Judge refuses to ban Capitol riot suspect from Twitter and Facebook

A federal magistrate judge has turned down prosecutors’ effort to block a man accused of participating in the Capitol riot from using Twitter and Facebook, but ordered him to end his involvement with a business he founded that the Justice Department says promotes and glorifies violent protests.

The defendant, John Sullivan of Utah, has maintained that he attends raucous demonstrations as a journalist, sharing videos through his Insurgence USA website and social media platforms. Sullivan’s defense attorney even filed invoices with the court showing that CNN and NBC each paid Sullivan’s firm $35,000 last month for rights to video he filmed of chaotic scenes outside and inside the Capitol, including the deadly shooting of protester Ashli Babbitt by a U.S. Capitol Police officer.

However, prosecutors contend that Sullivan is not a mere bystander or chronicler of protests. Instead, they say, he actively encourages violence, telling viewers how to make Molotov cocktails and evade identification by police. He was arrested last month on charges stemming from the Jan. 6 riot, including interfering with police during a civil disorder. Sullivan was later hit with an additional charge: obstruction of Congress.

At a hearing on Tuesday afternoon on Sullivan’s release conditions, Washington-based Magistrate Judge Robin Meriweather split the difference between prosecutors seeking to eliminate Sullivan’s presence on the United States’ most popular social media platforms and a defense lawyer who decried what he said was an assault on his client’s constitutional rights.

“I am rejecting the broader prohibition on Twitter and Facebook and encrypted social media platforms,” Meriweather said, also ordering that Sullivan be taken off of 24-hour location monitoring via GPS.

However, the judge said Sullivan “is to no longer work for Insurgence USA,” will have his internet use monitored by probation officials, and will be banned from using any social media platforms to incite riots, violent protests, armed conflict or violence. He’s also under home detention.

Sullivan has become one of the more prominent individuals charged in the Capitol riot because of interviews he did with news outlets like CNN and a vigorous debate about whether he’s an Antifa provocateur. Figures such as former President Donald Trump’s ex-lawyer Rudy Giuliani have pointed to Sullivan as evidence that leftists were part of the mob that stormed the Capitol. Liberal activists have denounced those claims as disinformation.

Sullivan’s politics remain murky. He has described himself as an opponent of Trump and a backer of Black Lives Matter. However, BLM activists in Utah have disowned him, saying he seemed intent on provoking violence at protests. They’ve also noted that Sullivan often seems to work in tandem with his brother, James, who spoke at a right-wing, Proud Boys event.

Defense attorney Steven Kiersh denounced the prosecution’s initial proposal as wildly excessive and insensitive to the role that Facebook and Twitter play in the lives of many young people.

“The social media limits are incredibly oppressive, incredibly overbroad and serve no purpose other than to basically oppress Mr. Sullivan,” Kiersh said. “Mr. Sullivan is very involved in exchanging of ideas amongst his peers, and this is how he does it.”

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Candice Wong also skewered Kiersh’s suggestion that John Sullivan is using Twitter and Facebook the way others his age do. “The defendant’s social media presence … does not read like a typical 20-something’s social media presence,” she said. “It’s not about the weather. It’s not about communicating with friends.”

Kiersh insisted that there was “no connection” between Insurgence USA and the crimes Sullivan is accused of, notwithstanding the sales of the video footage of the Capitol riot to major news outlets.

However, Wong maintained that Sullivan’s social media presence was integral to his activities on Jan. 6 and earlier violent protests he was involved in.

“Insurgence USA is absolutely the instrumentality through which Mr. Sullivan committed the relevant acts,” she said. “It is Mr. Sullivan’s reason for being there and for his criminal participation in the riot.”

At one point during the hearing, Meriweather questioned whether Sullivan’s videos are urging protest or rioting. “There is a distinction,” she said.

Wong said Sullivan’s videos unambiguously urge violence and attacks on police. She said he serves as “a sort of expert resource for rioters.”

“Under the guise of journalism …. he is engaged in and incited violent activity, including the kind of destructive society we saw on Jan. 6,” the prosecutor said. She said that Twitter and Facebook sought to block some of Sullivan’s accounts, but that he has a variety of handles that cross-promote one another.

Wong also noted that the request to ban Sullivan from Twitter and Facebook was actually narrower than the conditions a magistrate in Utah imposed on Sullivan, banning him from use of 13 different sites or platforms. She also mentioned that Sullivan’s former counsel agreed to that.

“I cannot account for why the lawyers representing Mr. Sullivan in Utah agreed to these conditions,” Kiersh said.

Trump attacks McConnell in fiery statement

Former President Donald Trump issued a caustic and highly personal statement against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday, effectively declaring war on the Kentucky Republican for failing to back his attempts to undermine the 2020 election.

“Mitch is a dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack, and if Republican Senators are going to stay with him, they will not win again,” Trump said in the statement released by his PAC.

McConnell publicly soured on the former president after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, breaking four years of support from the Senate leadership. Though he voted against convicting Trump at the Senate impeachment trial, he said from the Senate floor that Trump was “practically and morally responsible” for the insurrection, which left at least five people dead.

McConnell objected to the constitutionality of convicting a former president. But he also told his caucus that Trump could face criminal prosecution.

McConnell penned a Sunday op-ed in The Wall Street Journal defending his decision, which particularly angered Trump, according to a person familiar with the situation. Trump dictated the Tuesday statement himself, the person said, and the version that went out was toned down from the former president’s original comments. Another source familiar with the situation said Jason Miller, a top Trump adviser, took the lead in writing the final version of the statement.

A personal familiar with the crafting of the statement confirmed that it could have been far worse. An earlier draft mocked McConnell for having multiple chins, the person said. But Trump was convinced by advisers to take it out.

“There was also a lot of repetitive stuff and definitely something about him having too many chins but not enough smarts,” the person said.

A spokesperson for McConnell did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Trump’s statement. But in an interview with POLITICO on Saturday evening, the minority leader suggested he was not going to allow Trump to stand in the way of Republicans taking back the Senate majority in 2022. McConnell said that he would be willing to get involved in a GOP primary if the Trump-backed Senate candidate was less likely to win a general election.

“My goal is, in every way possible, to have nominees representing the Republican Party who can win in November,” he said. “Some of them may be people the former president likes. Some of them may not be. The only thing I care about is electability.”

Trump’s statement will almost certainly aggravate the fight among Republicans over the party’s future after Trump’s presidency. While Trump allies like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are making it clear they’re sticking with the former president, most Senate Republicans followed McConnell’s lead during the Senate impeachment trial. Even though only seven Republicans voted to convict, the vast majority did not defend Trump’s behavior and instead focused on the legal arguments against a Senate conviction.

Trump repeatedly attacked Republicans who refused to support his baseless claims of a stolen election. After Georgia’s Republican governor and secretary of state both rejected Trump’s efforts to delegitimize President Joe Biden’s win, Trump took to the rally stage to threaten primary challenges against both.

And when former Vice President Mike Pence refused to reject the election results when presiding over the joint session of Congress to certify the votes, Trump sent out a derisive tweet and Trump-supporting rioters chanted “Hang Mike Pence” as they breached the Capitol.

Poll: 58 percent of Americans believe Trump should have been convicted

Nearly 60 percent of Americans believe former President Donald Trump should have been convicted in his second impeachment trial, according to an ABC News/Ipsos poll released on Monday.

While 58 percent of Americans overall believe the former president should have been convicted, the poll split largely along party lines. Eighty-eight percent of Democrats believe Trump should have been convicted, while 64 percent of independents and just 14 percent of Republicans agree.

The poll was conducted from Feb. 13 to 14 and sampled 547 adults through an online survey.

And respondents, 56 percent of whom saw the evidence against Trump as strong, viewed the senators’ votes as acts of partisanship. Seventy-seven percent said the senators voted based on partisan politics, compared with 23 percent who said the votes were rooted in fact. While Democrats and Republicans diverged on conviction, nearly equal numbers agreed that senators voted based on politics.

The Senate on Saturday acquitted Trump of incitement of insurrection following the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol on a 57-43 vote, falling 10 votes short of the threshold required for conviction. All 50 Democratic senators supported conviction.

Voters’ post-acquittal views were similar to last week’s POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, which found that 54 percent of registered voters “somewhat” or “strongly” agreed that Trump should be convicted. Fifty-eight percent of voters said he should either “probably” or “definitely” be barred from running for public office in the future.

Flamboyant former Argentine President Carlos Menem dies

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Carlos Menem, a former Argentine president who delivered short-lived economic stability and forged close ties with the United States in the 1990s even as he navigated scandal and enjoyed an often flamboyant lifestyle, has died.

Argentine President Alberto Fernández confirmed the death of the 90-year-old former leader, who had been ailing in recent weeks.

The dapper lawyer from one of Argentina’s poorest provinces, dismissed by critics as a playboy, steered Argentina toward a free-market model that was, at one point, envied by neighbors and favored by investors. Menem’s accomplishments, however, coincided with growing unemployment, economic inequality and foreign debt.

Menem was also supremely flexible as a politician, beginning his career as a self-styled disciple of Gen. Juan Domingo Peron, who founded the populist movement that bears his name and placed the economy largely under state control. Menem, who served two terms as president between 1989 and 1999, transformed the country — but in the opposite direction.

“I don’t know if I’m going to get the country out of its economic problems, but I’m sure going to make a more fun country,” Menem once said. He relished the company of celebrities, hosting the Rolling Stones and Madonna in Buenos Aires, and memorably shrugged off criticism after receiving a red Ferrari as a gift from an Italian businessman in 1990.

“It is mine, mine and mine,” Menem, an auto racing fan, said in front of television cameras. “Why would I donate it?”

Later, he reluctantly agreed to auction off the car for $135,000, with the proceeds going to state coffers.

The son of Syrian immigrants whose family owned a winery, Menem was a folksy, three-time governor of northwestern La Rioja Province, noted for shoulder-length hair and muttonchop sideburns when he came to international prominence.

He won the Peronist Party nomination and surged to victory in 1989 presidential elections, capitalizing on economic and social chaos in Argentina. The country was mired in 5,000% annual inflation and the poor were sacking supermarkets to obtain food.

Under Menem, the economy registered strong growth, inflation dropped to single digits and the peso, the national currency, enjoyed unprecedented stability as it was pegged to the U.S. dollar. The long hair and sideburns were gone and the flashy clothes replaced by imported, hand-made suits.

The core of Menem’s recovery plan, masterminded by energetic Harvard-educated Economy Minister Domingo Cavallo, was the withdrawal of the state from the economy.

Menem removed controls on prices and interest rates. He sold the state-owned phone company, airlines, race tracks, steel mills and the oil giant YPF, then South America’s largest company. He cut the state payroll and encouraged foreign investment. He curbed once-powerful labor unions that formed the backbone of the Peronist movement and were angered by state payroll cuts that eliminated jobs.

In foreign affairs, Menem withdrew Argentina from the Non-Aligned Movement, a Cold War-era structure that had espoused independence from the United States and — less so — the Soviet Union, and forged strong ties with Washington.

Argentine troops participated in the 1991 Gulf War against Iraq and joined U.N. peacekeepers in Haiti and the former Yugoslavia.

During Menem’s tenure, Argentina was the scene of deadly bombings — against the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992 and a Jewish center in 1994. Argentina accused Iran of involvement; Iran denied it. Menem was later tried for the alleged cover-up of those responsible for the attack on the Jewish center, but was found not guilty in a trial in 2019.

As president, Menem prevailed in disputes with the Argentine military, whose 1976 coup had led to the extrajudicial killings and disappearances of tens of thousands of people. He trimmed armed forces spending and abolished the highly unpopular military conscription system.

He dismayed human rights groups by granting a pardon to former military junta members serving sentences of up to life in prison for crimes connected to the disappearance of Argentine dissidents during the 1976-1983 dictatorship. The pardon was extended to former guerrillas in what Menem described as a process of national reconciliation.

‘This Acquittal Sends Three Dangerous Messages to Future Presidents’

For the first time in American history, a U.S. president has been impeached twice.

And for the second time, Donald Trump was acquitted of high crimes and misdemeanors as Republicans rallied around him, some even ignoring the proceedings before them. So is impeachment a broken process—or did this still matter?

POLITICO Magazine asked a select group of political and legal experts what they saw over the past few weeks, and how—or whether—it will echo through American history. Many saw it as a pivotal point in the country’s political evolution, if not a gripping news event, though they read the implications very differently.

It will permanently shape Trump’s reputation, said historians—as well as the reputations of the individual senators who voted to acquit. Others warned of a backlash against Democrats, or a violent anti-government movement emboldened by Trump being let off the hook. Some were more optimistic about its importance: The historian Mary Frances Berry, for instance, said Trump’s two-time acquittal would keep impeachment “rare and principled.” And quite possibly the final outcome is entirely outside the hands of Congress, or Washington: Geoffrey Kabaservice, the historian of conservative politics, thinks the final meaning depends less on what happened this week and more on the course American voters finally choose.

Their full responses are below.

‘The brilliant impeachment presentation will indelibly shape Trump’s image’
Ron Chernow is the author of Alexander Hamilton (2004) and several other books. He won the Pulitzer Prize in biography in 2011 for his biography of George Washington, Washington: A Life.

Perhaps too much attention was paid to whether House impeachment managers would persuade Republican senators to join them. Since it was always a foregone conclusion that those senators would rush to acquit, why did Democrats bother with this elaborate exercise? The answer is simple: The House managers addressed the court of public opinion and the court of history as well as the Senate. The disgraceful sacking of the Capitol was, like Pearl Harbor and 9/11, a seminal day in American history and, like them, it can be easily distorted in the future, spawning a thousand conspiracy theories. The House managers laid down an ironclad narrative, well documented and crisply reasoned, that will forever guide discussion of this event and prevent later, self-serving distortions of what happened. They worked to engrave the story in our national memory.

The single most important decision made by Representative Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and his colleagues was to broaden their indictment from the events of January 6, narrowly cast, and convert it into an indictment of the whole Donald Trump presidency. The storming of the Capitol culminated years of Trump fomenting violence at his rallies and scoffing at democratic procedures in the White House. The House managers crafted a coherent vision of a president whose lawless, bullying style was inevitably aped by his followers and led straight to January 6. Whether he runs for office again or not, the brilliant impeachment presentation will shape indelibly Trump’s image for years to come.

‘The lack of a conviction for Trump sends a chilling message’
Keisha N. Blain is an associate professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh, a 2020-21 Fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University, and author of Set the World on Fire and Until I Am Free.

The failure to convict former President Donald Trump is unfortunate but not surprising. In effect, it reveals that violence and white supremacy will continue to shape American politics—as they have since the nation’s founding. The invasion of the Capitol on January 6 connects to a long history of white supremacist violence and terror. Throughout the nation’s history, white people have often used violence and intimidation to retain power—the list is long and includes white militias in the Antebellum South, the rise of the Ku Klux Klan after the Civil War and the Wilmington massacre of 1898. The insurrection of January 6 is only the most recent iteration of white supremacist violence cloaked under the guise of “political dissent.” The presence of racist symbols such as the Confederate flag and the noose underscore this point.

The Senate’s failure to hold Trump accountable—and in so doing, their failure to prevent him from running for office again—will have lasting, terrible consequences. The lack of a conviction for Trump sends a chilling message: Future presidents will face no accountability for inciting violence during and after an election. This outcome has now set a new and dangerous precedent, and aspiring Republican presidential candidates will likely attempt to follow in Trump’s footsteps.

‘We were left with a show trial’
Josh Blackman is a constitutional law professor at the South Texas College of Law Houston, and the author of An Introduction to Constitutional Law: 100 Supreme Court Cases Everyone Should Know.

The impeachment largely didn’t matter to history. We were left with a show trial, which amounted to little more than political theater.

This proceeding could have made a definitive case that Donald Trump incited an insurrection. And I think that evidence could have shown conviction was warranted—especially concerning the official actions Trump took before and after the speech he made on January 6, the same day as the Capitol riot.

But this impeachment was rushed through, which ultimately made it ineffectual. The House approved a single article of impeachment one week after the incursion without developing any evidentiary record. The House did not hold any hearings, accept any sworn statements, subpoena former administration officials or request official documents. At the time, haste was understandable. The House insisted that Trump posed an existential threat, and he had to be removed immediately. But once January 20 passed, that existential threat disappeared.

Perhaps Trump may seek some future office in two or four years. But until then, there was no need to jam through a one-week hearing without any fact finding or oversight. After January 6, the House could have spent some time collecting testimony, documents and other evidence to build a case. But the House chose not to. Instead, it sent its managers to try Trump armed with newspaper clippings, surveillance footage, presidential tweets and Parler posts.

It’s no wonder the managers couldn’t prove Trump intended to incite an insurrection. They had no actual evidence that proved Trump’s state of mind. When the managers tried to introduce a second-hand account of Trump’s intent based on a conversation he had with Senator Mike Lee of Utah, Lee claimed it was inaccurate—and the managers ultimately had to withdraw the evidence. Still, the House managers could have called witnesses to build a record during the Senate trial, and even threatened to do so on Saturday. But they didn’t.

It seems the focus now will turn to President Biden’s agenda. So be it. Priorities matter.

‘An act of rage and vengeance rather than sober deliberation.’
Ken Blackwell is senior fellow for human rights and constitutional governance at the Family Research Council. He has served as mayor of Cincinnati, secretary of state and treasurer for Ohio, and undersecretary in the Department of Housing and Urban Development, among other offices.

This impeachment matters, but not in the ways many people would think. First, rushing through an impeachment with no due process, no witnesses, no hearings and no evidence of the crime alleged—incitement, which would require Donald Trump’s directly calling for physical violence, among other elements—will damage the impeachment process.

Second, this marks a new low in American politics, an act of rage and vengeance rather than sober deliberation.

Third, it illustrates how deeply cynical hypocrisy has become, in that Democrats cheered and laughed along with much more violent language coming from President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. Fourth, it shows that the cancel culture is infecting even our constitutional framework. And finally, the headline will be “Trump Acquitted”—which means that while Democrats might hate Donald Trump, he did not commit an impeachable offense.

‘Impeachment will almost inevitably produce a backlash’
Douglas E. Schoen is a Democratic pollster and strategist. He is the author of The Political Fix: Changing the Game of American Democracy, From the Grass Roots to the White House.

The second impeachment of Donald Trump has the potential to lead to a number of unintended, adverse consequences. Though Trump deserves to be held accountable for his behavior and speech on January 6th—and I support impeachment—the political impact of the Democrats doing so could well be deleterious to Democratic chances in 2022, and will likely carry other long-term consequences.

First, we can expect that the impeachment trial will further polarize an already divided electorate. To that end, voters are relatively split on the question of whether Trump should be convicted. A Quinnipiac University poll released last week found that 50 percent of Americans said the Senate should convict Trump, while 45 percent said they should acquit. To be sure, the first midterm for a presidential administration is always a difficult one for the incumbent party. Thus, coming out of the box initially with impeachment will make it more difficult rather than less difficult for Democrats to court Republican voters in 2022, and it will certainly make bipartisan cooperation in the legislature more challenging to achieve over the next few years.

In the long term, impeachment will almost inevitably produce a backlash that will continue long after the process is completed. In turn, the process will strengthen Trump’s standing with his already loyal base, and will further alienate these voters from the political mainstream, given that a number of more moderate Republicans have voiced their support for the process. Furthermore, in the long term, this second impeachment may also facilitate a greater likelihood that Republicans use impeachment against Democratic presidents, making it a more common tool, and less of an extraordinary option to express political opposition.

‘Trump was not exonerated’
Allan J. Lichtman is a history professor and author of The Case for Impeachment.

The second impeachment trial of Donald Trump has three distinct audiences: the senators, the American people and the incoming Attorney General Merrick Garland. The first audience was never the most important. The impeachment managers realized that no matter how powerful and compelling their case, most Republican senators had closed minds and would put party and personal political advantage above loyalty to country. Nonetheless, it is notable that for the first time in history, a bipartisan majority of both parties voted to convict an American president, even if the vote fell short of the two-thirds needed for conviction. Trump was not exonerated.

The managers pitched their presentation to the American people. If, as appears certain, Trump emerges diminished in the eyes of most Americans, his political career is over in practice, even if not formally in law. Already, a poll taken on the eve of the trial found that 53 percent of respondents opposed the idea of Trump running again, compared to just 37 percent who said they would support it. Trump also has much to deal with between now and 2024. His businesses, brand and approval ratings are tanking. He has $400+ million in loans coming due and faces an IRS audit. He has lost his Twitter account. He is under criminal investigation by district attorneys in New York and Georgia. He faces civil suits, including one by journalist E. Jean Carroll who claims that Trump raped her in the 1990s and that she has DNA evidence.

Trump’s attorney Bruce Castor suggested, astonishingly, that the remedy for Trump’s alleged incitement is not impeachment, but prosecution. “After he’s out of office, you go and arrest him,” Castor said. “There is no opportunity where the president of the United States can run rampant in January at the end of his term and go away scot-free.” Garland will have before him a consequential decision about whether to take up Castor’s challenge and indict the former president on incitement or possible conspiracy charges. He will have to carefully weigh the strength of a potential criminal case against the distraction and uproar that would follow from the charging of a former president.

‘Congress must immediately pass legislation to shore up accountability’
Kimberly Wehle is a professor of law at the University of Baltimore School of Law.

The Democrats had no choice but to pursue impeachment to properly condemn and hold leaders accountable for the horrors of January 6. It would have been much, much worse to walk away as if nothing happened. But there is now no question that the six references to impeachment in the Constitution—a whopping number that underscores how important the Framers considered this lever of accountability—are not going to produce real consequences absent a voting populace that demands fidelity to the rule of law from its lawmakers. For that, we need civic education and moral responsibility at all levels of our social order.

We also need new laws. What these two failed impeachments have shown is that Congress must immediately pass clarifying legislation to shore up accountability for the office of the presidency. Trump smashed a range of norms over the past four years, with complicity from Congress. America dodged a bullet to the heart of democracy on November 4, and again on January 6, but we are far from out of the woods. We are already seeing voter suppression efforts raging back across the country on the false myth that voter fraud justifies politicians passing laws to keep people from being able to exercise their constitutional right to vote. That is the sad legacy of Trump, and it’s the regular American—not the politicians in Washington—who will pay the price with the right to self-governance.

‘Impeachment has a chance of remaining rare and principled’
Mary Frances Berry is professor of American social thought, history and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

The two Donald Trump impeachments portray what appears to be a running battle between the congressional and executive branches. Unable to find ways to enact legislation to stop Trump’s policies, the House used its impeachment power to hobble the administration. Impeachment substituted for congressional action and helped to generate media coverage undermining Trump’s initiatives.

The second impeachment of Trump matters not just because we may be relieved of focusing on Trump. It also makes it unlikely that another president will be impeached after he has already left office and can no longer undermine government and policy, which the impeachment provisions served to prevent. Impeachment then has a chance of remaining rare and principled when it seems absolutely necessary to remove a president or other official from power, and not just another political exercise.

‘He exposed the fragility of the norms that undergird our political life.’
Geoffrey Kabaservice is the director of political studies at the Niskanen Center in Washington, DC as well as the author of Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party.

Donald Trump’s second impeachment may, in the short term, seem to have had little practical effect, since no more than a handful of Senate Republicans voted to convict. Trump’s supporters predictably will dismiss the entire proceedings as a partisan circus and witch hunt. But the case that Trump did in fact incite and inflame the mob he had assembled, and that he bears principal responsibility for the desecration of American democracy that occurred on January 6, carries much greater moral and emotional resonance than any of his defenders’ excuses. Over time, the reputational stain of the second impeachment will deepen Trump’s exclusion from mainstream American politics. He will not be included in any of the symbolic or substantive or redemptive activities in which past ex-presidents (even Richard Nixon) participated. Growing numbers of Americans will view his entire presidency as a historical aberration.

That will be an excessively self-flattering verdict. Trump may not have known much about American history, but he authentically channeled many of the country’s darker impulses into his populism. These included not only McCarthyism’s conspiracy-minded hatred of elites as well as the isolationism and nativism of the America First Committee, but even reached back to the anti-government animus of the 18th-century Shays’ and Whiskey Rebellions. He exposed the fragility of the norms that undergird our political life (most derived from the worldview of long-dead gentlemanly elites) and the ricketiness of our obsolete constitutional-political structures. He also accelerated the decline of the country’s international power and prestige. The significance of Trump’s second impeachment ultimately will be determined by the future trajectory of the country, and whether we collectively choose the division and dysfunction that Trump personified or the pragmatism and progress that characterized much of what once was called the American Century.

‘This acquittal sends three dangerous messages to future presidents’
Catherine J. Ross is professor of law and Fred C. Stevenson research professor at the George Washington University Law School. She is also the author of the forthcoming A Right to Lie? Presidents, Other Liars, and the First Amendment, expected in 2021.

This acquittal sends at least three dangerous messages to future presidents. First, you can with impunity use every weapon in a relentless effort to overturn the results of a free and fair election. Some of these weapons are more legitimate, such as recounts and lawsuits, than others, such as pressuring state officials, ignoring 62 losses in court and seeking intervention by government officials. The acquittal also shows that a president can incite a violent, armed mob to overtake and ransack the Capitol in order to cut short the constitutionally mandated vote certification without accountability. And third, it is now almost impossible to imagine a presidential offense that would lead to conviction in the Senate.

The Supreme Court explained in Nixon v. Fitzgerald that congressional oversight backed by the “threat of impeachment” is the sole means the Constitution provides to “deter presidential abuses of office.” Because they had the aftermath of Watergate in mind—where Republican leaders prevailed on President Richard Nixon to resign—the justices, like the Founders, did not envision the hyper-partisanship that has undermined the impeachment process. For all practical purposes, the majority of Republican senators have vitiated the impeachment, conviction and removal mechanism, throwing our government of co-equal branches completely out of balance. Disabling the fail-safe remedy the Founders bequeathed to us puts the country at grave risk.

‘The exoneration of Trump will inevitably embolden those and their ilk who stormed the Capitol’
Alan I. Baron is former special impeachment counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Donald Trump was not convicted as a result of his unprecedented second impeachment, but neither was he exonerated. The shameless behavior of this grotesque narcissist is now an indelible part of our country’s history. That is no small achievement by the House impeachment managers who did a superb job presenting the facts.

A second outcome of these proceedings was for all to see, for all times, the craven abdication by Republican senators who voted “not guilty” when called upon to judge Trump’s role in the insurrection. For them to hide behind an absurd interpretation of the Constitution that a former president can’t be impeached, rejected by constitutional scholars, was a cynical repudiation of their oath. If Diogenes, holding his lamp, were to seek an honest person in that group, the oil would be consumed before he succeeded.

Finally, the exoneration of Trump will inevitably embolden those and their ilk who stormed the Capitol. They are the point of the spear. It remains to be seen whether American democracy gets the shaft.

‘The fact that these impeachments happened is vitally important’
Beth Myers is principal at Buckminster Strategies, a public affairs and campaign consulting firm. She served as chief of staff to former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney, and as campaign manager and senior advisor of Romney’s presidential campaigns.

The first impeachment trial of Donald Trump was about corrupting an election; the second about the attempt to thwart the peaceful transfer of power after an election. The fact that these impeachments happened is vitally important: Alleged crimes by a president in violation of the most fundamental acts necessary for a functioning American democracy can never be ignored. Poet Amanda Gorman brought that home in her Inauguration Day 2021 poem: “History has its eyes on us.”

The Senate failed to convict in either trial—despite the overwhelming evidence presented by the House impeachment managers in the second trial. But the actions of Trump, the cases made by his accusers and defenders, and the votes taken under oath by the senators to convict or acquit, are now a record for consideration by future historians. And that matters very much.
‘Trump owns the GOP still’
Rick Wilson is a Republican political strategist, media consultant and author of Everything Trump Touches Dies: A Republican Strategist Gets Real About the Worst President Ever.

The impeachment of Donald J. Trump, Part 2, ended with exoneration by a craven Senate GOP. Trump owns the GOP still, and even the party members who think he’s never going to run again. A Senate staffer told me, “If this was a secret vote it would be 80-20,” and they were right. Does it matter to Trump or the GOP? Of course not.

It does matter to history. It shows that the country lacks a functioning political party that can stand up against a man who attempted to subvert an election through violence. It’s a sad coda for a grim era.

‘Every senator who voted to acquit will be stained in history’
Norman Ornstein is an emeritus scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

Ten House Republicans, including a party leader, voted to impeach, and this impeachment trial will be the most bipartisan in American history. It is a hugely important step, even with acquittal. This impeachment and trial highlight the grossest and gravest abuse of power by a president in all of American history. And the process, with the House managers methodically and powerfully laying out the long history of Donald Trump lying about the election, exulting in violence, inciting Proud Boys and others, targeting his own vice president and trying to subvert the outcome of a free and fair election, will be a part of history. These examples were there for tens of millions of Americans to see what happened, and to realize we came within an eyelash of a violent coup that could easily have resulted in the assassination of our top national political leaders.

Trump is stained in history, even if acquitted. And every senator who votes to acquit will also be stained in history. And other vehicles, including applying the 14th Amendment to disqualify Trump from future office and censure, remain. As do criminal charges. The failure to move forward with this process would have been dereliction of duty by Congress.

The Lincoln Project implodes amid infighting and scandal

The Lincoln Project, the anti-Donald Trump political outfit, imploded Friday evening amid mounting criticism of its handling of sexual misconduct allegations against one of its co-founders and of the management of its finances.

Steve Schmidt, a prominent political strategist and one of the original co-founders of the organization, on Friday evening became the latest in a string of departures from the group. In a lengthy statement, Schmidt said he was “incandescently angry” about allegations that former Lincoln Project leader John Weaver sent sexually explicit text messages to young men.

“I detest John Weaver in a way I can’t articulate,” wrote Schmidt, who in the statement divulged his own experiences of being molested when he was young. “My heart breaks that young men felt unseen and unheard in an organization that I started. I am ashamed of it.”

Also announcing their departures Friday were spokesman Kurt Bardella and Nayyera Haq, who had been hosting an online program for the organization. Tom Nichols, a foreign affairs columnist and professor, announced on Twitter that he was stepping down as an unpaid adviser. Jennifer Horn, a senior figure in the organization, resigned earlier in the month over the Lincoln Project’s handling of the Weaver accusations.

Ron Steslow and Mike Madrid, two other leaders, left in December. George Conway, a former Lincoln Project official and the husband of ex-Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway, has also stepped away from the outfit.

The Lincoln Project, which was made up of current and former Republican strategists who were stridently opposed to Trump, made a splash during the 2020 election. The organization aired hard-edged ads targeting the former president and his allies — some of them in starkly personal terms — and raked in more than $87 million in donations. Its senior officials — including Florida-based operative Rick Wilson and Schmidt — became cable news regulars.

But the organization’s downfall has been swift. The New York Times reported on Jan. 31 that more than 20 men had accused the 61-year-old Weaver, who served as a top strategist for the late Arizona Sen. John McCain and later worked on former Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s 2016 presidential bid, of sexually harassing them through online messages. In the days that followed, questions intensified about when Lincoln Project leaders first learned about the accusations and what they did to address them.

People familiar with the organization’s internal dynamics say specific complaints about Weaver’s conduct were brought to managers in the summer of 2020, though Schmidt has pushed back on those claims. In his Friday evening statement, Schmidt said that he “learned about John Weaver’s misconduct with an underage boy this past January.”

The Lincoln Project released a statement earlier in the week saying that it was retaining a "best-in-class outside professional to review Mr. Weaver’s tenure with the organization."

Weaver, who is married with a wife and two children, has acknowledged sending "inappropriate" messages to men.

Then, on Thursday, the Associated Press reported that more than half of the organization’s funding had been directed to consulting firms that had been controlled by Lincoln Project officials — a massive sum that fed accusations that leaders had enriched themselves. The crisis intensified later in the day, when the Lincoln Project’s Twitter feed posted screenshots of private online messages between Horn and Amanda Becker, a reporter for 19th News who had been working on a story about the organization’s work culture.

The Lincoln Project deleted the screenshot, but not before sparking intense backlash. Schmidt apologized for the episode in his statement, saying, "it is my job as the senior leader to accept responsibility for the tremendous misjudgment to release” the messages.

The Lincoln Project’s funders have begun distancing themselves. Senate Majority PAC, the top Democratic outside group focused on Senate races, and Majority Forward, an affiliated nonprofit, gave $1.9 million to Lincoln Project in October, at the height of the election. Lincoln Project had been spending on ads against GOP senators, including in critical races in South Carolina and Maine.

J.B. Poersch, the president of Senate Majority PAC, said in a statement that his organization would not work with Lincoln Project in the future amid the allegations of harassment and other wrongdoing that have emerged.

"In October, 2020 Senate Majority Pac and Majority Forward supplemented a small set of Lincoln Project advertising in Senate campaign states,” Poersch said in the statement. “Current allegations regarding Lincoln Project’s operation raises alarming questions. Given the weight of these allegations, SMP will not work with Lincoln Project in the future."

James Arkin contributed to this report.

Graham to meet with Trump to talk future of GOP

Sen. Lindsey Graham said he’ll be meeting with former President Donald Trump in the coming weeks to talk about the future of the Republican Party.

The South Carolina Republican said Friday evening that he plans to encourage Trump to work with Republicans to ensure that they take back the House and the Senate in 2022.

“I’m going to try and convince him that we can’t get there without you, but you can’t keep the Trump movement going without the GOP united,” Graham said. “If we come back in 2022, then, it’s an affirmation of your policies. But if we lose again in 2022, the narrative is going to continue that not only you lost the White House, but the Republican Party is in a bad spot.”

Graham’s remarks come as most Senate Republicans are expected to acquit Trump on Saturday at the conclusion of his second impeachment trial. Graham has stayed in close touch with the former president, and spoke to him Friday morning ahead of his defense lawyers’ presentation.

The aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection ripped simmering divides wide open within the Republican Party over Trump. Party leaders and rank-and-file members are grappling with how much influence the former president should have. Many Republicans have condemned his rhetoric but few are distancing themselves from him.

Trump has made it clear that he plans to remain active in Republican politics. He’s threatened to primary Republicans who don’t stand with him, including Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.), and is mulling a potential run for president again in 2024.

“Trump’s got to work with everybody,” Graham said. “You got to put your best team on the field. If it’s about revenge and going after people you don’t like, we’re going to have a problem. If this is about putting your best team on the field, we’ve got a decent chance at coming back.”

Senate moves to grant Goodman the Congressional Gold Medal

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer introduced legislation Friday to grant U.S. Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman the Congressional Gold Medal for his service during the Jan. 6 riots.

Both Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell paid tribute from the Senate floor to Goodman and Capitol Police officers for defending members and staff during the riots.

New videos revealed during the Senate impeachment trial showed Goodman luring rioters away from senators at his own personal risk and redirecting Sen. Mitt Romney away from the mob. Romney later released a video thanking Goodman.

"Here in this trial, we saw new video, powerful video showing calmness under pressure, his courage in the line of duty, his foresight in the midst of chaos, and his willingness to make himself a target of the mob’s rage so that others might reach safety," Schumer said. "Officer Goodman, thank you."

Goodman was present in the chamber when Schumer introduced the legislation and was given a standing ovation from the entire Senate floor. McConnell said he was "proud the Senate is taking this step forward recognizing his heroism with the highest honor we can bestow."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had expressed her intention to introduce similar legislation Thursday. She said the Capitol Police officers who died in connection to the riots were "martyrs for our democracy."

Brian Sicknick, a Capitol Police officer who died from injuries sustained in the riot, was laid in honor in the Capitol last week. President Joe Biden, as well as congressional leadership and members of the Capitol Police, attended a viewing in the Rotunda.

The post-Trump path of “one dude”

With Donald Trump’s impeachment acquittal almost assured, at the moment, the Republicans standing against him are in danger of being run over in the post-Trump GOP. But if the GOP’s fervor for the former president fades to any degree, Senator Ben Sasse may be better positioned than anyone to capitalize. National political correspondent David Siders and Scott Bland talk about Sasse’s recent video which inflamed his party’s GOP and the future of the Republican party.

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Federal judge upholds release of Capitol riot suspect who wielded bullhorn, pipe

A D.C. federal judge on Thursday rejected a bid by U.S. prosecutors to prevent the release of a Pennsylvania woman who was charged with breaking into the Capitol and encouraging others to storm the building over a megaphone.

Rachel Powell, a 40-year-old mother of eight, was arrested this month after she was captured on video using metal pipe alongside others to shatter a window and help the mob to enter the building during the Jan. 6 riot, according to federal prosecutors. She has been alternately dubbed the “bullhorn lady” or “pink hat lady” for her distinguishing features that day.

Earlier this week, a magistrate judge in Pennsylvania ordered Powell to be released on $10,000 bond and undergo electronic monitoring ahead of her trial. Powell faces several felony counts, including entering a restricted building with a dangerous weapon and depredation of government property.

Prosecutors quickly challenged that ruling, arguing that Powell posed an ongoing threat to the community and that her actions in the days leading up to her surrendering to the FBI indicated the potential for her to abscond. Powell’s attorney, Michael Engel, argued that her surrender actually demonstrated that she was not a flight risk.

“That’s not the conduct of an individual who has a desire to flee,” he said.

But Chief U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell upheld the Pennsylvania judge’s decision following a roughly 90-minute hearing held over video conference Thursday afternoon.

Howell questioned why the prosecution was seeking to keep Powell detained when other rioters who have come before her, including members of the Proud Boys with potentially more serious charges, were allowed release on bond.

“What makes her so dangerous that she needs pre-trial detention?” the judge said, adding that she was concerned about “equitable treatment.”

She did, however, chastise Powell for her judgment that day, as well as her decision to give an extended interview to The New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow in the aftermath of the ransacking of the Capitol, which Howell said was “downright offensive” and oblivious to the severity of the situation.

In The New Yorker article, Powell portrayed herself as a benevolent actor amid the violence.

“Listen, if somebody doesn’t help and direct people, then do more people die?” she reportedly said.

The prosecution depicted Powell as being one of those leading the charge to storm the Capitol and actively encouraging others to do so. Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Aloi pointed to several videos, including new footage she said came to light only the day prior, as evidence to that effect.

“She appears to be directing the individuals around,” she said. “Her body language and action appears to indicate she is corralling other rioters.”

Howell appeared skeptical of that characterization, but noted that the evidence compiled by the FBI indicated that she “certainly tried to” spur others to overtake the Capitol.

The judge did, however, tack on one somewhat unusual requirement to Powell’s release: Should she leave the house for a court-approved activity, she must wear a mask.