to Trump White House insiders immediately before and after 1/6. It turns out that the Fox host was, in effect, a voice of reason—warning before the insurrection that he didn't like the direction that things were headed, and afterward urging then-White House chief-of-staff Mark Meadows to get Trump to shut up. The Committee wants to chat with Hannity about these texts, including, for example, what his concerns were prior to 1/6.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court still has a decision to make as to when and whether they will consider Trump's appeal of the D.C. Circuit's ruling rejecting his claims of executive privilege. In theory, they have an indeterminate amount of time to decide. In practice, they've been asked by the Committee to dispense with the matter by mid-January. So, in about a week we'll know if SCOTUS is taking the Committee's requests seriously or not.

As the Court figures things out, quite a few former high-ranking federal staffers have weighed in on Trump's case, and none of them have good news for him. Former Watergate prosecutor Nick Akerman said the case is so weak that he thinks SCOTUS won't even grant the appeal. A half dozen Republicans who worked for the DoJ and/or the White House went further, filing a brief with the Court urging it to turn Trump down. Meanwhile, former archivists of the United States Don W. Wilson and John W. Carlin not only think that the former president has zero legs to stand on here, they also interpret his desperation as a sign that he knows he's got trouble on his hands. "Given how frantic they are... there are things in those records that are going to make real trouble. I'm talking about prison time," said Carlin.

Anyhow, one day short of one year, things are moving along, and this story could very well develop an awful lot in the next week or so. (Z)

One Million Infections

The U.S. set the wrong kind of record on Monday, becoming the first country in the world to record more than 1 million new COVID infections in a single day. The total was actually 1.06 million, which breaks the previous record of 590,000... set by the U.S. 4 days ago. And these numbers are probably low, given that there is a shortage of COVID tests.

The good news is that the now-dominant Omicron variant (95.4% of new cases) is less likely to produce severe infections or deaths, particularly among those who are vaccinated, and even less like to cause serious illness among those who are vaccinated and boosted. Still, sick people are filling up the nation's hospitals, once again stretching them thin. Meanwhile, an employee shortage is affecting virtually every sector of the economy and, in a development sure to disappoint parents across the land, some schools are shifting back to remote instruction. Chicago, for example, just made the switch (at least temporarily) yesterday.

This is a time for some leadership, and Joe Biden knows it, so he gave an address on the pandemic yesterday. Unfortunately, he didn't have much good news to offer. He said that he understands how "frustrating" the surge is for people, as the pandemic approaches the 2-year mark. He announced that the government has upped its order for the various COVID pills, but conceded that the pills won't be ready for delivery for a while. He also said that the administration is working on previously announced plans to distribute tens of millions of tests, but that the logistics are still being hammered out.

More broadly, it is clear that the White House's strategy is focused on management rather than containment. Biden reiterated that he doesn't plan to impose any lockdowns or mask mandates, and that he really, really wants to see schools remain open. Politically, and practically, he may not have another alternative. A sizable portion of the American public was never interested in making sacrifices in order to help fight the pandemic. And among the remainder, pandemic exhaustion has set in, such that many are now willing to let the cards fall where they may. If nothing else, it's an object lesson in how impressive it is that Franklin D. Roosevelt kept most Americans pulling in the same direction for nearly 4 years during World War II. (Z)

Rep. Brenda Lawrence Is Democratic Retiree #25

Another day, another Democratic retirement. The latest member to call it a career is Michigan representative Brenda Lawrence, who has represented MI-14 for four terms. Until recently, she was seen as a rising star in her caucus, as she worked her way up the ranks of both the Congressional Black Caucus and the House Appropriations Committee. However, she is not happy with the new district maps. Lawrence likely could have continued her career, but she might have been compelled to switch to a district other than the one she lives in. And that new district, whether she chose the one she resides in or not, would not be majority-minority, unlike MI-14.

At this point, we've observed roughly two dozen times that the exodus of Democratic members served as a de facto prediction that the blue team is going to lose its majority. It's no fun to be in the minority in the House, under the best of circumstances. It will presumably be even less fun under the leadership of a party and a conference that tolerates and enables people like Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Lauren Boebert (R-CO), and Jim Jordan (R-OH).

That said, the 25 retirements (so far) are not going to put that many Democratic seats at risk. The maps are still in flux, but if you review our list of House retirements, you will see that just 8-10 of the now-open Democratic-held districts are even remotely competitive. And the Democrats certainly aren't going to lose them all, even if there is a red wave, and even if they're running non-incumbent candidates. So while the sizable number of towels being thrown in certainly isn't good news for the blue team, one should not overstate how bad it is, either. (Z)

Today's News You Already Knew: Elder Won't Run for Governor Again

During last year's gubernatorial recall election in California, radio host Larry Elder caught fire, in a manner of speaking. He launched a not terribly serious candidacy, obviously with an eye toward promoting his show. However, the Republican field was very weak, and Elder has charisma and a built-in fanbase. And so, despite not bothering to campaign until the last month or so, and not showing up to the gubernatorial debates, he rose to the top of field among the many folks who aspired to replace Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA). And on Election Day, Elder got 48.4% of the votes cast for the 53 different replacement candidates.

There are many California Republicans who see that as a success that can be built upon. And so, they had hoped to recruit Elder for a rematch in 2022. Yesterday, he announced that he's not interested, and that instead he will form a super PAC. "I ran for Governor because I wanted to make a difference," he declared in a statement. "While I may not know what the future holds for me politically, our campaign's ability to attract millions of votes and millions of dollars in a very short time demonstrates we have a message that resonates with Americans, and I believe we can put that to good use."

Elder is no fool. To start, he knows full well that he's well suited to taking potshots from the cheap seats, but very badly suited to actually governing. That's doubly true in a state where, as governor, he'd face off against a legislature dominated by Democrats, and certain to stymie him at nearly every turn. Further, he's an unabashed capitalist who makes no secret of his profound interest in fattening his bank account. The salary of the governor of California is $209,747. The salary of an executive officer of a super PAC? Sky's the limit.

There's also the small matter that Elder has zero chance of actually getting elected in California. It is true that he swamped his competition in the "who should replace Newsom?" vote. And one might look at that and imagine that, at 48.4%, he's within shouting distance of 50.1% and victory. This is not the case, however. Elder collected 3,563,867 votes, which is far more than the second place finisher, Democrat Kevin Paffrath (706,778). However, it is far, far less than 5,531,010 Californians who voted for... nobody. That was prompted by the Democrats' strategy of putting no viable replacement candidate on the ballot, while also encouraging voters to abstain from that portion of the ballot. In other words, Newsom can expect to collect most or all of those 5.5 million votes in 2022, plus most of all of the 700,000 votes Paffrath got. So, Elder would not have to improve on his total by just a few percentage points; he'd need to come fairly close to doubling it. Indeed, on the question of "recall or not?," which effectively turned into the question of "Newsom or Elder?," there were 7,944,092 votes (61.9%) to keep Newsom and 4,894,473 (38.1%) to dump him.

And so, the California GOP will have to come up with someone else to run in 2022. It may well be former San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer, who had the second-best performance among Republicans last year. That said, he got 590,346 votes, or about one-sixth of Elder's total, so Faulconer clearly doesn't excite many voters. It could also be John Cox, who did even worse than Faulconer (305,095 votes), and who also lost to Newsom in 2018. However, Cox can self-fund, and apparently has no issue with wasting millions of dollars tilting at windmills. The fundamental problem is that the Republican bench in California is pretty thin, and the handful of folks who are sitting on it have no interest in rolling the dice when the odds are so poor. (Z)

Looking Forward: The Readers Predict 2022, Part I: Donald Trump

The first look into the readers' 2022 crystal ball. Here are the previous entries:

And now, here is what the readers see in store for Donald Trump in 2022:

We actually have a bunch of other content pending, but there are only so many hours in the day, and it took time to organize all the predictions. Look for some of the stuff we've promised later this week. (Z)

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