Will the Republican Party be openly on the side of overturning our democracy?

Heather Cox Richardson | Letters from an American

Heather Cox Richardson

February 7, 2022

It appears that the Republican National Committee’s censure of Representatives Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), along with its declaration that the riot at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, was “legitimate political discourse,” has created a problem for Republican lawmakers as they try to position the party for the midterms and the 2024 election. Coming, as the statement did, just after former president Trump said that Pence had the power to “overturn the election” and that if reelected, Trump would pardon those who attacked the Capitol, it has put the Republican Party openly on the side of overturning our democracy.

Trump loyalists have been insisting that the rioters were “political prisoners,” and clearly the RNC was speaking for them. This wing of the party got a boost this evening when venture capitalist Peter Thiel, the libertarian whose wealth Forbes estimates to be about $2.6 billion, announced that he is stepping down from the board of Meta, the parent company of Facebook, to focus on electing Trump-aligned candidates in 2022. Thiel famously wrote in 2009 that he “no longer believe[s] that freedom and democracy are compatible,” and deplored “the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women” after 1920.

It also got a boost today when the Supreme Court halted a lower court’s order saying that a redistricting map in Alabama violated the Voting Rights Act by getting rid of a Black majority district. Alabama’s population is 27% Black, which should translate to 2 congressional seats, but by the practice of “packing and cracking”—that is, packing large numbers of Black voters into one district and spreading them thinly across all the others—only one district will likely have a shot at electing a Black representative. The vote for letting the new maps stand was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John Roberts siding with the liberals against the new right-wing majority, in control thanks to the three justices added by Trump.

But the backlash against the RNC’s statement suggests that most Americans see the deadly attack on our democracy for what it was, and Republican lawmakers are now trying to deflect from the RNC’s statement.

RNC chair Ronna McDaniel said that media quotes from the resolution are a “lie” and says the committee did not mean it to be taken as it has been. But other Republicans seemed to understand that the RNC has firmly dragged the Republican Party into Trump’s war on our democracy.

National Review called the statement “both morally repellent and politically self-destructive,” and worried that “it will be used against hundreds of elected Republicans who were not consulted in its drafting and do not endorse its sentiment.” If indeed the RNC simply misworded their statement, the editors said, “its wording is political malpractice of the highest order coming from people whose entire job is politics.”

Sunday, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who seems to entertain hopes for 2024, said on ABC’s This Week that “January 6 was a riot incited by Donald Trump in an effort to intimidate Mike Pence and Congress into doing exactly what he said in his own words—overturn the election.”

But others, like Senator Todd Young (R-IN), seem to be trying to split the baby. Young told Christiane Amanpour that those saying the attack was legitimate political discourse are “a fringe group,” although the RNC is quite literally the official machinery of the Republican Party. Young is up for reelection in 2022. He is also from Indiana, as is former vice president Mike Pence, who seems to be positioning himself to take over the party as Trump’s legal woes knock him out of the running for 2024.

On Friday, Pence told the Federalist Society that Trump was “wrong” to say that he, Pence, had the power to overturn the election. But he did not say that Biden won the election fairly. Then, on Sunday, Pence’s former chief of staff Marc Short seemed to try to let Trump off the hook for his pressure on Pence, telling Chuck Todd on Meet the Press that the former president “had many bad advisers who were basically snake oil salesmen giving him really random and novel ideas as to what the vice president could do.”

They seem to be trying to keep Trump’s voters while easing the former president himself offstage, hoping that voters will forget that the Republican leadership stood by Trump until he openly talked of overturning the election.

Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA), chair of the House Intelligence Committee and a member of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, seems unlikely to stand by as the country moves on, as the National Review editors indicated they were hoping. As he said in his closing at Trump’s first impeachment trial: “History will not be kind to Donald Trump. If you find that the House has proved its case, and still vote to acquit, your name will be tied to his with a cord of steel and for all of history.”

The other big news of the past day is that it turns out that Trump and his team mishandled presidential records, suggesting that we will never get the full story of what happened in that White House.

By law, presidential records and federal records belong to the U.S. government. An administration must preserve every piece of official business. Some of the documents that the Trump team delivered to the January 6 committee had been ripped up and taped back together, some were in pieces, and some, apparently, were shredded and destroyed. Legal commentator Asha Rangappa noted that Trump’s impeachments mean that such shredding could have amounted to an obstruction of justice.

Today we learned that the National Archives and Records Administration had to retrieve 15 boxes of material from Trump’s Florida residence Mar-a-Lago, including correspondence with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the letter that former president Barack Obama left for Trump (which would have brought a pretty penny if it were sold). Trump aides say they are trying to determine what other records need to be returned.

Former Republican Kurt Bardella noted, “If this had happened during a Democratic Administration while Republicans were in the majority, I guarantee you [the Oversight Committee] would be launching a massive investigation into this and writing subpoenas right now to any and every W[hite] H[ouse] official that was involved in this.”

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used the story to raise money for her progressive organization, Onward Together. She linked to the story as she urged people to “Take a sip from your new mug as you read the news.” With the tweet was the picture of a mug with her image and the caption “But Her Emails.”

House January 6 committee member Jamie Raskin (D-MD) says that the committee is planning to hold public hearings in April or May. They have been slowed down by the reluctance of the Trump team to cooperate.

Trump warns, “Announce the true winner!”

Heather Cox Richardson | Letters from an American

Heather Cox Richardson

September 20, 2021

So many stories landed today that some will have to wait. Tonight’s news, though, boils down to Republican attempts to retake control of the government in the 2022 elections…and, if Trump has his way, even earlier. 

This morning, CNN revealed another bombshell story from the forthcoming book by veteran reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa: a six-point memo from pro-Trump lawyer John Eastman laying out a plan for then–vice president Mike Pence to steal the 2020 election for Trump.

The memo started by falsely claiming that seven states had sent competing slates of electors to the President of the Senate; in fact, Trump loyalists demanded their own electors, but each state had certified one official slate of electors. If Pence—or, if Pence recused himself, the then–Senate president pro tempore, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley—rejected the ballots from those seven states, Eastman claimed, Trump would have ten more electoral votes than Biden and would win the election. 

When Democrats howled, Pence could instead assert that neither candidate had a majority and throw the election into the House of Representatives, where each state would get a single vote. Since 26 of the 50 states were dominated by Republicans, Trump would win there, too. 

“The fact is that the Constitution assigns this power to the Vice President as the ultimate arbiter,” Eastman wrote. “We should take all of our actions with that in mind.” 

Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani tried to convince Republican senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina to back the scheme; someone also ran the idea past Republican senator Mike Lee of Utah. Both dismissed it. But, notably, neither revealed this extraordinary attempt to destroy our democracy. 

When Pence ultimately refused to go along, Trump turned on him and told attendees at the January 6 “Stop the Steal” rally that “if Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election.” He explained that “the number one, or certainly one of the top, Constitutional lawyers in our country,” had offered a plan, and that “Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us….” 

Aside from the obvious, Eastman’s memo raises three interesting points. First, it refers to the idea that Pence might hand over the count to Grassley, a plan that needs more investigation. Second, it relies on the work of emeritus Harvard Law School Professor Laurence Tribe, who tweeted that it took snippets of his work out of context to create “a totally fake web of ‘law’ that no halfway decent lawyer would take seriously…. Ludicrous but scary as hell. Think 2024. Those guys mean business….” And, third, it debunks the current right-wing talking point that Trump wanted only to question the results of the election. Clearly, he wanted to be declared the winner. 

Even after President Joe Biden was sworn in, Trump supporters continued to insist that the election had been fraudulent. Famously, the Arizona state senate hired a company called Cyber Ninjas to reexamine the votes from Maricopa County, although the county board of supervisors, a majority of whom were Republicans, had already audited the ballots and the machines and found no problems. The county board strongly opposed the new “audit.” 

The Cyber Ninjas examined ballots for bamboo to see if China had hacked the election, used insecure practices, rejected observers, and finally sent voting information to Montana for analysis. Documents released by the state senate under a court order in late August revealed that groups backed by pro-Trump loyalists Michael Flynn, Sidney Powell, and two correspondents from the One America News Network paid for the Arizona investigation.

Last week, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the state senate and the Cyber Ninjas had to release the records concerning their activities. Cyber Ninjas is refusing to do so, offering as a reason—among others—that it is busy writing its report (which is already four months late) and document production will take time away from that effort. Its lawyer says it will “produce documents out of goodwill and its commitment to transparency” when it has time, but does not recognize any legal obligation to do so.

Seeking an Arizona-type “audit” in Pennsylvania, Republicans in that state’s legislature last Wednesday voted to issue subpoenas for personal information of about 6.9 million state voters, including names, addresses, birth dates, driver’s license numbers, and the last four digits of Social Security numbers. Republicans say a private company needs that information to fix issues in election procedures uncovered in 2020, but the Republican leader of the investigation has declined to say how the information will be used.

Democrats sued Friday to stop the release of the voter information, and two Democratic representatives to Congress have asked the Department of Justice to investigate whether the subpoenas could violate federal laws by leading to voter intimidation. 

A new story sheds more light on the election reform Republicans are talking about. On May 6, 2021, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis raised eyebrows when he signed a new election law in front of television cameras for the Fox News Channel, excluding all other media. While Republicans insisted they wrote new election laws to prevent voter fraud—despite the lack of evidence of any such widespread fraud—internal emails and text messages from Florida Republicans revealed today by Politico show that their concerns were actually about gaining advantage in the 2022 elections. 

Joe Gruters, the state senator who chairs the Florida Republican Party, repeatedly said in public that the new bill would “make it as easy as possible to vote, and hard as possible to cheat.” But in private text exchanges with state representative Blaise Ingoglia, the former chair of the Florida party, Gruters called for getting rid of existing mail-in ballot requests, saying that keeping them would be “devastating,” since Democrats used them more frequently than Republicans. “We cannot make up ground,” Gruters wrote. “Trump campaign spent 10 million. Could not cut down lead….” Ingoglia told Politico: “This was a policy decision all along and had nothing to do with partisan reasons.”

Finally, tonight, the immigration issue is back in the news. Republicans have tried to make immigration their key issue for 2022, but the terrible surge in coronavirus in Republican-dominated states like Texas has captured the news cycle. For the past few days, though, the rise in Haitian refugees on the U.S. southern border has reclaimed headlines. Haitians have long come to the southern border for admission to the U.S., but the recent earthquake in Haiti, along with the assassination of the country’s president and hopes that the Biden administration will be welcoming, has brought 12,000–15,000 Haitians in the past few weeks. 

The situation there remains much as it has always been under Biden: the administration kept the public health guidelines established during the pandemic under former president Trump, and it is turning away most adult immigrants and refugees. It has been returning Haitians to Haiti by plane, with seven flights daily set to begin on Wednesday. 

But right-wing media is, once again, insisting that Biden is allowing a flood of immigrants to overrun the U.S. At the same time, images of white border patrol agents on horseback riding down Haitian migrants, with their reins swinging, has horrified those who see in them the history of southern slave patrols hunting enslaved Americans. The Biden administration will have to thread a very thin political needle: disavowing the actions of the border patrol agents without opening itself to Republican attacks that it is “soft” on immigration. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has launched an inquiry into the agents’ behavior.

For his part, Trump does not want to wait until 2022 for a change in government. On Friday, he wrote to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger charging that 43,000 Georgia ballots were “invalid.” He called for Raffensperger to decertify the 2020 election “and announce the true winner,” warning that the nation “is being systematically destroyed by an illegitimate president and his administration.” 

Trump is under criminal investigation in Georgia for his previous attempts to overturn the state’s election results.

Too Little, Too Late: Evangelical Leaders Sound Alarm About Trump

By Emily Swan / Medium

Evangelicalism and MAGA culture are in a symbiotic relationship

In a new book edited by Ron Sider — author of Rich Christians In an Age of Hunger, which has sold more than 400,000 copies — a handful of evangelical leaders sound the alarm about the spiritual harm being done by the current White House occupant. In a book titled The Spiritual Danger of Donald Trump: 30 Evangelical Christians on Justice, Truth, and Moral Integrity, Sider and others lay out a case for opposing Trump’s re-election.

Too little, too late.

Trying to distance evangelicalism from Trumpism is anathema. They are in a symbiotic relationship; a person can not wash their hands of one and not the other, which is exactly what Al Mohler, the head of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is trying to do. In his recent rambling answers to the New Yorker journalist, he said:

As a theologian and as a churchman, when I define evangelical, I’m really talking about a self-consciously orthodox classic Protestantism that is deeply connected to the church and deeply committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ. And then you have the media definition of evangelicals, which means anybody who isn’t Catholic or Jewish or something else and, especially as demographers look at the white population, identifies as some kind of conservative Protestant. They just are called evangelicals. — Al Mohler

In other words, “real” Christians aren’t the problematic MAGA people seen on the news. Trouble is, regular churchgoers are Trump’s biggest supporters. To be evangelical means you have to own the evangelical culture that has produced this “fruit,” to use churchy language.



Continue reading

Prayer Will Not Stop the Coronavirus


The pandemic lays bare how American politicians have ignored the past and its injustices. It’s time for repentance, not just prayer.

When President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and public health officials held a Saturday press conference on their plans to address the coronavirus, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson was a surprising addition to the line-up.

Yes, Carson is a medical doctor. But his specialty was neurosurgery, not epidemiology. A public health crisis will certainly impact Americans who live in public housing and are housing insecure, but Carson did not address those issues either. Instead, he stepped to the microphone to celebrate Trump’s call for a National Day of Prayer Sunday.


But America is not in trouble because people are not praying; we face an exacerbated public health crisis because this administration has spent more time preying on the most vulnerable than lifting all people.

As Christian ministers who are called to preach the truth to God’s people, we are deeply troubled by the way this president continues to hypocritically manipulate faith as a cover for his ungodly policies. Though he has used racism to stoke fears in the nation and pushed policies that exacerbate racial inequality, Trump called on a black man to whitewash his incompetence and corruption at precisely the moment when the harsh reality of a global pandemic has exposed him.

Carson drew on the language of religious nationalism to frame the Trump administration’s response to the present crisis for a reason. “Developing your God-given talents to the utmost so you become valuable to the people around you, having values and principles—those are the things that made America zoom to the top of the world in record time,” Carson said. “And those are the things that will keep us there too.”

By obscuring America’s original sin of race-based slavery and the Doctrine of Discovery, which claimed divine right to seize native land, the myth of Christian nationalism that Carson was parroting allows Trumpvangelicals to hope for a triumphant future to match their imagined past. “No matter where you may be,” Trump tweeted, “I encourage you to turn toward prayer in an act of faith. Together, we will easily PREVAIL.”

Public health officials have made clear that the weeks and months ahead will not be easy. For those of us who pray, our posture must not be one of ALL-CAPS CONFIDENCE, but of humble confession. The day of prayer we need is a day of repentance. And it should begin in the White House. The Trump administration got rid of the White House global pandemic office, played down the threat of the coronavirus, and continues to portray a disease spreading within US communities as a foreign threat that can be shut out at the border. He has also attacked the Affordable Care Act, cut food stamps, proposed a budget that would cut Medicaid and Medicare, and systemically worked to defund government programs we need now.

But Trump is not the only one who must repent. The extreme poverty and systemic racism that will be exposed by this public health crisis were here long before Trump. One hundred forty million Americans are poor and unable to afford basic supplies to prepare for quarantine, uninsured or underinsured at a moment when the health of food and service workers directly impacts all of us. The United States has the largest incarcerated population in the world, and the more than 2 million Americans who live in jails, prisons, and detention centers cannot practice social distancing or self-quarantine if they are exposed to the coronavirus.

For decades now, we have invested the majority of our nation’s resources in arming ourselves with bigger and bigger weapons that could destroy the world hundreds of times over. But we have met an enemy that could be more deadly than any war this nation has ever fought, and we are ill-prepared to even test our citizens for infection.

We must be clear: It is not only Republicans who must repent. House Democrats passed a needed Families First Act to ensure access to coronavirus testing, paid family and sick leave, and economic protections as we all face uncertainty. But they allowed provisions that leave out millions of workers—many of them among the most vulnerable. We do not need prayer for protection. We need repentance and prayer for political courage and will to do justice. Then we need action because, as the Bible says, “Faith without works is dead.”

In the Christian church, this is the season of Lent—a time when we confess the ways we have fallen short and turned away from God’s justice. Though many churches have canceled services to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the psalm appointed for this Sunday is a song of penance from ancient Israel (Psalms 95). It is not a song of triumph, but a pointed reminder that the potential for self-centeredness we see in corrupt leadership is in each of us. “Harden not your hearts as your forebears did,” the psalm says. The people who passed this song from one generation to the next also passed down the story of an evil ruler, Pharaoh, who had “hardened his heart” against their people during a plague and refused to grant them freedom. When we pray Psalms 95, we remember that Pharaoh’s have always triumphed at the expense of the poor and marginalized. But we also remember that the hard heart of Pharaoh is a temptation for each of us. We must repent in order to open ourselves to the needs of the most vulnerable among us.

As we face the uncertainty of a global pandemic, the lies of religious nationalism cannot save us. We cannot ignore the past and its injustices, which still shape our present. Nor can we put our faith in the false promise that our wealth and power will save us. No, we must humble ourselves and remember what every faith tradition reveals: that God is present among the most vulnerable among us, and that if we act now to protect those at the bottom we have the greatest chance of protecting us all.

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber IIThe Rev. William J Barber, II is co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. His latest book is Revive Us Again: Vision and Action in Moral Organizing.

Jonathan Wilson-HartgroveJonathan Wilson-Hartgrove is author of the newly released Revolution of Values.

Source: Prayer Will Not Stop the Coronavirus