Letters From an American

March 30, 2021

March 30, 2021

US Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) walks towards the Senate Chamber at the Capitol April 6, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

March 30, 2021

It feels like the banking under the Republican Party from the Trump years is starting to erode.

The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020, sparked a nationwide fight over police brutality against Black people, with Trump supporters coalescing around the reactionary “Blue Lives Matter” flag. But today’s trial of former law enforcement officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd produced damning evidence from six witnesses, who said they were traumatized by what they saw as Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck until he died.

Today a federal judge ruled that the non-disclosure agreement the former president required employees to sign is so broad and vague it is unenforceable. There has always been a question of whether public employees can be forced to swear to a vow of secrecy, but Trump’s Department of Justice was willing to try to enforce his NDAs. While Trump’s lawyers say they disagree with the new ruling and are considering an appeal, this ruling opens the door to more tell-all books about what happened inside the White House during the previous administration.

Also today, the New York State Court of Appeals ruled that a defamation lawsuit against the former president by former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos could go forward. The suit had been on hold because Trump’s lawyers argued that a sitting president could not face legal action. While two previous courts ruled against him, today’s decision is from the highest court in New York. It opens up the possibility that Trump will face a deposition in which he could be asked, under oath, about sexual assault accusations.

On Friday, former president Trump told the Fox News Channel that his supporters were “hugging and kissing” the law enforcement officers at the Capitol on January 6, but now two U.S. Capitol Police officers have sued the former president for inflaming the insurrectionists on January 6, nearly leading to their deaths. James Blassingame, who has been on the force for 17 years, and Sidney Hemby, who has served for 11 years, blame Trump for the injuries they suffered defending the Capitol. They note his December 19, 2020, tweet in which he told supporters: “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there. Will be wild!”

News broke today that Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL), a major Trump supporter, is being investigated by the Department of Justice for traveling with a 17-year-old girl he paid to accompany him. The probe began during the last administration under Attorney General William Barr, and is linked to a political ally of Gaetz’s, Joel Greenberg, a former tax collector in Seminole County, Florida, who last summer was indicted on sex trafficking charges. Greenberg was associated with Trump ally Roger Stone.

Gaetz has seemed to flounder since this story broke. He gave an interview on personality Tucker Carlson’s show on the Fox News Channel that Carlson himself called “one of the weirdest interviews I’ve ever conducted.” Gaetz’s denial of the story seemed quite carefully worded. Then he suggested that he and his family were victims of an extortion scheme from someone associated with the Department of Justice. He insists the investigation is happening because he is a “well-known outspoken conservative,” but the probe began under the previous president.

Earlier today, Axios broke the story that Gaetz is considering leaving Congress to take a job at Newsmax, the right-wing news outlet.

These stories are enough to spell a bad day indeed for supporters of the former president, but there is an even bigger story, broken yesterday by the incomparable Jane Mayer at the New Yorker.

While Republicans insist that the For the People Act voting rights act, H.R. 1, is a partisan plan, in fact, a leaked conference call from January 8 between a policy advisor to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and leaders of a number of conservative groups showed the participants’ concern that H.R. 1 is quite popular even with Republicans. Across the political spectrum, ordinary Americans especially like its provision to limit the dark money that has flowed into our elections since the 2010 Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission Supreme Court decision, permitting billionaires to buy an election’s outcome.

In the 2020 federal election cycle, dark-money groups spent more than a billion dollars. More than 654 million came from just fifteen groups, the top of which is connected to McConnell. In February, a Data for Progress poll showed that 68% of likely voters, including 57% of Republicans, like the bill that would staunch the flow of this money.

To kill the measure, a research director for an advocacy group run by the Koch brothers said that Senate Republicans would have to use “under-the-dome-type strategies.” That is, they would have to leverage congressional rules, like the filibuster, to make sure the bill doesn’t pass.

We are pleased to be presenting daily posts from Heather Cox Richardson’s “Letters From an American” email newsletter. You can sign up to receive it in your inbox here.

Heather Cox Richardson

Heather Cox Richardson teaches American history at Boston College. She is the author of a number of books, most recently, How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for the Soul of America. She writes the popular nightly newsletter Letters from an American. Follow her on Twitter: @HC_Richardson.

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