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All the President’s sins

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“Doors have opened, new subpoenas have been issued, and the dam has begun to break,” said Rep Liz Cheney, vice chair of the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack on the Capitol

Holdouts from the Trump White House are now coming forward, especially with the conviction last week of Trump consigliere Stephen Bannon, who will likely go to jail for his contemptuous refusal to appear before the Select Committee.

WASHINGTON, DC – JULY 21: Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon speaks to reporters as he leaves the Federal District Court House at the end of the fourth day of his trial for contempt of Congress on July 21, 2022 in Washington, DC. The government rested its case against Bannon, who did not testify or call witnesses in his own trial. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

There will be much more ahead in putting in place the pieces of the mosaic that was, as Rep Bennie Thompson has said, an attempted coup by Donald Trump to overturn the 2020 presidential election and remain in power. It was, Thompson said, a path of lawlessness and corruption.

The Select Committee is presenting all the President’s sins.

Not even the Covid infection of the current president, Joe Biden, could dent the wall-to-wall media coverage – mainstream and social – of the blockbuster hearing last Thursday night. 

What is clear now, after nine hearings by the Select Committee, is that the January 6 attack was not simply a protest that got out of control, a one-off event of limited force and duration that was over by the end of the day, with no serious threat to America’s democracy.  

What we know now is that the events of that day were the culmination of a conspiracy to keep Donald Trump in power by whatever means necessary.

The evidence presented last week – direct testimony, videotapes, telephone recordings, cell phone video – was relentless:

  • Trump did not act because he did not want to stop the attack
  • Trump was adamant that he wanted to go to the Capitol and join the mob
  • Trump did not call any law enforcement or military officials to respond to the attack
  • Trump did not call on the mob to go home until it was clear the insurrection was lost
  • Trump rejected the urgings of those around him that day to call on the mob to leave
  • Trump was indifferent to the physical, mortal danger to Vice President Pence
  • The people around Pence, agents and staff, feared for their lives
  • Trump’s tweet at 224 pm attacking Pence for not overturning the election – “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.”– intensified the fury of the mob’s attack
  • For hours, Trump rejected pleas from his family his staff, Republican members of Congress, political associates, to issue a statement calling on the attackers to go home
  • When Trump finally made a video statement late in the day, he called the attackers “patriots.” ”We love you. Go home in peace.”

What was so powerful about the presentation – aside from its unique made-for-television, cinematic quality and the highest reality TV production values – was that every witness, every person whose testimony was shown was not only a Republican, but a Trump Republican: professionals who have worked for and with Trump during his term, who were loyal to him, who believed in him, and who were ultimately repelled by what Trump did – and did not do – that day. Trump’s people turned on Trump and spit out their stories in prime time.

In preparing his video message the day after the attack, Trump could not say, “The election is over.”

That was left on the cutting room floor “I don’t want to say the election’s over,” the video out-take reveals.

“I just want to say Congress has certified the results without saying the election is over.”

Trump never in a million years believed he would be haunted by his own videos that did not make it to air the day after the insurrection.  

That mosaic of conspiracy already includes direct efforts by Trump to pressure state legislatures and state election officials to overturn the certified election results in their states.  It includes a Trump attempt to decapitate the leadership of the Justice Department and install his loyalists in order for them to pressure several states to overturn their election results. 

A video of former President Donald Trump is shown on a screen, as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds a hearing at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, July 21, 2022. Alex Brandon/Pool via REUTERS

It includes intensive pressure on the Vice President to prevent him from carrying out his constitutional responsibilities to certify the election result in the joint session on January 6.  It includes efforts by Trump to incite the mob to attack the Capitol in order to prevent the House and Senate from completing their business that day.

Trump is now haunted by the prospect of the Attorney General, Merrick Garland, convening a grand jury to assess whether crimes were committed by Trump between Election Day in November 2020 and the attack on the Capitol. 

JAN 6

There is now huge pressure on the Attorney General to prosecute Trump for what he did and failed to do.  There is a strong case: Trump wanted to join the insurrectionists, he did not call on law enforcement or the military to deploy force to put the riot down, he did not tell his supporters to go home while the attack was raging.

Trump wanted the electoral count to be stopped – he wanted Congress to  be stopped from doing its duty under the law. He did not care about the mortal danger to the Vice President. 

All the President’s sins continue to this day.  His is sinning some more. 

As the Select Committee hearing convened last week, the New York Times reported:

“Donald J. Trump called a top Republican in the State Legislature in Wisconsin in recent days to lobby for a measure that would overturn his 2020 loss in the state to President Biden.” The state official, who is a Trump supporter, told Trump that there was no provision in law in Wisconsin to rescind that state’s certification of the 2020 votes, and that such an act would violate the state’s constitution.

Trump wants the 2020 election overturned. 

The only thing that can stop him is the rule of law and the commitment of all public officials who take an oath of office to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States to ensure the rule of law applies to everyone – including  to the former president of the United States.

Bruce Wolpe is a Ticker News US political contributor. He’s a Senior Fellow at the US Studies Centre and has worked with Democrats in Congress during President Barack Obama's first term, and on the staff of Prime Minister Julia Gillard. He has also served as the former PM's chief of staff.

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Why airline executives are being forced to face customers

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As frustrated customers take their anger out on the remaining airport checkin staff, airline executives are being forced onto the front line to face customers.

The return of summer in Europe has been overshadowed by travel chaos, leaving passengers frustrated and often out of pocket.

Thousands of people have been left to battle airport queues that last hours, long delays and thousands of cancellations.

Airports and airlines face staff shortages forcing them to reduce the number of scheduled flights – often at short notice. 

It’s a global problem, with airports and airlines rushing to hire back the thousands of positions they axed at the start of covid.

But how do you do it, and how long until things return to normal?

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Sinema Paradiso – Biden loves this movie

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It was a shocker out of nowhere when Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced a week ago that he had reached a deal with Senator Joe Manchin on a revival of significant pieces of President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda for the American people:

  • The largest investment in clean energy and renewables ever undertaken by the United States, putting the US more firmly on track to meeting most of its 2030 carbon reduction targets
  • Reduced prescription drug prices for consumers and cuts in health insurance premiums – saving millions of households billions of dollars in the cost of medicines and health care
  • A national minimum corporate tax – with no tax increases for Americans earning less than $400,000

BEVERLY HILLS CALIFORNIA – It was less than a month ago that Manchin shredded Biden’s agenda, leaving the president’s party with very little to show voters this November that they can govern. 

Disunity among Democrats means political death, because if the party that controls the House, the Senate and the White House cannot produce the legislative goods for the American people, the Democrats’ half life going into the November midterms will be halved again.

Finally, the Democrats in the Senate fully understood this, from the socialist warrior Bernie Sanders, who decried what was left of the ambitious Biden agenda (this bill “does not address the major crises facing working families,” he said) to Ed Markey, the leader for decades on climate change. Markey said he would vote “to protect” the Schumer-Manchin-Sinema compromise — “which means voting no on amendments, even ones I support” on climate.  Both Senators understood it was better to get something real done than to be left with nothing for voters – that no Democratic Senator could let the best be the enemy of the good, as much as they hated settling for far less than they wanted.

Even Kirsten Sinema of Arizona finally came to the party she had helped wreck last December, when her vote for the Biden agenda was not certain. She stood firm on nixing one funding mechanism – taxing wealth industry managers on their capital gains – by accepting other taxes that would more than foot the bill.  

As they say here in Hollywood, Sinema Paradiso was a boffo performance.  And the president loved it:

“Today, Senate Democrats sided with American families over special interests, voting to lower the cost of prescription drugs, health insurance, and everyday energy costs and reduce the deficit, while making the wealthiest corporations finally pay their fair share.  I ran for President promising to make government work for working families again, and that is what this bill does — period.”

Behind the scenes, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, who last year when everything was booming blew the whistle on the inflation that has been roaring across America for months, concluded that these social items, paid for in this way, would help curb inflation.  Other eminent economists concurred.

And to nail that point, this bill is called the “Inflation Reduction Act.”

The Senate vote on Sunday, with the 50-50 tie between Democrats and Republicans broken by Vice President Kamala Harris, capped one of Biden’s best months in office:  The killing in Kabul of the head of Al Qaida, the passage of the most significant industrial policy legislation in years to spur the strength and competitive edge of the US semiconductor industry, overdue legislation to care for veterans exposed to burn pits in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the new gun safety legislation. And this new legislation will build on the trillion-dollar infrastructure rebuilding program enacted into law last year. And Biden had Covid.

Suddenly, Joe Biden looks good in the Director’s chair.

One more vote later this week in the House of Representatives will crystallize all this.  The same political lesson re-learned by Senate Democrats now is staring House Democrats in the face.  They have a margin of four votes.  Unity will ensure victory; defections will bring down the curtain on dozens of their House colleagues – and themselves.

All this sudden legislative momentum, after months of paralysis, is occurring when the extremism of the Trump Supreme Court is causing a shift in the political tectonic plates.  Last week, in one of the most Republican states in the country, Kansas, voters decisively rejected a state constitutional amendment to prohibit abortion. That meant that a lot of Republicans in Kansas (!) thought the Supreme Court had gone too far. In Indiana late last week, the Republican legislature passed one of the strictest anti-abortion laws anywhere -and it was immediately signed by the governor.  This will happen in other states. 

Millions of women, and those who care about them, are angry that their constitutional right to reproductive health care has been taken away.  And they are mobilizing to vote in November.

Republican political hardheads are worried the anti-abortion zealots have gone too far.

For all these reasons, this is a moment for Democrats to show they can deliver on significant promises they made to the American people in 2020 and shift the polarity of these extraordinarily polarizing times.

If they fail in the House, this movie is over.

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China releases video to scare Pelosi from Taiwan

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The new broke mid-morning Monday in Washington.  The Wall Street Journal reported that House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi is going to Taiwan. 

SUMMIT COUNTY COLORADO – Neither the Speaker’s office nor the White House would confirm the trip, but spokesman John Kirby, speaking from the briefing room and seeking to frame what is unfolding ahead of the visit, said:

“There is no reason for Beijing to turn a potential visit consistent with longstanding U.S. policy into some sort of crisis or use it as a pretext to increase aggressive military activity in or around the Taiwan Strait. Meanwhile our actions are not threatening and they break no new ground. Nothing about this potential visit — potential visit — which by the way has precedent, would change the status quo.”

So Pelosi in Taiwan is on, after days of speculation and significant angst over what Pelosi’s visit would mean, especially in light of China’s exceptionally hostile words about Pelosi’s trip.  

As Australia knows from the bitter rhetoric and harsh punitive measures China has inflicted on Australia over trade, the messages from Beijing on this trip have risen to high-decibel levels. After the long telephone call last Thursday between President Biden and China’s President Xi Jinping, the official readout from Beijing was emphatic:

“Those who play with fire will perish by it. It is hoped that the U.S. will be clear-eyed about this.” There have been clear intimations of  military displays near Taiwan to coincide with Pelosi’s visit.  There are even concerns that China might target her airplane as it headed towards Taipei.

Many see Pelosi’s visit as exceptionally provocative, and it is clear China expected President Biden to do something about it, particularly after Biden said to the media 10 days ago that “the military thinks it’s not a good idea right now.”  

In this photo provided by Ministry of Communications and Information, Singapore, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, left, and Singapore President Halimah Yacob shake hands at the Istana Presidential Palace in Singapore, Monday, Aug. 1, 2022. Pelosi arrived in Singapore early Monday, kicking off her Asian tour as questions swirled over a possible stop in Taiwan that has fueled tension with Beijing. (Ministry of Communications and Information, Singapore via AP)

The White House and State Department almost certainly received messages from several foreign countries, including close allies, that the trip was ill-timed and would make a tense situation even more tense at a moment when many are hoping, given all the global shocks flowing from the Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Putin’s alliance with Xi, that the objective should be to lower – not raise – the temperature on US-China strategic issues.

It was clear over the weekend, however, that the distilled consensus was that as long as the Speaker was intent on visiting Taiwan, buckling to Chinese pressure on the visit would set a most unacceptable precedent. 

Why?

It is not unprecedented for a Speaker of the House to visit Taiwan.  Newt Gingrich did it in 1997.

It would be unprecedented for a President to seek to block a foreign trip by a Speaker of the House. Biden can advise, but consent is not his to give. Under the United States Constitution, there are three co-equal branches of the government.

The Executive, who exercises power over foreign policy.  The Congress, which appropriates money to fund the government, and passes laws affecting all official activities, including foreign policy, and fully exercises oversight authority over what the Executive does.  And the Judiciary. No one branch is subordinate to the other two.

Biden can counsel but cannot tell the Speaker not to go Taipei.  She has every right to go to Taipei and assess the situation to inform what Congress should – or should not – do with respect to American foreign policy interests regarding China and Taiwan and new laws that may warrant enactment.

If China could muscle the Speaker from visiting Taiwan, then China can feel it can muscle the United States from any and all other actions it may undertake with respect to Taiwan.

In Washington, that would be an unacceptable precedent.

The White House has stressed, just before the Pelosi visit gets underway, that nothing has changed with US policy:  that the United States is committed, by law, to the “One China” policy and has said repeatedly that the United States “opposes any unilateral changes to the status quo.”

Translation:  China must not invade Taiwan.  Taiwan must not declare itself independent of China. “One China” must be fully realised peacefully.

The truly big question for today and tomorrow is:  What will Pelosi’s message to Taiwan and China be when she is there?  What signals will she send?  What she says will directly affect strategic calculations of how to further play out the long game over Taiwan.

I met Nancy Pelosi when she was in her first term as a member of the House.  It was days after the Tiananmen massacre in 1989. We were at a small dinner in Washington.  All the talk was of the man before the tank – the lone soul stopping the beast in its path.  But the beat slaughtered those seeking more freedom.

Famous image of man in front of the tank in Tiananmen

 Pelosi talked with conviction and passion that what China did was wrong, and that Tiananmen had to inform the United States’ relationship with China.

That is where Nancy Pelosi was on the issues and who she was then.  That is where she is and who Nancy Pelosi is now.

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