Donald Trump’s impeachment timeline – what could happen next?

Thursday, January 14

On Jan 14, top Democrats and Republicans discussed how best to stage a Senate trial about whether to convict Mr Trump of the single article of impeachment, for “incitement of insurrection”, that passed the House of Representatives.

It seems all but certain that the Republican leadership’s request for the trial to begin after Mr Biden’s inauguration as president on Jan 20 will be agreed, meaning senators would be debating conviction with Mr Trump out of office.

It remains unclear when the trial will take place.

The House can decide when to send the article of impeachment across to the Senate to trigger the trial. Some Democrats want to wait until months into Mr Biden’s presidency to do so, freeing Senate time at the start of his term for confirming his cabinet nominees and passing measures to tackle Covid-19.

Wednesday, January 20

The inauguration. At noon Washington DC time, Joe Biden becomes the US president and Mr Trump’s term is over. Mr Trump has said he will not attend the ceremony on the steps of the US Capitol.

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Biden to face difficulties in U.S. foreign policy after Trump’s presidency – National

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s plan to scrap President Donald Trump’s vision of “America First” in favor of “diplomacy first” will depend on whether he’s able to regain the trust of allies and convince them that Trumpism is just a blip in the annals of U.S. foreign policy.

It could be a hard sell. From Europe to the Middle East and Asia, Trump’s brand of transactional diplomacy has alienated friends and foes alike, leaving Biden with a particularly contentious set of national security issues.

Read more:
Inauguration Day is also move in and out day at the White House

Biden, who said last month that “America’s back, ready to lead the world, not retreat from it,” might strive to be the antithesis of Trump on the world stage and reverse some, if not many, of his predecessor’s actions. But Trump’s imprint on America’s place in the world — viewed as good or bad — will not be easily erased.

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U.S. allies aren’t blind to the large constituency of American voters who continue to support Trump’s nationalist tendencies and his belief that the United States should stay out of world conflicts. If Biden’s goal is to restore America’s place in the world, he’ll not only need to gain the trust of foreign allies but also convince voters at home that international diplomacy works better than unilateral tough talk.

Trump has insisted that he’s not against multilateralism, only global institutions that are ineffective. He has pulled out of more than half a dozen international agreements, withdrawn from multiple U.N. groups and trash talked allies and partners.

Biden, on the other hand, says global alliances need to be rebuilt to combat climate change, address the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare for future epidemics and confront the growing threat posed by China. The national security and foreign policy staff that he has named so far are champions of multilateralism.

Coronavirus: Biden promises to reimburse states 100% for deploying National Guard in fight against COVID-19

Coronavirus: Biden promises to reimburse states 100% for deploying National Guard in fight against COVID-19

His choices for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman, national security adviser Jake Sullivan and foreign aid chief Samantha Power — all veterans of the Obama administration — underscore his intent to return to a foreign policy space that they believe was abandoned by Trump.

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“Right now, there’s an enormous vacuum,” Biden said. “We’re going to have to regain the trust and confidence of a world that has begun to find ways to work around us or without us.”

Biden intends to rejoin the Paris climate agreement and cooperate again with the World Health Organization. He plans to smooth relations with Europeans and other friends and refrain from blasting fellow members of NATO, and he may return the United States to the Iran nuclear agreement. Still, many Americans will continue to espouse Trump’s “America First” agenda, especially with the U.S. economy struggling to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, civil strife in American streets over racism and the absence of civil political discourse.

“Whether people liked it or not, Trump was elected by Americans in 2016,” said Fiona Hill, who worked in the Trump White House’s National Security Council and now is at the liberal-leaning Brookings Institution.

Trump’s election in 2016 and the tens of millions of votes he garnered in 2020 reflect a very divided nation, she says.

“We have to accept that the electoral outcome in 2016 was not a fluke,” Hill said.

Steven Blockmans, research director at the Centre for European Policy Studies in Belgium, said Europeans should not kid themselves into believing transatlantic relations will return to the way they were before Trump.

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“In all but name, the rallying cry of ‘America First’ is here to stay,” he said. “Biden has vowed to prioritize investment in U.S. green energy, child care, education and infrastructure over any new trade deals. He has also called for expanded ‘Buy American’ provisions in federal procurement, which has long been an irritant in trade relations with the European Union.”

Each part of the world holds a different challenge for Biden.


Fear of China’s quest for world dominance started to mount before Trump came to office. Early on, Trump sidled up to China’s authoritarian president, Xi Jinping. But after efforts to get more than a first-phase trade deal failed, the president turned up the heat on China and repeatedly blamed Beijing for the coronavirus pandemic.

Read more:
Trump impeachment trial a ‘vote of conscience,’ Mitch McConnell says

He sanctioned the Chinese, and in speech after speech, top Trump officials warned about China stealing American technology, conducting cyberattacks, taking aggressive actions in the South China Sea, cracking down on democracy in Hong Kong and abusing the Muslim Uighurs in western China.

Increasingly, Republicans and Democrats alike are worried about a rising economic and geopolitical threat from China, and that concern won’t end when Trump leaves office.

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North Korea

Resetting U.S. relations with Asia allies is instrumental in confronting not only China but also North Korea.
Trump broke new ground on the nuclear standoff with North Korea with his three face-to-face meetings with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. But Trump’s efforts yielded no deal to persuade Kim to give up his nuclear weapons in exchange for sanctions relief and security assurances. In fact, North Korea has continued to develop its nuclear capabilities.

Biden might be forced to deal with North Korea sooner than later as experts say Pyongyang has a history of conducting tests and firing missiles to garner Washington’s attention around U.S. presidential elections.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Biden calls out GOP lawmakers for refusing to wear masks during U.S. Capitol riot'

Coronavirus: Biden calls out GOP lawmakers for refusing to wear masks during U.S. Capitol riot

Coronavirus: Biden calls out GOP lawmakers for refusing to wear masks during U.S. Capitol riot


Nearly 20 years after a U.S.-led international coalition toppled the Taliban government that supported al-Qaida, Afghan civilians are still being killed by the thousands. Afghan security forces, in the lead on the battlefield, continue to tally high casualties. Taliban attacks are up outside the cities, and the Islamic State group has orchestrated bombings in the capital, Kabul, including one in November at Kabul University that killed more than 20 people, mostly students.

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The U.S. and the Taliban sat down at the negotiation table in 2018. Those talks, led by Trump envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, eventually led to the U.S.-Taliban deal that was signed in February 2020, providing for the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan.

Set on making good on his campaign promise to withdraw U.S. troops from “endless wars,” Trump cut troops from 8,600 to 4,500, then ordered troop levels to fall to 2,500 by Inauguration Day. The United States has pledged to pull all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by May 1, just months after Biden takes office, but it’s unclear if he will.

Middle East

Trump opted to think outside the box when it came to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and relations with Arab nations.

The Palestinians rejected the Trump administration’s Mideast peace plan, but then Trump coaxed two Arab nations — the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain — to recognize Israel. This was historic because Arab nations had for decades said they wouldn’t recognize Israel until the Palestinians’ struggle for an independent state was resolved.

Read more:
The House has voted to impeach Trump: What next?

Warming ties between Israel and Arab states that share opposition to Iran helped seal the deal. Morocco and Sudan also later recognized Israel.

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In 2018, Trump pulled the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal, in which world powers agreed to lift sanctions on Tehran if it curbed its nuclear program.

Click to play video 'Iran defends right to resume 20% uranium enrichment, EU aims to save nuclear accord'

Iran defends right to resume 20% uranium enrichment, EU aims to save nuclear accord

Iran defends right to resume 20% uranium enrichment, EU aims to save nuclear accord – Jan 5, 2021

Trump said the deal was one-sided, didn’t prevent Iran from eventually getting a nuclear weapon and allowed it to receive billions of dollars in frozen assets that it has been accused of using to bankroll terror proxies destabilizing the Mideast.

Biden says exiting the deal was reckless and complains that Iran now has stockpiled more enriched uranium than is allowed under the deal, which is still in force between Iran and Britain, China, Russia, France and Germany.

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Everything we know about what happened when Trump’s supporters stormed Washington

Twitter said Mr Trump’s refusal to attend Mr Biden’s inauguration was being received by his supporters as “further confirmation that the election was not legitimate” and him disavowing his previous claim there would be an “orderly transition”.

It claimed one of his tweets may also “serve as encouragement to those potentially considering violent acts that the inauguration would be a ‘safe’ target, as he will not be attending”.

The use of the words “American Patriots” to describe some of his supporters was also being interpreted as support for those committing violent acts at the US Capitol, Twitter said.

It added: “Plans for future armed protests have already begun proliferating on and off Twitter, including a proposed secondary attack on the US Capitol and state capitol buildings on January 17, 2021.

“As such, our determination is that the two tweets … are likely to inspire others to replicate the violent acts that took place on January 6, 2021, and that there are multiple indicators that they are being received and understood as encouragement to do so.”

Following the ban, Twitter deleted two tweets apparently issued by Mr Trump on the @POTUS account, and also suspended the @TeamTrump account after it spread a statement from the president.

The statement said: “After close review of recent tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them – specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter – we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence.

“In the context of horrific events this week, we made it clear on Wednesday that additional violations of the Twitter rules would potentially result in this very course of action. Our public interest framework exists to enable the public to hear from elected officials and world leaders directly. It is built on a principle that the people have a right to hold power to account in the open.

“However, we made it clear going back years that these accounts are not above our rules entirely and cannot use Twitter to incite violence, among other things.

“We will continue to be transparent around our policies and their enforcement.”

Facebook removed a short video on January 6 that Mr Trump had posted to his social media accounts.

Facebook’s vice president of integrity, Guy Rosen, said the action was taken “because on balance we believe it contributes to rather than diminishes the risk of ongoing violence”.

Later that day, the site blocked his ability to post new content. Then on January 7, it said he would remain blocked until his term in the White House concluded on January 20.

Mr Trump is planning to address his “deplatforming” by social media companies on Monday January 11, reportedly seeking ways to bring them to heel before leaving office.

It comes as apps including preferred conservative messaging site Parler were removed altogether by tech giants for allowing “threats of violence” after the storming of the US Capitol. 

Read more:  Trump fury after permanent ban by Twitter due to ‘risk of inciting violence’ ​

How Washington reacted

The House of Representatives has voted to impeach Donald Trump, making him the first president in US history to be impeached twice.

Ten Republicans joined Democrats in voting for impeachment over Mr Trump’s role riling up the mob.

The article, which charging him with “incitement of insurrection”, carried by 232 votes to 197.

Mr Trump will now face a trial in the Senate.

Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Party leaders in the US House of Representatives and Senate respectively, demanded Mr Trump’s immediate removal amid outrage at his actions before the US Capitol was stormed by a mob of his supporters.

They publicly called on Mike Pence, the US vice president, to invoke the 25th Amendment, a mechanism that removes a president who is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office”, but Mr Pence refused.

A wave of top officials quit the White House, turning their backs on Mr Trump.

A number of White House staff, including Sarah Matthews, the deputy press secretary, and Stephanie Grisham, Melania Trump’s chief of staff, resigned effective immediately. It was also reported that Chris Liddell, the president’s deputy chief of staff, had quit.

Read more: Top Republicans turn on Trump after day of chaos

How the world reacted

Boris Johnson called on the US to restore the rule of law. “Disgraceful scenes in US Congress”, the British prime minister tweeted.

“The United States stands for democracy around the world and it is now vital that there should be a peaceful and orderly transfer of power. “

EU officials expressed shock at the “assault on US democracy”.

“To witness tonight’s scenes in Washington DC is a shock,” European Council president Charles Michel tweeted.

“In the eyes of the world, American democracy tonight appears under siege,” the European Union’s foreign policy supremo Josep Borrell said, in a separate tweet.

“This is an unseen assault on US democracy, its institutions and the rule of law. This is not America. The election results of 3 November must be fully respected,” Mr Borrell said, referring to the US presidential election that saw Mr Trump beaten by Joe Biden.

“The strength of US democracy will prevail over extremist individuals,” Mr Borrell said.

Speaking to Sky News, Kim Darroch, the UK’s former ambassador to the US, shared his belief that Mr Trump was not fit to be president, before suggesting No 10 “got too close” to the Trump presidency. 

The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, announced she is “furious and saddened” by the violence seen in Washington DC, and said Mr Trump shares the blame for the unrest among his supporters. 

“I deeply regret that President Trump has not conceded his defeat, since November and again yesterday,” she said, before adding: “Doubts about the election outcome were stoked and created the atmosphere that made the events of last night possible.”

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Trump’s Thursday Statement on Riot Should Have Been Made Earlier

On Tuesday’s broadcast of CNN’s “Cuomo Primetime,” acting Deputy DHS Secretary Ken Cuccinelli said that President Donald Trump’s statement on Thursday about the riot at the U.S. Capitol is “what we wanted to hear on Wednesday,” the day that the riot took place, but that the president’s message about the riot on Thursday was one that came “late.”

Cuccinelli said, “[W]hat he said on Thursday is what we wanted to hear on Wednesday, right? And it was late.”

Cuccinelli added that he “can’t imagine in a million years that he’d be calling people to violence next week.”

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett

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Inside Trump’s failure to act after a mob stormed the Capitol

“He was hard to reach, and you know why? Because it was live TV,” said one close Trump adviser. “If it’s TiVo, he just hits pause and takes the calls. If it’s live TV, he watches it, and he was just watching it all unfold.”

Even as he did so, Trump did not move to act. And the message from those around him – that he needed to call off the angry mob he had egged on just hours earlier, or lives could be lost – was one to which he was not initially receptive.

“The President saw these people as allies in his journey and sympathetic to the idea that the election was stolen,” Graham said in an interview.

Trump ultimately – and begrudgingly – urged his supporters to “go home in peace.” But the six hours between when the Capitol was breached shortly before 2pm Wednesday afternoon and when it was finally declared secure around 8pm that evening, local time, reveal a President paralysed – more passive viewer than resolute leader, repeatedly failing to perform even the basic duties of his job.

The man who vowed to be a president of law and order failed to enforce the law or restore order. The man who has always seen himself as the protector of uniformed police sat idly by as Capitol Police officers were outnumbered, out-maneuvered, trampled on – and in one case, killed. And the man who had long craved the power of the presidency abdicated many of the responsibilities of the commander in chief.

The episode in which Trump supporters rose up against their own government, leaving five people dead, will be central to any impeachment proceedings, critical to federal prosecutors considering incitement charges against him or his family, and a dark cornerstone of his presidential legacy.

This portrait of the President as the Capitol was under attack on January 6 is the result of interviews with 15 Trump advisers, members of Congress, GOP officials and other Trump confidantes, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to share candid details.

The day began ominously, with a “Save America March” on the Ellipse devoted to perpetuating Trump’s baseless claims that somehow the 2020 election was stolen from him.

Before the President’s remarks around noon, several of his family members addressed the crowd with speeches that all shared a central theme: Fight. Eric Trump, one of the President’s sons, told the crowd that lawmakers needed to “show some fight” and “stand up,” before urging the angry mass to “march on the Capitol today.” Donald Trump jnr, another of the President’s sons, exhorted all “red-blooded, patriotic Americans” to “fight for Trump.”

Backstage, as the President prepared to speak, Laura Branigan’s hit Gloria was blared to rev up the crowd, and Trump jnr, in a video he recorded for social media, called the rally-goers “awesome patriots that are sick of the bull—-.” His girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, danced to the song and, clenching her right fist, urged people to “fight.”

The President, too, ended his speech with an exhortation, urging the crowd to give Republicans “the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.”

“So let’s walk down Pennsylvania Avenue,” he concluded.

Trump, however, did not join the angry crowd surging toward the Capitol. Instead, he returned to the White House, where at 2.24pm. he tapped out a furious tweet railing against Vice-President Mike Pence, who in a letter earlier in the day had made clear that he planned to fulfill his constitutional duties and certify President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as the winners of the 2020 Electoral College vote.

“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify,” he wrote. “USA demands the truth!”

By then, West Wing staffers monitoring initial videos of the protesters on TV and social media were already worried that the situation was escalating and felt that Trump’s tweet attacking Pence was unhelpful.

Members of Congress being evacuated from the House Chamber after Trump supporters breached the Capitol.

Members of Congress being evacuated from the House Chamber after Trump supporters breached the Capitol.Credit:Bloomberg

Press officials had begun discussing a statement from Trump around 2pm, when protesters first breached the Capitol, an official familiar with the discussions said. But they were not authorised to speak on behalf of the President and could only take the matter to chief-of-staff Mark Meadows, this person said, adding that “the most infuriating part” of the day was how long it took before Trump finally spoke out.

Around the same time, Trump jnr headed to the airport for a shuttle flight home to New York. As he waited in an airport lounge to board the plane, the President’s namesake son saw that the rally-goers they had all urged to fight were doing just that, breaching police barricades and laying siege to the Capitol.

An aide called Trump jnr and suggested he immediately issue a statement urging the rioters to stop. At 2.17pm, Trump jnr hit send on a tweet as he boarded the plane: “This is wrong and not who we are,” he wrote. “Be peaceful and use your 1st Amendment rights, but don’t start acting like the other side. We have a country to save and this doesn’t help anyone.”

But the President himself was busy enjoying the spectacle. Trump watched with interest, buoyed to see that his supporters were fighting so hard on his behalf, one close adviser said.

But if Trump didn’t appear to understand the magnitude of the crisis, those in his orbit did. Conway immediately called a close personal aide who she knew was with the President, and said she was adding her name to the chorus of people urging Trump to speak to his supporters. He needed to tell them to stand down and leave the Capitol, she told the aide.

Conway also told the aide that she had received calls from the DC mayor’s office asking for help in getting Trump to call up the National Guard.

Ivanka Trump had gone to the Oval Office as soon as the riot became clear, and Graham reached her on her cellphone and implored her for help. “They were all trying to get him to speak out, to tell everyone to leave,” said Graham, referring to the small group of aides with Trump on Wednesday afternoon.

Several Republican members of Congress also called White House aides, begging them to get Trump’s attention and have him call for the violence to end. The lawmakers reiterated that they had been loyal Trump supporters and were even willing to vote against the electoral college results – but were now scared for their lives, officials said.

When the mob first breached the Capitol, coming within mere seconds of entering the Senate chamber, Pence – who was overseeing the electoral certification – was hustled away to a secure location, where he remained for the duration of the siege, despite multiple suggestions from his Secret Service detail that he leave the Capitol, said an official familiar with Pence’s actions that day.

Instead, the Vice-President fielded calls from congressional leaders furious that the National Guard had not yet been deployed, this official said. Pence, from his secret location in the Capitol, spoke with legislative and military leaders, working to mobilise the soldiers and offering reassurance.

Members of the US Capitol Police trying to block demonstrators from reaching the House Floor.

Members of the US Capitol Police trying to block demonstrators from reaching the House Floor.Credit:Bloomberg

Even as his supporters at the Capitol chanted for Pence to be hanged, Trump never called the Vice-President to check on him or his family. Marc Short, Pence’s chief-of-staff, eventually called the White House to let them know that Pence and his team were OK, after receiving no outreach from the President or anyone else in the White House.

Meanwhile, in the West Wing, a small group of aides – including Ivanka Trump, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and Meadows – was imploring Trump to speak out against the violence. Meadows’s staff had prompted him to go see the President, with one aide telling the chief of staff before he entered the Oval Office, “They are going to kill people.”

Shortly after 2.30pm, the group finally persuaded Trump to send a tweet: “Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement,” he wrote. “They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!”

But the Twitter missive was insufficient, and Trump had not wanted to include the final instruction to “stay peaceful,” according to one person familiar with the discussions.

Less than an hour later, aides persuaded Trump to send a second, slightly more forceful tweet: “I am asking for everyone at the US Capitol to remain peaceful,” he wrote. “No violence! Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order – respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue. Thank you!”

US President Donald Trump speaks at the

US President Donald Trump speaks at the “Save America March” rally before the Capitol was stormed by his supporters.Credit:Getty Images

McCarthy did eventually reach Trump, but later told allies that he found the President distracted. So McCarthy repeatedly appeared on television to describe the mayhem, an adviser said, in an effort to explain just how dire the situation was and to secure the President’s attention.

McCarthy also called Kushner, who that afternoon was arriving back from a trip to the Middle East. The Secret Service originally warned Kushner that it was unsafe to venture downtown to the White House. McCarthy pleaded with him to persuade Trump to issue a statement for his supporters to leave the Capitol, saying he’d had no luck during his own conversation with Trump, the adviser said. So Kushner headed to the White House.

At one point, Trump worried that the unruly group was frightening GOP lawmakers from doing his bidding and objecting to the election results, an official said.

National security adviser Robert O’Brien also began calling members of Congress to ask how he could help. He called Senator Mike Lee, around 4pm, a Lee spokesman said. In an unlikely twist, Lee had heard from the President earlier – when he accidentally dialed the senator in a bid to reach Senator Tommy Tuberville, to discuss overturning the election.

Others were still having trouble getting through to the White House. Speaking on ABC News shortly before 4pm Wednesday, Chris Christie, a GOP former governor of New Jersey, said he’d spent the last 25 minutes trying to reach Trump directly to convey a simple, if urgent, message.

“The President caused this protest to occur; he’s the only one who can make it stop,” Christie said. “The President has to come out and tell his supporters to leave the Capitol grounds and to allow the Congress to do their business peacefully. And anything short of that is an abdication of his responsibility.”

Around this time, the White House was preparing to put out a video address on behalf of the President. They had begun discussing this option earlier but struggled to organise their effort. Biden, meanwhile, stepped forward with remarks that seemed to rise to the occasion: “The scenes of chaos at the Capitol do not reflect the true America, do not represent who we are.”

Trump aides did three takes of the video and chose the most palatable option, despite some West Wing consternation that the President had called the violent protesters “very special.”

“This was a fraudulent election, but we can’t play into the hands of these people,” Trump said in the video, released shortly after 4pm “We have to have peace. So go home. We love you. You’re very special. You’ve seen what happens. You see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel. But go home, and go home in peace.”

Amid the chaos, DC Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser had implemented a 6pm curfew for the city, and as darkness fell, Secret Service told West Wing staff that, save for an essential few, everyone had to leave the White House and go home.

At 6.01pm, Trump blasted out yet another tweet, which Twitter quickly deleted and which many in his orbit were particularly furious about, fearing he was further inflaming the still-tense situation.

“These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long,” Trump wrote. “Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”

Thirteen minutes later, at 6.14pm, a perimeter was finally established around the Capitol. At about 8pm, more than six hours after the initial breach, the Capitol was declared secure.

The following evening, on Thursday, Trump released another video, the closest advisers say he is likely to come to a concession speech.

“Congress has certified the results: A new administration will be inaugurated on January 20th,” Trump said in the video. “My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly, and seamless transition of power. This moment calls for healing and reconciliation.”

His calls for healing and reconciliation were more than a day too late, many aides said. Yet as Trump watched the media coverage of his video, he grew angry.

The President said he wished he hadn’t done it, a senior White House official said, because he feared that the calming words made him look weak.

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US politics live updates: Donald Trump’s second impeachment looms as FBI warns more armed protests to come

Good morning everyone

Hey there folks. Peter Marsh here, ready to bring you the latest from the US as Donald Trump spirals towards another impeachment and US authorities warn of more unrest to come before president-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated next week.

Thanks for bearing with us over the past two days while we didn’t have a blog. Appreciate your patience while Emily and I got some rest after an unprecedented week.

But I’m back as of today, so let’s dig into what’s happened over the American weekend, and what lies ahead of us in these next five days.

Thanks, as always, for being here.


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Trump’s second most potent weapon

Several years ago, I worked as an adjunct (part-time) instructor at a local college. During that time, I received excellent evaluations from both my students and peers, I was given a prestigious award for my contributions to the college, and my department chair repeatedly expressed her desire to hire me full-time. 

Thanks to these encouragements, and the fact that I enjoyed teaching and worked hard to give my students a quality education in my area of expertise, I was very loyal to the college and especially to this department chair.

So, when several full-time positions arose, she not only asked me to apply, she was also in charge of the committee responsible for selecting and interviewing candidates.

You can imagine my surprise when, a couple of months after applying, I was told I had not even been selected for an interview. I later found out from another member of the committee that this same department chair had actually circulated an e-mail saying it might be expedient to give me a pretextual interview since, in her opinion, maintaining the illusion I could eventually obtain a full-time position would keep me a “loyal, part-time instructor.”

I’m sure that many, if not most, readers could share similar stories about a friend, relative, colleague, lover, and/or employer who would routinely pontificate about “loyalty,” and yet stabbed you in the back the minute the opportunity arose.

I thought about this after the January 6, 2021 Trump incited insurrection against the United States Capitol Building. I wondered how many of these insurrectionists, out of a misguided and inexplicable loyalty to a corrupt, mendacious, racist, self-serving conman-who promised to “lead” them to the Capitol, but then conveniently retreated to the White House, leaving them to do his dirty work-might still be sitting in prison cells years from now while Trump sips martinis in his mansion or is on the golf course. (Although some commentators are concerned that, in a final act of corrupt defiance, Trump might actually pardon these insurrectionists. But if he does it will not be due to him possessing even a modicum of loyalty, because, according to a report in The Independent, Trump’s primary concern was not with the destruction and death that transpired thanks to his bidding, but instead that these insurrectionists appeared to be too “low class” for him.)

In numerous Pravda.Report articles, I discussed how many politicians, including Trump, utilize Hitler’s “great lie” theory.  For those unfamiliar with this, the premise is simple: While people might reject “little” lies told by their leaders, because such lies are easily recognizable, they will often willingly and obsequiously accept “great lies,” especially when they are incessantly repeated and reduced to simplistic slogans.

The flaw in the “great lie” theory is when people decide to research and seek evidence to determine the truth for themselves. In fact, I honestly thought, at its inception, that the rise of the Internet would mean the fall of the “great lie” theory, because when research can be accomplished at the touch of a button, great lies can be quickly dispelled.

But, as I stated in my article The Internet-Gateway to Stupidity (December 21, 2020), the opposite has occurred. Since the Internet is essentially a buffet, people can readily ignore anything on it that does not comport with their preconceptions, and only consume what substantiates their beliefs, no matter how spurious that information might be.

So, when you fuse the power of the Internet with unscrupulous people willing to disseminate great lies, and combine this with platitudes about “loyalty,” it is easy to see that the Trump inspired siege on the Capitol was not a matter of if, but when.

Yet, what has always puzzled me is how, particularly in an allegedly individualistic culture like America, so many people can be so deliberately blind and obediently deaf to not understand that demagogues like Trump are always more than willing to exploit the loyalty of their followers, but not so eager to reciprocate it.

I have developed four theories that I believe might explain these self-inflicted sensory deprivations that create the folly of loyalty.

The first is the Catalyst Theory. Those who practice this theory are not necessarily loyal to a person, but to ideologies, and thus they will display fealty to any leader who shares, or pretends to share, their views; thus, people like Trump become a catalyst for them to engage in violence, but not the sole reason.

The second is the Enabler Theory. Under this theory, loyalty to a leader is actually self-serving:  Lackeys feign loyalty in the hope they will reap some reward or benefit.

America is currently reaping the repercussions of this. Numerous politicians and administration officials who spent years with their lips firmly implanted on Trump’s flatulent behind are now denouncing him.  And those who continued to play the “election fraud” game, like the despicable Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, (who dreamed of becoming “heroes” in Trump’s alternate reality) have now deservedly become pariahs.

The third is the Reverse Psychology Theory. This theory posits that the more frequently and intensely people are told they are being foolish for supporting a particular leader, and/or that their personal interests are actually being hurt by this leader, the more loyalty they devote to him or her.

Think of this analogy, which I’m sure a lot of gamblers have felt at one time. You are playing a slot machine and have already lost $1,000-the limit you budgeted for gambling. If you walk away, you feel foolish for losing this money, but if you continue to put more money in, hoping to recoup your losses but failing, you fear you will feel even more foolish.

The difference is that walking away is an admission of finality: You’ve basically acknowledged your folly.  On the other hand, spending more money retains a thread of hope that, if you do hit the jackpot, you can claim you acted wisely, and if you lose you can invent some excuse, no matter how ridiculous, to rationalize your actions.

The fourth is the Investment Theory. This theory works hand-in-hand with the Reverse Psychology Theory.

I experienced a real-life example of this when I practiced law. I was defending a client accused of attacking another person. Prior to trial, I showed the deputy prosecutor pictures of the wounds my client had suffered in the attack; a report that proved my client had called the police immediately, while the alleged “victim” waited more than two hours before making a complaint; and I played answering machine recordings of how the alleged “victim,” during this two hour gap, repeatedly called my client to threaten and boast about assaulting him. Even the investigating officer told this prosecutor that my client had been the victim, not the aggressor.

But, for every piece of evidence we displayed, this prosecutor invented some excuse to discount it, and her explanations were so ludicrous that it became evident she was so deeply and emotionally invested into convicting my client that nothing, no matter how factual, was going to change her mind.

Applying this same obstinance to loyalty, it is easy to see how the Reverse Psychology Theory lures people into rationalizing their support for a demagogue like Trump, and how the Investment Theory instills in them an illogical and rabid unwillingness to later admit their loyalty was misplaced.

This is demonstrated by the fact that, in the aftermath of the Capitol insurrection, many of Trump’s followers tried to claim that it was “leftist” activists disguised as Trump supporters that committed the carnage, despite the fact that the social media footprints of many, if not most, of those arrested contained extreme right-wing viewpoints and some even admitted they were responding to a Twitter request from Trump. In addition, the FBI flatly stated that there was no evidence that any leftist groups had participated.

When the truth be told, there is nothing wrong with people respecting and admiring leaders. But giving fanatical, unwavering, and misguided loyalty to another human being can be, and often is, an invitation to exploitation and/or betrayal.

The late, great anti-apartheid activist Stephen Biko once said:

“The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.”

Thanks to the inane, ego-driven, and now deadly antics of Trump, the second most potent weapon is loyalty.

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Trump’s Effort To Overturn The Election Should Be Investigated Like 9/11

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has announced that Democrats are moving forward with trying to remove President Donald Trump from office.

— News reports have said there have been discussions involving cabinet officers, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, about invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. What was the nature of these deliberations, and what testimony would administration officials give to illuminate Trump’s psychological stability or his willingness to execute faithfully the law and duties of his office?

— What role is Trump’s pardon power playing in his deliberations, or in conversations with allies, over how to cling to power?

— What were the precise interactions between Trump and Vice President Mike Pence? To Trump’s anger, Pence released a statement saying he had no constitutional power to intervene in Biden’s election certification, but the statement also embraced the view that there were pervasive questions about the counting of the 2020 presidential vote. Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, said after Pence’s announcement he was denied access to the White House grounds, apparently on orders from Trump.

— Most profound, arguably, is the basic question: Who, if anyone, is actually running the government? Journalists have described Trump, during the midst of a deadly pandemic, as largely checked out from most work beyond fulminating angrily about the election and his assertion that it was stolen.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday called Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley expressing concern about an erratic Trump ordering an ill-considered military action as he clings to power, and apparently urging Milley to have the military resist that if he tries. The notion that these types of conversations are taking place in the leadership of a country armed with nuclear weapons, and facing adversaries who have them also, is breathtaking. Let’s hope we stay lucky. But it’s entirely possible a full inquiry might reveal the Trump transition as among the most perilous moments in national security since 9/11 or the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Note that most of the questions listed above do not pertain directly to the scores of questions over how Capitol security was breached and what happened immediately before, during, and after that emergency. Many of those questions likely will fall directly in the provinces of the criminal justice system, and of Congress’s own inquiries into the security failure.

Trump’s transition, however, has been a comprehensive outrage, and therefore needs a comprehensive examination. Many of Trump’s actions, or those of his allies, may not be narrowly illegal but could still raise foundational issues of a political or policy nature. Punishing the guilty is one task. Illuminating the public record in an authoritative way is another. And this illumination should be insulated as much as possible from partisan influence.

That’s why the 9/11 Commission comparison is relevant. The commission had a mandate to look at systemic factors that preceded the 9/11 attacks, and recommendations for what the government should do in the future. As its executive director, Philip Zelikow, later explained: “I think it is healthy organizations and countries to conduct such after-action reports, especially if there has been a major national trauma. Not just an inspector general-type of report, wagging your finger, looking for the government misconduct – though there is that part of it – but more like ‘What really happened here? Why did this happen?’ To understand it in a full way and then prepare a report that could be provided to the American people, as well as the recommendations as to how we could avoid this in the future.”

Trump’s effort to undermine an effective transition and public confidence in the legitimacy of the presidential election is an assault on the nation’s system of governance that must be avoided in the future. A commission with credible figures from both parties on it could take into account the need to protect ongoing criminal prosecutions and executive privilege. (After Trump leaves office, his privilege claims over his actions during the transition should be virtually nil.)

Most importantly, a commission could highlight recommendations for reforms. The Trump transition has magnified subjects that have long seemed indefensible, such as the abuse of the pardon process to help cronies and contributors, or the dangerous Cold War policy of presidential sole authority to launch nuclear weapons. The exercise needn’t be simply a cudgel against Trump. Perhaps there would be recommendations on how to increase public confidence in elections during major outside events like a pandemic or war.

Another reason for a commission is because many of the events of the past ten weeks are ripe targets for being mythologized in distorted ways. The terrorists who bombed a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995 believed they were righteously avenging the government’s catastrophic effort to end a siege at a Waco cult compound two years before.

The grievances and malice that animate national politics aren’t going away, but their most noxious expressions can be mitigated by establishing a clear and credible record of how this presidential transition went off the rails.

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China brings in new law to fight Trump’s sanctions

“One point that remains to be clarified is whether the order is intended to target sanctions against China specifically or sanctions targeting a third country, such as Iran or Russia, which has a detrimental impact on Chinese companies,” Nicholas Turner, a lawyer at Steptoe & Johnson in Hong Kong, told the BBC.

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Trump’s de-platforming could reshape the internet

However, that backlash against the companies isn’t universal as Trump, his family, supporters and some lawmakers are characterising their actions as an assault on free speech.

Speech on the big platforms has never been entirely free (leaving aside the monetisation of their users’ content), with a range of terms and conditions and ad hoc regulation of some content – paedophilia, terrorism, extreme violence and the like – on most of the bigger platforms.

However, thanks to a 1996 law, it has been far freer on the platforms than it is in the general community, where various laws restrict the speech of individuals and make conventional publishers and broadcasters responsible and liable for the content they carry.

That law, Section 230 of the US Communications Decency Act, absolves digital platforms from liability for the content posted by their users as long as the platforms aren’t aware of any crime being committed – which has served as a deterrent to the platforms moderating their content.

Section 230 has been described as “the 26 words that created the internet” because it enabled the explosive growth of not just the social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter but a host of social networks and digital businesses powered by user content and interactions. Think Amazon, Airbnb, Tripadvisor, Uber and Menulog, among a myriad of others, in which user reviews play a central role.

Trump and some Republicans have long urged that the section be repealed, seeing the tech giants as anti-conservative, while some Democrats – including Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi – have also urged Congress to revise the law to remove hate speech, extremism, and politically inspired falsehoods.

There is real irony that the actions and words of Trump in the dying days of his presidency may damage the platforms that played such a pivotal role in elevating him to prominence and power.

The events last week have increased the likelihood that Section 230 will either be revised to make them more accountable for their content, or repealed.

Neither would be good news for the platforms, although even Mark Zuckerberg has conceded that new regulation is needed to address harmful content, protect election integrity and privacy and facilitate user data portability.

Any reform would replace the discretions the platforms have to decide whether and how to moderate the content on their sites with law and regulation; self-regulation (to the extent the platforms do self-regulate) would be replaced with external regulation.


That could change the nature of the companies and the internet more broadly.

If companies were held responsible for their users’ content they would also be liable – like any traditional publisher.

They would have to hire armies of lawyers, moderators and fact checkers to pre-screen any content before it was posted in the knowledge that otherwise they would face a blizzard of litigation.

Costs would soar, their usability and the network effects that have powered their remarkable growth would be severely diminished. No one wants their tweet or Facebook post to be published days after it was written.

Platforms such as Parler, reliant on extremist communities, would wither while a Twitter might survive but would be shrunk by the more limited and genteel interactions between its users.

Some would argue that curtailing the growth and power of Big Tech would be no bad thing. Indeed governments around the world are grappling with a host of different aspects of the way the platforms operate, including their use of consumers’ data, the tactical use of their algorithms, the treatment of competitors and third parties on e-commerce platforms and their impact on traditional media.

In the US anti-trust actions are being taken against Facebook and Google, in Europe there is a move to make the platforms liable for their content and to ban certain anti-competitive behaviours and here, of course, there are actions to force the social media giants to pay traditional media for their content. Outside the US there is also the issue of how much tax big tech companies pay, or don’t pay.

There is real irony – some might say poetic justice – that the actions and words of Trump and his supporters in the dying days of his presidency may curtail and damage the growth and value of the platforms that played such a pivotal role in elevating him to prominence and power.

That is, however, only one element of the backlash against the scale and power of the tech giants that until now have had all power and very little responsibility.

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