The Mahablog

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The Mahablog

There’s No Defense for Steve Bannon

You no doubt recall that Steve Bannon’s refusal to comply with a subpoena from the House January 6 committee earned him two two misdemeanor counts of contempt of Congress. His trial is underway this week, and today the jury is supposed to hear his defense. We don’t yet know if Bannon will take the stand himself. (Update: Nope. Aw, shucks.)

Bannon’s primary defense was that he had executive privilege to not testify. This defense was struck down by the judge some time back. Then last week he and Trump enacted some absurd bit of theater when Trump announced he was waiving Bannon’s executive privilege — which Bannon never had, and even if he did it’s no longer Trump’s privilege to waive — so that Bannon could testify to the committee after all. Nope, said the judge; he unlawfully ignored a subpoena. He doesn’t get a do-over.

Even before the trial began, Bannon appeared to be in trouble.

U.S. district court judge Carl Nichols, a Trump appointee, issued a pretrial ruling last Monday asserting that Bannon’s lawyers could not argue executive privilege, while also shooting down a number of other stalling tactics unfurled by the defense.

These pretrial rulings were clearly a source of frustration for David Schoen, Bannon’s lawyer. “What’s the point of going to trial here if there are no defenses?” Schoen asked during last week’s open court session, to which Nichols replied, “Agreed.” Prosecutors believe that the case will be open-and-shut, writing in a December filing that they anticipated needing just “one day of testimony.”

The prosecutors had their day yesterday. There were two witnesses. One was a senior staff member on the House select J6 committee named Kirstin Amerling, who testified that there was a subpoena, and Banon was lawfully required to testify, and the dude didn’t show up, nor did he supply subpoenaed documents. He didn’t even contact the committee with an excuse.

The other witness was FBI Special Agent Stephen Hart, who testified about Bannon’s public and social media statements that demonstrated Bannon knew he was supposed to respond to the subpoena and just didn’t do it.

The defense seems to be attempting to throw shade on the prosecution by claiming the J6 committee is just engaged in political witch hunting. A lot of the defense attorney’s cross examination of Amerling focused on the fact that she’s in a book club with Assistant U.S. Attorney Molly Gaston, one of the prosecution lawyers. Apparently the book club formed while they were all working on the staff of former Rep. Henry Waxman more than a decade ago. Clearly, this is the stuff of nefarious Deep State shenanigans. (/snark)

Bannon and his lawyers have also been demanding that J6 committee chair Bennie Thompson testify. Apparently they think the Congressman should come running at Bannon’s beck and call, but Bannon can’t be bothered to reply to House subpoenas. Hm. Congressman Thompson has recently been diagnosed with covid and isn’t going anywhere, however, including to tonight’s prime time season finale of the Hearings. I assume co-chair Liz Cheney will be running the show in his place.

Okay, the news is in — the defense will not be presenting a defense. Bannon will not testify. The defense doesn’t have to present a defense, since the burdon of proof falls on prosecutions.

Going back to Bannon’s offer to testify before the committee now that the guy who still thinks he’s the President has waived executive privilege, which Bannon didn’t have — C. Ryan Barber writes at Insider that this could backfire. The judge allowed Bannon’s lawyers to tell the jury about the recent offer, implying that Bannon didn’t understand that the date of his testimony wasn’t flexible. The defense made much of the fact that Bennie Thompson had said they would consider setting another testimony date after Bannon has turned over the documents they want.

Bannon’s defense lawyers raised the offer to argue that the longtime Trump ally viewed his deadline to respond to the House committee as not fixed but “malleable.” But for prosecutors, the questioning created an opening to underscore their view that Bannon’s defiance cost the House committee precious time.

Calling Bannon’s recent offer to testify “sudden,” prosecutor Amanda Vaughn asked Amerling how much time the committee would have had to review information Bannon turned over and follow up on leads if he had complied with the subpoena.

“At least eight to nine months of additional time,” Amerling said, adding that the House committee is presently authorized to last for an additional five months, through the current Congress.

“And so, as opposed to 14 [months] in total, the committee now only has five,” Vaughn said.

Vaughn then asked whether Bannon’s offer to testify included an offer to turn over documents the House committee sought last year.

“It did not,” Amerling said.

“Has the defendant provided any documents since his sudden offer to comply on July 9?” Vaughn then asked.

“Not unless he’s provided some since I’ve been sitting here today,” Amerling said.

Anyway, seems to me this one comes down to how stupid or partisan the members of the jury might be.

I’ll be back later today to blog about the J6 series finale.

In other news, President Biden has tested positive for covid. His symptoms are mild. He’ll get every treatment possible and will probably be fine.

Sometimes I Almost Miss Typewriters

I feel like I’ve spent the whole day righting with Technology. I’m not sure who won. Maybe we’ve just called a truce. And right now I’m so frazzled I can’t even think up nasty things to say about Joe Manchin. Well, mañana. Things are working now, anyway.

The Mahablog fundraiser is still going —

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Remember, the season finale of the January 6 show is tomorrow night. I am hoping there will be more episodes to come, sometime.


The Anti-Abortion Crusade Is a Monster

This is from “Pro-Life Idaho Republicans Declare Women Should Be Left to Die to Save Fetuses” by Bess Levin at Vanity Fair.

If someone tries to claim to you that the Court’s decision wasn’t that big a deal and/or doesn’t change much, you are legally obligated to inform them they have shit where their brain should be. If you can stand to breathe the same air as them for a moment longer, you should also inform them of the many ways the various states in question have proceeded to use the opportunity afforded to them by the Supreme Court to advocate for not only forced births, but the state-sanctioned murder of pregnant people.

Over the weekend, the Idaho Republican Party voted against adopting an amendment that would have added an exception to its official policy on abortion for cases to save the life of the mother. Scott Herndon, a Republican running unopposed for a state Senate seat, argued to delegates that “for the last 49 years we have essentially lost the argument in the culture because we have focused on abortion as the termination of a pregnancy and not the termination of a living human being.” He added: “We will never win this human rights issue, the greatest of our time, if we make allowances for the intentional killing of another human being.” Obviously, he did not note that withholding life-saving care from a pregnant person, knowing they could die, is also an intentional killing, because that would apparently require too much reflection on his part. The decision not to add an abortion exception to save the life of the mother was decided 412-164; as The Independent notes, the party platform “is used to direct policy within the state’s GOP-controlled legislature.”

In just the 3 1/2 weeks since the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade was handed down, there have been reports from all over the country about compromises in women’s health care.

For example, it used to be standard medical practice for women having difficult miscarriages to have the remains of the failed pregnancy removed through a dilation and evacuation procedure. which is quick and done under anesthesia. Now in many states this is no longer available, because this same procedure is used to perform abortions, and doctors are terrified they will be prosecuted. So women are sent home to bleed and suffer, sometimes for hours or days.”Delays in expelling tissue from a pregnancy that is no longer viable can lead to hemorrhaging, infections, and sometimes life-threatening sepsis, obstetricians say,” it says here.

Amanda Marcotte writes in Salon,

John Seago of Texas Right to Life blamed “a breakdown in communication of the law, not the law itself” for doctors who are afraid to terminate miscarrying pregnancies. But the doctors understand the legal risks perfectly well. The Texas abortion ban only makes an exception if “the mother’s life is in danger.” The patient described in the New York Times piece was told she could get her miscarrying pregnancy terminated “only if she was bleeding so excessively that her blood filled a diaper more than once an hour.” The doctors seemed quite aware they need patients on the verge of death to justify abortions. As journalist Irin Carmon pointed out on Twitter, in the very same article, Seago admits that the Texas abortion law does require doctors to refuse treatment to miscarrying patients. His other claims otherwise are just noise he spews to distract from the horrific realities he’s deliberately creating.

Texas abortion law requires doctors to refuse treatment to miscarrying patients? What is the bleeping point of that?

But this shouldn’t be a surprise, because this has happened in other countries where abortion is illegal. Indeed, where women can face jail time for getting abortions, many refuse to go to hospitals for miscarriages but suffer alone at home. See The Women Jailed for Suffering Miscarriages at the BBC.

I understand some states are putting blocks or alerts on filling prescriptions for any drug used to induce abortions, even if the prescription is for an entirely different purpose. So a guy who needs ulcer medication refilled may find himself out of luck. See Methotrexate, used on autoimmune diseases, can induce abortion. Some patients can’t get it. I guess lupus patients are out of luck, too.

The problem is that there is a small but powerful cult of people who are fixated on abortion as an absolute evil. The “moral clarity” that insists abortion is always an absolute evil depends on being able to deny the humanity of women. Once you start genuinely caring about the lives of women, an absolute anti-abortion position becomes unsustainable. And when you start making exceptions, all of your so-called “pro life” arguments fall apart. Abortion must not be absolutely evil if it’s okay in some circumstances.

There’s a wonderful quote about moral absolutes by the late Zen teacher Robert Aitken Roshi — “The absolute position, when isolated, omits human details completely. Doctrines, including Buddhism, are meant to be used. Beware of them taking life of their own, for then they use us.”

Anti-abortion fanaticism has definitely taken on a life of its own, and it has become a tyrant and a monster.

See especially “Pro Life”? Women’s Suffering Is Forced-Birth Zealots’ Doing by Jennifer Rubin at WaPo. So far I don’t know that any woman has lost her life because of compromised health care, but it’s only a matter of time. In many states doctors are delaying life-saving care, waiting to get go-aheads from lawyers. This applies even to ectopic pregnancies sometimes. This is ridiculous.

And this doesn’t even begin to address the risky things women will do to themselves to self-abort.

Justifying the cruelties being imposed in some circumstances requires monumental intellectual dishonesty. For example:

The dimwit insisting that when a ten-year-old terminates a pregnancy it’s not an abortion is Catherine Glenn Foster of Americans United for Life, who once claimed D.C. powers it street lamps by burning fetuses.

Again, all of this confusion was very predictable, because it’s all been going on for years in other countries. Way back in 2006 I wrote about abortion in El Salvadore, where a woman convicted of getting an abortion could face 50 years in prision.

Courts can order vaginal inspections of women under suspicion. If a woman needs a hysterectomy after a suspected back-alley abortion, the uterus is sent to the Forensic Institute for examination. If the case goes to trial, the organ may be used as evidence against the woman.

El Salvadore’s laws are so insane physicians cannot even terminate an ectopic pregnancy before it becomes critical.

And here we are. This situation is beginning to be replicated in the U.S.

The system in El Salvadore hasn’t changed. Nina Lakhani reported for The Guardian this year,

The Salvadorian anti-abortion law, which was subsequently written into the constitution, has led to at least 182 women who suffered an obstetric emergency being prosecuted for abortion or aggravated homicide.

Poor, young women from rural areas with limited access to healthcare have been disproportionately persecuted, with most reported to the police by hospital workers. In many cases, prosecutors and judges have argued that the woman’s failure to save the pregnancy amounted to murder.

Women in the U.S. were already being prosecuted for miscarriages before the Dobbs decision. See this BBC report from November 2021. Women who miscarried and were found to have illegal drugs in their systems have been prosecuted for manslaughter. The next step in places like Texas and Missouri will be to start jailing women for smoking or drinking beer while pregnant, or for failing to take prenatal vitamins.

More from the Washington Post:

A woman with a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy sought emergency care at the University of Michigan Hospital after a doctor in her home state worried that the presence of a fetal heartbeat meant treating her might run afoul of new restrictions on abortion.

At one Kansas City, Mo., hospital, administrators temporarily required “pharmacist approval” before dispensing medications used to stop postpartum hemorrhages, because they can also be also used for abortions.

In other words, in that last instance the woman had given birth and was bleeding too much. This is a common cause of maternal mortality.

Let’s go back to Bess Levin at Vanity Fair:

Currently, Idaho’s “trigger” law, passed in 2020, outlaws abortions with exceptions for rape and incest, though only if the crimes are reported to law enforcement. (The Idaho GOP platform has no exceptions for rape or incest; a regional Planned Parenthood organization and an Idaho abortion provider have sued to block the law and a hearing is scheduled for August 3.) According to Newsweek, in a Facebook video after the Supreme Court struck down Roe, Herndon declared, “you don’t put to death the innocent child for the crime of its father, but that’s what this [trigger] law would allow.” He also claimed that such exceptions give women “a free pass,” and said that “if a mother really wants to kill her child, she could lie, say she was raped, file a police report, and go get her child killed in the state of Idaho and nobody would be prosecuted.” Because Herndon apparently wanted to make it abundantly clear that not only is he anti-abortion, he’s also a colossal asshole too. (On his website, Herndon says he “believes in preserving and protecting human life” and “has followed this in word and deed as an active Abortion Abolitionist and Pro-Gun advocate.” We’re going to guess that no, he doesn’t see the irony.)

As I said, an absolute anti-abortion position requires complete disregard for women as human beings. In the presence of even a little compassion or empathy for women, abortion as absolute evil becomes unsustainable. If you start making exceptions, such as for rape or incest or physical risk to the mother, then you’re admitting it’s not an absolute evil. And that must not be admitted

These wackjobs are going to get women killed. They may not have done it yet, but it’s just a matter of time.

Note also: I’m having the annual Mahablog fundraiser earlier this year. I put it off as long as I could, but there were too many unanticipated medical bills.

The Fundraiser to Keep Mahablog Online

I am holding the annual Keep Mahablog Online fundraiser early this year. I had some unexpected medical bills — Medicare doesn’t cover everything — from the TIA/mini-stroke I had in March, and I find myself running on empty at the moment. So now’s the time.

As I wrote last year, it costs $900 a year to keep Mahablog online, which is way too much but that’s now it is. So any amount you can donate will help make it possible for me and the blog to keep going.

Donate to GoFundMe here.

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Pregnant 10-Year-Olds Are Not a Hoax

I want to tell you about a young girl who became pregnant by rape. No, not the ten-year-old in Ohio. This girl was an eleven-year-old in Argentina.

She was called Lucía in news stories, although that is not her name. Courts had removed Lucía and two older sister from her mother’s home, because her mother’s boyfriend was abusing the older girls. So Lucía was living with her grandmother when her grandmother’s boyfriend raped her. She doesn’t appear to have understood what he was doing to her.

I infer from news stories that no one realized Lucía was pregnant until the early second trimester. She was about 19 weeks along when she went to a public hospital in her province to ask for an abortion. Abortions were illegal in Argentina, but two exceptions were allowed: In cases of rape, and in cases in which the mother’s life is at risk. Lucía qualified on both counts. She was small for her age, and her body hadn’t matured enough to have carried a pregnancy to term without risk.

Lucía knew she didn’t want to be pregnant. She made two suicide attempts. She demanded that doctors remove “what the old man put inside me.”

However, the government of Tucumán province, where Lucía lived, deliberately delayed the abortion to which she was entitled. Instead, the officials issued instructions to doctors to “save both lives.” One official lied to the public about how small she was and claimed that carrying the pregnancy to term posed no risk to her. But a doctor told a family court that Lucia faced “high obstetric risk” should her pregnancy continue.

The archbishop of Tucumán, Carlos Sánchez, recorded an audio address that went viral. He carelessly revealed Lucía’s real name and called on his listeners to become “custodians” of the fetus. Anti-abortion groups got involved and set up a noisy vigil around the hospital where Lucía was gestating under observation, and probably also under suicide watch.

The battle over Lucía’s pregnancy raged in courts and in media, until finally doctors were cleared to terminate the pregnancy. Lucía had reached 23 weeks’ gestation — considered the earliest threshold of viability — and the infant was delivered by caesarian section. In spite of many efforts the infant did not survive.

So Lucía was put through all that anguish and pain, both physical and psychological, for nothing.

But the case, which was not that unusual — “In 2017 (according to the latest available data from the Health Statistics and Information Office), 2,493 babies were born to girls under the age of 15″ in Argentina, it says here — re-ignited the debate over legal abortion in Argentina. The callous disregard for Lucía shocked much of the public. People took to the streets demanding there be no more Lucías in Argentina.

Lucía was delivered of her doomed infant in 2019. In December 2020, Argentina passed a bill that legalized abortion through the 14th week of pregnancy. This might not have helped Lucía, but it was a huge victory for women and girls in Argentina.

And this is why abortion criminalizers in the U.S. don’t want to hear about ten-year-olds who are pregnant by rape. They’d like to pretend it doesn’t happen. But it does happen. In 2020, 1,765 girls aged 15 and less gave birth in the U.S. How many other girls in the same age category received abortions, I do not know. But now that abortion is illegal in huge parts of the U.S., that number of underage mothers will no doubt go up. A lot.

There was a time that abortion was illegal everywhere in Latin America, except Cuba. After Argentina, Mexico decriminalized abortion in 2021. Colombia made elective abortion legal through the 24th week of gestation in February 2022.

The legislation in these countries came about because of many sad stories, such as the story of  Lorena Gelis, a 37-year-old woman in the northern Colombian city of Barranquilla, who died from severe bleeding after a botched back-alley abortion. She died just a few weeks before the new law was passed.

And it isn’t just Latin America. Earlier this year I wrote about Savita Halappanavar, whose death in 2012 was one of the catalysts that led to legalizing abortion in Ireland. Irish law was ambiguously worded, and physicians were unsure when they could terminate Halappanavar’s disasterous pregnancy without putting themselves in legal jeopardy. It was clear the pregnancy was going wrong all kinds of ways and that Halappanavar’s life was in jeopardy. The fetus was at only 17 weeks’ gestation and had no chance of survival. Even so, the doctors felt they could not operate until the fetal heartbeat could no longer be detected, even though Halappanavar was in great pain and becoming septic. They waited three days, and the delay cost Savita Halappanavar her life.

Abortion was legalized in Ireland in 2018.

Already the many new state laws banning abortion are leaving physicians confused. Here in Missouri, the law that went into effect within hours of the Dobbs decision prohibits most abortions except in cases of medical emergency. Um, exactly what constitutes a “medical emergency”? Medical professionals have been petitioning the state government to clarify what they mean by “emergency” so as to avoid being dragged off to jail if their medical judgments clash with the courts.

A few days ago, Democratic minority leaders in the state’s Republian majority legislature asked for a special session to provide some guidelines about how a physician is supposed to know what a kosher “medical emergency” is supposed to be. How close does a woman have to be to gasping her last breath before the doctors step in to save her? Must internal bleeding have begun? What about sepsis? If an abortion is performed in an emergency but there was a 10 percent chance mother and fetus might have survived, would the physicians be charged with a crime? It’s this very ambiguity that killed Savita Halappanavar.

Our cognitively challenged governor, of course, shot down the special session proposal. “You’re talking about a complicated issues that’s going to take time to figure out how to do this,” Gov. Mike Parson brilliantly noted. He said that physicians ought to have a “seat at the table,” which seems reasonable, but he is clearly in no hurry to clarify anything to anybody.

I guess we’ll know what’s legal and what isn’t when they start prosecuting doctors.

Parson also said the Missouri health department would provide clarity and review current regulations to ensure they line up with the new law.

Summer Ballentine reported for the Associated Press

The Department of Health and Senior Service’s guidance for the most part directs questioners to read Missouri laws on abortion and otherwise leaves it up to prosecutors to interpret.

“Enforcement of the criminal provisions of state statute are left to local law enforcement agencies, local prosecuting attorneys, and the Missouri Attorney General’s Office for enforcement,” the document states.

A frequently asked question listed on the health department document is whether the agency can “provide legal advice so that medical professionals and patients can know what is and is not legal.”

“No,” the factsheet states. “DHSS is not authorized to provide legal advice to third parties.”

Prosecutors had been relying on the health department to issue guidance.

So now it’s up to local prosecutors to decide what a “medical emergency” is. These are not people I’d trust to keep flies off a sandwich, never mind make rational decisions about life or death medical issues.

The post I wrote about Savita Halappanavar is titled Republicans Will Overreach on Abortion. They are overreaching now. It’s obvious some of them aren’t going to stop until no abortion can be performed for any reason. If women die, so be it. And at least some of them realize that stories about ten-year-old rape victims doesn’t help their cause. So they will deny, deny, deny.

The story about the ten-year-old rape victim in Ohio was first published on July 1 in the Indianapolis Star. The only name named in the article was that of Dr. Caitlin Bernard, an Indianapolis obstetrician-gynecologist. Right-wing media promptly cited the lack of corroboration and called the story a hoax. Some Fox News bobbleheads spent considerable on air time claiming they had “researched” it and didn’t believe the ten-year-old girl even existed. And if so, why wasn’t the rape reported to police (it had been, in late June)? And how could Dr. Bernard get away with not filing the proper paperwork about the abortion (she had filed it).

And then, after nearly two weeks of the usual right-wing spin machine noise persuading people that this was fake news, the Columbus Dispatch reported a suspect in the rape had been arrested. And the suspect has confessed. Oops!

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita had been all over Fox News badmouthing Dr. Bernard. Bernard’s attorney sent a cease-and-desist letter to the AG yesterday, demanding he stop making “false or misleading statements” about Dr. Bernard.

But the larger issue here is that this sort of thing is going to keep happening. There will be more cases that will become public and shed a bright light on the casual cruelties and injustices caused by abortion bans. This will happen over and over. It will shape public opinion. And the Fetus People don’t want you to hear about them.

Pro-choice demonstrators in Argentina, 2019.

The Secret Service, Joe Manchin, and Bleep

Several news stories have been, shall we say, concerning. Let’s start with the Secret Service.

The Secret Service erased text messages from January 5 and 6, 2021. “Joseph V. Cuffari, head of the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General, wrote to the leaders of the House and Senate Homeland Security committees indicating that the text messages have vanished and that efforts to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021, attack were being hindered.”

The Secret Service says that the erasures were accidental and happened because of a planned upgrade or migration or some such. Not deliberate! Sure.

Cuffari emphasized that the erasures came “after the Office of Inspector General requested copies of the text messages for its own investigation, and signaled that they were part of a pattern of DHS resistance to his inquiries. Staff members are required by law to surrender records so that he can audit the sprawling national security agency, but he said they have “repeatedly” refused to provide them until an attorney reviews them.

Someone on MSNBC compared the erasure to motel staff finding a body in a room but going ahead with “scheduled” housekeeping, destroying evidence. It does look suspicious.

Meanwhile, CNN is reporting that a Washington D.C. police officer who was with Trump’s motorcade on January 6 has corroborated the story Cassidy Hutchison told about Trump’s throwing a tantrum and fighting with Secret Service agents in his car when he was told they would not take him to the Capitol. This was part of evidence given to investigators for the House January 6 committee. But then CNN also said this:

Neither of the agents named in the testimony have commented publicly on Hutchinson’s testimony. But soon after it, a Secret Service official who would only speak on background, said Engel would deny parts of the story regarding Trump grabbing at the steering wheel and lunging toward an agent on his detail. The agency has said the agents involved would testify to that effect, though they have not yet gone back to the committee to testify.

“Engel” is Robert Engel, who was Trump’s Secret Service lead agent. Hutchinson testified that Tony Ornato, then-White House deputy chief of staff, told her the story in front of Engel and he did not dispute the account. But it sounds as if the Secret Service is trying to cover up Trump’s bad behavior, doesn’t it?

And let us not forget that Mike Pence didn’t trust the Secret Service.

And I’m not saying one thing had anything to do with the other thing, but  … Ivana Trump, wife #1, died yesterday from a fall down the stairs in her New York home. She was only 73, which seems young to me, so that’s a shame. She seemed to be enjoying her life. And today New York Attorney General Letitia James had expected to be hearing sworn depositions from Trump and two of Ivana’s children with Trump, Ivana and Junior. The Trumps had tried to get out of the deposition through the courts but failed. Because of Ivana’s death, the depositions were postponed.

Ivana had not qualified for Secret Service protection, I don’t believe. Just wife #3 and the kids.

Elsewhere: There’s a lot that’s been going on with legislation that I haven’t been writing about, but Whatever Might Have Been has been destroyed by Joe Manchin, who declared today that he would not support any new taxes or any new environmental spending.

First, I want to drop Manchin into Yosemite National National Park with a couple of buckets of water and tell him to save the sequoias. It does appear that the sequoias are safe, for now, though. Maybe we could lock him up in a trailer in Texas with one creaky window air conditioner and wish him good luck if the power fails.

Greg Sargent:

The West Virginia Democrat reportedly told party leaders late Thursday that he won’t support any new incentives to combat climate change or any new tax hikes on corporations or the wealthy. The Post reports that in private talks, Manchin appeared close to a deal, only to renege at the last minute.

Yet as ludicrous as this turnaround is on its face, there are still more hidden absurdities behind the situation that show what a farce it has truly become. They turn on the specifics of what Manchin appeared to reject, and his inflation-related excuse for doing so, which amount to a display of towering bad faith. …

… The deal would have raised around $1 trillion in revenue from rolling back some of the 2017 GOP tax cuts. Half of that revenue would have gone to deficit reduction, and the other half would have gone mostly to funding the transition to green energy.

Manchin’s excuse for this is that he’s concerned about inflation. And we all know better.

He’s still open to a deal on prescription drug prices, at least until he decides he isn’t.


The Plot Gets Clearer, and So Does the Danger

The story thus far — the 2020 general election was held on November 3. According to a timeline at the National Archives, the states had until December 8, more than a month, to resolve controversies surrounding the election. And then on December 14 the electors met in their states to cast their votes for president. After that time, all legal challenges to the election are supposed to be over. As a nation we were past the “speak now, or forever hold your peace” part of the ceremony.

The epic, unhinged meeting at the White Mouse with Trump and the crazies and White House staff shrieking at each other for hours happened on December 18. It must have been impressed upon Trump that there would be no more court challenges of the election. So the Looney Tunes showed up to present alternative ideas, including using the military to seize voting machines. But at the end of the day, all the crazy ideas (that we know of) were shot down.

The epic meeting from Crazy ended about midnight on December 19. And then, some time later in the night of December 19, probably pumped on adrenalin and Adderall, Trump tweeted for his supporters to come to Washington on January 6, the date Congress was to confirm who won the presidential election. This is, apparently, when the idea of a massive rally of Trump supporters who would menace Congress in some manner was hatched. Being able to encite his supporters into doing something menacing was the one superpower Trump had left.

I also want to point out that the fake electors scheme was put into place before the meeting from Crazy, obviously, because the fake electors cast their fake votes on the same day the real electors met, December 14. So there was already a scheme in the works to hand the election back to Trump by fraudulent means.

I guess the plan still needed something that could be used as an excuse to throw the real electoral votes into doubt — like, you know, evidence — which the Trumpers did not have. And they were out of “normal” options, like going through the courts. But maybe a violent mob would create enough chaos that the real votes could be thrown out, and no one would notice. It was crude, but there weren’t many options left, especially after the proposal to seize the voting machines had been shot down.

Yesterday’s House January 6 hearing brought out that timeline. It also highlighted how extremist groups like the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys threw themselves into the project of menacing Congress on January 6.

As yet no one has presented any direct, personal communication between Trump and these hard-right militant organizations, but they were willing co-conspirators nonetheless. And there is evidence that there was communication between Trump allies and the militants. There is no doubt that Trump both anticipated and incited violence. The militant organizations planned and executed an on-the-ground strategy that drew in “normies” who had just come for the rally and cranked that violence up for maximum effect.

Jason Van Tatenhove, a former associate of the Oath Keepers, testified yesterday that Oath Keeper founder Stewart Rhodes has long desired to be recognized as a powerful paramilitary leader, and he saw Trump and Trumpism as a means to that end.  Organizing for Trump was a path to more power and legitimacy, Van Tatenhove said.

I thought the testimony of Stephen Ayres, who had been one of the rioters who was not part of any militant organization, was especially effective. Ayres may not have been a Proud Boy or Oath Keeper, but he had been sucked into the social media vortex and believed that Trump had been robbed of his second term. He entered the Capitol and at one point was livestreaming from the Senate chamber. He was arrested on January 25, 2021, and earlier this year he pleaded guilty to disorderly and disruptive conduct. He testified yesterday that as a result of the notoriety he lost his job and had to sell his home. He said if he had known there was no evidence of election fraud he might not have gone to Washington. One suspects he is very sorry he did.

But of course, it wasn’t just Trump who made the Big Lie look like a legitimate concern. See Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman:

A full accounting must include the role of many mainstream Republicans in feeding the belief among countless Americans that the election actually could be procedurally reversed. This no doubt helped fuel rage when Trump’s procedural efforts failed, helping spark the violence.

This dereliction included the studied silence of countless elected Republicans. But it also included the noise made by GOP politicians such as Sens. Josh Hawley (Mo.) and Ted Cruz (Tex.), who led an effort to object to Biden’s electors on Jan. 6.

Hawley and Cruz have tended to claim they only did this to speak to their constituents’ concerns that the election’s outcome was dubious. In reality, they actively fed those concerns, and through the very process of objecting to Biden’s electors based on known lies that had been litigated for months, also fed the belief that a reversal was possible.

And, of course, a reversal is not possible. Even if someone proved tomorrow that the election had been stolen from Trump, that doesn’t mean he’d get the keys to the White House back.

This failure by mainstream Republicans was very neatly captured by one other moment at Tuesday’s hearing. The committee played a recording of Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) telling other GOP members on a Jan. 5 call that she was concerned about security the next day.

“We have, quite honestly, Trump supporters who actually believe that we are going to overturn the election,” Lesko said. “And when that doesn’t happen, most likely will not happen, they are going to go nuts.”

Yet the next day, Lesko herself voted along with around 140 other House Republicans to object to Biden’s electors, further reinforcing this false belief.

“Irresponsible” doesn’t begin to describe this behavior. And when does the Great Walkback begin? When are the Hawleys and Cruzes and Leskos going to step up and say “Well, of course, I never believed the election had been stolen …”

In poll after poll, about 70% of Republicans say they don’t think Joe Biden is the legitimate winner of the 2020 election. Literally, we can’t run a democracy like this. It’s going to implode.

Susan Glasser writes at The New Yorker,

According to a Times survey published on Tuesday, seventy-five per cent of G.O.P. primary voters said the former President bore no blame for the violent events of January 6th and was “just exercising his right to contest the election.” The paper touted that nineteen per cent of respondents said his actions “went so far that he threatened American democracy” as a sign of weakening support for Trump among his Republican base. But that seems an awful lot like wishful thinking. Only nineteen per cent thought an attack on the United States Capitol with the explicit goal of shutting down the electoral count was a threat to democracy? What better proof could there be of Trump successfully insuring that going along with his election lies remains a central tenet of the Party dogma? 

We are so not out of danger now.

The July 12 Sedition Hearing

Please feel free to comment before, during, and after today’s hearing.

NBC News is quoting Jamie Raskin that Pat Cipollone more or less corroborated what Cassidy Hutchinson said.

“Cipollone has corroborated almost everything that we’ve learned from the prior hearings,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., said in an exclusive interview just hours before the next hearing. “I certainly did not hear him contradict Cassidy Hutchinson. … He had the opportunity to say whatever he wanted to say, so I didn’t see any contradiction there.”

Okay, make of that what you will.

Update: So, the march to the Capitol was planned in advance but not announced in advance because it was supposed to seem spontaneous. And also it was not announced in advance, and no permits were acquired, because Trump’s lawyers believed it would be viewed as incitement to riot. Which it was. Of course, it wasn’t exactly a surprise, either, but it was not “official.”

Update: At one point today, Liz Cheney said, “President Trump is a 76-year-old man. He is not an impressionable child.” In my experience, people who have to work for someone who is seriously out of whack tend to fall into patterns of accommodating the out-of-whackness in ways that make absolutely no sense. But if the boss is, basically, a toddler in an adult body, people working with him — who can’t get out of working with him — will instinctively fall into patterns of treating this person like a toddler who, unfortunately, can’t be given time outs.  So the behavior is both tolerated and worked-around when necessary.

And nobody is going to go public with this as long as they intend to or have to keep working with him. As we see with some of these people, like Mike Pence, even after the relationship is over it may be hard to come forward and explain “This is what I did when working with this person.”

And it’s also the case that people with more casual contact with the wackadoo will be in denail about how off the charts this person really is.

Update: And what about that December 18 Oval Office meeting? Bits of this had been made public before, of course. We knew that Giuliani et al. had pushed for having the military seize voting machines. I’m sure I heard somewhere else that Sidney Powell almost maybe sorta kinda was given some kind of special counsel status. We didn’t know that the meeting moved all over the White House, ended up in the residence until about midnight, and featured arguing, yelling, and invitations to duke it out.

Update: And Liz has put The Donald on notice about witness tampering. The big toddler doesn’t like to be told “no.” He won’t stop.

Tomorrow’s January 6 Hearing

Tomorrow’s January 6 hearing will begin at 1 pm EST, the latest news said. Originally it  was going to be in the morning. As I understand it, this hearing will be led by Jamie Raskin (D-MD) and Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), and it will focus on the pre-insurrection rally.

Update: The website Just Security has a Chart Tracking Trump’s Knowledge and Intent in Efforts to Overturn the Election.

Update: This isn’t new, but I’m just now finding out about it. “Former President Trump and his adult children, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr., are scheduled to testify under oath on July 15 as part of a probe by the New York attorney general into his finances, a court filing revealed Wednesday.”

Update: A Fulton County Superior Court Judge has ruled that Lindsey Graham has to respond to the subpoena issued by District Attorney Fani Willis’s grand jury.

Elon Musk and the Art of the Deal

Let’s see if I’ve got the story straight — in late April, Elon Musk signed a contract to buy Twitter for $54.20 per share. He offered to pay $43 billion for it. Musk thought he could make Twitter more profitable than it is. He also called himself a “free speech absolutist” and dropped big hints that he wouldn’t censor anybody or block accounts because they wrote outrageous things, which made Musk a hero on the Right.

Most people thought Musk was nuts and that he’d be better off putting his money into more charging stations for his electric cars. Most people thought that attempting to run an uncensored Twitter would be a galaxy-class headache. There was also much weeping and wailing over the possible death of Twitter as a reasonably useful social media platform, because Musk was expected to screw it up.

Since April the deal has been off again, on again. I confess I haven’t followed the saga that closely and don’t know what all the problems were; nor do I care.

Now Elon Musk has decided he does not want to buy Twitter. Part of the reason for that may be that tech stocks, including Twitter stock, have dropped like a rock since April. Twitter stock as I write this is $36.81. But Musk is still locked into that $54.20 share price. Not a good deal.

Musk is making noise about Twitter misleading him about how many Twitter users are actually bots. Some observers think this is just an issue Musk is trying to use to break the contract. Twitter is determined to make Musk stick to the contract.

Alex Kirshner wrote at Slate,

Musk started searching for ways to not buy Twitter at $54.20 per share. His fundamental problem was that he had signed a contract to buy Twitter for that amount, and that contract, according to most qualified people who looked at it, gave him almost no wiggle room to exit the deal before closing. Absent proof that Twitter had misled him in a major way—one that had a “material adverse effect” on the company’s value, a high standard to meet—he would need to pay a $1 billion breakup fee to walk away. And even that might not do it, as the contract established that Twitter could take Musk to court and try to get a judge’s order to make him pay every red cent of his $44 billion bid.

Musk had his answer: He did not want to buy Twitter for what he agreed. But he needed a question that could make that answer work in public and in court, and his lawyers settled on, “Hey, Twitter. How many fake accounts do you really have?” Twitter has estimated that less than 5 percent of its users are fake accounts or bots. The company has been transparent (including, recently, CEO Parag Agrawal doing a big thread about it) that the 5-ish percent figure is just its best estimate. Musk has kept raising the subject. In June, Twitter gave Musk a big ol’ chunk of tweet data, nominally so he could do his own investigating but really so that he’d have less of an opening to claim, in service of nuking the deal, that Twitter was withholding crucial information. And you will never believe this, but it is now July, and Elon Musk’s camp is still claiming that Twitter has not gone along with his fact-finding mission about spam.

Sounds about right. And Musk will probably spend a ton of money on lawyers before he finally bites the bullet and pays the $1 billion to Twitter.

And now Trump has turned on Musk, calling him a bullshit artist. I can’t tell if this is because Musk not buying Twitter after all or because he said publicly recently that he never voted for a Republican. Trump had believed Musk was one of his voters. So I guess Musk isn’t the sweetheart of the MAGA crowd any more.