Good morning! It’s Thursday, February 11, 2021. Today is Day 3 of the Trump impeachment trial. Election Day 2022 is 635 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,363 days away. Thanks for waking up to politics!
TRUMP ON TRIAL
House Democrats opened their prosecution of former President Donald Trump on Wednesday, laying out an exhaustive timeline of his actions and rhetoric in the period leading up to the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol that was presented alongside never-before-seen footage of the deadly riot.
Trump, they argued, spent months priming his supporters to deny his eventual election loss and turn to violence. “Donald Trump surrendered his role as commander-in-chief and became the inciter-in-chief of a dangerous insurrection,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), the lead impeachment manager, told members of the Senate, who now serve as jurors after being victims of the attack last month.
Raskin and his fellow managers said that their prosecution would walk through three stages of Trump’s conduct: “The provocation,” “the attack,” and “the harm.”
In “the provocation” stage, the managers went as far back as the summer of 2020 to remind senators of Trump’s early claims that he could only lose re-election if the contest was “rigged.” Then, they showed clips of early signs of violence from his supporters, such as an October ambush of a Joe Biden campaign bus that Trump cheered.
Finally, they arrived at the makings of the “big lie” that the election had been stolen: Trump’s attempts to pressure state and local officials, and then judges, and then members of Congress to overturn his loss. And, then, his campaign to urge his vice president, Mike Pence, to block certification of the Electoral College votes — which brought him to the fateful January 6 rally where he urged his backers to “fight like hell” before they marched to the Capitol, intent on executing Pence and others.
“The evidence shows clearly that this mob was provoked over many months by Donald J. Trump,” Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) said. “And if you look at the evidence, his purposeful conduct, you’ll see that the attack was foreseeable and preventable.”
Del. Stacey Plaskett (D-VI), the first non-voting delegate to serve as a House impeachment manager, took to the lectern later in the day to narrate much of the “attack” phase, showing previously unseen videos of the January 6 riot.
In one video, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) could be seen heading in the direction of the mob of Trump supporters until Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman redirected him:
In other videos, the managers showed graphic scenes of the mob attacking law enforcement officers, alongside new audio from the moment that D.C. police officers declared that the attack had become “effectively a riot”:
Plaskett went on to show other clips of Pence, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and other congressional leaders being evacuated during the attack. The managers explained how close lawmakers became at some points to the rioters — just 58 steps away — who were chanting “Hang Mike Pence!” and asking “Where are you, Nancy?” as they searched for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
“President Trump put a target on their backs,” Plaskett said, “and his mob broke into the Capitol to hunt them down.”
Or, as Raskin put it, using first-person pronouns instead: “He told them to ‘fight like hell,’ and they brought us hell that day.”
The videos were often raw and gut-wrenching, leaving more than one senator emotional: Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), for example, was “teary-eyed” and “incredibly shaken up” by the scenes, according to a Politico reporter, who saw Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) holding Lankford’s arm to comfort him.
But will it matter? After Tuesday’s vote on the constitutionality of the trial, in which 44 out of 50 GOP senators said the proceedings were not even legal, few observers expect Democrats will be able to persuade the 17 Republicans needed to extract a conviction of the former president.
Many Republican senators seemed emotionally moved by the footage presented by the managers, but none said that their votes had been swayed. The House “put a real good team together,” Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) told the Washington Post. But when asked if anything would change his mind on his final vote, he responded: “Not from anything I’ve seen so far.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) told the New York Times that the presentation was “powerful and emotional,” but argued that the House Democrats had failed to show “how specific conduct of the president satisfies the legal standard” of inciting violence.
One Republican did appear to be reconsidering his stance: Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), who surprised his colleagues on Tuesday to become the sixth Republican vote in favor of the trial’s constitutionality. (Unlike the other five, Cassidy had previously voted to deem the trial unconstitutional.) According to Politico, Cassidy had furiously taken notes throughout the trial, often overtly reacting to the video clips by sighing or shaking his head, “clearly perturbed by what he is witnessing.”
“I took an oath to uphold the Constitution,” Cassidy told reporters on Wednesday. “A constitutional conservative takes that oath seriously. So, if I’m here to uphold the Constitution, I’m upholding it. I’m doing my job.”
But, in a sign of how much power Trump still holds over the Republican Party — even after being voted out of office and impeached twice — Cassidy is already facing consequences for his vote to allow the trial to continue. The Louisiana Republican Party condemned their home-state senator in a statement, saying they were “profoundly disappointed” by his vote to consider the “politically motivated, bogus charges now pending against [Trump] in a kangaroo court.”
With Trump waiting in the wings to attack any Republican who crosses him, few seem prepared to cast a vote for conviction that is sure to define their career — no matter how emotional the videos shown by the House managers may be.
CORONAVIRUS: “Federal health officials Wednesday urged Americans to consider wearing two masks as one of several strategies to better protect themselves against the threat of more contagious variants of the coronavirus.” — Washington Post
- “The Biden administration is considering whether to impose domestic travel restrictions, including on Florida, fearful that coronavirus mutations are threatening to reverse hard-fought progress on the pandemic.” — Miami Herald
- “President Joe Biden is being accused of backpedaling on his pledge to reopen the nation’s schools after the White House added fine print to his promise and made clear that a full reopening is still far from sight.” — Associated PressTHE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION: “President Biden spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping for the first time since taking office in a call in which he said he raised issues of human rights, trade policy and international security that divide the two countries while also holding open the possibility of working together on climate change and nuclear proliferation.” — Wall Street Journal
- “President Biden on Wednesday announced a series of steps in response to last week’s military coup in Myanmar, including withholding ‘$1 billion in Burmese government funds’ held in the U.S. and imposing sanctions against the military leaders behind the coup.” — Axios
THE TRUMP INVESTIGATIONS: “Prosecutors in Georgia have started a criminal investigation into former President Donald J. Trump’s attempts to overturn Georgia’s election results, including a phone call he made to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in which Mr. Trump pressured him to ‘find’ enough votes to help him reverse his loss.” — New York Times
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will meet with a group of senators at 10 a.m. on infrastructure policy. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who is currently quarantining after being exposed to COVID-19, will join virtually.
At 11:15 a.m., Biden and Harris will receive the President’s Daily Brief. At 3 p.m., Biden will visit the Viral Pathogenesis Laboratory at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. At 4:30 p.m., he will deliver remarks to NIH staff.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold her daily press briefing at 12:30 p.m.
The Senate will convene at 12 p.m. to continue the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump. Following the prayer and Pledge of Allegiance, the House impeachment managers will resume their arguments. They have about eight hours remaining, although they do not expect to use up all of that time.
- The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee will meet at 10 a.m. to vote on the nominations of Connecticut Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona to be Secretary of Education and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to be Secretary of Labor.
- Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will hold a media availability with Sens. Jon Ossoff (D-GA) and Raphael Warnock (D-GA) at 10:30 a.m. to discuss the coronavirus relief package.
The House will briefly convene for a pro forma session at 9 a.m.
- The House Ways and Means Committee will meet at 10 a.m. to continuing marking up its sections of the coronavirus relief package.
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will hold her weekly press conference at 10:45 a.m.
- The House Energy and Commerce Committee will meet at 11 a.m. to mark up its sections of the coronavirus relief package.
- The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee will meet at 2 p.m. to mark up its section of the coronavirus relief package.
- The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship will hold a hearing at 2:15 p.m. on immigration reform.
The Supreme Court is not in session.