Implications for public record and legal proceedings after administration seized or destroyed papers, notes and other information
The public will not see Donald Trump’s White House records for years, but there is growing concern the collection will never be complete – leaving a hole in the history of one of America’s most tumultuous presidencies.
Trump has been cavalier about the law requiring that records be preserved. He has a habit of ripping up documents before tossing them out, forcing White House workers to spend hours taping them back together.
Congress plans to debate the impeachment of U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday, concerning a charge of “incitement of insurrection.” House Republicans are split, but a few might vote to impeach him.
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The final vote on Tuesday night was 223 to 205, with only one Republican backing the non-binding resolution that asked Mike Pence, the vice-president, to declare Trump 'incapable' under the 25th amendment
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The secretary of state has laid political booby traps for Biden in a diplomatic onslaught – with the aim of winning the White House
While all eyes are on Donald Trump and his Capitol Hill mob, a would-be heir and successor is running riot all by himself, storming citadels, wagging the flag and breaking china. No, it’s not Donald Jr, or Ivanka, or Ted Cruz, and certainly not poor, conflicted Mike Pence.
Mike Pompeo may not strike many people as presidential material. But Trump lowered the bar. Make no mistake. America’s snarly, bully-boy secretary of state is focusing not on Joe Biden’s inauguration this week but on how to beat him or any other Democrat in 2024.
Mitt Romney’s flight to Washington, D.C., hadn’t even taken off yesterday when the chants from the back of the plane began: “TRAI-TOR! TRAI-TOR! TRAI-TOR!”
The Republican senator from Utah is used to angering Donald Trump’s most die-hard fans. But Romney’s latest sin against MAGA orthodoxy—the one that had so riled his fellow passengers—is especially egregious: He’s refused to go along with a plot to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
“A huge portion of the American public has been misled by the president about the outcome of the election,” Romney told me over the phone, a few hours after his flight. He sounded fairly sanguine for a man who’d spent the day getting harassed in airports, and showed little interest in venting about his hecklers. Instead, Romney’s frustration was aimed at Republican leaders cynically fanning conspiracy theories about the November vote for their own political gain. In combustible moments like this one, Romney said, “you can either be a fire extinguisher or a flamethrower. And President Trump has been a flamethrower.”
The spectacle set to play out today on Capitol Hill—where at least a dozen Republican senators plan to challenge Electoral College votes from states the president lost—vividly captures the partisan incentives on the modern right. The Trump-era Republican Party has become a laboratory for innovations in illiberalism. Status flows to those who conjure the most creative defenses of corruption; rising stars prove themselves by smashing democratic norms. And anyone who voices dissent risks swift retribution from the president and his followers.
This dynamic has only intensified since the election, as Trump’s allies have scrambled to keep him in power by whatever means necessary—or at least be seen trying. They’ve amplified baseless voter-fraud claims and championed failed lawsuits; they’ve strong-armed state election officials and assembled pro-Trump “electors” to replace the real ones. That none of these tactics has come close to succeeding hardly matters to enterprising Republicans such as Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, who are leading today’s gambit. What matters are the millions of MAGA diehards enthusiastically cheering them on at every turn.
As the Trump era draws to a close, this is the state of the Republican Party: fractured, out of power, and bitterly fighting over core tenets of democracy. The president’s departure from office may be imminent, but the future of the party he’s leaving behind is less certain than ever.
Romney told me that he was outraged, if not entirely surprised, by the president’s recent machinations. He noted that Trump’s efforts to pressure Georgia’s secretary of state into subverting the vote bore an eerie resemblance to the president’s infamous 2019 call with the Ukrainian president, which led to Trump’s impeachment. “It was disrespectful of voters, it was dishonoring to the democratic process, and it disgraces the office of the presidency,” said Romney, the lone Senate Republican to support Trump’s removal from office. “The president was right that there was an effort to corrupt the election, but it was not by Joe Biden. It was by President Trump.”
Romney said he’s focused on persuading his Republican colleagues not to go along with Trump’s undemocratic scheme. He’s spent recent days working on a floor speech designed to appeal to his fellow senators’ sense of their own legacies. “In the eyes of history, all the nuance of the arguments made to object to electors being seated will probably be lost,” he told me. “And instead, it will be: Did you support this effort carried out by President Trump, or did you not?”
Such lofty arguments won’t work on everybody. Congressman Thomas Massie of Kentucky, a staunch Trump supporter, told me that he opposes the Electoral College challenge on constitutional grounds, and thinks most of his colleagues understand that Congress can’t actually reverse a presidential election. But he’s also clear-eyed about the political realities. “Trump has a 94 percent approval rating among my Republican electorate—I’ve actually polled it twice,” Massie said. “Those are people that vote in the primaries in Kentucky’s Fourth District … I’m going to have a lot of explaining to do.”
Jeff Flake, an outspoken Republican critic of the president who retired from the Senate in 2019, told me that too few of his former colleagues have been willing to level with their base during the Trump years. “Sometimes it’s your job to tell your constituents they’re all wet,” he said. “There’s been very little willingness to do that.”
Meanwhile, some Republicans are beginning to grapple with how the broken precedents of the Trump era could reshape politics in the years ahead—especially now that Democrats appear on the verge of controlling the White House and both chambers of Congress. Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska has been urging his fellow Republicans to take the long view on the Electoral College challenge. “If politicians use a tactic once, they’ll use it again,” Sasse told me. “If these votes become a cost-free way to signal dissatisfaction with the outcome of an election, this is going to be a tradition every four years.”
For Romney, it’s not hard to imagine a scenario in which a presidential power grab like Trump’s might actually succeed in the future. “Instead of being represented by Larry, Moe, and Rudy, a future presidential candidate may have highly competent counsel,” he told me. “There may be state election officials with less backbone. So the precedent itself is dangerous.”
After all, Romney noted, accusations of voter fraud are unlikely to vanish from American politics anytime soon. “You may not believe this,” he said, “but there are people who come up to me today and say, ‘You were robbed [in 2012]. You won; the Democrats stole your election.’”
When I expressed surprise at this, Romney laughed. “It was my brother-in-law and my sister-in-law,” he confessed. “I said, ‘Oh my, you’re wrong.’”
This story is published in a content partnership with POLITICO. It was originally reported by Ronald Krotoszynski on politico.com on January 13, 2021.On Wednesday, House Democrats, joined by 10 Republican members, adopted an article of impeachment against US President Donald Trump. It called for Trump’s removal because of his “conduct on January 6, 2021, following his prior efforts to subvert and obstruct the certification of the results of the 2020 Presidential election”.Now, the article goes…
The name of God was everywhere during Wednesday’s insurrection against the American government. The mob carried signs and flag declaringJesus saves! and God, Guns & Guts Made America, Let’s Keep All Three. Some were participants in the Jericho March, a gathering of Christians to “pray, march, fast, and rally for election integrity.” After calling on God to “save the republic” during rallies at state capitols and in D.C. over the past two months, the marchers returned to Washington with flourish. On the National Mall, one man waved the flag of Israel above a sign begging passersby to Say Yes to Jesus. “Shout if you love Jesus!” someone yelled, and the crowd cheered. “Shout if you love Trump!” The crowd cheered louder. The group’s name is drawn from the biblical story of Jericho, “a city of false gods and corruption,” the march’s website says. Just as God instructed Joshua to march around Jericho seven times with priests blowing trumpets, Christians gathered in D.C., blowing shofars, the ram’s horn typically used in Jewish worship, to banish the “darkness of election fraud” and ensure that “the walls of corruption crumble.”
The Jericho March is evidence that Donald Trump has bent elements of American Christianity to his will, and that many Christians have obligingly remade their faith in his image. Defiant masses literally broke down the walls of government, some believing they were marching under Jesus’s banner to implement God’s will to keep Trump in the White House. The group’s co-founders are essentially unknown in the organized Christian world. Robert Weaver, an evangelical Oklahoma insurance salesman, was nominated by Trump to lead the Indian Health Service but withdrew after The Wall Street Journal reported that he misrepresented his qualifications. Arina Grossu, who is Catholic, recently worked as a contract communications adviser at the Department of Health and Human Services. (Weaver and Grossu declined to comment. “Jericho March denounces any and all acts of violence and destruction, including any that took place at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, 2021,” a PR spokesperson for the March wrote to me in an email after the publication of this article.) Still, they will have far more influence in shaping the reputation of Christianity for the outside world than many denominational giants: They helped stage a stunning effort to circumvent the 2020 election, all in the name of their faith. White evangelicals, in particular, overwhelmingly supported Trump in 2016 and 2020. Some of these supporters participated in the attack on the Capitol on Wednesday. But many in the country hold all Trump voters responsible—especially those who lent him the moral authority of their faith.
This realization has shaken Christian leaders. “I certainly did not believe, or have any anticipation, that [Trump] would take matters to the extent that have become clear over the last few weeks,” Albert Mohler, the head of an influential evangelical seminary in Kentucky who hopes to be the next president of the Southern Baptist Convention, told me. Mohler opposed Trump in 2016, citing what he saw as the candidate’s poor character. But last spring, he publicly declared that he would support Trump in 2020 and vote for Republican presidential candidates for the rest of his life. “We are undoubtedly in an agonizing moment, in which evangelical Christians who supported Donald Trump now find ourselves in the position of being tremendously embarrassed by this most recent behavior,” he told me.
Mohler said he was shocked by the triumph of the mob on Wednesday. He could not believe that the president had explicitly encouraged this attack on the constitutional process. “Conservatives do not believe there is any excuse, whatsoever, for unleashing what amounts to a destructive rage on the nation,” he said. I asked him whether evangelicals who supported Trump have an obligation to grapple with their role in enabling Trump’s behavior. “I honestly don’t know the extent to which history will record the evangelicals—I’m trying to think of the word you just used for supporting the president. What was the word you just used? Enabling the president,” he said. “I’ve been very clear in my criticism of the president’s bad behavior.” Surely he didn’t vote for this. He couldn’t have known that this is how Trump would end things. But he sees that evangelicals are due for a reckoning in their own house. “Where we find ourselves in the wrong, repentance is always called for.”
Other evangelical leaders who have mostly stayed silent during Trump’s time in office finally spoke out on Wednesday. “Armed breaching of capitol security behind a confederate flag is anarchy, unAmerican, criminal treason and domestic terrorism. President Trump must clearly tell his supporters ‘We lost. Go home now,’” tweeted Rick Warren, an influential California megachurch pastor.
But it was too late. Someone else had already grabbed the megaphone.
“This is bigger than one election,” Grossu says on the Jericho March website. “This is about protecting free and fair elections for the future and saving America from tyranny.” Paranoid thinking abounded among the protesters in D.C.; the QAnon conspiracy has circulated within some evangelical circles. On Wednesday, the Jericho March account tweeted a screenshot of Trump condemning Vice President Mike Pence for not stopping the certification of the Electoral College votes. “A sad day in America,” it said, along with prayer-hands emojis. The march organizers were not mourning the attack on the Capitol. They were mourning the vice president’s refusal to help the president overturn the election.
What started as American lawmakers’ bipartisan denunciation of the Capitol Hill riot, and Donald Trump’s role in stoking it, quickly grew to include condemnation from many U.S. allies: World leaders as far afield as Britain, Canada, and India voiced distress and alarm at the vandalism taking place at the seat of U.S. democracy, as did officials from the European Union and NATO.
Before long, even some of Trump’s most vocal supporters abroad began joining the chorus: Nigel Farage, the British politician and longtime Trump ally, tweeted that “storming Capitol Hill”—as Trump had all but encouraged his supporters to do—“is wrong.” Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy’s far-right League party, said that “violence is never the solution, never.” Geert Wilders, the far-right Dutch politician known as the “Dutch Trump,” reacted to the live coverage by stressing that “the outcome of democratic elections should always be respected, whether you win or lose.”
Where have Trump’s friends gone? For years, populists and nationalists around the world have looked to the president as something of a global champion—a leader who not only spoke their nativist, iconoclastic language, but proved that the populist political project each of them was attempting in their own country was possible. If it can happen in America, one of the greatest democracies on Earth, they surmised, it can happen here too.
That vision might have dimmed following Trump’s defeat in last year’s presidential election, but it didn’t disappear completely: Many of the European figures who have an affinity for the American president remained supportive of him in the fraught, contested aftermath of the vote. The far-right French politician Marine Le Pen continued to call into question Biden’s victory well after the results were announced (an outcome she publicly acknowledged only this week). Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša went as far as to prematurely congratulate Trump on the election. But by Wednesday, both politicians had changed tack. Janša tweeted, “All should be very troubled by the violence taking place in Washington D.C.” Le Pen condemned “any violent act that aims to disrupt the democratic process” and urged Trump to do the same.
This wasn’t an ideological break. Many of the same figures who decried the violence in the U.S. had openly stated their desire that Trump win reelection. Even after his defeat, few of them rushed to acknowledge Biden’s victory, let alone condemn the president’s efforts to undermine trust in American democracy with baseless claims of voter fraud or calls to force the election outcome in his favor—the consequences of which were on full display in the Capitol. Virtually all of them stopped short of assigning Trump blame for the violence.
But perhaps the break was a practical one. Even populists who show nothing but disdain for democratic institutions don’t want to be associated with an insurrection, or be seen to be inciting one. The scenes of red-capped Trump supporters waltzing through the halls of Congress, some wielding Confederate flags and sporting sweaters emblazoned with messages such as Camp Auschwitz, are enough to make anyone bristle.* For Europe’s far-right leaders such as Le Pen, whose efforts to distance her party from its history of xenophobia and Holocaust denial have had limited success, those images would have served as a reminder of exactly the fascist association they are trying to avoid.
Trump’s erstwhile cheerleaders abroad might be keen to distance themselves for another, deeper reason: While populists have no problem attacking institutions and other threats to their power, they still claim to have a democratic mandate. Their legitimacy hinges on the populist notion that they represent an imagined “real people” against corrupt elites. Being seen to openly support undermining the democratic process, as Trump has, would undermine their very claim to power. “Anyone who violently attacks parliaments aims at the heart of democracy,” Tino Chrupalla, the spokesperson for the far-right Alternative for Germany, said in a tweet.
It was perhaps because of the widespread condemnation, from both his own party and his allies overseas, that Trump felt compelled on Thursday to characterize those involved in the insurrection as “intruders” who “do not represent our country”—the same individuals he had expressed sympathy and love for only a day earlier.
Not all of Trump’s fellow populists see what happened in Washington as a cautionary tale. Notably, those who are already in power (and therefore less reliant on maintaining appearances) had no trouble staying out of the fray, or even backing the president. Polish President Andrzej Duda dismissed the attack on the U.S. Capitol as an “internal matter,” and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, a vocal supporter of Trump’s reelection, opted against interfering in “America’s business.” Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has his own history of refusing to concede elections when the outcome doesn’t go his way, also declined to take a position. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who modeled his election campaign on Trump’s, told journalists that Brazil could face “a worse problem than the United States” in its election next year, an apparent suggestion that he may follow the Trump playbook once more.
For a while, other like-minded leaders seemed to be laying the groundwork to do the same. But by egging on his most violent supporters, Trump may have deterred other populists from hitching their wagons to a fallen star.
* An earlier version of this article misidentified clothing worn during the riots. Sweaters with the message 6MWE were not confirmed to have been seen.
The Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives has opened the debate on the article of impeachment against Donald Trump, arguing the president must be removed from office. Describing the storming of the Capitol as a 'day of fire', Nancy Pelosi said Trump had incited insurrection
President Donald Trump will leave Washington on January 20 just before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration to begin his post-presidential life in Florida.Refusing to abide by tradition and participate in the ceremonial transfer of power, Trump will instead hold his own departure ceremony at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland before his final flight aboard Air Force One.Officials are considering an elaborate send-off event reminiscent of the receptions he is received during state visits abroad,…
The U.S. Senate will have to ”walk and chew gum at the same time” as it balances working through impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump and enacting President-elect Joe Biden’s legislative agenda, said Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
They thought they were heroes; that much is obvious. The animal furs and war paint, the banners and utility vests, the slogan slinging and wall climbing: Wednesday’s attack on the U.S. Capitol felt like fiction to watch, and doubtless many pro-Trump insurrectionists had Hollywood on their mind as they pillaged and took selfies. Some participants wore the logo of the Punisher, the Marvel Comics character who stabs muggers in Central Park. Others flaunted shirts that said CIVIL WAR in a font recalling the Avengers sequel of the same name. Those shirts were printed with the date January 6, 2021, which helps clear up whether the chaos was spontaneous.
But wait—isn’t the Avengers saga about the fight to stop a big-chinned narcissist from consolidating unchecked power and disintegrating a great civilization? Isn’t smashing up the Capitol, a long-standing monument to human compromise, total Thanos behavior? If the Trump mob contained cosplayers inspired by popular entertainment, they seemed to have missed some key thematic points of that entertainment. Earlier in the day, at the rally that sent Trump supporters raging toward the Capitol, Rudy Giuliani called for “trial by combat” to settle election disputes. Trial by combat is a term used throughoutGame of Thrones, a famous fantasy series about the horrors of a pre-democratic society in which might makes right.
In the rioters’ world, of course, right and wrong have custom definitions. Their insurrection was against reality itself. Every day, the “stop the steal” cause became more far-fetched: State and national legislators, courts at every level, foreign observers, media watchdogs, and Donald Trump’s own Justice Department all determined that Joe Biden won the presidency by millions of votes. Many of those who lost coped via costumes, for banal reasons. Sometimes, the truth hurts so much that it can disorient and unmoor a person. Denial is part of grief; fiction, fantasy, and what-ifs are part of coping; escapism is seductive even in the best of times. Trump’s bellowing about a rigged election provided comforting make-believe in the manner of any hack evangelist or entertainer.
Trump also has been peddling an attractive idea at the heart of American myths. “You’re very special,” he said in a video addressing the rioters while they rioted. Very special: What a funny, kidult sort of phrase. But insisting on one’s specialness—the sense of standing apart and above—is exactly what underlies vigilantism. It’s what powers superhero stories. It also runs through nationalism and white supremacy, ideologies based on a hope that all humans are not in fact equal. The special we’re talking about here is not achieved but conferred, whether through a radioactive spider bite or divine anointing or circumstances of birth. “This is our country; this is our house,” one invader, his face covered in a Watchmen-evoking gaiter, told a journalist in the Capitol. He didn’t need to explain why he thought his “our” trumped the constituencies whose congressional representatives were about to certify Biden’s election.
Some people, seeing the Comic-Con aesthetics of Wednesday’s mess, might be tempted to blame superhero culture for inspiring seditionists. But don’t we live in an era of self-aware, morally sophisticated fantasy? The Trump mob’s most obvious touchstones—Christopher Nolan’s flinty Batman films, the loyalty-switching drama of Marvel’s Civil War, and the dense plotting of Game of Thrones—are acclaimed for interrogating the vigilante impulse. Inevitably, though, they end up making the things they critique also look quite cool. The director François Truffaut once argued that there’s no such thing as a true anti-war film: No matter how ethically complex a script, no matter how well a director emphasizes the hell of violence, bloody conflict is so theatrical that it glorifies itself in every case. When would-be fascists worship the Death Star and take cues from The Matrix, they show action cinema’s disturbing capaciousness.
Really, though, the insurrectionists envision a world even simpler than the ones depicted by the movies they seem to be fans of. Trump has spoken of a singular “they” working against him, which is amorphous enough to include anyone who steps one foot off his path, as Vice President Mike Pence is learning. The attempted coup’s narrative can be rewritten at any point, as is now happening with the incoherent assertions that antifa actually invaded the Capitol. Trump’s storytelling about the election has been so crude that it rejects internal consistency. His mob’s role-playing is more reminiscent of children playing with action figures than of Robert Downey Jr. getting suited up to shoot a scene—though any comparison to toys feels ghastly when real deaths, destruction, and erosion of democracy are involved.
It gets more play when it’s the Punisher logo, but there’s something to be said about the MAGA Civil War shirt being a crude take on a Marvel movie. pic.twitter.com/bWchVsCux6
Given the context of fake news and conspiracy-theory mania, the almost literal weaponization of Hollywood’s fictions is just a symptom of a broader crisis with truth. People who yearn to step into another world will do so with little prodding, and the particular outfits they wear may not matter all that much. Pulling such people back into the real world, when prominent figures and online grifters are offering them fake ones, is one of the great tasks of our age. The difficulty of it was made plain as the gears of government began grinding again Wednesday night.
When Congress resumed, lawmakers’ corny, repetitive speeches on both sides of the aisle recalled another brand of fiction: the gaseousness of Aaron Sorkin and other political dramaturges who imagine that special figures with special rhetoric can thwart incrementalist structures and historical forces. The politicians’ remarks were decoration on the essential and boring process of a legislative body enacting the will of the people. That dull work wore on into early yesterday morning as TVs winked out across America. The country awoke not only to the certification of the president it had elected—it awoke to an accounting with reality.
Later that day, Trump—blacked out from social media and under threat of removal from office—rebuked the crowd that had taken up arms in his name as “heinous.” Following Trump’s video message acknowledging an imminent transition of power, many of his followers are expressing sheer confusion: “Weird and really sad,” wrote one poster on Reddit’s pro-Trump forum. The cognitive dissonance will worsen as the president’s fans process that five people just died amid a misuse of imagination, humankind’s one actual superpower.