New details make the riot look worse. That's bad for Trump's chances in the Senate.
Trump will lack many of the advantages in his second trial that he had in his first.
A federal court filing against Jacob Anthony Chansley, better known as the “QAnon Shaman” or Jake Angeli, hints that Capitol rioters had more in mind than just protesting or cheering on members of Congress who were raising objections.
The brief in support of detention describes Chansley as “one of the insurrectionists who entered the Capitol building.” The document is worth reading just for its description of Chansley:
Chansley wore horns, a furry coyote tail headdress, red, white and blue face paint, and tan pants. He was shirtless and carried a bullhorn and a six-foot-long spear with an American flag tied just below the blade.
A previously unknown fact relating to the riot was that Chansley left a note on Vice President Pence’s desk while he was in the Senate chamber. The note read, “It's only a matter of time, justice is coming.”
In a January 7 phone call to the FBI, Chansley denied that the note was a threat but expressed no remorse for his actions. He called the rioters “patriots” and said that he would like to return to Washington for the inauguration.
“I’ll still go, you better believe it,” Chansley told FBI agents. “For sure I’d want to be there, as a protestor, as a protestor, fuckin’ a.”
In a television interview, Chansley said that he responded to President Trump’s call for “patriots” to come to Washington, adding, “The fact that we had a bunch of our traitors in office hunker down, put on their gas masks and retreat into their underground bunker, I consider that a win.”
His lawyer also seems to be using the claim of incitement by Donald Trump as a defense, saying, “He took seriously the countless messages of President Trump. He believed in President Trump. Like tens of millions of other Americans, Chansley felt — for the first time in his life — as though his voice was being heard.”
At this point, Chansley is charged with two felonies and four misdemeanors. The felonies are obstructing law enforcement officers and corruptly obstructing an official proceeding of Congress.
Another insurrectionist, retired Air Force Lt. Col. Larry Rendall Brock Jr. of Texas, was among those who carried zip-ties into the Capitol. Prosecutors note that Brock seemed to have more sinister plans than just protesting that day.
“He means to take hostages. He means to kidnap, restrain, perhaps try, perhaps execute members of the U.S. government,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Weimer per KTLA.
Court documents also show that Brock was planning for a civil war and favored secession.
Further charges may be added against Chansley, Brock, and the other insurrectionists. Politico reported that the Justice Department is considering sedition and conspiracy charges against those arrested for breaking into the Capitol. Such charges could carry a 20-year prison term.
The more information that comes out about the riot, the worse it looks. What seemed like a spontaneous riot looks more and more like a coordinated attack that used the demonstration as cover. And the worse the riot looks, the worse things look for President Trump in his Senate trial.
As we have discussed before, Majority Leader McConnell has said that he has no plans to bring up impeachment before the inauguration. While some view this as slow-walking the impeachment to keep Trump in office, the strategy really does not do the president any favors.
The best scenario for the president would be a quick up-or-down vote similar to the one that acquitted him a year ago. As we saw in the House this week, most Republicans are still sticking by Mr. Trump at this point and another acquittal would be likely.
However, if the trial is put off for a month or two, the situation is a lot less certain. With all that we know after only a week, there is no telling what details will have emerged after several months of discovery. President Trump won’t have the benefit of friendly cabinet officials to stonewall the coming congressional investigation either, which means that Trump’s second trial will be a completely different ballgame.
Another factor is that Trump may not have as strong of a grip on Republican senators after he leaves office. Granted, Trump’s base will still largely overlap the Republican congressional base, but there are signs that the two groups are already moving apart.
While Trump’s loyal base will probably never desert him, traditional Republicans might be nearing the end of their ropes now that Trump is no longer useful to them. Nate Cohn of the Upshot noted that Trump’s approval is already seeing a sharp decline. The president’s average approval among Republicans is now at 60 percent.
FiveThirtyEight has unveiled a new impeachment poll tracker that shows majority support for impeachment among all Americans. The average of polls currently stands at 52.8 percent in favor of impeachment, which, it should be noted, is already about three points higher than the plurality that favored impeachment on the president’s first time around. Different polls phrase the question differently but many ask the question to include both impeachment and removal.
The one thing that politicians can be trusted to do is to plan for re-election. If public opinion on impeachment becomes a groundswell that threatens their next term, senators may find themselves growing more willing to split with Trump. This is especially true in purple states or those with large suburban voting blocs. The fate of David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler is fresh in every Republican senator’s mind.
With the continual dribble of salacious and seditious details emerging for the next few months, Donald Trump’s approval is sure to drop further, and the popularity of impeachment is likely to rise. It may turn out that Joe Biden, who wants to focus on his political agenda and not be distracted by impeachment, becomes Donald Trump’s new best friend.
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