Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, December 17 through Friday, December 23, 2022 [Vol.4 No.23]
Jan. 6 Committee Final Report
Rule of Law
The Week’s Most Notable
The January 6 Committee wrapped up this week. Their commission technically ends December 31. Thereafter, in the new House with Republicans in charge, the bad-faith blowback will be continuous and loud. It’s best that the committee’s legacy is already delivered and dominated most of the media chatter for the week.
The ultimate task for the committee was to assemble a comprehensive and credible narrative that could explain to the American people what happened concerning the bloody attack on the Capitol building and the attempted coup: what the plans and components were, who was involved, and what can be done to prevent it from happening again. The task was not to assemble specific legal cases and who should be indicted. That’s what the Mueller Investigation got stuck doing and was run into legal blind allies and into telling only part of the story. Most Americans still don’t know that the Trump campaign frequently colluded with the Russians (not a legal condition) but did not definitively conspire with them (the legal case). Here, the committee needed to tell the story of how the Jan. 6 insurrection came to be, took place, and later unfolded – which the committee did, brilliantly, in the televised public hearings and the final report.
In overview, the committee presented evidence, testimony, and analysis pointing to an intentional, sprawling, coordinated, but at times amateurish attempt to circumvent the Constitution and keep Trump in power. Nothing like it has happened before in U.S. history and the committee took pains to overcome the Republican/right-wing gaslighting aimed at diminishing the significance and potential danger to democracy. To date, the committee’s work, especially this summer’s hearings, are credited with holding the public attention and shifting the political momentum against Trump. This week’s hearing, concluding report, and release of witness transcripts put more depth and detail to the evidence. The recommendations to the DOJ for indictments and for Congress to ban Trump from public office set the tone, but may or may not affect reality.
Doesn’t all the evidence, testimony, and solid narrative convince Republican-MAGA voters that the Jan. 6 Committee got it right? It might, if they heard any of it at all, or unfiltered, or in context, or highlighted, or in any way not submerged in the enveloping right-wing mantra of “fake news,” “deep state,” “radical liberal” coverage. Then again, after decades of highly targeted propaganda – the Mueller Investigation alone provided years of training – exposure to snippets of the hearings or “lamestream media” has little effect. So no, for the 30- 40 million of the “Trump base,” the Jan. 6 Committee has done very little to directly change minds. Indirectly, it might be different. Cumulatively, if people of the MAGA base turn anywhere outside the right-wing echo chamber – and that should include the voices and opinions of friends and relations – there is a chance for comparison with reality to whittle away at the reflexes of denial and distrust.
Saturday, December 17
[Coronavirus] China Relaxes COVID Mitigation, COVID Spreads – Of course it spreads when people suddenly can travel and move about. The Chinese government knows that and is playing the trade-off between public safety and the economy (including political stability). The immediate result in Beijing, where new cases may already have reached thousands, is a spooked public. Best scenario: the numbers of cases remain treatable by the existing health system. Worst case (in serious projections): a million dead. Somewhere along the line to worst case, China’s deadly new wave almost inevitably spreads to (many) other countries, or worse, spawns new, more lethal/infectious variants.
Sunday, December 18
[World Cup Football] One of the Great World Cup Finals: Argentina Defeats France (Tied 3-3) in 4-2 Shoot Out – The game capped the career of Argentina’s Lionel Messi, sealing his legend, while at the same time installing the new legend, France’s Kylian Mbappé, who scored an almost unheard-of final game hat-trick to tie the game and send it into a shootout. Fans will review, discuss, and argue about this game far into the future.
[Climate Change] Winter Superstorm “Eliot” Begins Its March from Washington to Florida – It looks like one of the biggest and deepest storms on record, made worse by occurring during the heart of Christmas travel. By mid-week thousands of flights were cancelled, 1.5 million customers without power, and eight dead. [Update: Meteorologists are calling it a “once in a generation storm” with heavy snow, deep cold, and bad travel conditions across half the nation.]
Monday, December 19
[Jan. 6 Committee] Jan. 6 Committee Approves Recommendation for Indictment of Trump (and Others) – In an expected but still dramatic moment of history, the committee unanimously agreed on referral to the DOJ of four points of law for the criminal indictment of former president Trump:
- Obstruction. Obstruction of an Official Proceeding (18 U.S.C. 1512(c)) [Impeding presidential certification].
- Fraud. Conspiracy to Defraud the United States (18 U.S.C. 371) [Using deceit (fraud) to impair government].
- Conspiracy to Make a False Statement (18 U.S.C. §§ 371, 1001) [Lying to the government, fake electors].
- Insurrection. “Incite,” “Assist,” or “Aid or Comfort” an Insurrection (18 U.S.C. 2383).
The same or similar indictments were recommended for some of Trump’s co-conspirators, such as John Eastman (the corrupt Trump lawyer) and Jeffrey Clark (the DOJ environmental dude Trump almost made acting AG). Four others (Jim Jordan (R-OH), Scott Perry (R-PA), Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and Andy Biggs (R-AZ)) were cited for ethics violations for failing to respond to subpoena. Although there is a mountain of evidence behind each potential charge, the charges are unequal as to provability in court, with the insurrection charge the most vague and problematic. The committee did not attempt to sort this out. Who specifically should be charged, and with what, is a DOJ responsibility. Ultimately the list of those indicted may be quite different and for different legal conditions. The DOJ has its own investigation and may access facts and people unavailable to the committee.
The DOJ now has the torch; the choice of specific indictments, if any, whether for Trump or anyone else, will go through Special Counsel Jack Smith and then on to AG Merrick Garland. The DOJ must balance jurisprudence, evidence, precedent, political factors, timing, other active cases, and potential outcomes in some of the most fraught and fateful prosecutions in U.S. history. Don’t expect haste or simplicity – in the end, conviction must be the attainable goal. Decisions are most likely to begin after January 15, 2023 and (much) later.
[Belarus] Putin Visits Good Buddy Lukashenko of Belarus – Every time Putin nods in Lukashenko’s direction, the media tends to clutch pearls about Belarus directly joining the Ukrainian war. Not likely. Lukashenko’s grip on power in Belarus is tenuous; committing the country to a costly, unpopular, and possibly losing war won’t help his political stability. That won’t stop him from playing helper to Putin, short of committing troops.
[Mexico Border] Supreme Court Blocks Ending Title 42 Migration Limit – Anachronism piled on anachronism – a COVID era health-safety based limitation across U.S. southern border was used by Trump against migrants and was set to end 12/21/22. Republican Attorneys General are fighting its end, and Chief Justice Roberts ordered the ending put on hold until the court process is completed. It sounds like a technical detail, but approximately 20,000 per day are waiting at the border and the Biden administration is asking for $3 billion to set up processing. The Republicans will have none of it. All this in lieu of developing a real, modern asylum/immigration policy.
Tuesday, December 20
[Afghanistan] Taliban Bar All Women from Higher Education – One of the final steps toward the ultimate goal – no formal female education. The Taliban leadership knows this angers most of the world and makes a pariah nation of them. Doesn’t matter: their interpretation of the Koran is correct and superior. Afghanistan is now a prison for women.
[Trump] Trump Tax Returns Reported by House Ways and Means Committee – After years of court process, six years of Trump tax returns are now officially with a congressional committee, which has released a “highlights” report and has promised to make a document release to the public “soon.” Trump fought this tooth-and-nail and it was presumed the contents would be devastating for him. Perhaps, three years ago. Not that there aren’t revelations: the IRS failed to audit Trump during the first two years of his presidency, although it is explicitly in their mandate; dubious jet expenses, gifts for his children disguised as loans, and undocumented charitable contributions. Unfortunately, that Trump may have cheated on his taxes no longer has the political bite it may once have had. In particular, MAGA people have been conditioned to applaud his cheating as “normal use of tax laws to avoid unfair taxes.” Still, even the snippet view now becoming visible contributes to the evidence that Trump, his company, and his near circle of people were fully engaged with potentially (and actual) fraud of several kinds.
Wednesday, December 21 Winter Solstice
[Ukraine] President Zelensky Speaks in Person to Congress – It was a bold and risky event, a wartime round-trip from Kyiv, remindful in many ways of Churchill’s sudden appearance before Congress in 1941. Whatever the eventual outcome of Putin’s war in Ukraine, Zelensky’s transmogrification from (Russian TV) celebrity comic to a leader compared with Churchill is remarkable. He came to the U.S. as winter sets in and the war seems more remote; he felt the need to remind Americans that the battle in Ukraine is the struggle for a sovereign democracy. We are fortunate, for the time being at least, that it is a proxy war – fought and died-for by Ukrainians. We only have to put up the money – not lives. Zelensky also knows that in January the House, and its control of the purse strings, passes to the Republicans, a substantial number of whom are only thinly veneered from anti-democratic Russia sympathizers, if not on Putin’s payroll. He left a good impression, attested to by the viciousness of attacks by folks such as Tucker Carlson and Don Trump Jr. He also left with Biden’s promise of an immediate $1.45 billion in military aide, including for the first time Patriot air-defense missiles.
Thursday, December 22
[Jan. 6 Committee] Jan. 6 Committee Final Report Released – In the end the committee settled on its focus: Donald Trump. In the end, after 18 months of investigation, more than 1,000 interviews, 11 public hearings, and literally millions of documents, the fingers point in the same direction: Donald Trump initiated, motivated, and orchestrated the plans leading to, during, and after the January 6 insurrection. He had a lot of help, co-conspirators up to and through congresspeople and the Republican National Committee; but in the final consensus – it is Trump’s responsibility. The report concludes Congress should bar Trump from holding public office again. The story is now documented, including the 845-page final report. The Republican controlled House will spend the next session of Congress trying to tear it down. The prelude to that – infighting, fabulation, and shows of utter mendacity among Republicans has already begun. We will see if the American public/voters will be swayed by their incessant propaganda, or not.
Friday, December 23
[Jan. 6 Committee] Jan. 6 Committee Releases 46 New Transcripts – The transcripts fill in the picture of many key players who testified including: Cipollone. Barr, Pompeo, and Ivanka Trump. It will take days/weeks to sift through the hours of recordings for new information and insights.
[U.S. Funding] Congress Passes $1.7 Trillion Spending Package – More or less last minute (of course) and containing both known and unknown oddities, such as $950 million for pandemic study and prevention but failure to create a commission to report on how well (or not) the nation handled the COVID outbreak. The package also includes a 10% increase in the military budget, $45 billion for Ukraine, and the Electoral Count Act, the bipartisan effort to prevent another Jan. 6.
Politics, Legislation, Election Notes
What to make of the “Pro-Putin Caucus.” Prior to the Second World War, the U.S. had plenty of Nazi sympathizers. Before and after the war there were Communist sympathizers. So, it should not be surprising that we have fascist leaning pro-Putin sympathizers. They came out of the woodwork with the February invasion and were still around to diss Zelensky’s address to Congress in December. Sympathizer types are usually loners or small groups, mostly male, fringe figures – they’re not expected to hold positions of power in Congress. Matt Gates (R-FL), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Jim Jordan (R-OH) are among the prominent names in Congress, joined by the likes of Tucker Carlson and Donald Trump Jr – not to mention Donald Trump himself. They are prominent, outspoken, and mask their pro-Putin sentiment behind flimsy covers such as, “We need to audit what is spent on the war,” and “Sending billions to a dictator (Zelensky) for laundering.” Of course, these are much the same names as are on almost any outrageous right-wing position. For some of them, gaslighting for Putin just comes with the performance territory. Others, like Carlson or Trump Sr., could well be Russian assets (and remunerated as such). Most of them are not stupid enough to get caught at treason, and they all know how to hold the fig-leaf of the First Amendment.
Pinned Point: Until we seriously confront – and deal with – the media conundrum created by disinformation and the First Amendment (here’s looking at Fox News, Twitter et al), the information chaos will get worse.
Quote of the Week
After Volodymyr Zelensky delivered a rousing speech to U.S. lawmakers this week, Tucker Carlson unleashed a diatribe that put schoolyard sadists everywhere to shame. ‘No one’s ever addressed the United States Congress in a sweatshirt before,’ he seethed, slamming Zelensky as a ‘strip club’ manager whose presence was ‘humiliating’ to ‘the greatest country on Earth.’
Greg Sargent, “Tucker Carlson’s Rage at Zelensky Caps a Year of Getting Things Wrong,” The Washington Post, 12/23/2022.
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are at least casually familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search.]