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Trump called aides hours before Capitol riot to discuss how to stop Biden victory | US Capitol attack | The Guardian

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Hours before the deadly attack on the US Capitol this year, Donald Trump made several calls from the White House to top lieutenants at the Willard hotel in Washington and talked about ways to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election win from taking place on 6 January.

The former president first told the lieutenants his vice-president, Mike Pence, was reluctant to go along with the plan to commandeer his largely ceremonial role at the joint session of Congress in a way that would allow Trump to retain the presidency for a second term.

But as Trump relayed to them the situation with Pence, he pressed his lieutenants about how to stop Biden’s certification from taking place on 6 January, and delay the certification process to get alternate slates of electors for Trump sent to Congress.

The former president’s remarks came as part of strategy discussions he had from the White House with the lieutenants at the Willard – a team led by Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Boris Epshteyn and Trump strategist Steve Bannon – about delaying the certification.

Multiple sources, speaking to the Guardian on the condition of anonymity, described Trump’s involvement in the effort to subvert the results of the 2020 election.

Trump’s remarks reveal a direct line from the White House and the command center at the Willard. The conversations also show Trump’s thoughts appear to be in line with the motivations of the pro-Trump mob that carried out the Capitol attack and halted Biden’s certification, until it was later ratified by Congress.

The former president’s call to the Willard hotel about stopping Biden’s certification is increasingly a central focus of the House select committee’s investigation into the Capitol attack, as it raises the specter of a possible connection between Trump and the insurrection.

Several Trump lawyers at the Willard that night deny Trump sought to stop the certification of Biden’s election win. They say they only considered delaying Biden’s certification at the request of state legislators because of voter fraud.

The former president made several calls to the lieutenants at the Willard the night before 6 January. He phoned the lawyers and the non-lawyers separately, as Giuliani did not want non-lawyers to participate on legal calls and jeopardise attorney-client privilege.

Trump’s call to the lieutenants came a day after Eastman, a late addition to the Trump legal team, outlined at a 4 January meeting at the White House how he thought Pence could usurp his role in order to stop Biden’s certification from happening at the joint session.

At the meeting, which was held in the Oval Office and attended by Trump, Pence, Pence’s chief of staff Marc Short and his legal counsel Greg Jacob, Eastman presented a memo that detailed how Pence could insert himself into the certification and delay the process.

The memo outlined several ways for Pence to commandeer his role at the joint session, including throwing the election to the House, or adjourning the session to give states time to send slates of electors for Trump on the basis of election fraud – Eastman’s preference.

Then– acting attorney general Jeff Rosen and his predecessor, Bill Barr, who had both been appointed by Trump, had already determined there was no evidence of fraud sufficient to change the outcome of the 2020 election.

Eastman told the Guardian last month that the memo only presented scenarios and was not intended as advice. “The advice I gave the vice-president very explicitly was that I did not think he had the authority simply to declare which electors to count,” Eastman said.

Trump seized on the memo – first reported by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa in their book Peril – and pushed Pence to adopt the schemes, which some of the other lieutenants at the Willard later told Trump were legitimate ways to flip the election.

But Pence resisted Trump’s entreaties, and told him in the Oval Office the next day that Trump should count him out of whatever plans he had to subvert the results of the 2020 election at the joint session, because he did not intend to take part.

Trump was furious at Pence for refusing to do him a final favor when, in the critical moment underpinning the effort to reinstall Trump as president, he phoned lieutenants at the Willard sometime between the late evening on 5 January and the early hours of 6 January.

From the White House, Trump made several calls to lieutenants, including Giuliani, Eastman, Epshteyn and Bannon, who were huddled in suites complete with espresso machines and Cokes in a mini-fridge in the north-west corner of the hotel.

On the calls, the former president first recounted what had transpired in the Oval Office meeting with Pence, informing Bannon and the lawyers at the Willard that his vice-president appeared ready to abandon him at the joint session in several hours’ time.

“He’s arrogant,” Trump, for instance, told Bannon of Pence – his own way of communicating that Pence was unlikely to play ball – in an exchange reported in Peril and confirmed by the Guardian.

But on at least one of those calls, Trump also sought from the lawyers at the Willard ways to stop the joint session to ensure Biden would not be certified as president on 6 January, as part of a wider discussion about buying time to get states to send Trump electors.

The fallback that Trump and his lieutenants appeared to settle on was to cajole Republican members of Congress to raise enough objections so that even without Pence adjourning the joint session, the certification process would be delayed for states to send Trump slates.

It was not clear whether Trump discussed on the call about the prospect of stopping Biden’s certification by any means if Pence refused to insert himself into the process, but the former president is said to have enjoyed watching the insurrection unfold from the dining room.

But the fact that Trump considered ways to stop the joint session may help to explain why he was so reluctant to call off the rioters and why Republican senator Ben Sasse told conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt that he heard Trump seemed “delighted” about the attack.

The lead Trump lawyer at the Willard, Giuliani, appearing to follow that fallback plan, called at least one Republican senator later that same evening, asking him to help keep Congress adjourned and stall the joint session beyond 6 January.

In a voicemail recorded at about 7pm on 6 January, and reported by the Dispatch, Giuliani implored Republican senator Tommy Tuberville to object to 10 states Biden won once Congress reconvened at 8pm, a process that would have concluded 15 hours later, close to 7 January.

“The only strategy we can follow is to object to numerous states and raise issues so that we get ourselves into tomorrow – ideally until the end of tomorrow,” Giuliani said.

Liz Harrington, a spokesperson for Trump, disputed the account of Trump’s call after publication. “This is totally false,” Harrington said, without giving specifics. Giuliani did not respond to a request for comment. Eastman, Epshteyn and Bannon declined to comment.

Trump made several calls the day before the Capitol attack from both the White House residence, his preferred place to work, as well as the West Wing, but it was not certain from which location he phoned his top lieutenants at the Willard.

The White House residence and its Yellow Oval Room – a Trump favorite – is significant since communications there, including from a desk phone, are not automatically memorialized in records sent to the National Archives after the end of an administration.

But even if Trump called his lieutenants from the West Wing, the select committee may not be able to fully uncover the extent of his involvement in the events of 6 January, unless House investigators secure testimony from individuals with knowledge of the calls.

That difficulty arises since calls from the White House are not necessarily recorded, and call detail records that the select committee is suing to pry free from the National Archives over Trump’s objections about executive privilege, only show the destination of the calls.

House select committee investigators this month opened a new line of inquiry into activities at the Willard hotel, just across the street from the White House, issuing subpoenas to Eastman and former New York police commissioner Bernard Kerik, an assistant to Giuliani.

The chairman of the select committee, Bennie Thompson, said in a statement that the panel was pursuing the Trump officials at the Willard to uncover “every detail about their efforts to overturn the election, including who they were talking to in the White House and in Congress”.

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duerig
13 seconds ago
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Hours before a terrorist attack he instigated, the US president called top aides asking them how to execute a coup. There we are. That is the world we are in. Fixed that headline for you, The Guardian.
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Flinch

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Premed: "Does this count for a physics credit? Can we shorten the string so I can get it done faster? And can we do one where it hits me in the face? I gotta do a thing for first aid training right after."
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duerig
20 days ago
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The right answer is to put a steel core in the bowling ball and a well-timed electromagnet under the floor. That'll show those the physicists.
splungedude
20 days ago
To stop it dead in it's tracks or to speed it up? Both would be pretty funny
duerig
19 days ago
I was thinking adding just enough speed to bop the physicist on the nose. But stopping it in its tracks would be hilarious to. For a long time I have wanted to make a perpetual motion machine as a desk toy but add some subtle electromagnet or something to make it actually appear to function at first glance.
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3 public comments
mareino
20 days ago
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Me, an amateur: I've seen too many videos where the demonstrator screws up and pushes the ball instead of releasing it.
Washington, District of Columbia
fancycwabs
21 days ago
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As an engineer, I've never felt as seen as I do in this comic.
Nashville, Tennessee
ChrisDL
20 days ago
yep. yep yep yep yep. Yep-a-roonie.
shaddow825
20 days ago
Look, an engineer saying something that doesn't even apply to the situation, yea I can see why that fits.
deebee
21 days ago
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Bring your dad to work day at the xkcd writers room
America City, America

Show how $6B will solve world hunger, and I'll donate it: Elon Musk to United Nations

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ProPublica Undertaxed Billionaires

Elon Musk, the richest person in the world, says he will sell $6 billion US worth of Tesla stock and donate the proceeds to the United Nations' food agency if it could show how the money would solve world hunger.

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duerig
28 days ago
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"If you solve a huge ongoing problem people have been chipping away at for a century for literally less than $1 per person, I will pay."

Listen, Mr. Musk, if your engineers can figure out your broken AI collision-mobiles for twenty bucks I'll spot you the cash.
freeAgent
28 days ago
This is not the first time Musk has tweeted something obnoxious. I'm sure it won't be the last.
freeAgent
28 days ago
This is not the first time Musk has tweeted something obnoxious. I'm sure it won't be the last.
chovy
28 days ago
Go back to firing giant dildos into space and stay out of crypto and politics.
skorgu
28 days ago
I mean, CNN explicitly dragged him into it (and the UN less explicitly): https://twitter.com/DrEliDavid/status/1454475769200185349 It's not like he just woke up one morning and decided to take potshots at the UN.
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Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - AI

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Click here to go see the bonus panel!

Hovertext:
I've been told we're now down to only 4 gibberish panels.


Today's News:
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duerig
51 days ago
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This is pretty accurate. I've taken a look at 'books written by a computer' starting in the 80s and coming down to today. And it basically comes down to somebody rolling the dice until something interesting results and publishing their curated thing.
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Poison Control Centers Are Fielding A Surge Of Ivermectin Overdose Calls

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Health experts and medical groups are pushing to stamp out the growing use of ivermectin, an anti-parasite drug, to treat COVID-19, amid warnings that it can cause harmful side effects and that there

The nation's poison control centers saw a 245% jump in reported exposure cases from July to August as more people take the anti-parasite drug that some falsely claim treats COVID-19.

(Image credit: Denis Farrell/AP)

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duerig
86 days ago
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It is so hard to wrap my head around this madness. I understand that people can be skeptical of something like the vaccines because they are new and that some combination of fraudsters and foreign agents can whip that skepticism into denialism. But how does that become transmuted into absolute certainty that they should be taking untested drugs meant only for animals?

If somebody convinced me that it was unsafe to drink milk, I would not then be more inclined to eat cat food. What is the missing link? Is it really just 'the libtards say you shouldn't eat cat food!' and that is all the convincing some people need?
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dreadhead
86 days ago
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People need to stop horsing around with this stuff.
Vancouver Island, Canada

Taking Stock Of The Great and Cowardly Press Freakout Of August 2021 | Talking Points Memo

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With the American war in Afghanistan and the American withdrawal from Afghanistan now definitively over, I’ve been trying to put the entirety of the last four weeks into some perspective. As you can see I’ve been fairly dug in on the proposition that the great majority of the criticism we’ve seen amounts to ignorance and deflection. Pulling the plug on a failed or misconceived mission isn’t pretty. But it is inevitable. The ugliness is built into the failure rather than a consequence of recognizing it. Most of what we’ve seen is an attempt to deny the failure (mostly hawks) or imagine that withdrawing would be orderly and free of consequences. But with all this reasoning, what parts were handled poorly? What could have been better organized or cleaner?

Perhaps this is only a matter of stepping back and with the benefit of clear eyes and more perspective and, well … agreeing with myself. But honestly, I think I really agree with myself. The airlift evacuation appears to have transported well over 110,000 people out of the country, an astonishing feat under any circumstances and probably unprecedented for a civilian airlift in a kinetic military context and in the context of state collapse.

What happened two weeks ago was that the US-backed government fell. Quickly. And the US President, who had decided to end the US mission in Afghanistan without conditions, allowed it to fall rather than changing his mind. That is the entirety of what happened. Shifting gears to prevent the collapse would have signaled not only that the decision was wrong but also was poorly arrived at in the first place since the collapse of the government was always the probable and most likely the inevitable result of the decision.

Most Monday-morning quarterbacking of the “failure of execution” school doesn’t posit that the government would have survived, only that it might have lasted months or maybe a year longer, thus allowing the US to pass off the messiness on someone else. In other words, the failure of execution was largely a matter of optics. Extend the country’s civil war for a few more months or years – certainly at the cost of thousands of lives – to allow the US and the authors of the war to avoid the reputational splatter when the end came. That is an understandable but certainly ignoble aspiration.

This is the “decent interval” that Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger engineered for the fall of South Vietnam – basically an effort to game the 1972 election with “peace with honor” and leave others to pick up the peaces. As it happens, when Saigon finally fell in April 1975 Nixon was just months into his forced retirement and California exile, having been forced into the first presidential resignation in history. Life’s a bitch.

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So the government fell – clearly quicker than the White House or the Pentagon anticipated. As things spun out of control in the 2nd week of August, the US redeployed first a thousand and eventually more than six thousand troops to Kabul. As it unfolded this was portrayed as evidence of disorganization and failed planning. You just pulled out! Now you’re going back in! WTF!?!?! In fact, it was what was required to manage the evacuation that unfolded over the following two weeks, a deployment in sufficient force to allow the US to manage a rushed but orderly evacuation on its own terms. Thirteen Americans troops were killed in that effort. But given the vulnerability they were exposed to – essentially searching and vetting Afghan civilians at close quarters in a situation in which literally anyone could approach the US checkpoints – the risk to those Marines at the gates was vast.

So I would ask again, what exactly was the great failure of execution? There have been a few criticisms on operational grounds. But they seem weak at best. One we’ve heard a lot is that the US should have held Bagram Airport rather than the civilian airport in Kabul. I’m not a military planner. But on its face if the main mission is evacuation and the people are in Kabul it seems clear that the airport near the people is the better option. Otherwise, you’re in a sort of Mad Max type situation managing highly vulnerable convoys on a forty mile drive from Kabul to the heavily defended military airbase. I’ll leave that question to others. But again, what was the failure of execution? It really seems that the “failure,” the “there had to be a better way” argument, is that the government fell. Is that a failure of execution? Not really. It was an inherent risk of withdrawal. Indeed, by any candid evaluation it was an inevitable result of withdrawal. The question was just how long it would take to happen. It happened faster than anyone seems to have anticipated. And the US reacted quickly with a contingency plan to manage an evacuation which was actually quite successful.

Let us remember that two weekends ago a crush of prominent commentators and reporters were stating as fact that the White House had been caught flatfooted and abandoned everyone who had worked for the US during its war in Afghanistan. They declared the evacuation a catastrophic failure and shameful betrayal when it was actually only starting and then in many cases took credit for the evacuation after it happened, on the premise that it was only their cries of betrayal that made it happen. This is a bracingly self-serving and sloppy logic. One of the worst offenders on this front, ABC’s Martha Raddatz, was forced to move the goalposts yet again yesterday: now judging the evacuation a “success,” she claimed Biden was “conflating the withdrawal with the evacuation … they did not realize the Taliban would take over so quickly.”

And there you have it. The problem was the withdrawal itself. That is by definition not a problem of execution but one of policy. Raddatz’s argument appears to be that the US should have known the government would fall in a matter of days and that if it knew this it should have stayed long to ensure it would last at least weeks or months if not years. This is arguing what amounts to a distinction without a difference verging on the logic of perpetual war and occupation which is what kept the US in Afghanistan for twenty years in the first place. It’s the final redoubt of a bad and for many deeply dishonest argument. Raddatz is like a desperate evacuee clinging to the skids of a departing helicopter as her preferred storyline collapses around her. Messy, indeed.

The one point she and others are right about is that Joe Biden owns the withdrawal. He and his White House team are now taking credit for that. They argue (correctly) that the American public wanted to leave and that he stuck to his decision even in the face of a storm of criticism. Three Presidents understood the futility of the mission. Only one had the determination to end it even at the cost of real political damage to himself. That means he has to own the reality of withdrawal, the acceptance that the mission, as it expanded in the years after 2001, did not work. He has to accept the reality of a Taliban government. He has to accept the reality and images of terrified refugees, masses looking to escape.

But as many have argued this was a reality baked into the futility and failure of the mission itself. There was no pretty exit. That is what kept the US there for two decades. As has been the case for weeks, this is the crux of the ‘there had to be a better way’ crowd’s argument: wanting out of a failed endeavor but unwilling to stomach let alone embrace the reality of that failure and eager to pass that messiness off on someone else.

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duerig
89 days ago
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The more I read about this, the more I realize that the US-backed government falling 'sooner than expected' was baked into the cake. Everybody believed that it was going to fall. As soon as that happened, the fall was going to be instant. Nobody wants to be the last person fighting for a cause that is abandoned by its own leaders and its allies. This isn't anything special about Afghanistan or the Taliban. This is trivially true of every civil war that every happens. This evacuation seems like it was the best of all possible worlds given the 20 years of history that led up to it.
lamontcg
89 days ago
And the "middle managers" in Afghanistan at State/DoD were likely people too stupid to trasfer out of a losing position with a few hard working altruists without enough support to be effective and holding back the tide
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acdha
89 days ago
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“Raddatz is like a desperate evacuee clinging to the skids of a departing helicopter as her preferred storyline collapses around her.”
Washington, DC
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