“What took place on January 6, 2021 was an act of domestic terrorism by right-wing, sycophantic, white supremacists,” said Rep. Yvette Clarke of New York.
“This heinous act of domestic terrorism demands that Congress act to remove this president,” said Rep. Barbara Lee of California.
Trump “summoned and incited a mob of domestic terrorists to fight like hell,” said Rep. Andy Levin of Michigan.
There was no modern precedent for what members of Congress had lived through — but plenty for a fight against “terrorism.” In the days since the attack on the Capitol, President-elect Joe Biden's support for a new anti-terror law has gotten a second look. Incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has called for “any of those who were inside the Capitol” to be added to the federal no-fly list, created after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Democrats, days away from controlling the White House and Congress, are talking about right-wing political violence the way Republicans once talked about “radical Islamic terrorism.”
“There has to be a laser focus on domestic terrorism and white nationalism from the Department of Homeland Security under the Biden administration, as well as within the GOP,” said Rep. Veronica Escobar of Texas, a former judge who sits on the Judiciary and Armed Services committees. “I think every police department around the country needs to look internally, because I have heard from just too many folks associated with law enforcement that this is an issue that has inspired some of their officers. And I really am very interested in knowing with which members aided and abetted these terrorists.”
Republicans have been reeling since Jan. 6, condemning the riots in the Capitol but bitterly divided on who to blame. Democrats are in a stronger position than they've been since the heyday of the tea party. Twelve years after conservatives condemned a Department of Homeland Security report on right-wing radicalization, its conclusion — that the Internet and economic angst were making it easier for extremists to recruit — looks prescient. It's not just panicky liberals talking about this anymore.
“Many of us are altering our routines, working to get body armor, which is a reimbursable purchase that we can make,” Rep. Peter Meijer of Michigan told MSNBC on Thursday, after becoming one of 10 Republicans to impeach Trump. “Our expectation is that someone may try to kill us.”
There is not, right now, the sort of rush to pull otherwise unpopular legislation off the shelf that there was after the 9/11 attacks. Biden's anti-domestic terrorism bill, which easily passed the Democratic House last year, would create a Domestic Terrorism Executive Committee; establish domestic terrorism offices in the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, and FBI; and direct the FBI to assign special agents to “investigate hate crimes incidents with a nexus to domestic terrorism.”
For many Democrats, passing Biden's bill would be enough. Many concerns, they said, could be dealt with when a Biden team replaced the Trump team and its law enforcement priorities. Many of the lawmakers I spoke to were reluctant to propose sweeping legislation that could run amok of civil liberties.
“My hope is we've learned our lesson from the overreach of the Patriot Act, and that we're going to be suspicious of mass surveillance and suspicious of getting rid of encryption,” said Rep. Ro Khanna (Calif.), who represents part of Silicon Valley. “There is so much out there, in terms of the following and tracking of social media, that law enforcement could do. It could invest resources there, to try to better anticipate attacks.”
James Bovard, a libertarian author who has written for years about law enforcement overreach, warned about the potential pitfalls of anti-terror legislation that empowers law enforcement. “I'm very concerned about the use of a broad brush, assuming that anyone who criticized or raised doubts about the 2020 election should be charged with sedition, if not treason,” he said. “Another problem here is that, since 2016 or so, many liberals have put a halo over the head of the FBI. They have lost the historical memory, and the common sense, that liberals often had in the past when asked if they wanted to give blank checks to federal agents.”
Democrats are also talking more openly about ways to punish individual actors after Jan. 6 — the power Congress has, and has used, to expel members who are found to have plotted against the government. Some of the chamber's most left-wing members have already signed onto legislation that would oust Republicans if they collaborated with the rioters. That was not an active topic after 9/11, but it's very active now, with Democrats who have not even co-sponsored that bill, such as Rep. Mikie Sherrill (N.J.), calling for investigations into her colleagues.
“We now know that the Trump administration received multiple warnings from the FBI and other security agencies,” said Rep. Marie Newman (Ill.), one of three Democratic freshman who won their seats by defeating more conservative Democratic incumbents. “They ignored it because they wanted this to happen. The Trump administration wanted this to happen. And those members of Congress who may have participated will be brought to justice as well.”
Expelling members of Congress, or investigating them for sedition, has a complicated history. Democrats who support it have invoked the ouster of pro-Confederacy congressmen during the Civil War; nobody has brought up the investigation of Wisconsin's Bob LaFollette over a speech he made opposing America's entry into World War II.
“Never create a government you wouldn't hand over to your worst enemy,” said Rep. Jake Auchincloss (Mass.), a freshman and a veteran of the war in Afghanistan. “That is just a cardinal rule. Don't create laws or enforcement mechanisms that you wouldn't give to someone with whom you strongly disagree, because you don't know if that person is going to be in charge of things.”
That idea came up repeatedly, when Democrats considered their options. Already, the security measures they expected to be enforced around the Capitol would probably stop the sort of mass direct action that they and liberal activists used during the Trump years.
“We should not lose sight of our disgust at the double standards employed against white protesters and Black ones, or against Muslims and non-Muslims,” Rep. Ilhan Omar (Minn.), who has faced calls for her expulsion from some Republicans, said in a statement. “But at the same time we must resist the very human desire for revenge — to simply see the tools that have oppressed Black and Brown people expanded.”
But even ideas that fall short of expulsion or new police carry the risk of backfire and backlash. Before Jan. 6, conservatives had pushed “cancel culture” and the threat of online censorship to the front of their agenda as threats to their way of life that Democrats would make good on.
“We have to recognize that the human brain is not evolved or adapted for a digital environment in which 7 billion people can talk to each other simultaneously,” Auchincloss said. “I mean, our brains are really at risk of being hijacked by this online environment that we've created.”
“House hands Trump a second impeachment, this time with GOP support,” by Mike DeBonis and Paul Kane
A historic rebuke with delayed effects.
“Inside Joe Biden’s plan to avoid a midterm ‘shellacking,’ ” by Natasha Korecki and Christopher Cadelago
Step one: Don't copy Obama.
“He buried his son a week ago. Now Jamie Raskin is helping lead the impeachment charge,” by Meagan Flynn and Erin Cox
The personal struggles of the Democrats' in-house constitutional lawyer.
“Can Andrew Yang make it in New York City politics?” by Katie Glueck
Celebrity versus an ambitious field of New Yorkers.
“U.S. attorney in Georgia: ‘There’s just nothing to’ claims of election fraud,” by Amy Gardner and Matt Zapotosky
Debunking more myths.
“An insurrection of upper-middle class white people,” by Will Bunch
Profiling the Capitol rioters.
“QAnon reshaped Trump’s party and radicalized believers. The Capitol siege may just be the start,” by Drew Harwell, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Razzan Nakhlawi and Craig Timberg
The flowering of a conspiracy theory that justifies an overthrow of the government.
Democratic Party of Wisconsin, “Ron Johnson Resign.” It's no longer unusual, or unheard of, for TV ads to start running 22 months ahead of an election. That happened in 2013, when the Club for Growth bought ad time to nudge then-Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) into a Senate race, and it's happening now in Wisconsin, where Democrats aren't even sure who will challenge Johnson in 2022. “An angry mob attacks the Capitol, incited by power-hungry politicians like Ron Johnson,” says a narrator, over footage from the Jan. 6 riots that includes a clip of an officer screaming in pain. The ad inverts the “jobs versus mobs” messaging that Republicans used against Democrats in 2018 and even more frequently (and successfully) in 2020.
Impeachment by the numbers
The second impeachment of President Trump made history; the first time a president had been impeached twice, the first time the opposition party got every single member in line to support it, and a record number of “yes” votes from a president's own party. Until Wednesday, that number sat at five — the number of Democrats who backed at least one article of impeachment against President Bill Clinton. After Wednesday, the record is now 10.
Hours of floor speeches put members of the House into five camps — two for Democrats and three for the GOP. Democrats either approached the task with relish or with some caveats about how they hated that the country had come to this. Although most Republicans backed the president, some did so without reservation, while others said they believed the president had acted dangerously. That camp easily outnumbered the group of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach.
In the end, a district-by-district impeachment map looks a lot like the map of districts carried by Joe Biden. Here are some notable obsessions.
“Yes” votes from Trump districts: 16. That includes every Democrat in a district won by Trump, a number that shrank in November, and most of the Republican “aye” votes. The list: Rep. Cindy Axne of Iowa, Reps. Cheri Bustos and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Rep. Jared Golden of Maine, Reps. Peter Meijer, Fred Upton and Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, Rep. Antonio Delgado of New York, Rep. Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, Rep. Tom Rice of South Carolina, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse of Washington, Rep. Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania, Rep. Ron Kind of Wisconsin and Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming.
“No” votes from Biden districts: seven. That covers just a handful of Republicans, most of whom unseated Democrats in 2020, all of whom were in expensive races. Reps. Young Kim, Mike Garcia and Michelle Steel of California, Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar of Florida, Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania and Rep. Beth Van Duyne of Texas. Most of them, except for Fitzpatrick and the Californians, represent districts that Republicans have total power to redraw in 2021.
“Yes” on challenging the 2020 election, “yes” on impeachment: one. Rep. Tom Rice of South Carolina is in his own class here, voting to reject Biden electors from Pennsylvania, then voting to impeach the president. “I have backed this President through thick and thin for four years,” he explained. “I campaigned for him and voted for him twice. But, this utter failure is inexcusable.”
Again, we really don't know what will happen to these districts in 2022. Texas, for example, is expected to gain at least three seats, and its 2011- 2020 map is an example of what can happen when you try to limit competition. Just one seat, the sprawling 23rd Congressional District, was contested by both parties in 2012. Today, seven Republicans represent seats that backed Mitt Romney by double digits but backed Trump by single digits; three Democrats, all in the Rio Grande Valley, represent seats drawn to be safe for their party, but where the margin shrunk to single digits this year.
In the states
Former Carlyle Group executive Glenn Youngkin and Trump administration veteran Sergio de la Peña jumped into Virginia's race for governor this week, seeking the nomination of a Republican Party that has gone winless statewide since 2009.
De La Peña, a former Army colonel who worked for Trump's Defense Department after backing his 2016 campaign, entered the race with a video touting his support for the president; Youngkin entered it with a short statement. As first reported by The Post's Laura Vozzella, Youngkin's net worth is estimated at around $254 million. That's more than enough to self-fund a campaign, or at least start it up, as Virginians know; Sen. Mark Warner (D) poured personal wealth into his first campaign 25 years ago, making him competitive in a race the party had nearly written off.
Two Republicans had already entered the gubernatorial contest, former House of Delegates speaker Kirk Cox and state Sen. Amanda Chase, with Cox lining up more endorsements from party leaders and Chase running as the more stalwart supporter of the president. De La Peña's Trump-centric launch was a bid for the same voters being courted by Chase, although the timing, hours before the president was impeached, wasn't optimal.
“I feel the president said to have peaceful protests,” De La Peña told The Post's Antonio Olivo. “I heard him say that repeatedly.”
Republicans will pick their nominee at a convention this year; Democrats will hold a June primary, in which former governor Terry McAuliffe is the early favorite. Before any of that, voters in southwest Virginia will elect a replacement for the late senator Ben Chafin. The Republican, who won a 2014 special election that put an end to Democratic power in that part of the state, died on New Year's Day; the race to replace him will unfold on March 23, 2021. Both parties will pick nominees by Jan. 22, though Republicans have already attacked the timing, urging the election to be held so a senator can be seated in the current legislative session.
That election will come three days after the first federal races of the cycle: March 20 primaries to fill the vacancies in Louisiana's 2nd and 5th Congressional Districts. Democratic Rep. Cedric Richmond, who is taking a role in the Biden administration, said yesterday that his remarks on impeachment would constitute his final speech in the House; he has not resigned yet, but three Democrats have already announced campaigns for his safe blue seat.
There is no congressman from the conservative 5th, following the death from covid-19 of Rep.-elect Luke Letlow. On Thursday Letlow's widow, Julia, announced that she would run for the seat. She's the first Republican to make her bid official; Lance Harris, a state legislator who lost the December runoff to Letlow, has not ruled out another run.
It's official: Jaime Harrison, widely tipped to lead the Democratic National Committee after his loss to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), will replace Tom Perez in the party's biggest political role.
Harrison, who turns 45 next month, was mentored by House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and promoted for a series of roles since then — including the Senate race, which broke fundraising records only to see them broken again by the Democratic candidates in Georgia's runoffs. Harrison ran unsuccessfully for DNC chair in 2017, eventually endorsing Perez; before that, he was the first Black chairman of South Carolina's Democratic Party, leading it through two difficult cycles.
Although an incoming or incumbent president gets to pick his party's chair, Harrison was already well-liked among DNC members, a collection of state party leaders, labor figures, and Washington operatives who believe in the party and don't want it turned upside down. In a November interview with the Atlantic's Edward-Isaac Dovere, who was first to report on Harrison's likely DNC role, he suggested that he'd channel the frustrations of a red state Democratic operative and invest in places the party didn't see as immediately winnable.
“If we are serious about being a majority party, if we are serious about being a party in all 50 states, that means you have to make investments in those areas,” Harrison said. “Because if we are not serious, the strategy to ever get the Senate control back won’t happen — because you can’t just cede a state to the other side and allow their foundation and their base to be higher each election cycle.”
Meanwhile, dusting themselves off after two debacles in Georgia, Republicans have picked their team to win back the Senate next year. Florida Sen. Rick Scott, elected to run the committee late last year, has added Michigan strategist Stu Sandler as chief strategist and fundraising consultant Jenny Drucker as finance director.
Scott, to the hair-pulling consternation of Democrats, has never lost an election. Drucker held a similar role in the House GOP's 2012 and 2014 campaigns, both of which ended with the party in firm control of the lower chamber. Sandler, with plenty of wins in his home state, is coming off a disappointment: John James, his client, narrowly lost his second run for Senate, conceding only after days of legal wrangling, and after Sandler tweeted that he'd won.
“To all the haters,” Sandler tweeted this week, “I appreciate how riled up you get for someone you don't know.”
Democrats have waited to name their next DSCC leadership, breaking with recent tradition, as their last chairs were elected no more than a month after the most recent election.
John C. Eastman, an attorney who represented the president in several of his election lawsuits, parted ways with Chapman University just days after lobbying Vice President Pence to subvert the election's results in Congress.
“Chapman and Dr. Eastman have agreed not to engage in legal actions of any kind, including any claim of defamation that may currently exist, as both parties move forward,” the university explained in a statement, adding that it would make no further comment.
Eastman, a former dean of Chapman's law school, first became a figure in the 2020 election when he published a column questioning whether Kamala Harris met the Constitution's requirements for holding executive office.
“Before we so cavalierly accept Senator Harris' eligibility for the office of vice president, we should ask her a few questions about the status of her parents at the time of her birth,” Eastman wrote, arguing that the immigration status of her parents needed further study.
The article and argument were widely dismissed, but Eastman found his way into Trump's orbit. Last month, he represented the president in his effort to a lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania's certified vote to the Supreme Court. Last week, he appeared onstage while presidential attorney Rudy Giuliani spoke to a rally before the Capitol riots; Eastman was there when Giuliani suggested it may be time for “trial by combat.” In between, the law professor had been the odd man out in a group of advisers consulted by Pence. Most argued that the vice president had no power to reject certified slates of electors, while Eastman argued that he did.
… six days until the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris
… 65 days until special House elections in Louisiana
… 145 days until primaries in New Jersey and Virginia
… 159 days until New York's primary