- The Senate acquitted Donald Trump in a 57-43 vote on Saturday, with seven Republicans joining all 50 Democrats to convict the former president for his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection.
- The aftermath of the vote highlighted the growing divisions in the Republican party between those who have disavowed Trump, those who believe supporting him is the only way forward, and those who want to strike a balance between both.
- Despite his acquittal in the Senate, Trump could still be held accountable for his actions as the result of criminal probes by local officials and Congress.
- “President Trump is still liable for everything he did while in office,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said after voting to acquit Trump. “He didn’t get away with anything yet.”
Former President Donald Trump was acquitted by the Senate on Saturday for the charges of inciting an insurrection with a vote of 57-43.
Seven Republicans joined all 50 Democrats to vote in favor of conviction: Sens. Mitt Romney (Ut.), Richard Burr (NC.), Bill Cassidy (La.) Susan Collins (Me.), Lisa Murkowski (Ak.), Ben Sasse (Ne.), and Pat Toomey (Pa.)
While the general outcome was to be expected, there has been a large focus on the broader implications for the Republican Party and Trump himself.
Growing Factions in the GOP
The divisions in the GOP have been growing for a while now, but there are three overarching rifts that have been exemplified in the aftermath of the trial.
In one camp, the seven Republican senators voting to convict Trump have effectively distanced themselves from the former president and signaled they do not want him in the party. Those members have already been met with widespread backlash from party leaders and local GOP officials in their states, many of whom likely still want to have the support of the many conservatives who still back Trump.
While several polls have shown that a majority of the country thought that Trump should be convicted and barred from running again, other recent polls indicate that around 70% of Republican voters still strongly support him. Out of the seven Republicans who voted to convict, only Murkowski is up for election in 2022. Both Burr and Toomey are set to retire.
Analysts have said the career risk that comes with abandoning Trump still remains high even though he is not in power anymore, which is why there is also a large group of Republicans who are trying to play both sides.
This second faction includes Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who followed his “not-guilty” vote with a 20-minute speech where he gave arguably his strongest condemnation of Trump ever.
“There’s no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day,” he said.“The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president, and having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories and reckless hyperbole which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth.”
McConnell added that Trump did nothing to stop the riot but said that he believed the Senate did not have the constitutional power to remove a president who had left office. McConnell’s balancing act here is a transparent effort to cater to those who have disavowed Trump, while also keeping a hand out for those who still support him.
That effort is due to the fact that the third final major faction of the Republican party is composed of people who think embracing Trump and doubling down is the only way forward for the party.
Following Trump’s acquittal, some people have reaffirmed their commitment to him and his supporters in an even bigger way. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC.), who has flip-flopped in the past, emphasized his support for Trump in a series of interviews over the weekend.
“Donald Trump is the most vibrant member of the Republican Party. The Trump movement is alive and well,” he told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace. “All I can say is that the most potent force in the Republican Party is President Trump. We need Trump.”
Graham also argued that McConnell had made himself a target for pro-Trump Republicans running ads in 2022 and claimed that Burr’s surprise vote to convict paved the way for Trump’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, to run for the seat he’s leaving North Carolina as a more far-right candidate.
As for what happens now that Trump has been acquitted, there are a number of possible avenues that are being pursued
Last week, a District Attorney in Georgia opened an investigation into Trump’s efforts to interfere in the election in the state. Over the weekend, The Washington Post reported that a call Graham made to the state’s top election official is also being investigated as part of that probe.
That is also not where these inquiries will end. While speaking to Senators following Trump’s acquittal Saturday, McConnell indicated that the former president would still be held responsible for his actions.
“President Trump is still liable for everything he did while in office,” he said. “He didn’t get away with anything yet.”
According to reports, members of both parties have expressed support for a 9/11-style commission to investigate the lead-up to the insurrection.
While it is unclear if that body would have the power to punish anyone, Sen. Chris Coons (D-De.) told reporters Sunday that a number of his Republican colleagues have expressed support for holding Trump accountable either through a criminal trial or through some other path that would bar him from holding office.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNBC)
Feds Investigate Classified Files Found in Biden’s Former Office
The documents reportedly include U.S. intelligence memos and briefing materials that covered topics such as Ukraine, Iran, and the United Kingdom
What Was in the Files?
President Biden’s legal team discovered about 10 classified files in his former office at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in Washington D.C., the White House revealed Monday.
The Department of Justice has concluded an initial inquiry into the matter and will determine whether to open a criminal investigation.
According to a source familiar with the matter who spoke to CNN, they include U.S. intelligence memos and briefing materials that covered topics such as Ukraine, Iran, and the United Kingdom.
A source also told CBS News the batch did not contain nuclear secrets and had been contained in a folder in a box with other unclassified papers.
The documents are reportedly from Biden’s time as vice president, but it remains unclear what level of classification they are and how they ended up in his office.
Biden kept an office in the. Penn Biden Center, a think tank about a mile from the White House, between 2017 and 2020, when he was elected president.
On Nov. 2, his lawyers claim, they discovered the documents as they were clearing out the space to vacate it.
They immediately notified the National Archives, which retrieved the files the next morning, according to the White House.
What Happens Next?
Attorney General Merrick Garland must decide whether to open a criminal investigation into Biden’s alleged mishandling of the documents. To that end, he appointed John Lausch Jr., the U.S. attorney in Chicago and a Trump appointee, to conduct an initial inquiry.
Garland reportedly picked him for the role despite him being in a different jurisdiction to avoid appearing partial.
Lausch has reportedly finished the initial part of his inquiry and provided a preliminary report to Garland.
If a criminal investigation is opened, Garland will likely appoint an independent special counsel to lead it.
The case mirrors a similar DoJ special counsel investigation into former President Donald Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified materials and obstruction of efforts to properly retrieve them.
On Nov. 18, Garland appointed Jack Smith to investigate over 300 classified documents found at Trump’s Florida residence, Mar-a-Lago.
Trump resisted multiple National Archives requests for the documents for months leading up to the FBI’s raid on his property, then handed over 15 boxes of files only for even more to be found still at Mar-a-Lago.
“When is the FBI going to raid the many houses of Joe Biden, perhaps even the White House?” Trump wrote on Truth Social Monday. “These documents were definitely not declassified.”
Rep. James Comer (R-KY), the new chairman of the House Oversight Committee, told reporters he will investigate the Biden files.
Republicans have been quick to pounce on the news and compare it to Trump’s classified files, but Democrats have pointed out differences in the small number of documents and Biden’s willingness to cooperate with the National Archives.
The White House has yet to explain why, if the files were first discovered six days before the midterm elections, the White House waited two months to reveal the news to the public.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (The New York Times) (BBC)
Lawmakers Propose Bill to Protect Fertility Treatments Amid Post-Roe Threats
The move comes as a number of states are considering anti-abortion bills that could threaten or ban fertility treatments by redefining embryos or fetuses as “unborn human beings” without exceptions for IVF.
The Right To Build Families Act of 2022
A group of Democratic lawmakers introduced a bill Thursday that would codify the right to use assisted reproductive technologies like in-vitro fertility (IVF) treatments into federal law.
The legislation, dubbed the Right To Build Families Act of 2022, was brought forward by Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-Il) and Patty Murray (D-Wa.) alongside Rep. Susan Wild (D- Pa.). The measure would bar any limits on seeking or receiving IVF treatments and prohibit regulations on a person’s ability to retain their “reproductive genetic materials.”
The bill would also protect physicians who provide these reproductive services and allow the Justice Department to take civil action against any states that try to limit access to fertility treatments.
The lawmakers argue it is necessary to protect IVF because a number of states have been discussing and proposing legislation that could jeopardize or even ban access to the treatments in the wake of the Roe v. Wade reversal.
“IVF advocates in this country today are publicly telling us, ‘We need this kind of legislation to be able to protect this,’” Murray told HuffPost. “And here we are after the Dobbs decision where states are enacting laws and we have [anti-abortion] advocates who are now starting to talk, especially behind closed doors, about stopping the right for women and men to have IVF procedures done.”
Fertility Treatments Under Treat
The state-level efforts in question are being proposed by Republican lawmakers who wish to further limit abortions by redefining when life begins. Some of the proposals would define embryos or fetuses as “unborn human beings” without exceptions for those that are created through IVF, where an egg is fertilized by a sperm outside the body and then implanted in a uterus.
For example, a bill has already been pre-filed in Virginia for the 2023 legislative session that explicitly says life begins at fertilization and does not have any specific language that exempts embryos made through IVF.
Experts say these kinds of laws are concerning for a number of reasons. In the IVF process, it is typical to fertilize multiple eggs, but some are discarded. If a person becomes pregnant and does not want to keep the rest of their eggs. It is also normal that not all fertilized eggs will be viable, so physicians will get rid of those.
Sometimes doctors will also implant multiple fertilized eggs to increase the likelihood of pregnancy, but that can result in multiple eggs being fertilized. In order to prevent having multiple babies at once and improve the chance of a healthy pregnancy, people can get a fetal reduction and lower the number of fetuses.
All of those actions could become illegal under proposals that do not provide exemptions.
“In my case, I had five fertilized eggs, and we discarded three because they were not viable. That is now potentially manslaughter in some of these states,” said Duckworth, who had both of her daughters using IVF.
“I also have a fertilized egg that’s frozen. My husband and I haven’t decided what we will do with it, but the head of the Texas Right to Life organization that wrote the bounty law for Texas has come out and specifically said he’s going after IVF next, and he wants control of the embryos,” Duckworth added.
In a hearing after Roe was overturned, Murray also raised concerns about “whether parents and providers could be punished if an embryo doesn’t survive being thawed for implantation, or for disposing unused embryos.”
Experts have said that even if anti-abortion laws defining when life begins do provide exceptions, it would be contradictory and confusing, so providers would likely err on the side of caution and not provide services out of fear of prosecution.
“[Abortion bans] are forcing women to stay pregnant against their will and are, at the very same time, threatening Americans’ ability to build a family through services like IVF,” Murray said in a statement to Axios. “It’s hard to comprehend, and it’s just plain wrong.”
The federal legislation to combat these efforts faces an uphill battle. It is unlikely it will be passed in the last few days of lame duck session, and with control of Congress being handed to Republicans come January, movement in the lower chamber will be hard fought.
Duckworth, however, told Axios that she will keep introducing the legislation “until we can get it passed.”
Hundreds of Oath Keepers Claim to Be Current or Former DHS Employees
The revelation came just weeks after the militia’s founder, Stewart Rhodes, was convicted on seditious conspiracy charges for his involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection.
An Agency Crawling With Extremists
Over 300 members of the far-right Oath Keepers militia group claim to be current or former employees at the Department of Homeland Security, the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) reported Monday.
The review appears to be the first significant public examination of the group’s leaked membership list to focus on the DHS.
The agencies implicated include Border Patrol, Coast Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Secret Service.
“I am currently a 20 year Special Agent with the United States Secret Service. I have been on President Clinton and President Bush’s protective detail. I was a member and instructor on the Presidential Protective Division’s Counter Assault Team (CAT),” one person on the list wrote.
POGO stated that the details he provided the Oath Keepers match those he made in a sworn affidavit filed in federal court.
The finding came just weeks after Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was convicted on seditious conspiracy charges for his involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection.
“Law enforcement agents who have associations with groups that seek to undermine democratic governance pose a heightened threat because they can compromise probes, misdirecting investigations or leaking confidential investigative information to those groups,” POGO said in its report.
In March, the DHS published an internal study finding that “the Department has significant gaps that have impeded its ability to comprehensively prevent, detect, and respond to potential threats related to domestic violent extremism within DHS.”
Some experts have suggested the DHS may be especially prone to extremist sentiments because of its role in policing immigration. In 2016, the ICE union officially endorsed then-candidate Donald Trump for president, making the first such endorsement in the agency’s history.
The U.S. Government has a White Supremacy Problem
Copious academic research and news reports have shown that far-right extremists have infiltrated local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.
In May, a Reuters investigation found at least 15 self-identified law enforcement trainers and dozens of retired instructors listed in a database of Oath Keepers.
In 2019, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting found that almost 400 current or former law enforcement officials belonged to Confederate, anti-Islam, misogynistic or anti-government militia Facebook groups.
The Pentagon has long struggled with its own extremism problem, which appears to have particularly festered in the wake of the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Nearly one in four active-duty service members said in a 2017 Military Times poll that they had observed white nationalism among the troops, and over 40% of non-white service members said the same.
The prevalence of racism in the armed forces is not surprising given that many of the top figures among right-wing extremist groups hailed from the military and those same groups are known to deliberately target disgruntled, returning veterans for recruitment.
Brandon Russell, the founder of the neo-Nazi group AtomWaffen, served in the military, as did George Lincoln Rockwell, commander of the American Nazi Party, Louis Beam, leader of the KKK, and Richard Butler, founder of the Aryan Nation.
In January, NPR reported that one in five people charged in federal or D.C. courts for their involvement in the Capitol insurrection were current or former military service members.