Tag Archives: Donald Trump

Questions Left on the Table in Jan. 6th Investigation


“I am still recovering from those hugs and kisses that day”
Capitol Police Sergeant Aquilino Gonell, July 27, 2021

It is one of the more memorable and widely-reported quotations to come out of the first and so far only scheduled hearing of the House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the United States Capitol.

It was in a response to Rep. Liz Cheney, who asked Sergeant Gonell about former President Donald Trump’s assessment that the crowd that marched on the US Capitol on Jan. 6 was, he said, “a loving crowd. There was a lot of love in the crowd.”

Gonell was one of an estimated 140 people injured that day, mostly police officers who will be recovering long after the public’s memory of that day fades.

The cops were badly outnumbered. They were beaten, gassed, stabbed, jabbed, and crushed against walls and doors in a vain attempt to hold back an angry mob whose aim was preventing the formal certification of Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. Some declared themselves intent upon killing or kidnapping the Vice President and elected Members of Congress, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

For many of us, the testimony of those four police officers was a stark and grueling recounting of the videos as those events unfolded on Jan. 6.

Sergeant Gonell’s response to Cheney summed it all up simply and succinctly, as did Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone who slammed his open palm on the table, angered at the members of Congress who have dismissed the insurrection as a peaceful patriotic protest. They remind me of those who claimed that Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon was staged in a Hollywood sound studio.

The American people and those police officers who defended the Capitol and everything it stands for deserve to know all there is to know about that day. It was an attack of historical consequence. That day, there was a “violent uprising against an authority of government,” which is how the dictionary describes insurrection. So we can call it what it was, a violent assault on the constitutional function of government. Try as one might, you just can’t escape that conclusion.

Closure is what the public deserves, but unfortunately, it is not what the public is going to get, the riveting testimony of those four officers notwithstanding.

Some progress has been made. There have been several reviews of the Capitol incursion and a number of recommendations have come out of them for better cooperation among federal and local enforcement agencies, greater intelligence gathering by the Capitol Police, review of the Capitol Police mission, and the deployment of officers and managers, including the creation of a quick-strike force, modern equipment, and more personnel.

But in the seven months since the attack, little progress has been made. The public has been treated to one partisan-charged cage match after another as Democrats drain their public trust trying to bury Trump, and Republicans drain theirs trying to resurrect him. So far, Congress has blown any chance for a comprehensive fact-finding investigation.

The opportunities to create an independent, bipartisan, national commission similar to the 9/11 commission with the stature and public trust needed have been squandered, mostly by the Republican leadership in both bodies.

There is no more effective way to get critical questions answered, such as:

  1. What led up to the invasion of the Capitol, over the course of the preceding months and years? How did we reach this point in our politics and social behavior? What are the root causes?
  2. What was the extent of the threat to the government and the peaceful transition of power? What was the degree of threat to the Vice President and Members of Congress? What caused the breakdown in security and the lapses in reinforcement? Why was law enforcement not more prepared?
  3. Who or what groups were responsible for instigating the assault on the Capitol. How many participated in the actual insurrection? What about those tens of thousands of people who came to Washington for a peaceful protest? Who were they and what separated them from the insurrectionists?
  4. Before, during, or after, was there complicity on the part of the President? Members of Congress? Did the President, by word and deed, put the Vice President, Members of Congress, or law enforcement officers in harm’s way?
  5. Was their complicity on the part of members of the Capitol Police or other local, state, or federal law enforcement agencies? Outside advocacy and protest groups?
  6. When we’ve answered question 1, where do we go from here as a nation?

The House Select Committee does not have the scope and freedom from partisan exploitation to find the answers. It has fatal flaws built into its design and its intent.

It concentrates too much power in the hands of the Speaker and her handpicked chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, MS, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. There is no co-chairman or vice-chairman or ranking Republican member, even though there are two Republicans serving on the Committee, Rep. Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, both chosen by the Speaker, not the Minority Leader as is the normal procedure, one Cheney and Kinzinger should have respected.

Subpoena power rests solely in the hands of the chairman. Normally that authority is divided and the full Committee given some veto power over its use. Speaker Pelosi also took the unusual step of vesting herself with the sole power to name members of the Committee and to organize it with more Democrats than Republicans. It is more traditional to divide power evenly. Provisions for interim and final reports and a deadline for them is vague or nonexistent. Key provisions were contrary to those that Chairman Thompson had agreed to with his ranking Republican member, John Katko of NY, when they wrote legislation creating a 9/11-type commission that the House passed, over the objections of McCarthy, and Senate Republicans shot down.

Little mattered in the end. Speaker Pelosi took the highly unusual step of refusing to seat two members recommended by McCarthy, Jim Jordan of Ohio and Jim Banks of Indiana, because they were aggressively strong Trump supporters, but not so much more aggressive than two anti-Trump Democrats on the Committee, Adam Schiff of CA and Jamie Raskin of MD.

The Select Committee fiasco was just the end of the beginning. A week after order was restored in the Capitol, Pelosi formed a task force on the attack headed by retired Army Lt. General Russel Honore, who had made his feelings well known. He accused Capitol Police and the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms of being complicit in the insurrection, declaring without evidence that 40 percent of the police were ‘Trumpsters.’ “They were either that stupid or ignorant, or they were complicit. I think they were complicit,” he told MSNBC.

The motivation of the Speaker and the Minority Leader seem clear and misdirected.

The Speaker has been the unmatched and unrelenting arch-enemy of Donald Trump. For the past two years, she has diverted much of the attention, resources, and energy of the US House of Representatives to getting rid of him, launching numerous investigations and two impeachments. She has called him, those who support him, and Republicans in general, every name in the book, sometimes slipping under the very low bar that Trump set with his constant stream of lies, insults, and brutal treatment of others.

It seems her only motivation in assembling the Select Committee is to convict Trump, not to seek broader truth about not only what happened but why. That would have to include McCarthy’s insistence on a serious review of what happened to this country as it erupted in violence last summer in cities all across the country from Seattle to Philadelphia. An estimated 48 people died, were buried, and were forgotten.

“The President bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on the Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding. These facts require immediate action by President Trump, accept his share of responsibility, quell the brewing unrest and ensure President-elect Biden is able to successfully begin his term. The President’s immediate action also deserves congressional action, which is why I think a fact-finding commission and a censure resolution would be prudent.”

Those were the words not of Speaker Pelosi but Leader McCarthy days after the insurrection. They tell us volumes about his motivation. In the intervening months, he has eaten those words, swallowed hard, and licked his fingers of any missed morsels. His actions since then, time after time going toe-to-toe with the Speaker have left little doubt about his motivation, either. I don’t know him and have had little contact with him, so I can’t speak to what is on his mind or in his heart. The same applies to the Speaker, But I see what I see and hear what I hear and have grown comfortable with a few conclusions.

McCarthy has gone completely overboard without a life vest to mollify his vocal right wing and more to the point, to mollify Donald Trump, who wields a Rasputin-like mesmerizing influence over a sufficient number of the Republican faithful to maintain a perceived stranglehold over the 2022 midterm election. Republican leaders have been cowed into submission by Trump, chasing an elusive short-term political gain at the expense of the long-term interests of Republican principles and the country’s values, future unity, and strength.

This moment in history demands more from so many of us. It demands strong leaders willing to distinguish between their partisan instincts and their patriotic obligations, embodied in those oaths of office they are always talking about.

The events of January 6th and many that led up to it, have slapped the nation with the realities of serious political, social, and even spiritual dilapidation. If we don’t face those realities and restore basic civic responsibilities, question 6 will remain blank and so will the future.

Editor’s Note: Mike Johnson is a former journalist, who worked on the Ford White House staff and served as press secretary and chief of staff to House Republican Leader Bob Michel, prior to entering the private sector. He is co-author of a book, Surviving Congress, a guide for congressional staff, co-founder and member of the Board of the Congressional Institute, and a participant in the Congress of Tomorrow congressional reform project. Johnson is retired. He is married to Thalia Assuras and has five children and four grandchildren.


Coronavirus Crisis Will Pass; Then What?


When you have friends and family exposed to the risk of the “novel” coronavirus, which most of us do, it is difficult to think about much else.

New data based on revised models hold out hope for a quicker- than- predicted earlier cessation of the anguish. But just as hope gets brighter the light at the end of the tunnel dims. One scientist warns of a resurgence in the fall worse than this one and other scientists warn of a resurgence now if we don’t keep our distance from one another.

Still, it is time to think and plan ahead. The COVID-19 virus experience has left us with a mountain of problems and challenges, some caused by the virus, some older simply given new urgency by the pandemic. Continue reading

Institutions and Values Part II: The Pyrite Rule


“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”
Bible, (Matt. 7:12)

It was taught to my siblings and me by my mother back in the 1950s, but the Golden Rule or versions of it have been a lantern for life’s journey for 2000 years or more, a version of which was propounded by the Greek philosopher Aristotle, according to an Internet search. I am not sure if my mother read Aristotle. She was probably introduced to the Rule by Catholic nuns who schooled generations of us back in South Dakota, but who often let it lapse in their own behavior in the classroom where weapons-grade yardsticks were always close at hand. Continue reading

Trump Hysteria and A Little History


“The election of this man as President filled him with ‘smoldering dread.’ He believed that the worst said about this man was all too true. He had not only lied but had been caught in that lie, and the great majority of voters didn’t care.”

President Donald Trump? No. It is an excerpt from a new book describing how Henry Clay felt about the election of President Andrew Jackson, 190 years ago. The book by David and Jeanne Heidler is a vivid look back at the life of one of America’s greatest political figures.

Continue reading

Media Mayhem Part I: Down on, Done with Donald


“I like what he’s saying. He’s bringing things out.“ No I don’t think (he would be a good President). “He doesn’t have some of the qualities needed…”
Nancy Zeller, retired nurse on CBS Evening News July 20, 2015

“Some days I’m hot and some days I’m cold. There’s things he’s saying that other politicians don’t have the guts to say…But he tends to be a little thin-skinned and retaliates too easily. When I see that out of Obama and his people, I detest it.”
George Smith, retired consultant in the Washington Post July 21, 2015

It is so over for Donald Trump.  Continue reading

Moments in Time

Reprinted from Loose Change (TCBMag.com)

1. Was fortunate to be at Neil Young’s Bridge Concert last Sunday. An amazing event, in an outdoor amphitheater in Mountain View. Jack White; K.D. Lang (forgot how incredible she was); Ray LaMontagne (“Trouble!”); Lucinda Williams; Steve Martin; Flaming Lips (a fav of mine—disappointed); Gary Jones, Jr.; Guns N’ Roses (Axl lives!); and legend Neil with Crazy Horse. Peak experience: being “there.” Jack White did some Stripes and Blunderbuss stuff, but his band was all New Orleans honky tonk. Absolutely Killer.

2. Spotted the guy who does the Men’s Wearhouse commercials (“I guarantee it”). Huge head, huger nose, all stuck on a tiny body. He was sucking on a reefer like there was no tomorrow. No doubt medicinal. Continue reading

Trumped Up Trump

Reprinted from TheFeeheryTheory.com

A made-up controversy over where the President was born trumped a real tragedy that unfolded in the President’s adopted hometown, which tells you a lot about the nature of this campaign.

Donald Trump somehow wormed his way into the campaign coverage by continuing to question where the President was born. Trump is a private citizen and he can have all of the doubts he wants about Mr. Obama. It’s not really relevant to a bigger national discussion about where we are going as a nation.

The Obama campaign is more than happy to keep the focus on the Donald and off what is actually happening in America, more specifically what is happening in the City of Big Shoulders. Continue reading

Trumped in Vegas

Reprinted from Mullings.com

Once again, Donald Trump trumped the rest of the world and made a grand opera out of an otherwise modestly interesting situation.

You may be aware that the Republican party of Nevada is holding its precinct caucuses tomorrow to choose delegates to the GOP national convention in Tampa in August.

There is not the frenzy that attended the Iowa caucuses because there have already been four election events in this GOP primary cycle even though Iowans not only got it wrong on election night, but lost the results of eight precincts and so when they got around to declaring the actual winner to be Rick Santorum (17 years after the event) the Iowa caucuses had no meaning. Continue reading

Newt, News, & Palestine


Newt Gingrich apparently let loose with some puzzling pronouncements  about Palestine and Israel in a cable television interview recently and again in the Iowa debate. Before the debate, the Washington Post quoted him saying, “Remember, there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire…We have invented the Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs and are historically part of the Arab people…”

The Post reporters went to Ghaith al-Omari, executive director of the American Task Force on Palestine, for this response:  “Besides being factually and historically wrong, this statement is unwise,” and from former national security adviser Elliott Abrams: “There was no Jordan or Syria or Iraq, either, so perhaps he would say they are all invented people as well and also have no right to statehood.”

Gingrich’s remark threw the spotlight on one of the most profound, turbulent and impactful political, religious and human conditions of the 19th,  20th and 21st centuries. The hot and cold wars of the Arab-Israeli conflict have affected the lives of millions of people throughout the world, as dramatically and injuriously as some of the greatest events of our time.

The Gingrich story, then, served as a wonderful opportunity for the Post to both inform and educate its readers on the history and the complexities of the conflict. Continue reading

“Send In the Clowns…They’re Here”


Reprinted from mullings.com

 To succeed in America – to truly succeed in America – you have to be more than excellent at what you do; you have to be a carnival barker making certain that every single person in each of the 50 states knows that you are excellent at what you do.

Continue reading