The Morning Dispatch: Donald Trump’s Inaction on January 6
The latest House select committee meeting covers 187 minutes of chaos at the Capitol and White House advisers’ attempts to urge the president to intervene.
Happy Friday! New York reported a case of polio yesterday—the country’s first since 2013. “We don’t want to see this,” Brown University epidemiologist Jennifer Nuzzo told the Associated Press. Agreed, Jennifer Nuzzo. Agreed.
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
President Joe Biden tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday and is “experiencing very mild symptoms,” according to the White House. Trips to Pennsylvania and Delaware this week have been canceled. Biden, 79, is fully vaccinated and being treated with the antiviral Paxlovid.
Italy’s president on Thursday accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Mario Draghi and dissolved Parliament, calling for new elections which will be held September 25. The president had rejected Draghi’s previous resignation attempt, but three conservative parties undermined Draghi’s political coalition and boycotted a confidence vote. Draghi is known for rescuing the Euro while the European Central Bank’s president and leaves Italy struggling with inflation and economic recovery from COVID-19.
A spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Thursday that Ukraine and Russia will sign a deal today to restart grain exports from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports—blocked since Russia began its invasion. Turkey has been hosting negotiations but didn’t share details and Ukraine and Russia have not confirmed the agreement. Millions of tons of grain are trapped in Ukraine, raising prices and increasing global food insecurity. “Success in ending Russia’s blockade will of course depend not only on Russia agreeing to a deal, but on Russia actually implementing it,” the U.S. National Security Council said in a statement.
Department of Homeland Security Deputy Inspector General Gladys Ayala told the Secret Service Wednesday that DHS has begun an “ongoing criminal investigation” into the agency’s loss of January 6-related texts—and instructed the Secret Service to stop its internal investigation of the incident to avoid interference. The inspector general had requested a month of records from 24 Secret Service employees and the agency produced only one text exchange, claiming the rest had been deleted during a technology update.
Former Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe—ally of former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa who was ousted last week after months of protests over the country’s economic collapse—was sworn in as the country’s new president Thursday. He swiftly ordered the military to maintain “public order,” and troops began disassembling a major protest camp.
The House voted 228 to 195 on Thursday—with support from eight Republicans and all Democrats—to pass the Right to Contraception Act, which would guarantee people’s right to use contraceptives and health care workers’ ability to provide them nationwide. Democratic Rep. Kathy Manning introduced the legislation in response to Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring Dobbs opinion suggesting the Court should reconsider precedents including access to birth control—though Justices Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh insisted overruling Roe doesn’t threaten the others. It’s unclear whether the Senate will take up the bill, and with limited Republican support, it’s unlikely to pass the 50-50 Senate.
Truckers have blocked access to the Oakland, California, port—the West Coast’s third-busiest container port—to protest a state law that will push trucking companies to identify truckers who regularly work for them as employees, not independent contractors. Californian officials say the law will prevent exploitation, but owner-operator drivers will have to pay more for insurance and permits if they want to remain independent.
The European Central Bank raised interest rates on Thursday by half a percentage point—returning the main deposit rate to zero–and announced it plans to buy the debt of weak European economies to protect them from the rate hike and bolster the euro amid high inflation and weakening economic growth. It was the bank’s first rate hike since 2011.
Rep. Lee Zeldin—the Republican gubernatorial candidate in New York—was attacked by a man wielding a knife during a campaign stop in Perinton, New York, on Thursday, according to witnesses. Zeldin was not injured, and the assailant was reportedly an Iraq War veteran under the influence of alcohol.
The average number of daily confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States has increased 17 percent over the past two weeks as the Omicron BA.5 subvariant continued to spread, while the average number of daily deaths attributed to the virus—a lagging indicator—increased approximately 4 percent. About 35,100 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in the U.S., up from approximately 29,100 two weeks ago.
In a sign the United States’ tight labor market is beginning to slacken, the Labor Department reported Thursday that initial jobless claims—a proxy for layoffs—increased by 7,000 week-over-week to 251,000 last week, the highest level this year.
‘Of Course He Didn’t Intervene’
On the afternoon of January 6, 2021, just about everyone in Washington, D.C., wanted then-President Donald Trump to direct the rioters ransacking the Capitol to go home—except Trump, and probably the rioters. “I was pretty clear there needed to be an immediate and forceful response statement, public statement that people need to leave the Capitol now,” former White House General Counsel Pat Cipollone recounted Thursday evening. “Many people suggested it. Not just me.”
Over the course of nearly three hours last night, members of the January 6 House select committee revealed just how many people the president’s orbit were urging him that day to disperse the crowd he had unleashed on the Capitol: His chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and former Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. Advisers Dan Scavino and Eric Herschmann and Patrick Philbin, his deputy White House counsel. Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany weighed in, as did Fox News hosts Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Brian Kilmeade. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy gave Trump a call directly, and Reps. Chip Roy, Jeff Duncan, and Marjorie Taylor Greene made their thoughts known through Meadows. His own children—Ivanka and Don Jr.—and even his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, begged him to put an end to it all.
But for more than three hours, he refused. And in Thursday’s primetime hearing—the committee’s last until September—lawmakers tried to build a case that Trump’s inaction was not only morally wrong, but that it violated his oath of office and amounted to dereliction of duty. “The mob was accomplishing President Trump’s purpose, so of course he didn’t intervene,” said GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who led the proceedings alongside Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria. “President Trump did not fail to act during the 187 minutes between leaving the Ellipse and telling the mob to go home. He chose not to act.”
Trump knew within 15 minutes of departing the stage at the rally at the Ellipse that the Capitol was under siege, Luria alleged. Yet for nearly three hours—from 1:25 p.m. until 4 p.m.—he reportedly sat in the White House dining room and watched Fox News. The presidential diary contained no updates on his whereabouts or activities for the duration of that period, and the White House photographer was allegedly barred from capturing any images of Trump during that time.
What the president didn’t do is place any calls to cabinet secretaries whose agencies would be instrumental in quashing the violence. Cipollone and Gen. Keith Kellogg—national security adviser to Vice President Mike Pence—both testified that, to the best of their knowledge, Trump didn’t speak with the attorney general, or secretaries of defense or homeland security that day. In fact, according to an anonymous source cited by Luria, Trump refused to take a call from the Pentagon seeking to coordinate a response to the violence. Cipollone reportedly ended up answering instead.
What Trump did do is tweet. At 1:49 p.m., he blasted out a video of his speech at the Ellipse. About half an hour later, at 2:24 p.m., Trump turned on his vice president. “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution,” he said. Pence had been evacuated from the Senate floor just minutes before, and, according to a White House National Security Council official, the vice president’s Secret Service detail did not “sound good.”
Worth Your Time
The proposal to update the Electoral Count Act revealed by a bipartisan group of senators earlier this week is “constructive, balanced, and very promising,” Yuval Levin writes in National Review. “This is a very good set of reforms,” he concludes. “[It] clarifies that states must appoint presidential electors in accordance with the laws they each pass before election day and does away with the dangerously vague concept of a ‘failed election’ in the original ECA. It requires that the governor of each state (or else another particular official specifically assigned this role by state law) be the person to certify the state’s slate of electors, to avoid the possibility of different officials sending different slates to Congress. It clarifies that the vice president’s role in counting electoral votes in Congress is purely ministerial and does not involve any sole decision-making authority. It raises the threshold for raising objections to a state’s electoral votes in Congress from one member of each house to one-fifth of the members of each house and narrows and clarifies the grounds for filing objections.”
We made you a bike lane! It’s 20 feet long—or it spits out into highway traffic–or you’ve got to weave through multiple lanes of traffic to reach the lane—but isn’t it nice? In the Wall Street Journal, Julie Bykowicz reports on cities’ difficulties adding safe, useful bike lanes without disrupting drivers. “While commuters stayed home at the start of the pandemic, bike lanes sprang up seemingly everywhere, and more people began using them,” Bykowicz reports. “Now, as cities come back to life, the mixing of car, bike and foot traffic is proving a bit rocky. … Pro-driver groups, including the National Motorists Association, are urging cities not to make pandemic-era pedestrian and cycling accommodations permanent—and to cool it with the bike lanes. They’ve taken to calling cycling advocates ‘Big Bike.’”
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Toeing the Company Line
Klon’s on vacation, but he still took time to provide highlights from his interview with former National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien in Thursday’s edition of The Current. They talk about the national security job, political violence, and options in Ukraine.
Alec pumped out two fact checks yesterday. No, an Australian woman was not denied entry into the United States because she had an abortion. And no, President Joe Biden does not have cancer—even though he said he did.
On the site this morning, Price gives us another breakdown of Thursday’s January 6 House select committee hearing, intern Mary Trimble explains the cash bail system and efforts to reform it, and Melissa Langsam Braunstein details the paradoxical state of the Middle East.
Let Us Know
Which moments or information in Thursday’s hearing particularly stood out to you?