Our Slow-Moving National Crisis Is Far From Over

INSIDE: Merrick Garland ... Kevin McCarthy ... Elon Musk
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06:  Protesters gather storm the Capitol and halt a joint session of the 117th Congress on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: Protesters storm the Capitol and halt a joint session of the 117th Congress on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
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A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo. Sign up for the email version.

Let’s Take A Step Back

Surveying the landscape of American politics 28 months after an attempted autocoup, what’s most striking is how little has changed. From a historical perspective, we remain at a fork in the road and it’s not clear which path we will take. The fate of the Republic, as grandiose and perhaps overstated as it may sound, still hangs in the balance.

In many respects, the attempted coup is not over. Most of the leaders of the insurrection remain at large. Many of them still serve in Congress. One of them is his party’s de facto nominee for president.

Radical Republicans are unchastened and unbowed. Just look at what they have in store in the coming days and weeks:

  • A bogus impeachment of the sitting Democratic president with no evidence of wrongdoing.
  • A government shutdown for the sake of doing damage to the constitutional order.
  • Renominating for president the cultish figure of Donald Trump for the office he once lost and tried to retain by force.

Other forces are at work, it’s true. Criminal prosecutions of Donald Trump are pending in four jurisdictions. Three of the cases are directly related to his efforts to win election by cheat or by fraud. An effort to disqualify Trump from the ballot on constitutional grounds is ramping up across the country. Significant civil lawsuits are also pending against Trump, though their impact on the politics of Trump is more muted.

On any given day, the headlines and news coverage are fractured into dozens of separate developments and incremental nuggets of news that can obscure the larger battle that is still raging. Republicans are skilled at using the tropes of journalism to drive news coverage in their favor and use the incrementalist scoop-competition to push their favored conspiracies and smears.

It’s hard to keep you hair on fire about the existential threat to democracy for going on eight years now, since Trump entered the fray. But it’s harder still if you’ve allowed yourself to be lulled into the complacency of thinking the threat has passed, the battle has been won, the Republic has endured.

As this point, the Cold Civil War has lasted twice as long as the hot one did. Among armed conflicts, only Vietnam and the GWOT exceed its length. We can only hope that it doesn’t last for the decades the Cold War did.

‘You Don’t Know Anything About The Boxes’

The NYT has its own report on new evidence of Donald Trump obstructing justice in the Mar-a-Lago investigation, replicating a similar ABC News report.

Trump Lawsuit Against Hillary Clinton Shot Down Again

Trump lawyer Alina Habba, already sanctioned nearly $1 million by a federal judge for bringing a bogus lawsuit against Hillary Clinton on Donald Trump’s behalf, tried to get the same judge to revive the case based on the ridiculous proposition that the Durham report provided new evidence to support her claims. The judge shot that gambit down, too.

Hunter Biden To Plead Not Guilty

Hunter Biden attorney Abbe Lowell told the judge in his case that Biden will be pleading not guilty to the federal gun charges against him. It came up in a letter Lowell sent asking that Biden’s initial appearance be conducted by video conference. Notably, the government is opposed to this request. It’s unclear why.

Get Ready For A Circus

Attorney General Merrick Garland is scheduled to testify today in front of Rep. Jim Jordan’s Judiciary Committee.

McCarthy Is Flailing To Avoid A Gov’t Shutdown

The best thing to read on where things sit in Congress roughly 10 days before government funding runs out comes via TPM’s Kate Riga and Emine Yücel, but let me give you a flavor of the overall coverage of Speaker McCarthy’s tenuous grasp on power:

  • WSJ: Kevin McCarthy Hits New Hurdles With Holdout Republicans
  • WaPo: House flounders as GOP fails to appease hard-right members on funding
  • NYT: Right-Wing House Republicans Derail Pentagon G.O.P. Bill, Rebuking McCarthy

It’s Not Just About Elon Musk’s Glass House

The WSJ is reporting that federal criminal investigators are looking at an array of personal benefits Elon Musk may have received from Tesla since 2017.

The investigation is being led by the U.S. attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York, and a grand jury seems to be involved, suggesting a full-blown criminal investigation.

The WSJ had previously reported on an investigation into a planned glass house for Musk near Tesla’s Austin factory, but the probe appears to be broader than that one aborted project.


I dole out “must read” status sparingly, but this story about Elon Musk, the murder of a retired police chief, and a Las Vegas newspaper reporter absolutely 100% qualifies.

Former Congressman Sentenced To 22 Months In Prison

Former Rep. Steve Buyer (R-IN) was slapped with a 22-month federal prison sentence and ordered to forfeit $354,027 in ill-gotten gains for his conviction on insider trading charges. Buyer served in the House from 1993-2011.

Big Deal

Pennsylvania is launching automatic voter registration. Greg Sargent explains the significance.

Trump Judge Bashes Texas Book-Banning Law

A Trump-appointed federal judge in Texas this week blasted the state’s new law banning some books from public school libraries and blocked its enforcement, while ripping into the defense put on by the state.

For The Record

NARAL Pro-Choice America is now Reproductive Freedom for All.

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