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Mr. Trump: Have You No Decency?
On Tuesday, the former president's potential criminal exposure grew deeper and we were reminded once again that, at his core, Trump is a bully and a thug.
I’m Michael A. Cohen, and this is Truth and Consequences: A no-holds-barred look at the absurdities, hypocrisies, and surreality of American politics. If you received this email - or you are a free subscriber - and you’d like to subscribe: you can sign up below.
Tuesday was day four of the January 6 Committee’s public hearings, and it was, by far, the most powerful day of testimony yet.
Part of the reason was the emotional nature of the witness statements before the Committee. I’ll talk more in a second about Shaye Moss (pictured above) and her mother, Ruby Freeman, two election workers in Georgia targeted by Trump with false allegations of voter fraud — and how those accusations upended their lives. We also heard from Rusty Bowers, the Arizona Republican House Speaker, who detailed Trump’s persistent and likely illegal efforts to undo the election results in Arizona — and Bowers’s stubborn refusal to go along with them.
But ultimately, the gravity of Tuesday’s session was defined by the illegal behavior laid out by the Committee. Each hearing so far has focused on a discrete aspect of Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. On Tuesday, the Committee dealt with the pressure he put on local state officials to change vote tallies, decertify the election, and appoint fake electors.
Of all the criminal accusations against Donald Trump, seemingly none is more obvious than his efforts to pressure Georgia Secretary Of State Brad Raffensperger, who testified on Tuesday, to overturn the election results in his state. For more than a year-and-a-half, we’ve known that Trump called Raffensperger in January 2021 and tried to convince him to “find 11,780 votes.”
Trump lost the state by 11,779 votes, which meant he wanted Raffensperger to find some way to hand him the winning margin so that he could be declared the winner of Georgia’s 16 electoral votes by one vote. That Trump knew the exact margin he needed to overcome Biden’s margin is incredibly telling. It shows that Trump wasn’t interested in Raffensperger rooting out the alleged fraud that the president claimed took place in Georgia during the 2020 election. Instead, he wanted him to find just enough votes so he could prevail. Of course, we all know that Trump only cares about himself and soothing his bloated ego — and that he could no more effectively define the words “good governance” than advocate for it. But his request of Raffensperger lays bare his ultimate objective in contesting the election results. He wanted to win and by any means necessary.
Indeed, until Raffenperger mentioned it in his testimony on Tuesday, I had forgotten that on that call, Trump said, “the real truth is, I won by 400,000 votes.” Based on my calculations, for that to be accurate, Trump would have won 54% of the vote in Georgia. But the president wasn’t interested in counting all those allegedly missing votes. He wanted just one more vote than Biden. I don’t think Trump’s ultimate goal in pushing his election lies could be any clearer.
Having Said That …
Something else came out of today’s hearing that seems very crime-y. First was the testimony of Bowers, who is yet another public official, on the record, telling Trump administration officials, including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman, what they were asking him to do in Arizona was likely illegal. In particular, Bowers said that both men asked him to decertify Arizona’s Biden electors and have the Arizona legislature appoint a false contingent of Trump electors. Bowers told them that doing so would violate his oath of office.
These false electors can potentially be another source of criminal liability for the president. There was and is no basis for appointing them — but the Trump people could argue that their designation was merely a contingency in case they won their legal challenges and new electors were needed to replace the Biden ones. There’s an argument to be made that this alleged contingency is irrelevant and that appointing fake electors was an illegal act and an example of electoral fraud (we now know that many of the electors went to great lengths to keep their actions secret, and others refused to participate in the plan).
But let’s say it wasn’t illegal, and Trump and his team were merely preparing for a potential contingency. Considering that Eastman continued to push the fake electors’ ploy up to January 6 — and after the Electoral College verified Biden the winner of the 2020 election — that defense rings hollow. As noted in last week’s hearing, there was no legal or constitutional basis for rejecting Biden’s electors and replacing them with a Trump slate. Eastman and Trump were told this repeatedly, and Vice President Pence and his aides consistently rebuffed their efforts. Yet, Eastman still pushed Vice President Pence to reject Biden’s electors on January 6, including on that day. From the perspective of Eastman and Trump’s pressure campaign on Pence, the appointment of fake electors look less like a contingency plan and instead part of a multi-pronged effort to steal an election. The only contingency being planned for by Trump and his team is one in which Pence follows through on an illegal and unconstitutional attempt to overturn a presidential election.
On Tuesday, the Committee revealed that Trump was directly involved in the fake-elector plan. In testimony from RNC Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel, she said that during a conference call with Trump, “he turned the call over to Mr. Eastman, who then proceeded to talk about the importance of the RNC helping the campaign gather these contingent electors in case any of the legal challenges that were ongoing changed the result of any of the states.”
So if the fake electors are deemed illegal, or an integral part of Eastman and Trump’s larger illegal plan to overturn the election results, Trump’s early and direct involvement with that effort could potentially increase his criminal exposure.
Aside from the legal questions, perhaps the most enraging part of Tuesday's hearing came at the end — with the testimony of Wandrea Shaye Moss.
Moss was an election worker in Georgia who, along with her mother Ruby Freeman, was falsely and publicly accused by Trump and Guiliani of election fraud. Their fact-free allegations led to death threats and racist attacks against Moss and her mother (both of whom are Black). In a halting tone, she told the Committee that Trump’s attacks "turned my life upside down." Moss left her job, and she and her mother went into hiding. She said she put on weight, and it seemed clear from her testimony is still suffering acute trauma. “I just don't do nothing anymore. I don't want to go anywhere. I second-guess everything that I do,” said Moss. “It's affected my life in a major way. In every way. All because of lies. For me doing my job. Same thing I've been doing forever."
Moss was not the only person who talked about the emotional scars of getting caught up in Trump’s election lies. Bowers, a long-time Republican who supported Trump’s reelection, told the Committee he’s been inundated with attacks from Trump’s supporters. Panel trucks come to his house to blare accusations that he is "a pedophile and a pervert and a corrupt politician.” A man with a gun threatened his neighbors, and others targeted his daughter, who was gravely ill and later died. Raffensperger said Trump’s supporters broke into the home of his daughter-in-law, a widow with two children. He said Trump’s backers got a hold of his wife’s phone number and sent her angry text messages, some of a highly “sexualized” nature.
In a video deposition Michigan state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R), who resisted Trump’s pressure campaign to undo the election results, said after the president tweeted out his phone number, he received “just shy of 4,000 text messages over a short period of time calling [me] to take action.” Others testified that finding themselves in the president’s cross-hairs upended their lives.
In short, Trump’s supporters launched a campaign of intimidation on Republican officials, and the president not only made no attempt to stop it but actively encouraged it. Indeed, just this morning, he sent out a statement blasting Bowers as a RINO (Republican In Name Only) and falsely claimed that he told Trump the 2020 election was “rigged” (Bowers denied that).
As Committee Co-Chairman Bennie Thompson pointed out at the hearing, “Pressuring public servants into betraying their oath was a fundamental part of the playbook. And a handful of election officials in several key states stood between Donald Trump and the upending of American democracy.”
All these officials deserve praise for standing up to Trump and his minions. The story of what happened to Moss and her family is particularly enraging. But it’s yet another reminder that for all of Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results, he received near-unanimous disapproval from Republican politicians as well as his staff. Inside the White House, no one wanted to go along with his machinations, including his Vice President. Trump brought in hucksters and crooks like Eastman, Guiliani, Sidney Powell, the Pillow Guy, and others to push his insane theories. And in one battleground state after another, lifelong Republicans paid more allegiance to their oaths of office than their party leader.
To the credit of Raffensperger and others, they did it in real-time: objecting publicly and forcefully even as Trump tried to exert pressure on them. Indeed, Raffensperger, by recording his phone call with Trump, may have substantially increased the likelihood that the former president faces criminal indictment in Georgia.
Contrast them with the craven cowards on Capitol Hill who not only went along with Trump’s plan but openly cast votes supporting it. These hearings are far from over, but one theme that has emerged is that the dividing line between the men and women and the mice could not be more apparent.
Ron Johnson, “Call Your Office”
Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin is one of the two or three dumbest members of the US Senate. It’s a healthy competition between him, Tommy Tuberville, and Marsha Blackburn. However, if Herschel Walker somehow wins election to the Senate from Georgia, I am confident he will pass them all. But after Tuesday’s revelations, Johnson might have a few bigger problems than lack of smarts.
This is a text conversation between Johnson’s Chief of Staff, Sean Riley, and Chris Hodgson, Vice President Pence’s legislative director. Johnson denied involvement in the fake electors’ scheme, and his press spokesman blamed the discussion with Pence’s staff on Riley. As noted above, we don’t know if the false electors’ ploy broke the law, but if it did, Johnson might have a few questions to answer.
What’s Going On
The surge in right-wing attacks on the LGBTQ community is legitimately terrifying. It seems that right-wing activists are taking Republican attacks on the trans community and Democratic “pedophiles” to heart in a way that has the potential for violence.
Texas Republicans, it seems, have lost their minds.
If you’re like me — obsessed with the Voyager spacecrafts — you’ll love this story.
This Texas Tribune story on the botched police response to the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, is both heartbreaking and enraging.
How about a double shot of the Lemonheads — a great 90s band!