House speaker Nancy Pelosi has said it is possible that members of Congress could face prosecution if found to have “aided and abetted” the violent attack on the Capitol earlier this month that left five people dead.“Justice is called for as we address insurrection perpetrated against the Capitol last week,” the Democratic speaker told reporters on Friday.“If, in fact, it is found that members of Congress were accomplices to this insurrection,” the Democratic speaker said on Friday. “If they aided and abetted the crime, there may have to be actions taken beyond the Congress in terms of prosecution for that.”Pelosi’s comments came after Mikie Sherrill, a Democratic congresswoman of New Jersey, said she saw colleagues leading groups on “reconnaissance” tours of the Capitol a day before the riot.More than 30 Democrats have signed on to a letter, spearheaded by Sherrill, seeking more information about the tours that took place at the Capitol on 5 January.At the press conference – her first since the House impeached Donald Trump for a second time over his role in encouraging the pro-Trump mob – Pelosi announced there would be a review of Capitol security.She said retired Lt Gen Russel Honoré was being tapped to lead a security review of the US Capitol in the wake of last week’s deadly insurrection.Honoré is perhaps best known for overseeing humanitarian aid efforts in Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina. Pelosi says Honoré will conduct an immediate review of security and inter-agency interaction and Capitol “command and control”.Pelosi would not provide specific details on when she would transmit the article of impeachment to the Senate.“They’re now working on taking this to trial,” the speaker said of the impeachment managers. “You’ll be the first to know when we announce that we’re going over there.”Once the Senate receives the article, the chamber must begin a trial to determine whether the president should be convicted and removed from office.Though the trial will probably conclude after president-elect Joe Biden has taken the oath of office on 20 January, a conviction would prevent Trump from running for president again. A handful of Republican senators have already criticized Trump and signaled that they have not decided whether to support conviction, but at least 17 would need to break ranks to convict.Meanwhile, the justice department inspector general announced on Friday that it was launching a review of the department’s role in the riot. The inspector general, Michael Horowitz, said his office would “assess whether there are any weaknesses in DoJ protocols, policies, or procedures that adversely affected the ability of DoJ or its components to prepare effectively for and respond to the events at the US Capitol on January 6”.The justice department has already opened 175 criminal investigations in connection to the Capitol riot, and that number is expected to surpass 300 by the end of Friday, a federal prosecutor said.Speaking at a press conference, Michael Sherwin, the acting US attorney for the District of Columbia, said his office is exploring “more significant felony charges” against those involved in the riot.Sherwin said there are also growing indications that law enforcement officers, both current and former, participated in the riot.“We don’t care what your profession is,” Sherwin said. “We will charge you, and you will be arrested.”Steven D’Antuono, the FBI assistant director who leads the Washington field office, said even friends and family of the rioters are providing tips to the bureau.D’Antuono said, “You might want to turn yourselves in instead of wondering when we’re going to knock on your door – because we will.” More
Sign up for the Guardian Today US newsletterA far-right website that was among the platforms used to organize the deadly violence at the US Capitol has again been forced to find new internet service protection after a shell company owned by two Russians and registered in Scotland cut ties with the platform’s internet host.The website 8kun, which was previously known as 8chan, has long been one of the preferred platforms of the far right and followers of the baseless conspiracy theory QAnon. It was used by rioters ahead of the 6 January attack to mobilize other “patriots” to “help storm the Capitol”, with some on the message board debating which politicians to kill once they got inside.In the aftermath of the riot, users continued to post content fomenting violence, including maps of government buildings to target and combat techniques for a proposed civil war.It wasn’t the first time the platform was linked to acts of violence. Its predecessor site 8chan was linked to a series of white nationalist terrorist attacks, including the massacres in Christchurch, New Zealand and El Paso, Texas.8kun has faced significant hurdles to remain online since at least 2019, when the El Paso attack occurred. All websites on the internet are kept online by a network of services including web hosts and domain name registrars. 8kun has had a loyal internet provider in Washington state-based VanwaTech, whose CEO has repeatedly defended its connections to the hate site in the name of freedom of speech.But the site also cannot function without platform protection services that prevent DDoS attacks, or distributed denial of service attacks, and few providers have been willing to work with it.Following its removal from Cloudflare, 8kun, throughVanwaTech, worked with Oregon-based CNServers LLC for DDoS protection. That company, too, cut ties with 8kun when it was alerted to the site’s violent history.Since October 2020, 8kun received DDoS protection from DDoS-Guard, a company that provides protection to a number of controversial websites, including neo-Nazi site the Daily Stormer. 8kun’s ties to DDoS-Guard were first reported by the security researcher and journalist Brian Krebs.This week, DDoS became the latest company to cut ties with 8kun’s hosting company VanwaTech, following inquiries from the Guardian.8kun is now being hosted by the US-based firm FiberHub, which is based in Las Vegas, Nevada, according to analysis from independent web researcher Ron Guilmette viewed by the Guardian.FiberHub does not provide infrastructure directly to 8chan but does support VanwaTech as a client, the co-founder and chief technology officer Rob Tyree confirmed to the Guardian by email.“We have received no reports that content hosted by VanwaTech supported by our infrastructure is in violation of our terms of service or acceptable use policy, which includes a requirement to abide by all US federal and state laws and regulations,” Tyree said. “Should we receive any such reports, we would follow our internal policies and observe any legal requirements to resolve those matters as swiftly as possible.”DDoS-Guard, the company that provided services to VanwaTech until earlier this week, was registered under a limited partnership, a financial structure in Scotland that allows non-residents to create companies with little scrutiny, on 24 November 2017 by Aleksei Likhachev and Evgeniy Marchenko – two Russian businessmen who remain owners of the company today. The partnership under which DDoS-Guard is registered is called Cognitive Cloud, and is listed at an address in Edinburgh’s Forth Street.Speaking from the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don earlier this week, Marchenko told the Guardian that 8kun was not a direct client of DDoS-Guard, but that his company provided services to VanwaTech. He described DDoS-Guard as a global information security service. It hosted “thousands of websites”, he said, adding that it merely provided VanwaTech with “transit protection services” to stop it from falling victim to DDoS or other “brute force” attacks.“It looks like they host some dubious sites like Qanon/8chan/8kun. I still don’t understand what are they about and have no information about their content or activity,” he added.“We are not related to any politic issues and don’t want to be associated inany sense with customer hosting such toxic sites like QAnon/8chan,” Machenko said after the company severed ties with VanwaTech.Asked why he used a company based in Scotland, Marchenko said: “Why not? The UK is very comfortable for business. I visited London one time, 14 years ago.” He said: “We don’t support any illegal activity. We know nothing about what happened in Washington or support one side or another. This company [VanwaTech] is just one of our many customers.”DDoS-Guard’s other clients include the Russian ministry of defence, as well as media organisations in Moscow. The firm’s webpage links to an official ministry history, which sets out recent steps the Kremlin has taken to ban the use of smartphones by Russian soldiers, after a series of leaks.“It’s OK to earn money from the Russian government or from any other government. It’s just business,” Marchenko said.DDoS-Guard’s Edinburgh office is at 18 Forth Street, a terrace of small Georgian townhouses in the eastern part of Edinburgh’s new town, There was no evidence of any office belonging to Cognitive Cloud at that address or any of the five other neighbouring townhouses. An employee at a neighbouring business said in his 7 years working there he had never met anyone from Cognitive Cloud but had frequently fielded requests to take mail and parcels for the firm. A manager at Edinburgh Office said Cognitive Cloud was not a tenant at the address but referred the Guardian to another company of a different name based in London, to which she said mail addressed to Cognitive Cloud is meant to be forwarded.The Scottish number listed on the site for DDoS-guard is disconnected. A tech support representative contacted through the Russian phone number on the site said the majority of its clients are based in Russia and declined to answer any other questions.Marchenko said its Edinburgh office was an “EU subdivision” staffed by a “representative”.VanwaTech did not respond to request for comment. More
Washington DC and capitols across the US are bracing for violence this weekend after law enforcement officials warned that armed pro-Trump insurrectionists are planning to swarm the cities in the days before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration
Security measures have been dramatically strengthened following the 6 January attack on the Capitol by supporters of Donald Trump and members of far-right groups that left five people dead, including a police officer.
The planned demonstrations and threat of violence, which come as the country still battles the coronavirus pandemic, have had a chilling effect on plans for Biden and Kamala Harris’s inauguration on 20 January. Trump is expected to leave the White House for the final time that morning.
An inauguration rehearsal ceremony that was set for Sunday was postponed until Monday over security concerns, Politico reported. The National Mall is expected to be closed to the public on inauguration day.
Following a briefing from Secret Service and FBI authorities, Biden also canceled his plans to ride the Amtrak train from his home town of Wilmington, Delaware, to Washington for the inauguration.
The House oversight committee sent letters to 27 prominent travel companies on Friday, urging them to use “screening measures” to prevent their services from being used to facilitate plots ahead of Biden’s inauguration. The companies included car rental giants Avis and Hertz and hotel chains Marriott and Hyatt.
In an internal FBI memo first reported by ABC earlier this week, officials warned: “Armed protests are being planned at all 50 state capitols.”
“The FBI received information about an identified armed group intending to travel to Washington, DC on [Saturday] 16 January … They have warned that if Congress attempts to remove Potus via the 25th amendment, a huge uprising will occur,” the document noted.
The memo also said the group planned “to ‘storm’ government offices including in the District of Columbia and in every state” on 20 January.
Efforts to remove the president from office faltered, but on Wednesday, Trump became the first US president to be impeached twice, after the House of Representatives condemned him for inciting a violent insurrection and encouraging a mob of his supporters to storm the US Capitol.
Organizers of the planned unrest are believe to have moved their activities from mainstream social media websites to more secretive online forums to avoid detection, but some details about plans have emerged. In an online advert for a “Million Militia March” scheduled for inauguration day in Washington, a caption read: “The Trumpists will be keeping DC and the military busy on the 20th as you can see.”
The FBI is also reported to be monitoring “various threats to harm President-Elect Biden ahead of the presidential inauguration” and “additional reports indicate threats against VP-Elect Harris and Speaker Pelosi”.
Security measures to stave off violence in Washington and across the country have been extensive. Federal and local authorities have already set up a security zone downtown and 20,000 national guard members will deploy to Washington. Federal security authorities have also asked officials in Virginia to close all crossings into downtown Washington between 6am Saturday and 6am on 21 January, the Washington Post reported.
State capitols, some of which have already seen the resumption of legislative sessions, started ramping up security this week. The New York police department is sending 200 officers to the state Capitol to assist with security, a top NYPD official said on Thursday. And national guard members were sent to Olympia, Washington, to support security efforts this week — arresting two protesters who tried to enter the capitol building without authorization, NPR reported.
Safety concerns have spurred Michigan officials to erect a 6ft fence around the state’s capitol building. The last time authorities used fencing at the capital was in 1994 – when the Klu Klux Klan held a demonstration there, Mlive.com reported.
Michigan capitol authorities have also banned the open carry of guns inside the building following an armed anti-lockdown protest this spring. Several participants in that demonstration were later accused of plotting to kidnap Michigan’s Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer.
In Austin, Texas, national guard members and state troopers secured the capitol building when the legislature met on Tuesday. One man, a member of a group named Patriots for America, was removed from Capitol grounds for toting an AR-15 rifle.
New details about the Capitol riot emerged on Friday, demonstrating just how close the violent mob got to the vice-president, who was overseeing the electoral vote certification of Biden’s victory when the building was breached.
Pence was not evacuated from the Senate chamber for about 14 minutes after rioters entered the Capitol. Many shouted that Pence was a “traitor” as they made their way towards his location, according to the Washington Post. Pence was moved to a room off the chamber just moments before rioters entered the chamber.
Federal prosecutors in Arizona this week described how the rioters involved in the 6 January attack on the Capitol had intended “to capture and assassinate elected officials”.
The disclosure in a court filing came as prosecutors pushed for the detention of Jacob Chansley, the QAnon conspiracy theorist who was photographed wearing horns in the US Senate chamber and standing at Pence’s desk.
“Strong evidence, including Chansley’s own words and actions at the Capitol, supports that the intent of the Capitol rioters was to capture and assassinate elected officials in the United States government,” prosecutors alleged.
The charges against Chansley “involve active participation in an insurrection attempting to violently overthrow the United States government”; prosecutors also warned in their detention memo that “the insurrection is still in progress”. More
Donald Trump’s incitement of a mob attack on the US Capitol was a watershed moment for free speech and the internet. Bans against both the US president and his prominent supporters have spread across social media as well as email and e-commerce services. Parler, a social network popular with neo-Nazis, was ditched from mobile phone app stores and then forced offline entirely. These events suggest that the most momentous year of modern democracy was not 1989 – when the Berlin wall fell – but 1991, when web servers first became publicly available.There are two related issues at stake here: the chilling power afforded to huge US corporations to limit free speech; and the vast sums they make from algorithmically privileging and amplifying deliberate disinformation. The doctrines, regulations and laws that govern the web were constructed to foster growth in an immature sector. But the industry has grown into a monster – one which threatens democracy by commercialising the swift spread of controversy and lies for political advantage.What is required is a complete rethink of the ideological biases that have created conditions for tech giants to have such authority – and which has laid their users open to manipulation for profit. Social media companies currently do not have legal liability for the consequences of the activities that their platforms enable. Big tech can no longer go unpunished. Companies have had to make judgments about what their customers can expect to see when they visit their sites. It is only right that they are held accountable for the “terms and conditions” that embed consumer safeguards. It would be a good start if measures within the UK online harms bill, that go some way to protecting users from being exposed to violent extremism and hate, were to be enacted.In a society people also desire, and need, the ability to express themselves to become fully functioning individuals. Freedom of expression is important in a democracy, where voters need to weigh up competing arguments and appreciate for themselves different ideas. John Milton optimistically wrote in Areopagitica: “Let Truth and Falsehood grapple; whoever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?” But 17th-century England did not know 21st-century Silicon Valley. Today, speech takes place online much more so than in public streets. Politics is so polarised that Mr Trump and his Republican allies claimed without any factual basis that electoral fraud was rampant.Facebook and Twitter can limit, control and censor speech as much as or more than the government. Until now, such firms exempted politicians from their own hate speech policies, arguing that what they said was worthy of public debate. This rests in part on the US supreme court. Legal academic Miguel Schor argued that the bench stood Orwell on his head in 2012 by concluding “false statements of fact enjoyed the same protection as core political speech”. He said judges feared creating an Orwellian ministry of truth, but said they miscalculated because the US “does have an official ministry of truth in the form of the president’s bully pulpit which Trump used to normalise lying”.Silicon Valley bosses did not silence Mr Trump in a fit of conscience, but because they think they can stave off anti-trust actions by a Democrat-controlled Congress. Elizabeth Warren threatened to break up big tech and blasted Facebook for “spreading Trump’s lies and disinformation.” Her plan to turn social media into “platform utilities” offers a way to advantage social values such as truth telling over the bottom line.Impunity for corporations, technology and politicians has grown so much that it is incompatible with a functioning democracy. Populists the world over have distorted speech to maintain power by dividing the electorate into separate camps, each convinced that the other is the victim of their opponent’s ideology. To achieve this, demagogues did not need an authoritarian state. As Mr Trump has demonstrated, an unregulated marketplace of ideas, where companies thrive by debasing politics, was enough. More
Donald Trump is expected to leave the White House as president on Wednesday morning, just hours before Joe Biden’s inauguration, flying off on Air Force One to his beachside home in Florida.Trump’s post-presidential plans have been clouded in uncertainty. But several US news organisations reported on Friday that Trump intends to live at Mar-a-Lago, his Palm Beach resort. His daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner are expected to join him there, at least for some of the time.Trump has said he will not attend Biden’s inauguration, following last week’s deadly invasion of the US Capitol and Trump’s second impeachment on Wednesday. He is expected to leave Washington on the morning of 20 January, Bloomberg reported, citing two people familiar with the matter.The Associated Press, citing a person familiar with the planning, said there would be a departure ceremony at Andrews air force base, with a military band, red carpet and 21-gun salute under discussion.Several White House staff are likely to work for Trump and his family from their new Florida base. According to the Palm Beach Post, Melania Trump recently visited a private school in Boca Raton that the couple’s teenage son Barron is due to attend.Adjusting to life outside the White House may be tough. When the president arrives at Palm Beach on Wednesday roads will be shut as his motorcade threads its way to Mar-a-Lago. Once Biden is sworn in, however, they will reopen. Commercial flights from the nearby international airport that pass directly over his estate will resume.It is unclear what exactly Trump intends to do next. It seems inevitable he will spend some of the weeks and months ahead closeted with his lawyers – and, as per his presidency, on the golf course. He faces a second impeachment trial in the Senate and a slew of other legal cases, federal and civil. As an ex-president he loses his immunity from prosecution.In Washington Trump’s staff are busy packing up. On Wednesday, a photographer for Reuters snapped the president’s trade adviser, Peter Navarro, carrying a large, framed photograph of one of Trump’s meetings with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping. Other items on their way out of the building included a stuffed pheasant and an Abraham Lincoln bust.The removals and piles of boxes have prompted a rash of puns on Twitter, with several calling on the president to “stop the steal”.In September 2019 the Trumps filed court papers declaring Mar-a-Lago their permanent residence. Renovations are reportedly going on inside the family’s private quarters. Melania Trump has been shipping items for almost two months, ahead of her return next week, with one source telling CNN: “She just wants to go home.”Not everyone is thrilled by the prospect of having the former first family move in. Late last year neighbours sent a letter to the town of Palm Beach saying Trump would violate an agreement made in 1993 that allowed him to convert Mar-a-Lago into a private club. It stipulated that no one could reside at the property, the DeMoss family who live next door complained. More
The truth hurts, but lies kill. The past 12 months have demonstrated that with a terrifying clarity. Lies about Covid, insisting that it was a hoax cooked up by the deep state, led millions of people to drop their guard and get infected. And one big lie about the US election – claiming that Donald Trump had won, when he’d lost – led to the storming of the US Capitol and an eruption of violence that left five dead.The impact has been so swift, events rushing by in a blur, that it’s easy to miss the significance. On Wednesday, Donald Trump – already only the third US president in history to be impeached – was impeached again. In the first 222 years of the country’s existence, impeachment happened only once. Now that most severe, vanishingly rare of sanctions has struck twice in a single year.In the past, the impeachment process unfolded at a slow crawl: 11 months separated the day Bill Clinton vowed he’d never had “sexual relations” with Monica Lewinsky and the vote in the House of Representatives to try him for high crimes and misdemeanours. This time it happened in a week, the speed a function of two unusual circumstances: first, the accused has only days left in office; second, those House members were witnesses, Congress the scene of the crime.Unusual too is that this decision was not taken on wholly partisan lines. Ten Republicans broke ranks to put Trump in the dock. Though that only emphasises that 197 Republicans did not: they apparently find it acceptable for a president to incite a violent insurrection against the nation’s democratically elected assembly. Next comes a trial in the Senate. The conventional wisdom says that it will fail – that most Republican senators, terrified of their party’s Trump-worshipping base, will follow the lead of the 197 rather than the 10 – especially once Joe Biden is sworn in at noon on Wednesday and the urgent need to remove Trump from power has faded.Still, it’s possible that the cannier Senate Republicans will adopt the icy cynicism of Mitch McConnell – who briefed that he is open to convicting the president – and seize the chance to be rid of the Trump incubus once and for all. If enough of them vote guilty, then in a second vote the Senate can bar him from holding public office ever again. Ambitious Republicans, eyeing the 2024 contest, are already gaming out that scenario – some of them perhaps within Trump’s own family. Has Ivanka pulled out of attending Biden’s inauguration because she wants to remain viable with the base? If so, she’ll first have to contend with her brother, Donald Jr.And yet, even if Republican leaders manage both to banish Trump and prevent a dynastic succession, they will not be rid of him. It’s become a truism to say that Trumpism will linger, but there is an even more direct legacy that will hang around like a foul stench. That is the fiction that propelled those crowds to break into the halls of Congress: the big lie of the stolen election.“The lie outlasts the liar,” wrote the eminent historian of Nazism Timothy Snyder. If Trump’s supporters continue to believe that their man won big last November – and even now only 22% of Republicans consider the election free and fair – there is no reason why their anger at that theft should abate over the next four years. On the contrary, it will grow and fester, demanding payback in 2024, by force if necessary. Snyder notes darkly that 15 years separated the invention of the big lie that Germany lost the first world war thanks to a Jewish “stab in the back” and Adolf Hitler’s ascendancy to power. Myths endure.All of which raises a much bigger question than what to do with Donald Trump: what to do about the big lie and, more deeply, about the climate in which millions have come to believe it’s true. There has been much diagnosis of the post-truth phenomenon that Trump came to embody, but what about a remedy?A first requirement is to tailor the treatment. The philosopher Prof Quassim Cassam, author of a study of conspiracy theories and their appeal, distinguishes between the producers and consumers of such fictions. The pedlars of lies may have a casual, smirking insouciance towards the truth, but that’s not true of their audience. Those who stormed Congress were not dismissive of truth’s importance; on the contrary, they were prompted to act because of what they believed to have been a vital, hidden truth.The task, then, is not to restore public regard for veracity so much as to equip citizens to distinguish between what’s factually true and what is false. To that end, the philosopher has an unexpected suggestion. Get those who swallow conspiracy theories to ask of those supplying them the very questions they usually direct at the supposedly lying establishment: cui bono? Who benefits from this version of events? What’s their agenda? Except now they won’t be interrogating the BBC or the New York Times but the likes of Alex Jones and the disseminators of the QAnon fantasy. What exactly are they getting out of spinning these tales? A tidy profit, for one thing.Similarly, one might also ask the believers, what’s in it for you? How does believing the QAnon story that a Satan-worshipping ring of paedophiles controls the US government help you? How does it address any of the underlying problems in your life? If you feel life and opportunity have passed you by, how does subscribing to QAnon help? Perhaps it provides a spurious kind of explanation, but it doesn’t make your lot any better. Admittedly, a university professor is not perhaps the ideal carrier of that message. Better, says Cassam, might be a former conspiracy theorist, someone who has broken free.The most obvious corrective to lies are the facts that people can see with their own eyes. Few people still insist Covid is a hoax when they or a loved one are in intensive care. But the next best thing is verifiable information about your immediate community. It’s no accident that the rise of conspiracy thinking and post-truth has coincided with the decline of local news: 265 local titles have closed in the UK since 2005. Into that vacuum have rushed unverifiable, often abstract assertions about the state of the country or the world, spread by social media. With no full account of the reality around you to check against, those assertions can take root.The media is clearly central in all this. In the US, two separate epistemic universes now exist side by side – an MSNBC realm, in which Biden won fair and square; and a Fox News (and now Newsmax and One America News Network) one, in which Trump was robbed. In the US, it’s easy to succumb to nostalgia for the old “fairness doctrine” that demanded balance from the broadcast networks until it was scrapped under Ronald Reagan in 1987. If that were revived, and extended to cable, it might break down the divide, restoring at least a shared basis of agreed facts. Dream on, say the experts: that genie will not return to its bottle. Others suggest a more immediate fix: lobby advertisers to boycott fact-deniers such as Fox, starving them of funds.Still, cable news is only part of the story. Separate silos of knowledge exist and are entrenched just as much on Facebook and Twitter. A more realistic demand might be for external audits of those platforms, opening their algorithms in particular to public view, says the specialist in digital journalism Prof Emily Bell. Why not make transparent the process that ensures falsehoods spread six times faster than the truth on Twitter? While we’re at it, Bell suggests serious investment in the “civic infrastructure of knowledge”, from libraries to new forms of local reporting that might hold power to account.None of these ideas represents a perfect answer. The point is, the twin crises of Covid and Trump have exposed the mortal threat posed by lies and the long war on truth. Now the truth must defend itself – and fight back. More
Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez are among a host of celebrities set to perform at Joe Biden’s inauguration next week.Lady Gaga will sing the national anthem as the president-elect and vice-president-elect, Kamala Harris, are sworn in on the West Front of the US Capitol on 20 January, and Lopez is also expected to give a musical performance.Foo Fighters, John Legend and Bruce Springsteen will offer remote performances, and Eva Longoria and and Kerry Washington will introduce segments of the event.Later that day, Tom Hanks will host a 90-minute primetime TV special celebrating Biden’s inauguration. Other performers include Justin Timberlake, Jon Bon Jovi, Demi Lovato and Ant Clemons.Despite a raging pandemic that is forcing most inaugural events online, it was a sign that Hollywood was eager to embrace the new president-elect four years after many big names stayed away from the inauguration of Donald Trump, who is hugely unpopular in Hollywood.But how would the star wattage play across the country as Biden seeks to unite a bruised nation? Eric Dezenhall, a Washington crisis management consultant and former Reagan administration official, predicted reaction would fall “along tribal lines”.“I think it all comes down to the reinforcement of pre-existing beliefs,” Dezenhall said. “If you’re a Biden supporter, it’s nice to see Lady Gaga perform.” But, he added, “what rallied Trump supporters was the notion of an uber-elite that had nothing to do at all with them and that they couldn’t relate to”.Presidential historian Tevi Troy quipped that the starry lineup was not A-list, but D-list – “for Democratic”.“When Democrats win you get the more standard celebrities,” said Troy, author of “What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched and Obama Tweeted: 200 Years of Popular Culture in the White House.“With Republicans you tend to get country music stars and race-car drivers.” Referring to Lady Gaga’s outspoken support for the Biden-Harris ticket, he said he was nostalgic for the days when celebrities were not so political.“In the end, I don’t think having Lady Gaga or J-Lo is all that divisive,” he said.Attendance at the inauguration will be severely limited, due to both the pandemic and fears of continued violence, following last week’s storming of the Capitol.Outside the official events, one of the more prominent galas each inauguration is the Creative Coalition’s quadrennial ball, a benefit for arts education. This year, the ball is entirely virtual.But it is star-studded nonetheless: the event, which will involve food being delivered simultaneously to attendees in multiple cities, will boast celebrity hosts including Jason Alexander, David Arquette, Matt Bomer, Christopher Jackson, Ted Danson, Lea DeLaria, Keegan Michael-Key, Chrissy Metz, Mandy Patinkin and many others.Robin Bronk, CEO of the non-partisan arts advocacy group, said she’s been deluged with celebrities eager to participate in some way. The event typically brings in anywhere from $500,000 to $2.5m, and this year the arts community is struggling like never before.She said it’s crucial to shine a spotlight and recognize that “the right to bear arts is not a red or blue issue. One of the reasons we have this ball is that we have to ensure the arts are not forgotten.”The Presidential Inaugural Committee also announced Thursday that the invocation will be given by the Rev Leo O’Donovan, a former Georgetown University president, and the pledge of allegiance will be led by Andrea Hall, a firefighter from Georgia. There will be a poetry reading from Amanda Gorman, the first national youth poet laureate, and the benediction will be given by the Rev Silvester Beaman of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal church in Wilmington, Delaware.On the same platform, Biden sat in 2013 behind pop star Beyoncé as she sang The Star-Spangled Banner at Barack Obama’s second inauguration. James Taylor sang America the Beautiful, and Kelly Clarkson sang My Country, ’Tis of Thee.At Trump’s inauguration in 2017, the anthem was performed by 16-year-old singer Jackie Evancho. A number of top artists declined the opportunity to perform at the festivities, and one Broadway star, Jennifer Holliday, said she’d received death threats before she pulled out of her planned appearance.Most of the star power was centered at the Women’s March on Washington in 2017, where attendees included Madonna, Julia Roberts, Scarlett Johansson, Cher, Alicia Keys, Katy Perry, Emma Watson and many others. More
A little more than a week ago, most Americans – perhaps even many of Donald Trump’s supporters – were ready for the 45th president and his administration to pass into the history books. Now Trump is making us all live through history.On 6 January, the US Capitol was sacked by a pro-Trump mob, the first large-scale occupation of the citadel of American democracy since the British burned it during the War of 1812. The mob succeeded in forcing Congress to evacuate and halting the constitutional ceremony of certifying the electoral college votes – another first. Now Trump, who was charged by the House of Representatives with “incitement of insurrection” for his role in the riot that left five dead, has become the first president in history ever to be impeached twice.Ten Republicans in the House voted to impeach Trump, the largest number of lawmakers ever to support impeaching a president from their own party. But then, in the words of Representative Liz Cheney, a Republican from Wyoming who holds the third-highest position in the House Republican leadership, “There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the constitution.”Trump is unlikely to become the first president removed from office, since the outgoing Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, won’t reconvene the Senate until the day before Joe Biden will be sworn in as the next president. But if the Senate does eventually vote to convict Trump, he will become the first ex-president ever to be barred from holding any future federal office.McConnell has, shockingly, told colleagues that he is open to convicting Trump. In the view of many party strategists, Republicans might be better off if Trump were prevented from running again. The possibility of a 2024 Trump campaign freezes out potential successors and prevents the party from moving in new and more positive directions. The president arguably cost his party its Senate majority with his lies and conspiracy theories about the election, which depressed Republican turnout in the pivotal Georgia senatorial races. His role in inciting the Capitol riot disgraced his party as well as his legacy. Tellingly, almost no Republicans attempted to defend him during the impeachment hearings. Instead, many warned that impeachment would further enrage Trump’s followers when what’s needed is national unity and healing.Of course, this come-together plea is rank hypocrisy from those who encouraged Trump’s shredding of the social fabric, believing that his attempt to tear the country apart would leave them with the bigger half. The claim that lions would lie down with lambs if Democrats would drop their vindictive harassment of the outgoing president conveniently overlooks the fact that the Capitol invasion happened only because Trump pushed the Big Lie that Democrats, the media, and the Deep State stole the election. And nearly two-thirds of Republicans in Congress made themselves complicit in Trump’s lie by voting to overturn the election results, even in the wake of that deluded, destructive and deadly riot.Representative Peter Meijer, a newly elected Republican from Michigan who was one of the 10 Republicans to vote for impeachment, observed that many of his party colleagues argued that since millions of Americans believe the election was stolen, therefore Congress would be justified in preventing Biden from taking the presidency. But, he pointed out, most of the voters who believe in this false reality do so precisely because they have heard it from Trump and his congressional enablers. “That doesn’t make it right. That doesn’t make it accurate. It means that you lied to them, and they trusted you and they believed your lies.”Nonetheless, 45% of Republican voters, according to a recent YouGov poll, approve of the storming of the Capitol. And that’s largely because 72% of Republicans, according to another survey, say that they don’t trust the accuracy of the 2020 election results.So long as millions of Americans believe in Trump’s Big Lie, the country becomes ungovernable and civil war beckons. If you believe what Trump and his Republican enablers tell you, you will consider Joe Biden to be “an illegitimate president”, as Trump put it in his 6 January speech, and the members of his administration to be usurpers. Why then should you pay taxes to such a government or respect its laws? Why wouldn’t you support the violent overthrow of that government, even if that revolutionary vanguard was led by the kind of neo-fascists who planned the Capitol invasion and erected a gallows outside? As Representative Meijer observed, the logical conclusion of this line of thinking makes it likely that we’ll see “political assassinations or some type of additional attempts to take lives by the folks who feel emboldened by what’s happened”.Most of Trump’s supporters would probably recoil from the charge that they’re pushing America toward civil war and revolutionary carnage. To accept the Big Lie, however, requires you to believe that the entire US justice system, in which even Trump-nominated judges rejected every baseless claim of electoral fraud asserted by his legal team, is also part of the conspiracy. And such a widespread rejection of courts and the law would shatter the political and social stability on which the country’s free-market capitalism depends.Unsurprisingly, many corporations and institutions have cut ties with Trump and his businesses and suspended contributions to those congressional Republicans who challenged Biden’s victory. Many of the party’s mega-donors have also turned off the cash spigot, worrying about reputational damage from being seen to support Trump’s false election claims and the ensuing Capitol riot.If the party has an ideology it’s what the French call je-m’en-foutisme, a contemptuous indifference toward othersWhat, really, does the Republican party believe in now other than the imperative of maintaining Trump in power? So long as the party clings to Trump’s Lost Cause, it rejects business, law and order, national unity, the constitution, fiscal responsibility, traditional morality, democratic norms and nearly everything else that Republicans once claimed to stand for.If the party has an ideology it’s what the French call je-m’en-foutisme, a contemptuous indifference toward others. It was exemplified by the House Republicans during the Capitol siege who, sheltering with colleagues in a secure location, mocked requests that they wear masks; now three of the Democratic lawmakers who were there have become infected with Covid-19. If Trump’s Republican party has a motto, it’s the Arizona state Republican chair Kelli Ward’s urging the president to “Cross the Rubicon” – that is, to imitate Julius Caesar’s treasonous action that led to civil war and the collapse of the Roman Republic.If there is to be civil war, one hopes that it will be bloodless and confined to the Republican party. The party needs to separate itself from those who undermine our civil order by maintaining that Democrats stole the election. The Republican lawmakers who voted against certifying the election should be given off-ramps, perhaps in the form of opportunities to acknowledge Biden’s legitimacy. The party should support efforts like the new Republican Accountability Project to channel donations to legislators who face primary challenges as a result of voting for Trump’s impeachment or removal. The party should make sincere efforts to persuade its base voters to return to reality. And it should accept and perhaps facilitate the departure of the worst bitter-enders into the political wasteland of a third party.Democrats and others who have little love for the Republican party may rejoice that Trump has brought it so low. But just as the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, warned that the government could not stand as a house divided, the country cannot now endure if one of the two major political parties rejects the legitimacy of the other when it wins elections and attempts to govern. It has to become a country with two more-or-less normal parties or none. If Trump-inspired radicalism on the right isn’t checked by responsible actors on both sides, history will record this moment as the beginning of the end of American democracy.Geoffrey Kabaservice is the director of political studies at the Niskanen Center in Washington, as well as the author of Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party More