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The 1/6 Committee Hearings, Day 3: Trump (and Eastman) vs. Pence

Yesterday, after a one-day delay, the 1/6 Committee held the third installment in its current series of public hearings. If you didn't see it, and you want to, you can watch here:

Beware, it's a long'n (almost 3 hours). And now, as is our custom, here are the 10 things that stood out most to us:

  1. Penceworld: On Monday, a central theme was "Team Normal" vs. Team Trump. Yesterday, it was Penceworld vs. Trumpworld. We assume that Team Normal plays its home games somewhere in Penceworld. In any event, the star of the show yesterday, as expected, was former vice president Mike Pence. He wasn't present, of course, but the story the committee told was the story of how immense pressure was brought to bear on Pence and how he refused to bow to it, even at very real risk to his life.

  2. Blood on Trump's Hands: The Committee presented ample evidence that Donald Trump did everything he could to persuade, beg, and threaten Pence to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Prior to the counting of the electoral votes, Pence was subjected to regular arm-twisting in the Oval Office. Sometimes the former VP was insulted as a "p-word" (that was the phrase used during the hearings yesterday). Sometimes, the former president put on the kid gloves and reminded Pence what good friends they are. Frankly, that might be a greater insult than the p-word.

    On January 6, by which point it was clear that Pence was not planning to yield, Trump decided to add some language pressuring Pence to the address delivered that morning (this information came courtesy of former White House adviser Jason Miller). The Committee played that portion of the speech, and later showed an anti-Pence tweet sent out by Trump right in the middle of the insurrection (2:24 p.m.). There was also footage of angry insurrectionists lambasting Pence, threatening to kill him, accusing him of "betraying the United States," and warning that "we're gonna drag motherfuckers through the streets" (it was uncensored in the broadcast, and so we're leaving it uncensored here). If Mike Pence had been injured or killed, there is simply no question, given the evidence presented yesterday, that much of the guilt would be borne by the former president. And in case you are wondering, a person can be popped for a murder that they incite, even if they do not commit the murder themselves. Similarly, 18 U.S. Code § 1117 makes conspiracy to commit murder a crime.

  3. Eastman's Hands, Too: As the hearings continue to unfold, it is clear that there were two people who took the lead in encouraging Trump in his quest to overturn the election: lawyers Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman. The former president was never going to accept defeat, of course, regardless of what his inner circle said. However, Giuliani and Eastman were the ones fueling Trump with outlandish theories and schemes.

    That said, the hearings are creating a general impression that this was not an equal partnership. If Donald Trump was Hamlet, the fellow born to wealth and privilege, but not really suited to lead, then Eastman was Polonius, the fellow who pulled strings from behind the curtain. Giuliani, by contrast, was more like Yorick—the court jester. America's former mayor was, as revealed in testimony on Monday, drunk much of the time. And you will notice that it was almost invariably Giuliani who got to do and say embarrassing things in press conferences at places like the Four Seasons, and in court, while Eastman largely managed to save face in public.

    Anyhow, Eastman was the one encouraging Trump to twist Pence's arm, and then to twist it some more. And, according to an e-mail introduced during yesterday's hearing, Eastman even had the gall to blame Pence for the riots that took place on 1/6. Again, if the former VP had been hurt or killed, a huge portion of the blame would rest with people who were safely ensconced in the White House.

  4. 40 Feet: In addition to making clear who wanted Mike Pence hurt/killed and why, the Committee also presented powerful visual evidence demonstrating how close the former VP came to being in harm's way. An animated map of the Capitol complex showed where Pence was vs. where the crowd was, making clear that at one point there were only 40 feet of separation. For those who are sports-inclined, consider that a first down in football is 30 feet, it's about 45 feet from half court to the hoop on a regulation basketball court, and the pitcher's mound is just over 60 feet from the batter. Obviously, if the crowd had encountered Pence, his security detail would have opened fire. Even if the former VP had survived, there would have been many people killed.

    The Committee also showed previously unseen photographs of Pence hiding in a secure underground location, including one of him looking at Trump's 2:24 anti-Pence tweet. Pence refused to be evacuated from the Capitol; according to his aides, he was concerned about the message that would send to people across the country and across the world. It was also suggested that the former VP was worried that if he left the building, he might be unable to return.

  5. They All Knew: In addition to documenting the pressure campaign aimed at Mike Pence, and the consequences of it, the Committee also presented ample evidence that the conspirators—specifically Trump, Eastman, and Giuliani—knew full well that what they were doing was illegal and was likely to incite violence. Several White House insiders, including lawyer Eric Herschmann and Pence chief of staff Marc Short, testified that they warned the trio about the illegality and consequences of their actions, and that Eastman even acknowledged that fact. There were also memos, including one written for Trump, warning that the theories Eastman was peddling had no legal merit and were dangerous.

  6. Pardon Me: Eastman has consistently insisted that he did nothing wrong. When he appeared before the 1/6 Committee to testify, he pleaded the Fifth Amendment over 100 times. That's not exactly the behavior of someone who has nothing to hide, but it's not proof either. On the other hand, one of the big bombshells the Committee dropped yesterday was an e-mail from Eastman to Giuliani reading: "I've decided that I should be on the pardon list if that is still in the works." First, it is the height of arrogance for Eastman to presume that it's up to him to decide whether or not he gets a pardon (and he did not get one). Second, innocent people do not feel the need to pursue pardons. No wonder Herschmann told Eastman to get a criminal defense attorney. In fact, it's somewhat remarkable that Eastman hasn't already been indicted.

  7. Greg Jacob, the Anti-Eastman: Whereas John Eastman was peddling all sorts of legal mumbo jumbo, Pence legal adviser Greg Jacob has apparently read a law book or two. Jacob testified at length yesterday, and explained in great detail his analysis of the Electoral Count Act, and the discussions he had with the former VP about how there were at least four different reasons the VP is not empowered to overturn election results. Keep in mind that beyond making the case for punishing Trump, et al., the Committee is also working to educate the American people on how elections work, and how the 2020 election was 100% legitimate and 100% by the book. Jacob certainly helped teach that lesson, thanks to his clear and concise explanations of the legal issues involved.

  8. It Could Happen Again: By contrast, the other Pence legal adviser who testified yesterday, former federal judge J. Michael Luttig, was not a helpful teacher. Luttig's main job was to make clear that 2024 could see a repeat of 2020, and that the nation should be on guard for that. He decreed, in his opening statement: "This false and reckless insistence that the former president won the 2020 presidential election has laid waste to Americans' confidence in their national elections. More alarming still is that the former president pledges that his reelection will not be 'stolen' from him next time around, and his Republican Party allies and supporters obeisantly pledge the same."

    This is a fine observation. But the delivery... dear God. Luttig was like a parody of a bad legal professor. He did not adjust his language to the audience, he went off on tangents, and he spoke in a strange, halting fashion that seemed designed to put people to sleep (see here for an example). Actually, what we were reminded of was this scene from the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off:

    We weren't the only ones who felt this way. Reader D.E. in Lancaster sent in some thoughts: "I don't know about you guys, but the only way I stayed awake through Judge Luttig's 'testimony' was by counting the various dependent and independent clauses in his 'speech.' I think he said something about the basis of our country is the law and that the law is the basis of our country. He also seemed to get into a snit about the other witnesses' characterization of the Twelfth Amendment. Beyond that, I couldn't tell you what he said if you held a gun to my head. If that's a leading Republican legal mind, no wonder the party is so bereft of ideas!"

    The Committee—and, in particular, Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA), who was running the show yesterday—tried to whip Luttig into shape. When they couldn't, they moved on to Jacob, surely more quickly than they had planned.

  9. What Is Going on with Jason Miller?: Jason Miller is, by all indications, a Trump cultist. He continues to fawn over the former president in public, and to rail against the 1/6 Committee. However, some of the most devastating testimony has come from his deposition. Was Miller too afraid to invoke the Fifth Amendment? Is he bitter that Trump did not support his (Miller's) social media platform (Gettr)? We're just having trouble figuring out why the former White House insider is giving up so much dirt, and yet is lambasting the proceedings as fake news.

  10. Where's Mike?: Thus far, Mike Pence has been the hero of the proceedings—the fellow who acted decisively to prevent the nation from descending into a constitutional crisis.

    That said—and we are hardly the only ones thinking this—Pence needs to show up and tell his own story, rather than letting his former underlings tell it on his behalf. The former VP has done nothing to block his aides from testifying, nor has he come out and objected to anything that has been said, which communicates his tacit support for the hearings. At the same time, he still thinks of himself as a presidential candidate, and fears that being too front and center would be fatal with the base.

    It is unlikely that the former VP is reading, but if he is, we have three things to bring to his attention: (1) He's never going to be president; (2) If he somehow is elected president, it isn't going to be by Trumpublicans who consider him to be a traitor, and (3) There is much to be said for Henry Clay's remark that "I had rather be right than be president."

That's our assessment. Next week, two more hearings are on tap, for Tuesday and Thursday, both at 1:00 p.m. ET. (Z)

Department of Justice, 1/6 Committee Are Sniping at Each Other

Maybe the 1/6 Committee will make a formal, criminal referral to the Department of Justice and maybe it won't. Yesterday's hearing served pretty much the same purpose; if the Department of Justice doesn't go after John Eastman, in particular, then they might as well close up shop and shut the department down.

By all indications, Eastman will end up in the DoJ's crosshairs, if he's not there already. AG Merrick Garland & Co. had been focused on the foot soldiers while 1/6 Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) & Co. have been focused on the ringleaders. But the Justice investigation and the 1/6 Committee investigation are now overlapping in significant ways, as Justice is turning its attention to the ringleaders.

In view of this, the DoJ would really like to have access to the nice, tidy pile of evidence the Committee has put together. The Committee is not eager to share, at least at the moment, presumably because their work is not yet done and because they don't want to be deprived of future eye-opening revelations. So, U.S. Attorney Matt Graves and assistant AGs Kenneth Polite and Matt Olson sent the committee a snippy letter yesterday (scroll to the end of the PDF). It reads, in part:

It is now readily apparent that the interviews the Select Committee conducted are not just potentially relevant to our overall criminal investigations, but are likely relevant to specific prosecutions that have already commenced... Given this overlap, it is critical that the Select Committee provide us with copies of the transcripts of all its witness interviews...

The Select Committee's failure to grant the Department access to these transcripts complicates the Department's ability to investigate and prosecute those who engaged in criminal conduct in relation to the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

In response, Thompson said the DoJ will get the information they want, eventually, but that it's just going to have to wait until the Committee is ready. There isn't much the DoJ can do, given the separation of powers between branches and the fact that any sort of legal action would take a long time to unfold, whereas the 1/6 Committee is just weeks or months from complying with the request.

Ultimately, the tensions between the DoJ and the Committee won't matter. There is zero chance the DoJ decides to drop the matter just to spite the Committee. Indeed, the eagerness of Garland & Co. to get the evidence suggests that the 1/6 Committee has already achieved one of its main goals, namely convincing the DoJ that there's a lot of smoke and a lot of fire worthy of their attention. Nevertheless, it is hard to understand what Thompson is up to. He claims the Committee is too busy to help the DoJ, but undoubtedly all their material is on a hard disk somewhere. Surely Thompson could ask one of his secretaries to make a copy of the disk for the DoJ. That wouldn't interfere with the members' work at all. It is very odd. (Z)

Dominion Suit against Newsmax Can Move Forward

Sorry, it's a day heavy on Donald Trump and his enablers. Meanwhile, the name of the current president barely appears in today's posting. That's the way it runs sometimes.

In any event, Newsmax is in a heap of legal trouble. Joining in on the "stop the steal" mania, the channel broadcast all sorts of propaganda after the 2020 election claiming that Donald Trump was the real winner and that he'd been cheated by the Democrats, the deep state, Hillary Clinton, the globalists, the makers of vote-counting machines, the Loch Ness Monster, the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, and the 2022 world champion Golden State Warriors (it was a heckuva good guess).

Watching this coverage, it was clear that the people who work for Newsmax are not real journalists. Real journalists would not only avoid becoming propagandists but, even if they were so inclined, would know how to say things without running afoul of defamation law. You can get very close to that line without crossing it, if you know what you're doing. Anyhow, the Newsmax folks crossed right over the line and kept on going, making all sorts of specific statements about Dominion Voting Systems (DVS), and that country's evil machinations.

These statements were clearly actionable and, with its business in ruins, DVS took action. Newsmax tried to get the suit dismissed, and yesterday Judge Eric M. Davis of the Superior Court of the State of Delaware said "Nope." In fact, not only did he decline to dismiss the suit, he opined that "Newsmax knew the allegations were probably false." That's a critical finding in a defamation case—that the defamer knew, or should have known, that their statements were false. In fact, it's almost certainly the hardest portion of a defamation claim to prove.

The bottom line is that Newsmax is in deep trouble. The network is exposed six ways to Sunday and the courts aren't buying their legal arguments at all. They're already a minor operation with pockets that are deep, but not Fox deep. One bad verdict could put Newsmax out of business, and the DVS suit isn't the only one that Newsmax is facing. If that channel is still around in 5 years, it will be a miracle. Well, unless they get backing from the Russians (RT-Newsmax?) or the Saudis (LIV-Newsmax?). Which, actually, is totally plausible. (Z)

Senate Gun Talks about to Misfire

Anyone who is surprised by this item hasn't been paying attention for oh, say, the last 30 years. If the Senate was going to accomplish anything in terms of gun control, even something pretty anemic, speed was of the essence. Every day that passes allows the emotions triggered by Uvalde to fade a bit, while also affording the Second Amendment zealots the chance to marshal their forces.

And, indeed, the marshaling is well underway. Constituents and lobbyists have been working over the senators that they know to be... friendly to their interests, including Ted Cruz (R-TX), Mike Lee (R-UT), Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Crapo (R-ID), and Rick Scott (R-FL). And so, those fellows have been making life very hard for lead Republican negotiator, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX). In particular, they want to put the kibosh on any talks of red flag laws, as they claim such laws could too easily deprive Americans of their Second Amendment rights. Readers will recall that red flag laws were once held out as the likeliest area of agreement, as 19 states (including some red ones) and D.C. already have such laws.

On Thursday, Cornyn began to back away from the whole discussion, asserting that "we've about run out of our rope here, and we got to make some final decisions today if we're going to be able to get this on the floor next week." Later in the day, the Senator declared he was "through talking" and that he was heading home to Texas for the weekend. If there are no negotiations this weekend, then the odds of a bill coming together before the July 4 recess are not great. And if the bill waits until after the recess, then the odds of something coming together at all grow perilously thin.

Assuming that talks collapse, there will be two lessons. The first is that the modern Republican Party simply will not and cannot agree to any changes to gun laws whatsoever, no matter how small (unless they expand gun rights rather than restrict them). And the second—this is the inside baseball lesson—is that Cornyn may not have the right stuff to lead his conference, and that he might not be up to the job of replacing Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). The Texan had made no secret of his interest in doing so when and if the Kentuckian retires. Of course, turtles can live to be 150 years old, so maybe Cornyn shouldn't have gotten his hopes up in the first place. (Z)

Walker's Got Kids Everywhere

On Wednesday, we noted that Georgia U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker (R), who has repeatedly wagged his finger at absentee Black fathers was outed as... an absentee Black father. In addition to the child that is a part of his household, he has a second son whose existence went previously unmentioned, and whose interactions with Walker are limited to the occasional birthday and Christmas gift. Confronted with the evidence, Walker admitted his parentage on Wednesday afternoon.

But it does not stop there, as it turns out. Again, wagging one's finger like that is a tantamount to daring dirt-diggers to dig up dirt, especially when one appears to live one's life according to... an alternative moral compass, let's say. And so, it took a mere 24 hours for The Daily Beast to find two more children; a third son and a daughter.

Walker has already acknowledged the additional two children. One wonders if he has any more out there; at this pace he'll be able to field a complete football team by Friday of next week. He has insisted that he wasn't trying to "hide" his past, and that "I just chose not to use them as props to win a political campaign. What parent would want their child involved in garbage, gutter politics like this?" Yeah, right.

There have been no polls of the race since these skeletons emerged from Walker's closet. Our guess is that Democrats are more likely than Republicans to be bothered by the hypocrisy of casting stones at other Black men's glass houses. Democrats are not Walker's voters, of course. If the Republicans he needs are upset, it is more likely to be due to his somewhat-less-than-Biblical lifestyle. That said, Walker is the candidate of Donald Trump, for whom "somewhat less than Biblical" is a mantra, and who also has kids with many different women, so one has to presume that being a little reckless with one's seed is not exactly a dealbreaker here. (Z)

Boebert Plans to Sue

We also had a second item about candidate dirt on Wednesday, addressing some pretty outlandish allegations made by American Muckrakers PAC against Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO). Our assessment was that the evidence—ostensibly showing that the Representative was once an escort, and that she had multiple abortions—was not compelling enough, and that it wouldn't affect her if the PAC couldn't come up with something stronger. Indeed, the escort bit has already been debunked; the pictures were actually from a site for aspiring actors and singers.

It would seem that Boebert is unfamiliar with the Streisand Effect, because on Thursday she announced plans to sue American Muckrakers PAC. Perhaps someone in her inner circle will persuade her that threatening to sue makes enough of a statement, and that she should not actually follow through. But if she does, it will mean three things: (1) the allegations will get vastly more oxygen than would otherwise be the case, (2) she'll be subject to discovery, and (3) it will encourage those who dislike her to look anywhere and everywhere for dirt.

There is, perhaps, a useful comparison to be drawn here between Boebert and Dominion Voting Systems (see above). In the case of Dominion, they really have no option but to sue, since their core business has been badly damaged, and their only real hope of recovery is an unequivocal legal win they can present to future clients. And even then, it might not be enough. Plus, Newsmax (and the other defendants) have deep enough pockets that Dominion might just get something out of them. By contrast, Boebert's political career will be fine whether or not she sues American Muckrakers, and even if she wins, it will be a moral victory at best, since it's not like they have any money. Of course, if the Representative was in the habit of thinking things through, she might have concluded that leading tours of the Capitol in early January 2020 was maybe not the best idea. (Z)

This Week in Schadenfreude

We had a choice between two dopey Trump enablers today, and we couldn't choose, so we're just going to go with both. Up first is everyone's favorite pillow salesman, Mike Lindell. He continues to peddle his seditious lies about the 2020 election, despite the fact that we're not all that far from the halfway point of Joe Biden's first term. Lindell also continues to promise that the evidence for his claims is coming, and yet somehow it never does.

Lindell has been so over the top, and for so long, that he ended up on the radar of Walmart. That says something; Walmart is headquartered in ruby red Arkansas and is one of America's most right-wing corporations. On the other hand, Democrats buy cheap crap, too. So, Walmart told Lindell he needed to tone it down. Lindell declined, and so now Walmart has yanked his cheap crap pillows from their shelves. This will cost Lindell's business $10 million per year. He spent much of the day yesterday whining to anyone who would listen about how Walmart is "canceling" him.

And then there is Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL), the fellow who likes to get his weapon out during Congressional hearings and wave it around for all to see. He's a decorated veteran of the culture wars, and never misses a chance to get some attention or to kiss up to Donald Trump. So, during yesterday's hearing, he sent this tweet:

It shows a picture of CNN's 
coverage, and reads 'In case you forgot the sham #January6thcommitteehearings are purely for TV ratings, Pelosi let The
Communist News Network build a full TV set where Abraham Lincoln's desk once stood.'

Steube is right that, per Capitol lore, Abraham Lincoln's desk was in Statuary Hall, back when it was used for office space. But beyond that, is he really that stupid? Not only is CNN "broadcasting" from the Capitol, but it's also managed to put up a giant banner? And somehow, over the course of two hours, not a single person walked past?

Obviously, CNN wasn't actually at the Capitol, they were using a green screen that was digitally removed during the broadcast. Since roughly 90% of Zoom users do something similar (without the green screen) Steube must be aware of the technology, right? Like, when he talks to someone and they are sitting at their computer in front of Niagara Falls, he doesn't actually think they're at Niagara Falls, does he?

Steube was absolutely roasted on social media, such that he deleted the tweet after half an hour. We might even be willing to believe that he knew it was a screen and that he was pandering to constituents who didn't. But to delete the tweet suggests he was embarrassed, and that he therefore didn't grasp what was going on. And if so, well, this man is a duly-elected U.S. Representative; one of 535 people charged with deciding whether or not the U.S. goes to war. Fantastic.

When two dopey Trump enablers, folks who would be happy to see democracy fail, get burned a bit for their behavior? Certainly occasion for some schadenfreude. (Z)

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