Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

Tag: Mike Pence

Day Two of the January 6th Commission: Pressure on “Pussy” Pence

“Thanks to your bullshit, we are now under siege.”

These were the words of  Pence Chief Legal Counsel Greg Jacob to John Eastman on January 6th, 2021. It was Eastman who wrote the 38-page plan to seize control of our government. (It was supposed to be Day Three, although CNN had omitted Day Two, supposedly so that they could prepare more film clips.) There were meetings at the Willard Hotel to refine this plan and attempt to make it a reality on January 6th.

The June 16th (2022) presentation at 1 p.m. (CDT) focused on the pressure that Trump and his cronies had put on Vice President Mike Pence, urging him to do a number of illegal things that Constitutional scholars  agree were not allowed under the powers of the vice presidency. As one mentioned, if the VP could simply declare himself the winner, then Al Gore could have done that in 2000 in Florida. But Al Gore, unlike Donald J. Trump, was a good man who had a conscience. Al Gore’s statement back then was: “In all of human history, the choice between one’s own disappointment and upholding the noble traditions of America’s democracy, it’s a pretty easy choice when it comes down to it.” (What a difference between Al Gore and Donald J. Trump).

I am faithfully watching the hearings, because I care whether my country remains a democracy or not. If you are not watching, because you are not at liberty to do so, tune in here and I will do my best to replay the important things we learned.

J. Michael Litteg, SELF-IDENTIFIED WINDBAG

One of the chief GOP voices this day was a Constitutional scholar and Pence advisor named J. Michael Litteg. By his own admission, J. Michael was a huge windbag, although his closing comments this day were right to the point of the great danger we all face from Trump fanatics, come 2024 (and earlier, in the midterms). Mr. Litteg, when asked a question that only required a “yes” or “no” answer took over 30 seconds to even begin responding and then spoke for 5 minutes (I timed this). Here is some of what he said about the infamous Eastman plan to overthrow the counting process, via Mike Pence, and, therefore, retain power for DJT.:

Litteg:   “There was no basis in the Constitution or the laws of the U.S. at all with the theory espoused by Mr. Eastman. At all. None. With all respect to my co-panelists I believe in partial response to one of the committee’s questions, that a single sentence in the 12th amendment was inartfully written. That single sentence is not inartfully written.  It was pristine clear that the President of the Senate on January 6th (Pence) had little substantive Constitutional authority. Any. At all. The 12th amendment sentence says, in substance, that following the transmission of the certificates to the Congress and the electoral count of 1887 that the presiding officer (Pence) shall open the certificates in the presence of the Congress of the United States in joint session. It then says, unmistakeably, not only that the VP himself shall count the electoral votes, but clearly says that the electoral count votes shall then be counted. It was the electoral count act of 1887 that filled in, if you will, the simple words of the 12th amendment in order to construct for the country a process for the counting of the electoral votes from the states that neither our original Constitituion nor even the 12th amendment had done. The irony, if you will, is that from its founding until 1887 when the electoral count act was passed, the nation had been in considerable turmoil during at least 5 of its presidential elections, beginning as soon thereafter from the founding as 1800, so it wasn’t until almost 100 years later that the Electoral Count Act was passed. In my view, that piece of legislation is not only a work in progress for the country, but, in this moment in history, …”that was long-winded, I understand.” [Mr. Litteg was “a slow talker” and not the most riveting witness we heard on this second day of testimony.]

They asked Old Windbag what he would have said had he been advising Pence….”If I had been advising the VP on 1/6 and even if then VP Jefferson and even then VP John Adams and even then VP Richard Nixon had done exactly what the President of the U.S. wanted his VP to do, I would have laid my body across the road before I would have let the VP overturn the 2020 election on the basis of that historic precedent. What this body needs to know and America needs to know is that that was the centerpiece of the plan to overturn the 2020 election. It was the historical precedent and in the years and with the VP I named the effort by Mr. Eastman and others was to drive that historic precedent up to and under that single pristine sentence in the 12th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, taking advantage of what many have said is the inartful wording of that sentence in the 12th Amendment. Scholars before 2020 would have used that historical precedent could overturn the 2020 election by accepting non-certified state electoral votes, but they would have made arguments as to some substantive (not merely procedural) authority possessed by the VP of the US on the day proscribed for counting the electoral votes. This is Constitutional mischief.”

[Listening to Mr. Litteg required a great deal of patience and it was truly a good idea when one of the questioners simply read a synopsis of the man’s previous writing on the subject. I wrote down “Praise the Lord!”]

TRUMP AS LOSER

Over and over, this day and the first day, we learned that Trump knew, all along, that he had lost the election. He didn’t like losing, and has a fear of being dubbed “a loser” so he denied it then; he denies it now. His usual lies continued to the point that when on the podium for the infamous rally that preceded the riot, he and his cronies lied about their justification for “taking back” the government. Remember the “Fight like hell or you won’t have a country any more” admonitions?—that one from Trump, himself, but others from his buddies, including the John Eastman mentioned above, who was one of the few attorneys willing to “trump up” a plan to overthrow the government. Almost everything they presented to the crowd was a lie.

One of the least windbag-y speakers this day was Eric Herschmann, a former White House counsel, who, after the 62 court cases had been adjudicated and found wanting, took a phone call from John Eastman.

Eric Herschmann’s call from John Eastman:  He started to ask me something about Georgia. And I just said, “Are you out of your fucking mind? I only want to hear 2 words coming out of your mouth from now on: ORDERLY TRANSITION. Repeat those words to me. Good John, and now I’m going to give you the best free legal advice you’re ever going to get in your life. Get yourself a good criminal lawyer.”

Later, we learn that Eastman did, indeed, ask to be put on the list of those seeking presidential pardons from Trump before he left office. His request was phrased this way:

“I’ve decided I should be on the pardon list, if that is still in the works.” (to Trump, from Eastman)

That didn’t happen and, instead, Eastman took the 5th 146 times when asked about his actions by the January 6th Commission.

EASTMAN’s PLAN

The courts have called Eastman’s plan “a coup in search of a legal theory.”

Simply put, Eastman wanted Mike Pence to step far beyond his true authority, which was purely ceremonial, and announce that the states were going to “look into” some mysterious “alternate slates of electors from 7 states,” slates which did not exist. As the testimony told us, here is the lie that Eastman spread:

“7 states have transmitted dual states of electors to the President of the Senate. “(bogus)” VP Pence could simply declare Trump the winner.” During testimony, the question was asked: Were there really 7 states of alternative electors? A:  “No, there were not.”

“There is very solid legal authority and historical precedent for the view that the President of the Senate (i.e., Mike Pence as VP) does the counting, including the resolution of disputed electoral votes.” (from Eastman). False. That statement was a bold-faced lie.

On Dec. 19, 4 days before the memo, Eastman admitted in an e-mail that the fake electors had no legal weight and that the argument would be“Dead on arrival” in Congress.

THE TRUTH ABOUT THE VP’s POWER ON JANUARY 6th

Critically, no VP in history had ever claimed to have that kind of authority, nor had  claimed authority to return electoral votes to the states. At no time had electoral votes ever been returned to the states to be recounted. Justice Bradley had specifically looked at that question and had said that clearly the VP does not have the authority to decide anything nor to send things back for a public look. The history was absolutely decisive. “If you were right, don’t you think that Al Gore would have simply declared that he could declare himself President.” (from Gregory Jacob, Pence’s Chief Legal Counsel.) Al Gore did not and should not have this authority, agreed John Eastman. There is almost no idea more un-American. The VP did not have such power. (Statement from Litteg and others).

Marc Short, former Pence Chief of Staff:  “So, despite the fact that he may have said other things to the President or others, he understood that the VP did not have such authority.” (A: Yes)

“Yeah, they thought he was crazy.” (about John Eastman, as articulated by Jason Miller, former Trump campaign senior adviser, who was wearing a doofy-looking mask).

TRUMP ISSUES A TWEET SAYING HE & THE VP ARE IN TOTAL AGREEMENT; THEY ARE NOT

“The VP and I are in total agreement that the VP has the power to act.” (That was categorically untrue, said Greg Jacobs).

Marc Short:  The statement did not represent the VP’s viewpoint. “I think the record shows that it was incorrect.” So, essentially, the President is sending out a bald statement that the President and VP were in total agreement, which was untrue.  “He clearly was not pleased.” Jason Miller inquired, “What’s the process for putting out a statement for a meeting where only 2 people were in the room.”

Jason Miller: “The tone was very clearly ..he strongly inferred that the VP did not agree with this statement. Trump dictated most of it. Typically on these, I might have a couple of wording suggestions or maybe I have a sense or a rough framework, but I know with specificity on this one, it was me and him on the phone talking about it and ultimately the way it came out was the way he wanted it to.” (About their “agreement” on how the Pres and the VP were “in agreement on this.) 

Jason Miller wore a face mask throughout his testimony, and it appeared to be one of the truly unattractive ones that the government has distributed, free of charge. Was he hoping people would not recognize him later? No one else was wearing a face mask on the panel(s).

TRUMP 2:24 TWEET PUTS VP PENCE IN DANGER

The most dangerous part of what DJT did he, himself did, in targeting Mike Pence for retribution.  In early drafts of the Ellipse speech, there was no mention of the VP, but the President revised it to add mentions of the VP and he ad libbed more about Trump’s need to act on January 6th at the Ellipse speech. (“Send it back to the states to re-certify”) Example: “And Mike Pence is just gonna’ have to come through for us, and if he doesn’t, that will be a sad day for our country. The only way re-certification can happen is if Mike Pence sends it back to the states.” Once Trump’s tweet went out, at 2:24 p.m., the mob went wild, chanting “Hang Mike Pence!” An FBI informant embedded with the Proud Boys said that, had they gotten their hands on Pence or Pelosi, they would have killed them.

2:24 p.m. tweet about Mike Pence was instrumental in riling up the crowd. Trump never called to see if his VP was in danger, before, during or after the riot. Not only that, but he has apparently said that he agreed with the crowd regarding the violence to be perpetrated against Mike Pence. Of the “Hang Mike Pence” chants, former Trump Press Secretary Sarah Matthews said. “It felt like he (DJT) was pouring gasoline on the fire.” Pence’s Cheif of Staff, Marc Short was alarmed enough about the possibility that Trump would seek vengeance against Pence for not doing his bidding that he warned Pence’s security detail one day in advance.

There is testimony that Pence refused to leave the Capitol because he did not want to give the insurrectionists the satisfaction of seeing the Vice President of the United States fleeing the Capitol in weakness.  Pence refused to get in the car with the Secret Service. Some have said that, although he trusted those he knew in his detail, his suspicion(s) and distrust of DJT were high enough that he did not want to be driven away by agents he did not know. [Think about that one for a moment.]

John Eastman’s constant insistence that Pence had powers he did NOT have, when conveyed to Pence himself, caused Pence to say, “That is rubber room stuff,” meaning that he thought Eastman was certifiably crazy.

 

 

 

Supreme Court: To Pack or Not to Pack. That is the Question.

When I heard the accusation about “stacking the court” from Pence (at the VP debate) it rang a bell with me from the book by William Dallek I am currently reading, “Franklin Delano Roosevelt: A Political Life.” I knew that FDR had tried to “pack” the Supreme Court—-as Pence termed it. And FDR’s effort failed. “The whole New Deal went up in smoke as a result of the Supreme Court fight,” according to Dallek’s excellent book. The fight opened a divide in the Democratic Party alienating Roosevelt from some former allies and also alienating some Republican allies, like his Secretary of the Interior, Harold Ickes.

As Dallek said in his book, “Roosevelt’s effort to master the judiciary produced something of a pyrhhic victory. FDR’s expenditure of so much political capital on the Court battle forced him to approach other Congressional disputes with uncharacteristic restraint. Advancing new liberal reforms became a distant hope. The Court controversy, one contemporary observer said, sidetracked ‘much useful legislation that otherwise might have been put through.’”

FDR had a plan, which he tried to float as a way to alleviate the overloaded work schedule of the Court. His plan was to add 6 justices, one for every Justice who had served at least 10 years and failed to retire 6 months after turning 70. This would have allowed FDR to immediately appoint 6 new justices, bringing the total to 15. Although the exact number of Supreme Court Justices is not set by the Constitution, the number has been set at 9 since 1869.

FDR, in Fireside Chats (March 4 & 9, 1936) said “There is nothing novel or radical about this idea. It seeks to maintain the bench in full vigor.” He was obviously feeling apprehensive about the move, but he made it——unsuccessfully—-anyway.

All sorts of rhymes sprang up. Here is just one: “Ancient judges sat in the hall, Ancient judges due for a fall. Our country’s Great Leader thinks some younger men, would see that the court gave us justice again.”

Although 60 to 65% of voters were willing to elect FDR to an unprecedented 3rd term, 50% of those same voters opposed the plan to change the court’s make-up. “The issue touched off the worst congressional conflicts of his administration.” As Dallek put it (p. 280), “As someone with a progressive temperament and an adaptive personality that enabled him to accept that changing times meant adopting fresh ways of thinking about old problems, Roosevelt was impatient with politicians who doggedly clung to the past.”

So, things did not go well for one of the most famous Democratic presidents in history when he attempted to “pack the court.”

I began to wonder WHY Pence would specifically attack Harris on this idea, since it seemed quite obvious that it is the GOP who are trying to “stack the courts” and have, indeed, probably succeeded with their recent nomination of an arch Conservative to fill Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s seat. Did someone I didn’t know about suggest that the Dems might want to change the make-up of the Supreme Court?

I asked this question of Google and the answer was that Eric Holder had mentioned it (former Attorney General under Obama), but that didn’t mean the rest of the party had any plan or knew or approved of his remarks, whereas the GOP have been crowing about how many judges at all levels they have appointed and are attempting to appoint even now.

I began to wonder if and when there had been successful attempts to “pack the Supreme Court.” The answer is that it has happened 7 times in history. The first 3 times centered around the political reaction to the Revolution of 1800. The Court was reduced in size at that time from 6 to 5 to prevent Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican Party from filling a vacancy as the Federalist Party left office. Once Jefferson was firmly in power, the size was moved back to 6 justices, then to 7, so that Jefferson could appoint new justices. Over the next 30 years, efforts to expand the Court were denied, but President Andrew Jackson gained enough power to add 2 new Justices in 1837.

Lincoln increased the size to 10 to prevent judicial attacks on his war policies. After Lincoln was assassinated, Congress reduced the size of the court to 8, to prevent Andrew Johnson (the new president) from harming Congress’ Reconstruction efforts. Ulysses S. Grant added a justice to insure the overturning of a recent Court decision that invalidated the legal tender law that allowed the government to finance its war efforts.

Obviously, what one party does (the GOP right now) can be done by the opposing party when power shifts (tit for tat). At least, those attempts can be made. In FDR’s case, the attempt was made at a time when he was in his 2nd term and riding high, but his move still failed in 1936.

So, that is the history, in a nutshell, of the attempts to expand the Supreme Court.

Vice Presidential Race Held in Utah on Oct. 7, 2020

The only vice presidential debate between Kamala Harris and Mike Pence was held last night (October 7th) and the majority of viewers polled by CNN thought (59% to 38%) that Harris had won the debate.

Some observations:

  • Unanswered Questions – There was a distressing tendency for the participants NOT to answer the question asked. Sometimes it was a complete ignoring of what was asked, as with the question about whether these two second bananas had had discussions with their bosses about what to do and how to do it if their elderly bosses (Trump and Biden) were to be incapacitated.
  • Time Issues – After watching Trump act like the barbarian at the gate during the first (and, so far, only) presidential debate, it was going to be interesting to see if Pence obeyed the rules better than his famously contrarian boss. For me, the answer was that Pence was certainly an improvement, but he still ran long on nearly every question. With each question, I would glance at the second hand on my watch when he began to run long. Pence never went over by LESS than 20 seconds and often went over that amount. With 9 questions being asked, 9 x 20 or 30 seconds meant, to me, that Pence got more air time. At the end of the debate, a figure was put up on the screen that indicated how much time each participant got and it appeared that they felt it was relatively even, but it most certainly did not look or seem like Harris got the same time consideration as Pence.
  • Good Point(s): Pence’s team felt they drew blood on the question of the Supreme Court. In my opinion, the best moments for Harris were her remarks about pre-existing conditions, when she said, “If you have pre-existing conditions, they’re coming for you.”
  • Moderator: Susan Page (USA Today) – She was better than Chris Wallace, but that isn’t saying much. “Thank you, Mr. Vice President” was not an effective way of shutting Pence down when he ran over. When will they either shut down the microphones or put the candidates in glass boxes that can be soundproofed and shut down, when necessary.
  • Chutzpah Award: The fact that Mike Pence could accuse Kamala Harris of “politicizing the pandemic” with a straight face was astonishing. What chutzpah! Most other charges (taxes, fracking) at least seemed to be answered by the participants [when they chose to answer, that is].
  • Does the race change at all? Most say no, except for the age of the presidential candidates, but that is one reason that the question about the transfer of power should have been asked.

Out of 10 people with widgets, 4 said Pence won, 4 said Harris had won and 2 abstained. Most of the experts say the votes ae “baked in.”

  • Truthfuless:  Fact checkers had to step in and say that the claim (by Pence) that Trump had increased manufacturing jobs had to be corrected. Actually, on Trump’s watch there have been 164,000 jobs lost (not the 483,000 gains that Pence tried to claim, incorrectly. The Biden position on fracking might be fluid and that was discussed, as well.
  • Kamal Harris: She got in some good ones, all with a smile. Being female and a candidate brings a certain set of problems for women running against men. When women were polled, 69% said Harris had won, versus only 30% selecting Pence. It was a much closer judgment for men, who said that the margin was still in Harris’ favor, but pegged it as 48% to 46%.
  • Most Interesting Segment: At the point when the BLM situation was being asked about (Brianna Taylor), a large, very visible black fly landed on Mike Pence’s head and remained there for over 2 minutes. As my son said to me, “Mike Pence’s only black friend.” Watch for the skit on Saturday Night Live.

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