The story broke on December 17 that members of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol think they know who wrote one of the eye-popping texts to Trump’s White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows.
The text was the one sent the day after the election, before all the states had called the election, suggesting that Republicans should not wait for results in three states but should simply appoint their own electors. Then the whole mess would be thrown to the Supreme Court. Trump had frequently said that the Supreme Court, to which he had named three justices—including one at the very end of October, when the election was already underway — would decide in favor of him in the case of a contested election.
The text suggested that the Republicans should throw out the foundation of our democracy — the principle that we have a say in our government — and should simply decide on their own who had been elected.
It has been confirmed from a number of sources that the phone number on that text belonged to former Texas governor and Trump energy secretary Rick Perry. Perry’s spokesperson says Perry denies that he wrote the text. The spokesperson could not explain why that phone number was registered to Perry’s name and email address.
The momentum behind the January 6th committee appears to be picking up. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told Spectrum News that the attack on the Capitol on January 6 “was a horrendous event and I think that what they’re seeking to find out is something the public needs to know.”
McConnell arranged Trump’s second impeachment to guarantee an acquittal, and he tried to scuttle an investigation of the insurrection. His wife, Elaine Chao, was transportation secretary in the Trump administration and resigned her position on January 7, 2021, saying that she “simply cannot set aside” how troubled she was “as supporters of the President stormed the Capitol building following a rally he addressed.”
The committee has been effective, interviewing hundreds of witnesses without leaks, issuing a broad range of subpoenas, and referring uncooperative witnesses to the Department of Justice for contempt of Congress. That efficiency is possible because the committee is not constantly fighting the sort of grandstanding and construction of false counter-narratives we saw Republicans engaging in during the impeachment hearings.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) tried to keep that sort of disinformation in play by putting far-right Representatives Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Jim Banks (R-IN) on the committee, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) rejected them and put Representatives Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) on the committee instead.
Now it turns out that Jordan was part of the insurrection McCarthy wanted him to investigate: Jordan texted Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on November 5, offering a plan for how Vice President Mike Pence could toss out Biden’s electors and throw the election to Trump.
Trump’s longtime associate Roger Stone appeared before the January 6th committee but invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination for every question. The U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia filed a status report informing the court that four defendants who pleaded guilty in the Oath Keepers conspiracy case concerning the January 6 insurrection are still cooperating with the investigation. The Oath Keepers provided security for Stone in Washington at the time of the insurrection. Stone has asked supporters for donations to his “legal defense fund.”
In other news from January 6, a judge sentenced Robert Palmer of Florida, who threw a fire extinguisher at police on January 6 in the worst of the fighting at the U.S. Capitol, to more than five years in prison, the longest sentence handed down so far. Palmer blamed Trump for lying to supporters that the election was stolen and calling on them to “stand up to tyranny.” More than 700 people have been charged in that attack.
It was a year ago this week that Sandra Lindsay received the nation’s first coronavirus vaccine, and yet, the politicization of the vaccine means that Republicans, especially, are unvaccinated and vulnerable, and we are once again in a surge of the disease that, as of this week, has already killed more than 800,000 Americans by the official count. That’s more people than live in Atlanta and Pittsburgh combined.
The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis released a report on December 17 detailing the Trump administration’s decision to abandon the idea of stopping the spread of COVID and instead embrace the idea of letting it spread freely until the U.S. achieved “herd immunity.” That idea was the pet theory of Dr. Scott Atlas, who joined the White House on August 10, 2020, after Trump saw him on the Fox News Channel.
The committee released an email from Dr. Deborah Birx, who served as the White House coronavirus response coordinator in 2020 and 2021 and who opposed the new policy. She wrote to refuse to participate in a “Medical Experts Roundtable” that would recommend herd immunity.
“I can’t be part of this with these people who believe in herd immunity and believe we are fine with only protecting the 1.5 [million] Americans in [long-term care facilities] and not the 80 [million] + with co-morbidities in the populations includ[ing] the unacceptable death toll among Native Americans, Hispanics and Blacks,” she wrote. “With our current mitigation scenario we end up near 300K by Christmas and 500K by the time we have [a] vaccine — close to the 600K live[s] lost with [the] 1918 Flu…. Without masks and social distancing in public and homes we end up with twice as many deaths — we are a very unhealthy nation with a lot of obesity etc.” She called those urging herd immunity “a fringe group without grounding in epidemics, public health or on the ground common sense experience.”
She offered to leave town rather than participate in the roundtable.
The committee also discovered evidence that the Trump administration had interfered with the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), removing references to face coverings and suggestions to suspend choirs, for example, in order to avoid offending faith communities.
Anchor Martha MacCallum of the Fox News Channel asked Dr. Robert Redfield, who directed the CDC when the coronavirus crisis broke out and continued to direct it until President Biden took office, to respond to the report. He essentially confirmed it and deflected his own responsibility for permitting the tampering with public health information onto the White House. He said that the agency was replaced by the White House coronavirus task force, which “limited the CDC’s ability to communicate effectively to the American public,” and said, “I was very disappointed in that.”
President Biden has fought an uphill battle to contain the pandemic in the face of right-wing opposition to public health measures: more than 90% of adult Democrats have gotten the vaccine, while only 60% of adult Republicans have. Conservative courts have blocked the Biden administration’s attempts to mandate coronavirus vaccines or frequent testing for federal contractors, health care workers, and companies that employ more than 100 people.
The Biden administration won a significant victory when the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a decision blocking the Occupational Safety and Health Administration from requiring vaccines or frequent testing for companies with more than 100 employees. For now, the requirement will stand, but its opponents say they will take their challenge to the Supreme Court.