When Congressman Michael McCaul, a Republican from Texas, announced that he would vote against the second impeachment of President Trump earlier this month, he hinted that he might regret it someday.
McCaul said he wanted more time to review “the facts and the evidence” about the events leading up to the Capitol riot. He said he opposed impeachment “at this time” but he added, “I truly fear there may be more facts that come to light in the future that will put me on the wrong side of this debate.”
That quote has been rattling around in my brain all weekend. The public is learning new facts about three different threads of the Trump presidency: Trump’s last-ditch coup attempt; the insurrection that triggered impeachment; and his mishandling of the pandemic.
Dr. Deborah Birx speaks
Trump’s Covid-19 task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx granted an in-depth interview with Margaret Brennan of CBS. Portions aired on “Face the Nation” Sunday morning, and the full 89-minute interview is now online in both video and text form. Among the many newsworthy bits: She says she almost never saw or spoke with Trump. She says he was getting a “parallel set of data and graphics” that she wasn’t privy to. Brennan asked if it was “disinformation” but Birx didn’t answer.
Birx’s belated confessions drew widespread scrutiny on Sunday. Dr. Seema Yasmin’s reaction on Reliable: “It feels like now she’s on a national apology tour, but where was her skepticism… when she was in the administration and had the platform and the position, potentially at least, to be honest with the public?” Maggie Haberman also offered her insight on Twitter
: “Lots of reporters tried to talk to Birx while she was there. She was not interested. And when she spoke publicly early on, she appeared in lockstep” with Trump…
“The skunk at the picnic”
I think we’re going to keep learning more and more about how Trump’s Covid denial hurt the country.
Over the weekend The NYT’s Donald G. McNeil Jr. went long with Dr. Anthony Fauci about life under Trump, and he said of Birx, “it was much more of a painful situation for her,” because she was much more closely tied to the WH. Fauci said Trump sometimes called him to “express disappointment in me that I was not being more positive,” and Trump surrounded himself “with people saying things that didn’t make any scientific sense,” but he always felt it was better to stay at his post rather than resign. “I always felt that if I did walk away, the skunk at the picnic would no longer be at the picnic,” Fauci said. “Even if I wasn’t very effective in changing everybody’s minds, the idea that they knew that nonsense could not be spouted without my pushing back on it, I felt was important.” Read on…
But are these revelations breaking through?
Thanks to the efforts of news outlets like the NYT, WSJ, and CNN, we keep finding out more about the last gasps of Trump’s coup attempt.
We’re also hearing more and more about the assault on the Capitol. I was struck by this WaPo story the other day, titled “Self-styled militia members planned on storming the U.S. Capitol days in advance of Jan. 6 attack, court documents say,” because it quoted messages that one of the accused ring-leaders received during the riot. “When he posted a one-word message, ‘Inside,’ he received exhortations and directions describing tunnels, doors and hallways, the FBI said.” Directions from whom? How? There is so much we still don’t know.
Similarly, this NYT story described how a Capitol Police lieutenant scrambled to protect House lawmakers by piling tables and chairs into a makeshift barricade. “He had 31 rounds for his service weapon, and he has told others that he feared he might need them all.” I can’t help but wonder: Is this new info sinking in? Or have most people made up their minds about 1/6?
The view from NW PA
Maria, a regular “Reliable Sources” viewer, emailed me after Sunday’s show to say this: “In my Northwestern Pennsylvania Trump town, it is as if the insurrection did not happen, Trump won the election, Trump was the most successful POTUS ever, and Dems are going to take their freedoms away. Moreover, it was ANTIFA, not MAGA that caused the violence, the insurrection. THERE IS ZERO TALK OF THE INSURRECTION OR THE PANDEMIC and much praise for Trump.” This is anecdotal, of course, but it’s exactly what I see on right-wing radio and TV…
“They don’t even share a vocabulary.” But…
The AP’s Claire Galofaro and Juliet Linderman filed a story about “bridging the political divide” datelined Frederick, Maryland, right up Route 80 from where I grew up. The story was ridiculed due to this tweeted
summary: “She thinks the election was stolen from Donald Trump. He believes what dozens of courts and officials have found: that Joe Biden is the rightful winner. They’re trying to find common ground but wonder whether they — and the nation — can do it.”
I get all the criticism — namely, that she believes in fantasy and he believes in reality, and the story should simply say so. But I really wish people would click past the tweet
and read about the subjects of the profile. The story might actually make you more hopeful about our collective future. Yes, the profile subjects “don’t agree on basic facts. They don’t even share a vocabulary. They use the same words — truth, proof, patriotism — but they don’t mean the same thing.” That’s all true. But they are still friends. And that still matters. Read on…
Impeachment will inch forward this week
The articles of impeachment will be walked from the House to the Senate on Monday evening. An impeachment trial is likely to consume the month of February. But “what’s clear,” CNN’s Manu Raju said
Sunday, is that “after comments from GOP senators over the past week, there’s virtually no path to 17 votes to convict Trump – unless something changes in trial or the dynamics in the party change.”
>> “Trump has started to believe there are fewer votes to convict than there would have been if the vote had been held almost immediately after Jan. 6,” Haberman reported Sunday night, citing people familiar with his thinking…
FOR THE RECORD
— Margaret Hoover on CNN: “Let’s be clear, there’s not been a better opportunity for the Republican party to divorce itself from the conspiracy theorists and the kooks than this impeachment trial coming forward.” (Twitter
— Speaking of conspiracy theorists, Maria Bartiromo will be hosting Fox’s 7pm hour this week…
— David Folkenflik on Fox’s strategy: “What they’re doing is trying to figure out what kind of public posture they can take to retain the greatest possible loyalty and audiences they can…” (NPR)
— Glenn Kessler and co. on “the final tally of Trump’s presidency: 30,573 false or misleading claims — with nearly half coming in his final year…” (WaPo)
— The “lost cause” of election fraud is alive and well on talk radio, including on Rudy Giuliani’s WABC radio show in NYC, Azi Paybarah reports… (NYT)
— Yet another reminder that America is not really a 50/50 country: “In his first week in the Oval Office, Pres. Biden yielded high approval ratings for his response to the coronavirus (69%) and confidence in his ability to unify the country (57%),” per this new ABC/Ipsos poll… (ABC)
No president should be graded on a curve…
But in many respects Trump WAS graded on a curve throughout his presidency. Every period without a hateful tweet was noted. Every sign of a “new tone” was lauded. The bar was set low, far too low, for Trump. Now the Biden team is willingly, gladly raising the bar back up. When WH chief of staff Ron Klain said on Twitter
over the weekend that it was great to see Fauci on Rachel Maddow’s show — a place where Fauci was forbidden to go
during Trump’s time in office — Klain said Fauci will now be seen “anywhere else he wants to speak his mind.” Maddow replied
and thanked Klain and said “I will hold you to it.” That’s the really important part — the press now has to hold the Biden team to it…