Chomsky: Coup Attempt Hit Closer to Centers of Power Than Hitler’s 1923 Putsch

Police clash with Trump loyalists who breached security and entered the Capitol building in Washington D.C. on January 6, 2021.
Police clash with Trump loyalists who breached security and entered the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021.

BYC.J. PolychroniouTruthoutPUBLISHEDJanuary 19, 2021SHAREShare via FacebookShare via TwitterShare via Email

Even as the Biden administration takes the reins of power, the fact remains that authoritarianism and a fascist strain of political thinking have taken firm root on U.S. soil among a large proportion of its citizens. This utterly disturbing development will, according to Noam Chomsky in this exclusive interview for Truthout, be hard to contain. A recent poll shows that the overwhelming majority of Republicans continues to give a thumbs up to Donald Trump, even after the storming of the Capitol. In the wake of the attempted coup, and on the cusp of a new administration, what do the current political currents mean for the future?

C.J. Polychroniou: Noam, you had been warning all along of a potential coup in the event that Trump would lose the 2020 election. In this context, are you surprised at all by what took place on Capitol Hill on the Electoral College vote count?

Noam Chomsky: Surprised, yes. I’d expected a strong reaction from Trump’s voting base, raised to a fever pitch by his latest antics. But hadn’t expected the attempted coup to reach this level of violence, and I suspect most of the participants didn’t either. Many seemed to have been caught up in the excitement of the moment when the leaders of the crowd surged into the hated Capitol to drive out the demons who were not just “stealing the election” but “stealing” their country from them: their white Christian country.

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That it was an attempted coup is not in question. It was openly and proudly proclaimed as just that. It was an attempt to overturn an elected government. That’s a coup. True, what was attempted was not the kind of coup regularly backed by Washington in its dependencies, a military takeover with ample bloodshed, torture, “disappearance.” But, nevertheless, it was an attempted coup. True, the perpetrators regarded themselves as defending the legitimate government, but that’s the norm, even for the most vicious and murderous coups, like the U.S.-backed coup in Chile on the first 9/11 — which was actually much worse in virtually every dimension than the second one, the one that we remember and commemorate. The first one is best forgotten on the principle of “wrong agents”: Us, not some radical Islamic fundamentalists.

The emotions of those attempting the [Capitol] coup were apparent. Belief that the election was stolen was plainly held with real fervor. And it is understandable among people who live in passionately pro-Trump areas where he is revered as their savior, and for some, even chosen by God, as he once declared. Many may scarcely have seen a Biden sign, or heard anything from Fox News or Rush Limbaugh to suggest some possible flaw in their beliefs.

In some respects, these beliefs are not as bizarre as they may look at first. A shift of tens of thousands of votes in a few counties might have swung the election the other way in a deeply undemocratic system such as ours, where 7 million votes can be swept aside along with an unknown number of others eliminated by purging, gerrymandering, and the many other devices that have been devised to steal the election from the “wrong people,” effectively authorized by the Supreme Court in its shameful 2013 decision nullifying the Voting Rights Act (Shelby County v. Holder).

As we’ve discussed before, the malevolent figure in charge deserves credit for his talent in tapping the poisonous streams that run not far below the surface of American society, with sources that are deep in U.S. history and culture.

I have to say that I was also surprised by the quick reaction of those who own the country and have a large share of responsibility for the malaise that broke forth on January 6. In no small part, it is a consequence of the neoliberal assault since Reagan, amplified by his successors, that has devastated the rural areas that are the homes of many who stormed the Capitol. Those who hold the levers of the private power that dominates the society and political system never liked Trump’s behavior, which harmed the image they project as humanists dedicated to the common good. But they were willing to tolerate the vulgar performance as long as Trump and his accomplices delivered the goods, lining their pockets by robbing the public.

And that they did. The “transfer of wealth” from the lower 90 percent to the ultra-rich since Reagan opened the doors for highway robbery reaches almost $50 trillion, according to a recent Rand corporation study. No one can place numbers on the vastly greater cost of environmental destruction that was a high priority of the Trump-McConnell years of service to the very rich and corporate sector.

But January 6 was apparently too much, and the marching orders were delivered swiftly by the Big Guns.

One has to have some sympathy for the legislators caught between powerful contending forces. On the one hand, they see the angry hordes whipped to a frenzy by Trump’s performances, and still in his pocket, poised to wreak vengeance on those who betray their leader. And on the other hand, looking down on them from above, are the captains of finance and industry who fund their elections and dangle before them many other privileges to keep them in line. (How many members of Congress leave office to become truck drivers or secretaries?)

The dilemma is particularly harsh for senators, who are more reliant on the large donors. And their defection from the ranks of obsequious Trump loyalists has been somewhat greater.

Apparently, D.C. Council members had been briefed by the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia that Donald Trump might invoke the Insurrection Act to seize control of the city police, but did not expect an attack on the Capitol itself. In your own view, what explains the enormous security failures that led to the Capitol siege, and do the events of January 6, 2021, qualify as a putsch?

An attempted putsch, though the connotations of the term putsch may be too strong. The events reminded many, including historians of fascism, of Hitler’s failed Beer Hall Putsch of 1923, which actually did not so easily penetrate the centers of power as the attempted coup of January 6.

The reasons for the security failures are being debated. I have no special insight. Black members of the Capitol police, who showed great courage along with many of their white colleagues, have charged for years that the force has been infiltrated with white supremacists. There may have been some collusion, and possibly serious corruption higher up the chain of command.

If Trump incited an insurrection against elected officials of the U.S. government, is it enough that he has been impeached again? Shouldn’t he be facing sedition charges since inciting an insurrection against the government is a criminal act under Title 18 of the U.S. Code?

I presume the Joint Chiefs of Staff chose their words carefully in their message on the “violent riot” on January 6, “a direct assault on the U.S. Congress, the Capitol building, and our Constitutional process,” an act of “violence, sedition and insurrection.” They surely considered the fact that incitement to sedition and insurrection carries a heavy prison sentence. I presume that they also weighed the evidence that such incitement took place from the Oval Office.

Many questions arise about how to pursue such barely concealed charges, but we should be careful to avoid the Watergate trap. The Nixon impeachment procedures were initiated by [Massachusetts] Rep. Robert Drinan, S.J., charging him with the bombing of Cambodia, a truly monstrous crime, of Nuremberg Trial caliber. That charge was struck down by Congress. The prime charge against Nixon was that he organized thugs to invade one of two seats of political power in the country, the Democratic Party headquarters. This attack on the foundations of the Republic was overcome in a “stunning vindication of our constitutional system” (famed liberal historian Henry Steele Commager).

In short, the powerful can rise to their own defense. The victims of truly monstrous crimes can look elsewhere for recourse. Maybe history, with luck.

Incitement of an attempted coup is no laughing matter, but it scarcely weighs in the balance against a dedicated effort to destroy the environment that sustains life on Earth or demolition of the arms control regime that mitigates the threat of nuclear war.

Do you believe that Trump is finished as a political figure? Or, to put the question slightly differently, was the Washington putsch of January 6, 2021, the beginning of the end of the rise of Trumpism?

Far from it. Whether Trump will survive the error of judgment that turned major power centers against him is unclear. He may well do so. The voting base of the Party seems to remain loyal, maybe with even greater fervor after this attack on their hero by the “deep state.” Local officials too. He was cheered on his visit to the Republican National Committee the day after the Capitol riot. He has other resources.

Whatever the fate of the individual, Trumpism will not be so easily contained. Its roots are deep. The anger and resentment raised to a frenzy by this talented con man is not limited to the U.S. The $50 trillion robbery is only the icing on the cake of the neoliberal disaster, which itself is built on foundations of deep injustice and repression. We are not out of the woods, by far.

The Presidency Won’t Go Back to How It Was

President Joe Biden—and those who follow him—will navigate a new political landscape, reshaped by four years of Donald Trump.11:17 AM ETJack GoldsmithProfessor of law at Harvard Law SchoolSamuel MoynProfessor of law at Yale Law School

An illustration of Jane Austen and the presidential seal

After years of Donald Trump’s boorish defiance of presidential norms, his incitement of the violence at the Capitol closed his term with a demented rave that shamed American democracy. Tomorrow Joe Biden will return the presidency to a more decorous and honorable choreography. But in important respects, Biden cannot restore normalcy. Trump’s most profound and least recognized contributions to the office he abused are a reorientation of some of the presidency’s important powers and responsibilities. Once-fringe understandings about the role of the president approached acceptance under Trump in ways that Biden cannot dismiss, and they could transform how the great office functions for years to come.

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True, Biden’s time in office will witness reversals by conservatives and progressives on some of the uses and limits of presidential power. The Harvard law professor Adrian Vermeule predicted at the dawn of the Trump administration that the sides would reverse their positions about aggressive uses of presidential administration. He compared the pattern to two lines of dancers in a Jane Austen novel who move to opposite sides of the ballroom and then continue dancing as before. “The structure of the dance at the group level is preserved; none of the rules of the dance change; but the participants end up facing in opposite directions.”


In many instances, Vermeule’s prediction was right. Political actors and commentators supportive of Barack Obama’s “pen and phone” strategy—his aggressive use of executive orders, law-stretching interpretations of delegated power, and broad conception of his discretion to enforce (or not) the law—quickly switched their view when the Trump administration started making similar arguments in support of their quite different policies (related to immigration restrictions, environmental protection, and the like). And many conservative politicians and commentators flipped or shaded their views in the other direction as well.

This dynamic is one of the under-appreciated reasons why real executive authority has increased over decades, in spite of a rhetoric of constraint coming from whichever party has been out of power. On this score, in many ways, the Trump era was business as usual that will likely continue under Biden.

But, at the same time, under Trump new dynamics emerged that are not consonant with the standard pattern, and once-marginal understandings of the proper role of executive power approached the mainstream. This was not a merely partisan switching of sides only to continue the same dance, but a whole new song, perhaps even a new party—what Austen called in Sense and Sensibility “an unpremeditated dance.”

Sometimes Trumpian horrors provoked rage that has reshaped the presidency. At other times, he intended the reorientation. Occasionally, he was uninvolved, and the task fell to those around him. In the end, executive war making has emerged on the other side of the Trump years with both new constraints and new powers, while in the realms of economics and trade the presidency has seen once-marginal positions move to the center, leaving room for new possibilities.

The shift on war making stems from a remarkable mainstreaming in recent years of rhetorical opposition to “endless wars.” Trump railed against such wars during his presidency and both presidential campaigns. In office he clashed with the national-security bureaucracy and the military—with some public support—about drawing down troops in Afghanistan and Syria. Trump lost or was outwitted in many of these battles. But by the end of his presidency he could claim with some justification that “unlike previous administrations I have kept America out of new wars, and our troops are coming home.” There are fewer troops in Afghanistan and Iraq today than at any time since 2001.

Trump by no means supported a shift in executive power toward Congress, and he called for more military spending even as he questioned excessive foreign intervention. But during his tenure, from right and left alike, calls for reform of war powers dwarfed prior right-left opposition to American wars, in a remarkable mainstreaming of positions marginalized for many decades. The rhetoric of opposition to ending endless war took on a life of its own not just among activists but also among members of Congress, in an unprecedented reactivation of the defunct War Powers Resolution (in the case of the Yemen proxy war, supported by both Bernie Sanders and the conservative Mike Lee). Trump vetoed it, but a new consensus became visible.

Biden underscored the new reality with remarkable antiwar campaign pledges. He vowed to “end the forever wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East,” and to “end U.S. support for the disastrous Saudi-led war in Yemen.” A great deal of energy, from conservatives and progressives, will go into holding him to these promises. Just as significant, mainstream foreign-policy experts—including many former Obama national-security officials—now agree that something went dreadfully wrong in executive war making and American militarism generally. These sentiments have an even greater urgency as the coronavirus pandemic requires a rethinking of American national-security priorities. Biden’s national-security team has been dubbed “Generation Forever War.” But even if we assume that they are not chastened by past mistakes, they and the president they serve will have a tougher time asserting the same powers as before.

Ironically, Trump also contributed to this rethinking when he rattled America’s saber. His scary, impulsive threats to use his “bigger and more powerful” nuclear button against North Korea sparked serious congressional attention to plenary presidential control over nuclear weapons for the first time in four decades. We are a long way from any reform of this presidential power, but several officials testified about how informal constraints would check truly irrational presidential action in this area.

While the beginnings of a reset on war powers generally are discernible, a different and countervailing military reset—concerning America’s use of its cyberpowers—crystallized over the course of the Trump presidency. During the Obama administration, the United States suffered unprecedented cyber intrusions from foreign powers—notably the Russian interference in the 2016 election and the massive Chinese hack of the Office of Personnel Management databases. A consensus developed in the intelligence community that the United States had been too risk-averse in responding to these threats. The result was three important changes during the Trump era.

First, the Trump administration changed Obama-era rules in order to give Cyber Command greater latitude to engage in operations without White House sign-off. Second, Cyber Command developed and implemented a new strategy, called “Defend Forward,” under which it has a persistent presence in adversary networks so it can discover and check threats before they materialize. And third, Congress—on the quiet in National Defense Authorization Acts—gave the executive branch much more leeway to use offensive cyber tools abroad. The centerpiece of this bipartisan congressional scheme is a barely noticed express congressional authorization for Cyber Command to “take appropriate and proportional action in foreign cyberspace” in order “to disrupt, defeat, and deter” ongoing adversarial activity in the cyber domain if there is “an active, systematic, and ongoing campaign of attacks” against the United States by “Russia, China, North Korea, or Iran.”

Trump deserves little if any credit for these moves, which emerged out of a consensus between intelligence lifers like the Cyber Command leader Paul M. Nakasone, interested members of Congress, and sympathetic Trump national-security advisers. But the broad congressional support for these moves reveals a new consensus that the U.S. needs to take more forceful steps to protect its digital networks, and makes it unlikely that there will be a pullback under Biden.

A related mainstreaming under Trump of once-marginal criticisms of the executive pertains to domestic surveillance in the name of national security. Trump’s attacks on the FBI’s surveillance powers, and a damning inspector general report about the use of those powers in the FBI investigation of the Trump campaign’s connections with Russia, led to a drop in Republican support for the FBI and an unusual split in the party on the appropriateness of domestic national-security surveillance. (At the same time, Democratic support on these matters rose.) One consequential impact of these changes was Congress’s historic failure in 2020 to renew three important sunsetted provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. A renewal bill passed the House in March 2020 with more Democratic than Republican support, and then it failed in the Republican-controlled Senate a few months later. Trump’s attacks and the inspector general report were the catalysts, but the shift in Republican views has been happening slowly for more than a decade. It is too early to tell how sticky this change will be, but ascendant Republican concerns about presidential surveillance authorities may combine with still-prevalent Democratic concerns to place longer-term restrictive pressure on domestic surveillance.

Trump also succeeded in bringing a politics of economic “freedom” into question, both in domestic politics and as a foreign-policy goal. This is clearest in the realm of trade policy. Trump rode to victory by railing on NAFTA—once the darling of the New Democrats’ global economic agenda—as a bad deal for American workers. He similarly bashed the World Trade Organization and decimated its core judicial body, often to the applause of many Democrats.

As with war, Trump’s rhetoric, and the perception of its electoral success, had incalculable effects in bringing once-unfashionable beliefs from America’s extremes to its center. The Democratic platform for 2020 features a more nationalist call for industrial policy—blaming Trump tax cuts for accelerating offshoring—than seen in any presidential campaign from either side since Pat Buchanan’s and Ross Perot’s proto-Trumpian attack in 1992 on what we now call “neoliberalism.” And incoming National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan proclaimed that the Biden administration would embrace a “foreign policy for the middle class” that measured success “against a simple metric” of making “the lives of working people better, safer, easier.” VideoWatch to learn moreSPONSORED BY ADVERTISING PARTNERSee More

Trump’s rhetorical opposition to neoliberal globalization also intersected with presidential power in revealing ways. Congress narrowly passed NAFTA in 1993 (as a so-called congressional-executive agreement that does not constitutionally require a two-thirds vote), while the WTO emerged the following year when Congress approved comparable fast-track authority that effectively transferred trade policy to the president. In the intervening two decades, the executive, under Republican and Democratic control, has advanced neoliberal ideas of economic freedom until Trump. U.S. accession to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the centerpiece of Obama’s pivot to Asia, went on life support after Hillary Clinton was forced to oppose it under pressure in her campaign against Trump.  

Not that Trump attempted to return any trade authority to Congress, any more than he supported war-powers reform while selectively opposing wars. But, ironically, the NAFTA reform that would never have occurred without him, and that barely rose above symbolism in real terms, garnered more support from Congress than any comparable trade deal, passing the House 385–41 and the Senate 89–10.

Trump’s record of using executive power to resist neoliberalism was uneven and should not be exaggerated. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, the mastermind of Trump’s trade policy, never stopped attacking multilateral rules and organizations as bad for American workers, and he convinced Trump to use unilateral presidential weapons aggressively against trading partners. But these moves aimed not to establish autarky but, rather, to embed free-trade principles in bilateral arrangements that Lighthizer believes better protect America’s economic interests. The Trump administration wanted “to get to the position where the U.S. is competing with countries on a bilateral basis and on a no-barrier basis, and then let the United States, let pure economics make the decision,” Lighthizer explained in 2018.

Despite this qualification, Lighthizer established a trans-partisan reset on trade that was unthinkable before Trump, albeit with an unclear sequel. “Lighthizer has changed a lot of thinking in dramatic ways, which is terrific,” Lori Wallach of the liberal outfit Public Citizen told ProPublica, adding that “he has not been able to reverse decades of boneheaded, job-killing trade policies, such that we still see a trade deficit today that’s bigger than when Trump took office, and ongoing outsourcing of jobs, despite good efforts to try and turn around a mess.”

Related to Trump’s galvanization of a rethinking of neoliberalism is his alteration of the conventional wisdom on China policy—both on the content of the trade and cyber policy vis à vis China, and the use of presidential power to achieve these ends. Trump’s basic critique of U.S. China policy circa 2016 is now more or less conventional wisdom: The United States was on the losing end of China’s entry into the WTO; China presents an extraordinary economic threat to the United States; and China’s theft of U.S. trade secrets requires much more aggressive responses than the jawboning, soft agreements, and piddling sanctions used by Trump’s predecessors.

To meet these threats, Trump has used delegated power from Congress to impose extensive and unprecedented import restrictions and tariffs on Chinese goods. He has also used statutory emergency powers (for example, the International Emergency Economic Powers Act) in unprecedented ways to punish globally the use of products of certain Chinese information intermediaries (such as, most notably, Huawei) and to impose broad sanctions on the use of certain Chinese platforms in the United States (like TikTok). And much more than his predecessors, Trump has reconceptualized economic competition with China as a national-security issue.

While many of Trump’s exercises of delegated powers (such as his emergency wall declaration) drew broad criticism, the basic thrust of these policies, and these unprecedented uses of delegated power, gathered muted criticism from some but support from many, including many Democrats. (There were, to be sure, loud complaints about the domestic impact of responses to some of Trump’s unilateral trade sanctions.) Biden will surely examine all of these measures, and probably adjust many of them, especially the tariff restrictions. But the conventional wisdom is that Trump was largely right about the threat and the need for an aggressive response, and the policies in the round will likely continue under Biden. “We expect to be taking a stronger position on China than has been the case in past Democratic administrations,” an unnamed senior adviser to the Biden transition told The Washington Post.

Trump was calamitous for the institution of the American presidency, but through a strange combination of attack, innovation, and neglect, he reoriented it for his successors. “Fine dancing,” Austen wrote in Emma, “like virtue, must be its own reward.” The same is hardly true of executive power, especially given Trump’s vice and macabre closing number. But he changed the music, and has forced his successor to take his first steps on a very different stage.

‘The lost years’: Climate damage that occurred on Trump’s watch will endure long after he is gone

By Drew Kann, CNN

Updated 3:34 PM ET, Mon January 18, 2021

(CNN)For four years, President Donald Trump has careened from one crisis to the next, many of his own making.Still, through the Mueller investigation, two impeachments, the deadliest pandemic in a century, and even a failed and dangerous attempt to overturn his own election defeat, Trump and his administration remained steadfast in at least one quest: to weaken many of the country’s bedrock climate and environmental guardrails.Considered in the course of humanity — or the 4.5-billion-year history of this planet — a single presidential term is barely a blink of an eye.TRUMP WHITE HOUSE

But in just four years, Trump has cemented a legacy — particularly on climate change — that will be felt by generations to come.”It’s pretty much been an unequivocal disaster,” said Christine Todd Whitman, the former Republican governor of New Jersey who was EPA administrator under President George W. Bush. “To just roll back [regulations] whole cloth because they came from a previous administration has made no sense, and really what’s happening is that they’re putting the health of Americans and the health of our environment in jeopardy.”The mission [of the EPA] is to protect human health and the environment — pretty simple and pretty straightforward,” Todd Whitman added. “It seems to me they’ve totally ignored the mission.”Then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a sign supporting coal during a rally in Pennsylvania on October 10, 2016. President Trump's moves to gut greenhouse gas regulations were applauded by many in the fossil fuel industry, but coal jobs continued to decline on his watch.Then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a sign supporting coal during a rally in Pennsylvania on October 10, 2016. President Trump’s moves to gut greenhouse gas regulations were applauded by many in the fossil fuel industry, but coal jobs continued to decline on his watch.Much of the environmental protections that Trump dismantled can be rebuilt by the incoming Biden administration, experts say.close dialog

Sign up for CNN What Matters NewsletterEvery day we summarize What Matters and deliver it straight to your inbox.Sign Me UpNo ThanksBy subscribing you agree to ourprivacy policy.However, doing so will take time. And in the case of global warming, the hour has grown late to stop the worst effects.The most lasting part of Trump’s climate legacy — and one that cannot be undone — may be the time the administration wasted in the face of a worsening climate crisis, some scientists and experts say.”I’m kind of hopeful that many of the worst and most damaging climate policies are capable of being reversed,” said Kim Cobb, a professor and climate scientist at Georgia Tech’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. “But the lost years in terms of progress on emissions reductions we can’t ever take back, and that is something that will have a finite impact on coming climate change impacts.”

In the face of a mounting climate crisis, Trump doubled down on fossil fuels

Trump’s deregulatory crusade began with his first EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, a former Oklahoma attorney general who had sued the agency a dozen times over environmental protections before being tabbed to lead it.After he resigned in the face of multiple ethics scandals, Trump picked a former coal lobbyist, Andrew Wheeler, to take his place.Pruitt and Wheeler — in parallel with the Interior Department and the Department of Energy — have worked to complete dozens of industry rollbacks, gutting regulations on everything from greenhouse gas emissions from power plants to showerhead water efficiency.EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler testifies at a Senate hearing on May 20, 2020. Wheeler and former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt executed a massive rollback of climate and environmental regulations during Trump's four years in office.EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler testifies at a Senate hearing on May 20, 2020. Wheeler and former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt executed a massive rollback of climate and environmental regulations during Trump’s four years in office.Along the way, fossil fuel interests have applauded Trump’s moves, even if he didn’t revive America’s coal industry as he had promised.”They took industry’s wish lists and translated them into agency orders or regulations,” said Michael Gerrard, the director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School. “They were only partially successful because they were so sloppy in following the necessary procedures that they were often slapped down by the courts.”In an interview this week with the Washington Post, Wheeler defended his legacy, saying that on his watch the EPA has “proven that you can reduce pollution and have cost-effective regulations.”

2020 was tied for the hottest year ever recorded -- but the disasters fueled by climate change set it apart

2020 was tied for the hottest year ever recorded — but the disasters fueled by climate change set it apartBut critics see a willful and costly ignorance of science, one that has colored the administration’s response to the world’s biggest crises, from the Covid-19 pandemic to climate change.”I think their [policies] are dangerous. That’s the bottom line,” Cobb said. “I think it’s even worse than anti-science.”The Trump administration’s pullbacks on climate regulations came at a time when the science has never been clearer on the urgent need for the planet’s biggest polluters to make big cuts to their greenhouse gas emissions.Preliminary estimates by the private data analytics firm the Rhodium Group show US emissions did plummet by 10% last year, the largest drop since World War II. But experts attribute most of the reduction to the pandemic, which kept many Americans out of their cars and off planes, and expect emissions to rebound as the effects of Covid-19 wane.Before the pandemic, US emissions rose in 2018 and then fell by a slim 2.1% in 2019.In 2019, the UN warned that to hold global warming below the 1.5 degree Celsius threshold, global emissions would need to fall by 7.6% each year from 2020 to 2030.Trump’s moves also coincided with a seemingly unending rash of extreme weather events, which brought the destruction fueled by global warming to the doorsteps of millions of Americans.The Glass Fire burns in Calistoga, California on September 28, 2020. An unprecedented fire season in the American West in 2020 was just one of an onslaught of climate-related disasters that have swept the country in recent years.The Glass Fire burns in Calistoga, California on September 28, 2020. An unprecedented fire season in the American West in 2020 was just one of an onslaught of climate-related disasters that have swept the country in recent years.In Trump’s first year in office in 2017, he announced that he planned to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement on climate. That same year, Hurricanes Maria, Harvey and Irma left behind a wake of death and destruction from Puerto Rico to Texas, a year that saw all disasters in the US cause a record $321 billion in damages.In 2020, a record-breaking 22 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disasters — including unprecedented wildfires in the American West — caused a total of $95 billion in damages across the country.Many of those disasters bore the fingerprints of climate change.

Why the Trump presidency could influence global warming for years

During Trump’s presidency, global average temperatures have also continued to climb. The last six years have been the hottest six years ever recorded, with 2020 tying 2016 as the hottest year.Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations also climbed to a new high in 2020, reaching levels unseen in millions of years.And because of how long greenhouse gases stay in the atmosphere, the Trump presidency could influence global warming for years to come.Global temperature data shows that 2020 was tied for the hottest year on record, according to the Copernicus Climate Service and other monitors.Global temperature data shows that 2020 was tied for the hottest year on record, according to the Copernicus Climate Service and other monitors.When humans burn fossil fuels, it sends heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the air, where it accumulates in the atmosphere like a blanket, and can stay to heat the Earth for hundreds of years.Some studies have tried to quantify how much of a contribution Trump’s regulatory rollbacks will make over time to accelerating global warming.One estimate published last year by the Rhodium Group found that the administration’s moves to weaken greenhouse gas regulations could add the equivalent of 1.8 gigatons of CO2 to the atmosphere by 2035, equaling nearly one-third of all US emissions in 2019.However, there was a bit of good news hidden in the massive Covid-19 relief package that passed last December and which Trump signed.Buried in the $900 billion stimulus package were some significant climate legislation which calls for phasing out the use of hydrofluorocarbons — a class of super heat-trapping gases used in refrigerators and air conditioners — and an extension of a carbon capture technology tax credit for industry.

How Trump's most consequential policies have changed America

How Trump’s most consequential policies have changed AmericaOver time, analysts say those line items could go a long way toward negating the emissions impact of Trump’s rollbacks.”We estimate that this is one of the single biggest climate actions the U.S. has taken in at least in a decade,” said Kate Larsen, the director of the Rhodium Group’s international energy and climate research team. “When you look at the remaining policy rollbacks that Trump implemented and that will remain standing, these are largely equivalent to making up the damage that the Trump administration has done in terms of regulatory rollbacks.”

Repairing America’s credibility on climate will take time … and more than just words

Still, the long-term impact of Trump’s other major climate moves is harder to quantify.Chief among those is the US’ exit from the Paris Agreement on climate, which was completed last November.Leaving Paris marked the second time the US has bailed on an international climate agreement after it led the negotiations. The first exit was from the Kyoto Protocol, a previous climate pact which the US signed during the Clinton administration, only to drop out during George W. Bush’s presidency.President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to rejoin the Paris Agreement on Day One of his presidency, but experts say repairing the damage to the country’s international standing that was done by Trump abandoning the accord will not be easy.President Trump announced his decision to pull the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement on June 1, 2017, but the exit was not finalized until November 2020.President Trump announced his decision to pull the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement on June 1, 2017, but the exit was not finalized until November 2020.”In one sense, it’s easy for President Biden to announce on the first day he’s in office that the US will rejoin,” said Jody Freeman, a Harvard law professor who served as counselor for energy and climate change in the White House under President Barack Obama. “The hard part is to put together an ambitious, credible pledge for what the US is prepared to do to meet their Paris Agreement commitments.”Trump’s interior department also cleared the way for new fossil fuel extraction on federal lands, including in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), one of the country’s largest remaining pristine wildlife areas.Though there was ultimately little interest in the rights to drill in ANWR from bidders, experts say it could be difficult for the Biden administration and environmental groups to challenge those leases.”Once the lease has been sold, it creates a property right,” Gerrard said. “There will be litigation about whether the leases were validly issued, but if any of them are upheld in court, it becomes more difficult to revoke them.”

Biden faces a bumpy road to erasing Trump’s climate legacy

Throughout the campaign and the transition period, Biden has made it clear that he intends to try and make a complete 180-degree turn on federal climate policy.He appointed former Secretary of State John Kerry to a new Cabinet-level position as special climate envoy, where he will have a seat on the National Security Council, and has tapped other Obama administration alums to join his climate team.During the presidential campaign, he unveiled a $2 trillion climate plan that calls for the US to reach 100% clean electricity generation by 2035, and make huge investments in green infrastructure, from expanding wind and solar to power generation to building a nationwide electric car-charging network.Experts say there is plenty of opportunity for his administration to push through parts of his plan to reduce US greenhouse gas emissions and to inspire action internationally.”Trump took a wrecking ball to the nation’s environmental regulations,” Gerrard said. “Fortunately, it’s not Humpty Dumpty, and most of it can be put back together again.”President-elect Joe Biden speaks during an event to introduce key members of his climate team in Wilmington, Delaware on December 19, 2020. Biden's climate plan calls for the US to generate 100% of its electricity from clean energy sources by 2035.President-elect Joe Biden speaks during an event to introduce key members of his climate team in Wilmington, Delaware on December 19, 2020. Biden’s climate plan calls for the US to generate 100% of its electricity from clean energy sources by 2035.But the need to reverse moves finalized by his predecessor and the political realities of a razor-thin Democratic Senate majority could hamper Biden’s more ambitious climate proposals.Some of Trump’s rollbacks can be undone with the stroke of a pen or overturned by a simple majority in both houses of Congress through the Congressional Review Act, Gerrard said.Others like reinstating or tightening the Obama-era standards on car and truck emissions can be accomplished through EPA rulemaking, but the process takes time — anywhere from a few months to a year, Gerrard said.

US carbon emissions fell 10% in 2020, because of the pandemic. Biden's policies will determine what happens next

US carbon emissions fell 10% in 2020, because of the pandemic. Biden’s policies will determine what happens nextYouth-led climate action organizations like the Sunrise Movement have indicated that they intend to hold the new administration accountable for delivering on Biden’s climate promises.And a newly-minted Democratic Senate majority will open the door to some legislative opportunities that wouldn’t have been possible in a chamber controlled by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.Still, climate policy experts say that the narrow Senate majority will force Biden to find measures that can garner bipartisan support — like spending on green infrastructure — in the vein of the climate legislation that passed in the end-of-year Covid-19 stimulus package.”When the Senate is sort of evenly split, the type of progress we’re going to make on climate is not going to look like comprehensive climate legislation,” Larsen said. “It’s going to be these targeted wins on things that can largely get bipartisan support.”But whatever progress Biden’s administration is able to make on halting climate change over the next four years, some say the lost time of the last four years will still loom large.”The primary effect is that the new administration will be occupied for its first couple of years with reversing all the damage rather than continuing to make progress,” said Ted Lamm, a senior research fellow at the Center for Law, Energy and the Environment at the University of California-Berkeley. “Particularly in the case of climate change, where we are facing a ticking clock, that lost time is potentially disastrous and harmful.”

Trump strips protections for Northern Spotted Owl

Published January 15, 2021

Northern Spotted Owl
Northern Spotted Owl. Photo by Shane Jeffries/U.S. Forest Service

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Just last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) said the Northern Spotted Owl needed to be reclassified from threatened to endangered, reflecting continued loss of the old-growth forests it needs to live — particularly on private and state lands — and the on-going spread of the invasive Barred Owl, which competes with the Spotted Owl.

The Trump administration declined to uplist the bird, and this week, it pounded another metaphorical nail in the owl’s coffin. On Wednesday, FWS published a final revised critical habitat designation for the Northern Spotted Owl that excludes nearly 3.5 million acres, mostly in Oregon, from federal protections. This is a massive increase from the 204,653 acres in Oregon the FWS proposed to exclude in August.

“Even in its final week, the Trump administration is continuing its cruel, reckless attacks on wildlife at a breakneck pace,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This revision guts protected habitat for the Northern Spotted Owl by more than a third. It’s Trump’s latest parting gift to the timber industry and another blow to a species that needs all the protections it can get to fully recover.”

Section 4(b)(2) of the Endangered Species Act requires the Service to balance the benefits and costs of designating areas as critical habitat and consider excluding areas if the costs are too high. The Service did not conduct a new economic analysis but rather relied on a 2012 analysis that found some incremental costs of designating in terms of lost timber harvest. The agency reversed its own previous conclusion that the benefits outweighed the costs.

This is consistent with a recent rule put out by the Trump administration that emphasized giving additional weight to economic costs raised by industries in making critical habitat designations and which the Center for Biological Diversity, along with partners, will challenge.

Based on this analysis, the new critical habitat revision excludes approximately 3,472,064 acres, cutting acres of protected critical habitat originally designated in 2012 by more than a third.

“Excluding millions of acres of federal land will do little to help rural communities in Oregon, but it’ll be another nail in the coffin for the Spotted Owl,” said Greenwald. “Instead of trying to prop up a declining timber industry, we should be doing more to restore forests to save our climate and avoid the extinction crisis. There’s so much work to do in the woods, and much of it is a lot better for the environment than logging.”

Thanks to the Center for Biological Diversity for providing this news.

Trump guts Migratory Bird Treaty Act in ‘parting gift to the oil and gas industr

Florida Manatee Is Found With ‘Trump’ Written on Its Back 

Olivia RosaneJan. 12, 2021 01:00PM ESTPOLITICS

Florida Manatee Is Found With ‘Trump’ Written on Its Back

A manatee is seen in Three Sisters Springs on Crystal River in Citrus County, Florida. Keith Ramos / USFWS

manatee found in a Florida river on Sunday had the word “Trump” written in algae on its back.

The incident, first reported by the Citrus County Chronicle on Monday, prompted a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) investigation and outrage from conservationists and animal lovers. The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) is even offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to a conviction.

“Manatees aren’t billboards, and people shouldn’t be messing with these sensitive and imperiled animals for any reason,” CBD Florida Director Jaclyn Lopez said in a statement emailed to EcoWatch. “However this political graffiti was put on this manatee, it’s a crime to interfere with these creatures, which are protected under multiple federal laws.”Report Advertisement

The Florida manatee is a subspecies of the West Indian manatee, which was classified as an endangered species in 1973, according to The Washington Post, although their status has since been lowered to threatened. Currently, manatees are protected federally under the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and on the state level under the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978, The New York Times reported. Harassing a manatee carries a federal penalty of up to $50,000 and a year in jail, and a state penalty of up to $500 and 60 days in jail.

The affected manatee was first discovered in the Homosassa River in Citrus County by Hailey Warrington, a family boat charter operator, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported. Warrington said she saw the manatee while on a boat tour and took photos and a video to report the incident.

“This is just disturbing. One hundred percent disturbing,” Warrington told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. “It’s something we don’t see very often. When we do see it, it hurts our heart.”

The USFWS said that the letters appear to have been etched in algae and that the animal was not seriously harmed. Warrington claimed that while the etching reached the skin, it did not appear to leave a wound. The animal seemed healthy, but stressed.Report Advertisement

Elizabeth Fleming, senior Florida representative for the Defenders of Wildlife, told The Washington Post that the perpetrator either had to restrain the manatee to write the message, or the manatee was so used to humans that it allowed the action.

There are more than 6,300 West Indian manatees living in Florida, according to the USFWS. While that number has increased significantly in the last 25 years, the animals still face threats from habitat loss and boat collisions. About 100 manatees die every year from boat strikes, according to The Washington Post, accounting for 20 percent of total manatee deaths.

For Elizabeth Neville, Defenders of Wildlife senior Gulf Coast representative, the harassment of this particular manatee is a striking example of politics impacting wildlife.

“The content of this manatee’s mutilation, however, highlights a broader and darker truth: that wildlife, despite having no ability to vote or otherwise participate in our political systems, exist and suffer profoundly at the mercy of human politics,” she said in a statement.

“Based on the choice of the word carved in the manatee’s flesh, one can only assume that this act of mutilation was politically motivated. But, this is far from the only scar borne by manatees due to politicians’ destructive choices. Other scars include policies that favor unsustainable development and polluting industries, hamper communities’ abilities to address plastic trash in our waters and impede progress on fighting climate change.”

Anyone with information about the incident should contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 888-404-3922, the Citrus County Chronicle shared.

Capitol attack far more sinister than it initially appeared: ‘The direction was to go get people,’ Nancy Pelosi says


Mob breaks into the U.S. Capitol

Capitol floor

President Donald Trump’s supporters descended on the nation’s capital on Jan. 5-6 to cheer his baseless claims of election fraud….MORE(Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times)

WASHINGTON — Under battle flags bearing Donald Trump’s name, the Capitol’s attackers pinned a bloodied police officer in a doorway, his twisted face and screams captured on video. They mortally wounded another officer with a blunt weapon and body-slammed a third over a railing into the crowd.

“Hang Mike Pence!” the insurrectionists chanted as they pressed inside, beating police with pipes. They demanded House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s whereabouts, too. They hunted any and all lawmakers: “Where are they?” Outside, makeshift gallows stood, complete with sturdy wooden steps and the noose. Guns and pipe bombs had been stashed in the vicinity.AdvertisementSkip Ad

Only days later is the extent of the danger from one of the darkest episodes in American democracy coming into focus. The sinister nature of the assault has become evident, betraying the crowd as a force determined to occupy the inner sanctums of Congress and run down leaders — Trump’s vice president and the Democratic House speaker among them.

This was not just a collection of Trump supporters with MAGA bling caught up in a wave.


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That revelation came in real time to Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., who briefly took over proceedings in the House chamber as the mob closed in Wednesday and the speaker, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, was spirited to safer quarters moments before everything went haywire.

“I saw this crowd of people banging on that glass screaming,” McGovern told The Associated Press on Sunday. “Looking at their faces, it occurred to me, these aren’t protesters. These are people who want to do harm.”AdvertisementSkip Ad

“What I saw in front of me,” he said, “was basically home-grown fascism, out of control.”

Pelosi said Sunday “the evidence is that it was a well-planned, organized group with leadership and guidance and direction. And the direction was to go get people.” She did not elaborate on that point in a “60 Minutes” interview on CBS.

The scenes of rage, violence and agony are so vast that the whole of it may still be beyond comprehension. But with countless smartphone videos emerging from the scene, much of it from gloating insurrectionists themselves, and more lawmakers recounting the chaos that was around them, contours of the uprising are increasingly coming into relief.

Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier on Jan. 6, 2021, at the Capitol in Washington.
Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier on Jan. 6, 2021, at the Capitol in Washington. (Julio Cortez/AP)

The staging

The mob got explicit marching orders from Trump and still more encouragement from the president’s men.

“Fight like hell,” Trump exhorted his partisans at the staging rally. “Let’s have trial by combat,” implored his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, whose attempt to throw out election results in trial by courtroom failed. It’s time to “start taking down names and kicking ass,” said Republican Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama.

Criminals pardoned by Trump, among them Roger Stone and Michael Flynn, came forward at rallies on the eve of the attack to tell the crowds they were fighting a battle between good and evil and they were on the side of good. On Capitol Hill, Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri gave a clenched-fist salute to the hordes outside the Capitol as he pulled up to press his challenge of the election results.

The crowd was pumped. Until a little after 2 p.m., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was at the helm for the final minutes of decorum in partnership with Pence, who was serving his ceremonial role presiding over the process.

Both men had backed Trump’s agenda and excused or ignored his provocations for four years, but now had no mechanism or will to subvert the election won by Biden. That placed them high among the insurrectionists’ targets, no different in the minds of the mob than the “socialists.”

“If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral,” McConnell told his chamber, not long before things spiraled out of control in what lawmakers call the “People’s House.”

The assault

Thousands had swarmed the Capitol. They charged into police and metal barricades outside the building, shoving and hitting officers in their way. The assault quickly pushed through the vastly outnumbered police line; officers ran down one man and pummeled him.

In the melee outside, near the structure built for Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20, a man threw a red fire extinguisher at the helmeted head of a police officer. Then he picked up a bullhorn and threw it at officers, too.

The identity of the officer could not immediately be confirmed. But Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who was wounded in the chaos, died the next night; officials say he had been hit in the head with a fire extinguisher.

Shortly after 2 p.m., Capitol Police sent an alert telling workers in a House office building to head to underground transportation tunnels that criss-cross the complex. Minutes later, Pence was taken from the Senate chamber to a secret location and police announced the lockdown of the Capitol. “You may move throughout the building(s) but stay away from exterior windows and doors,” said the email blast. “If you are outside, seek cover.”

At 2:15 p.m., the Senate recessed its Electoral College debate and a voice was heard over the chamber’s audio system: “The protesters are in the building.” The doors of the House chamber were barricaded and lawmakers inside it were told they may need to duck under their chairs or relocate to cloakrooms off the House floor because the mob has breached the Capitol Rotunda.

Even before the mob reached sealed doors of the House chamber, Capitol Police pulled Pelosi away from the podium, she told “60 Minutes.”

“I said, ‘No, I want to be here,’”she said. “And they said, ‘Well, no, you have to leave.’ I said, ‘No, I’m not leaving.’ They said, ‘No, you must leave.’” So she did.

At 2:44 p.m., as lawmakers inside the House chamber prepared to be evacuated, a gunshot was heard from right outside, in the Speaker’s Lobby on the other side of the barricaded doors. That’s when Ashli Babbit, wearing a Trump flag like a cape, was shot to death on camera as insurrectionists railed, her blood pooling on the white marble floor.

The Air Force veteran from California had climbed through a broken window into the Speaker’s Lobby before a police officer’s gunshot felled her.

Back in the House chamber, a woman in the balcony was seen and heard screaming. Why she was doing that only became clear later when video circulated. She was screaming a prayer.

Within about 10 minutes of the shooting, House lawmakers and staff members who had been cowering during the onslaught, terror etched into their faces, had been taken from the chamber and gallery to a secure room. The mob broke into Pelosi’s offices while members of her staff hid in one of the rooms of her suite.

“The staff went under the table barricaded the door, turned out the lights, and were silent in the dark,” she said. “Under the table for two and a half hours.”

On the Senate side, Capitol Police had circled the chamber and ordered all staff and reporters and any nearby senators into the chamber and locked it down. At one point about 200 people were inside; an officer armed with what appeared to be a semi-automatic weapon stood between McConnell and the Democratic leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer.

Authorities then ordered an evacuation and rushed everyone inside to a secure location, the Senate parliamentary staff scooping up the boxes holding the Electoral Collage certificates.

Although the Capitol’s attackers had been sent with Trump’s exhortation to fight, they appeared in some cases to be surprised that they had actually made it in.

When they breached the abandoned Senate chamber, they milled around, rummaged through papers, sat at desks and took videos and pictures. One of them climbed to the dais and yelled, “Trump won that election!” Two others were photographed carrying flex cuffs typically used for mass arrests.

But outside the chamber, the mob’s hunt was still on for lawmakers. “Where are they?” people could be heard yelling.

That question could have also applied to reinforcements — where were they?

At about 5:30 p.m., once the National Guard had arrived to supplement the overwhelmed Capitol Police force, a full-on effort began to get the attackers out.

Heavily armed officers brought in as reinforcements started using tear gas in a coordinated fashion to get people moving toward the door, then combed the halls for stragglers. As darkness fell, they pushed the mob farther out onto the plaza and lawn, using officers in riot gear in full shields and clouds of tear gas, flash-bangs and percussion grenades.

At 7:23 p.m., officials announced that people hunkered down in two nearby congressional office buildings could leave “if anyone must.”

Within the hour, the Senate had resumed its work and the House followed, returning the People’s House to the control of the people’s representatives. Lawmakers affirmed Biden’s election victory early the next morning, shell-shocked by the catastrophic failure of security.

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Ca., told AP on Sunday it was as if Capitol Police “were naked” against the attackers. “It turns out it was the worst kind of non-security anybody could ever imagine.”

Said McGovern: “I was in such disbelief this could possibly happen. These domestic terrorists were in the People’s House, desecrating the People’s House, destroying the People’s House.”

Associated Press writers Dustin Weaver in Washington and Michael Casey in Concord, New Hampshire, contributed to this report. Reeves reported from Birmingham, Alabama.

US Capitol Locked Down After Armed Standoff With Trump Supporters

Supporters of President Trump surround the U.S. Capitol following a rally on January 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C.
Supporters of President Trump surround the U.S. Capitol following a rally on January 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C.

BYChris WalkerTruthoutPUBLISHEDJanuary 6, 2021SHAREShare via FacebookShare via TwitterShare via Email

A white lower-case t on a black background

Amob of people backing President Donald Trump’s coup-like effort to overturn the legitimate results of the 2020 presidential election stormed the Capitol building on Wednesday, breaching security fences, entering the building, and bringing to a halt the process of Congress certifying Electoral College votes.

As of this writing, the Capitol building has been placed on lockdown and lawmakers have been evacuated. Photos taken inside the building show Trump supporters roaming throughout the building, sitting in the office chairs of lawmakers such as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California), and posing in the chair that’s normally reserved for the president of the Senate in that legislative chamber.

NBC News has confirmed that one person has been shot inside the Capitol building by a member of law enforcement.

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U.S. Capitol police officers point their guns at a door that was vandalized in the House Chamber during a joint session of Congress on January 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C.
U.S. Capitol police officers point their guns at a door that was vandalized in the House Chamber during a joint session of Congress on January 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C.

Reports of an armed standoff between Trump loyalists and Capitol police were also tweeted out by Bloomberg News reporter Erik Wasson. “Armed standoff on House floor. Police pointing guns at protestors who have broken glass door,” Wasson wrote.

Due to the unrest, the certification process for the Electoral College was halted and a recess was called as Pence himself was escorted by security away from the Senate chamber.

Images from inside the Capitol show Trump supporters who breached security inside the Senate chambers standing in the gallery as well as on the Senate floor. Reports at this time have stated that all lawmakers within the building have been moved to secure locations.

As of 3:55 p.m. Eastern Time, President Donald Trump has issued two tweets directly addressing his supporters regarding the unrest inside the Capitol. None of the tweets from the president, however, are asking his supporters to remove themselves from the building to allow the certification process to continue.

A protester sits in the Senate Chamber on January 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C.
A Trump supporter sits in the Senate Chamber on January 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C.

“I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence!” Trump wrote. “Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order – respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue. Thank you!”

Trump had addressed his supporters earlier in the day outside the White House, telling them that he would continue to try and overturn the results of the election. Biden won 306 Electoral College votes in November’s race to Trump’s 232.

Trump also expressed his desire for Vice President Mike Pence to unilaterally reject Electoral College votes, a power the vice president doesn’t actually have, according to the Constitution.

“Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us. And if he doesn’t, that will be a sad day for our country,” Trump told his crowd of adoring supporters.

Protesters interact with Capitol Police inside the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C.
Trump supporters interact with Capitol Police inside the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C.

In a “Dear Colleague” letter made public on Wednesday, Pence refuted Trump, pointedly stating that he cannot do what the president was asking of him.

“Some believe that as Vice President, I should be able to accept or reject electoral votes unilaterally,” Pence said in the document. “Others believe that electoral votes should never be challenged in a Joint Session of Congress. After a careful study of our Constitution, our laws, and our history, I believe neither view is correct.”

Protesters enter the Senate Chamber on January 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C.
Trump supporters enter the Senate Chamber on January 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C.

Following the speech, thousands of Trump’s supporters walked to Capitol Hill, where they attempted to breach several buildings, breaking through several layers of security fencing in the process.

The Madison and Cannon buildings on the Capitol Complex were initially evacuated due to the tumult. Reporters said that some in those buildings were encouraged to use underground tunnels if they had to go somewhere else.

A supporter of President Trump sits inside the office of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi while inside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., January 6, 2021.
A supporter of President Trump sits inside the office of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi while inside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., January 6, 2021.

“I’m sheltering in place in my office. The building next door has been evacuated. I can’t believe I have to write this,” Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Michigan) wrote in a tweet describing the scene.

Some lawmakers appeared to be placing blame on each other, too, for the storming of the Capitol. “This is what you’ve gotten,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) reportedly said during the confusion, directing his ire toward Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who had objected to certifying Arizona’s Electoral College votes moments before the Capitol was stormed.

Stephen Colbert Delivers Furious Takedown of Trump, GOP and Fox News After Capitol Riot

Matt Wilstein  12 hrs ago

Stephen Colbert Delivers Furious Takedown of Trump, GOP and Fox News After Capitol Riot (

Inflammatory Trump tweets on day of Capitol breach were final straw for loyal…‘Disgraceful’: World leaders stunned by ‘insurrection’ at US CapitolStephen Colbert Delivers Furious Takedown of Trump, GOP and Fox News After Capitol Riot

Exactly two months ago, after President Donald Trump responded to his election loss by declaring victory, Stephen Colbert choked back tears during his monologue as he told viewers, “We all knew he would do this. What I did not know is that it would hurt so much.”Stephen Colbert standing in front of a building: CBS© Provided by The Daily Beast CBS

He hadn’t seen anything yet. But this time, Colbert wasn’t sad, he was furious.

The Late Show host once again threw out the jokes Wednesday night, going live on CBS to share his horrified response to the act of violent insurrection earlier in the day fueled by the president’s election lies.

“I really want to do the show we’re about to do,” Colbert began. “And I also really don’t want to do the show. Because lord have mercy, there are some dark topics that we talk about on the show occasionally, but I’ve rarely been as upset as I am tonight.”

Speaking directly to the Republican members of Congress who support Trump, the host asked, “Have you had enough? After five years of coddling this president’s fascist rhetoric, guess whose followers want to burn down the Reichstag?”

“Who could have seen this coming?” Colbert asked. “Everyone! Even dummies like me. This is the most shocking, most tragic, least surprising thing I’ve ever seen. For years now, people have been telling you cowards that if you let the president lie about our democracy over and over and then join him in that lie and say he’s right when you know for a fact that he is not, there will be a terrible price to pay. But you just never thought you’d have to pay it too.”

From there, he singled out Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), who was caught on camera “raising your stupid fist to the mob outside the Capitol.” In the first line of the night that could be considered a joke, Colbert said, “It’s like Black Power but the opposite. There really should be a name for that. And obviously he has to keep his fist closed, because if he opened it you’d see all the blood on his hands.”

Then the host took on Fox News. “You think maybe years of peddling his conspiracy theories had anything to do with this?” Colbert asked, mocking the network for claiming its “news” and “opinion” sides are different. Like the “lubricated catheters” they sell during the ad breaks, he said, “You know where you can stick your excuses and you can skip the lubrication.”

Colbert’s even longer than usual monologue continued for another 10 minutes, as he tore into President Trump for claiming to support “law and order” while encouraging his minions to violently overtake the U.S. Capitol building. “For the record, if I said that, I’d be arrested for inciting a riot,” he said. “But of course, you can’t arrest the president… for 15 more days.”

“Now I’ve said before, violence is the last refuge of the incompetent,” Colbert said later. “And if the last four years have taught us anything, it’s that there are a lot of incompetent people in our leadership.”

Looking ahead to 2022, “when all of those Republicans, who, make no mistake, are responsible for what happened today and are running for reelection,” he said, “let’s remember them for who they showed themselves to be today: Cynical cowards who believe the voters should not get to choose who governs this country. Let’s hope the voters prove them all wrong.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

California woman killed during Capitol riot was a military veteran and staunch Trump supporter

Dennis Wagner, Melissa Daniels and Grace Hauck, USA TODAY  27 mins ago

Rep. Adam Kinzinger Becomes First Republican to Call for Trump’s Removal…Dog That is Deaf Rescued After Getting Stuck in Rabbit Hole for 30 HoursCalifornia woman killed during Capitol riot was a military veteran and staunch Trump supporter

Ashli Babbitt survived eight U.S. military deployments, but the Air Force veteran died Wednesday on a mission in the homeland – an assault on the nation’s Capitol.PauseCurrent Time 0:10/Duration 1:15Loaded: 18.56%Unmute0FullscreenWhat To Know About The Electoral College Certification Amid Riots At Capitol HillClick to expand

U.S. Capitol Police identified Babbitt as the woman who was shot inside the Capitol. 

“As protesters were forcing their way toward the House Chamber where Members of Congress were sheltering in place, a sworn USCP employee discharged their service weapon, striking an adult female,” police said Thursday. “Medical assistance was rendered immediately, and the female was transported to the hospital where she later succumbed to her injuries. She has been identified as Ashli Babbitt.”

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The Capitol Police employee has been placed on administrative leave and their police powers have been suspended pending the outcome of a joint Metropolitan Police Department and USCP investigation, police said.

Three other people also died Wednesday from medical emergencies, including a man from Greentown, Pennsylvania, a man from Athens, Alabama, and a woman from Kennesaw, Georgia, D.C. police chief Robert Contee III said in a press conference Thursday. It was not immediately clear how they died.

“They were on the grounds of the Capitol when they experienced the medical emergency,” Contee said.

Numerous media outlets named Babbitt, a 35-year-old San Diego woman, late Wednesday, and KSUI-TV quoted her husband saying she had been a staunch Trump supporter and “a great patriot.”

Timeline: How a Trump mob stormed the US Capitol, forcing Washington into lockdown

Graphic videos of the shooting show Babbitt wore a Trump flag as a cape as she tried to crawl through a broken window, flanked by other protesters. A single shot rang out, and she fell to the floor bleeding from an apparent neck wound. 

Police officers screamed for the crowd to make room and a voice heard on video declared, “Ladies and gentlemen, a lady was just shot. She might be dying right now.”

Messages of grief and mourning poured out on social media after Babbitt’s identity was circulated.

The biographical section of a Twitter account with the user name, Ashli Babbitt, using the display name “CommonSenseAsh,” identifies her as a veteran, a Libertarian, and a Second Amendment supporter.

Online, she was vocal about her backing of Trump and appeared in photographs wearing a red ball cap with the president’s “Make America Great Again” slogan. In September, Babbitt tweeted a photo from a pro-Trump boat parade in San Diego.

On Tuesday, she posted a declaration: “Nothing will stop us….they can try and try and try but the storm is here and it is descending upon DC in less than 24 hours….dark to light!”

That message was in response to a post from another Twitter user who pictured a colonial flag overlaid with “1776 Again” above the words, “Trump is still our president.”

Babbitt’s account also shows many retweets. The last one, posted Wednesday, called for Vice President Mike Pence to resign and face charges of treason; for former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to be arrested and charged as an accessory to murder and treason; and for Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to resign.

Members of Babbitt’s family could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Babbitt served in the Air Force under the married name of Ashli Elizabeth McEntee. She served as an enlisted airman in the Air Force, serving on active duty and in the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard, according to records released Thursday.

She worked as an active duty security forces airman, troops with law enforcement training who protect air bases in the United States and abroad. She served on active duty from April 2004 to April 2008 and deployed to Iraq, according to the records. She received several commendations, including for service in the Global War on Terrorism.

She was in the reserve from 2008 to 2010, and the guard from 2010 to 2016.

An undated news release from Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska pictured Airman Ashli McEntee with her then husband, Sgt. 1st Class Timothy McEntee, after they had adopted her military working dog. Maryland records show the McEntees divorced in 2019.

A Washington, D.C., Air National Guard news release in 2014 listed Senior Airman Ashli McEntee among 30 personnel being sent to southwest Asia. The article noted it was her eighth deployment and identified her as a mentor to others in the 113th Security Forces Squadron.  

California business records list Ashli Elizabeth McEntee as owner of Fowler’s Pool Service & Supply, a San Diego County business. A LinkedIn account for Ashli McEntee indicates she took over the company in 2017. Customers praised Ashli and Aaron Babbitt online for their service. 

Contributing: Tom Vanden Brook

Dennis Wagner and Grace Hauck, USA TODAY; Melissa Daniels, Desert Sun

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: California woman killed during Capitol riot was a military veteran and staunch Trump supporter

California woman killed during Capitol riot was a military veteran and staunch Trump supporter (

Trump auctions Arctic refuge to oil drillers in last strike against US wilderness

Sales of drilling rights are the climax to one of the nation’s highest-profile environmental battles
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Emily Holden in Washington

Tue 5 Jan 2021 05.37 ESTLast modified on Tue 5 Jan 2021 11.21 EST


Rivers run through the lush tundra valleys of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
 Rivers run through the lush tundra valleys of Alaska’s Arctic national wildlife refuge. Photograph: Acacia Johnson

In one of its last strikes against the American wilderness, Donald Trump’s administration will on Wednesday auction off portions of the Arctic national wildlife refuge to oil drillers.

The lease sales are the climax to one of the nation’s highest-profile environmental battles. The lands on the northern coastal plain of Alaska are home to denning polar bears and migrating herds of Porcupine caribou that indigenous communities depend on and consider sacred. But the oil industry has long suspected that the ground beneath the plain holds billions of barrels of petroleum. up for monthly updates on America’s public lands

Once the leases in the refuge, known as ANWR, are sold to energy companies, they would be difficult to claw back. The incoming president, Joe Biden, could, however, discourage development in the refuge by putting regulatory hurdles in the way of drillers.

The refuge has become central to America’s debate over how quickly to stop drilling for and burning fossil fuels as the climate crisis accelerates. Climate experts say there should be no new oil and gas extraction, as the world is already more than 1C hotter than pre-industrial times. Even if humans stopped using fossil fuels today, the planet would continue to heat.

Oil from drilling west of the refuge, at Prudhoe Bay, has fueled the economic development the state has depended on to fill its coffers and write annual revenue checks to residents. That extraction also led to the most damaging oil spill in history, when the Exxon Valdez tanker spewed millions of barrels off Alaska’s southern coast in 1989.

Prudhoe Bay“was the largest oil field ever discovered in North America. Since then we have had more than 1,500 sq miles of oil and gas development in the Alaskan Arctic … but [ANWR] has been off limits,” said Adam Kolton, executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League.

“For us, it symbolizes just what’s at stake here. If you can’t draw a line at the tundra and keep this one area of the Arctic off limits, then the question is, where can you draw the line and what protected part or wildlife refuge in the United States will remain off limits?”

President Dwight Eisenhower designated the Arctic refuge in 1960, and in the ensuing decades, the industry and Republicans pushed for drilling there, while the US was trying to reduce its reliance on suppliers in the Middle East. That push continues even though oil is now plentiful, and a fracking boom has made the US a net exporter rather than importer.

Republicans in the US Congress and in Alaska achieved their goal in 2017, when they inserted a provision authorizing drilling into Trump’s landmark tax bill.

 America’s last wilderness is about to go to the highest bidder for oil drilling

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Trump and congressional Republicans argued that the government’s earnings from drilling in the refuge could help pay for the proposed tax cuts, which favored corporations and wealthier Americans. They said development would generate $900m, although an analysis by the non-partisan watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense, based on historical bid data, found that it would bring in just a fraction of that amount – no more than $27.6m. That would be split between the federal government and the state of Alaska.Advertisement

“The fact that this was being offered as an offset was definitely insincere at best, and we thought that was just kind of a joke,” said Autumn Hanna, vice-president of the group.

Taxpayers for Common Sense has argued the government should not be leasing any public land to oil and gas drilling now, while prices for the commodities are low and supplies are high worldwide. During the pandemic, oil demand has plunged as businesses have been shut down and people have driven less.

“We’re not opposed to oil and gas drilling, but we’re opposed to short-changing taxpayers,” Hanna said.

Industry interest in developing new oilfields is so low that some have suggested there might not be any bids for some tracts of land on the coastal plain. The former governors Frank Murkowski and Bill Walker have encouraged the state to bid on any unwanted tracts itself, and last week a state-owned economic development corporation voted to authorize bidding up to $20m.

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“If there are no bidders on the lease sales at all, Alaska will likely never be able to develop our oil and gas potential from ANWR,” Murkowski said in an opinion piece in the Anchorage Daily News, where he also noted the oil and gas industry had historically contributed 70% of the state’s revenue.

On Monday, the Trump administration also dramatically expanded the area where the government can lease public land for oil drilling to the west of ANWR.

The plan would allow drilling in 82% of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, an area bigger than the state of West Virginia, according to environmental groups, though the Biden administration could reverse that decision more easily than it could hold off drilling in ANWR.

Anaktuvuk Pass, Alaska, a Native Alaskan community of around 300 people, near Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
 Anaktuvuk Pass, Alaska, a Native Alaskan community of around 300 people, near Alaska’s Arctic national wildlife refuge. Photograph: Acacia Johnson


Native groups in Alaska have fought ANWR drilling proposals with lawsuits. For the Gwich’in, indigenous Alaskans who have migrated alongside the caribou and relied upon them as a food source, the fight is personal. They formed the Gwich’in Steering Committee in 1988 to oppose drilling in the coastal plain, which they call the Sacred Place Where Life Begins.

“We come from some of the strongest people that ever walked this earth. They survived some of the coldest, harshest winters so that we can be here,” Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the committee, said during an AM radio segment last week. “I feel like this is my responsibility as a Gwich’in, to protect the caribou.”

Polar bear advocates say the habitat is also critical to a population in dire straits from development and rising temperatures that are melting sea ice. The Arctic is heating at a much faster pace than the rest of the world. Polar bear numbers in Alaska and western Canada declined 40% from 2001 to 2010, said Steven Amstrup, chief scientist for Polar Bears International.

“If we want to have the best chance possible of maintaining that population until the time that we stabilize greenhouse gas emissions, we need to protect them on the ground as best we can,” Amstrup said.

Ken Whitten, a former caribou biologist for the state of Alaska, said drilling was likely to displace wildlife. “It’s the core of the Porcupine caribou herd calving area. It’s the major onshore denning place for polar bears in the Beaufort Sea, which is becoming more and more important as the sea ice disappears.”

The plain is a narrow band of land between mountains and the coast, so animals do not have many options when they are forced to relocate, he said. Much of the surrounding area is already being drilled.

“We are a wealthy nation,” Whitten said. “We can afford to leave some areas alone.”